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TSR GENCON IX: When Many Sought Adventure

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GECON IX, Baby! It was happening. TSR was on a roll. The last supplement for OD&D had just been released, Empire of the Petal Throne was a reality, and Fritz Leiber’s board game, Lankhmar (based off his original cork board-game that he and Harry O. Fischer had designed and played far back in the day), was being released at the convention. As I had helped co-design the latter (see 1st link below) I was in charge of the Lankhmar tournament as well as having both Fritz Leiber and the Mouser (Harry O. Fischer) in attendance. Yeah, baby, Fantasy on steroids was pumping through our veins, even though as the con’s Chairman I only got an average of 3 hours sleep per day in between all of this action which included me DMing several sessions of my Sunken City adventure for prizes. But who needs sleep at cons? Just eat hot dogs to refuel and move along!
Here’s a (partial) pre-convention wrap up; and though much, much later compared to the Owl & Weasel’s write up from that time (see second link above), well, it’s history.

Guest Plan (Gygax and Kuntz): Gary and I conferred pre-convention on the escort and care of guests: He would cover Fritz and Harry and I would cover M. A, R. Barker and Bill Hoyt (stalwart MMSA member and ex-C&C Society member) who had driven the Professor to GENCON. My duties were later expanded to guiding and touring Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson; and as this conflicted with my Lankhmar tournament I was in a spot until Will Neibling stepped in and offered to adjudicate the tournament for me. I checked back with him when I could as he had to crash course himself on the new game to teach it to the players, but he managed and I thanked him profusely and made sure that he received a free Lankhmar game as well.

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MAR Barker: There were lots of EPT and related events transpiring at the convention and his integrated game/world was selling well. Barker and Hoyt were staying at the Holiday Inn (now the Geneva Ridge where GARYCON is held in March; so, yes, fellow gamers, the “great one” has walked those hallways, though under a different brand name). In fact he left a piece of history at it, so to speak. The story goes thusly: We had ducked back to the ‘Inn and to Barker’s room for him to change clothes before going to dinner (in Williams Bay). As we descended from the third floor I asked Professor Barker, “So, how many languages do you know?” Hoyt and I listened as he nonchalantly recounted the type, how many years studied, spoken and/or written, etc., this as we descended by level to lower level. As I opened the door for him to exit the building he finally finished: “And six months of German...” Bill and I laughed in utter astonishment due to the staggering number of languages he’d rattled off!

Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson: Two of the three founders of Games Workshop and the two editors of Owl & Weasel (later transitioned to White Dwarf magazine).

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Here I was escorting them about Lake Geneva, telling jokes (a fish story, one of them), answering questions and otherwise serving their needs. We also had a great time at the Gargoyle Restaurant (not far up Broad from the con and where we held the Strategist’s Club dinner which I oversaw for seating and menu via interaction with the the Gargoyle’s management and kitchen crew--pretty easy with only two main selections: chicken breast or sirloin steak--but it did keep me running until one of the two, whether Ian or Steve I cannot now recall, quipped, “Hey Rob. When are you going to eat?”); and we also introduced them to the Next Door Pub (the best pizza anywhere). At their request several of us stalwarts gathered on Saturday to take a picture together (see below) as Ian and Steve had to depart the con early Sunday. Great chaps all told and a boon for the advancement of TSR products and D&D role-playing in Britain in the near future.

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L to R-- Fritz Leiber (Legendary Fantasy and Science Fiction Writer); Gary Gygax (Legendary Game Designer, Seminal D&D/RPG Designer/Co-Founder, President of TSR, Co-Founder International Federation of Wargaming); M.A.R. Barker (Creator of the World of Tekumel, and the RPG based upon it, Empire of the Petal Throne, Esteemed Professor); Ian Livingstone & (kneeling, foreground) Steve Jackson (Co-Founders of Games Workshop, Editors of Owl and Weasel and White Dwarf magazines); Rob Kuntz (GENCON Chairman, Game Designer/D&D Author, President of the LGTSA)


Fritz Leiber & Harry O. Fischer (aka Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser)

I introduced TSR’s redo of Fritz’s and Harry’s game, Lankhmar, prior to Fritz’s seminar. Fritz and I gathered to the seminar area and I announced his presence and spoke briefly about the publication of the game for the convention. I then pressed a copy of the game into his hands. Fritz accepted it as the audience applauded; but there was an instant impression on my part due to his manner that he was just a tad uncomfortable, a very slight confusion on his part that his body language silently spoke to: “Hey, this is great, but I don’t know what to say about this new version.” As I moved aside and went about my other duties Fritz delivered, as I was later informed about, a great recounting of Lankhmar’s inception as both story-line and game; and how both of these avenues were linked to his friendship and early creative collaborations with Harry Fischer.

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My next hook up with Harry and Fritz was on Sunday at the guests and staff banquet at the Gargoyle--this time upstairs unlike the SC’s dinner which had been held downstairs. I actually got to sit and eat when others did! To top it off I was seated right next to Fritz. We engaged in conversation for about 2 hours and I even got him to autograph one of my Lankhmar paperbacks--IIRC, Swords and Deviltry. I remember little of what we talked about. I was running on empty at that point and still had work ahead to close out the con, make sure the site was cleaned (no day-after cleaning, night of closing only), secure and lock up the Horticultural Hall and return the key. I was pleased to note that Fritz was in much better condition than myself and that he had thoroughly enjoyed the convention, so I was not pressing him as a fan. Plus I was, of course, in awe of him although Fritz was not the type who required so much as inspired such a reaction. My keyword impressions about Fritz: Unassuming, Open, Erudite, Gentlemanly, Magnanimous, Friendly, Approachable, Encouraging, Soft Spoken, Quietly Assured, A Font of Knowledge... An all around great soul.

Select staff then adjourned with Fritz and Harry to Gary’s office at TSR. As the after-dinner chatting continued there an inspiration hit me. I immediately went downstairs to shipping and returned with two copies of supplement #4 to D&D, Gods, Demigods and Heroes (Kuntz & Ward). I then gifted these to Fritz and Harry.

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What happened next was insightful. Both of them became rapt as they alternately paged its contents or regarded me as I described the inspirational route of myth and legend that had borne it. There was real interest in their eyes that I was later able to relate to their studies of such literature and which had inspired their own stories--and so the cycle had continued. The detachment I had briefly felt from Fritz over his “new” board game was no where apparent in his reactions or in Harry’s to GD&H. What Harry did next startled me as he insisted that I autograph these gifts; and “Fafhrd” nodded in agreement. As Jim Ward was not present (he had either returned home or was at the hotel) I inscribed them with my name only. The modern day “geeked out” does not fully describe my reaction to such an unexpected reversal!

GENCON IX Final Note: This convention, this meeting, had been constructed around and for Fritz Leiber and his counterpart in S&S Harry O. Fischer. Yes. There was Barker (and in SPADES what with his temple display, the games, etc.) but this was all about the interest on an ancient, un-payable debt. Gary, Brad Stock and I had labored to redesign the Lankhmar game in time for the convention; Gary even arranged for Fritz to tour the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay. The observatory complied by opening its doors so that Fritz could look through one of largest refractor telescopes in the world. Gary had taken Fritz and Harry under his wing and had feted them at every turn. As much as Gary was chuffed with himself for all of this it was all sincere.

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So, GENCON IX wasn’t just about the man who coined the phrase “Sword and Sorcery.” It was about celebrating two aged and revered adventurers who had extended their adventures to folks like us for an eternity that continues to this day.

Text © 2019. Robert J. Kuntz
 
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Robert J. Kuntz

Comments


Looking back at Empire of the Petal Throne, it is so remarkably advanced for the time. The world-building is like nothing else, and arguably only the Forgotten Realms, after decades of writing, comes close.

Finally going to GARYCON next year, and I can't wait!

I am so jealous of polyglots. Give me some prep time and I can read/speak German, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and a smattering of French, but again, I really need to work at it to be able to do so conversationally. It's not something that comes easily to me.

MAR Barker: There were lots of EPT and related events transpiring at the convention and his integrated game/world was selling well. Barker and Hoyt were staying at the Holiday Inn (now the Geneva Ridge where GARYCON is held in March; so, yes, fellow gamers, the “great one” has walked those hallways, though under a different brand name)...

“So, how many languages do you know?” Hoyt and I listened as he nonchalantly recounted the type, how many years studied, spoken and/or written, etc., this as we descended by level to lower level. As I opened the door for him to exit the building he finally finished: “And six months of German...” Bill and I laughed in utter astonishment due to the staggering number of languages he’d rattled off!
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
Wonderful read, eighteen months before I joined the hobby unfortunately though by that time I was already a huge fan of Leiber. I'd have loved to have gone to that GENCON to meet Leiber, Fischer and Barker and listen to them speak about their writing.
 

Ian Danton

Explorer
I really get the feeling, you had Rob, of something between exhaustion and elated inspiration. Kudos for giving that gift, rightfully signed by you. Sometimes we do not get insight into the impression we are making until much much later. Hopefully for you, you got a little that wonderful evening.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I really get the feeling, you had Rob, of something between exhaustion and elated inspiration. Kudos for giving that gift, rightfully signed by you. Sometimes we do not get insight into the impression we are making until much much later. Hopefully for you, you got a little that wonderful evening.
The two GENCONS that I chaired were like, if you were still standing you got things done, and if you sat too long you were finished, kaput. Yes. All the work in advance and at the con was like a dream as you sat there taking a breath and talking with the guests. Like some parts of life it does come in spurts or in afterthought, It was rare to be floored with so much going on but in Fritz and Harry's case there was no avoiding it.
 


Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Looking back at Empire of the Petal Throne, it is so remarkably advanced for the time. The world-building is like nothing else, and arguably only the Forgotten Realms, after decades of writing, comes close.

Finally going to GARYCON next year, and I can't wait!

I am so jealous of polyglots. Give me some prep time and I can read/speak German, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and a smattering of French, but again, I really need to work at it to be able to do so conversationally. It's not something that comes easily to me.
Barker had a jump on world creation as he had started at 10? years of age creating Tekumel. When D&D came along and he saw it being played it all clicked--hey, he could actually create and engage his world and its beings in real time. He ate it up and made it a standard, IMO, for others to follow. I copy-edited his ms for EPT--not one mistake in it. The guy was an utter perfectionist and an all round Renassaince man.
 



Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Since it's a bit on the sluggish side today I thought I'd stimulate this thread a bit by introducing another board game Gary designed (besides the aforementioned Lankhmar). It was published by TSR around the same time as GENCON IX and extensively play-tested by Gary and myself: Little Big Horn.
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Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Now there is another game I would love to get my hands on!
Yep. Me too! It was a fairly accurate depiction. I studied primary texts and books on "Custerinia"and even wrote a 16 page summary of the battle and Gary's take was spot on. If the 7th had stayed together and possibly have broken into the plains north of the hills they became trapped in they would have stood a chance in mounted charges against the indians (who lacked saddles unlike the troopers and used bareback/blankets).
 

Ian Danton

Explorer
Yep. Me too! It was a fairly accurate depiction. I studied primary texts and books on "Custerinia"and even wrote a 16 page summary of the battle and Gary's take was spot on. If the 7th had stayed together and possibly have broken into the plains north of the hills they became trapped in they would have stood a chance in mounted charges against the indians (who lacked saddles unlike the troopers and used bareback/blankets).
Well I have just done the ubiquitous ebay search. :) A couple of copies on there, both well over £100 for me to get them (I am based in Northern Ireland). Given the state of my wish list currently I think I will have to wait lol.

I am upset on your behalf that you do not own a copy. :(
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Well I have just done the ubiquitous ebay search. :) A couple of copies on there, both well over £100 for me to get them (I am based in Northern Ireland). Given the state of my wish list currently I think I will have to wait lol.

I am upset on your behalf that you do not own a copy. :(
Yes. And it's only going to get more expensive over time. My copy was stolen or destroyed long ago according to an (ex) "friend"... So it goes. Bug WotC, who owns the rights IIRC, to re-release it or to pass it along. They are sitting on a ton of Gygax former-IP that they are doing nothing with... Like Greyhawk, for instance, hrum-hrum.... ;)
 

Ian Danton

Explorer
Yes. And it's only going to get more expensive over time. My copy was stolen or destroyed long ago according to an (ex) "friend"... So it goes. Bug WotC, who owns the rights IIRC, to re-release it or to pass it along. They are sitting on a ton of Gygax former-IP that they are doing nothing with... Like Greyhawk, for instance, hrum-hrum.... ;)
Been there as well. To be honest I now only loan out things now that I could easily re-buy. I guess I think of it as the acceptable cost of friendship.

I will ask them. It can do no harm. :)
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Been there as well. To be honest I now only loan out things now that I could easily re-buy. I guess I think of it as the acceptable cost of friendship.

I will ask them. It can do no harm. :)
It was more of a push and take, WotC does what it wants to do. :)
 

David Howery

Adventurer
ah, Gencon. The first one I went to was in 1989, and it was an absolute thrill. It was great in those early days. Eventually, signing up for it (particularly when the Internet really got going) got to be way too much of a hassle. The last time I went was in 2000. While I will likely never try to attend one of the really big cons, I've been looking at going to some of the smaller ones around here (the pickings are kinda slim, though)…
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Gen Con IX also featured a pair of Judges Guild adventures that were later published as the Gen Con IX Dungeons. For quite a while, I ran the first of those more than any other adventure I owned. I still use one of the NPC names - the nearly unpronounceable Grsk - in many of my campaigns.

The first one was republished for Pathfinder 1E as, IIRC, Castle Baldemar.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Gen Con IX also featured a pair of Judges Guild adventures that were later published as the Gen Con IX Dungeons. For quite a while, I ran the first of those more than any other adventure I owned. I still use one of the NPC names - the nearly unpronounceable Grsk - in many of my campaigns.

The first one was republished for Pathfinder 1E as, IIRC, Castle Baldemar.
Yep. Just as with Barker's Temple extravaganza (which was covered extensively in Dragon #3or4? IIRC) I had to pass over some stuff. Busy, Busy. ;) I don't even recount my own Sunken City adventures (3 sessions) for prizes... Grsk indeed! :)
 
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