A Game of the Heart – Romance in Gaming

boyle_beauty10Due to today being Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d tackle a topic that seems to be a taboo at the gaming table: romance.

Romance is a prominent and powerful force within fiction, motivating great epics as well as unfortunate tragedies. This make it all the more peculiar to see the sheer lack of romance in so many campaigns. Players might have their characters get frisky with a willing server at the local tavern between adventures or have some fun with a charismatic noble scion, but these affairs almost never seem to bloom into something more substantial or interesting.

There are a few explanations for the hesitance to delve into the world of romance at the table. The most obvious is the fear that letting a character develop an emotional attachment of that nature to another individual is giving the GM an easy target for when they want to create tension, making them worry if their new love will be used against them.

The second, and most likely, explanation is that role-playing romance can be somewhat awkward if not handled with a deft hand, especially if things start to become a little more risque.

In the hands of a mature group of gamers, this subject can easily be woven into just about any campaign without much issue, opening new doors for interesting subplots and opportunities for character development. To those who want to give it a try, I’ll give you a few pieces of advice.

The first, and most important, piece of advice is to not force it. Forcing romance onto a player or players will just make it all the more awkward, dooming it to fail. Like real romances, you have to let things develop naturally & only with a player who is willing to give it a whirl. Toss the hook out there to see if they’ll take a bit, but be willing to reel it back in if they don’t.

The second one is to make sure to remain in the comfort zone of the players who do take the bait. Don’t go overboard with dramatic presentations of passion. Take it slow, sprinkling little inklings of affection here and there, increasing them in response to the player’s actions. I also suggest keeping anything risque off screen, “fading to black” when they begin.

You should also not abuse this new relationship, putting the partner in peril every other Tuesday as a cheap ploy to get said character invested. I’m not saying you should never go down this path, but don’t overuse it. This is the quickest way to make players hesitant about building relationships with other characters, as we discussed before.

This, of course, assumes the relationship is between a PC and a NPC. In cases where two PCs are beginning to fall for one another, you should make also make sure that relationship doesn’t overshadow their relationship to the group and the two participating players respect each the other’s wishes/boundaries.

Romance can be a great addition to any campaign. However, like other sensitive subjects, it should be handled with care.


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