Friday, April 10, 2009

Town Cryer: Lost For Words

This has been a very long, straining week for various reasons I am now attempting to lay out for you and me. I needed some time to rest my mind and think about it all before I would come forward, add some contrast and perspective to the picture, and hopefully discern a pattern through this very writing.

It is not an easy thing to do when emotions rush back and forth over the substance of the message, but I am going to try anyway.

When last week I received an invitation to participate as an author to the Lords of the Green Dragons, I felt vindicated in my quest for answers, my thirst for knowledge as well as the opinions and tales I try to share with you on this blog. I both felt honored and terrified, like it is often the case when we cross a gateway and wonder whether we are worthy of the good feelings expressed towards us. These are times of doubt and ecstasy, times to be cherished because they are the substance of what it means to be alive.

When I learned within the next few hours that Dave Arneson had been sent to the hospital and was waging what would become his very last battle against cancer, I was deeply concerned and couldn't help thinking that, in my particular case, there was some sort of bittersweet irony to it all. I followed the events as they unfolded, reflecting on my situation in the light of Dave's passing and how I would not have been offered any of the opportunities handed to me for the last while if it hadn't been for his original ideas, his imagination and his work with E. Gary Gygax.

It couldn't ever be stressed enough, really. Without these giants' shoulders on which we all stand, millions of us would be lacking the imaginative outlets we've been enjoying for so many years. D&D and tabletop role-playing games, computer role-playing games, MMOs like World of Warcraft and others, hundreds if not thousands of volumes of fantasy fiction, all owe an enormous, undying debt to Dave and Gary's contributions to gaming.

If the impact of Dave's work and passion on my own, as well as their very existence, weren't hard enough for me to seize in a tragic moment such as this, the Coastal Wizards' latest blunder when they simultaneously stopped all sales of their products in electronic format sure made it a lot more complicated during these last few days.

It is obvious that there was no connection whatsoever between these two events, but I have to wonder if the stars aren't trying to tell us something in this instance. With all the vintage gaming material suddenly becoming harder to obtain and peruse, it now befalls to us more than ever to keep the flame alive.

I think of it this way: before this week's events, we were working on keeping the games we love in print and building upon their legacy so that others could profit from the entertainment they provide. This has not changed. What has changed, however, is that today these gamers interested in vintage gaming will not be able to discover these games we honor like we were. Sure, there are still some second-hand items available for purchase, but for how long, and how much?

Let's face it: our responsibilities suddenly became a lot more important to the very survival of vintage gaming itself and through it, the legacy of the creators of the game.

We need to keep the flame alive. Dave and Gary deserve it, and to tell you all the truth, I wonder more than ever if I am worthy of this task. Time will tell, ultimately, but I know I am far from being alone in thinking about all this. I know I am not alone in feeling this call of duty, and this is a comforting thought indeed.

Here's to you, Dave. Farewell, and Godspeed.

From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
'What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.'
'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.'
'O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.'

- JRR Tolkien, The Lament of Boromir.

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