A Quick Addendum for 2001:
One thing I forgot to mention in my last blog post was a very influential convention that I attended early that year: Winter Fantasy Con, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This convention was heavily focused on the RPGA, but it was not far from my location in Louisville, so I drove up with a couple of my friends. None of us were RPGA members, but we had attended a gaming con in the past, so we thought we knew what to expect.
We were wrong.
This convention was All-RPGA, all the time. This is not to say such is a bad thing, only that we were entirely unprepared for what that meant. First, it meant that if you did not have an RPGA membership (and a character to use in the games), there wasn’t much to do. No pick-up games going on, no open gaming areas, no places to sign up for things that weren’t RPGA–since there were none.
This led to three things: First, we participated in a Living Seattle game set up for first-timers, which was fun. Second, we organized a pick-up game of Shadowrun in our Hotel Room that turned out to be a LOT of fun. And third, we spent a lot of time in the dealer’s area.
This last bit is really important since the dealer’s area was largely deserted through much of the day. You see, RPGA events ran from 4-8 hours long, and that was the main focus of 99% of the attendees. So during game slots, there were only a handful of people who were not playing RPGA games.
Such as myself and my friends.
This had an unintended side effect–you see, Winter Fantasy had several guests there that year, game designers you may be familiar with: Andy Collins, Ed Stark, and Monte Cook.
And the guests weren’t really playing many games–instead, they were just hanging out near the dealer’s area.
This meant that my friends and I could just wander over, introduce ourselves, and have an amazing one-on-one conversation with these gaming giants.
And that’s exactly what we did.
I had an amazing time speaking with Monte and Andy, but my conversation with Ed Stark accounted for almost three full hours. Ed was extremely patient, wise, and encouraging. At the end of our discussion, I mentioned to him my ambition to become a game designer and write for the games that I love.
Ed looked me in the eye and said, “I believe you could do that, if you wanted to.” He paused. “So… Go. Do. It.”
This was an amazing moment for me. I had someone I respected in the industry telling me right to my face that I could do this, that I SHOULD do this. I had a brand-new resolve and determination to make this dream come true, and upon returning from the convention I threw myself into writing and designing games full-time.
I never looked back.