My friend Michael Satran died yesterday, from an inoperable brain tumor.
There are likely people out there who can write something more eloquent about Michael, people who had a different perspective on his work—like Jason Walters—or a different perspective on his life—such as his long-running gaming group. There are people who can write something about Michael’s impact on this Earth with more insight, with more detail. I write this as a way to deal with the emotional shadow that looms over my mind and spirit since I learned of his death.
I had known for a while that he was not well; mutual friends told me Michael was in the hospital, that the prognosis was not good. I attempted to speak with him a few times, hoping I could learn more, that I could console him, that I would learn somehow that our struggling medical system could work a miracle.
And then, he was gone. I heard about it yesterday morning during Essen Spiele, my first time at that particular convention, and I just kind of froze for a while. I sat, unable to move, unable to really see what was going on around me, except to think that – ironically – Michael would have loved to have been there.
I’ve known Michael Satran for over twenty years. We played Shadowrun online together in the early 90’s on sites like the Shadowrun: Seattle MUX. We met in person during 2000 at Gen Con in Milwaukee, the same year I met other friends like Sean Patrick Fannon, and the same year I became a professional in the gaming industry.
So many of my memories of Michael are from gaming conventions. Nearly all of them.
I saw Michael at least once a year, every year. Often, we would get a chance to meet and talk multiple times at different gaming conferences like Chupacabracon. Michael always wore a suit – it was a reflection of his day job as a suit salesman, something he was exceptionally good at, but it was also, in a way, his signature. You could tell people to look for Michael by finding “the guy in the suit.” He made a good living selling suits, and he was exceptionally knowledgeable about the field. When I needed a good-looking suit to attend the Air Force Ball earlier this year, I called Michael – and he got me hooked up in style.
That is because Michael’s greatest skill was his generous spirit. Michael never, not once, refused to give aid or assistance if he could. He regularly helped other gamers find lodgings at conventions, bought meals, provided rides, extended contacts. Michael was the guy you turned to if you needed something, because he would always—always—have your back.
Michael loved gaming, especially RPGs. He had it in his soul. Michael never seemed more alive than when he was talking about the games he ran for his home group, or while discussing his own projects for Blackwyrm Games or later, High Rock Press. Michael loved running games as well—he would obsess over getting every detail right, from the character sheets to the crazy scenarios (he once described to me an amazingly unique adventure set in a miniaturized superhero base hidden inside a soda can). I had the honor to game with Michael, both as a player when he GM’d, and with him as a fellow player in other games over the years. He was passionate about our industry, about our hobby, about the ways that games make people feel things.
Champions was Michael’s RPG of choice. He played the game continuously for decades. Both of us were fans of the game system, and both of us were determined to get into the game industry to create some things of our own. Michael achieved that goal and created several adventures for the Hero System, with one of the last being a very impressive setting/campaign called Journey to the Center of the Earth. He was a remarkably dedicated writer, and produced not just a sizable body of work in the gaming industry, but also created his own novel.
There are more things I could say about him, more that I could tell you about his struggles, his personality, his challenges. Yet, this is not, and should not, be a dry list of accomplishments or facts. Michael was more than those things. He was a friend, a confidant, a man who embraced life and found fulfillment in bringing other people the same sense of joy that he carried inside his heart.
Today, I will rage against the world because he is no longer in it. I will angrily shout that was too young. I will lament that I will never get to show him my own games anymore, that there was so much more for him to see and do, that he was an inspiration.
Goodbye Michael. I will miss you.