A tribute to the Much Loved Richard Taylor

Last Thursday the Bay Area lost a titan of the gaming community. Rich Taylor was an inspiration to a large number of people. Indeed Big Bad Con, as Sean Nitter says in his tribute, would never have been born without Rich’s influence, and a great deal of storytellers who developed under his wing.

I met Rich about 17 years ago when I was still a teenager (just). I have lost most of my memories of that time period in my life. But Rich stands out. Not just for his kindness and inclusion, not just for his patience with someone who didn’t know the systems, but because he was amazingly creative. He could build environments in your head just as easily as if you were reading a very well written novel. And the stories he told in those worlds were deep and fully realized. His NPC’s seemed like actual people.

I barely game anymore, I took a long break and have been lukewarm about diving back in. But Rich Taylor’s talent endures in my mind. A mix of genuine goodness, charisma, and some sort of spell he could put over a room that sent your mind off into far flung worlds without really realizing you’ve departed from reality. And when you landed, Rich was as masterful ending a session as beginning one.

I don’t know how he developed the talent he had. But watching him and having been in other games has taught me some very important details. Compatibility with the GM matters. Story comes first (provided you are already having fun). And running a game is a combination of game knowledge, talent, skill, and experience. Most people think of roleplaying as a game, Rich elevated it to an art form.

But what of the person? I lost touch with Rich for a while, I floated in and out of different social circles. Facebook allowed us to reconnect. And soon I was reminded of Rich’s greatest asset: his compassion. He always had a kind word to say. He would step in to defend others when they were unjustly attacked. He helped lift my spirits, he helped lift my partner’s mood, too. We always felt a little bit safer with Rich backing us up. And now? That back-up is gone.What to do but learn from his legacy? Not what he left behind physically, but what he left in our hearts and minds. Be kind, be inclusive, don’t stereotype, be creative, be expressive, build new realities, and above all, make sure your story is one worth telling. One that will connect with your players. It’s good advice for a writer as well. Make it meaningful. So with this in our thoughts what meaning can we find in his death?

It was so sudden, to many of us unexpected, but I saw such a diverse group of people respond, people I didn’t even know also knew Rich. It reminded me that gamers are a community. There is a reason I hang on the edges, despite only occasionally playing. The people who game have hearts of gold and I’m interested in hearing about their worlds and stories inside their heads.  They care about inclusion and equality incredibly deeply, and that is comforting in a world obsessed with pecking orders. Rich’s legacy is the people he brought together. And because Rich was an exemplary person, he brought equally good people to meet each other. Some of whom I know and am glad to be friends with, some of whom I hope to get to know in the future.

The rest of the world may not be aware that this great man lived and died here in the Bay Area. But it would be remiss to allow someone so incredibly influential to the community here, to let him pass without a word. So to all his family, friends and acquaintances, I feel your pain. I loved him too. And I miss him already.

Melissa Devlin
Mike asked for a bio. I hate writing my own bio so I’m stealing parts of it from my own website. Why? Whenever I try spitting one of these out I either sound crazy, arrogant, insecure, or all three. It’s like sitting down at a wedding and being asked by a perfect stranger, “So tell me about yourself”. My mind always blanks and I’m left with the following: I’m the daughter of Keith Devlin, the internationally famous mathematician who sleeps with his socks on (Also known as NPR’s Math Guy). And Janet Devlin, internationally published playwright. Her recent work has been produced in Greece. Much earlier her Radio plays were performed by the BBC. I was born in the UK, as was my sister. My brother is American. I am deeply in love with Ace of Geeks cofounder, Jarys Maragopoulos. And I can confirm half of our arguments boil down to me being raised in a 1970’s time capsule of England transplanted to the states, and Jarys actually being from somewhere real. I tend to most often write about mental health issues (I’m openly Bipolar I), and what it’s like to emerge from a rock after ten years and discover there’s been a geek explosion in my absence. There. A bio that barely reveals anything about me. I really am English.

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