View Full Version : D&D, GenCon, (The early days)

02-26-2013, 08:33 AM
*With PaxEast less than a month away, I got thinking of how that, GenCon and the modern day (board games) community actually got it's start. And how D&D got started. This thread will have some of the lesser known facts about "The Early Days"
(Thanks to Paul Cote for the info & pics)


In 1968 Gary arranged for the IFW to rent a delightful old exhibition building called Horticulture Hall about two blocks away from his home, and the club sponsored a weekend get-together called the “Geneva Convention” where many war gamers from across the country met one another for the first time. About a hundred people came. Gary’s wife and kids sold sandwiches or hot dogs in the hall, which was a good thing since most of the young teenage boys at the convention, like myself, had no intention of wasting an hour of gaming time to leave and get lunch. People crashed in cheap motel rooms (I stayed at the Hi-De-Ho Motel, which sounded like a lover’s hideaway to my folks) and stayed up most of the night playing games.


Here's a picture of Gary Gygax at the podium, addressing the opening of the first wargaming convention, the Geneva Convention (Gen Con.) held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Standing next to Gygax is Bill Hoyer, president of the International Federation of Wargaming (IFW). This and the other photo below may be the only pictures taken at this first wargaming convention in 1968.

02-26-2013, 09:13 AM
Ha! Cool!

I notice the two young men (left and center) in the top picture are wearing the obligatory "floods" that all gamers, nerds, and geeks were known for back then. :)

02-26-2013, 09:17 AM
Ha! Cool!

I notice the two young men (left and center) in the top picture are wearing the obligatory "floods" that all gamers, nerds, and geeks were known for back then. :)

And the plastic shirt pocket protectors :eek:

02-26-2013, 09:34 AM
So is one of those you? and my first Gen Con was 78 and I never dressed liked that even though I was a geek/nerd/dweeb.

02-26-2013, 09:37 AM
So is one of those you? and my first Gen Con was 78 and I never dressed liked that even though I was a geek/nerd/dweeb.

Uska NOOO :eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek:

76 was my first. I was a long haired peace sign wearing, Hendrix loving dude. :cool:

02-26-2013, 02:18 PM
Excerpt from Paul Cote contd';

Gary had a sand table in his basement and every weekend guys would come over to play miniatures, especially medieval miniatures, which was Gary’s favorite time period. Gary had read hundreds, if not thousands of science fiction and fantasy books, and so had a wealth of knowledge of not only stuff in the books, but plot twists, things that happen to people in the course of adventures and stories and so on.
One time, Gary put a castle in the corner of the sand table, and the knights went inside to explore. The castle was not big or detailed enough inside to get all the figures inside so action inside the castle became a paper and pencil game. They found a dungeon, and got all wrapped up in exploring the dungeon, finding treasures, avoiding traps and so on and sort of ignored what was going on with the battle on the sand table. They had so much fun doing that, from then on players just went for the castle and the dungeons, and the sand table became passé.
I used to visit Gary when I could, (being 15 with no car) and that included during family vacations to the church camp at Lake Geneva. I recall watching the riots in Chicago during the Democratic Convention on the TV in Gary’s living room. Then one time in the early 70’s I stopped in to play the new Dylan record for Gary and Mary, and to hang out, and when I suggested playing a board game, Gary simply said, “we don’t play them much anymore, we’ve been having a lot more fun playing paper and pencil games”. So I sat down on his porch with his oldest son Ernie and we played “going into a dungeon”.
Some rules for miniature war games were fairly simple, and some gamers were especially interested in the models and figures themselves, painting them and collecting them. Other rules were very detailed and complex, and required a Judge to oversee the game, taking pieces on and off the table as each side took it’s turn so that each side only knew what they could “see” and surprise could be incorporated into the game. The most elaborate set of rules was published in 1966 by Michael F. Korns ("Korns rules") in a book titled Modern War in Miniature. It contained tables of information about WWII weapons, and formulas for everything a soldier could do, for example, “In daylight on an average day, ¼ square meter of man or machine exposed at a distance of 200 meters from an enemy soldier will be observed once every 24 seconds by the enemy soldier. In any given two-second period (the length of a turn in the game) the soldier’s chance of sighting the ¼ square meter area is s=1/12 or 8.3%. Games using “Korns rules” required a game judge to execute the complex rules, while limiting players knowledge to ‘what they can know’ and to narrate the action. An example of play is given by Korns in the introduction to his book:

02-26-2013, 02:20 PM
People often wonder how did Gary Gygax come up with Dungeons and Dragons? Was he a genius? Lucky?
Or did he, like blues man Robert Johnson, go down to the cross-roads and sell his soul to the devil for fame and fortune? No.
In fact, Gary was an extraordinary man who was also in the right place at the right time, and the result was a eucatastrophy (http://phil159.vox.com/). He brought together people, and then ideas, to create something extraordinary at just the right time, in the evolution of game technology.
As someone who was there at the time, I can say that what Gary really did was to combine the way of playing, and the relationship between the players and the judge, from Korn’s rules with medieval miniatures rules and his extensive knowledge of Fantasy and Science fiction novels to create a shared storytelling experience. The mechanics were a paper and pencil game, but the key was Gary himself as the ‘dungeon master’ and it became wildly popular simply because it was a lot of fun. Later, with the publication of D & D the experience was mass produced, but as with enlightenment in the rock opera Tommy, there were a number of drawbacks to bringing the special experience to the masses.