Meeting Old Friends for the First Time

Last week, I met one of the guys with whom I’ve been writing for the last five or six years. We met through an online game forum. I was interested in writing some fan fiction in an online game called Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO for short).

I had finally dragged myself away from World of Warcraft and was looking for something else to play that was akin to the pen and paper version of Dungeons & Dragons. I found DDO. It was the closest computer game I’d seen to the table game, so I gave it a try. It’s free-to-play, so I logged in and created my favorite character—Meegan Redoak, a Ranger/Rogue.

Eventually, I found the forums and started reading some of the fan fiction that had been written and posted in the storytelling forum. Most of the stories were the run-of-the-mill character running through dungeons, soberly told stories that must have been fun to write. But, a few of the storytellers stood out. One of those storytellers was SamBadd.

Around the middle of 2013, I chatted with a guy who had created a small guild of players that wanted to try to play the online game much like the table game. Because the computer game had rules and objects that made some players more overpowered than others, he had a list of rules to “gimp” the characters and which also made the gameplay more reliant on teamwork.

I found the idea fascinating and contacted him. Over the next few months, I met and bonded with three fellows who live in the eastern time zone—Hazelnut, SamBadd, and Drowsword. The four of us created personal stories for our characters, and as we played the game, we wrote the stories of our individual alter-egos and bounced the storyline off each other.

About three years into our writing, a new member was invited to play with the group, and we lost our story momentum. We continued playing our characters, eventually advancing our characters as far as we were able, but we had lost the thread.

We play a couple of nights a week, and I still write character sketches and bounce them off the rest of the group. In fact, I had one brainstorm a few weeks ago that led to the creation of a brand-new round of characters to see how the concept would play.

I tell you all this to let you know that I didn’t just run off to meet some creepy internet stalker—something that seems to happen way too often in our world today. Besides, I have a past that includes meeting an online persona that was not true to life, caution is the word of the day.

I mentioned that we drove to the Eastern Time Zone this last week and spent some time with family. First Reader and I took the opportunity to go the extra (150) mile(s) to visit with Sam Lee Bowman. After Youngest Kid got off work one day, we hopped in the car and took a short road trip deep into the Ohio River Valley. We arrived at the hotel to rest for the night before meeting with Sam and his lovely wife the next day.

L to R: Youngest Grandkid, First Reader, Youngest Kid, Me, Sam’s Wife, Sam
(C) 2019 JJ Shaun

After Sam let me know they were up and about, we drove the mile from the hotel to Sam’s home where we met his wife and fur kids. He also got to meet First Reader, Youngest Kid, and Youngest Grandkid, other family members of mine with whom he had chatted.

When you have only talked to someone for a long time but never seen, you get a mental picture of what you think that person should look like, so I wasn’t sure what I expected. I have never had my mental picture match the reality. Until now. The only thing missing was the full beard.

I guess it helps that when we play our online personas, we use an avatar on which we can choose which features to use as our “face.” Most of my avatars have the same basic facial features, as do Sam’s. Most of his male characters come complete with facial hair of some type, so I guess that’s the picture I built in my head.

Sam, Me
(C) 2019 JJ Shaun

This is Sam and me, we are kindred souls, despite the distance that separates us.

For now, I can say that I’m glad we had the opportunity to take a side trip and visit someone who has come to mean a lot to me—my brother in spirit. He has been my go-to guy when I need advice on backwoods camping or survival. He is a fount of information and ideas, his perspective is so different from mine, that he makes me think in directions I usually wouldn’t.

I look forward to writing many more shared stories with this group, and I hope I get an opportunity to meet my other two writing partners in crime—Hazelnut and Drowsword.

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