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Gaming with Gygax


Liquid Awesome
I know that a great many of you have heard me talk about this and I grew very nearly tired of retelling it upon request at GenCon. But der_kluge asked and so I figure I'll type it out once and for all rather than continue to repeat it when asked. Below is the entire (long) story. I note that this is told from my viewpoint only and so of course my focus will be my part in it (plus, I'm a glory hog like that).

So first up we mostly have Henry to thank for this experience. He approached Gary many months ago about the possibility of running a game for the ENW mods at GenCon and Gary was nice enough to agree. We've all been stoked about it ever since but felt that it would be best to keep quiet about it. I could no longer contain myself when I got to GenCon on Wednesday though and when a few folks asked where we were headed I told them, "I'm not at liberty to say but suffice it to say that the game is going to be run by somebody whose name rhymes with 'Mary Myrax'." That got some raised eyebrows.

We start to head over to the Hyatt from the Embassy and we pass diaglo on the way. Piratecat, a far more heartless bastard than anybody ever gives him credit for, says, "Hey David! Guess where we're going!" You should have seen the look on diaglo's face when he finds out that EGG is about to run a game of OD&D 1974 and he's not in on it. Afterwards somebody said, "Rel didn't have the balls to tell him." Not true. I didn't have the HEART to tell him. That's why I keep the heartless Piratecat around.

Anyway, so we go to the Hyatt and I pop over to the desk so we can call up to Gary's room and tell him that we're there. The clerk behind the desk checks and...Gary's not checked in yet! So I try to retain my composure and ask can we leave him a message and she says sure. I ask for the message to read, "EN Mods waiting..." with my phone number added. Then the woman says, "So, 'Eee En Mods', is that your...'character'?" I'm thinking, "I don't USUALLY hit pregnant women but..."

Anyway, we're all CERTAIN at this point that the game will be cancelled. Gary must have had some kind of delay and it's just not going to happen. We all immediately begin ripping Piratecat for gloating to diaglo before the chickens were hatched as it were. But just then, in walks Gary. He's sorry that he got delayed and invites us up to begin immediately.

So we get down to gaming and we've got Henry the Cleric, Hypersmurf the Fighting Man, el-remmen the Magic User, Piratecat the Elf, I'm playing a Dwarf and I think that Eridanis was playing another Fighting Man but I'm not 100% sure. We rolled 3d6 but, in a move that would have HORRIFIED diaglo, Gary let us arrange them as we liked. It mattered little for me because my rolls SUCKED. I had one 14 and one 11. The rest were all under 10. My Dex was 6! I distinctly recall that all hit points were 1d6 per level (with our characters being 2nd level) and that Hypersmurf rolled a pair of 2's leaving his Fighting Man with half as many hit points as el-remmen's Magic User.

Gary was very easygoing about us buying equipment so my Dwarf had Plate Mail, a shield, an axe, 50 feet of rope and, of course, a flask of oil. Piratecat had a mule.

Gary doesn't mess around with a bunch of "You all meet in a tavern" crap. We walk right up to the ruin of the castle and there are dungeon entrances at each corner and one in the middle. There is a guy outside selling "Dungeon Carts". "For what?" we ask. "To put your loot in." "I'll take one!" says I (being optimistic). Piratecat declines a Dungeon Cart. He has a mule. We roll randomly and enter from the northwest corner.

So we enter the dungeon and the hilarity begins IMMEDIATELY. Henry (God bless im'!) has taken the liberty of buying a pad of graph paper and is going to map for us. He draws a little staircase in the center of the page. Gary leans over and says, "You're entering in the Northwest corner. You might want to start mapping in the northwest corner of the page. Henry erases his little staircase and redraws it in the northwest corner of the sheet of paper.

"You descend the stairs and come to a corridor. It leads 30 feet west." So right away we go off the first sheet of graph paper and Henry pulls off another one and keeps mapping.

"The passageway hits a T intersection and you can see north and south about 30 feet." We peer off the top edge of the second sheet of graph paper and Henry maps us onto our third sheet in the first minute and a half of the adventure. Hilarious.

So anyway, we explore and listen at doors and I go through one and fall down a 10 foot pit. And something inside me says, "Oh. My. God. You've just fallen down Gary Gygax's 10' PIT!! You've been dreaming about this since you were 11 years old!!" (I'll thank the cads among you to not ruin my sense of wonder with your filthy double entendres, no matter how easy a target I've made of myself.) After that we are using Piratecat's 10' pole to prod the floor more carefully.

After a number of twists, turns, empty rooms and "doors that open easily", we find a beetle. Woot! We kill it and take its stuff!

We later find a Gnoll that we tried to charm and take its stuff but if made the save and ran away. We chased it into a room full of bandits with crossbows. They shoot me. I have 3 hit points.

Me: "Hey Cleric, can I get some healing?"
Henry: "I'm saving it for a desperate situation."
Me: "Like what?"
Henry: "Like if I get hurt."

With friends like these...

So anyway, we managed to fight and defeat the bandits with crossbows thanks to brash heroism and a rather considerable amount of Sleep Spell/throat slitting combo from the Magic User. It occurs to me as I type this that overuse of this tactic might be the whole reason the Paladin was even invented. Anyhow, we kill them and take their stuff. And we also killed the Gnoll and took his stuff.

(A note about the taking of the stuff: When I go on vacation, I like to take it easy. And part of taking it easy means not doing any more math than is strictly necessary. So I was extremely greatful for Piratecat handling the treasure tracking wherein he would routinely simplify things for me by saying, "Let's see, 80 Gold Pieces so that's 10 gold each for the five of you. Let's move on." Elves rock.)

So as the dust settles from the fight with the bandits, we become aware of a horrible noise by virtue of Gary saying, "You hear a horrible noise..." But this was no ordinary horrible noise. It was coming from Piratecat's mule (remember, he bought a mule). And this horrible noise was understandable given that "...it appears that your mule is being eaten by something LARGE and GELATINOUS."

In this moment, I look across the table at Piratecat and our faces are bathed in the PURE JOY that can only come from Gary Gygax attacking with a Gelatinous Cube. I think my joy might have been very slightly more pure because it was Piratecat's mule. This theory is supported by Piratecat snapping out of his joyous face bath and saying, "Quick! Save the mule!!"

I asked Gary if there is any clearance above the Cube and he said that there was about 2 feet between it and the ceiling of the dungeon. So I said, "I want to light my flask of oil (remember, I bought a flask of oil) and throw it so that it breaks on the ceiling ABOVE the Cube and rains fire down on top of it." Gary looks at my character sheet. He looks at my 6 Dex. He looks me in the eye. "Well you can try but you're going to have to hit AC 2."


It's as though we are the U.S. Olympic D&D team and we've just beaten the French for the Gold Medal. We're jumping out of our seats. We're high fiving. People are taking pictures of my d20. I'm grinning like an IDIOT. An idiot who JUST KILLED GARY GYGAX'S GELATINOUS CUBE!!

The mule didn't make it.

We finally calm down and get on with the exploration that takes us east and south and then west (we went west because Henry prayed for guidance from St. Cuthbert and he said, "Go West young man!"). We turned some skeletons, went down some stairs and found a dead end. We camped.

While camped we were encountered by wandering orcs who did NOT attack us and the skeletons from upstairs who DID attack us. We killed the skeletons.

And we took their stuff.

Then, with our mule dead, our Dungeon Cart nearly full and with Wednesday night wearing on, we retreated from the dungeon with much treasure and no fatalities (apart from the mule and I'll tell you straight out that I'd have traded three of those Poxy Elves to have that faithful mule back). In the capper for the evening, for the first time EVER in a Con game, I got XP. In fact, thanks to me accidentally taking a shield off the bandits that turned out to be magical, I got more XP than anybody in the party! Woot!

We had our picture taken with Gary, he signed our character sheets and books in some cases. Then was when we found out that that night was HIS 20TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY. Gary was playing D&D with a bunch of geeks in his hotel room on his 20th wedding anniversary!! And she was right there the WHOLE TIME and was the most gracious, charming and delightful woman that you could ever hope to meet. Unbelievable.

At the very end, Hypersmurf gave him a copy of the Empire game, from (I believe) the Greyhawk novels, that he had had manufactured, with acrylic tile playing pieces and a nice wooden box to keep it in. It seemed to be very well received and I thank Hyp for offering up a gift that shows the kind of gratitude I feel toward Mr. Gygax for giving me a memory that I will cherish forever.

Thank you, Gary, from the bottom of my heart. And thank you also to the other Mods who played. It is an honor and priveledge to call you fellow mods and friends. Except Piratecat who tried to screw us out of the treasure.* ;)

*He couldn't help it though. He was playing a Poxy Elf!

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First Post
You guys deserve the fun with all you do for us here on EnWorld. Of course, poor Diaglo will now be planning your assasinations.

The comment by Henry had me spewing coke on my keyboard. You owe me a new keyboard Henry! :D

gaming since 1978


Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Rel said:
*He couldn't help it though. He was playing a Poxy Elf!
What the smelly dwarf said was true; my hero's name was "Sesquip the Poxy." It just seemed right.

I started the game by telling Gary "This is Hypersmurf, our local rules expert. His job tonight is to correct all of your rulings. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to act out our characters and not bother to explore." "Good," says Mr. Gygax, warming up his dice. "That'll make it a much shorter game!"

And it turned out that Gary was running us through the first dungeon he ever created. And using his original d20 to do it.

When the gelatinous cube attacked, he chuckled and said "I love wandering monsters." I did too. Except when it killed my mule, dammit. But that was okay; when we were attacked by the skeletons later, I used a still-slimy mule bone to attack them, since I only had sharp weapons otherwise.

My other moment of wonder was when I was about to listen at a door and pulled out my ear trumpet. "Don't want any ear seekers!" I said. Gary laughed and said, "I got tired of my players listening at every. Single. Door."

We got to meet Gary's sons and grandson, and we made sure to get Mrs. Gygax a box of chocolate and a card as thanks for letting us co-opt her husband on their anniversary. It (and getting to tell Diaglo!) was a glorious way to start the con. :D

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