Dungeons & Dragon’s unlikely Wisconsin birthplace is gearing up to celebrate the game’s 50th anniversary

To mark this year’s 50th anniversary of the creation of the massively popular roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, efforts are underway in Lake Geneva, the game’s Wisconsin birthplace, to create a number of attractions and events for visiting fans to celebrate the occasion. 

Until now, fans who have made the pilgrimage to this cozy resort town on the shores of Geneva Lake often went home disappointed because there wasn’t much there to commemorate the game, said Gygax Memorial Fund President Paul Stormberg, but he added that his group aims to change that

“When they come here, they kind of expect to make a sort of connection, but there was really nothing for them here to connect to so we’ve created several Gygax initiatives to give people a reason to connect with the town.”

Stromberg suggests that visitors get a copy of their Adventurer’s Map of Lake Geneva, which is a walking tour map made in the old-school D&D graph-paper style. that highlights landmarks in the town linked to the game and its late co-inventors Gary Gygax and Dale Arneson.

He listed some of the places you can already visit and some of the commemorative initiatives that he hopes comes to fruition during D&D’s silver anniversary year.

Gygax Memorial and Park

Plans are afoot to build a statue of Gary Gygax sitting at a stone table, his hand outstretched, playing Dungeons & Dragons in a park by the shores of Geneva Lake. On the table’s surface will be a bronze map of Gygax’s first Castle Greyhawk dungeon level scaled so that visitors can use their own miniatures right on the table surface. “Dungeon masters who are running the game can roll their dice right off of Gary’s hands. So not only will they be playing around Gary on Gary’s table on Gary’s dungeon level, they’ll also he’ll also be helping them to run the game by rolling the dice for the Dungeon Master.”

Dragon Days

Dragon Days is a new three-day fantasy festival which launched in 2023. It will be back again on the second weekend of October in 2024 to celebrate Lake Geneva as the “Birthplace of Fantasy” and the legacy of Dungeons & Dragons. It will include a Renaissance Fair, walking tours as well as gaming opportunities in several locations linked to D&D’s roots.

The Wizard of Lake Geneva Exhibit

The Geneva Lake Museum is a tidy collection of exhibits that celebrate the history of the town and the region, but until now, it didn’t have any mention of who is arguably the town’s most famous son, Gary Gygax. A new permanent exhibit, dubbed The Wizard of Lake Geneva, has since opened that collects memorabilia from the game’s creation and Gygax’s role in it.

Dungeon Hobby Shop & Museum

TSR, the game’s original publisher, was first headquartered in an unremarkable white house on Williams Street near the center of the town. It has since been preserved as The Dungeon Hobby Shop and Museum where fans can spend the $2 admission to look at a small collection of books and modules from the game’s earliest days, including editions of the original game that Gygax sold out of his living room. Today, those editions trade hands for thousands of dollars due to their popularity and scarcity. No one really knows how many copies were made because the company never kept track of the amounts they sold. You can also rent out the backroom of the museum to play D&D and soak in some of that old-school TSR energy.

The Birthplace of D&D

Another outwardly unremarkable building linked to D&D’s legacy is Gary Gygax’s childhood home. Owned by a Chicago family that used it as a summer vacation property for years, they have always welcomed visiting D&D fans who knocked on their door asking to peek inside. Encouraged by those fans to preserve a location that they see as being historically significant, the family are now renting it out as The Birthplace of D&D to people who want to play the game in the very place where it was invented. They even have an adjacent property listed as an Airbnb for those who want to spend more time there. Their goal is to raise money to preserve the house for future generations to enjoy. 

Gen Con Founder’s Stone & Statue

Lake Geneva is no stranger to gaming conventions as it is where Gygax launched his own wargaming convention in 1968. That event grew up to become Gen Con and by the time it became one of the world’s largest gaming conventions it outgrew the town and moved to the big city of  Indianapolis. To commemorate that history, plans are underway to unveil a Gen Con founder’s stone and interpretive sign at the site of the convention’s first home, Horticultural Hall.

Gary Gygax’s Appendix N Alcove

Unless they are some sort of architectural or historical marvel, public libraries are rarely of interest to tourists, but the Lake Geneva Library has set up a special corner that will surely interest D&D fans. Dubbed Gary Gygax’s Appendix N Alcove, this section of the library collects all of the fantasy authors and books that inspired Gygax as he wrote the rules for the game. Enough so, that he himself listed them in an appendix in the 1979 ‘Dungeonmaster’s Guide.’ Alongside the books is the “Throne of Reading,” an over-the-top, ornate wooden chair with red upholstery that is said to resemble a ‘reading’ throne that Gygax once had in his home. Grab your favourite fantasy book and pose for a photo to prove that your quest to visit the birthplace of Dungeons & Dragons was a success.

To plan your visit to Lake Geneva, head to https://www.visitlakegeneva.com for more information.

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