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Every once in awhile, a game session comes along that really showcases how much fun roleplaying can be.

For me, this happened a couple of years ago. We were running through the Harlequin's Back module, which, if you haven't seen it, involves some pretty weird stuff. It also gives the characters a chance to learn some things about both themselves and their teammates.

Well, our team were all profoundly affected by the events in this adventure. In fact, three out of the four characters had permanent personality changes based on what happened to them. (Small changes, sure, but changes nonetheless. Oddly enough, Winterhawk was the one member of the team that didn't experience a personality change, though the whole thing did get him thinking along some new lines, so I guess that counts for something.)

The session I'm talking about actually happened after the module was completed. We'd finished all the events, emerged victorious, and had returned home to think about what had transpired. Joe's player went home, and we were gathering up the figures, the battlemap, and the books as we got ready to pack it in for the night.

It was at that point that ShadoWraith's player, Steve, told me that 'Wraith stopped Winterhawk as everybody was leaving 'Hawk's apartment after the adventure, asking if they could discuss the situation at greater length. He invited 'Hawk down to the corner all-night coffee shop.

What followed was the most amazing session of in-character roleplaying I've ever experienced in a game. Steve was 'Wraith, and I was 'Hawk, and we just sat there and had their conversation for more than an hour. Dan, the GM, sat there with us, but he just watched. He didn't need to do anything, so he just listened. 'Hawk and 'Wraith talked about life, Fate, Desire ('Wraith, who hasn't...um...had a date in over twenty years, if you get my drift, danced with her—in fact, she sought him out, and he wondered why), Harlequin, metaplanes, shamanic totems, the team, and a number of other subjects I can't even remember anymore. The subjects weren't important—what was important was the way the roleplaying flowed. I can't speak for Steve, of course, but I know that during that conversation, I wasn't a technical writer from San Jose. I was a combat mage from London who had just been through one of the weirdest events of his life, and who was having a good (and cathartic) time discussing said event with one of his most trusted friends.

This one session was a perfect explanation of why I've played FRPs since the mid-80s, and why I've stuck with Shadowrun (and the same character) since 1990. I'm not in it for the guns, or the thrill of designing the best and most effective character, or the accumulation of more and more power for the character and the group. Sure, these things are fun. They're all part of the package. But the best part of this thing for me is the chance to have real conversations about imaginary events while pretending to be imaginary people. It's the flow that makes the game worth playing.

It happened again, fairly recently, this time with all four of the players. We were running the Super Tuesday module, and had just responded to a call for help from one of our longtime NPC friends who had gotten herself into a jam. Val (who retained her name and the fact that she was a rigger from her origin in the Dreamchipper module, but nothing else—Dan had given her a far better personality than she had in the module) had helped us out of innumerable problems since our former rigger teammate, Vrool, had left. She was always there with her vehicles and her drones to lend a hand (for a price, of course, but always a fair price). Anyway, Val was in trouble, so of course we all dropped everything to head off to help her.

When we found her, she was dying. There was nothing we could do about it. 'Hawk tried his best healing spells, and the others tried their various collections of slap patches and first aid techniques, but she was just too far gone. After contending with an ambush (the ambush was almost an afterthought—we lost, but drove them off), we carried Val to our truck and headed quickly off to another friend, a Dog shaman who specialized in healing. On the way over there, Val died. 'Hawk was in the back of the truck with her, still trying vainly to heal her even though he knew it was no use. When we got to the shaman's house, he insisted (despite his 2 Strength) on carrying her into the house (and he succeeded, damn it). Joe the troll tried to get 'Hawk to allow him to carry her, but he just snarled at Joe to leave him alone. Joe told him not to be such a bastard about it—Val was his friend too, after all. But 'Hawk was hearing none of it. All the characters' tempers were a bit frayed at this point.

This all worked so well that even the players were depressed. A funk fell over the game. Joe and 'Wraith sat in the shaman's house, each in his own corner, and introspected. 'Hawk went outside to be alone. Ocelot took a walk. Eventually they all gravitated toward each other. I don't remember if they left together, but I do know that none of them were the same for a long time after that. Even dealing with the cause of Val's death didn't make them feel any better. Or us. Even losing an NPC can cause some emptiness sometimes.

We've had dozens of little moments like this in our game. Most of them are much less large-scale than these; just a few minutes of really getting into the groove before someone slips out of character or something distracts us or breaks the mood. But to me, these little moments are what the game's about.