A friend of mine, and a long-time gaming associate, passed away from a massive heart attack this morning. I think I always knew that one day I would receive a phone call with that unhappy news, and at the same time, felt that day would never come.

If having fun can be described as feeding the inner child, then Stephen Tunnicliff didn’t just indulge that child, he plied it with campiness and whimsy at every opportunity. While the results could sometimes be annoying, more than often his sense of fun was pervasive and encouraged that inner child in all those around him. At the same time, he was one of the most generous men I have ever known, capable of more exuberance and joy de vivre than anyone else I have ever met.

He attended my 21st, and my 40th, Birthday parties. I was at his 50th a few years back.

Stephen in the early '80s, his sense of humor on full display

We regularly had New Years Marathon gaming sessions with him – three days of gaming, morning, afternoon, evening, and night. For many years he was my regular transport to gaming, and often he was the hub around which our gaming revolved. It is a measure of our friendship that of all the campaigns that I have run over the years, Stephen was a player at one time or another in all but two or perhaps three of them. In the histories of those campaigns, he left an indelible impression.

Stephen was the kind of player who would pull a lever on the wall just to see what would happen. If given an opportunity to sew mischief as a character, he had to be held back not to indulge the temptation. His first act in the One Faith campaign was to swap the labels on some vials of ingredients being used to brew quick-and-dirty healing potions by an NPC whose attitude had rubbed him the wrong way, just as a practical joke at the NPCs expense – and not realizing that the opportunity had been deliberately set up as Stephen-bait in order to advance the plot. At the same time, he was capable of getting more deeply into character than anyone I knew, because he knew his own tastes and tendencies and created characters that would give himself the opportunity to indulge his own sense of humor. There’s a lesson in character construction in that practice for all of us.

I don’t think I will ever sit at a gaming table without remembering him.

Rest in peace, Stephen. My games, and my life, will be the poorer without you.

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