In which our intrepid hero recaps an amazing weekend.

There aren’t too many things in the world that can make me jump up and down in my seat and scream squee! at the top of my lungs. Most of them aren’t legal anyway. But that’s how I reacted when I heard that GenCon was coming to Australia.

GenCon is not only the ultimate in gaming conventions, but is a bit like the Hajj for geeks. Roleplaying, boardgames, wargames, card games, anime, costume competitions, musical geekery, seminars, cool merchandise, SF, TV and gaming celebrities—you name it, GenCon has it.

More than a year later, Mim K/W and I jumped in the car for the two-day drive to Brisbane, for what I hope is just the first of many GenCon Ozzes.

Proceedings began on the Wednesday night (July 2nd), for the world theatrical premiere of DragonLance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, introduced by Tracy Hickman himself.

I’ll get back to the Hickmans later, but I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions about the film here:

  • The Hickmans sold the rights to the novels to TSR; Wizards bought TSR; Wizards sold the film options to Commotion Pictures; and finally, Commotion Pictures hired Will Meugniot to direct the movie, and threw a bunch of novels at George Strayton and told him to write a screenplay. Wizards of the Coast didn’t make the movie, nor did the Hickmans—stop blaming them for the outcome.
  • Dragons of Autumn Twilight was released straight-to-video. There’s a reason for this: a worldwide theatrical release costs a metric crapload. You have to spend money to make money, and the producers simply didn’t have that kind of money available.
  • Releasing a movie straight-to-video means it won’t make nearly as much for its investors, so frankly, you’re not going to see huge effects budgets, unless we’re talking Taste the Golden Spray. This is one reason why straight-to-video sometimes seems synonymous with suck: you get what you (can afford to) pay for.
  • For whatever reason, be it the overwhelming success of Harry Potter or the tremendous failure of the Dungeons & Dragons movie, there’s not much of a market for sword-and-sorcery epics on the big screen.
  • Fritz the Cat aside, the American animation market still labours under the misconception that animation is solely for kids.

That said, the animation wasn’t great and there was absolutely no tension to the movie. At the very least, whoever edited the script should be disemboweled.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t hesitate to put a 5-to-10-year-old in front of it for an hour and a half. It mightn’t be great literature or even great viewing for an adult, but if I knew that a friend was coming over with their kid in tow, then I’d go out and buy it on DVD.

Luckily, Mim and I had a pretty easy schedule on Day One of GenCon proper. Our only pre-booked event was at 1pm: an introductory Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game, GMed by Brisbane freelancer Steve Darlington (pictured at right).

After reading some of his blog, Mim seems convinced that Steve is the Queensland version of me. I reserve judgement on this, but Steve is the easygoing, slightly-startled-at-the-respect-he-gets kind of guy I’d imagine myself being if I’d continued writing gaming supplements beyond Word of the Fates. Only he’s friendlier after four days of con-going than I imagine myself being.

Unusually for a con game, we sat down and generated characters, before embarking on “For Love or Money” from Plundered Vaults. Although Mim was initially terrified—this was her first roleplaying experience after a hiatus of nearly a quarter-century—it all went well, even if my squire spent most of the game trying to calm his mount, or frozen in terror himself.

And then we hit the Trade Hall. Although we picked up a few cool sets of dice (including a gold-plated set for our friend Connie) and some awesome miniature bases from Back 2 Base-ix, the snag of the show was the guy you see at right: a 14″ resin Cthulhu, for which Mim had been saving up for weeks, hoping to find me the perfect gift.

And damn, wasn’t she right!

To be continued