Wednesday, June 6, 2012
When a World-Builder Dies
Last week, Gary, a dear friend of 40+ years, passed away. He was a gamer of the old-school sort, and he'd been running RPG campaigns since the late 70s. I'd never really joined him for MMO play, so my encounters were weekly "Nerd Nights" with dice, character sheets, rule books, and a great deal of unhip humor. Gary was a consummate world-builder, as all good game masters should be.
As Gary's health declined in recent years, his "runs" became a bit more formulaic, based upon TV shows, films, or even the online game Mass Effect, and they all got a lot darker. To be honest, much of the fun was gone at times, and non-player characters often rushed in for a deus-ex-machina finish.
Without Gary's presence, what becomes of the characters we players have nurtured over the years? And what of his voluminous notes and maps for various settings, from a vampire-haunted New Orleans to a bleak fantasy setting where, a millennium before, a Sauron-style figure won the final war between good and evil?
As the population of paper-and-dice gamers ages, the questions of "what to do with their invented worlds?" will arise more frequently. There's an academic point to be made here, but I'm in no mood to theorize. In Gary's case, we others in the gaming group have decided to honor his memory by keeping his worlds alive, at least for a time.
We will work to finish current story lines for a few campaigns and, in the bleak fantasy world noted, to finish the setting off by seeing how the characters fare, all rebels against "The Graven One" who has oppressed an entire continent for 1,000 years. Then there is a sprawling project called "Spaceship," in which Gary and I developed a science-fiction campaign of epic scope, spanning two galaxies with 5,000 years of backstory and focusing on the fates of the twin galaxies' alternate Earths. My half of that epic will continue, though without Gary, it will be a somewhat lonely venture.
In spite of the challenges, I'm looking forward to it. And somewhere beyond the veils of reality and illusion that separate this world from whatever else exists, I suspect that Gary is mightily pleased with us.