We are planning to feature a duet every so often to get different perspectives and ideas on playing one-on-one D&D. We hope this will also be inspiring for crafting homebrew worlds, character development, and interesting narratives!
For the first of these posts, Gwenyth and Austin, the creators and DM and player of Me, My Spouse, and a Die, an actual-play D&D podcast, share how and why they first started playing in a duet. They also explain some of their worldbuilding collaboration and reflect on what playing together has done for their relationship.
Background: Their podcast is set in the homebrew world of Moir, and the primary character is an Aasimar druid named Octavia.
Setup: We sent Gwenyth and Austin some questions to consider, so we’ve organized the post like an interview. They’ve marked who is responding throughout; sections beginning without a marker are them together. We further set off Gwenyth’s responses in the light grey text boxes for contrast.
First, will you introduce yourselves?
(Gwenyth) I am, professionally, an attorney who was born on a dairy farm the youngest of five daughters and have somehow found myself working in tax in Washington, DC. I was swept off my feet when Austin and I played a couple on-stage, which promptly developed into fireworks off-stage.
Personally, I had never heard about D&D or RPGs prior to when Austin introduced me, and they’ve completely changed my life since – allowing me to be creative in a profession that doesn’t always encourage it. I love semi-trashy TV, drinking coffee, and learning about bourbon and distilling. I currently live in Washington, DC.
(Austin) I am, professionally, a chemist who has DMed since my early years in undergrad and ran another one-on-one campaign (also set in the Land of Moir) with Gwenyth during our grad school years. Personally, I’ve always been drawn to fantasy, science fiction, and the like, so it made sense that I eventually dabbled in the world RPGs. When not adventure-planning and initiative-tracking, I’m continuing my PhD research, adoring our two cats (Pancake and Frying Pan), or catching up on the unplayed titles in my Steam library. I currently live in Pittsburgh, PA.
How did you get started with your duet?
We started Me, My Spouse, and a Die because we love Dungeons and Dragons, and we love playing Dungeons and Dragons with each other! We also started MMSaaD as a way to stay in touch and make something creative together when Gwenyth had to move away from Pittsburgh for her job. We had toyed with the idea of starting a podcast over the years, and even recorded a few of our sessions, but we had never recorded with real intentionality or actually sat down and made a plan.
(Gwenyth) But the germ of MMSaaD really started with a phone call one day when I was walking home. We had been chatting about the other campaign we are in, and I just told Austin, “We should start a podcast!” and the rest is history. The circumstances were finally right.
We danced around names, logos, theme songs, etc., and the pieces fell into place in such a way that it seemed like we had really hit on something. The blessing and curse that was the longest government shutdown in history let me return to Pittsburgh and focus full-time on building an online presence for MMSaaD while Austin worked on building the campaign.
(Austin) Prior to MMSaaD we had played a one-on-one campaign for a few years—I DMed and Gwenyth played Zarasa, a Golden Dragonborn Sorcerer. Back in the day, beginning to play one-on-one was more a matter of necessity than a conscious choice.
When we started grad school, we moved into the heart of Pittsburgh from the suburbs and didn’t have a consistent gaming group. We both wanted to continue playing though! So our first duet was born.
That campaign also took place in Moir, but during a different time period in Moir’s history, and lasted about two years. We decided to adventure in the Land of Moir for MMSaaD because our previous one-on-one campaign was also in Moir and we were comfortable in the setting. Every time we play it feels like coming home. We know the history, we know the cultures, and after all these years we’re as comfortable in Moir as we are in some cities in the US.
(Gwenyth) I think the fact that we had played a one-on-one campaign for several years prior to launch and that we’re using the same home-brewed world have made the process of getting into the swing of MMSaaD that much easier.
During our previous one-on-one campaign we took Zarasa to level 10; we worked through building a world together, and Austin made an engaging story session after session that I couldn’t wait to get back to. So far, Zarasa was my favorite character I’ve ever played long-term, but I’m so excited to get to know Octavia Marguerite Sinclair better and fall more in love with her too.
How long have you been playing D&D?
(Austin) I started playing D&D 4th Edition about halfway through undergrad, when my roommates and I decided to buy the starter edition and – with no prior experience – just figure things out as we went. It was during this starter campaign that I experienced my first PC death – Veldyn the Swift, an elven rogue – and began to dip my toes into DMing.
We played a consistent campaign for about a year or so, until some of our party-mates graduated and the group had to disband. Shortly after, 5th Edition was released, and I played on-again-off-again with friends and family. Mostly DMing a one-on-one campaign with Gwenyth.
(Gwenyth) I first started playing RPGs with Austin in undergrad. The first character I ever made was an elven monk who ended up being pretty much useless in the one and only opening session of the Lost Mines of Phandelver that we played. This session was particularly memorable because, not only was it my first D&D session ever, but the game was run by one of my future in-laws – which understandably contributed to additional stress and nerves!
In the years since that first session of the Lost Mines, we’ve have been part of a couple different groups playing both homebrew and official adventures, both one-on-one and in larger parties, some more long-lived than others. We’ve dabbled in Barovia and adventured together just the two of us in Moir off and on for the past several years.
What did getting started look like for the two of you? What did you collaborate on in the beginning, and how do you share the worldbuilding and character development now?
World-building has always been very collaborative. The mountain range that snakes down the middle of Moir was conceived on a park bench one evening when we were just chatting about mountain cats the size of dinosaurs who died and ultimately formed the bones of the mountains.
(Gwenyth) When we started our first Moir campaign, we actually planned separately. I decided on the character I wanted to play; I chose Zarasa because of something as superficial as the illustrations in the Player’s Handbook, and began crafting her backstory.
Octavia came around as I was mulling through different combinations of classes and races – Austin and I were talking about Octavia being an Aasimar and having incorporeal wings and we mixed it up with her maybe being a druid and turning into a bear with incorporeal wings and BOOM there she was!
(Austin) I started mapping out Moir and its history and the overarching story of the campaign. Moir’s history is already broken down into several different ages, and while our previous one-on-one campaign was in one age, the present campaign with Octavia is in a different age. These stories inform each other and influence each other – one being present, one being future.
Then we came together and pooled stories. Moir changed because of these characters’ backstory, and their backstories changed because of Moir’s history. We mixed ideas, stirred some concepts, and shook up some story. And voila! The cocktail that is MMSaaD came to be.
What do you feel like it’s done for your relationship?
(Gwenyth) Playing one-on-one and starting MMSaaD has definitely made us more open with each other. Any modicum of embarrassment or inhibitions I might have had, even after being with each other for so long, to play a dragon person who casts spells or a person touched by a god with wings completely disappeared after our first couple sessions.
And with our careers being so wildly different, it’s refreshing to have something to create together. To work on together. To take nothing, and turn it into something. I’ve always wanted to build something together with Austin; we’ve talked distilleries, talked other schemes, but actually making MMSaaD a reality has been the biggest thing we’ve made together since making our home.
(Austin) I love Gwenyth, and I love Dungeons and Dragons, so combining those two things has been awesome! We met doing theater in undergrad, and this is sort of like capturing those early days of and reminiscing in what made us into what we are today, while building something new for the future too.
It’s given us both an escape from the sometimes monotonous, tedious, or hum-drum of daily working life and an outlet from the pressures and obligations of the world – if even just a few hours at a time. I think it’s given us a better understanding of each other too – what we want, how we think, why we do what we do. It’s really kind of amazing that you can learn so much about a person, even a person you know really well, by pretending to be someone else.
Where can we find out more?
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @andadiepodcast to stay up to date on all our news and head on over to our website www.memyspouseandadie.com to subscribe on your podcast app of choice.
Gwenyth and Austin’s episodes release on Wednesdays, so be sure to check them out! They also host fun giveaways on their social media accounts!
If you like what you’re reading, please consider supporting the blog by purchasing our adventures and supplements in our shop or on DMsGuild or sponsoring us on Patreon. We’d also love for you to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We appreciate you so much! Thank you for reading. – Beth and Jonathan