What started this post was something that Archmage writes in his blog:
We have different priorities when it comes to gaming. We both want to have fun, but our ideas of fun are light years apart. ... The mistakes I'm making when I try to run D&D with her include:Trollsmyth, over at his blog, gives some great advice:
I say no when i should say yes
I get impatient that she isn't interested in the aspects of D&D that I'm interested in
I become upset and feel guilty that I'm not running a fun game for her
I don't know how to break out of this. Could it just be that I can't DM D&D for her? Should I try a different game? Am I just so out of practice, and so stuck in a certain style of gaming that I'm ruining gaming for her?
- As much as you can, outline what you want from the game ahead of time.So I sat down (virtually, over GTalk) with @theprincesswife (tPw) and we talked about it - this is a condensed version of our discussion.
- Prepare to compromise, and to stand fast where it's necessary. And then honestly adhere to this social contract.
- Demolish all the boundaries you've created in your minds about what the game “must” be about.
- Obviously, you both love the fantastical, so there's some strong overlap there. Find those points of interests in the movies and shows and books you both enjoy and mine them for ideas.
Me: So you've had a chance to read those posts, what do you think?
tPw: I think no two people "imagine" in their heads alike. To me, the entire game is in my head. Since I don't really know (care) about the rules, it's more about the story in my head.
Me: It sounds like these two have come to the table and they have two different games they want to play.
tPw: No, I see it as the same game, two different ways to play. Imagination creates your style
Me: Right... so if they both imagine in different ways, then it becomes difficult. Do you think we did/do that?
tPw: I am sure we do. For us, yours (way of playing) does not really rub mine the wrong way. Mine pretty much just flows in my head. I think you and I are very different in how we play, maybe ?
Me: How so? [Ed. Note: I was REALLY surprised...]
tPw: I see you pouring over the books and writing them and all the rules and stuff and it just doesn't interest me. Instead, my head is always wondering, what am i gonna do when i get back to the dragon... whats next ...
Me: If I'm more into the "game" than you are, why does it work well for us at the table?
tPw: You're not more into it, just into it in a different way. I am busy picking out the pieces that interest me. It doesn't bother me - the other stuff that you are into. I'm always busy with the "story" in my head. If you were trying to push the story, we would rub.
Me: So the way we play, my interests and your interests don't collide so much. And the fact that I'm letting you tell the story helps?
tPw: It's (the story) everything to me in our game, the part I enjoy the most. You set the stages.
Me: So your expectation is to tell your story, and my expectation is to set the stage by which your story is told.
tPw: Yes. If the DM cant help the expectation of the player, quite frankly and honestly the player is not gonna have fun. They wont want to play.
Me: Right... can you think of anytime where we did rub?
tPw: Ahhh, I can only think of one time i didnt have so much fun. The whole puzzle of the doors with the statue. Frustrated the crap out of me. [Ed. Note: The turning statue in the Tower of Zenopus from the Holmes Basic book.]
Me: Right - you were pretty stumped there. What ended up helping?
tPw: My imagination was "stuck!" LOL. Your patience helped and you gave some big hints. When you're solo, you dont have anyone to bounce ideas back and forth. Sometimes the NPC has to be a player. You think it's railroading ?
Me: We've talked about that, how I worry about that fine line between you being in control and me being in control.
tPw: DM's don't want to be players? You have to, or I might as well play by myself.
Me: I do want to play.. but it's a different play. The problem I've always worried about is Tironell "taking charge" too much so that you're playing in my story, rather than me presenting, the stage for you to play your story. We've done pretty good so far though.
Me: What would you tell this couple with the game issue?
tPw: I don't know. It is kind of like giving marital advice to a couple you don't know. They are locked in their own expectations, maybe? Why should they care what the expectations are, can't they both have what they want ?
Me: What advice would you give her and him?
tPw: For her: Play it how she see's it (in her head). For him: Give a game to her how she wants it, but if he can't - he can't.
Me: True. Archmage talks about wanting to do a lot of stuff he likes. I was thinking in our game, I have alot of stuff going on that I like... but your story overlays it. I have a sandbox, but your focus is your story, so I go with that.
tPw: I get what I want, the fun imagination story, so when you put the other stuff in there it doesnt really rub me?
Me: I get what I want -- dungeons, hard tough monsters, a world that continues to revolve with or without you... some old school things like hirelings and the real threat of death.
tPw: Thats all cool to me to though.
So in retrospect, I guess what has worked for us is that I have a game where we both are getting the elements of what we want. I have a setting that I'm able to put into motion and have elements of the game that are important to me, but in reality, it's the story she's following and concentrating on (finding the murderer of her family) that sets the tone and pace. It's a sandbox with a plot that she drives.
Thank you, @thePrincessWife!