Valentine’s Grab Bag

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One of the things on my GMing bucket list is to have a PC fall in love when it’s not their idea. It’s one thing to have a PC dream up a love interest and have it as a goal, but something else entirely to have their character develop an attraction to an NPC all on their own. I’ve had PCs fall in love with each other. I’ve even had players fall in love (I’m in their wedding in May), but never a PC and an NPC when it wasn’t specifically the player’s idea. One day. I’ve had some time to reflect on romantic relationships in rpgs though, and I want to share some of that this morning.

Designing love interests

The “Perfect mate” will always be your idea of what they want. You will inevitably get this wrong.

Designing a potential love interest is just like designing any other NPC. The key questions to ask are “What’s the story this character can tell?” and “How will they interact with the PCs?” There’s a juvenile temptation to design the perfect mate, but down that road lies problems and anguish. The “Perfect mate” will always be your idea of what they want. You will inevitably get this wrong. Pay attention to the PC’s values and interests and design a character that they could love, not someone they should love. Let things unfold from there, and make sure the PC is in the driver’s seat. If they want to let it go, they let it go. There are few places autonomy and freedom matter more than in romance.

Date night for adventurers

Adventurers of any type, whether fantasy heroes or street-savvy shadowrunners, are not normal people. There is no reason to expect them to do anything normally. A love interest can be an escape from that life, but it can just as easily enhance it. Instead of dinner at Chez Ralph, a couple might settle for takeout and enchanting or bond over some blade rituals. That said, date night should happen away from the rest of the party. It creates quiet moments and keeps the dwarf from farting during dinner. Time alone is something that few adventurers really get, given the paranoia that comes from splitting the group. Giving them the opportunity to do so safely will not only cultivate trust and keep them sane, it’ll make date night a welcome refuge.

Dudes in distress

I wrote a little while ago about how PCs tend to avoid attachments and be serial loners, and part of that comes from the notion that anyone they grow too attached to will eventually be kidnapped, murdered, or eventually endangered for the sake of some adventure or plot point. If you develop the right kind of trust with your players, they’ll be able to believe that this won’t happen. It can give them the space to form relationships without that relationship becoming a source of worry or a burden. Of course, keep your options open. If the opportunity for the group to tell a good story about a romantic rescue, jump on it.

D&D Bachelorette Party

Finally, a brief story. Five years ago I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding, and we had a D&D Bachelorette party. The bride-to-be rolled up a 15th level warrior, a major badass who was settling down with a shopkeeper after a successful life of killing things and taking their pants. But for one last hurrah, she teamed up with her maid of honour, future mother-in-law, and best friend on a quest for something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. And a sixpence for her shoe. There was drinking, laughter, drama and bonding both in and out of character. Romance can do more than tell great stories, it can bring people together out of game. It’s probably one of the greatest adventures, and certainly one of the oldest.

I’ll be running my first D&D bachelor party at PAX East in April, and I can’t say too much about my plans for that here because it’s for Ryan, and parts of it need to be a surprise. But if you’re going to be at PAX East, throw me a tweet at @ConceptCrucible and we might be able to cook something up. Leave a comment and let me know how romance plays out in your games!

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