When I got married, I thought my nerdiness would need toning down. I would stop gaming. I would become an “adult.” However, as I journeyed through the beginning of our marriage, I realized that, for me, gaming was a lifeline. Eventually, my wife Stephanie and I both realized that gaming helped us destress, stay sane, and grow closer together. We just moved from controllers to tabletops—a small step that has made a huge difference. With tabletop games, especially tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs), we take a break from our everyday lives. Stephanie has documented a bit of this journey in her LTN article, Games are Good. I thought I’d add a bit to it and talk about how TTRPGs have really changed the game for our relationship.
My first time playing a TTRPG was in seminary, of all places. I spent a summer overseas and my roommate for a few weeks was an avid Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) player. He ran me through a one shot, and I knew that TTRPGs would forever be in my life. I loved the RPGs I played while growing up over the years (especially Japanese RPGs), and the hands-on approach to D&D really opened up the RPG genre to me in all arenas. Eventually, I led my own campaign for some seminary students during my last year in school.
But playing TTRPGs was always something I did. Stephanie didn’t really play. It was overwhelming for her. Too many choices and too much unknown. Couple that with her struggles with anxiety, and she didn’t really have the emotional energy to invest in something so foreign to her. She’d never really played RPGs growing up, and she struggled with the video game RPGs that we’d played together.
Flash forward a few years. Stephanie befriended one of the nerd moms at her school. They talked about their husbands, who were huge nerds, and Stephanie signed us up for a D&D campaign run by her new friend’s husband. We began the process of character creation, which can be intimidating for any new player. We nailed it down, we played a game, and she saw the beauty of TTRPGs. Some of the highlights from the game for her were the camaraderie playing with a group of people, the problem solving aspect of facing party challenges, and the creativity needed to come up with RP reasons for why our characters did what they did.Playing TTRPGs has opened up new avenues for relationship building.
This experience led to our taking Stuffed Fables off our shelf of shame, which was also a fun experience because of the pared-down RPG aspects. Stuffed Fables and games like it have the feel of an RPG without the need for complicated character creation and a Dungeon Master (DM).
Now, we have dice scattered throughout the house, on the verge of becoming dice collectors before our budget reigned us in. Still, playing TTRPGs has opened up new avenues for relationship building, which was good for us. As introverts, initiating relationships can be difficult, and building them even more difficult. TTRPGs take away some of the awkwardness and anxiety when it comes to interacting with other people. They also have given us a deeper insight into ourselves individually and our relationship—one of the many benefits of playing TTRPGs.
We are better people now that we play TTRPGs together. I know this isn’t for everyone or for every couple, but I am so glad that it’s something we can do together.