For Valentine’s Day, I figured there wasn’t a better topic to cover than how to weave a romantic storyline into your tabletop RPG game. It sounds relatively easy, but there are a few things DM’s and players must keep in mind when it seems like two characters (or more, you poly-amorous kids, you) have developed a much closer relationship than just being friends and fellow adventurers.
So, over the course of several sessions, it seems like two characters really get along. They have a very interesting chemistry, they work well together and their players role-play off each other very well. When this occurs, the players themselves might think about making their characters a little closer and perhaps explore a deeper, more intimate relationship.
The first thing that should be addressed is whether the players involved are on the same page. CONSENT IS REQUIRED FROM BOTH PLAYERS. There needs to be a discussion between the players to gauge how each one views the relationship of their characters. If romance seems to be the next logical step, both players need to inform their DM and give him a heads up. No one player should suddenly spring this idea upon their DM and the other player involved during the game. It should always be a discussion had outside of the game. This leads to uncomfortable situations and the other player might not have the same idea about the other character. This can be awkward for everyone involved, including the rest of the group.
If the players agree on romance and have approached the DM about it, it should be incorporated into the game subtly and tastefully. The players shouldn’t just start piling on the PDAs right away. Make the story interesting. Let the tension build. It will lead to amazing role-playing scenes between the potential couple and the other members of the adventuring group.
Once the romance has been established, it’s best to not address it constantly. Don’t spend every role-playing moment making out with each other. Remember, you’re adventurers. You have a job to do. There won’t be too much time for tonsil hockey while you’re fighting a pack of dire wolves. Also, leave the graphic details out of it. Hint at more physically intimate moments, throw in some innuendo, but don’t go into full detail. You’ll make everyone at the table uncomfortable unless they have specifically agreed to allow such discussion at the table.
Critical Role did a good job showcasing two different romances in two very different ways. Vax and Keyleth had a more tragically angsty romance full of longing looks and subtle intimacy. Meanwhile, Vex and Percy were more forward about their relationship and the portrayal was both humorous and tantalizing without being outright pornographic.
For Dungeon Masters
As the DM, you might begin to see when two characters seem to be on the road to romance. If you see it and the players don’t, perhaps a discussion outside of the game with both players is called for. Remember, regardless of what you think, both players MUST be comfortable with this turn of events and be willing to explore it. If they are not, DO NO FORCE IT.
Another impulse you might feel as a DM is that the romance should have some sort of mechanical element involved. For the love of all that is holy, do not involve dice in a romance. The relationship should be explored in role-play alone. There are no attraction saving throws, no Athletics checks for “sexual prowess,” and absolutely NO PREGNANCY DICE ROLLS.
Once the romance is established, you as the DM might want to have some discussions with the other group members not involved in the romance. Make sure they are comfortable with being witnesses to the relationship as it blossoms. Discuss limits to the role-play so the others won’t feel awkward or uncomfortable at the table. Of course, their characters can feel differently and can play out their feelings in-character during the game. The players themselves need to be cool with it before their characters are.
With the limits of the other players in mind, it might be up to you to remind the players involved in the romance to keep the others in mind when role-playing. This way, boundaries aren’t stepped over. If you see a scene might be getting a little out of hand, remind your players of the established boundaries out of character. Remember, fun is the ultimate goal for role-playing games. If one person isn’t having fun, the goal is not being achieved. Make sure all players are on board and they understand that they should keep the entire group in mind.
Another issue that might come up is inclusion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an LGBTQ+ relationship blossoming in your campaign. If anything, encourage it if it seems like two characters are heading in that direction. Remember that the spirit of RPGs is that everyone is welcome regardless of gender or sexual preference.
Adding romance to a campaign can elevate the tension and drama in the game and make it immensely entertaining. However, make sure the players of the characters involved in the romance are both cool with it and are on board with keeping within boundaries established by the whole table. Consent should be established before the issue is brought up in-game. If it’s done right, your campaign will tell the story of one of the greatest romances in RPG history.