A Friend I Shall Miss

I am devastated by the loss of Steve Russell. He was too kind, too smart, and too important for me to accept he is gone, but he is. I still don’t know how I’ll process that, and I can’t imagine what his close friends and family are going through. My heart goes out to them all.

It’s easy to say “Steve Russell was my friend, and I’ll miss him.” Well, maybe not *easy* — my voice catches if I try to say it because of the weight of WHY I am saying it – but it’s simple. It’s telling, not showing.

It’s too little for what he meant to me.

Steve and I got to know each other online, as we struggled with freelance careers and later launching publishing companies. Early on we realized that we had few peers we knew, and that we both missed having a “water cooler” to stand around and debate the issues of our industry.

Also, we were often both awake at 3am, and online.

At one point we’d talked a few times a week so often, he suggested we just record our conversations and invite guests. That is how the Demiplane of Gaming was born, and I am proud of the work we did with that. He thought it would increase both our visibility within the industry, and I am sure he’s right. When I moved to Seattle a combination of factors prevented us from being able to maintain it. I always though we’d pick it up again someday, but now I know someday won’t come.

Those talks became the basis for an amazing relationship, unlike any other I have had. Steve was a colleague and confidant, and because we mostly communicated online he was always “around.” I have only been in the same room with Steve a handful of times in my life. I am eternally thankful that those times included having him play a game with us at our house, as he travelled through a few years ago, and staying with us for a night. Somehow knowing I was able to share true hospitality with him makes me glad, even if it’s a terribly bittersweet feeling right now.

Steve celebrated my every success, commiserated by every trial and loss, and yet was still honest with me about my every mistake. He helped me through difficult times as my wife and I cared for my mother-in-law, nursed me through terrible disappointments of missed career opportunities and failed goals, and encouraged me when I was ready to give up.

If you have enjoyed any game product I have done since 2007, Steve is in part to thank.

He also trusted me with many of his troubles and anguishes, and I was honored that he did so. He joked that I talked him off a ledge  a few times when he wanted to vent publically, but decided having me listen to how dumb other people were was good enough. And when I needed to rant, he always had a ready ear.

Steve became a dependable constant in my life. Someone who advised without judging, helped without belittling, and made me a better person. I can’t imagine what my life would be if he hadn’t been in it.

Steve Russell was my friend, and I’ll miss him.

About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on July 7, 2016, in Musings, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Both you and Steve have been so great to me, it’s kind of like losing one of my 3pp parents. He was always there to answer questions, offer feedback and innovate things that inspired me. We were all gaming last night and he came up. We had realized that everyone one of us had played an entire campaign (1 or more years) running a class or race he’d created. Every single one. Of nearly a dozen players in my weekly games, that is a testament to his gift. I only know one other like it actually… Take care of yourself, you two are the rarest sort of brothers.

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