There are different things in life that affect us all in different ways. But nothing affects us quite like a person gone.
D&D is just a game. That’s what some people say, anyways. But it’s a game that brings people together, it’s a game that encourages imagination, creativity and teamwork. It’s like the more campaigns you play, the more lives you get to live. That’s what entertainment is all about, isn’t it? The word escapism is so often used in a negative context. But it’s everywhere! We escape into movies, into books, into video games, sports, working out, religion… but there are some things we can’t escape from.
There are so many reasons someone might start playing D&D. The simple fun of it, the comradery, the escape, sometimes it’s therapy.
There are also many reasons a player might leave a group. Maybe real life is too much for them to stay connected with the story, maybe they need something else in life and just grow in a different direction, maybe they have a real conflict with other players, their hours at work changed or they had to leave town for a while, or they passed away.
Either way, there is an empty seat. In most of those cases, that person could come back someday, or they could just be replaced with another player (there’s no shortage of people looking for a game), but that last one… that’s a seat that can never be filled again.
The proof of their life
Once the player is gone forever, you’re left with a character sheet filled with their handwriting, their stats and little notes, smudges from an eraser or Doritos. Stains where their drink splashed onto the paper. You’re left with proof of their life. But not them. You’re left with their character, but not them.
As in all things, the game goes on. It’s sadder, it’s smaller, but our loved ones wouldn’t want us to stop doing what we loved, what they loved, because they’re no longer with us.
Give Them Happiness
As a DM, what do you do? The last game you played, all the characters were sitting around a campfire, or settling in at an inn or a pub for the night. The next game would be the party waking up, so how do you address the empty seat without reminding your friends what you’ve all lost?
Well, I would give them happiness. You know what your friend loved. Did they love to paint? To learn? To teach? Did they just want to fall in love and have a family? Well, those dreams you never got to see come to fruition in real life, can still happen in the imagination of D&D with the character your friend put so much work and effort into.
Their Own Ending
After nearly bleeding to death fighting the troll, Tovar Lionsgrip, the Dragonborn Ranger, decided to stop adventuring and take up his lifelong passion of painting. Now his works are the most sought-after pieces of art in all the lands. He’s happy and lives a modest life with his family in the hills of Lakshur, overlooking the great lake of Ahven. But upon his hearth still lie his sword and bow, in case he is ever needed to defend what he built with his own two hands.
Remember the good times
Now your party can share stories of the exploits of the great Tovar and laugh in remembrance, rather than weep at his loss.
I hope you never lose a player or a DM. A friend. But if you do, for the sake of your hearts, let their characters live.
For Ryan 1994 – 2019