Dealing With Player Death
I’ve been playing and gamemastering tabletop roleplaying games since 1975 and I have dealt with a lot of character deaths, both my own characters and characters of players in the games I’m running. I’ve even had a few former players die over the years — long after they had left my game. However, I’ve never had a player currently in my game die — until last week that is.
James texted me Monday evening asking if he could drop by on his way home from work Tuesday to drop off a couple of books he had borrowed and grab a couple more. Tuesday afternoon, when he didn’t show up, I called him. His wife answered the phone and told me James had had a mild heart attack in the early hours of the morning and that he was in the hospital, but doing well. I spoke to him briefly and said I’d come by during visiting hours Wednesday and see him.
I arrived at the hospital a little after noon on Wednesday to find James in surgery and Robin very worried. James had a second heart attack that morning and his doctors had decided to do emergency bypass surgery. I stayed with his wife until their son arrived from Akron but then I had to head home to take care of my wife. I got a call from Robin a few hours later telling me that James had come through surgery (a quadruple bypass and the insertion of two stents) and was in guarded condition. His doctors had told her if he could make it through the next 36 hours without any major issues, his prognosis would be excellent. We did not talk long as she had a lot of calls to make to friends and relatives. Sadly, James never regained consciousness and passed away about 7 Thursday morning.
The funeral was Sunday afternoon — about the time my Sunday game would start. Needless to say, there was no game as all of us were at the funeral. To be honest, we are all a little lost. It’s one thing to lose a longtime player from your game because they had to move or because their work hours changed. It’s apparently a very different thing to have a player die. We aren’t sure what we are going to do with the campaign. The campaign will continue, but we are unsure exactly how to continue it — starting with the obvious question of what to do with James’ characters. Should we retire them? Use them as NPCs? Something else? It’s not like we can just ask James what he wants done with them. We have some time to decide how we want to proceed as we have cancelled this week’s game which means will not play again until the 19th (as the 12th is Mother’s Day).
I had only known James a few years. He was my first local gaming contact when we moved to Youngstown from Texas in late 2016. He and his family have become good friends. James as a good person.He was retired from the navy and worked with a local non-profit to bring jobs to Youngstown. His characters were as enthusiastic about their game lives as James was about real life. If there is gaming in heaven, James will be rolling his dice. Perhaps he’ll get his wish and can play in Arduin with Dave Hargrave as GM. All I know for sure is that I will miss him.