Coupling: Cheyenne & Stentor
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:
Cheyenne Rae Grimes is half of Glittercats Fine Amusements. Due to the fact that most of her first dates turn into therapy sessions, she is pursuing a degree in Psychology at Cleveland State University. In her spare time, she enjoys being a knitter, contra dancer, pop culturalist, avid gamer, mead brewer, and professor of Kittenology.
Stentor: I'm a geography professor, artist, kitten wrangler, and aspiring game designer based out of Pittsburgh. Cheyenne and I make up Glittercats Fine Amusements, http://playglittercats.blogspot.com. We're currently working on an indie RPG about kittens learning to control their lasers.
How long have you been playing games individually?
Cheyenne: I've been gaming for about 7 years now. I played in one small 3.5 campaign and then moved into indie games.
How long have you been playing games together?
Cheyenne: As soon as I meet him, I started inviting him to games. Even during the year and a half that we were broken up, we still gamed together.
Stentor: In retrospect, a lot of the backyard play that my brothers and I did growing up was basically a freeform LARP. But I've been playing "real" RPGs for about 4 years -- which is the same amount of time I've been playing with Cheyenne, since she introduced me (and my other partner) to gaming. This was right around the time Chey and I started dating.
What are your favorite systems?
Cheyenne: I love the *World systems and am a big fan of Fate. However, games with their own mechanics always make me super happy.
Stentor: I'll put a huge caveat here that I haven't played a huge number of different systems (so for example, FATE looks pretty cool but I've never played a Fate game). For more traditional games I like things in the Powered By The Apocalypse family. On the more indie end, I like Fiasco and A Tragedy in Five Acts.
Do any of you GM/DM?
Cheyenne: I do, mainly at cons. I have a little bit of trouble wanting to GM for friends, because I know them and don't want to let them down. I'm currently working on moving past that.
Stentor: We both do! I ran an Apocalypse World campaign that she was in, and she ran Monsterhearts for me. (Another of my partners was a player in both of those games). We've also both run games without the other.
How is the dynamic GM/DM vs player?
Cheyenne: I'm about the same as both, I just love a good story.
Stentor: Ah, ok. I enjoy sharing the gaming experience with my SO's, but our relationship doesn't affect our in-game behavior. As Cheyenne mentioned in her response, we broke up for a while and then got back together, but we continued to play games together through that whole time and nothing changed about how we played. Likewise, I recently broke up with another person who is in our Monsterhearts campaign, and while that has changed our out-of-character interactions quite a bit, the way we interact in-game is still the same. None of us want to mess up the game for everyone by making it a stage for our personal feelings (whether of love or heartbreak).
How do you make it clear that you are not playing favorites when players know or find out you’re a couple?
Cheyenne: I do my best to make sure my character has interactions with all other players. This really isn't an issue because I love my local gaming groups so much that even with a partner sitting at the table, that would not be a big deal to me.
Stentor: This is one of those "proof in the pudding" kind of things. And in any event, what we both want is to make a really cool story, so we'd both hate it if the other tried to "play favorites" in game.
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?
Cheyenne: See, it's a game. Being a poly person makes this a bit easier as well. If something happens in story, fantastic! I love when characters fall in love.
Stentor: I don't have any particular feelings about my SOs' characters getting involved in romance or sex with other characters. In our Monsterhearts campaign, Chey's character has had sex with a bunch of the other PCs, and in my Apocalypse World campaign my other partner hooked up with a marmot. In both cases it was awesome because it made for a good story, and I didn't take it to mean anything about the players' desires out-of-game. I've always assumed that the default was that characters can express (narratively appropriate) romantic interest in other characters without any implications about the players. If someone was doing it in a creepy way I'd shut them down, but that goes regardless of who the target of their affections is. If a payer has issues with their character receiving romantic attention from other characters I would respect that, but I would expect them to bring it up.
What games do you enjoy playing together the most?
Cheyenne: He loves the "dirty, hippy, indie" games as much as I do and that works out really well.
Stentor: The aforementioned Monsterhearts campaign, which Cheyenne's other partner is running, is pretty awesome.
How often do you discuss games with each other?
Cheyenne: Daily. Between things we both play in and the games we are developing for our company, Glittercats Fine Amusements, it's always on someone's brain.
Stentor: On a nearly daily basis.
Are you able to separate personal feelings when gaming?
Cheyenne: Absolutely. Gaming has been an escape for problems and feelings for me since I started, so I do my best to not even bring such things to the table. I recently ran into have to play with someone I'm not to fond of. Our characters still interact just they way they did before the falling out. Once the game is over, we don't speak. It a weird dichotomy that I hope to remove one day, but that is not today.
Stentor: Yes, that's never been a problem for me.
What do you feel like you’ve learned the most about your significant other by role-playing together?
Cheyenne: Yes! I love getting to see him be creative at the table. He's an artist, through and through, but it's great to see his creativity come out in things other than maps.
Stentor: I've gained more appreciation for how creative and clever she is. She's come up with some really great story arcs for her characters.
What games do you recommend couples playing if they wanted to start gaming together?
Cheyenne: Things that you can both just have fun with. If you are a numbers cruncher and your partner isn't, don't do that to yourselves. Pick something that you both get.
Stentor: Rather than labeling specific games as "couple-friendly," I would say that the important thing is that it's a system and setting that both partners like. If you're both really engaged in the game, things will go smoothly, whereas if one person is only playing the game because their partner wants to, you could get some resentment. Starting out by playing some one-shots can be good too, so that you're not committing to a long campaign before you know how you play together. If a couple is worried about some sort of issues arising while playing, a silly game (like Fiasco) may be a better start than a serious strategic one (like D&D with a traditional GM).
Do you have any advice for couples who want to game together?
Cheyenne: Be happy that you have this hobby together. Some couples never find common ground with such things and just enjoy that you have.
Stentor: Gaming is about having fun. Don't make the things your characters are doing in-game be a reflection on your relationship or a way of validating your relationship. (Unless you're playing a game specifically set up to do that!)
What has been your most memorable role-play moment so far?
Stentor: Cheyenne and I were in a 2E D&D game in which she was a (male) human paladin and I was a (female) clueless warrior dwarf. Somehow, my character got it in her head that Chey's character was gay, so I spent an entire session trying to reassure him about how our party was non-judgmental and accepting of everyone, in order to encourage him to come out of the closet. Her character was not actually gay, but his mind was on such a different plane that he never caught on to what my character was doing!