01 April 2024

grodog's Founders & Legends and GaryCon XVI Convention Reports - 14-25 March 2024 - Part 1

Part 1 – Arrival through Founders & Legends and Interregnum Tuesday

The blog has been quiet of late, in part because I'm still job hunting, and in part because I've simply been busy, both writing/designing and planning for the two conventions, as well as attending and recovering from them, of course!  

On the writing/designing front, I’ve been building the “Abyssal Rift” scenario since the advent of the No Artpunk 3 contest, and while I didn’t submit it for that, I’ve continued work on it via playtesting at GaryCon (to be described in the forthcoming sequel to this post), and will continue playtesting later in the year at both North Texas RPG Con in June and at Virtual Greyhawk Con later in the fall (dates still to-be-announced, I think).  Here's the event description:

I also designed and submitted a scenario for “Return to Perinthos” for the Jennell Jaquays Memorial Jam, which should appear in truncated form in May-ish (I wrote 4600 words for a  750 word limit...), and which Jon and I are working toward publishing in full for NTX in June, too.  

So, without too much further ado....

The Trip Northward – Thursday and Friday

Jon Hershberger, my Black Blade Publishing business partner, and I loaded up my family minivan with books destined for gamer hands on 11 and 12 March, and I hit the road after lunch on Thursday, 14 March.  When driving to Lake Geneva, we usually overnight in Davenport, Iowa, to make the trip more manageable, and I did so again this year.   (On the drive, I got to catch up with my brother Brian, which is always fun; we chatted quite a bit about the recent Neil Gaiman original artworks charity auction).  

Arriving in Lake Geneva around noon on Friday, I met up with Robert Brandon (an active member in the Greyhawk fan community) at 328 Center Street (the house immediately beside Gary’s old home at 330 Center), where Robert graciously hosted me throughout Founders & Legends.  We got settled in, grabbed some lunch, and ran around a bit downtown to visit Gary’s memorial stone by the library:

grodog at Gary's Memorial Stone (photo by Robert Brandon)
grodog at Gary's Memorial Stone
(photo by Robert Brandon)

Gary's Memorial Stone
Gary's Memorial Stone

That evening, Robert and I dined at Tuscan with Tony Rosten, my friend and publishing partner in The Twisting Stair (our mega-dungeon design zine).  (As it turns out, I think Jon and I dined there one year on a Sunday night, and perhaps once also with Rob Kuntz too).  We chatted about gaming, designing and publishing, conventions, our home groups and campaigns, and had a wonderful time.  The three of us returned to 328 Center Street to visit further, and Tony and I also did some planning for TTS #4, which we’ll begin work on after his schedule lightens up in May.  

Here’s a sneak-peek at the TTS#4 map from way back on 7 July 2018:

Return of The Twisting Stair begins 15 March 2024!: 
"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons, even death may die."

The Ides of March had already proven to a propitious omen for the trip! :D  

Founders & Legends

One of my primary interests in attending Founders & Legends was to spend time playing games, rather than only DMing them (as has generally been how my time goes at GaryCon for lo these many years).  When I was a young lad attending conventions in the greater Philadelphia-NYC-Baltimore corridor, I sampled many games at conventions to kick the tires---sometimes just that once, but occasionally leading to much-longer stints (as with Paranoia and Vampire, for sure).  

This year I wanted to return to wargames and boardgames, so I registered for three long (6+ hour) sessions for Divine Right, the Tom-Wham-a-Thon, and Titan, in addition to running three sessions in my version of Castle Greyhawk.

My other primary motivation to attend F&L and GaryCon was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D&D's publication in 1974.  This year our Legio V crew created anniversary dice to distribute to players in our games...:

Legio V 50th Anniversary Dice
Legio V 50th Anniversary Dice
(photo by Mark Clover)

...and, as always, to celebrate the memory and creations of Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Jim Ward, and the other founding fathers of our fabulous hobby:

Legio V - Top 10 Reasons To Go To Gary Con

"What is Legio V?"

I'm glad you asked.  From our events descriptions:

The Lake Geneva Legio V began as a handful of gamers who have attended Gary Con since its inception. We have grown over the past few years to include like-minded individuals united by a respect of Gary Gygax and his legacy. We are the dedicated attendees who love Gary Con for the camaraderie it establishes, the Game Masters who run games from across the decades, and the committed gamers who spend these four days in a fervor of dice rolling and old-school good times. 

Although events run as LEGIO V Presents will use a variety of rule systems, our focus is on games authored by Gary and his contemporaries as well as those systems whose designers pay homage to these pioneers.


Divine Right map (TSR, 1979)

I played Divine Right for the first time, at long last!  (On BoardGameGeek at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/23/divine-right).  I’ve known of the game since the days of TSR’s old Gateway to Adventure catalogs, and from Glenn Rahman’s “Minarian Legends” columns in the early days of The Dragon and Dragon Magazine.  

Matthew Archibald ran the game today (and a second session at GaryCon, which I think Robert played in?), and he will be running it again at the second annual Philadelphia Area Gaming Expo (PAGE2) in January 2025, where I hope to return to play Divine Right again.

If you’re interested in learning more about Divine Right, in addition to the BGG link above, a new edition is Kickstarting soon, with current discussion at https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/3181902/reprint-coming.  You can also follow Worthington Publishing’s KS profile at https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/1456271622 to be notified when the KS launches; they also plan to reprint Rahman’s DR and Scarlett Empire novels, in addition to the two games.  Edit 2 April 2024:  the DR Kickstarter is at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2141043266/divine-right-2024.

Squeezed between, I managed to sit in on about 40 minutes of Ben Riggs' seminar, "The Creative Legacy of E. Gary Gygax" and was glad I'd made the time to do so.  (I hated leaving a little early while he was still speaking, but I needed to setup for my 7pm game).  

Ben shared a slideshow with many pictures of fun sites where Gary grew up, pictures of the family when the children were all small, pictures of Don Kaye, etc.  He engaged the audience actively in the presentation, querying for who knew what vs. what was new, and soliciting Q&A throughout as attendees raised Qs and clarifications.  I hope it was recorded, as I'd like to catch the end of it, if possible.  

Saturday evening at 7pm, I DM’d the first of my three Castle Greyhawk events, and the players chose to play in my version of the “Black Reservoir” level, which I designed based on Gary’s 1975 short story from El Conquisator, hosted on my Greyhawk site (with Gary’s permission) at http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_castle_black_reservoir1.html.  I brought several levels with me, since I knew that some registered folks had played various levels during previous years:

  • Gygax levels
    • “The Chessboard” level that I ran at GaryCon and NTX last year
    • “The Black Reservoir” level, which I count here in Gary’s rather than Rob’s levels since I built it from Gary’s short story account rather than Rob’s map from the El Raja Key Archive
  • Kuntz levels
    • The Original Bottle City level
  • grodog levels
    • “Diamonds in the Rough”
    • “Escape from Level 14” (a.k.a., “Drawing Under the Influence of Gygax and Kuntz”)
    • “Halls of the Irons Golems”
    • “The Four Corners Level”
    • “The Heretical Temple of Wee Jas” (with two variant heresy options)
    • “The Hidden Aerie of Pazzuzu”

I left my “Iounic Caverns” and “Enchanted Orchards of the Arimoi” levels at home, along with my expanded version of S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth because they were too large to fit into my divided file folders.  (I think I'm forgetting another level or two among the options, but c'est la vie!).  

After exploring around the southern end of the level, the players used a wish spell from a luck blade to pass through to the northern portion, where they encountered the infamous pteranadons from Gary's story.  They prevailed in their battle, and survived their explorations!


I slept in an hour later, and spent most of the day playing Tom Wham games during the day-long Tom-Wham-a-Thon!  Tom’s games are always quick to learn, fun to play, and offer a variety of ways to win so they have great replay value.  

The three we played were:  Battling Space Ships (BGG at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/19372/dragon-lairds), Felithian Finance (BGG at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/19435/felithian-finance), and DragonLairds (we also played using the expansion set; BGG at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/19372/dragon-lairds, and expansion at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/45999/ebony-lavender-dragon-lairds).  My hope had been to play Feudality (BGG at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/99312/feudality) too, which I understand is one of Tom’s favorites, but time ran short after the other games, so perhaps next year!  

Dave Conant (in yellow) and Tom Wham (hatted),
teaching us games at the Wham-a-Thon! 
(photo by Mark Clover)

I enjoyed all three, and had not played any of them previously (although we do own copies of Dragon Lairds and Battling Space Ships, among many other Wham-designed games---he’s a favorite in the Grohe household! :D ).  Of the three, I think Dragon Lairds will appeal to our 16 year-old son Henry most (along with Divine Right, and perhaps Titan), while Felithian Finance may catch my wife Heather’s eye.  

Speaking of Heather, the players at the table also offered a number of suggestions for 2 player games, that are relatively quick to play (which is an attributes she particularly appreciates in a game these days!):

    • Alhambra (the card game)
    • Cloud Nine
    • Great Dalmuti (I think we may have this)
    • Lost Cities
    • Love Letter
    • Roll Through the Ages

My contributions to the discussion were Starship Catan, Milles Bourne, Sushi Go, and Incan Gold.  (I forgot to mention Cat in the Box at the time, which I played at TsunamiCon for the first time last fall, and is quite enjoyable!).  

Saturday night I DM’d again, and the players selected my “Heretical Temple of Wee Jas” level, but the session ended a bit early with a near-TPK as the PCs wandered into three ghosts.  Since I’ve first ran that encounter back at GaryCon III in 2011, I updated ghosts to use relative aging, so the dwarf and half-elf PCs got hit for XX and XX respectively while the human PCs, well, let’s say they needed dust pans and brushes to scoop their remains up….  (Other than the paladin, who failed the save vs. fear and sprinted off back the way they had entered from, and was eventually rescued by the dwarf fighter/thief and half-elven bard).  


Monday was devoted to Titan referred by Brett King, and which I played together with Wade from Saturday’s Tom Wham games, and with Dwight and Keith from Friday’s Divine Right game (I also spotted Dwight in the audience at the Greyhawk seminar during GaryCon too), and John from one of my D&D games!   I hadn’t played Titan (BGG: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/103/titan) since I was a kid at one of the east coast conventions from my teenage years, and I had no recollection of how to play, starting fresh.  As with Divine Right, the players and the referee were very helpful, and Keith and Dwight had played it quite a bit, and Keith mentioned an online resource for solo play too (which I’ll have to share later after repinging him, since I couldn’t find it in my notes so far).

The game play was quite fun and engaging, although mastering the stacks of counters and the flow of the game board movement was a bit challenging.  I wasn’t able to recruit for several turns in a row due to bad luck on die rolls, which slowed my development considerably.  We did run a few Battle Lands engagements by the end of the session, with Keith edging out John for the win on points.  A fun time, for sure!

My final session of Castle Greyhawk at Founders & Legends brought a second run into the “Black Reservoir,” where the players explored along the “shore” and caves in the cavernous south wall, meeting a variety of interesting WM encounters (each seemed to segue into another, as their mandatory 1 turn rest resulted in another 1 on the WM die roll ;) ).  They ended the session with their discovery of "The Blight House" on a small rocky island (only the second team ever to find it during the 15+ years I’ve been running this level).  The Blight House is a site sacred to Incabulos, Greyhawk’s god of evil sendings---nightmares, plague, drought, and the like:

"Incabulos" by Jeff Easley
(Dragon Magazine #71, March 1983)

Interregnum Tuesday

Over the course of F&L, Luke allocated some new on-grid games to the schedule for Tuesday (which was originally a day of rest between the conventions), in order to provide some additional gaming options for folks who were in town attending both conventions, or who had arrived early for GaryCon.  

Gaming in the Geneva Lake Museum
(photo by Toni Kerschner Smith)

As a result, I was able to play in Rob Kuntz’s “Boreal Level” of Castle Greyhawk, which I had previously played part of once back in 2019 at the North Texas RPG Con with my son Henry.  We went a different route within the level this time, and encountered some different dungeon features (including the same trap for a second time), along with plenty of frost giants!  I didn’t initially recognize the level as one I’d definitely played before until I got back to our room (although parts of the intro and setup did feel familiar).  Then I checked my Castle Greyhawk history binder, where I found my 2019 player map and notes, and naturally began to compare our exploration across both sessions!  

Interregnum Tuesday closed out Founders & Legends for me, with much gaming and fun had by me, and its many other attendees!

To be continued in Part 2 – GaryCon!



  1. Incredible outing and jam packed report of the events. Thanks for sharing, Allan. It always amazes me how completely immersed you are in the people and happening of the OSR.

    1. With this year being the 50th anniversary, immersed is exactly how I wanted to be ;)


  2. Update on 2 April 2024: the Divine Right Kickstarter is now live (and funded!) at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2141043266/divine-right-2024.


  3. Spending a day playing Tom Wham games is a day well-spent.


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