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Gamer Groups and Divorce

Last year I wrote about problems with gamers and dating, and today I'm writing about problems with gamers and divorce. Sadly, I'm writing from personal experience, as my twelve-year relationship with, and three-year marriage to, my husband, a fellow gamer, dissolves. The reasons for its end aren't relevant here; what I want to discuss instead is the effect it's had on our RPG group and how we handled it, in case any of you should ever be in this situation or have friends in this situation.
My husband and I are lucky, in many ways. We have little shared property or finances and no children; the divorce can be relatively simple, as divorces go. It's also not an angry, hate-filled divorce, as divorces go. And he has left the state, so we are unlikely to run into each other in social events in the future. This story might be very different if the divorce were more adversarial or if he were staying in the same city.
Before he moved away, we split our gaming books and items—he took the monster and magic items books, I took the AD&D Planescape supplements and spellbooks. The rest of the books we divided according to who bought them or who was most likely to need them later. Does this sound strange to the non-gamers reading this? Think of it this way—our shared RPG paraphernalia undoubtedly ran up into the thousands of dollars; far more, collectively, than anything else we own (including the Blue Book values of our respective vehicles)! Splitting our RPG material was, for us, as significant as splitting a music collection or bank account might be to others.
The divorce's effect on our gaming group was one of my concerns from the start, and I still feel some concern about it. With my blood-family scattered across the United States, my friend-family has taken on increased importance to me, and my friend-family primarily consists of those with whom I have roleplayed. It is also intimately tied into my relationship with my husband. Our gaming friends are the people I met around the same time my husband and I met; they are the people with whom we've spent many a long gaming weekend; they are the people who attended our Renaissance-themed wedding; and they are the people who are now watching us split up and wondering what effect the split is going to have on our gaming community.
My husband and I met in our college roleplaying club, and most of our mutual friends are roleplayers. We have all gamed together for years, including playing in my husband's AD&D campaign, which has run on and off for twelve real years and spanned an entire character generation in game years. We were both the major game masters in our RPG friend group. Some of the other members have run short-lived campaigns or occasional one-shot adventures, but he and I had the longest-running campaigns. His AD&D campaign ran on and off for about twelve years, spanning a game generation. My AD&D campaigns cycle consecutively, as I periodically close down one, skip ahead a decade or two ahead in the same world, and start another. Our apartment, no matter where we've moved, has often been the home base for the gaming in our core group.
Thus, our split had an immediate effect on our friends above and beyond the normal emotional ones; it affected the deeply entrenched roleplaying community we'd built up over the last decade-plus. When my husband left, he removed one of the group's primary game masters and closed down a campaign the group has lived and breathed since we were all undergraduates in college. I and other game masters must now ease his characters from our own campaigns, coming up with logical explanations for their absence. And we are all are left with our long-term and well-loved characters from his campaign, now lost in retired-character limbo.
Because our gaming group was about to launch the "Second Generation" of my husband's AD&D campaign, I have offered to take it over. I asked my husband first, to make absolutely sure that he wasn't going to run it for us in the future and that he didn't mind if I took it over. He gave me permission to carry on. But I won't run it in his campaign world; that, I think, would be taking liberties with his intellectual property. He and I have spent decades developing our individual campaign worlds; it wouldn't be right for either of us to take over the other's campaigns. Instead, I'll take the characters developed for his game and move them into a Sigil-based Planescape campaign, "neutral territory" as far as our homebrewed campaigns go. It won't be the same as it would have been with him running it; we won't be able to enjoy the second-generation politics and problems we were hoping to encounter. I won't really be able to play my character, instead relegating her to NPC status. But it's better than losing the campaign thread entirely.
Because so many of our friends are mutual, I have been careful to avoid asking anybody not to contact my husband. I know that he will not stop being part of the gaming group unless he deliberately decides to remove himself from it; his house rules, his campaigns, his quotes and characters, his jokes and complaints are part of our group's shared history, and my friends will want to stay in touch with him by phone or Internet. He is on an RPG listserv we set up for ourselves that was based on his long-term campaign; I don't know if he'll stay on it, but I'm sure that my friends hope he will, and that he'll continue to provide information about his AD&D gaming world as he runs it for others, elsewhere.
Our friends have been as supportive as possible. They have not, to my knowledge, chosen sides. They have done their best to work around the end of my husband's campaign and gently remove his characters from their campaigns. They have been good about not pestering me to run my campaigns while I deal with the inevitable stresses and heartaches of divorce. But neither have they avoided talking about my husband when his name comes up in conversation; to some extent, that would be worse, to pretend he never existed. He is a part of all our lives and a part of our gaming group, and I'm sure that they miss him, in their ways, as much as I do in mine.
Even when the paperwork is final and our split is complete ... whether or not he still keeps up active correspondence with the members of our gaming group ... he will still be a part of its history and growth. His divorce from me does not mean his divorce from our gaming group—from our friends. And I'm willing to accept that.

originally written January 28, 2000


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