Jason Zavoda passed away on 22 December 2021. He was a valued member of the Greyhawk online community, and contributed extensively to the CanonFire! web site. He participated regularly in Discord discussions, especially voice chats. He featured as a guest on Jay “Lord Gosumba” Scott’s Legends & Lore Twitch show several times.
However; this was just his “recent” history in a life well lived. Jason is perhaps best known for creating the index of Greyhawk references that evolved into what is now known as Encyclopedia Greyhawkania Index, and is an invaluable tool on the Great Library of Greyhawk wiki. It is thus usually referred to as the Zavoda Index. Beyond the wiki many Greyhawk DMs find it an invaluable tool for research. I cannot say any other DnD setting, or other RPG game, would appear to have such an invaluable index available. That is down to Jason’s original hard work.
I only got to know Jason on the CanonFire! Discord in the last year or so. I cannot say I knew him well at all, and certainly not as well as many in the Greyhawk community, but he was an interesting character and a constant source of lore and stories (both Greyhawk and of life generally). Many a time I would listen into “Greyhawk Radio” (see my separate blog post on the title if you don’t know what I mean) to hear him telling stories, debating lore, and simply chatting. He was a consummate story teller, and published several novels or novellas about Greyhawk (the links on Kindle etc were getting shared amongst discussions about him following his passing – while I had heard reference to them now I need to go check them out!).
Jason had a number of serious heath issues he was quite open about, and knew the chances of him passing away were quite high. His creative output on CanonFire! recently had been quite prolific. He likely wanted to get his ideas into writing and not be lost as a result of passing away. That is our gain as a creative community.
Dealing with his passing also reinforced to me the little on-line community that does exist for Greyhawk. When he had not been heard from for some days people started trying to get in contact with him to check on him. Jay Scott, who I understand lives in the same region, even visited his house to check on him. Sadly someone found an obituary posted for him by his family earlier this week, and the news spread rapidly he had passed. Via Discord, Facebook, Reddit, etc.
Wednesday evening voice chat on the CanonFire! Discord was a virtual on line wake, with people sharing stories and reminiscing about Jason. And also discussing his creative legacy, and where it was stored or available on line and might be best protected to the extent it could (legally, noting the family also has various rights and choices). It was quite heart warming listening to a community marking the passing of one of their own.
Jason will be missed, but his memory will live on in no small part due to his contributions to the role playing game and setting that he clearly loved. With a passion.
Carlos Lising wrote a great tale that is a tribute to Jason that can be found at Greyhawk Stories here. “The Chronicler” is a fitting title for Jason. Carlos beautifully captures some of Jason’s well known peccadillos!
I also note Michael “Leahcim” Raper passed away a few days prior to the Greyhawk community learning about Jason’s passing. He was a less prolific member of the community, but one with a long history and involvement in the RPG and Greyhawk community as well. Michael also had health issues, but clearly continued enjoying gaming despite (or perhaps as an escape from) them. He will also be missed, and his passing similarly was marked by reminiscing on line earlier in the week. As someone said on line, it’s been a rough week for the on-line Greyhawk community this week.
Their passing emphasised to me the importance of on-line social media and gaming technology. Jason and Michael, and many others on an ongoing basis, face health challenges that mean travelling or even attending in person social events including gaming are a risk or even aren’t possible. However, technology made it possible for them to continue participating both socially and in gaming events in a way that would not have been possible say ten years ago. Hopefully as we all move back to a more “normal” existence as the COVID pandemic fades (we hope), it is worth keeping in mind members of our society and community that face these challenges. While I think the move to on-line platforms has been accelerated by COVID, and much of what we do now in that way will continue, it is worth keeping in mind that for some people these platforms are an even more valuable and essential tool. And it is important for us all to continue making an effort to continue including them in activities and events.
Take care people, and stay safe. And a Happy New Year.