So it turns out, after seeing the appropriate doctors yesterday, that I do not have cancer. The growth that has appeared on my back in the last year is benign, and I am told it is nothing to worry about. Well this is good news.
It does highlight the conversation I had with my offline players two weekends ago that there is a foreseeable upper limit to how long I can practicably play D&D as a dungeon master. No, I'm not talking about my death. But with my 47th birthday being in three weeks, I realize that it is harder and harder to keep in my head the level of detail necessary to manage as many as eight or nine players at one time. It gets harder to pull their attention back to the table, it gets harder to get as animated as I need to get to compel the excitement of the events going on, and in particular it is a drain and a half to manage the many, many little rules that go into a combat. My memory is starting to go; facts which I knew solidly ten years ago slip my mind now, such as the ranges of spells or what it takes for a 6 HD creature to hit AC zero, or the saving throw for a 3rd level fighter. These are things I used to know once without needing a book. Now I find I must look them up.
The upper limit for DMing, I am guessing, would be about 60. I might do a little after that, with very small, patient parties who don't mind if their doddering old referee nods off once or twice while the party debates on and on about the best way to enter a difficult fortress. I trust they won't mind that I have to pee seventeen times in a night, or that it takes longer for me to get to the bathroom and back again. Perhaps I can have some kind of monitor mounted on my walker that will allow me to digitally run the game from the toilet.
I think I'll be able to play into my 80s. Oh, I might need some whippersnapper to add up my experience points or nudge me into action when its my turn to roll to hit, but I'm sure the grandchildren won't mind their grandfather's little idiosyncracies. I should still be able to strategize for a few intense minutes before getting distracted by my aching hips. The young'uns will appreciate the many stories I have to tell about flame wars on the internet or my detailed, lost-when-the-computer-fried trade tables. How could they not?
Unlike the hapless inventors of the game, I do plan to live into my 80s, even my 90s, despite my recent scare. My theory is that Cheetos are effectively little age-stealing bombs, lethal in combination with Mountain Dew, causing many to die in their 60s. We'll see how that goes.
Then again, I could die of a brain embollism at any time, lance in hand.