OSRCon IV and Brian Russell

I went to OSRCon IV on the weekend and it was great fun. I had no more expectation that I’d ever go to OSRCon again than I would type on this blog. After three times I was exhausted. I asked for help and didn’t really get any, so I said screw it. Brian Russell decided he’d carry it on regardless. He didn’t ask permission, he just did it, which I think is the only way to go about things.

OSRCon IV was fun and congratulations to him. It was a great job. I think people felt they could have had more, that perhaps it ended a bit early. I think we can say there will be an OSRCon V. When it happens, you’ll have Brian to thank. And that’s a good thing if for no other reason than he’s a nicer person than I am. I can be a moody prick. If you want to see pictures of the event, you can go to the OSRCon IV G+ page.

OSRCon V. It has a nice, solid ring to it. Like “Ogre Mark V”.

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Back in the day…

One day Wally Hnatiw came out of the University Theater on Bloor and saw a store he’d never seen before. On the second floor across the street was a store called Mr. Gameways’ Ark. This was the 70s and he’d never seen a store only for games. When it moved around the corner on Yonge St. into an old three story postal station from 1906, he become intimately associated with it.

There were four main game stores in the early 80s. Three of them hated each others guts. The Worldhouse with Alex Von Thorn got along with everybody. Down the street from Mr. Gameways’ Ark (MGA) at The Four Horsemen, not too much love. At The Battered Dwarf (the Dwarf) with John Dunn at Parliament & Carlton, same thing. Those three stores were in a triangle of dislike. They’d hire each others employees and generally talk smack about each other to customers.  When MGA went bankrupt, the crew from The Four Horsemen were buying stock at fifty percent off to sell from their own store. They were out of business a month later.

Wally and his wife Karen Jenkner ran a company called Dungeon Parties Inc. They rented DMs to parties for $20. They kept $10. One of the most bloodthirsty groups ever for Wally was a party of ten year old girls, who were thrilled to pile on and try to beat to death a dwarf, whose soul function at the very beginning of the game was to give directions.

He was also a guiding member of the Full Spectrum Gaming Club (FSGC) on the third floor of MGA. It was co-run with Ron Papin, who was a part of a scene of drama when Wally went to one of the owners of the MGA to ask for his 100 votes. The issue was whether the players fees should be split between MGA and the FSGC or MGA and Ron Papin.

There were regulars at the FSGC. One was “Gameways Eugene” who might get angry at losing at Rail Barron, tear up the cards, realized he’d been a jerk, and go into the store to buy the owner a new copy. Other more conventional members were Eric McGillicuddy, Doug Richards, George Duff, and Ron Green. The Dwarf had a club too with one member named Duncan Kaye. The FSGC had space for “monster games” on the third floor right beside the scale replica, car battery powered bridge of the NCC-1701-A USS Enterprise that people came to see. (And which was a holdover from the first Star Trek convention Toronto ever had in 1976 at the Royal York Hotel.) The monster games would be something akin to SPI’s War In The East, the size of a ping pong table, and could go on for months.

In an earlier post I said I’d found The Toronto Fantasy Games Club in 1983 at Harbourfront. It was run by the Dwarf on Wednesdays at 6pm. On the weekends Wally ran another game club at Harbourfront in The Loft on the second floor. The first time had 120 people. The next week there were 60. This lead to Wally creating D&D Summer Camp at Harbourfront once a summer for two weeks, when he was on vacation and could find the time. They had lead figure painting workshops and guest author speakers. This is what Cory Doctorow was talking about in his Boing Boing post I cited earlier. The event coordinator, Liz Rainsbury, wanted the kids to take some exercise and so provided a soccer ball for dodgeball. None of the kids wanted to exercise. Exercise bad! The idea was dropped.

A few years of this and the realization that Hexacon ’82 was not going to be Hexacon ’83 or Hexacon ’84, he decided to start an event called Pandemonium. He and his wife ran it for two years and then handed it over to The General Staff.

The first Pandemonium was in the Rabina Hall at St. Clair & Oakwood. The next and subsequent events were at Ryerson. I remember going to it in 1994. Pandemonium ’84 was on the coldest day in January. This entry from the events page of White Dwarf magazine Nov. 1984 describes the second outing:

Pandemonium ’84. The Toronto games convention Pandemonium ’84 has given birth! Son of Pandemonium, in downtown Toronto on January 19, 1985, will feature tournaments, an auction, a fun-gaming area and dealers, demonstrations and a miniature painting/diorama contest (several categories). $5 plus $1 per tournament entered. For information call Dungeon Parties Inc.

At Wally’s house he has scads of games and magazines he may be interested in parting with, but I’ll save that for another post. So there you have it. A thumbnail sketch of gaming in Toronto at its height of popularity between 1980 and 1983.

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My Coffee With Wally

2013-08-20 10.03.31I just had coffee with Wally Hnatiw (of Dungeon Parties Inc., Games By The Water, The Full Spectrum Game Club, and Pandemonium) and got a great load of stories about the game scene in the early 80s. I’m going to comb out my notes and post about it soon. Thanks for being interviewed, Wally!


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Coffee with Wally

I posted about the Full Spectrum Game Club and got the correct spelling for Wally Hnatiw. Naturally, the thing to do was to look him up in the phone book, give him a call, and invite him for coffee. We’re meeting next week at the Starbucks at the old Mr. Gameways’ Ark building. He’s going to wear an old Pandemonium tshirt and I’m going to ask him about Dungeon Parties Inc., Gamevine, Harborfront and all the rest. I’ll blog my findings. And he remembers the names of all the old club members, such as Ron Green. Cool stuff.

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The Full Spectrum Gaming Club

In our faux timeline for Mr. Gameways’ Ark, it is now hurtling towards oblivion.

I was talking to a fellow at OSRCon who added a wrinkle. The third floor was not part of the store. It was a warehouse and the home of the Full Spectrum Gaming Club, which had D&D, The Morrow Project, massive Squad Leader games, and all kinds of adventures every week.

My source told me you’d take the other set of stairs, the ones off Charles Street, up three flights to the club. This is a building from 1906, a three floor walk-up with two massive stair cases diagonal from each other in opposite corners of the building.

The club was run by Wally Hnatiw and Karen Jenkins. He also told me that they ran a gaming club at Harbourfront. Well, thrill seekers, because I’m completely fucking OCD, I’ve found it.

My man told me it didn’t run that long, as it was aiming a bit too young and there was no continuity between games from week to week, because the attendees were always changing. At any rate, on page 4 of the Fanfare section (Toronto events and articles) of The Globe And Mail dated 13 August, 1983 is an entry under the Special Events section for Harbourfront.

“Toronto Fantasy Games Club: Tuesday at 6pm, $2”

The listing runs in Fanfare for about four weeks and then stops. I do suspect it was a forerunner for Harbourfront’s D&D Summer Camp, which started around that time, still runs (or did until recently), and which Cory Doctorow makes mention attending here. Of course, the Ark, by that time, was dead.

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Deities & Demigods versions

Talking to Frank Mentzer could be a trip because you’d get these direct answers to long standing, debated-around-the-game-store questions in a direct bang-bang, one-two punch format.

Turns out The Chaosium did not send a cease and desist letter to TSR about Elric and Cthulhu mythoi. The Blume brothers pulled them from Deities & Demigods because they made reference to games not owned by TSR.

Frank told me there were five versions using three criteria: are the mythoi in the book?; are the mythoi attributed to The Chaosium?; is the correct number of mythoi in the book represented on the cover? So, the five versions starting with the first are:

1. Squids – no thanks

2. Squids with thanks

3. No squids with thanks

4. No squids; no thanks; wrong number of mythoi on the cover

5. No squids; no thanks; right details on cover

Number three is the funniest, I think. They took out the Elric and Cthulhu mythoi and left thanks to The Chaosium on the legal page at the front.

The next time you scope out Deities & Demigoes on Ebay, remember Frank’s advice. You want the oldest version – Squids; no thanks.

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Pictures from Saturday

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