Everyone had so much fun with the Doom Gong at Gen Con 50. It signaled the death of hundreds of Dungeon Crawl Classics zero level adventurers in the DCC game room and made quite an impression as we paraded it through the halls of the convention center. Joe Goodman was stoked and he wanted more. Because the Gong spends most of the convention in the game room, he wanted something big and impressive for the Goodman Games booth in the vendor’s hall.
“Can you make some obelisks?” He wrote me in an email early in the year. “Sure.” I replied. “Obelisks with integrated book shelves and banner poles to hold big DCC flags?” He added. “Sure… probably.” I responded.
But not really. I thought about the project every day and truly lost a good bit of sleep over it. But an unprecedented amount of day job related work and the fact that I no longer had a workshop space, left me struggling to get a foot hold on the project.
Much like the Doom Gong project I waited till it was almost to late and then immersed my self in it. My wife was away at school in Europe again and I was single dad through June, so nothing got done. But when she returned I threw up a portable canopy in the yard and went to work.
The weather was terrible, but not surprising. It was either 95+ degrees or pouring rain. I’m basically immune to that from landscaping, but I am usually not working with products that need to be kept dry or need low humidity to set up properly. We had built my wife an art studio in the back yard the previous winter and she graciously let me take it over for a few weeks, which along with its dehumidifying air conditioner really saved the day.
So, the weekend after the 4th of July, I had three weeks until we’d need to leave for Gen Con. I put on my wizard hat and a selection of my best amulets. It was time to build some obelisks.
There was no live metal band this time to provide a proper doom soundtrack, so I set up some old Dell computer speakers with a subwoofer, plugged in my phone and turned up the Black Sabbath. I drew out a template for the obelisk sides right onto the plywood I was using for a table and started cutting.
There’s about a one-inch gap where the safety shield doesn’t cover the saw blade. I immediately set the circular saw down with that one inch of exposed spinning blade on the cord to the music system. Then after twenty minutes of splicing tiny wires I began again.The angles for the pyramidal caps were really vexing me so I had to make card board models.
Work was progressing. There was a large amount of measuring, remeasuring and T-bevel work but I had the basic shapes together.
Once the framing was done for the shelves I had to build a structure to hold the banner poles, which would pass down through the pyramidal caps. It is a 2” PVC tube which was glued into a hole drilled in a 2×4” piece of pine.
I secured the tops and the banner pole holders onto the obelisks. The skeletal forms were looking really arcane at this point. Definitely some wizard artifact vibe happening. I told my neighbors I was building Time Pylons and Etheric Antennas.
These things needed to be big to even be seen in the tumult of the Gen Con vendors hall. I had planned on making 2 ft. square bases for them from heavy plywood, both to weigh them down and to make them at least a bit impervious to the inevitable stroller and mobility scooter collisions. I made two big heavy plywood cubes with open ends, they weigh about 35 lbs each. All assembled the obelisks with the banner poles are 12 ft. tall.
Up until this point you could always go back a step if you really messed up. But when you cover it in liquid nails construction adhesive there’s no going back after that, only starting from scratch, if you botch it. I didn’t put any in the shelves themselves for the same reason I didn’t do the bases. I was worried wear and tear from people pulling books in and out wouldn’t take long to damage the foam.
I sealed a few of the seams with body putty, but it always cups the foam a bit, so I quit using it and went over it all again with an, acetone based, wood putty. I was about half way done at this point, but I only had a week left. The epoxy resin still hadn’t shown up.
I hassled Doug Kovacs and Harley Stroh to help me come up with ideas for sigils, runes or other iconography to carve into the sides of the obelisks. They were both in Gen Con crunch time on their own contributions, but they did take the time to help me out and lend their ideas to the project. I based most of the imagery on things I saw or thought I saw in the big “The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying” painting Doug had finished for the 2018 DCC Gen Con Tournament. I had been using a high-resolution copy of it as the desktop on my computer, so it was never far from my mind.
I drew the images onto the foam and free hand cut them out with a razor knife. There’s the Septus Ocularus of Sezrekan, Malkous the Seven Horned Cat of Sezrekan, The Death Mask of Sezrekan, and a Seven-Pointed Star of Sezrekan.
The obelisks sigils are mirror images of each other. I carved some random cracks into the panels and did some weathering on the edges to make them look ancient and time worn. Then sanded it all again.
I’m not sure I got the star right, because these sigils leak eldritch energies and soon the studio was infested with a mischievous purple haired gnome.
The resin step is the worst. Coating everything in chemically reacting epoxy resin without messing it up is always a challenge. You must mix it just right, so it sets up fast, but not too fast. If you mess it up it may never set up and then it’ll just be sticky trash and you’ll have to start from scratch.
When the resin is dry you sand it, forever and then do it again, as many times as time allows.
But I wouldn’t know if I got it right until they we in the same room together on the last day of Gen Con. I base coated it with a hand mixed dark grey made with Killz shellac-based paint to help it stick to the epoxy and add some more strength.
When that was dry I did two other applications of incrementally lighter gray to give the faux appearance of eldritch stone, the sort of material ole Sezrekan would have had his sorcerous minions quarry from the roots of forbidden mountains to construct his phlogiston agitators.
It was down to the wire and I was really strung out. I had put in about 100 hours of labor in three weeks and continued to do my day job too. Although I did hire some guys to cover me the last few days. I got all the parts wrapped up in an elaborate array of moving blankets and we loaded them into a Uhaul along with my wife and daughter and off we drove 630 miles to Gen Con 2018!
On Sunday we paraded the Doom Gong from the DCC room to the dealer hall scattering convention goers every time Tim Deschene strikes the gong. We set it up on a table in between the obelisks. It looked impressive. Joe Goodman is slowly building a life size DCC playset. The winners of the tournament got to sound the gong one final time in victory and another Gen Con was in the books.
Later that night at dinner with the crew, there was talk of what’s next. Ziggurats, sacrificial pits, braziers, sarcophagus, thrones on dais, trans dimensional portals, hexagrammic demon traps, a real dinosaur, are all things that were tossed around by the wild minded writers of your favorite modules. What’s going to appear at Gen Con 2019? It is hard to say this early on. But keep your toes crossed and your third eye on the blood of the scrying pool and perhaps the shape of the future will be revealed to you.