#RPGaDay2020 Day 18 - "Meet"
In one form or another, I've described how RPG's are a social experience in almost every post. There's side-chatting, sharing of life events, telling old stories, and of course the experience itself--collaboratively creating a story, which leads to sharing the experience and making memories. And inevitably, this leads to people becoming friends, meeting new people, and expanding their friend networks.
Today's essay is dedicated to a topic that deserves so much more attention than it normally gets, some stories of the wonderful people that I've met along the way.
In 8th grade, I was having lunch with my friend Rob. One of the football players came over to our table; he said he had heard that I was a D&D player, and asked if was I interested in running for him and some friends. I said sure, and that moment began a lifetime friendship with my friend Mark, who I hung out with almost every day through High School and the summer after. About 10 years later, I was the best man at his wedding.
At the same time, one of my very best friends from 6th grade onward, John, was also a gamer. He joined that game as well, and from them, I met other people who were their friends. We gamed a lot, of course, but we also hung out a lot, at lunch, on weekends, and even one epic game of tag after school on one of those "not safe so they don't have them anymore" play structures at the local park--at a point in our lives when we were FAR too old to be playing on such things.
A Best Friend and the College Friends
Before I move on to college friends, I have to do a special shoutout to the first of them--my friend John (who is different than the one above.) When I moved into the dorms, I was looking over a sheet where people put their names, rooms and their hobbies, and one of them had put "D&D". It was a day or two later that I was chatting with this really great person, and we got around to "Oh yeah, what's your name? He told me, and I said "Oh, YOU'RE John!" He and I were inseparable throughout college. Of course we gamed; that's the point of the essay. But we also roomed together in the dorms the next year, and in an apartment the year after that. In the many years that followed, our lives have been constantly connected, even on different continents--including our gaming life, as he is the co-creator of Trinity.
Over those 4 years, we formed a group of a dozen or so friends: some were people we met that first year; some were new people to the school in later years; others were people who came for the games and stayed forever, and some were even friends of people we gamed with--and long after the games stopped, they were still our best friends. Ultimately, and those dozen or so people are still my closest friends today--and most of those have some connection to our strange little hobby.
Another source of friends is GenCon. I've attended that convention over 25 times, and I've met some truly wonderful people, but I want to call out three specific sets of people before I do anything else: The first of these are my friends from Ohio, the Castle Guys. I wandered into a room with some generic tickets and an open time slot. There were two tables advertising for players, and I took the one that looked better organized. I played a D&D scenario called "Blackjack Attacks" event, playing Kermit the Rhyming Thief. In the following years, I played in that event, until they started running playtests for my GenCon crew on "GenCon Wednesday" nights. When they stopped running Blackjack, we kept hanging out on those Wednesday nights in a tradition that continues today.
Michelle, another friend, appeared when we were waiting in line to see the Gamers:Dorkness Rising debut. Out of the blue, she asked if she could sit with us. Years of board games, RPGs, dinners, drinking and one FANTASTIC (and legendary) costume later, and she is very much a part of the core crew--even if the appearance of a future gamer in her life has kept her away from the con for a few years.
And I have to call out the friends who attend the convention together. We were all friends before, but those annual five day get-togethers have really caused us to know each other better, share some wonderful experiences and become closer. But we've also added to the connections: I brought my kids and then eventually my wife; one of the couples brought their niece (who is now chosen family to us), and one of my friends who isn't even a gamer shows up to do the attend crafting and exercise events, have dinner, and hang with us in the evenings.
In addition, there are the various friends who I make a point of seeing each year. Paul and Michael, specifically...whose art was featured in two of the previous essays. The Sparks Games team, who makes the card game Tau. We had a great event one time, and have made a point of hanging out in their booth, (or on their couch) every year since.
And especially the Monte Cook Games crew. I always enjoy visiting with Bruce, Darcy, Tammie, Shanna and the others from MCG...but also the wonderful members of their community. I'll name two people specifically: David, because he were so welcoming the first year I was interacting with the crew, and also Jim, because we've had such a great time chatting in Indy, in Grand Rapids, and outside the convention. The rest...there are many, and I won't even start naming them because it would be a long list, and I'd forget some (which is worse.)
These are people that I met online, and developed a friendship with. Again, there are too many to name, but I'll call out one in particular. Many years ago, in the early days of White Wolf, I came across someone named Brian on Usenet, discussing Mage the Ascension. I wrote him a note, because he understood some things I didn't. We chatted for weeks about it, in a very winding conversation--plus he was in New Zealand, so emails had a minimum of 24 hour turnarounds. But we remained friends long after that, and while we don't often talk, the last time we connected we were like old friends.
Real Life Friends
Now I come to my core game group, with whom I play every Thursday. In preparation for this essay (which I never do, by the way) I figured out that over 20 people have sat at the table as part of the Trinity campaign (and/or the alternate the runs with it.) Some of these people are the core members, who either are or were in the group for most of its existence. Others are people who attended for a time, or just showed up as guests. We also have one person I'll call out specially.
That person is the one labeled as "Quasit." A quasit in D&D is a small creature who hangs out with the wizard and doesn't participate so much as making snarky comments. In college, someone who didn't game, but enjoyed hanging out with everybody and just watching the game was said to be "quasiting." One dear friend, in particular, did this quite often, and she gets a callout below for her above and beyond approach to the role. She was coming to visit Michigan for a weekend, and explicitly planned her trip to start early, without me knowing, so she could show up and Quasit at our Thursday night game.
The rest have wonderful stories across the board. One person I met at random in a game store; he was looking for a game, and we had an open spot. Girlfriend, marriage, three kids and medical school (and subsequent work to becoming an attendee at the out-of-state hospital) and he's still playing. He also brought in two more of the core players.
One person was brought in by my brother-in-law. That person has not only been a creative and fun member, but brought in several other people who now friends and core members as well. He is also the one that suggested rotating the chair, when he could tell I was burning out.
One person was a friend of a friend from work. He's been a core member, but more horrifically, his newborn son who is now in college is now a core member. *shudder*
So now, I have over a dozen friends I never would have met, if not for starting a game for my brother in law the month after 3e came out. Those relationships are laid out below, in a chart I created yesterday.
My final story get a special place both in the essay and chronologically. One of my other very best friends is a woman I met when we were in 2nd and 3rd grade respectively--my longest term friend. Our parents were friends friends from church, and we got thrown together as playmates. She and I had a long wonderful talk in 4th/5th grade and we became inseparable friends, independent of our parents. She is perhaps the ultimate example of chosen family, for me--because I only have nine years of my life that have not included her. I won't even start on our many wonderful adventures and experiences but will say that when Harry Met Sally came out, and the whole country was talking about if men and women could be friends without dating...I didn't even understand why there was a question, because of her.
Why is she in this essay? She was never a gamer. She tried a few times, but it never was a priority. But now she has started getting involved occasionally with her local friends, over the last couple years. And next weekend, she and I will be playing an RPG together for the first time. So many of my friendships started with gaming, and I'm so excited to be having a completely new experience with her after so many years. As a bonus, I'll be getting to hang out with her own family: real and chosen.
To pull it all together, I've been gaming for over 40 years. So many of my friends are people who I met because I gamed with them, because gaming friends brought them along, because I was in places with the purpose of gaming. I would still have many close friends without RPG's in my life. People like John and John, and several of our college friends would still be there, my friend from 3rd grade would still be there, and some others. But there wouldn't be many of the people who are my dear friends and chosen family--and my life would be poorer for it.
My art today is clinking wine glasses, and that is a toast--to all the friends I've made along the way...because of gaming.