Monday, August 1, 2016

Castles Made of Sand

As usual my blog went mostly silent in July as I prepared for Ultracon and was on family vacation. I cannot reveal the theme for this year’s Ultracon as some of the players read this blog. Suffice to say, it contains six months of work and a custom 5E adventure. I will follow-up for sure with a post-convention report to share what we did. While on vacation I made a promise to myself that I would read a book. Interestingly, not was I only able to complete the book, but I never turned on my laptop once during vacation. My choice was Empire of Imagination by Michael Witwer.

For the uninitiated, this is the dramatized biography of Gary Gygax, co-founder of Dungeons & Dragons. I had several people asking me on Twitter if I enjoyed the book and my response is a resounding YES! If you have ever been curious about the origin of this wonderful hobby, and D&D specifically, you should read this book. I was pleasantly surprised of how easy of a read it was, and was wishing for more at the end.

The book was a fascinating look into how the game was created, TSR was formed, and the rags to riches – and back to rags element. Working in the legal field, the litigious nature of the gaming industry was saddening to read about. That said the vignettes of Gary’s early life were my favorite part of the book. I think Witwer did a good job of taking us back to the beginning and showing all of Gary’s influences. My only criticism of the book is the length at 300 pages which I think is a tad short. It seems to me a life so well played has many more stories to tell. Maybe the Gygax children will follow-up one day with their own books.

Gary Gygax day actually just passed on July 27th, which celebrates Gary’s birthday each year. One of the items featured in Empire of Imagination is Gary’s legendary sand-topped table. Gary played many wargames on that table in the basement of his home. In the video below gaming historian Jon Peterson visits the old Gygax residence and shows what the sand table would have looked like:

As my own feet were buried in the sand of the beach, reading Empire of Imagination, my mind started to wander. What if player characters found a similar table that was magic? What sort of strange trinkets and objects may be buried in the sand? Please find below the start of fun list of such Gygax themed items. Perhaps you can help expand it by posting an idea?

Mordenkainen’s Marvelous Miniatures (1d4)

1.    A 35mm Tiger tank, complete with working cannon. The tank is able to attack as per a Lightning Bolt spell cast by an 11th level wizard once per day. If left in the sand of a gaming table for 24-hours it will recharge.

2.    70mm Fire Giant, complete with Hellhound sidekick. Upon the command of Ironbelly the figures will animate and attack one chosen target. Even in their diminutive state they have full attacks as per the Monster Manual. After one full round the figures turn to a pile of smoking ash.

3.    25mm Green Devil Face on a small stand. If taken off the stand the face will open its mouth, thus activating the Sphere of Annihilation inside. Any object inserted into the mouth will be subject to the sphere. Once something is so affected the Green Devil Face will dissolve into a cloud of smoke which briefly spells the name Acererak.

4.    54mm thimble which appears to be a suit of Chainmail armor. If placed on a finger it will magically garb the user in chainmail which is virtually weightless. The armor will last until the end of one full combat, at which point it reverts back to its original form. If left in the sand of a gaming table for 24-hours it will recharge.

And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea, eventually.