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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bear Totem and Pigasus provide a safe space for all to play D&D, paint and shop

For Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts, walking into Bear Totem feels like rolling a natural 20.

The first thing customers see when they walk into the game store is the full shelves of figurines, or miniatures, used in D&D games.

Seth Miller, who co-owns the shop with his wife of five years, Rebekah Miller, started his mini collection in 2017, before they opened the shop on Oct. 28 of last year.

From dragons to bullywugs to hand-crafted ships, between 3,000 and 4,000 fill Bear Totem.

Seth estimates he made about 20% of the figures.

Each section of the display is sorted by their D&D class and race – plus some figures that are uniquely customized, like the shelf full of mushroom-people.

“He keeps them very organized,” Rebekah said.

Rebekah is a creative person who loves artistic hobbies, while Seth loves D&D.

“When are you going to do creative stuff with me?” Rebekah said she would ask him near the start of their relationship.

Then, Seth started painting D&D miniatures – and became very good at it, Rebekah said.

Now, gamers who visit the shop can purchase a custom-made mini from Seth, or borrow one off the extensive shelves to play with while they are in the shop.

Or, for people who want to try their hand at the small-scaled art form, there are painting stations with a nice view out the windows where customers can purchase and paint their own minis – paints and brushes provided.

Seth said he and his group of friends have been playing D&D together for six years. His party of adventurers helped inspire him to open Bear Totem.

“Dungeons and Dragons is a game where you’re constantly talking all the time,” Seth said. “We would go to breweries, we’d haul all of our gear down, and we’d spend 20 minutes unpacking and getting this ourselves all set up. And then it was just too loud.”

So, Seth created a space for his friends – and other parties of adventurers – to game together.

“Let’s take the focus off of the retail and let’s try to create a space where we can hang out,” he said.

The gaming experience at Bear Totem is unique, considering the customized tables Seth created. Each player has their own section of the table with cup-holders and space to place their character sheets and dice.

The Dungeon Master has an even more elaborate set-up, with a built-in nook to hide information, such as monstrous miniatures, that will surprise the players later on in the session.

One table even has a TV built into it that can showcase customized D&D maps, such as a huge ship with waves crashing against it, to help the shop’s quiet background music create an immersive gaming ambiance.

To complete the fantasy tavern vibes that are common in many D&D campaigns, Bear Totem serves tap beer sourced locally.

For two years, Seth toured as a drummer through Germany and was excited to try the foreign beer, only to realize he preferred Spokane’s diverse selection of drinks.

“I’ve been to Germany and expected it to be the promise land of beer, and I realized I was spoiled because I come from the promise land of beer,” he said.

Seth supplies on-tap beers from local breweries, including Bellwether Brewing Co. and For The Love of God Brewing.

Before opening the shop, Seth worked at Excelsior Wellness Center and Hutton Settlement Children’s Home, where he saw the real-life magic of D&D.

“I was working with this one kid, who was about 16 years old, and he didn’t know how to read,” Seth said. “I saw the moment he was playing this game and he was like, ‘this is the coolest thing ever.’ Within a few days, he was asking me how to spell words. He was just sitting there with the Player’s Handbook, like, ‘What does this say? I need to know more.’ ”

Seth said he wanted to create a space where all different types of people could come together to enjoy playing D&D and other games together.

“I’ve had people come in that are dealing with gender dysphoria or who are young, or old or all these different things,” he said. “They come in and are like ‘I’m interested in these things’ and I’m like ‘D&D is for everyone – let’s do this.’ I have done my best to make sure no one feels excluded.”

There are also bookcases full of classic board games, like Risk and Settlers of Catan, available to customers so that anyone can come enjoy a game with friends at Bear Totem, even if D&D isn’t for them.

Rebekah said she and Seth wanted to create a center for the community to connect and be with friends.

“We’re meant to be near people. When we don’t have that, it’s sad for our souls,” Rebekah said.

Past the central seating area is Pigasus, the other half of the store, named after a flying pig. Rebekah, who has a school teacher background, takes charge of this side, putting her thrifting and antiquing skills on display.

She gathers vintage toys, clothes and crafts for kids and adults to enjoy sustainably. With some toys costing as little as 25 cents, there is a multitude of new and refurbished environmentally-conscious toys available at Pigasus.

Many of the products are handmade wooden toys that are sourced ethically.

“I want any mom, any parent and any grandparent to come in and be able to find something and not be like ‘that’s too expensive,’ ” Rebekah said. “My goal is for everyone to be welcome and for everyone to find something.”

She also wants to make sure kids are able to come in with a few quarters and pick out a toy they want, she said.

There are plenty of uniquely whimsical toys to choose from – dress-up clothes for kids and dolls, wooden frogs that croak when you swipe a stick on their back, nontoxic nail polish and handmade finger puppets of characters from beloved fairy tales.

Rebekah leads music and art classes for kids to enjoy the vintage toys, crafts and books around the store. The weekly story hour is the most popular class so far, Rebekah said.

“My goal is to make a community for moms and kiddos, and to be sustainable,” she said. “I think the art of being a child has been lost … I think a child’s work is playing. We’re losing it a little with too much TV and video games, and we’ve got to get back.

“It’s the same with Dungeons and Dragons: You’re playing,” she said. “This is a safe space where you can play.”