A Spiritual Journey

I had a memory come back to me and I figured I’d share it. I had this friend named Sayler. I haven’t seen him in a long time. Sayler was an interesting and somewhat mysterious fellow. He was of German and Persian ancestry. He was stationed in Berlin with the U.S. Army when the wall came down. Most of the time I knew him, he was a man in search of a purpose, trying his hand at everything from cosmetology to sleep lab technician.

I met Sayler at a gaming convention in Los Angeles. He was curious and eager and willing to play just about anything. He was a regular in my events at conventions. He even played in a few of my private games including one of the best Primetime Adventures games I had the pleasure of running.

One time I asked Sayler if he wanted to come over and play S/lay w/ Me. I wish I remembered more of the game itself. What I do remember is that it was set on the moon. Sayler’s character, unexpectedly, had a gunslinger motif going on. His Goal was to get his soul back from The Devil. I also remember being unusually on top of my game playing The Devil as the Monster. I can’t remember a thing about who the Lover was. I know we did the thing where you swap the “You” and “I” roles but I don’t remember anything about my own hero’s adventure. Mostly, I remember the visceral image of The Devil shooting the gunslinger full of holes and smearing his blood across the surface of the moon.

But what I really remember is what Sayler said to me afterwards. He said, “Well that was it.” I asked him what “it” was. He replied, “The end of the journey.” I asked what journey he was talking about.

He then told me a very intriguing story. Apparently, a few years prior he had been on some kind of spiritual retreat. He was in the middle of doing some kind of exercise where he was wandering alone in the woods when all of a sudden the cover image from the D&D module “The Isle of Dread” came into his mind. He figured this was a sign that he needed to go play some D&D. In fact, this is why he was at that convention where I first met him.

He went on to explain that this S/lay w/ Me game was the culmination of the journey that started with that vision in the forest. He said it was the reason for the vision. On some level, it seemed as if right there, in that game, he really had got his soul back.

And things really did change for Sayler after that. He fell in love and got married. He bought property out in the California desert. He went back to using his birth name. I didn’t even know Sayler wasn’t his given name. I’ve seen less and less of him over the years and it’s probably been six or seven years since the last time. But I know he’s happy.

Sometimes when I get asked what I want out of role-playing games, I think, I want wherever the hell it was Sayler found in that S/lay w/ Me game.

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5 responses to “A Spiritual Journey”

  1. That’s a delightful story! Thank you for sharing it. I think it speaks to something that I remember talking about with my brother, the idea that there’s some experience we’re maybe chasing every time we sit down and play. We were talking about it in the context of the half-remembered, half-imagined sense of potential we got from playing a really great game when we were in high school, and trying to catch that lightning in a bottle. But I like the idea that the pursuit isn’t chasing nostalgia, it’s after an epiphany. Nice.

    • Yes, thanks for that story. In terms of what to find in role-playing, it makes me think … not of the specifics of what Sayler found, or even necessarily an epiphany generally as Bill describes. Overall, I’m just reminded that there are so MANY things that may be found.

      So thanks also for the reminder that I want to write up a few of my own “things found” for posting here.

    • Gordon, that helps me figure out my response better, because I can’t grasp the idea of concluding my participation in this activity. I do, however, get the idea of specific completions, based on process or content.

  2. Awesome story, Jesse! Love it. I remember I was talking to some players after a con game, where we were discussing what we liked about gaming. I mentioned I thought gaming could help save the world – one of our biggest issues in the U.S. is a lack of community, basically we’re becoming a dissolved society with the inability to work together to accomplish significant goals. The way I see it, starting a gaming group is at least one small way to start to rebuild community. If I won a big lottery, I’d start a nonprofit to promote and facilitate creating new gaming groups.

    Anyway, when I said this the eyes of one of the guys I was talking to got very large. He seemed scared. “No,” he insisted, “I only play to have fun.” He looked at me like I’d grown horns out of my forehead.

    Since then, whenever I’ve seen this fellow at a con, he’d give me this look – “there goes the crazy guy,” his eyes seem to say. Lol!

    • There’s another guy who played my game Haunted. He played the murderer and seemed really affected by the experience. Someone told me later that he felt the need to confess some of the bad things he did in the game to his wife and apologize for them.

      I run into him at conventions and sometimes he looks at me with this 1000 yard stare. He’s even put his hands on my shoulders and said very intensely, “You showed me that role-playing games could be… deep.” And I can never quite tell if he’s thanking me or accusing me.

      Some people touch the more profound edges of the medium and find it freeing. Others run away pretty fast.

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