Wednesday, June 6, 2012

When a World-Builder Dies

Location: Marooned in a Campaign that Ended

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.


Unknown said...

Today I was able to contact another of Gary's friends to let him know of Gary's passing. I began getting emotional as I spoke to Greg. I will not let Gary be forgotten, he was a good friend, and I now cherish all the time we had together. I have decided to continue his Epic Fantasy setting and hopefully reach what Gary would think is a satisfying ending. Perhaps I shall take up the challenge of his vampire campaign after that if I can achieve a satisfactory conclusion on the fantasy. Long live Gary in our hearts and minds.

Iggy O said...

Thank you, Al. Yes, I think Gary had "a way with worlds." I hope we can honor his memory by keeping "Nerd Night" going, and get Greg to reprise his guilt-ridden role as a vampiric professor, so I can torment him with Okonkwo Richelieu :)

Tenchi Morigi said...

It is really sad to hear of your loss, and I hope that you will find a way to keep up the memory in the intended way.

Unfortunately I see the continuing downfall of old school nerd gaming that way, and my last round of battletech RPG was way back in university. We started some other tries and systems to get a group together, but it never really worked out properly.
Its really sad to see how such a genre gets stomped under the boot of the wow generation.
So that loss weighs twice as heavy in my eyes.
Take Care

Bryan Alexander said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Gary sounds like a sweet friend.

Unknown said...

Sorry to hear of the loss, Gary sounded like an amazing man. Good luck with your endeavors. The projects you are working on sound like great pieces of work.