"Who?" I hear everyone asking. "Never heard of him."
No, you never did, almost certainly, unless you read a post I made on my LiveJournal about five years ago. Much of this Under the Influence post is taken from that tribute post.
Steve was my friend -- one of my first "older" friends, someone significantly older than I was who treated me as a full equal (he was about 10 years older than me). From a social point of view, Steve would never impress anyone. He was very intelligent, but never ended up in a job or position that would gain much respect from many people – he worked in generally low-level jobs in retail establishments when I knew him. But what he was -- or what he at least allowed most people to see -- was generally cheerful, kind, clever, and capable at what needed to be done. He was tall (about 6'2"), usually on the heavy side, dark haired -- with the kind of black hair that means that you look like you have five o'clock shadow about three minutes after shaving.
He was my roommate -- along with Ed Lord (HI ED!) in my first home away from home. In many ways that was a classic bachelor's pad, with a Geek Twist; RPGing every night, eating very unhealthy foods, etc. But Steve Reed also taught me a lot, without my ever really thinking about it. Not that other people didn't -- and in fact if I had not been raised by people who WERE tolerant and reasonably open-minded, I couldn't have learned much from him or anyone else -- but his example taught me a lot of things, some big, some small.
Steve showed me that it's okay to be happy with stuff that other people wouldn't be. Steve, as I said, never became the CEO of a big company, never became a famous author, never got a high-paying professional job. But he still had FUN. He might be living in a small apartment and saving only a little here and there, but that wasn't a good reason to curse at life. It was a good reason to get as much fun out of the life he had.
Steve was a hell of a RPGer, and I learned a lot of things about gaming -- and, because it's so intimately connected in my case, about writing -- from Steve. He first demonstrated that you could run games on power levels that made other people gag, and still have STORIES. He taught me that a good GM notices when the players aren't happy, and fixes the game without the players even realizing that he's changed anything directly. He pushed me into learning how to really roleplay -- because HE did.
He also showed me that the games were really about the people, not about the Stuff -- and it wasn't because he didn't appreciate the Cool Stuff. He could be a quite unashamed munchkin at times, in terms of the incredibly powerful characters he'd play (two of them enshrined on Usenet in my "Most Munchkin Party" thread of some years ago), but he played them as CHARACTERS -- people with very individual personalities, needs, desires, and weaknesses. This differentiated him drastically from many other people, including some that we played with, who focused on the power the character had, rather than what the character was like.
As players, we worked together extremely well. The first in-game romance I ever played out was between one of my characters (Tarellimade Shantrakar) and his character, the Princess Koriand'r (yes, a D&Dish version of that character). The romance took well over a year to reach its final conclusion, the wedding of the two characters. I have no doubt that many other players found this "weird", even uncomfortable – but that, too, was something that Steve may not have taught me but reinforced in me, that you shouldn't care about what other people think, only about whether what you do actually hurts anyone or not.
Steve was also the source of the only sequence of events that I have ever encountered that made me wonder about the existence of the paranormal: when I rolled, and he concentrated, we could do ludicrous things with dice, especially D100s (two D10s, rolled to produce numbers between 1 and 100 (100 being a double-zero). It worked to a somewhat lesser extent if I concentrated and he rolled. But not with anyone else.
He had quite a book collection for someone who usually had very limited funds; it was through his collection that I first walked in Amber, flew with the dragons of Pern, found out about the Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything, and many other books. He also encouraged me to build my own world, and helped me realize that the most important thing I could do in that world was to make it LIVE -- as a universe that made its own form of sense. The stories would take care of themselves if the world was real.
Steve also eventually got married to a very nice girl named Laura (about my own age) and had a daughter. And then -- during a time when I had lost track of him -- he suddenly passed away, dying in front of his own little girl, at an age when most guys aren't even seriously considering retirement. I don't even know exactly what day or year. I just know that one day I found out he was gone, and the world was just a little darker that day.
I miss Steve. The memory that triggered my original reminisces on him was recalling the climactic moment of a V&V campaign, where my character -- Thor, God of Thunder -- had been separated from Mjolnir for months (thus, as this was a "Thor" of the original Marvel type, reducing him to his mortal guise), the great Hammer cast into some unknown dimension by my archenemy, the extradimensional god Valameon. But with the aid of the other heroes in the Enforcers, eventually we tracked down the Hammer, broke through the defenses around it, and slew or drove off the aliens who guarded it... and then, standing at the very Nexus of time and space, I reclaimed Mjolnir and the power of the Thunder God, with the single bellow of "VALAMEON!!!" that echoed across the universe...
... and after a tiny pause, in which all reality seemed to hold its breath, a single distant voice was heard: "Oh, SHIT."
Drama and comedy compressed to a perfect single gaming moment.
I wish Steve could have met my kids. Could have read my books. Could have seen that yeah, I did get a real life.
I'm glad I met him. The world is poorer for not having him.
I would like to believe there is an afterlife, because then he might be reading this.