When Roland got his first girlfriend at age 23, he gave up role-playing games for her.
She didn’t force him to. She didn’t even know about it. He simply felt that his life was changing, and that he needed to make a break between his past and his future. What was more, he had to make that step irreversible—he had to destroy his characters.
So he said goodbye to Oliver Kleist, company director, tango dancer, and ancient vampire. Character sheet held in trembling hands, he remembered nights filled with Berlin rooftops, and air made sweet and heady with anticipation. His pulse quickened at the memory of selecting a victim from the crowd of pedestrians: the thrill of the chase, and her hot, murmuring blood. Oliver’s finest hour came when he organized feuding vampire clans to repel an invasion by Russian mavericks, finally delivering all of his kind from hunting and persecution—at least until the next campaign.
Roland took a deep breath and tore Oliver’s character sheet in half and half again, until only small pieces remained.
He also bid farewell to Amelia Cartwright, a beautiful Boston flapper from the 1920s who hid terrible occult knowledge behind her fancy-free visage. With a guilty sexual thrill, he remembered the night she had seduced Sir Percy Thackeray in a desperate bid to steal the Kenyan idol on which her party’s investigations—and perhaps the fate of the world—depended. He remembered the eclipse, the tomb in the Black Desert, and the tentacled horror which spewed forth from its inky depths. Amelia had overcome a lifelong phobia of firearms to take up a dropped shotgun in defense of her companions, and had almost fainted when it jammed. Once again, Roland felt her crushing guilt as she fled into the desert, clutching the arcane book to her chest and leaving her fellows to die.
A guilty lump grew in his own throat as he shredded her list of attributes and skills.
He could hardly bear to look at the stats of Gloyn the dwarf, level fourteen fighter and protector of thousands. A true hero, Gloyn alone had held the narrow entrance to the Dwarven catacombs against the undead legions during the Nightmare Siege, to give the women and children time to escape. A scant session or two later, Gloyn ended the shambling threat of the undead once and for all when he sacrificed himself in order to seal the evil necromancer Gutskutter Walpurge beneath Hellspine Mountain. Roland’s eyes began to water as he recalled how the townspeople had prayed and sacrificed for ten years in the name of his humble dwarf, until one eerie, enchanted night, the power of their unfailing love returned him once more to the land of the living.
He threw Gloyn into the fire. This time, there would be no resurrection.
After his last character was destroyed, Roland stopped seeing most of his friends, who still role-played every week. They were hurt at the loss of their fantasy comrades, but Roland knew he had to move on. He went instead to trendy bars and was initiated into the mysteries of sex by his new girlfriend. The transition was difficult, but the experience worthwhile. It felt like whole new worlds, never before dreamed of, were finally opening up to Roland—magic and grand adventure, only this time for real.
A month later, she dumped him because he was “such a geek.”