Sunday, 8 April 2018

Joel Chapman: In Memoriam

Hi folks,

Two weeks ago my dear friend, Joel, passed away in hospital. On the blog I have always referred to him as KuriboGoomba, to provide him with a bit of anonymity. A Goomba is one of those little mushroom guys from Super Mario Brothers (and Kuribo is the japanese word for the same guys).

Kuribo. Goomba.

Joel and I met on the first day of high school 24 years ago. I had brought a Lone Wolf book to school as a bit of a safety blanket, and our shared interest in gaming brought us together very quickly. He introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, which neither of us took very seriously. We played many, many roleplaying campaigns together, mostly as a strange pairing of Solamnic Knight and Kender Thief: Simoen Swiftblade and Crazy Chester the Dancing Jester. He also introduced me to Battletech; my first love in table-top gaming:

You know the game is serious when Joel is climbing on the table.

We must have played hundreds of games against each other in the past 24 years, often with him representing his beloved Ghost Bears, or delving deep into the underhanded tactics of the Inner Sphere.

Some Ghost Bear Mechs I painted for Joel last Christmas.

I can clearly remember the first game of Magic: The Gathering we ever played. We took his brother's 60 card starter deck and split it in two, so that we could both have a go. We amassed a ton of cards from that day onwards and played almost every day. Some of my fondest memories are of playing MtG with Joel at the local library, waiting to be picked up to go to his place for the weekend. It was that sense of starting an awesome weekend early. I had said to him before he went into hospital that, when he gets out, I was going to get us some of the new MtG set so that we could relive old times.

Joel played quite a bit of 40K back in 2nd Edition, gravitating towards Imperial Guard. We could never afford all of the tanks that he needed, so I bought him some $2 army tanks and painted them up in his regimental scheme (The "Wolfenstein 3rd", if I remember correctly).

Check out the bootleg $2 tanks! With Ork meat shield!

He never was much of a painter, his hands and fingers were... utterly massive. He was an amazing martial artist and piano player, but just couldn't paint the detail on a Citadel minature. Whenever he botched an eye he would turn it into an eye-patch, which left the majority of his army looking like pirates. When 3rd Edition hit the shelves he gave up 40K, but always appreciated the fact that I kept going, even if he didn't enjoy it himself. A few years ago he came over and spent the whole day creating a new paint scheme for my Nids (see the photo at the top of the post). We settled on an Aliens xenomorphy/Fierce Snake scheme which I still use to this day.

Joel and I shared so many other interests/gaming experiences that became pieces of who we were: the Alien movies, Red Dwarf, The Young Ones, Macross, Cowboy Bebop, UFO Enemy Unknown/XCOM, Doom, MechWarrior, Halo, Mass Effect, Morrowind, X-Files, Millenium (which we called "The Bishop Show"), and too many more. He could always be guaranteed to win a board game at the last moment, when everybody thinks it is impossible.

Joel winning at the last moment when Heinz and The Trooper thought it was impossible. Sgt Waz hangs his head in victory/shame.

I think all of us thought he was going to pull the same trick again when we saw him in hospital. In a way, he did score a breathtaking last moment victory. He saved six people through organ donation, including a young child.

Having grown up with Joel so closely, I know there are parts of my character that come from him and our shared experiences. He touched the lives of so many people. Our little gaming group has pulled together just a little tighter, trying to support each other through the shock of losing our chieftain.

I'll see you across the table again one day, my brother.



  1. Just came across on the web, Marc. What a wonderful tribute to Joel.
    Mary and I fondly remember those weekends you spent with Joel in high school and later with the whole gang involved in the various games. Your recollections of Joel's "pirate" army and his climbing on the table made us both laugh. You were such good mates; and it breaks my heart that you can't share in the joy of being fathers now. Kanomi is growing so quickly now - I see Joel's cheeky smile and animated expressions when she laughs at Yoshi. Joel would have been a wonderful father.
    I hope you do see Joel across the table one day - he would be overjoyed.
    All the best.
    Ross (Joel's Dad)

  2. I've only just found this now but he was my Japanese teacher in high school, and one of the best at that. He would always stop by and watch my friends and I play pokemon and join in occcasionally. I've been learning Japanese ever since in his memory and I was upset that I'd forgotten his face. Seeing his face again is simultaneously sad and revitalising. Thank you, for helping me remember again.

    He was an amazing teacher and an even better friend.

    1. Thank you so much for your message; Joel and I spoke about teaching every week and he cared very much for his students (you!). I am a teacher as well, so we would often share stories about our experiences. He watched me play Pokemon with my son a couple of times as well :-) He will always have a presence on this blog, I still find myself being inspired by him all the time. Even if his face is forgotten, the way he touched our hearts will live on and won't go away.