Without getting into details, last night my older daughter got some very bad news – the kind of news where you stay up all night, staring at the ceiling, wondering about an uncertain future. She sat on our couch, numbly, while we tried to comfort her.
“Do you want to see a movie?”
“…no, I don’t think that would help.”
“Do you want to walk down by the docks?”
“Do you want to go hang with some of our friends, who are wise and may provide comfort?”
“You wanna hack up some orcs?”
Now, it must be said that I am not a naturally improvisational DM. Oh, I’ll roll with the punches once the game starts flying – but when it comes to roleplaying adventures, I can’t just do “So you meet at the inn” and then make up stuff on the fly. So I ran downstairs and searched through my collection of RPGs to see what I had in terms of canned adventures that I could run my daughter through.
Mostly Call of Cthulhu. Hrm. Not the sort of one-shot you want to give to someone who’s down on life right now.
All right, said I, this will have to be in a world I’m familiar with. So I flipped through the Planescape Monster Manuals until I found an appropriate monster to hunt (a Sword Spirit), then called my kid and my wife downstairs to take them back to the campaign I ran for five years: Sigil, heart of the multiverse, the Casablanca of the planes.
I handed her a character sheet for a character she’d played twice, tentatively, back when she was seventeen, a Harmonium officer/ninja called “Officer Sunshine.” Gini stepped back into her role of Ardenal, rock-demon ninja. And so began an elaborate campaign that involved the usual Sigilian assortment of phoenix egg-juggling thieves, baatezu weaponsmiths, the best book shop in the planes and a rain of illusionary halibut, a trip through the dregs of the Hive and a chance to save some impoverished souls from certain death from an exploding weapons cache, culminating in a climactic battle against a whirling tornado of magical weapons.
They defeated the Cuisinart using teamwork, Ardenal distracting it while Officer Sunshine made a called shot to the spirit in the center that powered it. And two and a half hours later, it was done.
My daughter hugged me, smiling for the first time since she’d gotten the news. And I thought: this is why roleplaying has endured. I remember getting kicked around in middle school, the constant slaps and stings of bullies, failing my classes, feeling like a loser. Yet when Bryan set up that DM screen and I became Delvin Goodheart, with my improbable loot in the form of a +5 vorpal sword and my Invulnerable Coat of Arnd, for a while I could wander around in someone else’s world and be a hero.
Last night, I managed that for someone who needed it. And I all I could think was, “Play it forward, man, play it forward.”
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.