Coupling: Ari & Seth
For our final Coupling interview, we get to talk to the woman behind it all!
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:
Hi. I’m Seth. I’m married to Ariana and I apologize for her behavior in the past and in advance. We’ve known each other for 9 years, been a couple for 7 years, and married for 4 years. I’m an elementary school teacher here in Nashville, Tennessee. I teach 2nd or 3rd grade mostly. I like brainwashing children into enjoying geek culture when given the opportunity.
I’m Ariana. I work at a non-for-profit organizing other people, write about games for Contessa and attempt to keep Seth in line. By in line I mean making sure all liberal brainwashing is done in the most legal and ethical ways. Gotta keep that sweet, sweet teacher money.
How long have you been playing games individually?
Seth: I never played games before you so I find this question to be bullshit!
Ari: I’ve been doing free-form role-play since I was 14 or 15, I did Star Wars Tabletop at 19, D&D at 20 and then returned to games later on after convincing him to read D&D.
How long have you been playing games together?
Seth: I started when you suggested I read D&D 4E and run a game. I had never played in much less run an rpg before so I jumped in the deep end. Ever since then we pretty much play everything together. I typically run games and you are forced to play in them against your will.
Ari: Declaimer: I suggested him to just read D&D, I had no idea that 4E had come out. I didn’t think he would run it but for some mystifying reason he did because he’s an overachiever. Thankfully this didn’t ruin him and he still was determined to marry me. Huh.
What are your favorite systems?
Seth: I am such a Powered by the Apocalypse fanboy it makes me sick sometimes, in particular Monsterhearts and Urban Shadows. I also love Fate Accelerated and want to run/play it more. Fiasco is also a fun Altoid of a game. I have tried my best to get into crunchier things but I am too lazy and was never very good at Math.
Ari: I really like the Apocalypse system because you can hit it running. A lot of times when we would go into D&D there would be a lot of preparing involved which lead to arguments on ‘Why didn’t you read these pages?!’ and by the way, that still happens when I forget to select a character type in advance. I also came to realize that I like anything Jason Morningstar makes or games that can induce emotions since I am a void of emotions in real life.
Do any of you GM/DM?
Seth: I rarely play, mostly GM, because I’m a teacher and I need to keep these children in order. The longest campaigns I’ve run have been a Monsterhearts one that clocked in at around 15 sessions and my current Urban Shadows: Los Angeles series that’s approximately 20 sessions and going for about 4 more.
Ari: When I do GM, Seth tends to be the player that will attempt to find a way to manipulate the rest of the characters in some shape or form.
How is the dynamic GM/DM vs player?
Seth: I have the highest expectations for you as a player. This ultimately leads to numerous post-session arguments.It’s sort of a preview of what having a child will be like. Unrealistically high expectations leading to shouting matches. There are times when you run a game, that afterwards I feel like I got bumped to the side. You claim I was “stealing the spotlight” which on consideration is probably true because I am so fucking good.
Ari: Seth is a nice person to the following:
Some child, not all.
The owners to the bakery we go to.
The moment he is at his worst is role-playing as he sits and contemplates how to make everyone’s life horrible which is absolutely fantastic and terrifying at the same time. He does steal the spotlight, he does insane Southern accents, he plays pathetic or horrible characters. He manipulates, lies, does everything necessary to get what he wants in game. Always in game. Did I mention he is sometimes nice to me?
How do you make it clear that you are not playing favorites when players know or find out you’re a couple?
Seth: I actually think I do play favorites often with you. Now you may not think I am, but, I often put pressure on your characters with tougher choices than most because I want to see what choices you will make that will drive the story in a particular direction. I think you may perceive it as picking on you but it’s loooooove. I am also sure our fellow players will attest that she probably gets what ever the opposite of “special treatment” would be.
Ari: I try to balance out scenes as much as possible. It’s not that it’s hard to do, there are couples who have practice and do this flawlessly but since we’re married, spend a lot of our free time together it’s hard not to talk about ideas of what could or can’t be. If we talk about games we talk about mechanics or past scenes, we avoid future plots because we’re invested in the game although I acknowledge that there is no way to ‘win’ a tabletop role-play game, it’s just about making a good fucking story.
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?
Seth: I’m not going to say it’s totally fine. There’s a little bit of my brain that gets a little harumph-y, but no other players have ever gotten graphic or gone to far with it so it ends up not being too bad. Though, I am the GM most of the time so I can just kill a fictional rival off if I really want to. Otherwise, I just pretend I am fine with it and then have terrifying nightmares where she leaves me for one of the characters in a game, wake up in a cold sweat, and cry myself back to sleep. So...in short, I take it pretty well.
Ari: Most of the time I feel like a troll by leaning in and asking them to explain how one player’s character likes his. I don’t know if this reflects something in me but quite honestly I know it’s fiction, he knows it’s fiction. No one has ever turned to me and said ‘By the way when your werewolf rolled a +10 to turn me on, I really felt it’, you know? Despite all joking, we’re solid. I trust him so much that he will never wake me up as he cries himself to sleep because I need my sleep.
What games do you enjoy playing together the most?
Seth: I think Urban Shadows has been the most frequent one as of late, with Tremulus being a close second. On the right night, with the right fellow players, our Fiasco games have been some of the best. I think any game where I have the ability to put her character through the wringer whether emotionally or physically are fun. There’s this moment where she starts laughing hysterically at certain things I throw out and I have to take a minute to figure out if it’s because what I did was funny or she is having a mental breakdown. You know, that happens a lot out of game too, hm…
Ari: I laugh not to cry.
Although I really like playing card games, I am oddly competitive in the means of shoving it in his face that I’ve won but not caring if I lose. Seth is a good player with fantastic ideas when it comes to role-play but he never gets emotionally wrangled like I do because he feeds off the sorrow and anger from others.
How often do you discuss games with each other?
Seth: Every single fucking day!
Ari: It’s the one thing holding this relationship together. That and Origins. That’s right, Origins, we’re only staying together for you.
Are you able to separate personal feelings when gaming?
Seth: I know *I* am able to...I can’t speak for others…
Ari: Don’t speak for me, Harris. Only my lawyers do. (I love you, please don’t leave me.)
What do you feel like you’ve learned the most about your significant other by role-playing together?
Seth: That’s hard to say, I felt like I knew you pretty well before we ever started playing games. How about that I’m pretty sure you use weighted dice during IRL play. Seriously, who rolls 11s and 12s that fucking often!
Ari: Seth likes organization in games, he likes organized GMs. I like organized GMs. I’ve gotten into games where the person is rather aloof to what they’re doing and then don’t like to ask questions from players to get help.
Also I’m sorry I’m that lucky. If someone in this marriage is going to get a happy ending it’s ME (again, I love you.)
What games do you recommend couples playing if they wanted to start gaming together?
Seth: Fiasco is a good starter for anyone. Low on mechanics, but not quite a “party game”.
Ari: You mean you shouldn’t start with D&D with your inexperienced partner and hope for the best? But Fiasco is a good start or Zombie Cinema. GMless games with a simple dice system can slowly indoctrinate your beloved to join you in gaming to then cry themselves to sleep at night because they’re having too much fun.
Do you have any advice for couples who want to game together?
Seth: Make sure one of you is an insane control freak who amasses hundreds of games on a Dropbox folder. That way you’ll never run out of fun times.
Ari: Just have fun. Also a monthly Dropbox subscription is worth it if you want to keep your bookcase from looking relatively normal.
What has been your most memorable role-play moment so far?
Seth: In our last Urban Shadows session I had my version of the Church of Scientology causing problems, particularly their hunters who saw werewolves as one of the unclean. They got ahold of a moon amulet that let them “erase” the wolf nature of Inglewood, the neighborhood your Wolf lived in. Your people had enchanted a building and holed themselves up in it only to find the foundation was covered in explosives. The evil Scientology hunters gave you a countdown to either come out or you and your people die. The final scene was you standing at the end of the enchantment, the leader of the hunters smirking in triumph, then cut to black. We’ll find out what you decided soon I guess.
Ari: I know this is solely what is supposed to be between us but I’ve loved watching Seth role-play with other people because it is so rare he gets to be a player. Mark Truman-Diaz was kind enough to run Cartel for us. His character shot mine, standing above her body and waiting for her to convince him to not let her bleed out. A lot of times, I think people will think we’ll be inclined to help the other but in reality we won’t. We will try to go hard after the other’s character, attempting to either attack or even manipulate the other. Our first time running Monsterhearts as players, alone as the third player couldn’t make it, we nearly killed off our characters refusing to run from the fight. We had lost all of our strings, both were in our darkest self and the MC was basically having to have us stop the game because we were both willing to kill our characters off to win the fight.
This probably shows passion or recklessness or whatever. I don’t regret introducing him to games, our bank account does.