Monday, April 2, 2012


So, a few weeks ago I got an invitation to attend a gathering of old friends, fellow former employees of TSR, in conjunction with 'GaryCon', a small rpg convention being held in the Lake Geneva area. If I'd been in the area I'd certainly have tried to drop by, but two thousand miles is a lot to travel at short notice, especially in a year that looks to be full of trips: to a Tolkien event in Commerce, Texas next month; Kalamazoo the month after; another gathering in mid-summer, a trip to England in the fall, and one to Marquette in October --plus, of course, such trips due to family emergencies as may arise.

Luckily, as Janice pointed out to me a few nights ago (Tuesday, while I was making us some Moroccan soup, the only dish I know how to make that calls for saffron), Bruce Heard has elected to post three detailed day-by-day accounts of the event, here:

and here:

and here:

Looking through these evokes a lot of nostalgia. TSR was a terrible place to work, in that they gave you far more work to do than you could get done in the time allotted, forcing everyone to work evenings and weekends week after week, month after month, year after year (more than one of my co-worker's marriages fell apart under the strain).

But, contrasted with this, it was a great job because you got to work on D&D all day every day, which was amazing: to do the thing you love as your job makes you one of the luckiest people in the world. And you got to work with the most amazing group of talented, quirky, creative, likable, people-who-get-it co-workers you cd ever ask for. People who loved games so much that in addition to working on games all day they played games during their lunch hour in the Games Library; most were also in at least one, often two evening games that meet weekly after hours.

Looking through Bruce's report, I'm glad to see so many people who were my co-workers could make it for the Lake Geneva event: Bruce himself, Diesel, Dale & Cindi, Jeff Easley (shd I mention that editing WRATH OF THE IMMORTALS was my first solo/non-mentored editing job at TSR?), Jim Lowder (the one TSR employee I'd known long before starting at the company, from his Marquette days), Jon Pickens, Lester, Sue, Jim Ward (originator of the annual telling of the story of The Day That Will Live In Infamy), Skip & Penny (Skip and Jean Rabe being the other two TSR employees I knew before starting work there, from my having helped out with RPGA tournaments at GenCon for several years; the first job I applied for at TSR actually having been with the RPGA, a few months before I landed the editing job), Karen, Harold, Dave Wise, and others. There were other people whom I know but who didn't overlap with my time there, like Margaret Weis and Doug Niles; others I've met or at least seen in person but who wdn't remember me, like Mike Carr (the man who knows where all the bodies are buried) and Frank Mentzer and Tom Wham; and still others who remain for me wholly in the realm of legend, like Tim Kask (the original editor of THE DRAGON, and later of his own successor magazine which I quite liked when I discovered old copies of it a decade or so later) and Dave Megarry (creator of the DUNGEON boardgame), Allen Hammack and Jean Black.

As many people as showed up, there are others I'd love to see at such a gathering who seem not to have made it: Slade Henson, Steven Schend, Colin McColm, Andria Hayday (the best editor/developer they ever had), Miranda Horner, Julia Martin, Roger Moore, &c &c. And some who aren't with us anymore, like the late great Dave Sutherland (TSR employee #6), who had seen it all and was full of stories about the legended past. Luckily, some of my friends from the old days I still get to see on a regular basis: Jeff Grubb, Wolfgang Baur, Steve Winter, Steve ('Stan') Brown, and Monte Cook are all in my gaming group, while occasionally but less often I get to see other friends like Bruce Cordell (whose first TSR product I edited, some fifteen years ago now), Steve Miller, & Rich Baker (who started work there just a week after I did but whose tenure there stretched a full twenty years). In the end its the memories, the friendships, and the publications resulting from all that creativity that remain behind. Thanks to Bruce for stirring old memories, but in a good way.

--John R.
--not older than dirt, but definitely paleolithic.


Bruce Heard said...

Hi John.

Thanks for the praise. Really too bad you couldn't make it. We'll try to get organized much earlier than this the next time around. By the way, the article comes in four parts (not just three.) :-)


grodog said...

GaryCon's a lot of fun, year after year, and you should definitely try to make it next year, John!