RPG Evolution: Take Care of Your Players

November is an opportunity to be thankful for what we have, so for this series I thought I’d talk about “that player.”


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

That Player​

There are many reasons people play role-playing games, but there is a particular type of player that is both the best player and the most vulnerable. These players need the fantasy to get away, and are loyal fans who always show up to games like clockwork. They may not be the most creative players, or the most proficient with the rules, but they are reliable. That can mean a lot as we all get older and players with competing responsibilities don’t always show up.

Conversely, because these players have it tough, the game is sometimes more important than we realize. Cancelling a game might ruin their week; killing off their character might be much more upsetting than it would be for other players.

There’s a moment in the documentary about Star Wars, A Galaxy Far, Far Away, in which we’re invited to laugh at all the stalwart super fans of Star Wars ... until we hear their stories. And then it becomes clear that their personal lives are terrible and Star Wars is the most important thing to them because it brings them joy. That fandom can easily apply to That Player, who is essentially a fan of our games.

Meet Joe​

Let me tell you about Joe.

I met Joe in junior high, and he was one of the first and most loyal players in my D&D campaign. When I ended the game with a massive battle in high school, he was the only player who kept a scrap of paper that I had scribbled an in-game prophecy on. That prophecy proved invaluable when I wrote my trilogy of novels inspired by my D&D campaign. In that game, Joe’s character died abruptly (we were playing AD&D, and he failed his saving throw from a finger of death spell with a natural 1). But his character’s actions would reverberate throughout the campaign. A group of druids established a circle in his name and venerated him as a saint.

Joe played in two other campaigns: the stalwart dwarven warrior Beldin Soulforge in our D&D Arcanis campaign and the freelance investigator Archive in our D20 Modern campaign. He played both campaigns through to the end.

I never imagined Joe, who was three years younger than me, would pass before I did. He died of a massive heart attack at 45. As I write this, Joe’s ashes are being scattered to the sea.

I miss my friend.

Checking in, Taking Care​

In these difficult times we often discuss keeping ourselves safe and sane, but it’s easy to overlook the quiet players on our fringes who love the game but aren’t taking good care of themselves. Joe was nothing but kind and friendly, but his personal and health struggles both likely contributed to his sudden death.

There will always be “that player” in our game. The quiet one who, for a variety of reasons, may look forward to the game most because things aren’t great elsewhere. I hope Joe’s passing can serve as a reminder to us all to check in on them.
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


Well, that was fun
Staff member
One of our gaming group ended his life. This was a few years ago. Nobody had any idea. One day he went missing; we tried to find him — he’d actually planned it and set a wild goose chase of booked journeys and hotels to lead people off his scent. We found out a couple of weeks we when his body washed up on the Isle of Wight that he’d chosen to end his life by ‘swimming’ from Hengistbury Head to the IoW. He left a letter in his backpack on the beach, which the police found.

So yeah. You never know what’s really going on with people.

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