Husband and wife Christopher and Anne House have spent the last 20 years building their relationship through tabletop role-playing games.
Not only did the Houses meet through the games, they have become how the Houses connect with their children and other members of their family.
“Before the internet, people went to game stores like Lone Star Comics in Dallas and filled out a sheet that said, ‘Looking for players’ or ‘Looking for groups to play with,’” Chris House said. “You would write down your contact information and it would go into a book. People would come in and look in the book. She and her former husband had put their names in the book.”
This was around 1994 when “Interview with a Vampire,” starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt came out in theaters.
“I wanted to see if there was a role-playing game that had a similar storyline,” Anne House said. “At the time, I had played ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’ ‘Time Traveler’ and a few others.”
Anne House and her former husband put their names in the book at Lone Star to see if there was anyone out there that played vampire-type games. Chris House invited Anne and her first husband over to his apartment to play a game.
“We sat down with my roommates and we got to know each other,” Chris House said. “I really liked her then, but she was married and pregnant.”
After the game, Chris House left the area to complete some military obligations.
“When I came back, I called her husband to see how they were doing, to see if maybe we could start playing again,” he said. “She answered the phone and I asked for her husband. She told me that he did not live there anymore and that they were separated.”
That was the beginning of Anne and Christopher House’s romantic relationship. Since then, the couple has been collecting and playing role-playing games.
Chris House said he does not have a favorite game. Anne House’s favorites are “Call of Cthulhu,” “Castle Falkenstein” and “Witchcraft.” But, the best games to play are the games that they can play together.
“I pretty much play any game where Chris is the game master,” Anne House said. “We have gotten to the point where if he cannot game with me, he seldom plays and if I cannot game with him, I seldom play.”
How it began
Both Anne and Chris House’s love for role-playing games began with “Dungeons and Dragons.”
Chris House began playing as a teenager after moving to Lewisville with his father.
“I knew about the game, but I was not allowed to play for a long time,” Chris House said. “I was told that it takes too long to introduce someone that did not know how to play. I was also told by a preacher that we were not supposed to play it, but I was still interested.”
Chris House sat down with friends Micheal Murphy and Jim Jones and made up a character to play.
Anne House was first introduced to the expert version of “Dungeons and Dragons” when she was also a teenager. She fell in love with it and introduced it to other members of her family.
“My father was in the military,” Anne House said. “So I was very interested when I heard about this game called ‘Time Traveler.’ It came in these little one and a half inch long booklets. I introduced this game to my dad, who still collects role-playing games — not as much as we do though.”
The influence on their lives
Role playing comes in different books and with different ways of playing, Chris House said. But, for him, it encourages, creativity, writing and many other aspects of his life.
“I used ‘Twilight 2000’ to teach strategy when I was in the barracks as a way to simulate our common tasks,” Chris House said of his time in the military. “We did these tasks over and over again like learning how to arm a mine. Well we can talk about what would happen if the mine was to go off. That made the other soldiers pay a bit more attention when they were doing these common tasks. I would say something like, ‘It was dark night and you are walking in a dimly lit alley. You come up to a mine. How would you disarm it?’ That would make the situation a little more interesting.”
Chris House said that he used role-playing games to do amazing things for team building.
“You learn communications, logistics, team work, math and management,” he said. “It also gives you the chance to put yourself in other people’s shoes. When my children were kids, one of them would say that the other was being mean to them. I would ask each one what happened. Then we would reverse it and ask one why their actions would hurt the other. Then do the same thing for the second. I wish people could do that in real life, but this is something we learned with role playing games.”
A lot of people have not dealt with the same oppression, tyranny and slavery that others have dealt with, Chris House said.
“It forced me to learn and walk into other people’s shoes,” Chris House said. “They may be the shoes of elves and dwarfs, but these are still others’ shoes. They have feelings too. It made me grow as a person. I had to face a lot of hard questions about myself. A lot of people are missing the compassion for others. They are not kind. But as role playing as a game master, you are analyzing and strategizing. You are trying to work through stories that entertain people on an intellectual level.”
For Anne House, role-playing games are all about spending time with people who like to think and delve into the what-if questions.
“I do think a lot at work, but this is recreational thinking,” she said. “We are thinking about the things that we want to think about with the people that we want to think with. This is just one facet of a lot of my friendships. We go out to eat with the people we play with. We go to the movies with the people that we play with. We learn so much about our friends when we play these games. It makes the relationships so much deeper.”
Role playing games have made many of Anne House’s relationships more enriching.
“It makes our bonds so much stronger,” she said. “We are playing with people that have a wide range of faith backgrounds. Those faith backgrounds do not come into play when we are playing these games unless it is a part of the story. It is because we are role playing. We are being someone else on purpose.”