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Expedition to Geneva Lake - The Birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons

Geeks a Gogo recently paid a visit to popular vacation spot Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It's known as a beautiful vacation town about an hour and a half outside of Chicago, Illinois. It's slightly less well-known as the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons—and the roll-playing game revolution.

Dungeons and Dragons creator, and TSR founder Gary Gygax lived most of his life in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Though he was born in Chicago, he moved to Lake Geneva during his youth and remained there in the years during his time inventing the modern roll-playing game. It's rather easy to miss the sites tied to the origins of Dungeons and Dragons. There isn't a lot to commemorate the history of gaming that is associated with this town—it has plenty of other history as a resort town for Chicago's wealthy. However, if you know where to look, there are a few sights to see that are important to gaming fans.

Let's start with the Riviera building in Lake Geneva. The city of Lake Geneva is on the west end of Geneva Lake. It has beautiful lakefront with a beach, a dock (from which you can take a boat tour), and lots of nice restaurants and shops for tourists. The Riviera building is the center of it all, located right in front of the docks.

In front of it is a fountain and a walkway of red-brick tiles with messages from the donors who built it. In front of the fountain is a brick with an image of a dragon sleeping atop a D20, dedicated to Gary Gygax's memory. It's a small, but touching stand-in for the larger memorial that Gary's fans are trying to have built.

Next, journey a few blocks up nearby Broad St. You'll find the Horticultural Hall at the corner of Broad and Wisconsin St. This was the site of the very first Gen Con in 1968, when Gary put up $50 to rent out the hall. The hall is often booked for private events, so be cautious when visiting to make sure that you don't disturb someone's wedding.

From there, a block over on Wisconsin St. and Center St. is the house where it all began. Today, it is a private residence that is no longer owned by the Gygax family (so, if you want to see it, just look, and please don't bother the owners). This is the legendary house in which Gary Gygax was said to have created Dungeons and Dragons. The basement of that house held some of the greatest gatherings of gaming nerds the world has ever known. Here is a view from the side:

Unfortunately, the old TSR headquarters are no longer around, nor is the hobby shop "The Dungeon", where Gary and his friends would hang out. But if you want to get some gaming in while you are there, we recommend Lake Geneva Games, a cool little gaming shop that we stopped at on the way to Chicago.

It's a good spot to refresh your gaming supplies for your adventure. And don't forget to check out their secret gaming room in the back.


Like tabletop gaming? Check out our weekly role-playing game book review column, where we review everything from big games like Dungeons and Dragons, to small, independent publishers.

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