Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Have Fun Storming the Castle!

Back in the day, before Wizards of the Coast bought TSR, the latter used to set up a giant castle in the middle of the dealer's room. This was their right, because GenCon was owned and operated by TSR, so naturally they got the center of the hall, the most space, and the ability to build a giant castle.

It was a sight to behold. The castle was this two storey, prefabricated building. It towered over the hall. You could always orient yourself in relation to the castle, as in "the White Wolf booth is to the left and front of the castle." Oftentimes, I used it to avoid traffic in the aisles, since it was a huge space and often allowed you to cut across three rows at once.

One year, I want to say circa 1997, someone got a genius idea. Something that comes along only once in a lifetime. Someone decided to storm the castle. I believe it was the guys from FASA, a great game company and a great group of people. I'm not sure what triggered the feud; I'd heard that the TSR guys had pulled a prank of some sort....

The dealer's hall was open to merchants one hour before opening to the public. It was so we could get set up before the stampeding masses could, well, stampede. (This was a lifesaver, since we were all often hung over, so it gave us some extra time get settled in. Most dealers I knew showed up about five minutes before opening.) On the morning of the last day of the convention, during this magical hour, we struck!

Someone had bought out Toys R Us of their entire Nerf stock. Out came Nerf guns of all imaginable types -- the big rifles, the little pistols, even a Nerf crossbow. We advanced down the aisles like SWAT teams, crouched low and in stack up formation. Then, Nerf darts sailed everywhere. Someone had tipped TSR off, and they had their guns ready, too.

It was an incredible sight, to see clouds of Nerf darts sailing over the walls of this castle. It was like something out of 300 or Gladiator. TSR took the battle to the streets, running up and down the aisles blasting everything they saw. Then, it was over. We put down our weapons and went back to our booths for a day of selling.

People tried to duplicate the experience the next year, but it wasn't the same. It became institutionalized. Everyone expected it. It lost it's spontineity. But it was great to be a part of that first storming of the TSR castle.

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