March 12, 2019

Reflections on Gary Con XI

I attended Gary Con XI in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin this year (my first visit). I had a memorable time. I highly recommend the convention to anyone who is enthusiastic about Dungeons and Dragons. There is something intangibly sorcerous about Lake Geneva. This might sound sentimental, but it seems the very air of that little town is infused with adventure.

On the flight out there, I re-read Michael Witwer's Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons. It is a dramatic, somewhat hagiographic biography of E. Gary Gygax, the co-creator, with David Arneson, of D&D. It tells the story of the incubation of D&D in the wargaming community of the Twin Cities and Lake Geneva with an emphasis on Gygax's role. It is excellently written, not just for its value as biographical history but for its literary style. It reads as a novel and is charged with emotion. You learn of Gygax's excitement and energy as D&D becomes a phenomena and you learn of his frustration and desperation as he loses the company he founded. I highly recommend the book. It was an excellent read to prepare for the convention.

While I was at the convention I saw several excellent panels. I saw a rough cut of a documentary, Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of Dungeons and Dragons. It told the story of the early origins of Dungeons and Dragons with an emphasis on Dave Arneson's role. Several of the veteran wargamers who were in the documentary were present and took questions afterwards. I was a forthcoming documentary on the art of Dungeons and Dragons, Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons and Dragons. It included lots of compelling information about the many phases of D&D art, from its early days through its evolution, and after the screening several artists were there to take questions. I saw a panel that was composed of the Gygax children and they talked about their memories of their father and what is was like growing up spectator to his successes and frustrations. I watched four episodes of The Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon with Ernie Gygax, who worked on the show. And I participated in a panel on the Literary Influences of Dungeons and Dragons. All in all, an excellent time was had.