Just got back from the aptly named Epic Confusion SF/F convention in Michigan. It was easily one of the best cons I’ve ever been to, in no small part because of the efforts of Subterranean Press (a local publisher which has become deeply involved in the convention’s planning and operations). I’m not going to go into details about what made the convention so awesome (the amazing panels, the all-star lineup of guests, the moving party where Saladin Ahmed was formally inducted into the ranks of published novelists, the awesome trip to the gun range where fantasy author Brent Weeks shot a smile into the face of his target). If you’re wanting a recap of the con, several have been posted, with Yeti Stomper’s probably being the most visually action packed.
There’s too much to talk about in a single post, and it all pales in comparison to the single standout/highlight event of the whole convention, the author D&D game.
If you don’t know what D&D is, google it. That’s not a judgement, but this post is for people who have the same sense of heart-wrenching nostalgia for that game. This post is for the people who grew up with D&D, were shaped by, maybe even created by it.
I’m one of those people.
It is not an exaggeration to say that D&D is one of the seminal influences in my life. I am the man I am today in part because of that game, and it forms the basis of the “nerd cred” I am so incredibly proud of. In a recent salon.com article, fantasy author Peter V. Brett and myself were interviewed about how the game had shaped our lives. Not surprisingly, we both gave it heavy credit.
A joking string of tweets turned into a very real suggestion that the panelists at Confusion meet up to play a game of D&D, and Peter V. Brett ran with it, enlisting me to
assist him in organizing the event. We were both surprised by the level of enthusiasm of the participants (and knowledge, fashion-forward Joe Abercrombie even brought his own dice) and by the time the dust cleared we had the author newbies (myself and Saladin Ahmed) DM’ing, with a party consisting of Peter V. Brett, Pat Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear and Jim Hines. Jay Lake and Subterranean Press’ Yanni Kuznia were kind enough to step up and play when Lynch and Bear were delayed. Book reviewer Justin Landin filmed the whole thing, and I hope to be able to post video clips shortly.
Also surprising (or maybe not) was the near unanimous agreement on striking for the nostalgia that shaped us all. We played FIRST edition rules, and the classic module written by the James Halliday of our lives, Gary Gyax:
B-2. Keep on the Borderlands.
It’s tough to describe it. The pressure to do a great job, to tell an AMAZING story in the presence of so many amazing storytellers was intense. I felt a little better with Saladin at my side, but I was still concerned. But I needn’t have worried. The nostalgia and joy we all felt at a return to the cradle of our creativity trumped all, and within moments I felt like I’d been shifted back into my 12 year old self, rolling dice with the other misfits in my mom’s basement long after my parents had gone to bed.
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow, but suffice to say that a great time was had by all. Some highlights include:
- To quote Joe Abercrombie: “I accidentally shot Brent Weeks with an arrow. Then he tried to kill me with a sword. Then I tried to kill him with a dagger. Then we kissed. And the whole thing was never mentioned again.”
- Yanni Kuznia (playing Elizabeth Bear’s character) fumbled a hit roll and accidentally shot Jay Lake (playing Scott Lynch’s character) squarely in the back, almost killing him.
- Jay Lake’s timely use of a hypnotism spell to save Jim Hines’ life resulted in him being drenched in Ogre puke.
- Pat Rothfuss hired a valet named “Chauncy” whose primary job (apart from carrying the party strongbox and avoiding combat) seemed to be praising his master for his talent for staying out of the thick of the fighting.
- Peter V. Brett’s decision to sacrifice an ox before starting out on the adventure may or may not have earned the blessing of the gods, but it made damn sure everyone was well fed before attempting the caves of chaos.
- Scott Lynch’s pitch-perfect “gnome voice” which channelled the underpants gnomes from South Park with uncanny accuracy.
And on and on and on. You get the idea. Oh, I almost forgot the character rundown.
Myke Cole/Saladin Ahmed — Co-DMs.
Peter V. Brett — Half-Elf Cleric
Brent Weeks — Half-Elf Assassin
Jim Hines — Half-Orc Fighter
Scott Lynch (Jay Lake) — Gnome Illusionist
Patrick Rothfuss — Elf Magic-User (with Chauncy, a very supportive NPC valet and an absolutely terrified black cat familiar)
Elizabeth Bear (Yanni Kuznia) — Elven Ranger
Joe Abercrombie — Half-Elf Thief (named Darque Shadeaux, incidentally)
There’s more I could say, but this has waxed eloquently enough. I do want to mention that I was struck with the realization that I was DMing my childhood joy for 7 of the greatest authors in my favorite genre.
And it was my JOB. I was on the clock, a working weekend.
There’s that memorable quote from the film Broadcast News. “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” Answer: “Keep it to yourself.”
Sorry, folks. I’m no good at that. This was one of the coolest things I have ever done, and I am so so so psyched to share it with you.