Monday, March 16, 2009

Remembering the FLnon-GS

There's been quite a bit of posting in the old-school blogoshpere recently, lamenting the decline of the FLGS, both the favorite stores of days-gone-by and the decline of this niche business as a whole. As I reminisced over my favorite game purchase-points in the past, I was struck by how many were not game stores at all.

My first "official" D&D purchase was the Moldvay Basic set in 1981, which I picked up at...JC Penney! Yep, in 1981 JC Penney had a neat little game section lost in the middle of the housewares department, and D&D sat proudly amidst the Rubik's Cubes and Bridge sets. I can still remembering carrying the set across the high-rise bridge to Maas Bros, and sitting in the cafe there with breakfast, rolling up my first B/X character (an elf, of course).

I say "official" above, because before that I was picking up fantastic Judge's Guild products, like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy and City-State of the Invincible Overlord at... the local hardware store! Hard to picture now, but there was a flat table covered in JG stuff there, as well as some Arduin stuff (which I thought looked weird at the time and ignored ;-) and a glass display case of lead orcs, goblins, and knights.

In all of those formative gaming years of, say, '78 through '84, I never purchased a single D&D product in what we would consider today to be a "gaming" store. Catalogues from Sears and Penney were a mainstay, as well as the shelves at the local B. Daltons and KB Toys (which also carried a nice selection of my beloved SPI and Avalon Hill wargames). I have vague recollections of visiting a couple of "real" gaming stores, and these seemed to be populated mostly by countless napoleanic and WWII minis, and the little houses, trees, and other set-pieces to embellish your small-scale battlefields with.

"Real" game stores were a fixture during my college years in the early 90's, and I miss the abundance of these to some extent, but not as much as I miss the heady years of the early 80's, when it seemed our hobby was amply represented just about everywhere, and where you least expected it to be!

What non-LGS places do you remember fondly?


  1. In addition to JC Penney's, there was the local Joy Department Store chain where I bought my first Avalon Hill games (Squad Leader).

    I picked up a lot of RPG stuff at a local independent bookstore up through the '90s, too.

    Oh, and there was the model train store a few miles down the road that had a bunch of old, old TSR stuff from the '70s on a neglected wire rack. If I knew then how much some of that stuff would be worth today....

  2. I remember going to a depatment store downtown DeKalb, IL. I don't remember the name, but I think it was independently owned. But right in the front of the store they had a gaming section. And not Monopoly and Life, but the good stuff! Car Wars, The Creature That Ate Sheboygan, D&D, Star Frontiers..etc. They also had quite a few miniatures as well!
    I also remember getting gaming books at Kroch's & Brentano's and K B Toys.

  3. In my area you could get D&D and other RPGs at TOYs-R-Us, ANY hobby shop, a camera store, a discount store, a newstand, a second rate department store and one or two not-so-FLGS.

  4. I used to pick up Dragon at the local hobby shop and modules in the toy section of Meijer's Thrifty Acres, a MI department store chain, and bought (that is, pestered my parents into buying for me) a copy of Gamma World at a small department store while on vacation in Saugatuck.

    It's the same way with comic books, much harder to find outside of specialty shops than when I was a tike.



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