The Gassy Gnoll: Wildfires, Overthinking, and Stress

Occasionally, the Gassy Gnoll can be accused of beating a dead horse. Or poking the bear. To the point where usually the horse comes back to life long enough to exact some grotesque necromantic revenge or gets the bear to do it for him.

What the heck am I talking about? Overthinking. You might have experience with this scenario yourself. Take a concept or idea, ask one round of questions, which leads to another round of questions, and another, incessantly, until such time as you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel and can come up with no additional things to ask or get to a point where your brain rebels and will no longer think about it any more. Either way it’s about the same result and you get stuck.

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

This past week we were dealing with the effects of a local wildfire burning near my house in Colorado. We were 6 miles at one point from the southwest corner of the blaze. People were evacuated (and still are) from their homes. Entire swaths of a forested, populated area are destroyed, and more than 500 homes have been burned to the ground at the latest count.

But as you might imagine, the local news crews were doing their best to cover this fire (and the other 3 all burning simultaneously elsewhere in the state) nearly 24 hours a day. You could turn on the TV at any point and someone would be there to talk to you in a calm tone about the latest areas affected on the map, progress (or a lack thereof) by the firefighters, who was to be evacuated next, and so on. After nearly a day and a half of this coverage I couldn’t watch any more. I was so amped up that it was too emotionally draining to hear the latest news about an area on fire we knew we had friends or family living in.

As a result, I would instead catch the latest coverage on Facebook via an updated map or status message. Bite sized messages explaining things quickly and concisely. Much easier to digest without going crazy.

So what does all of this have to do with gaming? By the second day, I was pondering how disasters could be used in roleplaying campaigns. (You’ll see a guest post at the Iron Tavern later this week that came out of that line of thinking.) By the end of the week I was wondering how the results of a fire could be brought into play as required or specialized spell components. (“You must find earth burned by the breath of a dragon…” or “Find charred wood left behind by a lightning strike…”) By the end of the weekend I was debating how else I could squeeze articles out of this tragic event and my brain simply wouldn’t process it any longer.

My psyche was simply trying to deal with the stress of knowing people were in harms way trying to save homes and land by turning the situation back to something I could deal with – gaming topics. And eventually it burned itself out. Did I get some ideas out of it? Sure. Did it help me worry a bit less about the situation at hand? Definitely. But it came to a logical end.

The brain is a strange landscape under the best of conditions, but when you pile on additional stresses it gets even weirder.

Has anyone else dealt with this kind of a situation using gaming as a tool? What resulted from that experience? How did you turn something negative into a positive?

Curious minds want to know!

Thankfully the fire is mostly contained now and many people have been returning to their homes. If you’re interested in stats about the fire, you can find it at the InciWeb Incident Information System. We’re thankful that so many resources came to our aid in Colorado during a tough time and hope that fire season doesn’t get any further out of hand this summer.

And I’m sure you’ll see another article or two about the fire before I’m done dealing with this!

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