- Gamers and geeks of all stripes come together at Guild Con to show their allegiance to the Force, roll the dice and learn from masters like Dungeons & Dragons designer Robert J. Schwalb.
WHEN you’re waiting on the release of a long-anticipated prequel, it’s always best to have company.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t drop until mid-December, but sci-fi sycophants are already hunkering down together to lambast the spoilers on 4Chan and parse the rise of Han Solo.
And not just in the thousands virtual chat rooms or on Reddit threads, either: Across the country, a new local meet-up or conference crops up every week, allowing fans to continue the conversation live and in person.
Those who once dwelled on the fringe now inhabit the palace, and there are more chances that ever to explore the theory that Bobo Fett killed Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle. This weekend, the Jedi army joins squads of gamers and legions of dungeon masters at Guild Con, converging on the Guild Hall compound Sept. 18-20.
The second annual “celebration of all things nerdy and geeky” was conceived last year to coincide with the launch of the Guild Hall, the nexus of nerdery on Montgomery that offers everything from sword-forging classes to Magic: the Gathering tournaments.
While the first Guild Con was only meant to be a gambol on the century’s proliferation of “cons” (see Dragon Con, Comic Con and Savannah’s own Gnome Con), the event—like some rogue avatar—took on a life of its own.
“It was supposed to be a cheeky way of saying ‘grand opening,’” explains co-founder Clegg Ivey.
“We were shocked at how many people showed up and came to play.”
With the paint on the walls barely dry, over 600 eager dweebers rolled through the grounds for 72 straight hours of role-playing gamery, videoscreen domination and good old-fashioned communion.
“We didn’t lock the doors for three days,” says general manager Adam Parker. “It was pretty epic.”
The weekend fomented the Guild Hall’s member base and established a local community that crosses the lines between squirtles and wizards and unifies stormtroopers with settlers of Catan—an intersectionality of nerdcraft, if you will.
The benevolent leaders promise to reprise the comradery at Guild Con II, with a verrrrry serious Mario Kart 8 tournament, a cosplay costume contest and drinking games at the Guild Hall’s sister eating establishment, The Chromatic Dragon. Death metal video game cover band Artificial Fear returns, and sexy beast Mary Contrary performs her signature bawdy burlesque.
But Guild Con is far more than couchbound amusement or an excuse to wear the Wookiee suit out of the house.
While the Arena’s gaming consoles will surely be filled, idle hands can find occupation with the saws and hammers of the Forge, the Guild Hall’s formidable makerspace, or at the new Miskatronic Labs (formerly the Atrium), where a green screen, sound booth, 3-D printer and laser cutter are waiting for imaginations gone wild.
“We’ve separated out the wood shop from the digital design elements,” says Ivey of the morphing spaces. “We want everyone to be able to access the resources.”
Guild Con attendees can up their skills with intro to coding and film classes or pimp their toys with NERF gun modification and light saber workshops.
The biggest draw for fantasy fans and RPG aficionados is a game design study hall with Robert J. Schwalb, one of the lead designers on the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons and overall gaming rock star. Fresh off his D&D triumphs and the success of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Schwalb launched a Kickstarter in 2014 to fund his own independent venture.
Schwalb Entertainment’s dystopian tabletop epic The Shadow of the Demon Lord releases this fall. Preview reports indicate that it’s character-driven and utilizes 20-sided and 6-sided dice.
“We have a lot of players who are into game design as well,” says Ivey.
“I think a legend like Robert is going to have a lot of wisdom to impart.”
Ivey emphasizes the incubatory atmosphere of the Guild Hall, where members often share hobbies and collaborate on projects in addition to discussing the possible implications of C-3PO’s red arm.
“It’s like a con every day around here,” laughs the former Silicon Valley tech lawyer-turned-benevolent dictator.
While Guild Con offers all manner of nerdy togetherness, Ivey assures that the weekend’s gaming is paramount.
“Oh, we’re gonna play. It’s on.”