Monthly Archives: February 2013

Long ago, in a restaurant far, far away…

When the original d20 Star Wars RPG was being released, Wizards of the Coast had a launch party for it at a local Planet Hollywood.  Jake Lloyd and Peter Mayhew were there, as were some other Star Wars people of import, and I and several other designers ran intro games for them and anyone else who came along and was interested.

I ran the intro scenario several times, and most of those sessions are a blur. We used Star Wars action figures rather than miniatures, and most groups barely got through one encounter. It was fun, but most people did more laughing and movie quotes than gaming.

But one elderly couple with brilliant British accents came along and said they were on vacation and had just wanted to eat at a Planet Hollywood, but had been told there was a game launch. There knew they were welcome, and had grabbed some food from the buffet, but if there was a game they were interested in trying it. But they had no idea what “Star Wars” was.

So I showed them the good guy figures, and told them these were members of the Rebel Alliance, who fought for freedom and fairness against the tyrannical bad guys.

“Ah,” said the elderly gentlemen. His face was a lean angular shape covered in tiny wrinkles, he walked with a cane, his hair was sheet white, but his eyes seemed bright and alert. “So they’re the French Resistance, are they?”

Well I admitted, yeah basically.

Then he picked up an Imperial officer figure, and looked it over.

“And this is a Space Nazi?”

Ah… yes. Their troops are even called Stormtroopers.

“Oh!” said his wife. “It’s like The War.”

“Right,” said he sitting. “How do we play?”

I had those two wonderful people, with decades of experience and clearly a strong idea of what military work is actually like, and three teen fanboys. The elderly gentleman took charge, got the mission objective out of me, and…

And ran the PC team like real commandos. Scouts. Ambushes. Covering fire. Raiding enemy gear. Firing from cover. Sticking to the objective. I was making stuff up to cover some of the things he wanted to do, because *I* didn’t know the rules that well. And I was up front about it, and made it clear that was part of the fun. You can try *anything* in an RPG. The GM just works out what dice to roll.

The teens just started calling his character “The Lieutenant,” and hung on his every word. And unlike every other group I ran that night, they got through the whole short introductory adventure. And won. Without Jedi.
Everyone smiled and clapped when they were done. And the couple decided they’d pick up a copy back home, and introduce the game to their friends. I’m pretty sure they were both in their mid 80s back when this happened, in 2000. But I like to think they are still playing some RPG, with their group of friends in England, merrily making commando raids to this day.

Anniversary of a Great Decision

Twenty-two years ago today, I married Lj Hamilton, who opted to stick my last name onto the end of hers and become Lj Stephens.

Lj was already my best friend. She was also already a bad-ass gamer chick, an artist, a writer in her own right, she had a lot more going on than I did. I knew it was a big step and it scared me, but since we’d been living together for more than a year, and dating on-and-off for a while before that, I thought I knew what being married to her would be like. In many ways I was right. In the crucial ones, I was wrong. Being married is different than living together, in the same way camping is different than sleeping in a tent in your backyard.

I’ve now been married to my wife for more than half my life. We have had ups and down, both together and in regards to one another, but I have never regretted getting down on one knee and asking her to be a permanent part of my life. But make no mistake, marriage is work. Having someone be part of your life means they are there for your good and bad, and for their own, and you promised to never elave, which can make you feel stuck. We did the work a marriage takes, and we love each other enough to keep doing the work. The results are worth it.

Everything good I have done in 22 years she suggested, helped with, or encouraged me to do. Every bad habit I have gotten rid of she helped me fight. Every sorrow has been comforted by her, and every victory celebrated. I have no doubt she has helped me be a better man, and that’s just a small part of why I love her.

Twenty-two years ago today, I made the best decision I have ever made. Once Lj gets done with work, she and I are going to spend the day together, celebrating this milestone. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up to an alarm again, groan and moan as we get up and get to work again, and smile when we hold hands in the car again. That’s what marriage is. A joining, but a joining that has to move forward with real life.

I plan for many more milestones with my wife, and many more celebrations of that one really good decision.