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GMs in Love: Significant Others in Play

While Valentine's Day may be over, there's a love related topic I wanted to cover. Relax, for it's not quite roleplayers being a loveless group of losers. It's something that if handled poorly, results in broken hearts, or at least frustration: a significant other (SO) joining the campaign. Now, say the DM/GM just brought their boyfriend/girlfriend to the table for the first time. It's ripe for accusations of favoritism if the GM starts giving "unfair" advantages (or what the players perceive to be as unfair) to their partner's character. Now, I've seen cases of the GM being as hard on the SO as on their regular group, as well as a few cases of the GM turning the SO's player character into a goddamn Mary Sue.

The GM's job is to ensure everyone has fun. If an SO wishes to join (or the GM talks them into joining), they've also got to keep in mind how, when, and where the SO's character will meet the others. This is where the SO's introduction could be little different than anyone else joining a campaign in progress.

The savvy GM might create an opening or plot hook that introduces the new player, allow the SO or newbie to play an already existing or pregen NPC, or some combination therefore of. That's why I keep a few pre-generated characters around in case anyone else wishes to try the game out for a bit before joining or leaving. Improvising or changing up abilities to better suit the player's preferences can also work (say, like swapping out a fighter's weapon of choice or wizard spell list).

One thing I've found is that a campaign may work better if the couple are both experienced roleplayers (in which case there's rarely an issue). But if one's new and the other's got some experience, then it may also depend on the group they're playing with. Personally, I find it's best if a couple are both PCs or both co-GMs (perhaps alternating/assisting the other in running the campaign). While the co-GM model can be fraught with accusations of power abuse, as long as everyone's having fun, that's all that should matter. One advantage of both being players (in the PC sense) is that the experienced one can assist the less experienced one.

In game, the PCs can have very different love lives than the people playing them. While a few couples might create partial self-inserts, it's best to separate PC and player. It can make for some interesting times, though. Once, a girl made a male rogue who was a lady's man and seduced every bar wench he found. Her boyfriend's character was a chaste, celibate cleric who disliked being touched. The relationship between the PCs was a sort of "odd couple" friendship, which they still joked about afterwards.

Other times, an SO can help a roleplaying campaign in other ways. They could provide music and atmospheric effects (like turning on some Iron Maiden or Amon Amarth during fight scenes), dimming the lights in a creepy suspense scene, and so on. Even more fun is when they come charging out of the other room in a monster mask during a "Call of Cthulhu" campaign. There's also beloved by all who gets snacks/refreshments/food for in-person campaigns. So, hope that helps, and may you all find a game you enjoy.