Home > Mastering the Game > The Significance of Significant Others

The Significance of Significant Others

A while back, E of Geek’s Dream Girl asked over twitter if folks had a rule at their table about no GFs/wives. She was doing research for an article, which is not yet published, I think. I thought I’d expand on the idea a bit: I don’t have a strict no Significant Others rule. However, I think that especial care has to be taken when choosing to invite a current player’s Significant Other to join your table. I’m sure we’ll write a post about player selection eventually, but for the time being, let’s just say that Stewart and I are really picky when it comes to players and we select based on various criteria. One such criterion is that a player be able to keep real world stuff from intruding as little as possible on game world stuff.

So, if it seems like a player’s relationship is in one of the (many!) stages where every interaction even near their SO is colored by the presence of said SO, then I’m probably not going to invite the SO. If the characters are not romantically involved, will that cause angst amongst the couple? If the characters are strangers and the more experienced player treats the newer one as such, will that cause angst? Reciprocally, if there is angst in the relationship, will the players’ characters stop getting along all of a sudden? This depends heavily on many factors, I think, including (but not limited to, etc.) how long they’ve been together, how mature they both are, how competitive they both are, how experienced they both are at role playing (or acting, maybe, or similar), how… hasty(?) they both are. That last is my attempt to describe the type of person who reacts to events without thinking very much, which usually means they’re reacting on their “gut” or emotions.

I feel like my wife and I have a relationship that could withstand her playing in one of my campaigns, or us playing in a campaign like mine together, except that I know she is very competitive and hasty, so if she felt like she was “losing” (even in a small way), there would be grief for me later. One of my players has a wife and a relationship with her that would fit fine into them both being players, I think, but she would be a terrible role player in a much more general sense, independent of her husband (note this is according to my standards, which makes it highly opinionated and not at all closed to debate). Both of these examples are somewhat moot in that neither wife actually has any interest in roleplaying, but I think they help illustrate the point.

So if you have a player who wants to bring their new flame into the campaign, act cautiously. Don’t rule it out off hand, but be very wary. Explain to the player your misgivings and that your decision, whatever it is, is not personal. If their relationship is new then, in my opinion, you’ll probably be looking at a higher likelihood of drama bleeding over from the game to life or from life to the game. If their relationship is rocky, likewise. Also, don’t forget to vet the SO as if they were an unattached person wanting to join your group: Do they have fun the same way your group does? Do they agree with the same philosophical points about role playing that your group does?

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Categories: Mastering the Game
  1. Rob
    April 1, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I usually GM, and my wife is almost always one of the players. In addition we have another couple in the game, they are engaged (and have been for a while, but that is another story). Both couples met before the current gaming group started, and everyone gamed before meeting their respective SO’s.

    We haven’t experienced troubles building from those pairings, even when my wife’s characters have gotten into trouble (though I did chicken out of killing her once, instead I hamstrung the character for a few sessions — in some ways that was worse). Maybe it’s that this is a mature group (the youngest person is in her twenties), and maybe it’s that we have other connections with each other. That said, I’ve gamed for decades with many groups and with many couples and only seen a problem develop from SO’s at the table once (and technically that was away from the table, she wanted to stop gaming he didn’t. They’ve both adjusted their positions). Maybe I’m just lucky.

    • Ben
      April 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm

      I think that’s a great example of doing it right. Experience roleplaying can be a big mitigator to relationship stuff leaking into the game or the inverse. Thanks for sharing (and sorry your comment got held up. For some reason, Akismet thought it was spam).

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