Inspired by that source material, I cobbled together my own fantasy adventurer’s costume for Halloween:
No parental assistance required: Sweat pants and a sweatshirt that looks like I removed the collar for that deep-V look that’s all the rage among dragon-slayers; cape from an old…bedspread, maybe? I can remember the material was heavy, but also kind of clingy and stretchy; tunic-vest-thing that I cut and stitched together myself out of some burlap-type cloth mom had around; and a belt that I probably wore every other day of the year, too.
The sword? A yardstick covered in aluminum foil, of course. Which means it stands to reason – as if it’s not completely clear already – that yes, I am in fact wearing a foil hat. (Technically, my helm was a white knit hat covered in foil. Still: FOIL HAT.)
And now that “foil” sounds funny, I’ll move on.
If I remember correctly, my fellow D&D wannabe Mike S. wore a pretty slick elf ranger costume he and his mom had made.
More than once, I think, Mike and I took advantage of the trick-or-treat scheduling differences between the village of Hartville itself – where he lived – and Lake Township: One usually scheduled it on Halloween proper, while the other set it on the closest preceding weekend night, or something like that, making it possible for us to hit both of our neighborhoods. I seem to think we also really liked going out in the early hours of trick-or-treat, dropping off our candy haul at home, and then going back out after dark to roam the neighborhood and try to scare the kids we knew.
Other bits and pieces nicely caught up in this photo: The Halloween decorations – store-bought and handmade alike – that my mom put out every year; the long-gone brick fireplace and wood paneling of our family room; the wooden set of coasters in their little boxy holder up there on the mantle (these go back practically to the beginning of my memory).
For all the dorkiness captured in this picture – of me, that is; nothing against our family decor – I remain oddly proud of this costume, since I made the whole thing myself.
Plus: Foil hat.
Earlier this year, a friend asked if I’d be interested in his 1980s Dungeons & Dragons stuff. He’d played a lot back when we were kids – I wish I’d known that at the time – but hadn’t touched the game in years, and thought I’d enjoy having the classic material on hand, since I now play regularly.
So we struck a deal, and I’ve spent a good amount of time revisiting the books and box sets and modules that I either never had or never fully appreciated as a kid. (Bonus: His collection included a Fiend Folio that even has the remnants of a Kay-Bee toy store price sticker, just like mine did!)
Inside the Basic Set was a sandwich bag containing seven dice. The brown 10- 12- and 20-siders look like they came from the same original set. The light blue d4 and d6 are identical to the ones I got in my own red box Basic Set. The two d8s are each a little different.
I was surprised to see how small those three older brown dice looked, sitting next to dice from my current collection –
– but they felt familiar between my fingertips. And the d4 is numbered the way I remember from middle school, with the digits on the edges rather than the corners.
Thing is, it was only last weekend that I had the realization that These Dice Should Be Rolling! I retrieved them from the Basic box and tumbled them into my dice bag.
Tuesday night’s D&D session was entirely role-playing, but toward the end of the night, we rolled for a bit o’ treasure.
Here’s the result of the d12’s first in-game cast in close to three decades:
This One Goes To Eleven. (And landed Culhwch Keepson a Ring of Climbing.)
I started to write up my memories of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which premiered on CBS Sept. 17, 1983, and then realized I’d really like to contribute this particular bit of recollection to GeekDad.
And I’m glad I did, because it’s been really cool seeing the responses on GeekDad, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and realizing that hey, I struck a nice nostalgic nerve with this one.
We even made the official Daily D&D!
I didn’t want to overload the GeekDad post with pictures, so here are a couple images from the cartoon’s closing credits that I mentioned. Still gorgeous and a little sad, somehow – but in that good sort of way. (And I think I figured out why I love them so much. It’s an amusement park at dusk. Weak spot.)
In the fall of 1983, I started seventh grade at Lake Middle School.
Technically, this yearbook itself is from 1984, since we received them toward the end of the school year. However, since I did pretty much nothing in the way of extracurricular activities, I can guarantee that half the pictures of me in this book are from the beginning of the school year.
I can make this promise because I am only in two pictures. Here’s the first – my official seventh-grade portrait, as it appeared on page 50. Row 6, first column, surrounded by a group of fellow B-name kids that wouldn’t change much over my entire 12 years at Lake. (This guy’s picture is in row 5, column two.)
Why yes, those are plastic-rimmed prescription glasses that darkened in sunlight – and apparently, under certain bright indoor conditions as well – because after all, it was August, 1983. And according to my extensive television research, every girl was crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.
Digression to the future: That seventh-grade me still regularly read his Fiend Folio – with its unforgettable image of Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders –
– and other Dungeons & Dragons materials, even if he never actually learned to play. Those memories add another level of enjoyment to this picture, taken almost exactly 30 years later at Gen Con:
Back to the past, then:
My only other appearance in the yearbook is in the photo below.
I’m thinking I’m second row, third or fourth chair clarinet. My face is hidden, but I’m pretty sure that’s my unruly hair within the red circle:
Seventh grade at Lake Middle School was also notable in that thanks to a shift in student distribution (the middle school had housed grades 6-8 the year before, but handled grades 7-9 in 1983-84) my classmates and I got to be the youngest class in the building for a second consecutive year. Yay.
Woke up early enough to make myself go do another treadmill run. Only had enough in the tank for two miles, so I at least pushed myself and came in at under eight minutes per mile – barely.
Our first day at Gen Con, Dave had said something to the effect of, “We gotta play some D&D this weekend.”
We’d planned to line up with Kato at 9 a.m. to try and get a 10 a.m. session of Confrontation at Candlekeep, but just after eight, during another hearty hotel breakfast (seriously: I really enjoyed the morning menu), I got a text from Dave: “Just got over here. Line is out the door, erm, gate already.”
I got there a few minutes later, and Kato was there by about 8:45. I think we did wind up sitting down at our table to play a little more than an hour later.
I chose the pre-generated dwarf fighter as my character, since it’s a role I had no experience playing.
We had a great DM – Erica King – guiding our adventure, and I really enjoyed myself. (I don’t have enough comparative multi-edition experience to offer a good opinion on the D&D Next play. I know I had fun.) The only downside was that our party, through some odd quirk of the playtest logistics, didn’t actually get to do battle with the final monster. Erica did a great job of thinking on her feet and throwing new enemies at us so we weren’t just sitting there waiting. Still, again – FUN.
And hey: Sweet new free set of dice from Wizards of the Coast!
These are all my free dice from Gen Con – the blue and white set is from Wizards, the purple one was a Crystal Caste giveaway, and the green one was from ordering off the Pathfinder menu at Scotty’s Brewhouse, which is where Kato and Wendy and I went for lunch. (Love the effort that went into creating the art and copy for this menu. The descriptions are fun and amazing. And if you’re interested, we split an order of Goblin Ears, and I had a Squealy Nord.)
After lunch, I met up with Dave at the convention center again, then tried to catch Jim Hines for his 3 p.m. book signing. Then I double-checked the schedule and saw that it had been an 11 a.m. signing, and I’d gotten my days confused. Dang.
So Dave & I stopped by the Steve Jackson Games booth, where both Steve Jackson himself and John Kovalic happened to be sitting and signing. And I’d brought along my much-loved copy of Munchkin Bites for just such an occasion:
The third signature there is Andrew Hackard. Kelsey and I met Andrew at Penguicon – where he taught us how to play Munchkin – in 2009, and I’d been looking forward to catching up with him at Gen Con. The SJ Games booth was really busy, of course, but we got to chat for a couple minutes. Then he looked at his watch and said, “Hey: You should throw your name in the drawing for dinner at the Munchkin Tavern tonight – I’m hosting.” I filled out an entry card, and then Dave and I went to meet up with Jonathan.
The three of us played Paizo’s demo of its Pathfinder Card Game. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but in retrospect, I’d like to see how a full game plays out, since it’s an interesting combination of role-playing rules and deck-building strategy.
Not long after, the three of us headed off in different directions, and then I got a text from an unknown number: I’d landed one of the Munchkin Tavern dinner seats!
Via text, Kato suggested that we could fill the time until I headed to dinner with a game of Lords of Waterdeep, so Dave and I met him in one of his hotel common areas. I’d never played the game, but I liked it from the start. Easy to learn and a fun theme. Also, I won. (Though with an asterisk – we cut the game short by a couple rounds at 6:50 so I could head over to dinner.)
Dinner at the Munchkin Tavern was a blast. Six of us Munchkin / SJGames fans and Andrew, just geeking out for hours, and enjoying some seriously excellent food and drink. At one point, with his actual Red Pen of Doom, Andrew began creating custom (and Munchkin-legal!) “Go Up A Level” cards. As he’s doing this, he looks at me and says, “Is it ‘E-L-S-E-Y?” Realizing he was personalizing a card for my daughter, I said, “Yep. And you’re awesome.”
His response was to grin and say, “You haven’t seen the card yet.”
It reads, “Beat Dad – Again. Go Up A Level. KELSEY ONLY.”
“Hackaaaaaaaaaaaaard!” (No, seriously: Awesome.)
It was past 10 p.m. when we all left, and the time had flown.
Even though Dave and I were doing another True Dungeon run at 10 a.m., it was the last night of Gen Con, so I wanted to keep riding the adrenaline. “Still up?” I texted Kato.
About 20 minutes later, I got a response: He was heading down to the lobby to meet a couple friends for another Lords of Waterdeep game, and invited me over.
We set up at a table in the bar with Kato’s buddies, who were ordering a late dinner. After they ate, we ordered some drinks and got the game going.
After a bit, a guy came over and said something along the lines of “Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt your game, but…are you having fun?”
It was almost 2 a.m. by the time we wrapped things up, and even though I knew it was going to be hard getting up at eight o’clock, I kept thinking, “Yep. This is how you do the last night of a con.”
So I’m heading back to the room, walking east on Maryland Avenue, and there are still a fair amount of people out and about. And I’m thinking about how I’m going to have to pack all my stuff in the morning before heading over to True Dungeon, because checkout time is 11 a.m., and that means getting up even earlier than I’d planned, because at this hour, I can’t pack when I get back to the room without waking up Jonathan, and –
– and there’s Jonathan, standing on the next street corner talking with someone, because he has also spent the last night of Gen Con gaming into the early hours of Sunday. We see each other and crack up with the absurdity of being up this late playing games and having so much fun.
Back at the hotel, I pack up everything I can, and fall asleep around 3 a.m.
(In which John, having reached Indianapolis for Gen Con, unsurprisingly goes to Gen Con.)
Finishing up breakfast with Jonathan and Dave just after 8 a.m., it felt like it should have been much later in the day, since I’d been up most of the night. But I was ready to get The Best Four Days in Gaming under way.
Jonathan and I checked our luggage – we couldn’t check into the hotel until Thursday afternoon – and after short walk to the Indiana Convention Center later, we had checked into the press room made our way to the main exhibit hall.
Dave & Jonathan are really enthusiastic gamers, and it was fun seeing the two of them walk into this massive space packed with games… and practically freeze with overload.
Before playing anything, I made sure to pick up my first free swag of the con – this sweet DungeonMorph die:
So, here’s what I remember playing that morning:
Roll For It! – Hey! I won the first GeekDad-played game of Gen Con 2013! (Thanks to a bit of luck – it’s a dice game, after all – and, I’d like to think, some lessons learned from playing too much Tali.)
Walk the Plank – I won this one, too, thus racking up two-thirds of my gaming victories that weekend in the first hour or so.
WeyKick – Jonathan’s Gen Con photo set at GeekDad includes a picture of Dave and me playing this tabletop soccer game.
Ooga Booga – Silly, silly fun.
Jonathan and Dave wanted to check out Robinson Crusoe – Jonathan included his thoughts on the game in his GeekDad gaming round-up) so I went along and watched for awhile, thinking ahead to lunch and a 1 p.m. appointment in Gamma World.
I was starting to take damage from the lack of sleep, so I excused myself from the Crusoe game table and headed out to find the food trucks that Kato & Wendy had mentioned were nearby.
A couple observations on post-2005 changes to the Indiana Convention Center:
- The additional convention space that now occupies what used to be the RCA Dome was most welcome, and made a huge difference in the crowds and traffic compared to Star Wars Celebration III. While there were occasional bottlenecks in spots, for the most part, walking around Gen Con, I spent very little time in those zombie-shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder packs that seemed to fill the main SWC3 corridors.
- The rise of the food truck industry has done wonders. One of my huge gripes about conventions is the lack of access to food other than the unremarkable and overpriced offerings within convention centers themselves. While I remember the Indy convention center having decent – if not quick – dining options within walking distance, there was nothing in 2005 to compare to the couple dozen food trucks that lined the neighboring streets this time around.
Right across the road, I found a truck offering bowls of homemade mac-and-cheese ladled over a scoop of pulled pork BBQ, and then baked for just a few minutes to get that nice golden brown top. That and a Coke did me up just right, and I felt much better heading over to Kato & Wendy’s hotel for our scheduled Gamma World adventure.
I’ve written before about Kato’s DM skills, so when he invited me to play in a GW adventure he was creating specifically for Gen Con, he didn’t have to ask twice. I met up with him and Wendy, and we set up at a table in one of their hotel’s public gathering areas. Three of their other friends joined us, and a four-hour post-apocalyptic quest ensued.
My random character generation? A highly dexterous felinoid demon. Naturally, I named him Cattygrumpus.
It was so meta, and so fun, and Kato’s attention to detail and planning were on full display. The setting was Indianapolis itself, in the ruins of the convention center. After Gen Con, Kato explained it himself via Twitter, and shared some of the cool original art one of his friends – @symatt – contributed.
I collected Kato’s Twitter descriptions and other art in this Storify piece.
And when the whole thing was over, we each got a couple custom Gamma World cards – again, worth reading for the detail.
So, having gotten my third wind, I headed off to check into the hotel and take a shower before attending A Night with Dungeons & Dragons.
I met up with Kato & Wendy outside the Indiana Roof Ballroom, the interior of which was designed to evoke Baldur’s Gate. And while there was a big puzzle/murder mystery activity you could participate in, the three of us spent most of the evening eating, drinking, talking, and enjoying the surroundings and talking to several nifty game creators.
Shortly after 10 p.m., I caught up with Jonathan and Dave in Hall D of the convention center – the main open gaming venue. They introduced me to The Great Heartland Hauling Co., and we played a game before calling it a day. (The game’s inventor, Jason Kotarski, happened to be at the next table over, and posted this picture to Twitter.)
And that was it: Having been on the go since roughly 5:30 a.m. the day before, I slept well back at the hotel.