Close Encounters of the Gaming Kind

Due to venturing out of the UK to bake myself in the summer sun and then my daughter’s graduation and moving her back home, this has not left me a great deal of the right sort of hobby time.

Rather than remain silent, I thought I’d post a bit of a retrospective piece.

Now, I’ve been a gamer (on and off) for nigh on 40 years and as I came into the hobby via tabletop RPGs, I’ve not only played many, many systems (including several that my friends/gaming group made themselves), but also attended several gaming conventions.

As a Brit, this was mainly Euro GenCon (when that was still a thing), although I did get the opportunity to go to actual GenCon in 1992.

Which brings me to the point of this post. If you attend a gaming convention, you do, on occasion, get the opportunity to interact with “gaming royalty.” I’m not talking about attending a seminar with Larry Elmore, where he discusses his artistic technique and creates an original piece of artwork before your very eyes (which I have done and was very cool), but those random encounters with famous gaming “celebrities” that give you geek cred when you tell your mates what happened – sort of geek “claims to fame.”

So, as I have a couple of anecdotes regarding this, I thought I’d share these with you all – because at least you guys will know who I’m talking about.

So, we’ll start with the aforementioned GenCon ’92…

Second day of GenCon ’92 and the guys I had come with were all off doing other stuff, so I was wandering around the main hall, looking at all the stalls, minding my own business, when I was stopped by a bloke who had noticed my t-shirt (“Die Laughing – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld”) and wanted to know if I’d bought it at the Con, as he wanted one the same. I regretfully advised him that I’d actually purchased it in the UK and not bought it at the Con. Then I looked at his name badge… it read “Mike Pondsmith.”

As in THE Mike Pondsmith, big cheese at R. Talsorian Games, responsible for Cyberpunk 2020, Castle Falkenstein and Dream Park (which was released at GenCon that year). My response to him, once I realised who he was, was “I just bought a copy of Dream Park,” for which he thanked me. Being a little shell-shocked, that was the extent of our conversation.

Still, it was pretty cool.

Rewind to (I think) Euro GenCon 1990. This was held at Pontin’s Holiday Centre, Camber Sands in the UK, between 30th November and 2nd December and was my first real gaming convention – and also the first EuroGenCon, which I didn’t realise at the time. The Ravenloft campaign setting had come out earlie rthat year and I was a big fan, so signed up for a one-round Ravenloft tournament, which as it was a newish setting, they’d brought a couple of the TSR staff from the US across to run this scenario. This was Bane of the Shadowborn, written by William W. Connors, who was one of the guests running this scenario. However, as the scenario was pretty popular, they had two sessions running, and I ended up with the other guest DM. Which was Jim Ward…

Yes, THAT Jim Ward, he of Drawmij’s Instant Summons, designer of Metamorphosis Alpha, co-author of the original 1st edition Deities & Demigods, etc. etc. Basically, a gaming legend.

And he killed me.

Well, he killed the entire party, but that’s because we were rubbish and hadn’t got the necessary stuff to defeat the Big Bad. But we had so much fun – I mean, this was one of Gary Gygax’s original players, so this guy knew how to run a game. I distinctly remember various players stating what they wanted to do, and Jim’s response was invariably “Well, wouldn’t it be nice if you could do that…” with a little twinkle in his eye.

So, two gaming geeky claims to fame – Mike Pondsmith liked my t-shirt and Jim Ward killed me.

But let’s finish off with an actual, genuine 100% geeky “claim to fame,” which can be proven to anyone who owns a copy of a particular TSR product, as if you peruse the credits section of Domains of Dread, which was effectively the third iteration of the Ravenloft campaign setting published in 1997, under the ‘Special Thanks’ section you will find MY name!

Obviously my contribution was enough that I was named, rather than being relegated to the “countless others” section. Look at me, sandwiched between Skip Williams and Steve Winter, both of whom I’ve heard of. I think it’s safe to say they have NO idea who I am…

Right, enough grandstanding from me. I’m sure those who’ve been indulging in our wonderful hobby for roughly the same amount of time as I have, have similar anecdotes, so I’ll open the floor to you all. What geeky claims to fame do you have? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be gaming related, so if you’ve had a pint with Patrick Stewart, then share your story.


11 thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Gaming Kind

  1. Some cool claims to fame Jez, and all to be honoured.
    The one I remember most fondly was teaching Paul McGann’s children to play Blood Bowl while I was working at Gw Bristol, he came in multiple times, and would sit reading the paper, while I helped the children with painting lessons, team building and rules queries. My manager at the time wanted to play the Dr Who theme, to which I explained to him, he was there as a father not a celebrity, before leaving that day he came and shook my hand and thanked me for understanding.
    Many years later while working in a Choices store in Bristol I bumped into him again, at which point he asked me where he knew me from ! LOL that was a turn up for the books, a film star asking where he knew me from ! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dave. And an awesome geeky claim to fame from yourself! I’d heard that Paul McGann was a nice guy (as are most ‘famous’ folk), alrhough a friend of mine worked as a ‘minder’ at conventions and I asked who was the worst celeb they’d looked after and was told that Sigourney Weaver was a bit of a cow.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice bit of “Name dropping” there mate, don’t know if I can match that but, as you well know I’ve chatted to Bob Olley (and even get a Christmas Card from him each year!), Years ago I popped into Grenadier Miniatures when it was in north Wales just down the road from me, and got chatting to a young Mark Copplestone while he was sculpting some of the Future Warriors range. I did get invited to the launch of the original “Inquisitor” game at GW headquarters while writing for Valkyrie. Met a couple of the then designers/sculptors then played a game of “Inquisitor” with the author Gav Thorpe.

    Was also at a DR Who convention once, and while looking around the stalls a lady walked up and asked about the old Dalek game, I stood explaining it to her and how my friend had had it when I was a child, and this and that when it slowly dawned on me that she was Wendy Padbury!

    Probably my roundest moment though was at a show talking to the then owner of Scotia/Grendal I was saying about my column in Valkyrie and would he be interested in giving me some samples, when he said that John Treadway told him he read that column!

    Oh and at Salute one year I got talking to that bloke who was mentioned in the credits of “Domains of Dread”, but he was a bit of a diva to be honest! 🤣🤣🤣

    Cheers Roger.


    • Thanks Roger. As you actually WROTE for Valkyrie, which I used to buy and read, that kind of puts you into the “semi-famous gaming celeb” category, so I shall claim that as another geeky claim to fame.

      Me… a diva!? I’ve a good mind to come over there and give you a kicking in my 4-inch white vinyl platform boots, but I fear I may break a nail.


  3. So lovely to hear from you Jez, but I am afraid that I have little to offer this post as I am the sort of chap that says, ‘look there is a famous person, better not disturb him as he is clearly busy being famous.’


  4. Getting to this quite late in the game, friend. Sorry about that. You went to Gen Con a full 20 years before I was able to make the trip myself, as I went in 2012. I doubt I could afford to go again, considering how much it cost me and my buddy to make the trip back then. On that trip, though, I did manage to score a Larry Elmore Star Frontiers print, but I wimped out when he asked me if I wanted him to sign anything special. I settled for his iconic signature. Looking back, I wish I had him at least put “Gen Con 2012” on it, too; but I had my reasons.
    You see, right before I got to meet him, there was a guy in front of me who pretty much exhibits all the unfortunate stereotypes of our hobby. He asked Larry to autograph an entire postcard set that he did not purchase at the Con, then asked him to autograph it “Larry Elmore”, as opposed to his iconic, well-known signature, even when Larry himself pointed that out. I remember Larry’s son exchanging bewildered looks with me as he got more and more ridiculous. By the time I got there, I barely managed to mumble what I’m sure he’s heard a million times: that he was the illustrator that inspired my imagination growing up, and still does. I thanked him for his decades of work, then I bought my print, and left with his basic signature; even though he asked if I wanted it personalized.

    Others: back in the 90’s I met Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon and got to peruse the unfinished artwork for Preacher #1 (they had it literally chained to the table). I also met Charles Vess, who was by himself, tucked in a corner, We chatted for a while and he is one awesome guy. Finally, in a rare moment of luck, I was at NY ComicCon about 15 years ago, when I literally turned around and saw Joe Simon, sitting with his son, with no one in line in front of him. I practically choked up, I got so emotional. I managed to walk over and stammer out my thanks as a fanboy, but I couldn’t tell you what the hell I said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No worries, Keith. RL gets in the way sometimes (Real Life for most of you, Ravenloft for me 😉). Laary Elmore hosted an art class and Q&A at a con I attended and came across as a lovely chap, so I’m not surprised by your story – nor by the rabid fanboy who was taking advantage.

      And some comic book legends as well – very, very cool. I would love to meet Alan Davis, my all-time favourite comic book artist, as I am in awe of his art and the fa t that the man can draw ANYTHING. I had to double-check who Charles Vess was (name was familiar, etc.), but now I know, I’m surprised he wasn’t more popular – his artwork is gorgeous.

      And THE Joe Simon?! Dude that’s awesome!!


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