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Friday, January 19, 2018

Life is Cheap : The Friday After Report

“We have the Hobgoblin chief charmed, we have four of the Castellan’s best men, and we have a wand of paralysis!  By the gods, we’ve got those caves by the balls boys!”  hissed the mage as we pressed on through the halls where only a day or so before we had lost our elf friend The Seer and the half-blind mercenary woman whose name I’d already forgotten.

“Aye,” we all agreed, but in the pit of my stomach I knew that my companions were fooling themselves.  This wretched place had blood-stained walls and echoed the screams of a thousand, thousand victims. It had stood against many a company of Man and Elf and Dwarf before and had swallowed most whole, leaving behind only the foul, dark things which can feed the soul of chaos a steady diet of fresh lives.  This was a place of pain, and of lies.

We advanced to the very heart of the Hobgoblin stronghold, bolstered by our mastery of the lord of these green-skinned, pock-marked creatures who walked and talked as men, but who fought as wild animals, monsters of the creeping chaos and who fed on the very flesh of those who fell to sword, axe, and club.  It wasn’t long before we came to a shadow-covered room where three of the massive hunchbacks stood, armed and armored beyond any we had thus encountered.

“Theeshe are friendsh,” stuttered our captive, bound by sorcery and compelled to do our bidding.

The creatures glared, then growled. “We not like them!” they yelled across the room.  “You are weak to let them here, and we not like weakness either!”  They looked to one another for answers, and then seemed to quickly decide on a plan of action as they ran toward us, blood-stained weapons in hand.  

“YOU LIE!!!!!” they screamed.

I had little time to consider my arms, my friends, or my faith as I saw the heavy blade fall across my chest, my armor offering no resistance as rusty metal cleaved my chest in twain and my heart, which had once belonged to my lord and savior, burst forth like so much offal I slumped forward into eternal darkness.

Three games in and my character, the level one Fegio (Cleric of an Unnamed God) fell victim to the bloody abattoir known as the Caves of Chaos.  Some might be predisposed to sadness at such a turn.  I had enjoyed my time playing Fegio, short though it had been.  He seemed a stalwart fellow who, though he hadn’t yet proven his faith to his patron and so could wield no spells of that deity, was quick to face his enemies with mace in hand and his ever-present holy symbol of unknown shape or size in the other.

As always, our Thursday night B/X game renders out more like a DCC funnel than anything else.  If you weren’t weaned on this sort of gameplay I can easily understand why you might not enjoy it, but we are having so much damned fun it is hard to express here in words.  

You might also assume that there is no roleplaying, no’d be dead wrong.  Most of us have found a voice for our characters, even if they had a lifespan of only one session.  I think that might be the secret sauce, the line between boys and men in this hobby, that we can find those voices at the moment of inception even IF a curtain fall may be only moments away.  The need to build an elaborate backstory in order to really get the ‘feel’ for a character is not a necessity, it is a nicety, and one wasted on a game meant to be played hard & fast like B/X.

As a group we agree on one thing almost every session.  We are playing this game correctly, and we have no clue how in the hell we played it as kids and had our PC’s survive so frequently. I certainly remember playing when there was only two of us, one filling the DM’s role and one as player, and all of us having fun without moving through PC sheets like Grant through Richmond.  We weren’t playing wrong, we were just playing house-ruled and roll-fudged in order to keep the game running smoothly.  With this group we play the ball where it lies, often a hole in none.  It takes away ZERO of the fun factor.

Was I a bit disappointed?  Sure.  I, like all my pals in this game, thought that my guy was going to outlast the others who had fallen before.  That passed quickly.  I set off to build another PC with the aid of an online character generator (OMFG, did he just say what I thought he said?!?!?) and I picked up almost where I left off.  Easy. Peasy.

Welcome to the Grist Mill, where life is cheap and ale is cheaper.  

Happy Hunting and well met new friends and old, boon companions.

Game on.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

All Makers, No Takers

There’s this guy I know via twitter who goes by the moniker Terminally Nerdy, or @cbsa82.  He seems like a decent fellow, and his ‘thing’ is blogging and doing video reviews/discussions about gaming.  The channel isn’t focused on D&D or even Tabletop Role Playing Games at all and extends into video games or whatever he feels passionate about.  I’ve been a subscriber to the channel for a long time, but in all honesty I don’t tune in all that frequently.

He refers to himself as a reviewer and content creator (or maybe small creator or somesuch).  There is a small Patreon account he keeps running for his hardcore fans, and he posts content with some frequency.  I don’t think, not for one moment, that he is trying to get rich or even become a youtube ‘star’ (which I know is an actual thing these days, but my 48 year old brain rejects the notion that people really can be that thing, which seems gross and empty to me, but that is a whole nother rant).  I know that he loves D&D, and so I follow him on twitter and he follows me back.  We’ve had some fun conversations over the years and I absolutely think he’s a solid, stand up dude with nothing but a good heart, noble intentions, and that he wants to help others in the gaming community with his work.

Lately, I think he feels a bit stuck.  Mired.  Entangled.  He recently posted this somewhat mellow little diatribe on this site.  As always I read the link when I saw it in my feed because in all honesty, I like when he writes things more than I enjoy the videos.  That’s just me, one man’s humble opinion.  The gist of the rant is that small time creators get little push into a wider market as users who enjoy the work AND who may have influence over a wider audience do not help/assist the smaller guy in getting noticed.  I think that was it anyway.  There seems little point in breaking it out/down paragraph by paragraph when you can easily spend 5 minutes reading it yourself.

I sit in a different thought camp on this.  It seems to me that if WHAT you have created, or what you say in the public arena is worth the attention of a larger audience it will find that audience regardless of the actions of a few entities who may like what you do, but don’t say enough about it to impact your bottom line (readers, listeners, viewers, etc,).

As a content creator myself, I have only one goal: The idea in my head must be placed on paper (or pushed out on audio in the case of my photography podcast) because in doing so I am able to force my brainy-aching ideas into the real world giving them substance, and thus solidifying for me their reality whether they be art, or not.  Simply put, I birth each thing because I must, regardless of the outcome later.

For me, the creative process and final product are enough.  While I have made things that I put out for public consumption, (sometimes purchase, sometimes free) I do not feel any better or worse for those things having been consumed or not.  I make them for me, share them because that seems like the right thing to do, and if I receive any $ or accolades I accept them as readily as I accept derision or negativity (and I get far more of the latter).

I think what my friend Terminally Nerdy (@cbsa82 on twitter) needs to do is re-evaluate his process, rethink what he does, how he does it, and who its current audience really is.  He has numerous times expressed that he creates in order to help others, and on some level I believe this to be a part of the truth he is experiencing.  I also believe he is seeking some form of attention, or else why put your stuff out there?  This isn’t a criticism, but an observation, and a position I share about myself as well.

When I post to my blog, be it a new magic item, or a new monster, or some blast-from-the-past stuff I loved and that influenced me, or even a rant like this one I’m really reaching out to those I’ve connected with to share my creativity and thoughts and if i’m lucky, a few folks will ping me back and we talk about it a bit.  Maybe something I wrote influenced their game, was used as part of an adventure or story hook, or maybe they thought what I wrote or said was complete trash.

It really does not matter.  I felt the need to speak it publicly and I did so.  Now I move on.

Creativity, and what it renders, is a wonderful thing to share.  The expectation that the audience for what YOU enjoy or need to create will reach a wide audience is self-defeating.  Just keep making things.  Change what you don’t like about the things you make.  Evolve.

Step one was having the desire to create.  Step two was being brave enough to share it with everyone.  Step three…???

When I write a module, I draft, then edit.  Then re-draft, and edit again.  That is often followed by fresh eyes in the form of my buddy Deron, who fixes glaring errors and also hands me some good notes on content.  When I think it’s great I share it with the world.  Some folks like it, some don’t, but MOST people never even see it.  That’s fine.  I’m happy with the process and the end result.  I don’t need others to use it or love it.  It’s nice when they do but I don’t expect it.

My photography is the same but different.  I make a photo, post-process the photo, and then sometimes I share it on instagram @taoistpunk or on my flickr page.  I like feedback on my images, but I also feel that sharing the work makes it more real for me.  I’m still very much the student, and as I learn, create, and connect there is created a feedback loop that helps me grow.  

Why make photographs that no one ever sees?  I’m not trying to be discovered after my death, or even while I’m alive...I just hope that my images make someone think, or smile, or wonder in the same way that the work of other photographers (both amateur and professional) have influenced me and made my life richer.  We all see the world through different eyes.

Clay, I hope that you understand what I’m getting at here.  None of this was said to hurt you, or to shit on any other person who makes things and feels stuck, small, alone, or unnoticed.  You are entitled to how you feel as much as anyone else.  Don’t stop the work, but maybe it’s time to take a long, hard look at the work and decide if what you set out to do is being accomplished, and if it isn’t fulfilling your needs any more, then perhaps it’s time to turn that creativity in a new direction.

And for fuck’s sake let’s stop with calling ourselves Content Creators.  It’s so damn sterile.  If you create a thing, something from your heart and with passion, then you are an artist in EVERY sense of that word.

There is no safe space, especially not the mind.  Reshape your world your way.  Share it.  Maybe I am your only audience, and you are only mine. That’s fine.


Friday, January 12, 2018

It's Supposed to be Deadly

This morning I came across a 6 year old blog post from someone I don’t know, but decided to spend a moment reading it.  The link is here.  Let me summarize...The OD&D:B/X system of trap checking is a problem’s too dangerous.  At least, that was how I read it.  Maybe you interpret the post differently.

It seemed that the DM was looking for a better way to systemize trap checks in old school play, and THAT is fine.  House-ruling is an important and acceptable way in which to run your old school game.  It is, in fact, what gives rise to newer (and sometimes better) game systems.  I’m all for it.  I am NOT, however, in favor of ‘baby-proofing’ the dungeon.  Opening a door, walking through dark, unknown corridors, and attempting to open chests that obviously don’t belong to you are and should be dangerous as well as deadly pursuits.

Is there a better system for avoiding the traps in a dungeon?  Sure.  There are likely hundreds or thousands of ways better than just blindly following the percentile chart that Basic D&D gives us, but that’s not really the point of this post.

What I’m on about is the deadly pursuit of gold and glory.  Whatever else the OSR and it’s associated gameplay and rulesets are about, at the core I think lies danger.  If you and your party decide to take on the challenge of the wilds, of roaming predatory monsters, of dark caves, deadly traps and elaborate dungeons in the hope of becoming rich, famous, and powerful then there must be an equal opportunity for failure as for success at each step of that journey.  Without the feeling that every encounter could be the last for any given character, much of what made these games so much fun to play is lost.

I’m NOT talking about 5e here folks, although there are plenty of people who enjoy running that edition in an OSR style.  To my mind, this means making it more dangerous than the ruleset lays at your feet as well as perhaps simplifying a very elaborate system.  You only have to lay the two character sheets, 5e and B/X, next to one another to know that these similar games are not siblings, but cousins at best.

If you’ve read the linked blog post, you can see the seeds of dissatisfaction take root.  This is fine.  You’d like to give the thief, or any PC, a better chance to survive an encounter with a poison needle that when pricked leaves only two possible outcomes, save or die?  That’s fine.  Do that.  Remember though that in doing so you (the DM) have decided to both give AND take something from the players and the experience.  Sure, the characters will more frequently benefit, but in my eyes that comes at a cost to the player.  No player wants to lose a PC to the dungeon, but without that distinct possibility, every encounter becomes less exciting.

Last night during a B/X game we lost a good man.  Known to us only as The Seer, a level 1 Elf who had saved us often from total doom, was struck down by a hobgoblin warrior.  We had faced the save or die venom of giant bees, had overcome hoards of goblins, kobolds, and even an ogre but in the end it was a single blow from the rusty sword of a 1+1HD Hobgoblin that took our comrade down.  It came down to the dice (many of which he was in complete control of, including the party initiative) that cost him so dearly.  The thing is, it could have been any of us.

For a moment we lament, but then we all rejoice!  It was a hairy, dangerous battle that could not have been won except for the sacrifice of our valiant Elf companion.  We laughed!  We yelled!  The remains of the party (we lost our henchman and our Elf PC in a final, epic battle at evenings end) uttered a collective sigh.  Had that battle taken all of us, we would have felt the same exhilaration.  It was a well planned and executed attack by the DM, and one we should have known could be on our horizon.  It was fun.  Was it fair?  With at least 10+ combatants against 5, and on their home turf I fully expected there was a TPK possibility.  No flinching.  This is what I came for.  This is what Old School Roleplaying games are, for me and for the folks I play with.

Danger. Death. Disaster.  Without these hallmarks of the game something is lost, an intangible essence of those same feelings a 12 year old boy in Northeast Philly experienced in 1981 as he and his Cleric braved those same Caves of Chaos and returned to a certain fabled Keep on the Borderlands, bloody and emboldened.  

You save, or you die.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Creativity Feedback Loop

If this blog post had a subtitle it would be ‘The Cross Post Experiment’, because in a surprise move I’m posting this not only on this blog, but on my other blog.  Hmmmmm….wait.  I don’t know which blog you are reading this on, so I don’t know of which audience you may be a member.  We just got started, and I’m already confused.

In any event, I’ve managed to post/publish my 6th podcast episode.  If you’ve hear, or better yet subscribed, to my audio ramblings about photography then I thank you.  If you’ve listened to more than one, or if you have listened to them all, then I applaud you and your kindness.  I’m not sure they are worth listening to but I have found them productive to compose.  In the latest episode I talk a bit about my roleplaying, a bit about my photography, and some of the places at which these two creative outlets have recently intersected.  Thus the reason for this blog post and the two places where it appears.

Specifically, this post is about my own, very personal, sense of creativity.  Some or none of the podcast or this post may click for you.  I get that.  This is my own weird head-space and lucky for you I’m the only one that need inhabit it.  My two primary creative outlets are very different in many ways.  Photography has little to do with playing Dungeons & Dragons, and the reverse is true as well, but they do share some commonality in that both are forcing me to create something.  OK, not forcing.  Perhaps they cajole me into it...but whatever the case the result is the same.  I make a photo, and thus I have created.  I play or run a game, and thus I have created.

The same winding road goes to many places...

What I realized this week is that although at first they seem like standalone activities, internally they seem to come from the same, internal source. They feed one another, nourish one another, and also they seem to prod one another from any complacency.  In other words, I have one big pool of creativity, and both of my hobbies tap that well in order to manifest.  Once manifested, they seem to create a sort of feedback loop that refills that well. Initially I had thought that my newfound passion for photography was eeking out my lifelong relationship with Roleplaying Games like D&D. It wasn't. In fact, the opposite was happening with greater frequency.

 It was a bit of a revelation for me.

Perhaps you have already discovered this.

I think that were I a gifted artist (in the sense of drawing or illustration), those two hobbies would have been a natural fit and quite nicely complimented one another.  I see this in my social media friends who engage in both activities.  It’s a gift I don’t have, drawing, and I haven’t got the patience to try to learn.  I think as children we try all of the creative opportunities we are given, but when we discover no natural talent or passion for a particular type of creativity we simply move along to the next.  Perhaps it’s just me, and my laziness.  I know that I was always a bit jealous of my gaming friends who were talented artists and illustrators.  It seemed to me to be a great gift to bring those characters and their stories to life beyond the spoken or written word and into a picture.

My introduction to photography came rather recently in my life, and I don’t really know if I have any actual talent but I do have passion for the making of photographs and that is enough to keep me working at it most days.  Part of me realizes that if I want to create an image, this is going to be my medium.  It likely won’t allow me to produce an image of my latest D&D character, or a monster I have an idea for, or a magic item and such but I derive a great deal of satisfaction in having captured an image I find pleasing or interesting in some way.

Last week during an online game (using Roll20) there was a real feeling of excitement and fun.  The DM (Dungeon Master, for those on the photography blog) ran a great session, there was a bit of roleplay and a whole lot of dungeon crawling and when it was over it left me with a great sense of having participated in creative play.  It had gotten my inner-well flowing, and almost immediately I felt the desire to keep it going by working on some images I had made during last weeks snowstorm here in Philly.  The feedback loop was in effect and strong.  Is the ‘The Force’ all those Jedi keep rambling on about?

Some Gear
My friend Dennis is both an avid gamer and an amateur photographer.  I consider myself lucky to have a close friend with whom I can share both interests, even though we live in different parts of the country.  He’s had both hobbies for a long time, and we’ve never discussed this topic of a creative feedback loop but I would be interested to hear his thoughts, and yours as well.

My buddy and his camera.  Sadly we did not play D&D that trip...

If you are a Photographer, does your creative well spill over into other creative pursuits in your life?  If you are a D&D (etc.) enthusiast does your time with the game make its way into you other creative outlets?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Last Night I Roll20'd and it was a Blast!

The field on which we play our game(s) is ever-changing, and nowhere is change more of a constant factor for me than with my online roleplaying experience.  As a longtime user, and often preacher, of the virtues of Fantasy Grounds as my primary Virtual Tabletop (VTT) I am still open to playing in (if not running on) Roll20.

Last night I was most graciously invited to join a relatively new B/X campaign currently running   Keep on the Borderlands using Roll20.  Not only did I need to adjust my mindset for the very different VTT inside a chrome window, but with some previous voice-chat connectivity issues I was asked to pop onto a Discord server in order to play as well.  Damn!  I was used to (if not happy) with Skype, and I had been using and liking Teamspeak (though it’s got a somewhat complex UI for users not quite tech-comfy), and now I was being asked to grab yet another piece of voice-chat software.

It seems as though there are endless combinations and options for customizing one’s online roleplaying experience.  It’s a good thing.  Normally I would rail against the dying of some sort of light, dig my Fantasy Grounds heels in deep, grab on to Skype as a chat-anchor and tell everyone else how wrong the other ways of doing things are...but nope.

As long as the person running the game is sufficiently comfortable with all of the tools he/she has chosen AND the players gathered are savvy enough to overcome any technical newness, anything can work.  I submit fully that this is a possible outcome, and thankfully last night it was true.  

Our old school crawl through the Caves of Chaos was super fun. I’m not generally a recap-blog-post guy, but when we charmed the ogre Markus to crush our enemies, absorb the damage, and then at the end when he had only a single hit point left...we killed him just as quickly and surely as if his name was Fredo Corleone. I was ecstatic.  He had a bounty on his head, he was an ogre, and this was a B/X game.  There were no moral boundaries to cross or arguments about doing the right thing.  There’s gold and XP to be had back at the Keep and we aimed to nab it.  

Also, it was fun.  We roleplayed, we metagamed, and we had some good, clean, murderhobo fun.

Discord worked fine for us I think.  The interface was pretty easy, and any issues were local and hardware-based I think...not the result of bad software.  I would consider using it in lieu of Teamspeak.

Kelly (the DM) is very Roll20 savvy, and everything ran seamlessly.  My limited experience with the free-to-use software was enough to get me on-board and playing pretty quickly.  Yes, I am still a user and proponent of Fantasy Grounds.  Its UI and its ruleset-based approach makes building and running a long-term campaign/game much more pleasurable for me.  If I was running a ruleset it supported, that would be my go-to VTT.  If I wanted to run a game that wasn’t supported on Fantasy Grounds, I might try Roll20, but it still seems a bit cludgy to me.  

There are other options too.  Maybe you’ve tried Power VTT?  I haven’t, but I’m thinking of giving it a go.  The video on their homepage is enticing for someone looking to run a game for an unsupported ruleset.  There are games I’d like to run that will never be available on Fantasy Grounds (Talislanta anyone?).  I’m sure I could make an unsupported game work, but I’d rather just get the players the .pdf’s they need and play using a ruleset-agnostic VTT.  

I tried Maptools early on in my VTT history.  Fuck that noise.  Maybe it was too complex, or maybe i’m too dumb to learn it.  Did not like it.  Maybe you do.  Perhaps you can extol it’s many virtues and wondrous capabilities to me.  Maybe I missed something?  Was I too new to the VTT game to know better?

There are alot of ways to skin the VTT cat, and I think more are bound to crop up.  

I realize that there are alot of roleplaying purists who only want to to play in meatspace.  I get it. I too love gathering at the table for a session, an adventure, or a long-term campaign but the reality for many of us is that time and space are at a premium and we simply must learn to use the tools that are available in order to actively continue to enjoy the hobby.  While some elements are missing, and while there are no perfect VTT solutions, we do live at a time where we have pretty good options.

AD&D 1e Anyone?

I’m probably not going to run a Roll20 session anytime soon, but I’m down for a game.  Especially if we are gonna crawl OSR-style.  I’ll roll up an extra character, just in case, cause...well, ya know.

Friday, December 29, 2017

My Year in Not Gaming

Crafting a New Blog Post!

Welcome to the last blog post of the year, a tribute to my year of dropping out of gaming, dropping 60 pounds, and today dropping a new, 8$ jar of instant coffee before having an opportunity to drink even a single drop.

I didn’t really drop out of gaming for realz, but I did push the hold button on any and all gaming
activity due to factors both in and out of my control.  2018 will likely open with a week where I
involve myself in some level of the hobby so near and dear to my child-like yet strangely bitter
little heart, so like the Star Wars, there is still some hope.

A good place to insert some Mutants!!!
I’m set to regularly join some Old School sweetness with my bud Kelly D (@oxfordgamer on
the twitter folks!) who has been a twitter friend, a Roll20 companion, and a booster for my
weight loss which trumps all of the rest of his well-rounded, related-to-me resume.  At
the same time, the holy trinity of my online gaming group will once again band together for some
odd, rude, and almost always super-fun wackiness on some Sundays.  We plan a gathering
on the final eve of the year via the now lawful-evil net.   

When I game, I blog, so hopefully my personal gaming revival will also spur some more frequent
blogging activity including weird monsters, strange and wonderful magical items, and the constant
reminder that times of my personal pop culture history of the 70’s & 80’s can’t be touched with your
new, collapsible, +1, 10’ pole of a current weirdness environment.  Did you read up on your 5e,
all-inclusive, clerics-get-magic missile equality crap?  Good.  Hopefully you keep your mind open
to the less open, more rules-mixing, totally house-ruled cabin of horror beneath sunken R'lyeh
where sleeps the Great Old Ones of OSR rpg madness.  Brush up baby, because what Ernie Cline
hath wrought will resonate in the coming year on the blog.  

Will the Stomper be releasing any new supplements in 2018 to add to the whopping TWO things currently available?  Who knows.  If I am inspired and I find the time, perhaps.  I want to be honest with you, dear reader, and right now my inner peace and occasional calm have been originating from my photography (although this cold snap is really putting a heavy halt in my street snappin’) and I’m giving less mental energy and soul-bits to my gaming life.  I seek balance in 2018 with all things, including these two hobbies that have been, or are becoming so important to me.

Can I stay under 200 pounds in 2018?  I hope so.  My 5’5” frame is feeling so much
better supporting so many fewer fat globs attached to all the sections.  I no longer get
winded while tying my shoes.  The holiday season has been a harsh test of my newfound food
behaviors, but I think i’m holding it together ok, though today I did push 199.5lbs on the old fat
bastard meter, so caution is the watchword this weekend.

Am I making any New Year’s resolutions, as is the custom?  Only ones I can probably
stick to, and nothing all that hard.  

  1. Play more games, run a game
  2. Keep losing weight, or at the very least keep the old fat from returning
  3. Work at becoming a better photographer, and keep on sharing and learning with other
  4. Blog more on both blogs, and keep up on my podcast the Noob Shooter
  5. (maybe) do a gaming related podcast

That’s it.  Simple stuff, and most of it already in progress, so I won’t feel like such a
failure on January 15th when things usually fall apart for me with big changes I try to make.

I hope all of you had a wonderful 2

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When it All Falls Apart

I’m gonna discuss something that, while it’s not specific to online gaming (such as Fantasy Grounds or Roll20), I’d wager it’s far more common in that milieu than at the table IRL.

Recently a large contingent of our gaming group fell out.  There was no argument over rules, no disagreement about the distribution of virtual wealth, or discrepancy regarding the allocation of XP.  As seems to happen at some regular interval, there was a self-culling.  It always happens the same way (or seems to).

First, one player decides to bail.  A very pleasant email is sent to the group notifying the rest of us of his/her intent.  That is usually followed by a short period of mourning, and then well-wishing email replies are sent.  That would be fine if it were the end, but it’s not.  Soon after, as other players have time to cogitate upon the change, one or two others decide that it would be a good idea to leave the game as well.  Another few emails are exchanged, well wishes sent, and farewells fare well.  No one is really pissed off over anything tangible here, but those who remain begin to huddle.  They plan.

The group email is reformatted to include only the survivors.  A new conversation begins.

Usually in these situations, there is a core.  The group has a few players who have been gaming together (in this examination that means it was over long distance) for some substantial period of time.  These folks consider themselves friends, and perhaps they are, either IRL or simply online.  Friends don’t need to have shared meatspace in order to feel a bond, or so I believe.  Others may disagree, but they would be wrong.

In any event, the first thing that happens is that the core reaffirms its solidarity.  “We’re gonna keep playing, right”, says one.
“Absolutely!”, the others confirm in unison.  
“Now we have some flexibility.  Maybe we should change rulesets, play something new?”, asks one.
“Sure,” the others agree.  
“Who wants to run this time?  I’m a bit burned out, but will keep going if no one else wants to have a go,” says the DM of the now crippled game.
“I can run,” says one.
“So can I,” chimes in the other.”  
Plans are laid.  Email threads are exchanged.  Decisions are decided upon.  Gaming continues in short order, the new campaign of 1 DM and 2 players has begun.

Characters are rolled, a few games happen, and then sometime shortly thereafter someone usually volunteers to locate a few new players, some fresh flesh and blood for the adventure mill.  For online games, it’s as simple as posting across some social media, or checking the online forums for the Virtual Tabletop you happen to use.  Most have a LFG, or Looking for Game section where you can advertise and recruit a few new players.

In my experience, this ‘turnover’ seems to occur every year or so.  It’s rare that adding any player to the core group results in a new permanent bond.  Folks come and go, some depart having left a lasting impression and others pass without a trace.  I find it both wonderful and mystifying, and mostly somewhat dissatisfying and a bit sad.  Each time I’m reminded that there are things that the internet cannot do, and building a long-term, lasting, cohesive bond of friendship is not its strong suit.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, in fact it has for me, but not in the same way that time spent in the company of others IRL manages to accomplish (and on a more consistent basis).

As always, I year for those long-gone but not forgotten days of my youth, where we were friends at school, friends on the playground, at the mall, at the movies...and always at the game table.  No one quietly slipped away behind a curtain of email, and certainly no one dropped off the face of the earth without a trace.  We didn’t need to find new players.  We knew exactly how many pizzas to order, and that Mike wouldn’t eat pizza ‘cause he was some sort of freak who didn’t like pizza.  

Man I miss pizza.  And Mike.