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Love is in the RPG

Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of the day, you might consider running a game of Blue Rose [1], Green Ronin’s RPG of romantic fantasy — and fleshing out your romantic NPCs with Shards of the Heart [2], from Tabletop Adventures.

Do you ever include romance in your games? Or is it taboo for your group?

21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "Love is in the RPG"

#1 Comment By ScottM On February 14, 2006 @ 9:21 am

Romance does come up, though it’s erratically handled. We’re likely to pull the camera back pretty early in a romance scene.

#2 Comment By Avlor On February 14, 2006 @ 10:32 am

In two of the campaigns/adventures I’ve been in have had romance in them.

In both the curtain is pulled early.

*The first one… the gaming group consists of 2 married couples with not yet married characters. We say outrageous things sometimes – but anything more than a kiss or flirt isn’t needed IN GAME (we figure anymore than that belongs behind a closed door in real life) The romance is a big part of what ties my character to the world she’s in and where she “lives” – since she’s not from there. She “fell in love” with a race and it’s culture then a character in it. The majority of play is going out solving problems, killing monsters and what not!

*The other one – is the one where I’m doing my first GM stint. I made a short adventure around the twins from “Shards of the Heart” and one of the rings from “A Dozen Magical Rings” by Ronin Arts. I pondered having it be with the whole regular group, but chose to do a 1 on 1 with my hubby as his gift for Valentine’s day. On a lark we started it on Sunday – had planed to start today. There’s been some serious flirting and some hints but much else isn’t needed. (Why would it be? That’s what my marriage liscence is for in real life!)

There are times where it just doesn’t fit. “Not a deathtrap” – I’ve seen no use for it. (Granted my character is more interested in shiny things and keeping his life) (Need to bug the DM for that and see if we can play more on that one…)

#3 Comment By Gamerchick On February 14, 2006 @ 10:46 am

We seem to have romances and weddings all the time, both the NPCs and the PCs. My swashbuckler in our Saturday game is doing her best to seduce her way across the Forgotten Realms. The sex takes place off screen, but it’s a good romp.

I’d love to try running a short romance-based campaign some time, though. I think it might be an intriguing way to get more women involved in gaming (I say that as a woman gamer/GM who’s been in the hobby 25 years or so).

#4 Comment By Patrick On February 14, 2006 @ 11:23 am

We haven’t done much romance in the games I’ve been in. “Taboo” is too strong of a word, but if it doesn’t need to go that way I think my group is more comfortable steering away from it.

#5 Comment By Brendan On February 14, 2006 @ 11:29 am

Breaking the Ice, Breaking the Ice!

#6 Comment By Martin On February 14, 2006 @ 6:30 pm

Interesting. By and large, I’ve always shied away from it in my games — but I think my players have generally avoided it, too. Much like Patrick, I wouldn’t go with “taboo,” but it’s not too far off.

And I’d completely forgotten about Breaking the Ice — how is that game, Brendan?

#7 Comment By DNAphil On February 14, 2006 @ 8:06 pm

We have had some romance in our various campaigns. The most serious was in a d20 Modern game I ran two years ago. In that case, we kept most of the more serious dialog to an online component of the game, and we too put the curtain down early, when things heated up.

In my other campaigns the heroes tend not to get involved romantically. It is not Taboo, but it is something that few in my group will venture into.

In a recent D&D game I am playing in, my Character gets into various short term relationships. Most of them have been dealt in passing during a session.

We have one female in one of the games I play in, but she is married to the brother and brother in law of two of the players. So for the most part our group is without the female element, so romance is pretty much backburnered.

#8 Comment By Bento On February 15, 2006 @ 7:13 pm

“Romance” can be much more than “hooking-up” in game play. Reading Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots” his explanation of the plot type “Comedy” lends itself to romantic-type of play. This plot type is found in almost any kind of romantic comedy:

“A” loves “B” but society/family keeps them apart. “A” disguises self to be with “B” but when “B” falls in love with “A”, “A” is in a quandry – what happens when “B” finds out the truth? In the middle of all this is a villian causing trouble, and when “A” comes to the rescue of “B” then suddenly “A” is reveal for who they truly are (a peasant, a mermaid, a woman/man, etc.). “B” says “I don’t care – I love you anyway, and they all live happily ever after.

Where do we see this plot? Almost any Disney movie made in the past 20 years – Little Mermaid, Mulan, Cinderella, Aladin. We also see this kind of plot in a lot of other movies involving the sexes. In each one of these stories the plot hinges on a case of disguise or mistaken identity AND discovering the truth about a person, not “hooking up.”

In campaigns where races or society is strictly stratified you can see the possibilities of this kind of story. I’m reading through the DMG 3.5’s 100 Adventure ideas and threads that can start this type of romantic play:

14. Racial tensions rise between humans and elves (ala Romeo & Juliette)
26. Two well-known heroes fight a duel
29. Ogres kidnap the mayor’s daughter

So I guess I’m saying expand your perception of what “romance” can be in your game. It could be a fun change of pace.

#9 Comment By Martin On February 15, 2006 @ 9:44 pm

Bento: True! There are lots of ways to bring romance into your game.

I particularly like your examples — Romeo & Juliet is so classic and yet so expandable.

#10 Comment By Elizabeth On February 18, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

My husband is our most frequent GM and tries to find some romantic interest for my character in whatever game we play – D&D, Champions, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. It does tend to keep my interest going in the game. 😉

The most interesting situation we had was in a Champions game we played several years ago. We had tried several times to get a workable scenario going and this was our last attempt. The romance came into play when my character made an off the wall comment during a fight scene to another player character. Personally, I didn’t really expect him to pick up on it. 😉

It was known by the group that the two characters became involved, but all of the relationship stuff was handled in after game journal entries. They were both comical, one involved a life boat while the group was on a cruise, and adult. The group loved the entries, we had some fun writing them and it stretched me as a roleplayer since I then had to incorporate my character’s feelings into how she would react in a combat situation.

Our group does have above average female participation though. 🙂

#11 Comment By Hammerlily On February 18, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

So, when romance has occured, was it most often between a character and an NPC or between two characters?

And how many cases of unrequited love have taken place?

Crushes and flirting and most of what I’ve seen done.

#12 Comment By Hammerlily On February 18, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

Oh, and don’t forget showboating for various people’s benefit and interest.

Although some of that falls in the normal operating sphere of our younger, more headstrong characters.

#13 Comment By Evil Overlord On February 18, 2006 @ 5:00 pm

Actually, I have seen interactions between both PC’s and between PC/NPC relationships. I have found that it gives a lot of interesting opportunities for role-playing and character development that wouldn’t come up otherwise. But my gaming groups have usually run at 30-50% female so maybe it just comes up more in a gender mixed group. I have done female NPC interactions for male characters – I am not quite as comfortable with those but I guess I do alright because they keep coming up.

Actually, come to think of it, I met my wife through PC flirting in a game I was in. In a Star Trek RPG game where I was the Captain. The vessel was appropriately named: The USS Ardent…

“Capt’n Sean Stuart Cleburn of the Federation Stirship Irdent…”(Think Irish Accent)

#14 Comment By Martin On February 19, 2006 @ 8:24 am

(Elizabeth) It was known by the group that the two characters became involved, but all of the relationship stuff was handled in after game journal entries.

This sounds like a perfect way to combine pulling the camera back without ignoring the romantic angle — I like it.

Hammerlily: Do you think that crushes and flirting come up more often because they’re easier to handle without making anyone — players and/or GM — feel uncomfortable?

EO: Hearing that you met your wife through PC flirting makes me smile. Did that play a role in TTA’s decision to produce Shards of the Heart?

#15 Comment By Elizabeth On February 20, 2006 @ 5:45 pm


I thought that I would answer this since I am the Esteemed Consort of the Evil Overlord. 😉

I can tell you that all of the characters in “Shards of the Heart” were written up by our gaming group. 😉 Of course, Lightning has yet to actually appear in any of our games, but maybe he will some day. (yes, Lightning the horse is my fault ;-))

Let’s just say that all of our games tend to have some form of flirting in them so writing “Shards of the Heart” was sort of natural for us.

We are not sure if the amount of sexual banter in our games is due to the fact that we have 2-4 females per gaming session or if we have the females playing because of the bantering.

Esteemed Consort of the Evil Overlord
Convention Minion for Tabletop Adventures 😉

#16 Comment By Martin On February 21, 2006 @ 9:04 am

Thanks, Elizabeth!

#17 Comment By Hammerlily On February 21, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

I think flirting & crushes are more straightforward to roleplay or journal WELL than other dimensions of love/lust like

– unrequited love
– showing off to compete for a specific someone
– full blown romantic encounters

Ardent unrequited love seems hard to sustain in a gaming situation because it is one way, a monologue if you will.

Full blown romantic encounters take talent (i.e. more work) to write without making at least some other game members uncomfortable.

And sometimes when there is an unattached member of the group among avowed bachelors or married couples, sometimes the romantic interactions can almost seem predatory in nature, especially if initiated by certain females. Uneasiness/jealousy/turf warfare can then come out among the players (vs. characters).

There has to be a certain measure of trust among the members of the group to play through delicately and yet with enough umph for it to be believable (managing to tango through a ballroom without falling over) and not laughable, although sometimes laughable interludes (flirting naively with an NPC soldier who had been at a far outpost too long, never thinking that the GM would call your bluff, thankfully a dice throw saved the character’s honor on that one.) have an upside… but it takes confidence or at least a sense of humor to come through unscathed.

Also there needs to be a sense among all players of what “rating” is appropriate for the game. Keep in mind who is participating or listening into your game and adjust the rating accordingly, especially if playing in a multi-generational gaming group. (Think G & PG when kids are present) Limit circulation of journals with racier stuff to the players of appropriate maturity.

#18 Comment By Martin On February 22, 2006 @ 8:32 am

Hammerlily: Your points about trust (as it relates to including romance in your games) and ratings are well taken.

Both seem like excellent social contract fodder, too, as they wouldn’t work well without some group discussion.

#19 Comment By Elizabeth On February 23, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

A little more insight into what Hammerlily said. I will be going to a different kind of gaming session this weekend. Yes, I publically announce that I am going to a Nero (LARP) event. (hear the Evil Overlord fall over in shock as his wife puts this latest out on the web.) I met this group at a gaming convention last fall. Two of the people in this group are romantically involved in real life, but in game she is involved with someone else and he is the one with unrequited love. I will see this weekend how they play that out. It was interesting to watch a bit of it at the convention.

The situation with my Champions character did indeed make some of our players uncomfortable. The journal entries were VERY adult and so were not sent out to our teenage children who were playing. Also, some of our friends could not deal with the situation and were excluded from the mailings. And then we had everyone else wanting us to write more. 🙂 Communication helped to keep everyone comfortable.

As I said in a previous entry, the romantic elements were not, in general, played out in the gaming sessions especially when our children were present. We did indeed tailor our interactions to those present.

Since our journal entries also conveyed some plot elements, I believe the Evil Overlord may have edited them and then sent them to the people who did not wish to receive the adult version and to the teenagers who may have wanted to see them but weren’t allowed to at that time. 😉 He will have to either confirm or deny this.

#20 Comment By Martin On February 24, 2006 @ 10:16 am

(Elizabeth) The situation with my Champions character did indeed make some of our players uncomfortable. The journal entries were VERY adult and so were not sent out to our teenage children who were playing. Also, some of our friends could not deal with the situation and were excluded from the mailings.

This sounds very awkward to me, particularly the split between the adult and PG versions of the journals — on either side of that equation, that seems like it would generate some friction.

Did the whole group but into this split (apart from the kids wanting the adult version, of course ;))?

#21 Comment By Elizabeth On February 24, 2006 @ 12:05 pm


The situation did not feel awkward to me, but I can’t speak for anyone else. We had 2 adults specifically ask that they not be sent the adult journal entries. Basically, what got left out were the details of the PC’s intimate interactions, all of the details pertaining to the storyline were left in. Essentially, you had the characters kiss and fade out in the edited journals.

As for the teenagers, my youngest daughter (now 21) did read one of the entries and got weirded out that her mother could write like that. 😉 I loved doing that to our kids when they were teenagers. Still have fun shocking them now that most of them are older. 🙂