Just got off the phone with Jason Roberts. I think it’s been over a year since I spoke with him. We’re both family men now with kids to provide for. But we weren’t always….
Jason is my cousin and was my first Dungeon Master. We’d see each other on Easter and Thanksgiving and I’d pull out my beat-up character sheet (a gnome named Figtoe–don’t ask) and he’d run me through Queen of the DemonWeb pits or a dungeon he scribbled on the back of a napkin. I didn’t know which dice to use when, or what “Save v. P/P/D” meant. Even so, whenever my character sheet got too worn out, I’d painstakingly copy over every saving throw and weapon stat, waiting for the next holiday.
Jason is four years older than me and when he went off to college he left me a massive box of his old modules, a Monster Manual, and notes (and notes and notes) about his high school D&D campaign. I looked through every module and at every piece of paper. I pulled out a thing or two and put the rest back in its box. It’s sitting in my closet right now. Even at the dawn of my gaming life, the act of creation was paramount. I never ran a module.
Ten years later, Jason and I were both out of college. Both married. I was still gaming as often as often as I could. He was a self-confessed “bookshelf gamer.”–buying games and reading them, but not playing. We’d get to talking at the family reunions. About this and that and scifi and gaming. He had this idea for a game about Rome (Jason majored in Classical Archeology). But not just Rome. Rome with Guns.
FVLMINATA was born. It took more than a year and a ton of work (most of it Jason’s) to make it happen. But it was published in August 2000.
A month later Jason became a dad. Five months later, so did I. Life expanded.
We put together FVLMINATA 2nd Edition. It was wildly successful for a total crash-and-burn disaster. He got a new, extremely demanding job and moved to New England. I got involved with the Forge. Time has passed.
I sent him a copy of With Great Power… and he called to say “Thanks.” We talked for nearly an hour. It was good to hear him get that excited catch in his voice when he’s talking about the cool stuff he’s working on with Jared. It was a little awkward to have no project in common.
It’s awkward to have no project at all.
“So what are you working on, now that With Great Power… is done?” he asked.
“Recuperating,” I said. Which is another way of saying “I don’t know.” Or “Nothing.” Or “I’m wasting my precious time here on Earth.”
We’ve got a lot of history, Jason and I. He spoke of feeling his way back into the gaming world. He got burned, badly, and it’s brave of him to come back. I look forward to seeing him at GenCon next year, maybe.
If I were a good writer, I’d wrap this up with some kind of conclusion. It would draw on the tidbits I’d mention before. It would have a smooth, satisfying, somewhat bittersweet ending with a hint of finality. But I’m not that guy. My conclusions are simple, obvious, and crudely phrased:
It was good to talk to Jason. I’ve missed him. I’m not the dabbler I once was. I need a project.