GMing – running a game – is altogether in itself a topic for another post series – and not even that could cover everything your players (or fate) might come up with. Here’s just a few tips (I swear, I’m going to have nightmares abut that phrase) for couples who GM together. The co-aplha and I have so far overseen a couple of runs of our short chamber larp (Koliba, Croatia, 2013) and have recently co-GMed a lighter prison larp with another friend. But we’ve already been designing a super-secret bigger project all the way back since February… most of these tips come from my experience regarding in the projects mentioned. (Which is, by no means, vast – the experience, I mean. You never stop learning – be it a beginner GM as me, or someone who’s got decades under their belt.)
#1 Above all, say what you mean. Running a game is hard enough even when you don’t have to think of your relationship and each other’s personalities. Say what you really mean to each other. Honesty is the best you can do when doing any project together. It’s far healthier to find a solution to a problem together than to hold a silent grudge. Not to say you have to have issues when GMing together – just take into consideration the adrenaline of a larp combined with the stress of running a project.
#2 Share the responsibility. If you’re working on a larp very important to one of you (and it was that partner’s idea from the start), it’s more than okay to organize the event as a GM+assistant GM team. But if the ideas and design are both of yours creations, so should be the responsibilities. Be it character writing, prop making or whatever, share the load (as Samwise put it so eloquently). If one of you feels like they’re doign too much, it’s probably not going to work as smooth as it can be. Take special care if you’re designing your won game – make sure it’s a mix of the preferences and ideas of both of you. The co-alpha managed to do quite well with this in the super-secret project – and the planning didn’t even really take off before we found a way to make it matter, to make it ours. What’s the point in running a game you don’t care for? (Khm.) On the other hand, if you’re going with one partner’s idea for a larp, why not try to switch to the other partner for the next game? Share and enjoy.
#3 Take care of your players. They are very well your responsibility the same as the game is. if you’re running a game where some of the participants are player couples – especially if it’s an emotionally heavier scenario – consult with them before the game and respect their wishes regarding their characters and their character’s relationship. Simply put, I’ve been through shit and seen shit happen to others (not all of it easy shit) because the players were unprepared for the game’s (unexpected, to say the truth) emotional requrements – and because the GM misinterpreted the role couples had in their larp. One of the reasons I’m writing this whole series is to add one larper’s (and occasional GM’s) voice to the effort of preventing stuff like that from happening to others.
#4 Go easy on each other. GMing is serious business, and remember – you’ve got a relationship to work on first. Not everyone can stand the same amount of pressure, and when you’re set to impress your players and bring your vision to reality, you (and your hypothetic players) can create enormous amounts of pressure. Relax, breathe and remember there’s a life outside of the game – both for the two of you personally and for your relationship. Take a break from endless character nets and supporting cast guidelines, go out for coffe or a walk, and come back to the project with fresh eyes. The same goes for “mistakes” you make during a game you’re running – it’s the effort which counts the most, from the players’ side. There’s no need to sweat over the really small stuff.
#5 Relax. If you care even half of what my favourite GMs care for their larps, it’s probably going to be okay. Don’t let the project come between you. Trust each other, talk to one another, be gentle to your loved one and you should be fine.
The Larping for Couples series is coming to an end! There’s a special treat lined up for you for next week’s Full Month and the series finale, so make sure to check it up. And good luck with your projects!
Photo by Ivana Delač (Parni zakon, Croatia, 2011 – hanging out the morning before the larp)