Transmissions from the Astral Plane: Musings on a Gamer’s Journey!

Okay, bear with me. This will eventually make sense, I promise.

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The universe needs more escape artists. You know, those of us daring enough to slip loose the conventions of a dusty reality for something beyond, for something more. Let’s be honest, we are all full of such marvelous landscapes and terrains. If you are reading this you are, statistically speaking, full of stories and heroics and cerebral planets and just spilling over with muse and inspiration. And I say we need more of you. We need more escape artists, so we may have a bigger, more beautiful universe. How much less would we be without Middle-Earth, without Arrakis, or without Athas and Faerûn and the countless constellations of fantasy and science fiction worlds? I have listened to innumerable bits of small talk among non-geeks and felt so sad: They have but one world. We escape artists have many.

When Jules and Ray asked me to write this reflection, I realized that my journey, my history with gaming is not something I can count in years or gaming editions. Yes, I have my own fond and dusty recollections of myself as a 10-year-old tearing open his first BECMI Red Box before my mother could even drag me out of the hobby shop. I could (and have) talked for years on end about my trip through editions and genres and systems, both as a player and a DM. I could recall my battles with Magneto in the classic Marvel FACERIP, the dances-macabre held in the Undead courts of Constantinople, or I mishaps steering through Planes upon the Starjammer. But in the end, that doesn’t really tell my story. My gaming story is about people, and those who have jumped the rails of reality, if only for a few hours a week, to play together in the great beyond.

My story is about my two childhood friends Jeff and Eric, who with dice and index cards in hand spent weekend after weekend galivanting about Mystara, conquering Glantri and Ethengar, fudging rolls and not caring if we were even close to the rules. And when we couldn’t get together, we would play over the phone, or just story tell our adventures back and forth to keep the story going. It was about us forging the bonds of nerd-dom, playing together and not caring what the kids at school thought.

My story is about my friend John, who through our co-storytelling and gamemaster made an X-men setting worthy of Claremont and Nicieza. It was about learning the commonality we never knew we shared over midnight gaming sessions and microwave pizzas, and together learning how to tell a good story.

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My story was about reaching out and finding more of my geek-ling kind. Like when I meet Jules (yes, our very own D10Again Juliet) during my theater days and discovering we were both carrying our D&D dice with us. I remember with fondness a game of second edition and a pair of unruly ninjas that I still speak of to this day. I have never liked the phrase “just for fun” because happiness and fun are the reason behind all we do really, that single game led to a friendship that has spanned two decades and nearly 2000 miles.

Yet perhaps most importantly, my story is about family. It is about how the woman who kept kicking my seat during British Romanticism would become one of my players, my best friend, and eventually my wife.  In the beginning we shared stories, we shared games and adventures and dice and late-night Belgian waffles (we had it first, Dorkness Rising!). But it was more than that. Adrienne and I shared dreams. We shared creativity and imagination, and from this we have shared life together, sickness and poverty, and the very real and substantial struggles of life. From our games have spawned novels and stories and countless other creative projects. What we dream, play, and hope for reveals so much about the person you are sharing with.  When we let it, our shared creative experiences and storytelling help us understand each other’s pains and joys. My wife and I have gone on to have a child together, whose wicked imagination and fantastical mind is proving an amalgam of both of us. And I could not be more proud of my mini-gamer.

And there are others who have added to my story. There are those who have survived real war in the concrete world, those who have suffered from depression and anxiety and were brave enough to share with me, gifting me the confidence to open up myself, and even those who have just shared Mountain Dew-snorting laughs on days when that’s what we needed. They have all been my story. And I have had the honor to be part of theirs.

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So yes, we need more escape artists. I need more escape artists, because they and the games we have shared have made my life a never-ending theater of the mind. The dice? The books? Just wonderful tools to bridge the gap between fantasists. Because of them, my life is beautiful and grand. We think the bonds of gaming together are trivial, but how magnificent is it to share our collective imaginations, to play together in the mindscape, in the places no one else can touch? As Picasso said, “Art washes from the souls the dust of everyday life”.  I hope he will forgive my bit of paraphrasing here, but I have found same to hold true of game, and the gamers that have come along with me for the ride.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled D10Again tomfoolery and mayhem.