Sunday, March 25, 2012

On and Off at Gary Con IV

Day One—Thursday March 22nd 2012

Zooming along back roads past Lake Geneva, I actually switch on the A/C in my car for the first time this season, with near 80 degrees F. outside. Noon. Everyone's out eating. Sun's bright and beating down on my left arm. Nobody's on the road ahead of me. The local squad car isn't hidden at the usual speed trap. Good. I zoom even more. My ten-year-old-Buick thinks it's a Jaguar.

 At last, I pull into the parking lot at the Interlaken—erm, The Lodge at Geneva Ridge. TSR old timers will always call it by its original name. I haven't stepped inside yet when I run into Ken Whitman. Handshake. Yeah, okay. . . Hug. Ever hugged a bear before? Well, just come to Wisconsin. He's gotta run a quick errand but Diesel (Dave LaForce) comes walking by with his wife, Lisa—also a former TSR employee. More handshakes. Yeah, okay. . . more hugs. Everybody's excited, but Ken's gotta go. Really. Diesel and Lisa need to check in. I show them the way.

Lisa and Dave "Diesel" LaForce
Badge registration is across the main lobby, downstairs. I turn in my badge from last year's Gary Con earning me this amazed and pleased look from Dale Leonard at the desk. Very kindly, he hands me an envelope with my name—this year' badge of course, and a welcome letter—and the event booklet. “Oh, wait!” Dale says, and gives me a limited edition four-sided die imprinted with the Gary Con logo. Cool! That's nice.

James Ward

Tim Kask
Time to buzz the early gaming tables. Hey, here's Jim Ward running a game of Space Hulk, with Stephen Sullivan next to him. Glad to see you're feeling alright, old buddy. You gave us a scare last winter. Give 'em hell now! Set those bolters on auto-shoot! Snappedy-snap-snap. I take a few shots of my own and swing to the next table. Tim Kask! I know he knows I'm trying to get a good shot of him. He's playing hide and seek under his hat's brim. After an amused glance from Tim, I finally get an almost-decent picture. Skip Williams is at the next table, way too serious and absorbed with his quest to terrify the players.

Frank Menzter
Eldritch Enterprise
Not far from there, I spot Frank Mentzer. Big smile. He stops his game and introduces me. How kind of him. A hardbound book and a pen promptly find their way into my hands. Ah, yes. An autograph. Scratchedy-scratch-scratch. Well, thanks! This just made my day. Just behind Frank were four products standing in the window. They are releases from his new venture, Eldritch Enterprise. Best of luck, old friend! At the opposite end of the table is a familiar face, someone visiting once again this year and all the way from Italy—Luca Carbonini. Friendly wave.

Luca Carbonini
Skip Williams
I have a quick chat with Stephen Polaski, gaming buddy from Lake Geneva. Between the swing of a sword and a spell of self-defense, he and I glance at bulldozers wrecking the resort's lake-side backyard. Disappointment. Same time last year, it snowed. Needless to say this year's winter was no winner. Okay, it snowed pretty good less than three weeks ago, but today would have been perfect weather for a suntan. Next year. . . Maybe. . . Fine then. I decide to take a few shots of a dungeon diorama. It reminds me of 3D settings we had when demonstrating D&D at the TSR castle, during the old days of Gen Con at Milwaukee's Mecca center. There will be more of this stuff Saturday for sure.

A few snaps later, I go for a quick tour of the area. It's Thursday, people are streaming in and getting organized. I intercept Harold “Wisconsin” Johnson upstairs by the event registration desk. He volunteered to help with keeping things running smoothly. With his background administering Gen Con, it's no problem. He charges back into the fray. Bye, Harold. Don't forget the whip.

Harold Johnson
Diesel is busy talking shop with Luke Gygax, straightening details about the dealer's room. Hi Luke! Speaking of which, I have different business I do need to look into. I run back upstairs and connect with Rick, the manager in charge of events at The Lodge. It's about the dinner Margaret Weis and I organized for past employees of TSR, this coming Saturday. And how many of us are coming? It's got to be about fifty now. Fifty? He was told forty. Well, yeah, people have been coming out of the woodwork in the past few days. Alright. The chef will be advised right away. The dinner menu has been e-mailed to the guests. Good. We have a quick look at the dining area. Love it. A few more details later, Ricky introduces to me his colleagues in case we need anything else. Nice folks.

The Games' Library
We part ways and I complete a quick visit of the open gaming area. The familiar spirits haunting the hallowed hall haven't risen yet. I'll catch up with them later. Time to head back home.

Open Gaming Area
The dashing “Jag” awaits, and a storm is brewing.


Keep the dice rolling.  I'll be right back...

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  1. Nice article, Bruce! You really make it sound very cosy and friendly, like a blast from the past. I know the names of most of the people you mention, it would be so nice to meet them all - and most of all, you.

    Maybe someday, when my children are old enough to appreciate D&D...

    1. I'll think I'll be really old by then, if not already cavorting alongside an Immortal or two! ;)

    2. Oh, it happens so fast though! We've already taken our 6 year old to GenCon once and he LOVES roleplaying! His 4 year old brother isn't far behind him either. I introduced the older one to RPGs using RPGKids, a wonderful little game that uses opposed d12 rolls for resolution with the occasional modifier. It's so easy and he loves talking about his characters! He even participates in our monthly Pathfinder game, with a very simplified character sheet, mind you. I have plans to introduce him to a BECMI game sometime though. Thorf, you'll be gaming with your little ones before you know it. :)

  2. Jim may have been using Space Hulk figures & pieces, but we were actually playing a really great game of Jim's own Metamorphosis Alpha RPG.

    I even survived!
    My character was the sole survivor, actually -- possibly the first time I've ever lived through one of Jim's games. ;-)

    1. MA!? I should have known. And you survived... you lucky dog.

  3. As Jim's boss I will be sure he doesn't screw up like that at the next convention.