Not having been to NorWesCon in years (I think the last time was to see Ryan Dancey & Cindi Rice on some panels throwing out teasers about the forthcoming D&D 3e -- i.e. in 2001), and having fond memories of their book room (where I picked up one or two original Arkham House Clark Ashton Smiths on previous visits), I decided to take Saturday off and go, and work through the Sunday instead. Janice, having been indoors all week, decided to pass on spending the day in windowless rooms inside a crowded hotel. So she dropped me off and then picked me up at the end of the day.
I didn't get an early start, but arrived in time for a first poke into the book room, wh. turned out to be almost entirely crafts, w. a few excellent non-craft book/videos/game-related booths among the wilderness. Did find a table with a v. old LotR boardgame from LAND OF LEGEND,* called QUEST OF THE MAGIC RING. I'd seen in their mail-order list years and years ago but never been able to afford back in 1977-78; bought this at once and asked them to put behind the counter for me until later today. Looks as if it were both designed and illustrated by the same person, one W. Hill, whose work I don't otherwise know. One oddity is that while clearly a licensed product and Bakshi-movie tie-in, the box cover is careful to genericize its Tolkien details (e.g., "A Game of Adventure in Mythical Earth", rather than Middle Earth"). Another oddity is that the cover art showing the Fellowship in Moria has one extra hobbit amongst their number -- a presage of Odo, perhaps? Or maybe Gollum was better at disguise than we thought . . . I also got, from the same place, two press releases, one promoting the movie and the other announcing Heritage Model's new LotR line -- some of which I've had since I first started playing D&D, although now in rather battered condition from many years' use. And I also picked up three minis, one of which was clearly Bakshi's Gandalf.
The first panel I went to, at noon, was CRUNCH VS. FLUFF, w. Jeff Grubb, Stan Brown, Bruce Cordell, Erik Mona, Jonathan Tweet, and Jason Bulmahn -- all but last of whom are former co-workers of mine from WotC days. I sat w. Logan Bonner (lead author of the excellent project I'm currently proofreading, as it happens) and enjoyed the discussion. My own view is that just as I enjoy having both a left hand and a right hand, so too I enjoy having both rules and story in a game -- it's not a roleplaying game without the presence of both. In the best games, the two make for a unified experience (e.g., CALL OF CTHLUHU, PENDRAGON); in poorly designed games one or the other dominates. Jonathan made the interesting claim that all the rules in 2nd edition AD&D involved combat and virtually none related to role-playing. The question I'd like to have asked but didn't (since the session was winding down) is how alignment played into this -- since alignment, as a core concept in 1st edition AD&D (still my all-time favorite roleplaying game), drive roleplaying and story without directly affecting combat. In fact it cd be said that the AD&D alignment rules, which can have a huge impact on what happens during the game, are entirely story-focused in their effect.
Afterwards, I got to visit a little w. Bruce, whom I'd not seen in far too long, and caught up on his news a little. Then I joined a group for lunch that included about half of the aforementioned panelists, myself and Logan, and several others I didn't know, but service was so slow that I had to leave before anything arrived (other than some mango tea, which I drank piping hot). Good conversation, though; wish I cd have stayed longer, but Tolkien was calling . . .
*The folks from whom I ordered my copy of THE SILMARILLION, if memory serves