I’ve been a tabletop roleplayer since I was 16 (which was 26 years ago, in case you’re wondering). Since then, most of my friends have been gamers of various kinds, and I eventually married the man who introduced me to tabletop RPGs in the first place. I’ve played with and run for some of my nearest and dearest. And even if my friends don’t game with me, I support their love of games because I’ve seen how much play enriches human life.
I’m also a natural born Goth, and so is my husband. I was raised on horror films from a young age and have always been drawn to the dark. Once I was allowed to dress myself, I wore black. At 16, I also started to attend funerals. I’m honestly not sure how many I’ve been to by now, and a good number have been for loved ones. But death is a normal part of my life and my heart belongs to the dead as well as the living, and everyone who knows me knows that. So it's no surprise that one of the chapters of my book, Drow of Porphyra, features the Strivog, a tribe that worships death and uses every part of the dead - or that I'm writing this right now.
A while back, I saw an ad for Artisan Dice’s Memento Mori dice, which are made from human bones. Sounds like they would be right up my alley, right? After all, I’m usually fascinated by mementoes and new methods of disposing of human remains. And technology has brought us more ways to memorialize folks. We can have ashes sent up with fireworks, pressed into vinyl records, mixed with tattoo ink, or shot into space. What a time to be Goth!
The Memento Mori dice are lovely, but it wasn’t just the cost (at nearly $300 each) that gave me pause. No, it was the matter of respecting the dead. You see, the bones came from people who left their bodies to science. Most of them probably did so with the understanding that their remains would eventually be interred, not sold for profit. Something about it just didn’t feel right to me, so I passed the dice by.
I wish I could say that had been the end of it for me, but it wasn’t - and reading this weird article might not be the end of it for you, either. These important aspects of my life have recently come together in a new way, and I want to share what happened with my fellow gamers. Because more crafters will offer dice sets with human ashes or bones, and more gamers will pass away. You might not know what you want done with your remains yet, and you might not know how to respond when offered dice made from the ashes of someone you cared about. But it doesn't have to be horrible, and perhaps my experience can help you figure out how you feel about all of this.
One of my oldest friends, J., loves games. His first wife made it difficult for him to play D&D with us, but he never gave up on games completely. After his divorce, he got to play all he wanted. When he met B. and they hit it off, he invited her to enjoy games with him. At the same time, he invited her to get to know us, his longtime pals. When I saw how open she was to J., games, and his friends, I was so glad. When they moved in together, I was happy for them both.
When B. was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years later, we were all worried, but she was so determined that all we could do was cheer her on. And she beat it. For about a year, she was in remission. And then she discovered it had come back and spread, and we were scared. She was determined to fight again, and fight she did. J. was right beside her the whole way. They’d talked about getting married before, but her treatment needs gave them new urgency.
They had already asked me if I would preside over their wedding someday. I've never been a wedding person, but I was so honored that I had to accept. I made sure to get ordained so I would be ready when they were. So in May of 2020 - amidst the insanity of the COVID-19 pandemic - I presided over their nuptials with my husband as ring-bearer and many folks watching via Zoom.
Then, around Christmas, after months of treatment, everything went terribly wrong. She went in for a procedure and things spiraled out of control. Then, I got the call: she was gone, but not yet expired. She was on life support but without enough brain function. All hopes were lost, except for the hope to give her a loving exit - which J. did. I started 2021 by presiding over her memorial services via Zoom, less than a year after performing their wedding service. B. was only 37 years old. To say it felt like a nightmare does it no justice.
Recently, J. decided that he’d like to use some of B.'s ashes to have dice made, and he asked if we’d like to have one. Now that gave me pause. Like, full stop. Because it’s one thing to think about owning dice made from the bones of strangers, and another thing to have one made from the ashes of someone you love. I knew I couldn’t answer right away, and as usual, J. was totally cool with me taking some time to think it over and talk with my husband, Nate.
I’m a longtime Goth gamer, but the only ashes in our house belong to our late kitty boy. I knew that there’s no way J. would do anything to disrespect B., but I just didn’t know how to feel about it. Would I be able to roll that die? Would I hide it away? Would B. have been okay with the idea? And that’s when I remembered how much fun B. was. She was vivacious, spirited, and up for just about anything. I could easily imagine her egging me on: “Let’s kick some ass!”
When I was finally able to talk about it with Nate, he agreed that while he’s struggled with how to feel, dice are keeping with her spirit, and accepting one is in keeping with who we are and our friendship. And if we end up not being comfortable with the gift, we know we can return it and J. won’t be angry with us. Because, like B.’s friendship, the die is a gift meant to show deep regard for her and us, given with open arms and without strings. And who knows? Maybe we’ll come to marvel at the beauty of the die as we’ve marveled at the beauty of B.'s life.
What does all of this mean for you?
If you’re a gamer, this is an option for your own remains. You can decide how you feel about it, put your wishes in a will, and let your people know. It might wig some people out if you tell them you want your remains made into dice, but you can patiently explain your feelings before the issue comes to pass. This will help others get used to your wishes well before they're carried out.
On the other end of the equation, you may be approached someday about receiving such a gift made from a gamer you knew and cared about. It’s okay to take some time to mull it over. However you feel and whatever you decide for yourself is valid. The key is respect for everyone involved. No matter how weird it feels at first, try to accept the offer as one made in friendship. No matter what your decision is, deliver it with love.
Because in the game of life, being together, sharing our best and worst, and nurturing friendships is how we win.
I love you, J. and B. I love you so damned much.
Please note: This was written with J.'s permission and published with his blessing.
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