Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Empty Chair: R. Michael Grenda

R. Michael "Evil" Grenda
 Well. I didn't expect to be doing this today. I just got word that my old High School and College DM, R. Michael Grenda, died yesterday.  The cause of death is unknown, but it is suspected it was a heart attack.

I have mentioned him here many times, usually not by name, I don't name people unless they have explicitly said it was fine. But we began playing in my early high school days. We met via our school's theatre group. Yeah, we were both theatre kids. We bonded over our shared love of D&D and the fact that we both owned TRS-80 Color Computers

He had his world, based mainly on the World of Greyhawk and I had mine, based on the Known World, or what would later be known as Mystara. And we would go back and forth between these worlds. Eventually, we would merge them and he made a map for it that I would eventually lose and then much, much later find the Mystoerth map I still use today. We played chess together often, had similar tastes in fiction, and discovered computer games together.

When I left town to go to University, he eventually followed me there. He was a computer science major and would eventually end up working with databases for the State of Illinois (which is as much archaeology as it is computer science) and met his future wife while we were all at school together. His wife (then his girlfriend) introduced me to Gopher sites and even this new thing called the World Wide Web.

Much of what happened in our games lives on in my work here.  The "Big Bad" of my Buffy campaign "The Dragon and the Phoenix" was Yoln Shadowreaper, one of his NPCs. The entire background of TDaTP was my big War of the Dragons, which was our world-ending battle before college.

Our "D&D on the Computer" game BARDD was largely written by him. When I6 Ravenloft came out I bought it and then made him run it. Back in college, we even did the "Dreams of Barovia" campaign where the characters shifted from one reality to the next, with him running House on Gryphon Hill and me running the original I6. I ran my first test of my witch class with him and we tried out his Riddle Master, Beastmaster, and Shadowmaster classes.

We had met up recently, back in July, and that was great. We had not seen each other in a long time. Family, jobs, kids. You know the story.  I hate to say it, but when his wife called me last night, I was not 100% surprised. I thought he looked a little unwell. But hell, we are all in our 50s now. None of us look "great."  

I have not quite processed it all yet, to be honest.  I owe a lot of my my current writing to him and the games we played. Thought we might roll some dice one more time, but I guess not.


I'll end with him flipping me off at a party a bunch of us were at in college. He would have found it funny.


Lydian Coda said...

Weddings. Children. Funerals. You just hope to make it to see weddings of children I suppose ;( So sorry for your loss. I hope it’s comforting that you were able to see him recently.

PT Dilloway said...

Sorry for your loss. Sounds like you had some good times together.