Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Good Ol' Days

Warning: I may ramble on...

After listening to a bit of the Barrowmaze podcast it got me feeling nostalgic about D&D. After all, for me at least, the best part of the game was telling stories of your characters' (mis)adventures. I find talking about D&D can be just as fun as playing it, and telling stories that involve rolling a 1 are much more interesting than stories about rolling 20s!

So, here's my first (of probably many) posts on D&D and nostalgia. Topic 1: The little game store.

Back in the 80's little game stores seemed to be fairly common, sure, many seemed to go under quickly, but there would soon be another to pop up and fill the void. Sadly, these game stores seem to be a thing of the past these days. A few still exist (there's one not too far from where I live now) but I think a big part of my nostalgic love for them have to do with what was on the shelves: Car Wars, orange spines of AD&D books, zip-lock bags of Steve Jackson's Cardboard Heroes, and rows of amazing, illustrated blister packs of Citadel miniatures. For me, a game store needs to be small, have creaky, old wooden floors and a heavy set guy behind the counter that watches you like a hawk!

I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the first game store I ever went to was Medieval Works in Osborne Village. My older brother was nice enough to take me on the bus one day. I still remember my first purchase (I think I do at least): a Grenadier blister pack of ghouls (I think). There were two of them, they were small, and somewhat bestial looking. Included in the blister was a corpse inside a coffin.

Another store that came about in the late 80's was Hit Points, I remember their massive miniature collection the most. That's the store where I bought my copy of Car Wars: Deluxe Edition. I don't remember Hit Points being around for very long.

The store I spent most of my money at was Campaign Outfitters, which was on Corydon Ave. at the time when it was a truly great store. Tiny, and packed full of gaming goodness. I bought my first 1st edition AD&D book in that store, used, from the owner himself. This would have been in the early 90's when I visited it the most, when I was around 14. I think that's when I noticed a shift in gaming. All these amazing Citadel miniatures they had stocked, weren't being restocked anymore. Instead, they were being replaced by "Warhammer" miniatures. I hated the packaging, and the lack of "character" in the sculpts. And instead of 3-5 miniatures per pack, you were getting 1 or 2. Campaign Outfitters changed locations to a bigger store, and was still pretty good, and I think is still around in another new location, but just doesn't have that feeling it used to have.

Lastly, there's a true Winnipeg institution: Pendragon Games. It was around in the early 80's, and is still there today, albeit in a new location. Every time I go home to visit my parents, I have my pilgrimage to Pendragon. This is a true gaming store. I went in a few years back, and sitting on a shelf was Standard Games' Cry Havoc, from 1981. It's like stepping into the same store that it was back in the 80's. Old copies of White Dwarf (that covered D&D), 1e modules, and there's new stuff too of course, but that's not why I go. I just hope it's still there for my next visit.

And that's my ramble. I'm curious as to what you other old tyme gamers experience of gaming stores, old and new, are. Also, the names of the stores you went to. Do you younger gamers think you'll feel the same way about the "new" gaming stores of today?


  1. I was a customer of the San Diego Comic Gallery from the early 80s until I moved to Los Angeles in 2000.

    I know they were still around after I moved, but apparently they closed last year.

    Do you younger gamers think you'll feel the same way about the "new" gaming stores of today?

    The impression I get from the girls (10 and 13 atm) is that they are happy to go with me to the game store, but it's not that big of a deal.

    Their future nostalgia is going to be youtube (instead of television), the internets (instead of libraries), VLC media player (instead of a projectors) and so on.

    The only exception I see with them is PDFs. They take advantage of PDFs, but it doesn't replace their desire to own a physical copy of the books they like.

    The game store doesn't occur to them when there is so much material available online.

    Although, they often ask to go to the book store.

  2. I often think how younger generations will be missing out on things like album art, because everything is so digital now. Having easy access to pdf's is great, but it doesn't beat having a book, particularly with gaming.

    1. I don't think they are missing anything, if the album art reflects the music they like. ;]

  3. There were two for me. I grew up in a small town without buses. So you either had to ride into town on your bike to go to the Hobby Shop or, a few years later, hit the store on the way back from a shop class at a different school in grades 7 and 8. Myself and two other guys often went there. I still have my first set of dice from there: orange Koplow dice (still my favs although they have changed them slightly ( for the worse).

    The other was a funny place that was an office supplies place upstairs but down below - in the basement of course - was a gaming store. Eventually that supply store closed and they kicked the gaming guy out. So he opened a store - get this - called Phoenix Rising - and has been there since. Sadly he only sells modern D&D.

    So I bought most of my stuff there and the Hobby Shop. Neither place was the stereotypical Android's Dungeon, nor did they have a Comic Book Guy lol

  4. Sorry for the semi- formed thoughts, I haven't had coffee yet. :)

  5. Actually, alot of people are convinced that Comic Book Guy was based off the old owner of Pendragon Games when it was a little hole in the wall. The only thing I remember about him was he was over weight, had a beard, and would follow us around the store to make sure we didn't steal anything while he drank out of a 2L bottle of Diet Coke.

    1. Dirk, that's hilarious! My friends and I used to go to the old Pendragon off Donald Street every Saturday from 1988 to 1990. We were all convinced he WAS the inspiration for Comic Book Guy! In warmer months he would even wear shorts and T-shirts that were too small, and he would almost always be eating the same thing -- meatball sandwiches from Styrofoam containers...and sipping from a two-litre bottle of Diet Coke! If that's not enough, he would also make sarcastic remarks if you asked him questions! The only difference between him and Comic Book Guy was the Pendragon fellow had a wife and son who were always in the shop with him. Other than that, he was pretty much the same guy!

  6. Nice post, Dirk. I think much of our gaming nostalgia involves the game stores we hung out in when we were young. I grew up in Saskatoon and haunted The Wizard's Corner every day after school, whose owner's, Ken and Kathy Ward, became like a second set of parents. They were kind and accommodating, and about as un-Comic Book Guy-like as any people could be.

    These days I live just a few blocks away from Pendragon Games in Winnipeg and John still follows people around the store to make sure they don't steal anything! Given Matt Groening's ties to Winnipeg, John may very well be the inspiration for Comic Book Guy. Despite the convenient location, I don't shop there much because, at the age of 46, I don't appreciate being hovered over while I'm trying to browse.

    Sadly, Campaign Outfitters is no longer around. It was sold a number of years ago and went downhill very quickly thereafter. However, there is now Game Knight on Osborne St. and Maxx Collectibles on Portage Ave, neither of which are dedicated old-style gaming stores, but they do help to fill the void.

  7. Nice post. I got my first set of dice from pheonix rising as Greg said. Sadly it was like a month ago even though I've been playing D&D for years heh.