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In-Game Romancing Tips for Dungeon Masters

Written by Krystal - Published on November 1, 2010

In-Game Romancing Tips for Dungeon Mastering

Romance comes in many forms and is role played easier than it is lived. Sometimes we find these situations awkward and are unsure how to handle our best friend falling in love a the sultry barmaid. Perhaps the evil enchantress disguises herself as a traveling woman, interested in the adventuring parties biggest hitter. There are many forms of in game romance, and lots of ways to get it to move naturally within the game.

One player, two characters.
Sometimes one player will play two characters. I personally as a DM do not prefer this because I find my players don’t get into character as well. If this happens and the player chooses to have them be lovers, then you need to assert the fact that it’s everyone’s game. If he starts arguing with himself and interrupts the flow of the game then he’s gotta cut down on characters. Although, having two characters that double as lovers can be a great team.

I once had a character who was an Assassin coupled with a Berserker, it was really cool in my mind. The idea of a slender dexterous woman being tossed up to the top sail of a ship by a pirate Berserker and ambushing boarding intruders. They were pirates, if you could not tell. In either case, it wasn’t as cool to the players around me since they didn’t quite envision it the same way. My mistake was I didn’t think of the other players and how it would affect a long term game. So, I decided to keep those kinds of ventures in one on one games.

If you are playing one on one, sexual details and other ‘romantic nick knacks’ don’t need to be described in great detail. It’s unnecessary and can often times make people uncomfortable. Especially if you are describing a romantic relationship between yourself and your other self…

The Gamer’s Girlfriend

If your buddy brings his girlfriend along, and she wants to be his character’s woman, this may cause issues, so tread softly! DM’ing this can be an issue as she may want to divert all the attention to her and her relationship. Try keeping her involved in the game and sidetrack her from any potential arguments, mishaps, or awkward moments in game. Find her niche, what she likes and throw those in encounters and such (See 4th Ed. Dungeon masters guide pg.8 for a list of player motivations). Don’t avoid her or get angry that she needs to involve herself. You are trying to avoid conflict so do it tastefully.

If in the end it just isn’t meant to be, let your player know upfront. Pull him aside and tell him that his significant other is a detriment to the game, and despite his wanting her to be there it just isn’t conductive to the atmosphere. Hopefully your players are mature enough to take this as it is and not react negatively.

NPC x PC Romance.
This can be for many reasons, it can be deceitful or true, plot twist or just for the heck of it. A PC may seek out love, or you may be hinting at it. When doing PC and NPC romance try not to make the NPC seem desperate or too cold. Give them a personality. Don’t turn them into cliche’s or a stereotype, remember it’s just another character. Sometimes, NPC and PC relationships just don’t work out, when this happens remember to make it look intentional.

Two things a DM should always have are a backup plan and a motivation for a story element. Meaning, no matter what you choose to do as a DM, it should be conductive to your story goals. Players don’t show up for a game session to aimlessly footle about. There needs to be something more, something fantastic.

This post was provided by Dungeonmastering.com expert Krystal. Dungeons and Dragons has always been a passion of hers. She got her start in her wee little years by crawling on the table eating miniatures and dice. She’s been a menace to DnD games around the world ever since!

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Written by Krystal

At a young age, my mother opened up her own gaming store. We had two game rooms, an office, and the front area which had a ton of miniatures and books. I helped manage that store for several years, my mother teaching me the ropes and treating me like an adult so I could learn. Even beyond that she played games at stores like Haster Hobbies and several other places. In fact, my parents met gaming! DnD kind of runs in my blood, as well as any other gaming you can think of. I’m simply a gamer at heart, an artist, and a jack of all trades. I love to write and that’s why I’m here at Dungeon Mastering! I’m going to be going to school for Video Game Design, and my bf is going to school so he can publish Core Rule Sets. In the short few years I’ve been with him I’ve learned all about how to create my own rule system and create a game from the ground up! But my expertise is not limited to DnD alone. I’ve ventured far into Call of Cthullu, and beyond to games like Shadowrun and some White Wolf games..though I’m not a big fan of dice pools. :)

Anyways! Gaming is my passion and my life. I game constantly, go to conventions, and so much more! Maybe I’ll see you there! Happy Gaming!

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11 Responses to “In-Game Romancing Tips for Dungeon Masters”
  1. Justin says:

    Way back when… I DM’d a series of adventures that was centered around a player’s Thief character. He considered himself something of a womanizer. The story was essentially a love triangle between him and two women, a Paladin-Mayor’s daughter NPC and a demonic Sorceress NPC. Both women kept trying to ‘turn’ him to their side.

  2. Morten Greis says:

    Romantic trouble plays a big role in of my campaigns, where the PC’s are students attending the Great School of Magic, so they deal with teen romances, arranged marriages and all kinds of political struggles and intrigues, where they strive to find their own way through a mesh of expectations and desires. Recently I described a series of their troubles in this post: http://mortengreis.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/love-devious-plots-and-complicated-schemes/

    Marriages or the threat or promise of marriage is a great motivator. ;)

  3. Justin Howard says:

    You know, I’ve never had that many problems. Typically it seems like a lot of girls that play with me typically want to have relationships with the NPC’s and overtime occasionally have relationships with their significant other.

    A girl that’s never played before trying it out, it’s sometimes better to just manage the characters in the relationship in a more subtle way. Make some things to cater to that but also make sure everyone else gets their turn. Gets their spotlight. I also encourage downtime writing. What were you doing when you weren’t with the group type stuff? Let them fill that in, within reason.

    In some ways if they’re focused on that it makes it easier. They’re story often times becomes one…

    I think the main problem I’ve had as a DM was the concern of stepping over boundaries when having an NPC-PC relationship. I’m married and we typically have 2-4 girls in our group. At least 1 to 2 of those girls are also in a relationship with one of my other players. I don’t want to leave out the important plot points that a character can have with an NPC relationship.

    I typically make sure everyone is comfortable by telling them to stop me at anytime if they start feeling uncomfortable or let me know if something is really bothering them. I inform them that I intend to make everything classy and respectful but can understand if something gets to them. Especially in the situation of villains being a former or current romantic interest or villains doing what villains do.

  4. E. Foley says:

    I played half of a married couple in a D&D campaign once and my friend and I had a ton of fun roleplaying our relationship. The best part was when my character was being attacked by another member of the party and my “hubby” came to my rescue.

    C (one of the writers on my site) did an excellent series on love, romance & sex in RPGs that you should definitely check out if you haven’t yet.

  5. Cody S says:

    Having played multiple characters in more than one session, I agree that it can be annoying to the players if you have in character dialogue (I myself try to avoid people who are fighting with themselves!). That said, if you did want to work such a setup, you could always have two characters that either couldn’t understand each other (literally, languages people) or who communicated in a covert fashion.

    I once played a pair, a cynical psion who was traumatized by an earlier event in her life and was unable to speak (but could communicate telepathically) and her older brother figure, a somewhat naive paladin. The players had a ball with it, especially when there was a conflict between the two that left the paladin yelling at her with seemingly no provocation. Eventually they became enamored with each other and married, but for the duration of the campaign I only had to show one voice.

    On the subject at hand, I suppose all I have to add is that make sure your players are down with a romantic subplot involving them, as some can be really against (or even worse, weird/creepy) about it.

  6. Raul says:

    Nice, Im a DM by many years and I appreciated you tips! :D

  7. Eden says:

    This just came up in the campaign I’m currently playing in. I’m actually cross-playing a male rogue who during his apprenticeship falls in love with a feisty, quirky NPC girl and ends up proposing to her (my DM was pretty surprised at that!). This is going to lead to some awesome character development and plot twists though, cause my rogue has to leave her right after their engagement starts and he’s totally devastated and really angry. There hasn’t been much romance in my DM’s other campaigns, so I’m excited to see how it’s going to play out.

  8. BrianJH1969 says:

    This subject has come up before and is kind of a gray area because of the romance factor its touch and go at best. The two characters as well as the players playing them should already be a couple or involved in some way. if they are not it could be very risky.

  9. Dave S. says:

    Nice article. My wife and I met playing D&D. I am trying to create a new d&d world and get some of our old friends to play over skype as they live fairly far away.
    The idea of in-game romances never really occured to me til i read your article.
    I think i will try and introduce a little “romance” into the campaign. I really think the “married with kids” couples would enjoy it.

    Thanks again and good luck in your career.
    Dave S.

  10. Tim M. says:

    We had two characters in my game that were homosexuals; Yeah yeah, like it or not thats what they did. At first, I didnt wanna allow it because I dont wanna encourage homophobia. But they were mature, nobody made any wise cracks, and believe it or not, having homosexuals made for a very interesting plot. The characters twisted what was originally a plot about wandering into the Shadowfell into a game of finding peace and acceptance in a religious and overly-traditional society, by means of fighting rioting towns people and negotiating with religious and political leaders.

    Just figured I’d put my two cents in. In my experience, marriage and romance in a D&D game can lead to a very fun game, even if its not the kind of romance you would expect.

  11. TopherK says:

    Excellent Read, This is how I made a player cry… I have to Jessica was played by a female player… and I had not dated her.

    It was a wonderful game, we had been playing for nearly 6 months, once a week on Thursdays. We had spent quite a bit of time on character development, including spending two days of them roleplay talking about the characters life as they made a two day journey by carriage . It was at this time that the CG Thief (yes AD&D) thought that her way of life of careless living was not appropriate.

    The party had picked up an NPC Paladin to Aphrodite, back when we did not have Prestige Classes we had Kits, and it became apparent this paladin was a bit more flamboyant than other stuffy ones. He had a zest for life, and with the power of Aphrodite behind him, he spread a bit of the love to others letting them see what they had blind too. Now it sounds like I made a slutty Paladin, but Pierre had one ban, he had to remain celibate until he could find his one true love.

    Now the group had been traveling for months, they where searching for 5 magical keys which would allow them restore the great summoning stones, truly a fools errand, When the female thief, Jessica, found out the Paladin was covering for her transgressions. She started to feel ashamed as the player said it, and within another month she was actively searching for him into some kind of sexual encounter.

    Now as a DM I has set forth Pierre’s reasoning, and he sat down with her and had a conversation about lust and love. He being a Paladin of Love was his duty to only be swayed by such a boast, and that if she did want to prove that love that he needed to see her actions as such. SO, Jessica, who was use to using her feminine wiles to get what she wanted went celibate for Pierre.

    Four More months go by and even when Jessica accidentally kills Pierre’s warhorse, he forgives her when the Danger is over. Then with the blessing of his God Pierre proposed to Jessica one night.

    TEN GAMES!!! went into planning the wedding… this is how I knew I would be in trouble in real life when I got married, even though it would nearly 13 years later that happens. So ten game go by and the wedding commences… the huge event the level 15 Paladin to Aphrodite is getting married to the level 14 Thief. I even had Aphrodite show up to do the wedding service, after all level 15 in my world is huge… The party went on a small adventure of missing wedding rings, and a ruined cake… and something about eight dwarfs arriving late. The two game event went well with the end of the party ending with a Royal messenger arriving with a message.

    It took Jessica (the player) 15 min to gather her thoughts when the approached Pierre and said “Prince Pierre, you are needed to return home, your brother is trying to take the throne!” Mind you this had been over a year of active role playing and Jessica a thief had just found out she is now a princess… I can still hear her say “I am a Princess?” over and over to herself in amazement as she had never expected such a thing. This was to be my totally prick of a move as a DM.

    The very next game I introduced the game with, “You traveled with all do haste. You crossed the great Ocean and 5 weeks after Pierre received the message you arrive in Soli, the capital city of the Hutu Empire.” Within a half hour the party made their way to the throne hall and there Pierre challenged his brother for rights to the throne.

    In a half hour narration that is equivalent to the Video Game cut scene I narrated the fight between Pierre and his brother… Up to the point Pierre disarms his brother and with his holy adventure to his brothers throat banishes him from the empire. Then turned his back with a smile to his wife and friends he took one step as a dagger dripping green with venom emerged from his chest. Pierre fell to his knees his brother up and now smiling behind him laughing, a second later vanished.

    Jessica ran up to Pierre and held him, He was the healer but he was unable to use his ability, for he used it in the battle and it was gone. And with his last breath he whispered. (as a DM i leaned over so only she could hear it) “So beautiful is what I see is there for me, but it will be lonely without you.”

    The atmosphere in the room was thick, it was the first time I knew what they meant by ‘you can cut it with a knife’… every player was looking at me in utter shock… the beloved NPC that had helped them for over a year was dead. Killed in a cut scene they could do nothing about, with a villain that they had no idea existed. It was a long moment as I was waiting for actions not saying in anything when Jessica’s Player broke out in tears stood up and slapped me hard across my face, saying I was a bastard, and how could I kill the man she had come to love…

    After about an hour she calmed down and apologized to me and we called game and I had a talk with her… I might be sadistic as a DM, but I value my friends emotions…

    Then the next session: A ring of 3 wishes, two gods arguing over a soul and suicidal Jessica trying to desperately reach her beloved…. but that is tragedy and separate post…

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