Playing with William

Yesterday I had the opportunity to play in a streamed game with the Scratticus Academy, and it was a lot of fun! I’m always impressed by Scratticus and the opportunities they provide to folks who might want to dip their toe into playing or running actual plays, but might not know how. It’s a welcoming, safe, inclusive bunch over there, and I highly recommend you check them out.

But today’s post is not about the game, but my character. More specifically, my character’s name, William Lindsay. In answer to a question from one of the many TTRPG related quizzes going around on Twitter, I remember mentioning that I tended to name characters in any modern game I play William Lindsay, after my maternal grandfather, William Edward Lindsay. I said it was my way of honouring the man, but I never really touched on why it was important to me.

First a bit of biography. My grandfather was born in Scotland but came to Canada when the family emigrated to a farm outside Tofield, Alberta. He grew up and went to school, and was something of a polyglot (an understatement; he could read/write/speak English, Scots Gaelic, Latin, Greek, French, Ukrainian, and German, and I heard him speak Russian and Mandarin besides) and bookworm, keeping up on his studies while keeping up on the chores expected of him on the farm.  When the Second World War broke out, he volunteered and because of his farmboy background was assigned as an airman with the RCAF and sent to England to drive supply trucks between airfields. And he would have done that until the end of the war, except someone discovered he could speak fluent German, and they needed German speakers to serve on bombers. He was rushed through flight and wireless training, promoted to Warrant Officer, and spent the rest of the war crouched over the wireless set in bombers. I can’t be certain how many missions he flew, but he once mentioned going up more than eighty times, and I have no reason to doubt him. Most importantly, he came back from his last mission, was mustered out of the RCAF, and returned to Tofield to be a farmer again.

I didn’t learn any of this until later, not that it would have mattered. Grandpa Lindsay was the person almost single handedly responsible for feeding my deep love of books, particularly science fiction and fantasy, and nothing would have made me love him more than that gift.

So that’s part of why I name my modern characters after him, but it isn’t the whole story. I have written before about how I came to TTRPGs, that I started playing D&D in January 1980. Obviously I fell instantly in love with the game! A way for me to play as the characters from my favourite books? Hell yes! And I knew that I wanted to share the game with my grandfather, that he was going to love it as much as I did. As excited as I was to play D&D, I was counting down the days to school’s end, when we would visit the farm for the summer and I could play D&D with my grandfather.

In April of 1980 William Edward Lindsay suffered a debilitating stroke, paralyzing half his body, depriving him of so much of his memories, and leaving him without the ability to speak. While therapy would eventually get a fraction of that back for him, a number of minor strokes throughout the rest of his life would mean he never fully recovered from the first one.

I still tried. But I was eleven. I didn’t understand what had happened to the man who had taught me to ride a horse, who had taught me to love Frodo and Samwise and Merry and Pippin, who I still picture as Gandalf whenever I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I didn’t know him anymore, and he couldn’t tell me what was going on.

We never did play D&D together, and I carry the sorrow of that with me to this day.

And that’s why. I never got a chance to play any of these games I love, that I know he would have loved, with Grandfather Lindsay. But every chance I get I name my character after him, so I can carry a little piece of him along with me in the hobby. And if there is an afterlife, maybe he knows that somewhere, and smiles.

So if we ever game together, know there is a good chance my grandfather is gaming with us as well. He’s a great guy, I think you’ll like him.