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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Back in the heyday of 3.5 I was in a group with a number of good friends, including the DM and his girlfriend. It was, for the most part, a good campaign, and he was, for the most part, a great DM, but we did have a bad case of DM's Girlfriend; she got all the neat plot hooks, neat toys, bonus XP for bypassing traps, etc etc. Many of you probably know the drill, it's not an uncommon phenomenon.

    I'm now rolling a 5e campaign as DM, with my fiancee as one of the players, and I really don't want to end up doing the same thing to my party. I like to think I'm a fair person, but so was my old DM; I actually talked to him about it once and he said that he hadn't noticed, but he supposed it was probably just that the two of them were always together so they talked about the game and what they wanted from it more than the rest of us. And there's no way that won't be true for us too.

    So any tips that anyone can provide on how to manage that would be more than welcome.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    I generally wouldn't worry about it, personally. Some GMs favor their SOs (and the specific term "girlfriend" being used is somewhat instructive here, in that the term "DM's fiancee" or "DM's spouse" never seem to show up, suggesting that the problem is most prevalent with boyfriends or girlfriends), but from what I've seen it's generally pretty rare. If you're not trying to play favorites you probably won't.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Kaun's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Quote Originally Posted by Sindeloke View Post
    Back in the heyday of 3.5 I was in a group with a number of good friends, including the DM and his girlfriend. It was, for the most part, a good campaign, and he was, for the most part, a great DM, but we did have a bad case of DM's Girlfriend; she got all the neat plot hooks, neat toys, bonus XP for bypassing traps, etc etc. Many of you probably know the drill, it's not an uncommon phenomenon.

    pc based plot hooks is easy: Keep a record of every time you base a hook of a PC. if one PC is getting to far out in front, put their story on the back burner for a bit and focus on other pc's for a while. With regards to the quality of the plot hook. When your coming up with the hook stop and ask your self two questions; Do i think this hook is interesting? will the player think this hook is interesting? If you get yes to both of those you should be fine.

    Re neat toys: Just try and keep track of what you have given out. Its easy to see when some body has fallen behind when this happens. Also it doesn't hurt every now and then to get the players to help you come up with a cool toy for their character. That way you know it will be something they like.

    Bonus xp is a funny one. If you are giving bonus xp on a player by player base then i suggest three things. As above, keep track of what you have given so you can see if some players are missing out. Try and give each player some bonus xp for something each session, if your struggling just pick the best thing that player did that session and hand it out, people are less likely to complain if they are all getting some love. Three - explain what the xp is for, as clearly as you can. If you just give out your xp without ever explaining why player "Y" gor more xp then player "X", your players will just invent their own reasons, favoritism might likely be one. Telling each player openly what each xp point is for will avoid most confusion and it will also help to encourage certain elements of the game you want to improve. Like characterization, of clever planing.

    Bonus tip; try to make sure the spot light keeps shifting around. Dont dwell on one players actions for more then 5 or 10 mins at a time. Try to get your players involved in situations where they aren't currently involved.
    Last edited by Kaun; 2014-11-13 at 10:25 PM.
    Aside from "have fun", i think the key to GMing is putting your players into situations where they need to make a choice that has no perfect outcome available. They will hate you for it, but they will be back at the table session after session.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    If you keep a running tally of 'stuff I've handed out' somewhere in your campaign journal, broken down by person, you'll be somewhat more inclined to notice a discrepancy in terms of actual loot/bonuses.

    As for character arcs, that type of thing is much harder to deal with. It really does boil down to how much story-oriented ambition the individuals express in the grey area between player and character...it really does tend to boil down to 'the person who says (meaningful) stuff the most tends to get more focus from the DM', which obviously can be a good or bad thing. I know the cleric and the warmage in my game are the ones setting the campaign's goalposts, simply because they vocalize and strive towards their goals, unlike the other players who seem more reactionary. If they're leading the charge for the good of the group, great, that kinda just means they're the party leader. But if they're sidetracking the game for something unrelated, or something that doesn't move the narrative forward in a direction you and (more importantly) the rest of the players want it to go, then it's bad. My advice is just to keep an eye out for any spurs from the main story that involve your fiancee and decide whether or not they should continue to diverge with extra attention.
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Do not try a linear campaign, without some discussion with them. Players very often look at your hooks and then try to accomplish it in a different way, not touch it, try to do the complete opposite, or somehow set it on fire.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Let the guy you know play. You know the one. He has halitosis, dandruff, doesn't believe in deodorant or personal apace, can never remember to use his indoor voice when he is excited, and he always gets excited. If you don't know that guy, he at least reminds you of a couple of people. You can let those people play instead. After two or three games session you won't have to worry about the DM's girlfriend anymore.
    Hmm, seem to have left the last letter out of my name I wonder if I can change that somehow...

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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    There are two ways around the problem. The first is to try hard not to favor any given player and stick to the rules (can be overly harsh though, D&D can be brutal if you roll badly or make a bad choice). The second option is to have a pad and note down whenever you do something nice for a player, specifically what it was and who it was for. Then keep an eye out for a chance to do the same for another player. It doesn't have to be in the same session, but try to balance the books eventually.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaun View Post
    pc based plot hooks is easy: Keep a record of every time you base a hook of a PC. if one PC is getting to far out in front, put their story on the back burner for a bit and focus on other pc's for a while. With regards to the quality of the plot hook. When your coming up with the hook stop and ask your self two questions; Do i think this hook is interesting? will the player think this hook is interesting? If you get yes to both of those you should be fine.
    While I'm all for spotlight balance, this seems a bit excessive. It requires too much tracking, and it likely detracts from a better equilibrium - some players are going to want more character story than others, some players make characters better tied into the world and better suited for getting it, so on and so forth.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    huttj509's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    The main one I can see popping up unexpectedly is plot hooks. I mean, you're around this person a lot, possibly talking about the campaign, etc. When you get feedback on what's liked and disliked, she's probably going to be a major source of feedback. This can easily lead to more stuff focused around her character just because you hear about her tastes more often.

    Good thing: You've seen it from the other side.

    I'd say make sure to solicit feedback from the rest of the table frequently. If you have a buddy whose judgment you trust at the table, maybe ask him/her to let you know if it's edging towards issues (you know, outside of game...at the table probably isn't the best time to bring it up unless it's full on into "um, should we just leave you two alone?").

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Quote Originally Posted by huttj509 View Post
    The main one I can see popping up unexpectedly is plot hooks. I mean, you're around this person a lot, possibly talking about the campaign, etc. When you get feedback on what's liked and disliked, she's probably going to be a major source of feedback. This can easily lead to more stuff focused around her character just because you hear about her tastes more often.
    It also depends on how much you're around the other people. For instance, I'm currently GMing a game for some friends, including an ex. Even back when we were dating, she had no more information about the game than anyone else, because it didn't come up in conversation unless a good chunk of the group was there. Plus, reminiscing about tragic jetpack accidents that occurred in game doesn't exactly yield much useful information.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

    Current Design Project: Legacy, a game of masters and apprentices for two players and a GM.

  10. - Top - End - #10
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    Kesnit's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    My wife and I have played in games run by the other for years, so it is possible to do successfully.

    1) Your fiancee can help you. Unless she is set on being the party face, have her build a PC with CHA as a dump stat. That will give her a reason to sit back and let someone else take the lead. Also, she may be able to watch how you run the game and let you know afterward "Honey, I felt like you were putting the spotlight on me. *Player A* needs some time to shine."

    2) Along the same lines, since you know you'll be talking to her about the plot, ask her for ways to spotlight the others. Two heads are better than one, after all. If you know she can separate IC from OOC knowledge, have her help you put together things for game. (That also gives her another reason to sit back. She already knows what's coming, so has no need to rush into anything. I build encounters for my wife's 3.5 game a lot.)

    3) Make a point of telling her "no." Consciously and intentionally, "no." Several years ago, my wife and I were talking to a few players from our group away from the gaming table. One of the others pointed out that she was harder on me than she was on the others. (They could get away with a lot more than I could.) I was fine with that, since I was still having fun.
    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

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  11. - Top - End - #11
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    BlueWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    I'm currently in a campaign run by my brother, and Kesnit's advice matches up pretty well with how we've been handling things thus far.

    Behind the scenes, I've been helping my brother tweak parts of his plot, and have been troubleshooting some of his mechanical/systems questions between games (how do I build this trap? what can I do to get this effect? How can I make a Dwarf Lich Artificer?). During the game, however, I've been letting the rest of the party take the lead (which admittedly isn't hard to do, given we have 5 other PCs).

    As with most things, good communication seems to be the best answer you'll receive (or at least, good communication will help you find the answer you need ).

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    Sartharina's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    If you're not trying to play favorites you probably won't.
    Actually, as the guy first noted, people tend to play favorites even if they're not trying to.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Honest Tiefling's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Perhaps bonus EXP is awarded to the group, not the player? This way, even if it winds up being uneven, it isn't like someone is a level behind. And perhaps if your fiancee works well with another player, encourage a linked backstory? Hell, encourage a linked backstory for all of them.

    I do second the idea of having her make a follower type character, not a leader type for the first game until the kinks are worked out. Perhaps high intelligence, low charisma? That way, she can contribute, but only through another PC. (I vote against wisdom since skill-monkeys take perception type skills, but few people take things like Knowledge: Nobility.)

    If you are willing to extend it, perhaps make her an shunned race (Yes, I will reccomend tieflings) on the idea that others can also be exotic races. That way, she'll definitely be dependent on other characters lest she meet up with a rather unfriendly mob, and other players can enjoy the benefit of an expanded race list. Perhaps players can choose between the race and another thing for their characters. Some might say that it will look like you made your fiancee's character into a special snowflake, however.
    Last edited by Honest Tiefling; 2014-11-14 at 11:31 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oko and Qailee View Post
    Man, I like this tiefling.
    For all of your completely and utterly honest needs. Zaydos made, Tiefling approved.

  14. - Top - End - #14
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    McBars's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Go the other direction and subject her to far more abuse then the other PCs, then have her fetch you a beer or two while she's up rolling a new character. That way the players will fear and respect you. :p

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    I've been dealing with this with my wife for a little while, so I'll spell out some of my guidelines. For what its worth, my wife is a first time player.

    1) I don't talk to her about upcoming plot points. At least for the main plot. Once I realized everyone else had some sort of subplot, I realized she would need one. I talked to her about it, to see what she'd like done, as opposed to everyone else where I made their subplots for them based on their backstory. She didn't really have one, so we needed to hammer things out. As for the main plot, or anyone else's subplot, I do not bring that up with her at all, except to ask for feedback based on the previous session, since I get more out of her than "it was good" which is about what I get out of the other players.

    2) Since she's a new player, she needs help with character creation and maintenance (levelling up, spells prepared, that sort of thing). When helping her with this, I have to completely separate myself from the DM's chair and forget everything I have planned. I have been giving her more leeway that I would with any experienced player, but thats more of a new player thing than her being my wife. But since she's close to me, she gets more help from me than any new player probably would (unless they were roommates). IF your fiancee has played before, this probably won't affect you. I have given her a slight boon with working with her character. 3.5 game, she plays a druid, and partway through the game I let her switch from fixed list casting to spontaneous casting, to see if she'd like it more. Since its a power down for a druid, I didn't see a ton of issue with it. I also let her have a folding boat cause she really wanted one, and it wasn't likely to come back and bite me in the a$$.

    3) During the game, I'm not really her husband anymore, I'm her DM, and she's not really my wife, she's my player. Her character might die, and I need her to not hold that against me. She acknowledges this, and so far its been smooth sailing.

    4) Since I'm trying to not favor her, and I know what her character can do, its actually been working against the character. I've ended up throwing more stuff at them that I know won't favor her, and thats been unfair to her. This is my problem that I've been working to rectify, by for example the subplot above. Kind of the opposite problem as would be the expected normal problem.
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    Tengu_temp's Avatar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarlek Flamehai View Post
    Let the guy you know play. You know the one. He has halitosis, dandruff, doesn't believe in deodorant or personal apace, can never remember to use his indoor voice when he is excited, and he always gets excited. If you don't know that guy, he at least reminds you of a couple of people. You can let those people play instead. After two or three games session you won't have to worry about the DM's girlfriend anymore.
    Not a good idea considering that 1. the DM is the OP, and it's his girlfriend he's talking about, and 2. after all is said and done, you end up having to deal with That Guy instead. Not worth it.

    Quote Originally Posted by McBars View Post
    Go the other direction and subject her to far more abuse then the other PCs, then have her fetch you a beer or two while she's up rolling a new character. That way the players will fear and respect you. :p
    Or think you're a colossal douchebag. But I presume you're being sarcastic anyway.

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  17. - Top - End - #17
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    If something like this happens, I think its better for the two partners to play on equal terms among the group first.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Don't make her character. Or if you have to do not make it more optimized than the other players.

    I've never dealt with the DM GF phenomenon but I have had the DM BF. Which was more about how does she kill his over optimized character.
    Last edited by DontEatRawHagis; 2014-11-14 at 04:43 PM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    I used my friend, random dice. When I need a plot hook, I roll a dX and select a player to toss it at randomly. I haven't had to DM for an SO in a while, but I do still have favorites I have to resist playing.
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  20. - Top - End - #20
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    Thanks for all the ideas, guys!

    I think I'm going to start out with a combo of keeping records of plot points and big character moments for everybody, along with soliciting her help in coming up with stuff for the rest of the group. I'll probably end up pulling out some more of this advice later, too (but probably not the one about sending her for beer). Either way I feel better about it, and everyone's input is most appreciated.

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Avoiding the DM's Girlfriend phenomenon

    At a quick skim, everyone seems to have missed the obvious solution.

    "Guys, my girlfriend is joining the game. I'll try not to dote on her, but you know how that sort of thing can happen unintentionally, so if you think I'm slipping into it, tell me, okay?"
    "I had thought - I had been told - that a 'funny' thing is a thing of goodness. It isn't. Not ever is it funny to the person it happens to. Like that sheriff without his pants. The goodness is in the laughing. I grok it is a bravery... and a sharing... against pain and sorrow and defeat."

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