Coupling: Amanda & Frank
How many times have you watched a movie or/and television show to see that one person in the relationship is viewed as either ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ and the other ‘normal’? Oh, that lonely geek wishing for love and understanding from the so-called normal person.
In these interviews we are more on the side of celebrating the couples who share the beloved hobby of tabletop role-play. Some got the other into the hobby, others met through it, some still play, others don’t, some role-play together and some rarely do so but share a mutual love of games.
Why touch on this? Because sharing something you love with someone you love is how we can share time with one another. It’s a conversation piece, a way of bonding and possibly further understanding one another.
Seth and I often role-play together. There are a lot of ways in which both are different, but this is a hobby that we both share and love for the same or different reasons. I tend to be curious about how other couples view the hobby.
In this series we interviewed different couples and how they manage to separate their love for each other and the love for the game.
Because love is never having to say you’re sorry or explaining to your beloved in front of the party how to be a better GM.
FIRST, OUR INTERVIEWEES:
My name is Amanda, I am comic artist and freelancer illustrator. You can check my work at www.explodingcomics.com, there are loads of comics about gaming there! When I was 8 years old I got my first Mega Drive for Christmas, and playing all sorts games has been my main hobby ever since. I’m very outgoing, and a great lover of folk metal and beer.
My name is Frank, I'm 27 and currently studying History and English at UCD Dublin, with a focus on Medievalism (big surprise!). I also write things, and got some of my short stories published in Brazil. I've had a mild addiction to games in general since forever, as I got my first Atari 2600 when I was 5. I am not nearly as outgoing as Amanda, share her love for folk metal, drink cider instead of beer and play the ukulele.
Amanda: He totally introduced me to folk metal!
Oh yeah, and we are both Brazilian, currently living in Dublin, Ireland.
How long have you been playing games individually?
Amanda: My first role-playing game session was when I was 17, 13 years ago. Those guys became my best friends for life and up to this day, living 17 thousand kilometers apart, we still meet on Skype for D&D and League of Legends sessions. They are my brothers from another mother and I think the strength of this bond came from all those all-night game sessions.
Frank: I began playing somewhere around my 11th birthday, when I got the AD&D 2nd Ed. Player's and Dungeon Master's Handbooks (the Monster Manual was on backorder and was always a dreamed possession), although my first RPG book ever was a copy of GURPS 2nd edition that I got from my aunt a few months before that.
How long have you been playing games together?
Amanda: I met Frank because of Role-Playing Games. When I moved into the town where we met, friends of mine introduced me to the local players. We have been playing together for 9 years, which means that our gaming friendship is 3 years older than our relationship.
Frank: Yeah, what she said, although we have very predictably played together much more since we started dating.
Amanda: Sometimes naked.
What are your favorite systems?
Amanda: Dungeons and Dragons 3.5! Frank, stop trying to make me play D&D Next! Can we please have a 3.5 session?
Frank: I bought the books, so we are darn well playing it! Funny enough, my favourite system is actually Shadowrun, but D&D has always been the main thing (I even got a d20 tattoo on my calf when I was 18). My favourite editions would be 2nd and 5th.
Do any of you GM/DM?
Amanda: I have never ran a game, and most groups we have are ran by Frank, so it’s less common for us to actually play together.
Frank: Yeah, nowadays I mostly GM, although Amanda has more than once considered running a game of her own. I'm still waiting for that Alien versus Predator D20 Modern campaign that I know you have written!
How is the dynamic GM/DM vs player?
Amanda: As Frank usually spends a couple of nights preparing his campaigns, I take this time to do my Character Sheets and look into the system. We avoid discussing the campaign beforehand so I don’t have extra information or advantage over the other players. Or spoilers, for that matter. On our way back home, he usually asks me if the session was good, what were the good and bad moments and what he can do to improve. On the other side, he criticizes my role-playing and helps me improve my characters.
Frank: I actually use her as my campaign thermostat nowadays, especially because I know that she will always come forward with any issues/criticism when other people would just let it go. Because I know Amanda's gaming style very well by now, I end up being able to write my games with the minimal amount of railroading possible, since I know for certain that she'll always be the one to move things forward when needed be.
How do you make it clear that you are not playing favorites when players know or find out you’re a couple?
Amanda: As most of our groups are composed by good friends of ours, they know that Frank has a fair judgement when it comes to dividing items, handing XP or rolling dice. He has a system that I really appreciate that when he is rolling dramatic actions that could kill players or significantly change the story, he rolls in front of us. He is very fair, which is great at times, but also means that he will kill your character with no mercy.
Frank: I have a very hands-off way of GMing, which sure helps. To be honest, I don't think I'd have been able to develop my style that way were it not for having Amanda at all my games. If anything, I tend to be harsher on her when we have new people at our games, since I know that she has enough experience to get herself out of anything.
What are your feelings when someone expresses romantic interest in your significant other’s character in game? If this is okay- how do you let your players know this?
Amanda: It’s fair enough, it’s a game. I find really amusing when you manage to get so caught up in the game that you develop relationships with the characters. Whoever knows me and Frank knows that this is ok, for me being jealous of a character relationship would be like being jealous of a movie - it doesn’t make sense. In one Valentine's Day (which accidentally coincides with our anniversary), we played a LARP where you would get a pre-made character and dance with the people in the ballroom to try to find your one true love. In the end, we ended up matched with other people, but we had a lot of fun and would totally do it again.
Of all these years gaming together, only once our characters had a relationship in game, but it was a case where my character would totally do that. It was really funny because we had a passive-aggressive relationship in front of the group, but started seeing each other behind them, so only the GM knew for a while.
Frank: If it's a game I'm running I'll be honestly flattered that the immersion got to that point. If not, it's like she said: I don't see much sense in jealousy over fictional characters in the same way that I don't see a point of being mad over her fawning over Toshiro Mifune.
Amanda: Hmmmm Toshiro Mifuneeee...
What games do you enjoy playing together the most?
Amanda: RPG-wise we play a lot, and I do mean a LOT of D&D. We play some Scion and Cyberpunk too, as well as Werewolf and Vampire LARPs eventually, but since College got crazy we gave them a break. We love board games, and Stone Age is one of our favorites. We play League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and Neverwinter Online together. We also have a PS3, for which we are struggling a lot to find 2 player co-op games, but we did find some nice ones like War in the North and Tokyo Jungle.
Frank: We do tend to have a great time together with whatever we are playing. That said, we tend to have a better time with cooperative games than with competitive one, not because we don't like competing against each other, but because we are not very fond of competition with other people.
Amanda: I am way less competitive than Frank, and tend to enjoy co-ops more at any circumstance.
Frank: I only enjoy competition if I'm allowed to not take it seriously at all.
How often do you discuss games with each other?
Amanda: That is probably our main subject. When we are not discussing games, we are discussing which game to buy next. Or food. It’s important to have food for all this gaming.
Frank: Our normal weekly evening routine tends to be: get home, shower, sit down to read gaming blogs, discuss said gaming blogs, dinner, play a little bit, watch a film in bed and...
Amanda: … THAT’S enough of our routine, Frank, that’s enough.
Are you able to separate personal feelings when gaming?
Amanda: Most definitely! Frank knows how much playing makes chill and puts me in a good mood, so if I had a rough day at work or something he usually pushes us into meeting friends to play some board game or a quick one-shot adventure. It always does the trick.
When we are playing together, our characters tend to disagree and we usually have a passive-aggressive relationship and argue over what the group should be doing. As soon as we are OC we’ll get a beer and laugh over those silly characters opinions.
Frank: Yeah, gaming tends to be our "turn off the world" time, so we never allow game-Frank and game-Amanda to bleed into our real lives.
Amanda: But I do remember that one time that my character was so upset to be in Calimsham, where she was enslaved, that you thought I was actually mad. I guess I role-played a little too hard that day.
What do you feel like you’ve learned the most about your significant other by role-playing together?
Amanda: I learned that Frank builds his characters with passion, that he loves gaming and loves knowing each little detail of the system. I learned how much he loves Cyberpunk culture and independent systems. His characters always have something from his personality as well, which I don’t think is clear for whoever doesn't know him like I do. I profoundly admire the work he puts into his campaigns.
Frank: First of all, Amanda's all about rule of cool. Even though she prefers D&D to any other system, she's not a number cruncher by far, which translated in-game into the fact that most of the time she'd rather talk her way out of a situation than to fight her way out. A funny thing is that we tend to invert role when gaming. In real life Amanda's usually the beloved leader of the pack, to an extent that my games depend on her organizing them. On the other hand, whenever we're gaming together my character tends to take the leadership of the group even when he doesn't want to, for some unknown reason.
Amanda: It’s because you talk a lot, Frank.
What games do you recommend couples playing if they wanted to start gaming together?
Amanda: I would always recommend Dungeons and Dragons. We have introduced a good couple of friends to gaming, and I always push for that stereotypical adventure with that stereotypical party. For me it’s like a rite of passage. It has orcs, it has d20s, it has dark forests full of dangers.
Frank: I thoroughly support everything she just said!
Do you have any advice for couples who want to game together?What has been your most memorable role-play moment so far?
Amanda: Playing together is great, but if I had one advice to give, I’d say that playing together-not-together is also a great way to pass the time. Often I’m on my computer defeating the forces of Good on Dungeon Keeper and Frank is shooting things on Fallout.
My most memorable moment was definitely when, knowing how much I love Forgotten Realms, Frank had us meet Elminster. That day I remember standing up, yelling and almost crying of happiness. Although there was that time that we robbed a pirate ship together, I was a French Fop and he was a Portuguese Captain hired by a mercenary company in Gurps Pirates.
Frank: My only advice would be to play even more. The Elminster and the pirate moments were really great indeed, and I think they might be my favourites as well, along with the time I had them in a trapped room with a slowly opening floor, and started timing their actions in seconds. If anyone took too long I'd yell the next player's name. Almost gave them a heart attack that day! And I'll always remember fondly all the times her pro-animal-rights sorcerer saved my atheist-turned-divine-champion cavalier from his own stupidity.
Amanda: That was not “a moment”, that was a whole campaign, Frank. Please don't roll 8 for Intelligence EVER again.