Nana-Dice
[This was originally written on July 27, 2015 – but not posted immediately to preserve the surprise.]

Today .. I ordered some dice.

That might not seem like a big deal, and truth be told it really isn’t, but that one task carried a lot more significance that you might think.

December 5th this year will mark a turning point in my little microcosm of life. On Saturday December 5th, in 1992, my friend Waddhana [Nana] Prom killed himself. He was 23 years old. Saturday December 5th, 2015 will be the day where the scales tip, and his time spent with us will begin to dwindle, growing ever smaller by proportion in comparison to the timeless march onwards of the universe. He will have been dead more time than he lived.

These are the things that my brain attaches importance to, trivial as they are, and I felt the need to mark the day. *NOT* to let it pass by in obscurity, as some 22 previous years might have.

“What the fuck does that have to do with dice, or the purchase of dice?!” You might find yourself asking.

I’ll try to explain :

We had a group of friends, tight-knit in the way that only nerdy, outcast, finishing high-school kids could be. Some of them were in the SCA, some of them LARP’ed. Some were science geeks, or heck … just plain weird. But all of us played Dungeons & Dragons.

Nana loved to create worlds. He naturally fell into the role of Dungeon Master, sometimes funny, sometimes sadistic (especially when the clock would tick past 3:00AM on those late night games!), he was a charismatic and inventive story teller.

It was through Nana, and Dungeons & Dragons, that this close group of friends all inevitably met. Circles of friends, invited to pick-up games on random Friday nights, over the course of years. We met in as many strange places as there were friends: First at RPI, then in attics, basements, or living rooms. The most loved place for me was a museum we would volunteer with; Mostly so we could use the back room, which was complete with a wood burning stove!

This game, vastly misunderstood and sometimes reviled among the more religious of our parents, introduced me to some of the closest friends I’ve ever had in my life. And this one man, a boy really, was the catalyst for all those introductions.

One of those friends reached out to me earlier this year, lamenting that we had all drifted apart after Nana’s death. We wondered off-hand, if we could do something about that. But 20 years or so of life, and baggage, had slowly inserted itself in all of our lives. Was it as important anymore? Did everyone feel the same loss?

When my brain identified the significance of this year’s December 5th, I reached out, to everyone. “We will be gaming this year. In December. On the fifth. We don’t know where, or how it is all going to work, but we will be doing it; Not doing it is not an option. Are you *in*?”

The years. The baggage. It was all meaningless. *Every* single response was an immediate, decisive, “YES!”. Enough to the point that I, cynical, jaded, in my forties, had to close myself in a room and cry … overwhelmed. Once again this friend had drawn us together, effortlessly.

“Hey! Steve! Dice .. you were talking about dice. Get to the point!” comes a shout from the peanut gallery.

Right, that was an impulsive decision because of what today is.

You see, today is actually a tip-of-the-hat ‘respect someone’ day in the RPG world. Gary Gygax, the man who invented Dungeons & Dragons, would have been seventy-seven today. It is his birthday, and RPG enthusiasts across the world generally give a brief nod of respect to him as a result. Without his creativity in the world, I never would have met these friends I’ve just spoken of. I wouldn’t have had a way to bring them all together, years later, without the game he brought to life.

Without Mr. Gygax’s game, this wouldn’t even be a story.

I suppose that is why I started thinking about dice. Polyhedral dice are almost as representative of Dungeons & Dragons as .. well .. dragons. Over my decades as a store owner, or as a professional in the industry, whenever someone saw ‘weird’ dice they usually called them ‘D&D dice’. Something clicked in my head, and I reached out to Joseph at Chessex (a manufacturer of polyhedral dice) and asked what it would take to engrave a symbol on some dice. We quickly agreed to terms.

Come December 5th, when we sit down for our memorial/celebration game of Dungeons & Dragons, each of us will have a brand new set of dice, made specifically to honor the day, bearing a symbol from Nana’s SCA heraldry.

They will go nicely with the pile of old Dungeons & Dragons books that will be sitting in the center of the table, many of which still reveal the name ‘Nana Prom’ scrawled darkly in number two graphite as you open the cover.

Thank you Gary Gygax. I feel like I owe you one.