BF likes Role-playing Games and I want to be ok with it
April 30, 2017 5:11 AM   Subscribe

He likes RPG and I have mixed feelings about it. I want to know how to approach this so it doesn't become an issue in the long run. Help!

This is a question for people who have been in similar situations, either from his side or mine.
My BF of 9 months, whom I love so much, likes Role-playing Games. I know nothing about that, I have never done it and I'm really not interested since I don't find it appealing.
Thing is, I find it kind of... weird. Not in a 'it's a nerdy thing' kind of way, that's not how I see it. It's just weird to me to feel that he has sort of a double life, where he spends a whole night with people I don't know to pretend he's somebody else and have that story continue for a long time. It rubs me the wrong way, even though I know nothing shady is happening. It kind of freaks me out that at some point he or one of the other players will get to something inappropriate or will confuse the story of the characters with their own life. I know he doesn't, but it's hard for me still.
I'd like some advice in how to deal with my discomfort because I know he likes it and I don't want this to become an issue between us, but I do feel pretty uncomfortable when he does it.

How should I approach it? What should I ask? What is it ok for me to expect and what is it not? Etc. Thanks!
posted by divina_y_humilde to Human Relations (44 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would you feel the same if he were an actor or a writer?
We all deserve some escapism, don't you agree?
Can you go with him once to see how it works?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 5:18 AM on April 30, 2017 [18 favorites]

My spouse and I have been together for 20 years. Table-top rpgs have always been part of his life. He has never had any trouble separating the games from reality nor has he done things that are inappropriate because of the games. I've also never heard of any of the (many) people he's played with doing those things. Mostly, it's really fun and has been a great way for him to make friends and maintain friendships over many years.

For his birthday a few years ago, one of his friends wanted to run a D&D game and have all of his non-rpg friends join in, too. We had a great time. It really was a fun thing to do for a couple of hours. I will be honest and say that I ended up being a pretty powerful enchanter and at the end, after we had killed all the monsters and captured all the treasure, I trapped everyone else underground and took all the gold. It was fun. I had no trouble separating it from reality. It had no lasting effect on my life, at all, and I still don't want to play rpgs on a regular basis. I would encourage you to consider trying it out once, so you can see for yourself that it's totally harmless.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:25 AM on April 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

It's basically story telling, and a way to hang out with friends and be social. Imagine he were to go off to a bar and read out his stories to his good friends - would it be different?

Your concerns about mixing it up with real life sound entirely bizarre to me, but fwiw it's not anything that I'd ever expect to happen and I've been playing for decades.

As for what you should expect, he'd probably be happy to explain what it's about so maybe ask him? Otherwise come up with a shorthand name for it between you and compartmentalise it as a Thing he Does that you have zero interest in and that's fine.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:28 AM on April 30, 2017 [15 favorites]

To be blunt, I think the limits of what you can expect is to go with him when he plays once to see what it's like. For me, expecting anything beyond that would be a dealbreaker in a relationship. It's a hobby, it's not even a mildly controversial hobby (it's not the 1980s with satanic panic) and I expect my partners to understand I may have hobbies they're not interested in that I engage in with people they don't necessarily know (because they aren't interested in my hobby and I may not socialize with those people in other contexts).

I think it would help if you could pin down the source of these feelings. It seems likely that you're having issues with trust (either in relationships generally or with this boyfriend in particular) and are focusing it on RPGs.
posted by hoyland at 5:29 AM on April 30, 2017 [21 favorites]

Actually a better comparison would be improv, like theatresports. It is a very similar activity, and I guess people can make off colour jokes or draw on elements of their own lives in that - would a weekly theatresports session feel equally weird?
posted by Sebmojo at 5:30 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why not get to know at least some of his role-playing buddies? Also, can you sit in on a session for at least half an hour? Maybe bring some snacks and meet everyone, then go on to your own thing? If he plays regularly with these people, he's probably friends with some of them, and you could all easily go out for a drink, dinner, etc. If he has the kind of RPG set-up where people know each other pretty well over a long time, it's not unreasonable to expect that you'd meet some of them - I've met most of my close friends' RPG friends at parties and stuff over the years.

Unless RPGs have changed dramatically in the past few years, you will probably find them boring - not because they are boring, but because they're kind of their own thing and you have to have the right personality to enjoy them. I have a million friends who regularly play RPGs and my only concern is that one day they may force me to join them.

When I was younger, there was a lot of media which made RPGs seem like they were more intense and dramatic than they tend to be, and like characterization was more powerful. (This convinced my parents that they were dangerous and that I should never be allowed to play, actually.) Later, when I actually had the opportunity to play, well, let's just say that this is not what generally happens.

I get the sense that your anxiety is based on not having done or been around much of this stuff just because what you're worried about seems really left-fieldy compared to actual issues that tend to come up (when one person spends waaaaaay too much time on RPG and doesn't do chores or something.)
posted by Frowner at 5:31 AM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

>I know nothing about that, I have never done it and I'm really not interested since I don't find it appealing.
>It kind of freaks me out that at some point he or one of the other players will get to something inappropriate or will confuse the story of the characters with their own life.

These are related. You're making assumptions based off of a hobby that your boyfriend enjoys, but you profess to know nothing about it and haven't expressed an interest in learning anything about it.

Has your boyfriend shown any confusion between his RPG character and his real life?
Have you spent time with the other players outside of the RPG? Perhaps if you took the time to get to know them outside of the RPG context your fears of something "inappropriate" happening would be alleviated.
Is the RPG itself a concern, or the fact that he's spending a regular night with his friends in an activity that you aren't a part of?
Do you have any hobbies that he has no interest in? If so, are these "issues" between the two of you?

RPGs are simply a hobby and a way to spend an evening with friends. There's no difference in terms of the social aspect of it if he had a regular poker game or board game night, or a video game night, or even a movie or bar night. The reality is that there's nothing wrong with couples having hobbies of their own.

One suggestion would be to ask to join them one night and see if they'd be amenable to playing a "light" RPG tabletop game so you can see what it's like. There are even two-player tabletop games that have similar settings and appeals to show you what it's like that your boyfriend has no doubt heard of, and friends may even own (Descent, Journeys in the Dark immediately comes to mind). If you don't want to play, just go and sit in one night. Ask questions about what's going on and the game mechanics. Bring beer and snacks.
posted by Karaage at 5:32 AM on April 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

I agree that this anxiety is not at all related to how actual tabletop games I've seen play out. You may want to flip through a rule book or adventure in the game system he's playing to get an idea of the kinds of scenarios that are usually involved. (An adventure has a prewritten plot and covers a lot of the likely choices that a typical group will make.) There are also some RPG podcasts that could expose you to the typical balance of 80% rules lawyering, dice rolling, out of character questions, and chatting about real life while someone uses the restroom, and 20% pretending to be a grouchy gnome. (Different groups may have a different balance but I'm guessing that is pretty typical from what I have seen.)

It also sounds like you are anxious about not having met these friends; maybe you want to go over some night and hang out for a bit? I've played with my husband's group once or twice, as have other partners of the core group. It's been enough to understand it's not my thing, but also enough to know that his buddies are good folks who I can chat with when I see them out and about. He knows my knitting friends to about that level.

I would only be concerned if he is someone that in general has a hard time separating imagination from reality, but that would be a bigger problem than gaming.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:51 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wonder if he knows you think that he won't be able to separate a game he plays from reality.

I wonder how you'd feel if he said he didn't trust you to keep your hold on reality because you do a certain common activity that plenty of grown ups do with their grown up friends.

Maybe the game is the real issue but I wonder if it isn't something different and deeper that's bothering you. You clearly have a lot of (unfair, to me) biases against RPG gaming, but I wonder how you'd react to him spending hours a week with a close knit group of bird watchers or string player or gardeners or model train enthusiasts, or something else you don't know much about but is important to him. Would that change if it were playing basketball or watching action movies or football?

Perhaps you're having problems with him not fitting your image of a what boyfriend material should be? Or maybe you don't like him having an important and ongoing social group that you're not part of? I'm just guessing, might be way off base, but they main point is I'd encourage you to reflect on whether the problem is really the game, and consider that your fears are also sort of disrespectful to him, independent of the activity.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:55 AM on April 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

Hey guys! Just to clarify a few things:

-If my concerns are bizarre, that's because of my ignorance and I want to change that. I am interested in learning more but I'm not interested in playing it, just because, as some of you said, it doesn't fit my personality. We have talked about it and obviously I show interest in his hobbies.

-Also, I don't want him to not do it or to know every other player or anything, I just wanted to understand how it works, because I have never experienced it. Maybe I should go sometime and see it for myself, I haven't done it because like I said, I wouldn't like to participate in the game and bother them (imagine if your partner takes you to a party and you don't like dancing but they insisted you dance.) I will suggest this, though, as it might be the only thing I can do.

-I do have some trust issues, not with him particularly, but in general. People tell me the shit they're up to all the time and I have grown disappointed in people I otherwise love and trust. I am trying to overcome this, though. He hasn't shown any confusion in my opinion. Maybe my worries have to do with this and the only solution is to go once and see that it is not what I picture it to be.

Sorry if you felt like I have an issue with RPG,. I really don't. Please don't take this as a personal attack and like I don't love or respect my boyfriend. It's just a new world to me and new and unknown stuff can make people uncomfortable sometimes. Thanks for the input so far, it's been enlightning.
posted by divina_y_humilde at 6:02 AM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Would you feel the same if he were an actor or a writer?

There were long periods of time when anyone involved in theater was viewed as pretty suspect, even by the same people who would watch theater. It didn't mean they wanted to be socially involved with actors!

Nowadays we all do school plays and movie stars are worshipped to a silly degree, so we mostly don't think of acting that way. I do remember having a moment when I was sitting near the stage at a Broadway play and for a second the 'magic' of the play faded for me and I just saw people running around in fancy clothes pretending to be people they weren't and I was like, 'why? why would anyone pour so much work and sacrifice into trying to make a living being other people?'

And I still don't really get it, because that's never been a thing for me. But I'm so glad that there are people who are into it because it adds so much to the world.

So maybe RPG is a love you just haven't discovered yet, but maybe it really is something that your boyfriend is into that is really not your thing and a reminder that he is an entirely different/outside person from you, with his own internal and external life that you will never fully share or access. And that can be a little anxiety provoking especially when so much of our cultural narratives about loves are about 'two becoming one' 'deep soul bond' etc. On top of that, a lot of our cultural tropes about grown men's social time away from their women partners are also somewhat negative. There are pretty few socially conventional 'packages' for male socializing - poker nights, drinking buddies, sports games. These are expected to remain at a relatively shallow level of emotional engagement, and even then are often seen as something to be a little worried about: gambling away family funds; 'football widows'; coming home late with a questionable story, etc.

So sure, go to the game, get to know his friends a little bit, and also maybe think about what your expectations are for relationships and for male socializing outside the relationship. Or for your socializing outside the relationship too. Maybe you feel internal or external pressure to relegate your friendships and socializing to an emotional scope that would be seen as nonthreatening to your time with/to your partner (see how dismissively our culture treats 'girls' time') or availability for your partner (do you have a regular social activity on what would otherwise be a date night)?
posted by Salamandrous at 6:06 AM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

divina_y_humilde: "I know nothing about that, I have never done it and I'm really not interested since I don't find it appealing."

Whatever the picture in your head about what RPGs are like it seems pretty radical compared to reality. Groups vary wildly on the war game to immersive story telling axes but I've never encountered anyone or even heard any stories friend of a friend like of anyone having trouble separating the game from life and I've been playing for 30+ years. Notwithstanding Hollywood it's about as likely IMO as a football player randomly tackling people on the street because they can't separate the game from reality. I mean I'm sure it has happened a time or two but the victims would have had to have been mentally ill already (and unlike football RPGs rarely cause brain injuries).

Your boyfriend's current game may not be the best introduction (some games are about as wholesome as a Saw/Human Centipede movie) so I'd ask before inviting myself but most groups are up for doing one shots (basically single night games) and they tend to be better introductions than plopping a new player down into a long running campaign with years of back story. Worst case scenario you are bored silly for a few hours. That's pretty well to be expected to happen from time to time in any relationship.
posted by Mitheral at 6:10 AM on April 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you wouldn't expect him to confuse reality with fiction while watching TV, you shouldn't expect him to do so while playing RPGs. Wanting to play RPGs with friends isn't any weirder than wanting to go bowling or play Scrabble--both of which are pretty weird activities from the perspective of people who don't enjoy them, but they're well within the expected range of Things People Like To Do. Likewise if he can be trusted not to engage in inappropriate behavior in other contexts, that shouldn't change while he's playing RPGs. If you were to observe a role-playing session, it's very likely that the only thing you'd be uncomfortable about would be finding out that your boyfriend is a total nerd...
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:12 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are a ton of RPG podcasts, web shows, etc. Try watching one for a little while. It won't make sense, but it will give you a clear idea of what the experience is like for the players--it's not as immersive as it might sound--much more like writing a play and being in a play at the same time. That might be a good way to get familiar without imposing on your BF or his group of friends.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:50 AM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sorry if you felt like I have an issue with RPG,. I really don't. Please don't take this as a personal attack and like I don't love or respect my boyfriend. It's just a new world to me and new and unknown stuff can make people uncomfortable sometimes.

Absolutely. At the same time I think there's a continuum between

"I am totally OK with everything I don't know anything about" and "Things I don't know about are things I don't know about" and "Things I don't know about are things that cause me discomfort and make me upset"

You seem to be leaning towards the upset side whereas I think the normative area to be is more towards the middle. Which is fine, you feel how you feel, but my first question to you is: where are you getting your impression of RPGs? Because they seem a little off to me and the best way to address that would be to just go. And your reservations about that (it's actually pretty simple, you can just go and bring a book or your phone and hang out while they play) seem to be based in something but it's not clear what.

So, back to the main issue, I think this is just package and parcel of the trust issues you talk about generally and it might be worth teasing apart with a different friend, family member or therapist. Like it's fine to be curious about what your SO is up to. It's fine to be concerned and want to know more. It's less fine to assume that there's going to be "inappropriate" stuff going on or that people are going to have mental-illness-level confusion between a game and reality and so i think you have to own some of that interpretation as being something your brain does to you for whatever reason.

I think it's good that you are curious and want to learn more. But I think learning more in this case should be equal parts learning about your partner's hobby and learning about why your brain jumps to super-negative interpretations of what is a fairly normal-level thing for someone to be doing.
posted by jessamyn at 6:54 AM on April 30, 2017 [20 favorites]

Yeah, RPG's are pretty mainstream for people who were nerds in high school. I mean, stuff varies by game, but I'm in a RPG, and our group consists of:

- A mid-30's working professional lady who likes painting her nails and reading Metafilter (me!)
- A mid-30's stay-at-home dad who loves soccer (my husband)
- A late 30's professional dude who is a really talented home cook
- A mid-40's professional dude who used to be a police officer
- An early 30's working professional lady who has two cats and a dog and lives with her husband in a lovely 300+ year old home

We know each other because my husband used to work at the same place as everyone else in the group, and now get together every month or two at one of our houses to eat food, and play our RPG game. People have a beer or two. There's usually at least one young kid running around because persons 1-4 have a young child at home. Everybody is married, with persons 3-5 being married to people who don't play. There isn't even anything vaguely sexual or romantic (because I'm guessing that's the subtext of what you mention about people telling you bad things and worrying about your husband not being able to tell the difference between reality and fiction). The only way reality ever gets crossed with game play is:

1. A work conflict comes up and we have to cancel.
2. The group trashtalks each other on our work e-mails.
3. My husband's character is in dire peril, and he applies husbandly guilt to get me to come and save his character, WHICH HAS HAPPENED A BUNCH OF TIMES.

My husband is in another game without me, because RPG's are his major social outlet, and the group is another bunch of people with roughly the same background and similar issues trying to schedule playing sessions, because some of them have to drive in from the burbs, and one of them has child care scheduling problems. Incidentally, the guy who runs that story is a Mefite (HEY FRIEND), and for his birthday this year, may end up running a one-session roleplaying game where he has a bunch of people over and we all play RPG versions of ourselves. If her work schedule accommodates it, I think the guy's wife will play, and so will I.

RPG games reflect the character of the people who are in them.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:01 AM on April 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

If my concerns are bizarre, that's because of my ignorance and I want to change that. I am interested in learning more but I'm not interested in playing it, just because, as some of you said, it doesn't fit my personality. We have talked about it and obviously I show interest in his hobbies.

It may help to listen to a Role Playing Game podcast like The Adventure Zone or Friends at the Table. That way you can get a feel for what a game session is like, but you don't have to worry about the social aspect of watching other people play a game, and if it bores you can turn it off without offending anyone.

(This may be obvious but: If you do listen to one of these podcasts, start at episode one and not the most recent episode. RPG campaigns are serialized stories, like a TV season, and if you just hop into the middle it won't be as much fun. If you're looking for a place to start, I'd recommend listening to the Friends at the Table COUNTER/Weight arc first. The first arc, Seasons of Hieron, is a lot rougher production wise but by COUNTER/Weight they have found their footing. Episode 00 is a worldbuilding/character creation session, and Episode 01 is the first episode of the story proper.)
posted by JDHarper at 7:03 AM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't think it is bizarre or even uncommon that you have these concerns. Even though I get the sense that RPGs have been getting more popular outside of nerd culture lately, it is something that has been surrounded by stigma and ignorance. I also remember hearing of stories about online RPGs like World of Warcraft and people "cheating" on their SOs in game a few years ago (I vaguely remember this being a plot line on the Big Bang Theory once?), so I don't think your concerns are necessarily bizarre or appearing out of thin air. My boyfriend, who is very much into RPGs, at first felt very embarrased to admit to me that this was his hobby, mainly because in previous girls he dated were really weird about it. So this is a thing.

But I can assure you, RPGs are nothing nefarious. It's more of a combination between storytelling, improv, table top games and video games. Different games are also different. Personally, I find it kind of boring and my biggest problem with it is that my boyfriend always tries to convince me to join the game. I did once, when we started dating, but it's not my thing.

I like the idea of joining him and see what it's all about. You don't have to join in, just watch. There are also a lot of videos on youtube or even podcasts of people playing RPG sessions which you can watch if you want. Maybe your boyfriend can recommend some. (Or mine, if you'd like me to ask.) Inform and reassure yourself :) It's never a bad idea to show some interest in your boyfriends' hobby, even if it's not something you like for yourself :)

It may also be true that you have some trust issues, like you stated. Has your boyfriend ever done something that makes you distrust him? Try to find out what the main problem is, is it the game itself, is it your boyfriend or are these your own issues?
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 7:03 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

So many great answers! Thanks a lot everybody.

It's been a bit of a slap in the face to realize that a big part of this is probably about personal issues, and once again, I'm sorry if I made it sound like the problem was the activity itself. It's not. I know many of you love it and it wasn't my intention to offend you at all (or my Bf, for that matter...)

Also, your descriptions have really helped me picture it and feel more at ease. I will look into the podcast as well. I won't impose my presence in the game, obviously, but if they are ok with it I might go sometime. For now, I will get down to dealing with my own trust issues. :/
posted by divina_y_humilde at 7:25 AM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I hope you'll get more information about it and that what you see will put you totally at ease. I don't know what games your bf plays but I've never seen any tabletop games that are anything but super-nerdy, like totally the opposite of anything that would challenge a romantic relationship.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:54 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Playing an RPG is like a choose your own adventure book, but instead of a reading a book you tell the story out loud. Here's how it works.

You start by agreeing on a setting (medieval fantasy, post apocalyptic survival, superheroes living in the modern world, whatever). Then you get a rulebook which tells you how to decide things like combat, buying equipment, and achieving other game related tasks. It's like, in a video game if you want to buy a cool hat, you might have to earn money by doing a quest or a task. The rulebook is just so everyone knows how the game mechanics work. For example, some games use dice to determine how events turn out, and a rulebook states what a high or low number might mean.

So then one person writes a story framework, including things like what the players' characters are trying to achieve, what obstacles they might encounter, and what the non-player characters in the story do/say. This person is called the game master (GM), dungeon master (DM), or Storyteller, depending on which rulebook you've agreed on.

The players decide what kind of character they will be playing, a lot like an actor thinks about their character. Then they use the rulebook to put those traits onto paper for later reference.

Then the Storyteller/DM/GM starts to tell the story, and the players descibe how their characters react, snacks are consumed, and a good time is had by all.

Playing an RPG, acting, watching movies, reading books... these are the ways that we can experience other worlds and ideas outside ourselves. Although there are people who have difficulty separating their character from themselves, this is extremely rare and have nothing to do with the RPG itself.

RPGs are, in the end, just games, and despite the mechanics being different have the same pros and cons as other types of games.
posted by rakaidan at 7:56 AM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think people are being a little harsh on you, but there's a reason and a history behind that, and it might be helpful to explain it. Back in the 80's and 90's, when Dungeons and Dragons (the grand-daddy of the modern crop of RPGs) was a bit of a fad for teenagers, there was a massive moral panic (the same way there was a moral panic when teenagers took up Rock and Roll, or video games, or texting). Lots of hysterical people were running around saying that RPGs would be the end of civilization. People were literally making a career out of going on TV and telling the world that RPGs were tools used by Satan to possess the minds of unsuspecting teenagers. And just like every previous moral panic over teenagers, it was used to explain teenage behavior, both the banal ("Sally used to be so nice, but now she talks back, and wants to hang out with boys I don't approve of. It must be those awful RPGs!") and the tragic ("My son couldn't have killed himself because he had a long-standing, severe, untreated mental illness, it must be because of those two times he played D&D with the bad kids at school").

So when you talk about your worries that your boyfriend or the people you're playing with "will confuse the story of the characters with their own life", it sounds to those who have been around RPGs for a long time a lot like those old zombie lies coming back again. Maybe that's just coincidence, or maybe you picked up some of those messages somewhere along the way, and your insecurities latched on to them for their own reasons. Just by living in society, we all pick up a lot of weird messages and ideas that re-surface in strange and unexpected ways.

I know I'm not the first (or even the tenth) person to say this, but I do think it would be good for you to sit in on an hour or two of your boyfriend's RPG sessions. I guarantee that the most likely outcome is that you'll be bored out of your skull watching your boyfriend and his friends pretending to be elves and wizards. (Like improv comedy, unless you're really, really good, RPGs are really much more enjoyable for the people doing them than for anyone watching). And then you'll be able to view your boyfriend's hobby with the same benign indulgence that millions of people have towards their partners' inexplicable passion for sports, or their garage band, or collecting stamps.

(Of course the second most likely outcome is that you'll find the experience fascinating and want to join in yourself. Who knows? This might turn in to something you and your boyfriend can share together.)
posted by firechicago at 8:09 AM on April 30, 2017 [19 favorites]

Of you want to get more of an idea what the games are like a quick search on YouTube will bring up a plethora of videos to watch of people actually playing the games.
posted by wwax at 8:13 AM on April 30, 2017

Tabletop Role Playing Games are basically a combination of improvisational theater, creative writing, and math nerdity. It's a hobby that is geeky, yes, but arguably less so (and exercises more useful life skills) than other hobbies such as video games, sports, tv watching, or bar hopping.

My gaming group consists of:
Mid-30s business analyst (me)
Mid-30s anthropology professor
Mid-30s warehouse manager
Late-20s barber
Mid-30s municipal government planner
Late 30s creative arts professor

I echo everyone else saying you should sit in and check it out. You will probably find it boring, since you're not invested in the story or the characters, but if you're a creative type or a reader of fiction, you might really find something to love in it.
posted by JimBJ9 at 8:28 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Unless your boyfriend's group is very unlike the groups I've known, you won't be "imposing" or "intruding" if you go along sometime and watch for an hour or two. They'll be happy to explain stuff or just play while you watch; it's not some kind of activity where you have to concentrate and be perfect. I'd say have an out so you don't feel stuck out of politeness; "I can stay until 6, then I need to go and X." But yeah, worst case scenario is that you will be bored for an hour or two. Surely you can put up with that for the love of your boyfriend! :)
posted by The otter lady at 8:35 AM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are people who have weird religious concerns about RPGs, and you may have gotten some of that. Go hang out with him. It will give you a chance to share something that's important to him, you might like it, etc.
posted by theora55 at 9:01 AM on April 30, 2017

Logged in to fave firechicago's response. If you're curious there is a game being played in metatalk right now, check the top of this page for a link.
posted by Iteki at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Something else to throw in the mix might be the character strengths that sometimes go with RPGs. Obviously, there's no one type of person who plays, and you know your BF, but I remember in high school, the RPG guys (this group was in fact all guys) being among the most interesting -- smart, creative, articulate, funny. Far from your idea that RPG causes people to lose touch with reality or something, think about what kind of people would, instead of spending their Sunday afternoon, like, watching TV inertly, decide to hurt
posted by salvia at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2017

Don't feel weird for a second about sitting in for a game. In general, people who role play LOVE introducing people to the game and would happily embrace your presence. We always have people sit in that are curious about playing. You're awesome for accepting feedback about this. Before I started playing I thought people that played RPGs were weird and it was a dumb hobby. Now I'm scheduling things every Tuesday. Have fun with it!
posted by Marinara at 10:41 AM on April 30, 2017

Just to clarify, are you talking about tabletop RPGs or LARP (live action role playing)? I agree with all the answers above in either case, but I get that as a newcomer/outsider, LARPing seems very intense and the feeling that it could lead to inappropriate behavior seems more real since they are acting out the story instead of just talking through it.

The first time I encountered LARPing it was. . .startling. And I say this as someone who grew up doing a lot of theater and improv. Really, that's all that's happening. You have a character, and you play through scenarios. But there is a high level of consent and a strictness about respecting boundaries in every LARP community I've encountered.

I do think you need to examine your issues around trust and also to go with your bf to a game. I suspect you will be bored out of your mind and wonder why you thought it was going to be an issue at all :)
posted by ananci at 11:45 AM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

In addition to there being podcasts to give you an idea of what it's like there are also pleny of video series on youtube, this is one example.
posted by juv3nal at 11:45 AM on April 30, 2017

So I play RPGs with friends and I absolutely love it. But sometimes if I'm not in the mood to be social or I'm really tired, sometimes I take a book and just hang out with friends or SOs while they all game. And I hang out with folks on the couch and sort of half-read my novel and half-listen to the game, because collaborative storytelling is really fun to be around even if you're not involved.

Maybe you could try that? Coming along and sort of informally observing while doing something else (knitting/reading/playing with the dog/making dinner/whatever), but in a way that doesn't make them feel like they're being watched too closely and that gives you a little privacy so you can process what's going on? Maybe that would help put your mind at ease, and spare you a big "I don't know what's going on but it makes me uncomfortable, can I please come watch?" conversation. Because I think once you see it, you'll feel better. You still probably won't want to play (and that's fine!), but it might give you some clarity to deal with the larger trust issues to see that this particular mistrust isn't warranted.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:08 PM on April 30, 2017

I think people are being a little harsh on you

I think the position you outlined originally is outside the current mainstream and people are feeling out how to describe that mainstream. A guy worrying about his wife's book club would get a similar if not more robust reaction.

The suggestion about taking a book along for an hour or two and sitting on the couch while they game, maybe with a pre-stated out, is a great one.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:30 PM on April 30, 2017

My husband is an avid role playing and war gamer and I have zero interest in playing RPGs. You've got great answers here already, but one thing I wanted to mention is that RPGamers are often also pretty into board games as well (usually complicated grown-up board games, not, like, scrabble) and if you want to meet his gaming friends some time in a way that doesn't involve you role-playing (because I toootally get not wanting to--I've tried and it makes me cringe), suggest inviting them over for a board game night. My husband's gaming friends are also good friends of mine and in addition to their regular role-playing nights that I don't participate in, we periodically get together for non-role playing game nights.

It's also not that unusual to just hang out as a spectator while a regular group games together. I've done that plenty just because I like hanging out with the people who are gaming, I just don't actually like the gaming part. I bring a book for when they get way into the weeds of the rules and dice-rolling. It's a nice, low-key evening for me. If you get to know his gaming buddies and like them, ask if they wouldn't mind you just chilling while they game.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:28 PM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I will try to go sometime and report back :)

(Also, maybe it's too late to mention this and I don't want digress or excuse my initial missconceptions but I don't live in the USA and RPG are definitely NOT mainstream over here. )
posted by divina_y_humilde at 6:25 PM on April 30, 2017

Hey, I commend you for wanting to get informed so you can feel more at ease with your boyfriends hobby. That's a good start!

Reading your question, you sound like you feel threatened by the unknown, and that is bothering you a lot. You also seem as if you have gotten your 'ideas' about tabletop RPG is maybe shaped by negative media and people who kinda look down on 'nerds' and stuff. It make sense if you are not in the USA. When you live in a pretty mainstream culture, it's very easy to have this 'huh?' feeling about anything that even deviates from the norm a little bit. I grew up in dual cultures, and I empathize. My culture can have a pretty judgmental attitude about anything different. Maybe this is at play a little bit too.

I agree that you should go sometime. It might also be worth you checking out a couple of youtube videos of tabletop games, such as Rated RPG which has various different campaigns, not just D&D. It's literally just progressing a story and being silly. Unfortunately the playlist is not in order, but if you watch Part 1 of any video, it's a good introduction as to what to expect, and the videos are very funny also. There are some other tabletop RPG series on youtube, but this is my favorite-- the videos are shorter, funnier and less serious than some other tabletop shows.
posted by Dimes at 3:15 AM on May 1, 2017

Here's four people playing Dungeon World, a D&D-like game, together... including people who have never played a tabletop RPG before and know about as much about RPGs as you do. (It's an especially goofy group.)

Depending on what RPG your boyfriend is playing, it's either like a videogame with friends (and there's very little actual roleplaying), or basically just an improv session with rules for dealing for conflict so no one's feelings get hurt when things don't go their way.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:26 AM on May 1, 2017

For maybe a glimpse into an RPG session that's easily digestible, try Harmon Quest. A serial RPG session where Dan Harmon plays with his (now ex) wife and friends.
posted by teabag at 7:34 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry, what I mean about that:

In a videogame, you can only ever react to something in ways coded into a videogame. You're playing a shooter? You can shoot your 'problems', that's it. Big monster terrorizing a town? Shoot it.

In an RPG, anything the players can (a) plan and (b) execute, can be done. They don't want to shoot the destructive monster to death? No problem. Give them time, they can think up a plan involving some nets, a big hole, and a big truck to move the monster somewhere safe. Or maybe they think the monster might be a transformed villager, so they try to cure the villager. Or maybe they'll talk to the monster and try to strike a deal with it.

So for a lot of people, an RPG session is just a videogame, with more options, and with friends. So people play for all the same reasons they play videogames, or play for the same reasons people hang out with friends playing boardgames.

For some people, they play RPGs instead of (or in addition to) doing improv. Or writing stories. Or whatever. They want to get deep into what makes a character tick. It's like starring in a community production of Grease, or Hamilton, or writing fanfic, or whatever: now YOU get to decide how they'd react (within certain limits and rules). It's fun trying to think through how someone else would react to something.

It's never really a question of 'forgetting yourself' in the character; the rules are incidentally effective at preventing you from getting too into it. Every player, literally every player, has had an experience where they wanted to do X, but they weren't lucky enough or couldn't make it happen; or where they wanted to do something awesome, but the character wouldn't know to do that, so they made the character do something much less awesome. And unlike theatre/TV/movies, you don't play the same character every day for months or years. You play them once a week, maybe less often, and then return to your normal life.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:52 AM on May 1, 2017

not interested in playing it, just because, as some of you said, it doesn't fit my personality.

Do you ever ask your partner to do things that they aren't particularly interested in doing, such as accompanying you to something you enjoy and want a date for, but they wouldn't do unless they were going with you? Or ask them to try a food, movie, new activity, etc. just because it's something you enjoy and you'd like them to get to see it firsthand, with the hope that they might understand you better even if they don't want to do it again?

There are RPGs that you can play in about as much time it takes to see a movie you aren't too interested in.

Would you be willing to spend a few hours doing something that could bring you closer to your partner, even if it doesn't "fit your personality"?

will confuse the story of the characters with their own life

It's not true that this never happens. It does happen once in a while -- but only in serious cases of untreated mental illness that would cause problems even if the person had never played an RPG. In that case, the problem is the mental illness, not that the person played an RPG. It's not any more likely to happen than confusing the characters in a book with your own life.
posted by yohko at 4:30 PM on May 1, 2017

What I was thinking when I imagined the whole "confusing the game with real life" was mostly about things like characters being in relationships for example, and that the people involved could channel stuff that they otherwise can't do IRL. This came up because he mentioned once that 2 of the participants used to be a couple and then they became a couple in one of the stories (when they weren't together IRL anymore) or something like that and I though that was kind of unnecessary (probably) and could lead to people confusing boundaries and stuff in general.
posted by divina_y_humilde at 4:48 PM on May 1, 2017

It sounds like a lot of fairly dramatic stuff which might have nothing whatever to do with the game. It's possible for relationships inside to impact lives outside, or the other way around, but isn't "normal," in my experience.
posted by Alensin at 6:52 PM on May 1, 2017

This came up because he mentioned once that 2 of the participants used to be a couple and then they became a couple in one of the stories (when they weren't together IRL anymore) or something like that and I though that was kind of unnecessary (probably) and could lead to people confusing boundaries and stuff in general.

When you worry about this, remember that he's playing a room full of other people who are all aware of this. There's a big book of rules that govern most interactions - seducing a character basically involves rolling some dice, not actually talking sexy to another player. It all tends to be very solidly mediated and held at arms length, just like no-one is actually killing anything with their weapons or whatever.

And if their characters do wind up in a relationship, what it means practically is that the two people have shared access to loot and gear, which is just numbers on a bit of paper. I've got a character in a relationship with another character in one of my games. Really it's like playing with dolls, that's kind of the level of emotional intensity involved here. The other player and I decided they made a cute couple, so here we are, and we've been mucking about planning their wedding like a pair of girls with a couple of Barbies - imagining bridesmaids dresses and whether it'd be a beach wedding or in a church, that kind of thing. We're both in our thirties, in committed long term relationships with men who also play in that group. It's all the fun bits with the stress shorn off, and that's about the limit of it. Once we're done with that it'll just amount to the two characters sharing a common resources pool.

What those sorts of relationships tend to boil down to is numbers on a sheet of paper, in the end. The boundaries run around the edge of the paper, and that relationship stops at the end of the session. Even with my groups, who tend more to the collaborative storytelling end of things than just rolling a lot of dice together, it's really easy to see where the edges of those relationships are.
posted by Jilder at 4:10 AM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here's a good example of roleplaying Dungeons & Dragons that may ease your mind a bit:

D&D with Vin Diesel
posted by magstheaxe at 10:27 AM on May 3, 2017

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