I didn’t get a huge amount of time to walk around outside the exhibit hall at Origins, but I made a point of touring the miniatures hall to check out what folks were playing and to look at the amazing armies and scenery. The grandest display was Duke Seifried’s Lord of the Rings extravaganza. Something like two years was spent building a series of LOTR terrain boards for a series of battles. Helm’s Deep, Minas Tirith, the Black Gate, the Lonely Mountain, the Mirkwood, and even Mount Doom were all on display, with thousands of painted minis to go with them. Duke and Frank Chadwick ran a whole series of games over the weekend, and they were attempting to auction off all the terrain and minis to one lucky (and rich) gamer. I’m not sure if anyone ponied up for the whole thing, but I think the starting price was about $30,000.
I was looking around the display during the Battle of Pelennor Fields re-fight. As I was admiring Helm’s Deep, a voice said, “Hey Chris!” It turned out to be Don Perrin, who was nice enough to introduce me to Duke himself. Duke is something of a legend. He’s been in the industry since the 60s and still has a great passion for it. I had never met him before, but he was super friendly and before I knew it he was regaling me with tales of yesteryear. He told me that he flew to England and met with Tolkien before he died. They sketched out Helm’s Deep as Tolkien envisioned it and it was these drawings that Duke used to build the diorama at Origins.
He must be used to meeting younger industry guys who don’t know who he is, because he started running down all the companies he’d been involved in (he was one of the first TSR employees, for example). When he got to Heritage I stopped him and said, “When I was 10 years old, I started playing D&D; and collecting minis. The first minis I ever got were the Dungeon Dwellers series from Heritage.” His face lit up, he shook my hand, and gave me this little gold ring. “Just for that, I’m making you one of my Nazghul,” he said.
It was cool to meet Duke. Here’s a guy who was playing minis games when I was in the womb and he’s still at it! I hope I have that kind of enthusiasm 25 years from now.