Coupling: Tobie & Rocky
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:
Rocky loves his partner Tobie, but he also loves their dog Yoshi and he really loves Transformers. No, not those CGI monstrosities Michael Bay created - we're talking about the good stuff from 1984. Rocky also loves books and has amassed an intimidating collection of science fiction and fantasy titles that overwhelm his bookshelves and also keeps his Kindle pretty filled-up. When not working the call center graveyard hours, Rocky considers himself to be a performance writer who spends way too much time on his blogs out of sheer passion alone.
Before Tobie, Rocky was mostly about video games. In particular, Rocky has always had a bit of a thing for old school point-and-click adventure games and RPGs. These days what little time he has for computer games typically involves the latest LEGO-game or a Telltale Games adventure. But then Tobie introduced Rocky to the many awesome board games that have come out of Europe and eventually got him hooked on true RPGs. These days Rocky continues to explore narrative systems like John Wick's Houses of the Blooded, but also enjoys franchise systems like Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Tobie typically runs most games, but he has also encouraged Rocky to dabble in running games as well.
Rocky has The Geeky Guide to Nearly Everything.
Tobie loves his partner Rocky, their lovely monkey dog Yoshi who eats bananas and pees a river, and gaming. He sneaks in time to play games whether board or table top at least twice a week. He works as a game designer at Indigo-Entertainment and has been happy to have finally helped others and made submissions to existing games that his name can be a searched in Drive Thru RPG and Amazon. He still plans to release his own role-playing game in the near future.
Before Rocky, Tobie was uncertain if he ever needed to come out. He was content to just hide behind the mask of someone who was artsy and complicated. But being with Rocky has made him realize he wanted his friends and family to know him as who he was, and to know Rocky as who he means to Tobie.
Tobie has Tagsessions.
How long have you been playing games individually?
Rocky: I had never played an RPG until Tobie introduced me to game genre five years ago. Before that my only tabletop gaming exposure involved classic board games like Monopoly and The Game of Life.
Tobie: I've been gaming since my teen years, so that's definitely over twenty years now. But even younger, I was already playing weird make-believe stories with my brother.
How long have you been playing games together?
Rocky: Our very first "date" of sorts involved playing the classic NetRunner CCG. We've been playing different games together ever since.
Tobie: I guess one can safely say we have been lovingly gaming together for five years now. But yeah, since we met, we kinda haven't stopped playing together since.
What are your favorite systems?
Rocky: The Changeling Games (Dreaming and Lost) have a special place in my heart. There's just something about those systems that I really enjoyed and the whole fantasy tone that defines things. More recently we've gotten into various John Wick games, Houses of the Blooded most of all. The whole wager system and the shared narrative control aspects are what have made the game so compelling.
Tobie: I'm still a huge John Wick fan, loving his Houses of the Blooded a huge lot. I'm also a big fan of Jared Sorensen's Lacuna. And there will always be a wonderful place in my heart for the World of Darkness, and I have much to thank the Onyx Path for bringing back Changeling: the Dreaming, Wraith: the Oblivion and bringing us more Changeling: the Lost games.
Do any of you GM/DM?
Rocky: Tobie is the Storyteller more often than not. He's a great guide for all these games and his passion for the hobby really shows. I've only recently dabbled in running games and I have a long way to go.
Tobie: I typically run most games, but I am so proud of my partner for taking the plunge and running games as well. Even more awesome, he ran a homebrewed game at that!
How is the dynamic GM/DM vs player?
Rocky: My gaming experience with Tobie has centered around embracing the story and becoming the characters we play. The games are not about us being in a relationship or which friends are at the table - once the game starts all that fades away and we do our best to fully embrace the game setting.
Tobie: I used to worry that I might end up treating my partner differently in games, but in the twenty years of gaming I'd like to think I've learned to be impartial to my gamers. Not to mention, in most of my games, the GM is the players biggest fan. And Player vs Player is rarely welcome.
How do you make it clear that you are not playing favorites when players know or find out you’re a couple?
Rocky: If anything I think I have a stronger tendency to harder on those I'm more familiar with. This doesn't really manifest with Tobie since we have a good gaming relationship. I see this more of with one of my longer term friends from grade school - when we game, our characters always end up antagonizing one another for one reason or another.
Tobie: I'd like to think my players now do see I don't play favorites anymore. I know I used to have that flaw back during my younger years of gaming. Admittedly, games that share narrative control do help keep games balanced out nicely too. But I do believe I am just as (cruel) fair to him as I am with others. When it comes to board games, though, Rocky really attacks my strategies well. And I wouldn't like him to play any less. It makes winning much more meaningful since you know you both played to your fullest extent.
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?
Rocky: It doesn't really matter - the story comes first. If it makes sense in terms of the narrative, then everything is fair game. The only reason to object is if the romantic interest is totally left field or contrary to previously established facts.
Tobie: Admittedly, this has not really happened as of the late given most tend to enjoy the romantic interludes the NPCs have brought into the table. I don't foresee it being any issue though when it does happen.
What games do you enjoy playing together the most?
Rocky: As much as possible we always game together, whether it involves a new board game or an on-going RPG campaign. It's hard to pick favorites since it depends what we're on the mood for. We've been playing Houses of the Blooded more than any other game, but we've both been yearning to go back to Changeling soon. And our current board games of interest have been shifting around, but most recent favorites include Splendor, Suburbia and Legendary Encounters.
Tobie: Currently we practically always play together, save for those odd one-shot nights I run games for players while Rocky is at work. I would have to say Houses of the Blooded has really hit a sweet spot for us. Followed very quickly by both Changeling the Lost and Changeling the Dreaming. But we always have game nights each month, and I am lucky to have a partner who loves games as much as I do.
How often do you discuss games with each other?
Rocky: There's always that post-game session conversation when we discuss what just happened and what stood out, but for the most part we don't discuss on-going campaign in order to avoid spoilers. Beyond that, Tobie tends to share news of new board games or new systems periodically.
Tobie: We don't if you mean talk about where the story is headed! Well, more on I feel compelled NOT to say much whenever we talk about the game because I love revealing stuff in-game and I don't like spoiling things. We do discuss things sometimes in terms of how much we enjoyed scenes and which story arcs we feel are getting neglected.
Are you able to separate personal feelings when gaming?
Rocky: Totally - like I keep saying, the story comes first.
Tobie: Only to an extent, I mean we might be acting out roles while gaming, but its not like I go all Shia Lebouf and sink into the character so much I don't recognize him as my partner. However, when the game does have say something evil happen to his character or his roster of NPCs, I do end up going, "Sorry love..." after springing them at him.
What do you feel like you’ve learned the most about your significant other by role-playing together?
Rocky: Tobie is amazingly creative. I've always fancied myself a writer, but I cannot even come close to how many new stories and ideas Tobie is able to come up with on the fly. If you look at each RPG session as a story, Tobie has essentially "written" enough to fill several anthologies. That and he speaks in funny pseudo Eastern European accents regardless of which character he's portraying. Or the fact that he likes to segway with key phrases like "Meanwhile" or "It is to my understanding."
Tobie: Rocky is definitely enjoying brainy-social characters who dive into situations and have what we call their "Moments of Awesome". A large influence brought about by comics such as Planetary or shows like Fringe. And he's definitely made it clear that I do NOT do voices well. I seem to be stuck making this odd middle-easternesque accent for everything. But thankfully, not to the point that he makes fun of it.
What games do you recommend couples playing if they wanted to start gaming together?
Rocky: I don't think there's a particular system that stands out - it shouldn't really matter. All games have something to offer, so just make sure it's a game genre/setting that you both appreciate.
Tobie: In GM-Player roles, I'd recommend games that share narrative control like Houses of the Blooded and Dungeonworld as they allow both to share the responsibilities of creative decision-making until they become more confident in throwing everything at each other in-game. If both were players, I'd stick to avoiding in-game romances at least until the OTHER players are more comfortable that any in-game flirting is character and not personality driven.
Do you have any advice for couples who want to game together?
Rocky: Focus on shared interests and find a game genre or setting that you're both interested in. But more important than the system is the need to have that agreement about how you're going to play and how you might react to certain situations. As long as you both embrace how the story should come first, I don't foresee any issues.
Tobie: Go for it. Gaming is such a personally fulfilling and revealing experience that having the chance to share that with your significant other is such a wonderful opportunity one must not overlook. I'd even dare say if you and your partner aren't gaming together that might be a problem in the long run given the amount of time and investment gaming asks of its players may become a point of contention in the long term. If you're with someone and only one of you game, I do hope you can introduce your partner to it soon. You both deserve to share the fun of the hours spent crafting a wonderful journey.
What has been your most memorable role-play moment so far?
Rocky: Memorable or traumatic? With Tobie's games, there are so many. There's the sad trauma of my very first character who remains bleeding in the car of a vampire after a botched attempt to summon a demon (the campaign never continued beyond that session). There's the Lacuna session where I think I freaked out new players since I was so deep in character and feeling his trauma of being in the Blue City. There was that major character reveal that actually touched on odd childhood trauma that Tobie had inadvertently stumbled across. Ultimately, we've have so many great story moments that each new game has such a high potential for being awesome.
My most amusing memory would be throwing Zac Efron at my partner as an NPC who was possessed by a Demon (it was a World of Darkness game and he was one of the Lucifuge. The demon hoped to seduce him.) But my most memorable one would be watching him play his Pooka character, Sir Felix Southpaw, as he totally got into the role - lying constantly and coming up with spectacular bunks in their journey into the Dreaming and back.