by Toni L.P. Kelner / Leigh Perry
By the time this is posted, I'll be packed and ready to take off for GenCon in Indianapolis to participate in their Writer's Symposium. Though I've never attended a gaming convention, let alone the granddaddy of gaming cons, in an odd way, this is going to be a trip down memory lane for me.
When I was in college and even a few years beyond, I spent just about every weekend playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends. We'd spend hours huddled around a table covered with rulebooks and character sheets, rolling dice as we fought orcs and evil wizards and made our way through dungeons.
If you've never played D&D, you might not get the point, but here's a video a local newstation filmed when I was in college. I'm not in it, though many of my friends are, including Steve and that not-so-great first boyfriend. I think it does a great job of showing the attraction of the game and role-playing games in general.
So how did this affect me, other than to entertain me mightily?
On the writing side, my first professional publications were game-related. I interviewed Jim Dutton, the owner of a play-by-mail game company called ECI, and the resulting article ran in a extremely short-lived magazine called Gaming Universal. And by short-lived, I mean three issues. Here's the cover of the issue my article ran in, from January/February 1984. The cover illustration is by my friend Kim Allman, a frequent Dungeon Master for our games.
After that article ran, I was encouraged by Kim to submit limericks to the magazine. In fact, he told the editor Bob McClain that I'd written lots of limericks. I don't know why--I'd never written one outside of school. But I learned quickly, submitted two limericks to Gaming Universal, and both were accepted. Unfortunately, they were set to appear in Issue #4, which never came to pass.
Undaunted, I submitted them to Dragon, which was the Dungeons & Dragons related magazine published by TSR Games. Not only did they buy them, but they bought a total of twelve from me. The first ran in Issue #91, from November of 1984.
The limerick, if you're curious, was this:
She thought it true love she had found
When the handsome young sentaur came 'round.
But one roll in the hay,
And he trotted away;
He was only horsing around.
It's obvious that I was destined for greatness.
Actually, more than the game-related work I published, it was the gaming itself that helped me as a writer. On one hand, in role-playing my hobbit thief Goldwyn du Locks and my cleric Drayla, I learned about creating backstory and how different characters will react completely differently in the same circumstance. I got a feel for how some storylines seem natural, and others were forced. And in playing with other players, I learned I really don't like group story-telling nearly so much as I like sitting alone in a room and typing by myself. These were some pretty darned valuable lessons.
On a personal level, much of my social life during those years circled around our weekly Dungeonsgames. I met my first boyfriend through D&D, and though he was no great shakes as a boyfriend, he did did me the singular favor of intruducing me to Steve, the fellow who became my second boyfriend, and later my husband.
Though I still play a lot of games online notably Neopets and Facebook games, I'm not the gamer I was. So I was taken aback when Marc Tassin emailed and asked if I'd like to come to GenCon. You see, all those years I played D&D, GenCon was famous among us players as the place to learn about new games, test play modules, and meet other players. And now I had a chance to go? As a professional? I didn't even hesitate!
And that was before I found out that some two thousand people come to Symposium events (out of the forty-nine thousand at the event itself), or that Jim Butcher and Bill Willingham would be participating, or even that Marc was interested in Steve participating, too. All I thought of was those days of sitting around a table, rolling dice, and creating worlds and characters. If you leave out the dice, that's still what I love to do.
So I'll be at GenCon all weekend: talking on panels, signing books, and all that author stuff. But between authorial sessions, don't be surprised to find me in the dealer's hall, wandering down a memory lane of sorts. I might even buy a new set of dice.
FYI: If you dig up those copies of Gaming Universal or Dragon, you won't find either the name Toni L.P. Kelner or Leigh Perry. I was publishing as Toni Leigh Perry back in those days.