James Wallis levels with you

Gen 'n' Tonic

Gen Con Indianapolis starts today, being Thursday, which means I can finally talk about three things. For those who don’t know Gen Con it’s the largest public games event in the English-speaking world, attracting more than 25,000 people to the four days of its show. I am not there this year, partly because my wife is very pregnant and partly because America, and in particular passing through its immigration channels knowing I could be imprisoned without charge indefinitely for no reason, scares the living crap out of me.

What do I have to talk about?

The convention kicks off with the announcement and presentation of the 2007 Diana Jones Award on the Wednesday evening, pretty much right now as I type this. This prestigious trophy, awarded annually ‘for excellence in gaming’, is the closest thing that the games hobby has to a Nobel prize. Hyperbole perhaps, but I am allowed to say that about it because I founded it. The Award itself is handed out at a party open only to industry professionals (of which there was a notable lack at Gen Con after TSR stopped running its legendary freelancer parties in the mid 90s). And this year’s winner, I’m overjoyed to announce, is The Great Pendragon Campaign by Greg Stafford. Greg is one of the great pillars of the entire RPG field and I sincerely hope that the representatives of Irish Games Convention Charity Auctions, who won the DJA last year, got the trophy to the award ceremony in time so he could receive it.

Secondly, this is Gen Con’s 40th year which is a hell of an achievement for any kind of event. To celebrate, Gen Con LLC commissioned Robin D. Laws to write a book, imaginatively titled 40 Years of Gen Con, about the event’s history. Robin in turn interviewed a lot of notable designers, personalities and people who had helped shape the event, and also me. I am told my words are in the book. It’s published by Atlas Games, priced $29.95, and is available at the show. If you’re at the show then why not stop reading blogs and go and play some games, why don’t you?

And thirdly, there’s another book released at Gen Con Indy, that I referred to a few months back. This one is Hobby Games: the Top 100, compiled by James Lowder and published by Green Ronin, and it’s five bucks cheaper than 40 Years of Gen Con. As the name might suggest it’s a list of 100 of the most important hobby-games products ever, chosen and lovingly described by 100 notable figures in the hobby-games field, from Gary Gygax, Ian Livingstone, both Steve Jacksons and Greg Stafford, down to…. me, a designer so minor that my name doesn’t feature on the press release. And it looks like a really interesting compilation of essays covering one hundred important tabletop games, old and new, classic and obscure. I’ve not seen the whole book but from the contents page and list of contributors I recommend it wholeheartedly.

As you read this copies will be on sale so I can finally break the bonds of silence and say that my contribution is about Ghostbusters, the fantastic 1986 RPG published by West End Games but designed by Chaosium. meaning it bears the fingerprints of Sandy ‘Call of Cthulhu’ Petersen, Greg Stafford, Lynn Willis, Greg Costikyan and many other notables. Not just groundbreaking and influential but also a pinnacle of design and writing, twenty years after publication it remains a brilliant example of How To Get A Licence Right. Plus of course, it’s wonderful fun to play.

Flipping through the HG:100B contents list, I note that Greg Stafford’s games RuneQuest and Pendragon are also included, making him (by my rough tally) the only designer with three titles in the book. Which is some indication of why I’m so glad he’s won the DJA.

Oh, I have two titles in there. Once Upon a Time and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen both made it in. I am pleased, honoured, incredibly smug, and a bit biased about the quality of the book as a result. Have a flip through it if you see a copy, make up your own mind.

And back to Gen Con for one last moment, I gather Wizards of the Coast will be making an announcement about the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons at the show. After they made such a comprehensive balls-up of version 3.5, the direction for 4e could make or break the backbone of the whole RPG industry. Interesting times, interesting times.

Categorised as: munchausen


  1. Brian Nisbet says:

    And I did, I got there in time. With the award!

    Just thought I’d say it in case nobody else had. :)

  2. Tim Gray says:

    Hey James, congrats on both being mentioned in dispatches and imminent parenthood!

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