In today’s blog we celebrate the fathers and father figures in our community. As we pause to honor and reflect on fathers of all kinds, we also recognize the many different feelings and memories that arise from this day. Whatever Father’s Day means to you, and wherever you are in the difficult journey of fatherhood, know that we’re grateful. Whether you’re a father (or father figure), have a father, or have memories of your father, and whatever those experiences may mean to you, fatherhood is one of the things that binds most of us together—wherever, whenever, and whoever we are.
When I was approached about writing the Father’s Day blog, I accepted right away, knowing it would be relatively straightforward to come up with some clever gaming puns or some Father’s Day gifts in the form of silly magic items. (What dad doesn’t want a pair of argyle socks that magically clean and fold themselves?) Over the coming days, as I reflected on my five years of fatherhood (and counting), and on my own father, trying to come up with more ideas for a roleplaying game-related Father’s Day blog, I realized jokes were my easy way out. Surely, I thought, I could write something deep and meaningful about my first RPG session with my five-year-old son. So, this past weekend, I sat down to plan a game for him. That also would not turn out exactly as I planned.
I felt intense pressure to get it right. I wanted something great to write about for the blog, of course, but I also needed it to be right for my son. After all, I thought, roleplaying games have deeply impacted my own life. My brother and I remain close, even into adulthood, in no small part because of roleplaying games. I met my spouse and my dearest friends through roleplaying games. Playing and writing those games has gotten me through many difficult times. I’ve seen tabletop games have a similar impact on countless others. I had to be a great dad and get it right for my son.
I faltered. How could I ever meet such expectations? Thinking of roleplaying games and fatherhood reminded me that my brother and I started playing right around the time our own father began to have less presence in our lives. This only increased the pressure I was putting on myself. At a time in my life when I most needed a father, roleplaying games filled the void in a way. Roleplaying games helped me learn collaboration, cooperation, creativity, resilience, compassion—and even provided an outlet for pent up emotions. (Speaking of things we can learn from our dads. Ha.)
The day before I’d planned to run my son’s first session, I was tired, dinner was over, and it was time to play before getting ready for bed. I wasn’t thinking about the blog, and my complex emotions about fatherhood meant I had no plans for the game. When my son and I went to play, one of the most surreal experiences of my life unfolded. He asked if I wanted to build a maze with him using some magnetic tiles—one of his favorite toys. Of course, I said, but you’ll need to show me how. He laid out a basic floor plan. He put up some walls. I watched as he carefully considered the placement of each tile, occasionally changing his mind about the direction of a given corridor, or where the entrance would be. He blocked off one of the paths and told me that’s where the bad guys hide. You had to sneak past, or they’d come out and get you. He went to get his toy cars—they’d fit perfectly in the maze. He put in a few bad guys. He put another in the deepest part of the maze and told me I had to rescue it. He gave me another car, said it was me, and picked up one for himself. He drove through the maze, arrived at an intersection, and asked me which way we should go. Your turn, Papa. We went through the maze. We laughed when I was too loud, and the bad guy popped out of the wall to get me. I escaped and drove around until the bad guy got lost in his own maze. Good job, Papa, but you should be more quiet next time. We went and rescued the car. We made it out before the bad guy found us—but just barely!
Without ever having learned himself, my son taught me to play an RPG on a whim, with a map and secret doors and all. He had a story in mind—one he came up with on his own—and we worked together to tell the story. He taught me to try again even when I messed up. He taught me to take turns and look out for each other. When he suggested I fight the bad guy car, and I asked if we could be gentle instead, he respected the boundary I set. He told me that was a good idea and helped me find a creative solution.
This was not so different from the way we usually play, but with the uncanny similarities to sitting down for a game of Pathfinder or Starfinder, I was stunned. Thinking on it, I didn’t know exactly how my son learned all those things—collaboration, compassion, creativity—especially when his access to other adults over the past year has been far more limited than usual. Surely, he learned a bit from me, but also from his mother, friends, grandparents, teachers, and from aunts and uncles. As I tucked him in and he told me, “Papa, I love you, you’re my best friend,” I was somewhat confident he learned to spontaneously express his feelings because I’d modeled it for him. I didn’t think I could take full credit for all of the other things, but I was certain that roleplaying games helped me become the sort of father who could raise a good man. Of course, I still didn’t have good ideas for his first “real” session.
But I sure did know what I was going to write about for the Father’s Day blog.
Pathfinder Society Developer
Community Blog: Celebrating Father’s Day
Thursday, June 10, 2021