Thursday, 17 September 2015

My Better Half (Part One)

Today is my 11th anniversary. 


Me (with much redder hair) and my lovely bride Megan.

I have been lucky enough to spend the last seventeen years of my life with a wonderful woman, eleven of them as husband and wife. Lord knows why she puts up with the likes of me, but she is the calm, joyful, compassionate center of my life. Whatever other adversity life throws in our path -- and we've had plenty, over the past few years -- we have a strong marriage to get us through it. She is my best friend, my lover, my partner in all life's adventures, and my constant playmate at the gaming table.

Today I thought I'd sing her praises, because in addition to making my life a happy and full one, she has been with me throughout the development of the style we call High Trust, High Drama. A great deal of what we've developed at our table is down to her.

Megan likes to tell the story of how she became aware of roleplaying while she was in high school, but wasn't allowed to play at the time (being an oogy girl and all). I imagine that a lot of women have similar stories. Personally, although most of my formative gaming experiences were with boys (and we were as obnoxious and antisocial as most boys, I'm sure), I was always eager to get girls to play with us. And soon after Megan and I started dating, she started gaming.

Anecdote: Another story Megan likes to tell is how, in the early days we were dating, she called me on the phone one evening and asked what I was doing, to which I answered "painting". I later revealed that I was painting miniatures, not a vasty canvas, but I didn't correct her from that initial impression. Hey, nerds have to be a little careful coming out of the game closet; I liked this girl. I didn't want to jinx it. I should have known that she had enough nerdy leanings herself (the first gift she gave me was a copy of Stardance, her favourite Spider Robinson book) that I had nothing to worry about. (My first gift to her was a Salacious Crumb doll purchased in Montreal on the occasion of my thesis defense. Lucky for me, she has a soft spot for hideous, cackling creatures like myself.)

Salacious Crumb. The foundation of all great romances.
Megan's initial experiences of gaming were of playing CALL OF CTHULHU, as run by my friend Steve, who is truly one of the best GMs I've ever played games with. He doesn't do it as often these days, but I played many great Cthulhu games with him back in the day. Unfortunately, the depressing nature of Lovecraftian gaming left a bad taste in Megan's mouth, despite the fact that our games were full of a great deal of hilarity and low comedy. Our friend Mike's character breaking his thumbs to escape manacles is something we still laugh about from time to time.

From there, her formative gaming experiences were familiar to most gamers, as we played a great deal of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 3rd Edition, which was brand new and shiny at the time, with a few sessions of EVERWAY sprinkled in for flavour. This firmly entrenched the classic gamer mindset of whomping monsters and taking their stuff, and Megan still enjoys playing ass-kicker characters every now and again.

About this time, we began playing on a weekly basis at the house of our friends, the Hudsons. This introduced Megan to larger social circles as a part of gaming (which, up until then, had been done on the floor of our apartment with two or three others). It wasn't unusual in that group to play with six or more players at the table -- fortunately, Casa del Hudson had a large table that was ideal for big gatherings and even had space for elaborate arrangements of minis and scenery. We played more D&D with those guys, some DEADLANDS, SHADOWRUN, and especially MUTANTS & MASTERMINDS. Good times.

Megan struck up a friendly rivalry with my friend Sean, who would often take his seat at the table greeting her in the same tone that Jerry Seinfeld used to address his odious neighbour Newman: "...Megan." 

Toward the end of our time together with that group, I began experimenting with different ways of telling stories at the game table. I began writing short scripted pieces to serve as frames for my episodes of the ANGEL RPG, something that Megan was a big fan of. (I introduced her to her somewhat obsessive love of all things Joss Whedon, by the way. She constantly has one series or another of his in a process of re-watching on DVD.) That game, and the climactic conclusion to our MUTANTS & MASTERMINDS series, were the first glimmers of what would grow to become our current house style of play. We didn't know it at the time, though people seemed to be enjoying a chance to stretch their acting skills at the table in small, controlled doses.

It wasn't until a few years later, when we left our good friends (and comfortable gaming scene) in Kingston to pursue Megan's doctorate in History, that we made a breakthrough and began playing in a new style.

To be continued...

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