My extensive top-to-bottom house-cleaning yielded three boxes of role-playing ephemera destined for the trash heap, including two D&D games that served (along with several other creative streams) to produce The Water Phoenix King. It was strange to flick through a folder and see Corva as a 3rd level ranger. She was quite a different Corva, armed with sabre and pistola, chased by a deranged ex-living ex-husband, like the Ghost Pirate LeChuck except not played for laughs. Here and there other bits of WPK appeared in Trotter-like form. (Trotter: the hobbit ranger in the original draft of The Lord of The Rings. He had two wooden feet. No, really.) Chaos dwarf soulknives would become Turvin the Ulenite, Varaxunax appeared with his twin brother Dastinax, and Lieutenant Poggle’s name showed up scribbled on an initiative list–halfling expert 1/warrior 2, initiative count 5 (bad roll, buddy). Other pages showed only baffling hints of now-lost games. “Sienar or SoruSuub?” read one. An important question facing a twi’lek fixer shortly after the dissolution of the Imperial Senate! Another page read “30 gold for good deeds” next to a ledger that might have been someone adding up XP after a battle. One water-stained page showed fragments of a Dying Earth character. (“Resist: Gourmandism.”)
Old games take on the character of fairy-tale and dream with an intensity and poignant melancholy that Gaiman or any of the other Dunsanian fantasists would, I suspect, do almost anything to capture. Like the best fantasy, these scraps of mechanical ephemera don’t seem to exist for you, the reader–they exist on their own, and like angels or fairies, they serve incomprehensible ends, half-mechanical, half-narrative, that aren’t there for your comprehension. I wish I had more maps, but I was always a desultory mapper–not a visual or spatial thinker, you see, even after ten years drawing comics. Instead the detritus of my games is in scraps of data: names and numbers, words and scores, page after page, adding up to form a few dozen worlds that don’t really exist any more, even in the imaginations of those who visited or created them.