The year is 2602. The planet once known as Earth has been callously re-christened The Last World. America is now popularly known as The Corruption. The Sahara Desert is covered in frozen ash. Days are short and dark. The temperature remains at a stubborn 14 degrees Fahrenheit. There are zombies, dragons, zombie dragons and killer wasps. Who can you trust? How will we survive?
This is the world of The Last Stand, a role-playing game developed by Grey Havens YA members at last April’s Real Myth and Mithril Symposium. Today, we finally got to come together in one large group to play! Some of our characters are road-weary loners, some are brilliant but aloof and unstable, motivated by self-interest or fear, some are too trusting and kind. Some have magic, others have science and mechanical skill. None of these skills are infallible.
Some have empathy or telepathy, others have trouble understanding what goes on in another person’s head. One carries his small son across the post-apocalyptic landscape in a backpack, wondering at times if the burden is too much. One of us is a Martian, kind but lost and overwhelmed by the thoughts that flood her mind. Another is slightly mad from all she has seen, though we don’t know what memories haunt her. There is a man in the camp who can be quite caustic but hovers around his community anyway. One man has golden eyes and no one knows his name. One is the sole survivor of a recent, terrible war. Our dragon is helpful but he snores. Times are harder than they have ever been. Is this really what we do for fun? Absolutely it is!
Role-playing games are good for the mind, heart and soul. If we can be anything we want, why do we give our characters limitations and problems? Why not just place ourselves in paradise? Why do we harness our imaginations to the roll of a polyhedral die? Because problems are solved, beauty is created and relationships are forged when our limitless daydreams have to fit themselves into a world that, as wild as it may be, is still governed by rules. Every time we roll the die, we risk failure but risk is our business. We don’t just hack our way through trouble either. We have weapons but we also have skills. We have strengths and weaknesses and we use them all to try together to find what each of us is looking for.
Real life is like that, too, isn’t it? Sometimes we have everything we need to succeed but circumstances turn against us anyway. Sometimes, everything goes our way. You can’t have everything you want but you can have adventure–in the game and outside of it. We also have each other.
Our young adults built this world with all its dire problems and it is likely that they will save it many times over. They each put nuance and depth into their characters while our game master oversees the whole thing with patience and wit. It is easy to be impressed by this. It is easy to see them going on to do great things in our own world, such as showing compassion for all kinds of characters, finding ways to work together even when the compassion hasn’t risen to the surface yet, solving problems, understanding when things don’t go their way but allowing themselves to feel elation when they do. It is also easy to see how gaming is helping them to fulfill their potential on the way to adulthood.
Gaming is part of a great tradition of storytelling, a myth that metamorphoses in the telling. It is collective storytelling, a tale adapted by each mind that joins the quest, causing the other minds to bend and twist to keep up. In a role-playing game we can see through strange eyes. Each player tries out a persona that emerges from a mix of compassion for their own attributes, empathy for what it must be like to be another, a bit of wish fulfillment and a lot of adapting to everything that comes along, including zombies, dragons, zombie dragons, killer wasps and, from time to time, a bit of luck.
The Last Stand proved so popular with our members that we would like to add regular gaming sessions to our schedule and, perhaps, even invite more gamers to join us but this would require more time and resources than we currently have. Click here to help! Click here to learn about what happens at a Grey Havens YA meeting when gaming is not on the agenda. May fortune fall upon your every roll!
Send us an owl: What is your favorite role-playing game? What is your favorite gaming memory?
In December, we begin reading and discussing The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. We would also love to know your favorite memories of reading this great author.