Converting the Spouse: An Ongoing Quest – Part 1

So my friends, I come to you in the very odd position of being married to a muggle. I don’t mean the non-magical kind, but rather the non-RPG-interested kind. I got married a couple years ago and my wife has never shown any interest in roleplaying games, or virtually anything geeky whatsoever. Actually, now that I think about it, she probably would have been one of the kids in high school that thought people like me were particularly weird (it’s odd how the heart works sometimes). I have, in the past, made attempts at remedying this OBVIOUS character flaw. Last summer, before I moved to Japan, the wife and I, attended several of the D&D 4e “Encounters”; that was a moderately good time, but my wife could never really get into it. She never really understood what was going on and the constant focus on combat-focused roleplaying simply didn’t work for her.

Now, I am unfortunately stuck in an even bigger pickle. Most of my former gaming group has now left Japan, also, with my son and wife now currently living with me again, in our very, very small Japanese style apartment, I have very little ability to bring anybody over to my place to game (and going anywhere else is pretty much out of the question as well). So, what is the answer to my pickle? How in the world will I ever get to play any roleplaying games ever again??

I think it is about time for another conversion attempt! Let the quest begin!!

This time, my plan of attack is going to have to be very, very different. Previous attempts at breaking the will of the muggle Spouse and pulling her into our realm of RPG-enthused have proved totally useless. I think, this is going to call for me to meet her on her level. I’m going to have to start thinking like a muggle. Time to finally put all of my psychology classes to work.

This really just comes down to getting to know the audience. My wife enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies, but she doesn’t really have that much interest in fantasy and magic and stuff of that nature. So, playing a hardcore high fantasy style game with her might be a very, very bad thing to do. In fact, apart from those films, I don’t really recall many genre films or TV series that I have been able to get her interested in. Probably the best that I have been able to manage is convincing her to watch a couple episodes of the most recent iteration of Dr. Who.

So, here are the other basic things I plan to try and play off of when running my next game with my wife.

1. She is Japanese.

Considering that my wife hails from near Tokyo, speaks primarily Japanese (and a little bit of English and German), and has a healthy knowledge about Japanese history, it makes sense that I might want to play a game that has more of an Asia-centric focus rather than a western one. The reasoning for me behind this decision is a matter of relating to her. Given my shabby Japanese, it might be very difficult to convey concepts based in a fantasy world that is entirely foreign to her, but… if I base our game in a world which is more familiar to her, things might be much easier.

I plan to capitalize on this fact by playing a game that is heavily influenced by Japanese society and history – Legend of the Five Rings. I love the game, it rocks. I also love the fact that the basic dice mechanic utilizes only one type of dice; this is going to make the system pretty easy to play with my wife who has trouble recognizing the difference between a d10,d12, and d20 sometimes.

2. She is very, very “girly”

My wife is very much a girly girl. She doesn’t like fighting. She doesn’t like being dirty. She doesn’t like bugs. She really, really hates bugs. She loves sweets. These are all things that I am going to have to consider when trying to play a game with her. Honestly, the biggest problem that I am seeing right now is that she has very little interest in playing a combat heavy game. In fact, I think she might not have any interesting in playing a game that features combat of any kind. This is potentially going to be a big problem since most of the RPG’s that I know out there feature combat in a major way.

I plan to adapt to this by having my wife play a character with a fairly high power level, so much so that things like minor combats are simply unnecessary. I will also reward her character through stuff like Gold (which she can use to buy cool, shiny, fashionable stuff) or just give her character sweets. Also, one of the coolest parts about L5R is that you can play a character that is not focused on fighting, but rather on other pursuits. We’ll definitely take this into account when creating characters. I’ll try to get her to play something in the Courtier area so that we don’t have to be mixed up in fighting all the time.

3. She LOVES cheesy, funny, romantic Korean Dramas

Yup. My wife loves some of the funkiest television that I know of. I have been pulled in once in a while, but most of the time I have a very hard time getting into the plots of most Korean Dramas. They are pretty far fetched and are really not much different that the super lengthy and ridiculous American soap operas. She loves them, taking 2 hours out of every day to catch her dramas in the afternoon. I might be able to capitalize on that mindset by building some equally ridiculous stories of my own.

I think based on the game system that we are playing with, and the type of character I am going to try to get her to play, this type of game should come along pretty easily. If I can manage to set the game in some type of Imperial Court setting, we could probably develop some really interesting Court based plots which don’t involve her and her characters running rampant through the forest stabbing a bunch of ninjas in the face all the time.

Well, that about covers it for my thought process going into this quest. Next time, I’ll go over how we went through character creation and how my wife reacted to the proposal of our new campaign. Stay tuned!

Hey everyone! I'm a gamer, husband, and father living in Japan. I teach High School English to Japanese kids. I started playing games about 13 years ago and have been blogging about gaming for the last 5 years or so.

18 thoughts on “Converting the Spouse: An Ongoing Quest – Part 1”

  1. Ha, I have the same problem with my husband (though he is not girly).

    Perhaps you can try out Primetime Adventures? It gives you the feel of a TV- drama which could be nice considering she likes Korean dramas.
    Here’s a review:

    One of the games I’m currently trying out is 6d6Core which has a very simple mechanic at its core:
    There’s a lite version of it (which covers ~15% of the normal rules), maybe you would like to take a look into it & decide if it would work for you.
    You don’t have a character sheet but a deck of cards which represent your abilities, stats and everything. No need for any pencil!
    It’s very boardgamey so it’s a good start for those who are overwhelmed by the 08/15 character sheet.

  2. My wife is Japanese too (from Gifu). I get the impression that it would work better to start with basic, freeform roleplay (share storytelling) and lead into whatever game you want it to rather than start with something systematic. Telling a story together isn’t as invasive as anything involving dice.

    Also, I would be cautious about starting with something “heavily influenced by Japanese society”. My wife, at least, would really dislike it unless it wasn’t *right*. For instance, where I know non-Japanese who read Usagi Yojimbo and are drawn into it and go on to learn more about Japan (of the period fictionally represented), she wants nothing to do with it because It Isn’t Right.

    Granted, small sample set (one person), but it might be worth considering.

    Good luck though.

    1. I am definitely right behind you on the storytelling side of things. I think the game is going to be very story heavy, and much less reliant on the system.

      I see where you’re coming from on the L5R as not really being representative of “true” Japanese history. I agree that it could be a problem if people for some people, but I think my wife might be OK with it. We’ll have to play in order to find out 😛 at least we’ll get another data point out of this 😀

  3. My dear Shinobicow, I feel your pain! None of my significant relationships have been remotely interested in my RPG hobby. My ex-wife was not into geek stuff at all, and I taking a night of a week to play was a BIG issue. My actual girlfriend tolerates it, but she has no interest in it herself (despite dabbling in some geek things like Harry Potter and some sci-fi series). Once there was girl friend that used to cook and bring us food but that relationship didn’t last too long. More recently did have a girl friend who wanted to be in my games and influence with whom I gamed with but she was just trying to manipulate what was a quickly crumbling.

    Did that last paragraph sound a little bitter? It’s not… In a way gaming has become my thing, what I do that does not involve my significant other, and that’s ok with me. But I realize your situation is different. I think you are spot on in your observation (those Korean dramas sound like Latin American soap operas) but maybe a simpler game (I have no experience with L5R) maybe set in modern times may work better. I really hope it works out and look forward to hearing how it goes. Best of luck

  4. Please let us know how it turns out. I’ve been puzzling over why some people are so taken by RPGs and others aren’t. Then some people just drop them over time while others pursue them. I’m trying to apply sales and psychology methods to try and tease these problems apart.

    A quick thought that may be useful but you’ll have to think of how to apply it. When trying to sell something, you have to solve a problem to get the sale. How can you make RPGs solve one of your wife’s problems? Obviously that’s something only you or someone who knows her well can answer.

    1. The world of RPG’s is definitely a truly puzzling one. I’ll be sure to continue this series and you can find out just how well things turned out 😉

  5. I feel for you brother!

    Thankfully I found a gamer-girl who was willing to overlook my many character flaws.

    Give up. Most people aren’t wired to enjoy devoting hours to sitting around a table and rolling dice. Lots of people at the end of the day just want to unplug from their responsibilities and indulge in mental candy consumption. Sounds like your wife is one of these and you’ll be hard-pressed to reprogram her.

    L5R, while based in a fictionalized Asian setting, still tends to be heavy on conflict – most of it combat, and while there are plenty of female gamers who like a good scrap along skullduggery, she may not want to devote hours of her freetime to playing L5R.

    My own wife plays in only one of my games: D&D 3.x Mystara but only because we have lots of her friends in the group. She could care less about tromping through dungeons but she does relish interacting with the other characters who do like dungeoncrawling as an alter ego.

    Best of luck!



      It’s possible that this could be a lost cause, but I’m not ready to quit on her just yet. We have enjoyed a bit of roleplaying together in the past, but she still isn’t totally alive with the idea yet.

  6. Google+ is your answer. I haven’t gamed in about 6 years because my gaming group all moved away and I got married. Last night I played my first session in forever using Google+’s hangout feature which handles voice and video. It was great.

    1. I think that very well may be my best answer to gaming at this point. I just started up a game on Google+ but we’re trying to do it as a PbP. I think the hangout feature has a lot of potential for greatness though, especially for gaming.

  7. Shinobicow, a little piece of advised that gaming and life have taught me: accept people as they are… or kill them!

    Here’s hoping you’ll be assigned to a cell next mine…

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