Monday, June 19, 2006

Lake Geneva Game Convention

Lake Geneva Gaming Convention 2006 (II) After Action Report

From the Little Rock on the River to the Castle on the Lake

We began our sojourn into the north country on Wednesday/Thursday eve, about midnight. Davis, Mark Sandy and myself loaded into the cab of the old chevy and took off, a jumble of boxes, racks and luggage in the open bed. I drove the first small stretch, then Davis took the wheel and finally Mark took over. Mark works evenings so he carried us through the bulk of the night and early morning hours. We were hoping to make Lake Geneva by noon or there-abouts. We jabbered off and on, but for the most part Davis and I slept the bumpy sleep of that unsung hero of our collective cultural landscape, the auto-traveler.

As the sun came up we roused ourselves and made a few stops to get the requisite coffee, smokes, donuts and the like. We plunged on, watching the endless miles slip underneath and behind us. Somewhere out there we knew there was a small army of similar travelers, all braving the miles of open road and sky to come to Lake Geneva town and join in the fest. We were all tired, and pretty quiet, listening mostly to the road roll beneath us.

Our weary bodies were happily awakened around 7:30 or so by the news that that perfidious terrorist Al-Zarqowi had met his gristly end at the hands of the U.S. Army Hoah Hoah Apparently while we were rolling across the borders of Arkansas and Missouri he was having bombs for breakfast. We were elated and that news set off a long round robin in the cab about the war, its circumstances and the noble endeavor our men and women . . . and those of the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark and other nations . . . are embarked upon over there. Personally I wanted to sing his death to every passer-by we met, but held my tongue not wishing to upset any of those who might find such news distressing or disturbing over their breakfast meal.

But be that as it may, it was with lighter hearts that we crossed the great state of Illinois and passed over into wild and wonderful Wisconsin. Sometime around 1:30 or so we set foot into old Lake Geneva town. Here lie the end of our journey and the spiritual capital of the world we all walk in, for it was in Lake Geneva that the gaming hobby, and industry, was born. Lake Geneva is a wonderful, quiet town. I can’t say enough good about it . . . and this coming from a southern boy who has seen his fair share of sleepy towns in the Mississippi Delta.

We struck out for the Plaza Motel, a small affair where Davis and I had stayed on a previous visit some years back. Its out of the way, just off the main drag, but right behind the Cove. So it’s the ideal spot to stay for this convention. The price is good, the accommodations nothing fancy, but very comfortable with a tv, micowave, ice box and the like. It’s a very good place, one we’ve already blocked off solid for the next convention. We also took a few minutes to check out Darlene’s hotel, found it wanting and helped her get reservations in the Plaza just down and over from our own room. This was no easy task, as a great horde of Parrotheads were coming to town to see the Jimmy Buffet concert offered up on Saturday night.

Once all this was done we made our way to Gary Gygax’s house for some relaxed home style cooking and brew. Gary’s family offers a welcome home and a comfortable porch and not being strangers we settled down to a relaxed afternoon of talk, food and drink. As the hours played by Darlene and her husband showed up as did Peter and his folks. Gamers too began to gather as did a good number of Gary’s children. Elise, Heidi and Alex were all there and we made great sport of whatever strange conversation erupted between the many varied guests. As the hours passed we retired to Fat Cats where Ernie Gygax joined us. We talked and joked and made much ado about nothing into the wee hours of the morning.

Thus began the second Lake Geneva Gaming Convention.

The next morn we woke up and wandered down to the Olympic Diner where we met Darlene and Vincent for breakfast. The five of us had a very enlightening conversation about the Crusader, editing issues, formatting, layout and the like. We came to some mutual understandings and plotted a little course for our future (as you can see I’m being a little vague about this meeting, but it was a very productive one). This ended when Tami Key, our beloved convention coordinator, called and said we had people gathering in the hall. “I thought we opened for business at 2 pm?” “We do boss, but these folks had the Cove open the hall and they started gaming about 8 in the a.m. ” “Ha That’s the spirit Alright, we’re coming your way.”

Fred, Tami’s husband, had already begun setting our booth up for us and Tami had the registration desk set up and moving along. So we spent a chaotic few hours getting things caught up, set up and working. There were some badge issues, parking problems and similar troubles that afflict any operation as it gets off the ground, but aside from that the convention was up and running in no time. Gamers were gathering and playing games pretty quick.

Some of our Honored Attendees arrived soon thereafter. Frank Mentzer, Tom Wham and Rob Kuntz were all elbow deep in games even before I knew what was happening. Mark joined a number of Frank’s games and by all accounts had a wonderful time. The better part of Friday was spent ironing out small problems and the beginning of Davis and my round robin meetings with various and sundry folks. The most interesting conversation being that with Peter and his folks about the forthcoming Troll Con in the castle I did manage to get in a game of San Juan with Ernie and a couple of other fellows whose names escape me at the moment. Friday ended much as Thursday had, over at the Gygax’s with a bit of relaxed conversation and dinner. After which I retired to the now empty hall where Tami, Fred and I ironed out problems and differences and laid the ground work for LGGC III to be held in June of 2007.

And Saturday began as Friday had, with breakfast at the Olympic with Darlene, Davis and Vincent. Mark opted out this time as he wanted to go game over in the hall. We mostly chatted about hypno-therapy as a means of treating psychosis and similar topics. Very enlightening for me as my interests lie in far different pastures than the medical sciences.

By the time we arrived in the hall the con was in full swing By noon all the table were full to overflowing with folks wandering around looking for some space, and even more folks coming and going. The whole affair seemed to have more energy than it did last year, though the attendance was not that much greater. All the tables were full and there was precious little for me to do but enjoy the day. Davis and I continued our intermittent meetings with folks discussing game ideas . . . these ran the gauntlet of tastes and if we are fortunate we’ll see some released in the coming months.

We did enjoy the mammoth effort put out by Paul Stromberg (sic) and crew with the re-enactment of the battle of the Moathouse (Village of Homlet) wherein many of the members of the original Castles & Crusades Society gathered to battle it out using the old Chainmail rules, miniatures and a model of the moathouse. The moathouse looked sweet and the minis too and the battle royal began and carried on throughout much of the afternoon. It was a site And as there were tons of pictures taken I’m sure you’ll all be able to see what I’m talking about soon enough.

The highlight came of course with the special presentation that Frank Mentzer did for Gary Gygax. The hall was called to order and Frank gave a great speech, dressed out in the history of the game, the early days and those folks who passed through them. It came to pass that he had in his possession the original type written manuscript of Gary Gyax’s Temple of Elemental Evil. He returned the manuscript to Gary and celebrated his long, fruitful career as a game designer. It was a good speech and well done

Games. Games. Games. Folks gamed all day and long into the night. I fully intended to join them with a rousing game of Castles & Crusades but could never quite make it to the table. One engagement after another captured my attention as Davis and I found ourselves going over plans for the future with Gary, Peter, Tami, Josh Chewing, John Seibel and so forth and so on. Lots of folks, lots of good ideas, lots of suggestions on how to implement them This is turning into one of the good things at LGGC, there seems to be a gathering of minds and a collective hashing out of ideas. We have the experience and wherewithall of the old guard with the fresh insight of a younger crowd of designers. There are differences of course, arguments and the like but we all seem to have one thing in common . . . .

We all eventually wash up on the shores of Gary’s front porch like so much flotsam. There, Gary had been running games of Lejendary Adventure all day and they had only just ended. The conversation turned from game design to more ‘normal’ conversation . . . at least where I sat, though truthfully I could not hear what conversations were happening on other parts of the porch . . . . It was a great evening that only ended when folks trickled off in ones or twos to at last leave the Bradley clan and the Gygax’s a quiet evening. Our energies went to the Pub-on-the-Street-Corner-Across-the-Neighbor’s-Yard or some such place whose name utterly confounds my already poor ability to remember names. There we began an evening filled with trollish entertainment and eventually wandered down to Fat Cats to hook up with Ernie, Combat Kyle, Brian Miller and a host of other conventioneers

We closed the bar out and wandered back to the hotel. Mark and I chatted into the wee hours about various and sundry games he played and I failed to play. Davis tossed fitfully in his sleep, no doubt dreaming of little troll feet and little troll hands.

Sunday saw us cleaned and checked out and eating breakfast in the Olympic again. This time treated to a king’s meal by Russ and Ken, two noble conventioneers. We chatted for a great while and had a good time, only wandering to the hall long after it opened at 8. When we arrived games were already underway and the hall was full again. We had a few more walk ins who were able to partake of the offerings of LGGC II. Sunday frittered away far too quickly and we suddenly found ourselves back against the departure time of 2 p.m. The tables were full up till that time as people got in there last minute games. This seemed to be the greatest justification for the open-table policy that we have at LGGC. People seemed to be much more relaxed when they know they can find the end of a table and sit down and start gaming. My only regret is that I didn’t get to sit in on any games, or run any. Next year, I vow to partake of morning/early afternoon games and really enjoy the show for what it is . . . a tribute to gaming, gamers and the games they play.

Shortly after 2 we began breaking down. With MUCH help from a lot of folks the truck was loaded in no time. Tami, Davis, Fred and I made last minute plans for next year’s schedule and then we all trundled over to Gary’s for a last bit of conversation, lunch and relaxation before the long 600 mile journey home. After being treated to a round of Gary’s puns we got to see some of the early TSR creations, courtesy of Frank Mentzer. All great stuff. But at last we made our goodbyes and the three of us loaded back into the truck and headed home.

The journey was largely uneventful and carried out in the dark hours of the night and morning and we staggered into the Natural State around 5:30 in the a.m. After a fruitless search for Davis’ truck keys I took him home, dropping him off around 6 and made it back to the bed in time to catch about an hour’s worth of sleep before getting up and getting back to the lovely grind that is Troll Lord Games.

Steve
June 15, 2006
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