Ed Greenwood, legendary game designer and best-selling author, shares his Gen Con memories with us in the second in our “My First Gen Con” series of guest posts. Tell us the story of your own first Gen Con (even if this upcoming one is your first) in our My First Gen Con contest!
My first sight of Gen Con was a rather timid peer around a corner into the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I beheld a room of either rather fat or skinny, all-elbows guys (the sort later known as “nerds” but then dubbed “brainers” in my home of Ontario) clustered around tables: either miniatures wargaming tables (flat folding tables with cut-out construction-paper roads and rivers and little painted paper-maché hills, wooded hillocks, castles, and “redoubt”-style fortifications) or just plain tables covered with gorgeously complicated board games. Among them was a bearded man with dark hair, his thick-framed glasses just like mine. It was an hour before I learned his name was Gary Gygax…
It was a sticky day late in the hot, wet August of 1975, and I was a shy, skinny, all-elbows 15-year-old, hundreds of miles from home. I had pleaded with my father to take a side trek out to Lake Geneva on his business trip to Chicago (he was a NORAD radar physicist) to go see the “wargamers.” I NEVER pleaded for anything; he was astonished and intrigued enough to turn the car toward nearby Wisconsin.
He’d grown up a country boy, and I could feel him relaxing and getting happier the farther we got from the city. By the time we came to a stop outside the Hall (the first of the three GenCon venues I spotted), he didn’t care if the whole thing was a wild-goose chase; he’d fallen in love with Lake Geneva on sight.
After a few minutes standing in the damp, smallish room, he was hooked. A model cannon in one battle had caught his eye, and someone got out a tape measure to calculate a medieval cavalry charge on another table… and then he was peering at some beautifully-painted miniatures and grinning like a little kid.
And so was I.
That was GenCon 8. I came back for GenCon 13, then 17 and every single one since. My dad died two years ago, which means he no longer asks me wistfully what GenCon was like, this year. Don’t make his mistake; go and see for yourself!
Ed Greenwood is the creator of the Forgotten Realms fantasy world-setting, an award-winning game designer and a New York Times best-selling author. Ed is currently at work on several Open Design projects and writing his usual three novels at once. Look for Elminster Must Die! from Wizards of the Coast.