There was a very funny short story in Dragon Magazine many years back, written by Roger E. Moore (I believe) and dedicated to his wife. It told the tale of a storytelling contest in which various heroes were bragging about which of them was the mightiest. In the end, a woman laughing off to one side is challenged due to her deriding the heroes, and when asked what feat she may have accomplished that could compare to even the least of theirs, she stands up, revealing her awesome treasures, flawless charisma, etc., and calmly states “My husband is the Dungeon Master.” At that, everyone looks to the ceiling, as if expecting bolts from the blue, and when they realize it must be true, they quietly make their excuses and leave.
I always got a laugh from this story, but the truth is that I’ve had this come up. As someone who’s romantically involved with one of my players, I try to keep favoritism out, especially in the LARPs I run, where there are 30+ other players than my husband to think of. If you have a significant other in a game, it’s time to learn to juggle a bit. So let’s look at this thorny little problem, shall we?
Favoritism Running Amok
My hubby Steve and I once played in a Star Wars game together, along with several other players, including a woman whose boyfriend was the GM. After one particularly egregiously high damage role, I asked, “What the heck are you firing?”
“An E-Web blaster rifle,” she proudly proclaimed.
“You do realize,” I asked, raising an eyebrow, “that’s a rifle that has to be set up on a tripod and takes three people to shoot it.”
Both she and the GM looked sheepish. “Oh… I… didn’t realize.”
You get the idea. It’s easy, when one of your players is someone you love, to look the other way…to fudge the dice…to make sure just the right magic item is in there. But it’s your job, as GM, not to play favorites. I’ve killed my husband’s characters. Yes, I have. I don’t go out of my way to do it. I want my husband to enjoy the game, just like I want all my players to enjoy the game, but I also want there to be a hint of danger.
Too Far the Other Way
Sometimes I worry, as I’m trying to very desperately not to show favoritism towards my husband, that I’m going too far…or that it’ll be perceived that I’m going too far. My husband loves to play strikers…specifically, he loves to play melee strikes like monks and barbarians. He realizes he’s playing a glass cannon that makes a lot of people want to attack him. Unfortunately, our party’s defender in the game where he plays a monk hasn’t really gotten the hang of drawing enemies away from his squishier party members yet. So Steve’s monk ends up taking a lot of damage.
Someone watching might think I’m gunning for my hubby, but it just isn’t so. In fact, he’s learning to delay til after the defender goes and then jump in. Yay for learning!
It’s always important to let things that happen Out of Game stay Out of Game, but it can be hard, when you’re dealing with someone with whom there’s so much emotion invested. Have a blow-out with your partner just before a game? It’s going to be really hard if you’re supposed to be running a fun, light-hearted adventure with your S.O. in the limelight. If it’s very bad, it might be time to run a different game, or just play board games.
The Balancing Act
Ideally, you want to treat your S.O. just like all the other players. I’m fortunate in that, at the LARP, there’s lots of other plot people who can target your S.O.’s. If you had nothing to do with the plotline where your S.O. is named the heir to the throne of Umberland, then it can be hard for players to accuse you of showing too much favor.
In my home games, though, I try to make sure that I balance my S.O.’s characters needs with all the other players. Luckily, he’s easy to please, and what the others enjoy, he generally enjoys, too. In fact, having him in the game is a downright boon, because he loves making props to enhance a scene.
How About You?
Anyone ever play a game in which they were the GM, and an S.O. was a player? Or maybe you were a player, and your S.O. was the GM? Was there favoritism? Were there any tricks you played to avoid it? Let me know!
One of the biggest challenges of writing these articles, actually, is in coming up with topics that others might find interesting. Is there anything folks want to see me tackle? Any gaming advice they’d like to see me explore? Maybe a romantic angle you think I might have insight on? By all means, let me know!