Through the years I have had many friends, but those I would consider family number only in the single digits. This man is true kindred.
I would like to introduce to you all, Seán Gardner, creative genius.
Kevin had discovered it, White Wolf’s very first release of Vampire: The Masquerade, and quickly pointed me in the right direction (this was often how our friendship worked, with he the trailblazer, discovering new places, and I the surveyor, going to those places and learning all the details). I bought my own copy, soaking up the atmosphere. Then I bought the Players Guide, eating the history of the WW universe like popcorn. We quickly realized that Vampire would become a new Saturday night option for our little coven of friends, who spent our freest evening playing games of all sorts well into Sunday morning. The others had been big D&D players before I joined the group, and for Kevin this new discovery was the next iteration.
For me, though, it would really be my first experience with book-and-paper based role playing, and as I often did when something took my interest I really threw myself in with complete abandon. I bought nearly every new guide that WW released. One about werewolves? Check! Ghosts? Check! Mummies? Check! City sourcebooks, universe histories, vampire clans…check, check, check!
There were a few test runs and the Storyteller role, WW’s title for the facilitator of the tale, would be alternately filled by Kevin and I while the others were to immerse themselves in the story without worrying about the details. As a few bizarre storylines unfolded, I plotted an outline of where I wanted to steer the group, and I became the primary Storyteller for out Vampire game. I went as far as to sketch portraits of non-player characters, record as many details about the group’s characters as I could (being able to introduce elements of the story that would play on character weaknesses would always lead to memorable moments), drew maps of key locations…yeah, I got obsessive.
We had jokingly decided that Philly icon Dick Clark was a vampire, because in reality the man never seemed to age, and that he was likely to be a very powerful and old creature…he would be the vampire prince of Philadelphia, a dark haven for vampires more evil than the norm. And to antagonize him, our characters would turn his friend, Ed McMahon, into a vampire and make him the puppet prince of Camden, to control as we pleased.
Sure, the story was silly, and probably not where I would have chosen to take it had I been given a blank slate, but I learned a great deal from this experience: sometimes the story and the characters drive themselves, and they take you places that you cannot deny.
I rediscovered this many years later when I, always an aspiring and undisciplined writer, participated in National Novel Writing Month (again, pointed in the right direction by my supportive friend). I struggled early on, as I tried to hold everything on the path I wanted it to take, but as I dropped plotlines that didn’t matter and let the story unfold organically, I cruised to the finish line and managed a personal achievement that has my surveyor tendencies flowing in full again.
The dynamic of my friendship with Kevin, separated by years and miles, has survived intact and as the stories have stacked up in my head through the years without seeing the keyboard, I get to follow the trail he’s blazed again, and someday hope to see my name on the front of a book cover.
---Seán Gardner, aspiring author for hire and collector of interesting facts. ruaidhri75 @ hotmail.com
Thank you all for taking the time to read a little something from one of my favorite friends.
Kevin James Breaux