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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.”

grandstand-1149545_1280.jpg

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





Lord Rasputin

Explorer
Same thing happened to me a few years ago. A man with whom I had gamed for fifteen years died of diabetes. And I'm glad to have played and hung out with him.
 


Retreater

Legend
When I was DMing in college, a good friend in our gaming group passed away due to an undetected heart defect. He was 16 and a healthy kid from what we could all tell. Even now, 20+ years later, I mourn the loss and wonder where he would be now. Would he still play the game? Would we still be friends?
Thank you for sharing your memory of your friend.
Treasure every moment, guys.
 

lyle.spade

Adventurer
I've been GM'ing for over 35 years and have not yet lost a player to death. I've lost plenty to life events and such, and even some personal differences. But as this hobby binds people together over for many years - or can - this is part of the deal.

Remember that they're people first, and gamers second.
 

Ace

Adventurer
Makes me think of a game I was running some years ago.

A regular player of mine showed up a bit down on his luck and not having eaten. Now this player was far from a friend of mine, just a gaming buddy. Seeing as I had a bit of extra money at the time I bought him lunch. This was a once off mind you, he wasn't mooching.

Quite surprised by the generosity he asked me" why. I simply told him I don't want hungry people at my table.Surprised he thanked me for the meal and we had a good session that day.

Over the years he turned out to be one of the best players in my game.
 

Ace

Adventurer
Something else, take care of yourselves. A lot of us don't eat well, exercise or treat out aliments. We can get away with this for a little while when we are young but time catches up to all of us.

Don't be the lost friend whose lost could have been prevented.
 



jasper

Rotten DM
Makes me think of a game I was running some years ago.

A regular player of mine showed up a bit down on his luck and not having eaten. Now this player was far from a friend of mine, just a gaming buddy. Seeing as I had a bit of extra money at the time I bought him lunch. This was a once off mind you, he wasn't mooching.

Quite surprised by the generosity he asked me" why. I simply told him I don't want hungry people at my table.Surprised he thanked me for the meal and we had a good session that day.

Over the years he turned out to be one of the best players in my game.
One of my poor players have not been showing up. But the other two who are. Well just say when I do cook for the group they can take home the leftovers. I am cooking every other game. Why? Because of the lock down, we doing at my house. And it gives me something to plan on other that the game during the week.
 


Many years ago I had to cancel a game night and one of my good friends who played in the game ended up committing suicide that night. Although I don't blame the cancelled game on his death, it does weigh on me often. What if...

For some, gaming is their only sense of community and acceptance.
 

Last spring I went into a voluntary complete lockdown for a few months, which meant putting our weekly game that had been going for several years on hold. I realized that it had been my only regular contact with other people. I think I might be That Player.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Many years ago I had to cancel a game night and one of my good friends who played in the game ended up committing suicide that night. Although I don't blame the cancelled game on his death, it does weigh on me often. What if...

For some, gaming is their only sense of community and acceptance.
Whoa, that's a harsh one. You can't help but wonder if having the session might have broken him from the impulse or prevented it from taking hold that day.

I've never had quite that heavy an experience. I've lost 2 good friends in recent years (just months in one case) that I have gamed with, but neither was anything related to being marginalized or unhealthy and viewing their games as one of the few bright spots. But there was someone I used to game with whose life took a very dark path years later - and I do wonder if he had used gaming and gaming group relationships to self-medicate serious issues of self-loathing and self-destructive impulses.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
The magic of rpgs and a good, solid game group is how they can truly help a person when nothing else in their life can't (or seems like nothing else can). While to some people rpgs are just another way to chill and hang out with friends and have fun, to others (people like me) it's a whole lot more than that.

They can be a lifeline to something positive when living in a situation at home that's abusive and lonely, and could be someone's only social group outside those situations. Being welcomed into a group like that can be life changing and wonderfully positive.

Of course there are bad groups of players too, and they can often do more harm than good.
 

Ace

Adventurer
But there was someone I used to game with whose life took a very dark path years later - and I do wonder if he had used gaming and gaming group relationships to self-medicate serious issues of self-loathing and self-destructive impulses.


SNIP some stuff

Mental health matter and while gaming can serve to buffer the bad times but its not a substitute for help and anyone whose gaming gaming mates are needing help ought to be encouraged to get it.

Sometimes this hobby can put someone on the path to heal. One of my guys we'll call him Z went from what most would call evil to a good friend and decent human being. The literal power of friendship and gaming in action. It didn't dim his RP skills either. He was the best RP gamer I've ever played with.

Its no wonder I've gamed for decades. Its a heck of a hobby with for the most part really great people.
 

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