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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180214


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
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Valentines and Romance... in gaming

Today's post is a rerun of a previous post, mostly because a married gamer should be spending more time with a significant other than gaming today. Especially since I get to go to Dundracon this year.
Ah, Romance; one of great inventions of Humanity. It plays a key part of many an adventure fiction story. It is a primary motivator for many people in the real world, including real world adventurers.

Then we look at RPGs.

Like Sailing and Writing, (things that most real world adventurers do), Romance is seldom to be seen in roleplaying games.

Oh sure, some people think their dependent NPC on 14- for fifteen points is romance. That is the old Lois Lane or Dejah Thoris model (rescue the helpless damsel). You could substitute a kid, or a dog, or bag of flour doll, in that case. That isn't even a pretense of Romance.

No I am talking the roleplaying of it... in a game. (We are playing roleplaying games right?)

Now I am gong to digress here for a moment. Since the elder ages of gaming, most characters are orphans with no connections to the real world. People specifically wrote them up that way. No parents, or parents that died a tragic death. No friends or loved ones, or they are all tragically dead. (Yet everyone was mentally balanced... who knew?) Nobody wanted attachements. They either wanted to move their piece around on the board, killing things and collecting gp/xp, or they didn't want anything that could have power over them. Many a GM took the cheap route and never used family, friends, mentors, or loved ones, as sources of roleplaying and assetts to the character. No, they used them to torture the characters or force the character into things. Thus it came to pass that nobody wanted to have family, friends, or loved ones... no matter how in genre it was... because they expected to be abused with those relationships.


This continues on... it forms a meme in gaming culture... murderous hobos with no connection to anyone or thing.

I have ranted on that before. I will probably do it again (in the blog even). I do the digression because the people without connections have no one to roleplay with (except maybe the other PCs), no one to play with, and their characters have no realistic motivation to do... anything.


Romance in its many forms is important to the world. It should be important in gaming.

Romance should provide motivation to the character. "I am doing it to gain the favor of X", "I am winning my fortune to get the girl", "Ah Marion, I love you but we can't be together", "If I marry the Governor's daughter, I can ....!" and the ever popular "As you Wish".

I mean people will do some fairly stupid things to impress the one that catches their eye. Think about it a moment. Many adventurous opportunities are stupid. You begin to see where this is going.

Motivation gives you goals... both abstract and the concrete "next step in obtaining it".

Related to motivations, the ever fun plothooks related to your significant other. You need to fetch something for them. You need to get a fancy outfit for the ball, so you can be with them." "Hey wait... who is that girl? Why is she flirting with her?" "Oh I know he is Evil, he is trying to marry my governor's daughter... well we will stop that. We? Yes, We. I need best men. "

(Yes, there are un-fun plothooks, the inevitable kidnapping, threatening, or murdering of loved ones. But a GM should save them for a very rainy day... lightly sprinkled in with plenty of opportunities to thwart the plotline. They should be "fun" not a punishment for having an upbeat character history.)

Plot Complications, related to plothook... these are little things you can now add to make a basic scenario more intersting by adding a romantic twist. Have other people try to split them up. Create problems for them to overcome. Make their love forbidden, so they can defy society. Create situations where one of them gets to show their love in some unreasonable, over-the-top way. Give them lots of romantic situations – rainstorms, high cliffs, masquerade balls, etc, - where they can interact and distract them from tasks at hand.

Romance should provide a chance for extra roleplay opportunities. You now have an NPC (non-protagonist character) that your character should want to talk to. (Sometimes they are the GM; sometimes run by another player) This should be a source of so many bonus EPs or drama points for roleplaying, that having a romantic attachement should be desirable.

This all sounds great right? We should do this, right? It comes down to playing romance, right?

Right. However, it is not always as easy as it seems.

This is an area where straight rules and the standard social rules of roleplaying don't always help. So here are some ideas to make it easier.

Many people want to play this out at the table (and have the luxury of doing so). You need to find players that you feel comforable with. So a traditional romance between PCs could be problematic in an all one gender player group. You need to find a co-player that is both willing and knows your comfort boundaries.

So if Romance is At the Table and On Stage, the players need to tools to deal with it.

Talking about Romance, Sex, and any potentially problematic subjects really (gore, horror, fears, and various -isms) and the related plotlines before hand (usually when the chronicle starts) is important for the success of the chronicle and the enjoyment of the players. The GM should bring up any possible issues before hand... to get the conversation started. Asking the players for a list of topics and scenes that they absolutely do not want to see portrayed in-game is the key. Make it as clear and explicit as possible. Whenever the role-playing becomes too explicit, intense, or objectionable for anyone at the table, they can use the Safe Word (see below) to stop play. You can work with the troupe to get a consensus about the group's comfort level on various subjects and how things should be handled. Doing this ahead of time can save you a lot of effort, editting, rewriting, and so on later on.

When dealing at the table, having a safe word (we just use the words "Safe Word") means play stops. The GM and players huddle together and work out the problem ("I thought I was okay with it, but no." or "I am sorry, I am deathly afraid of spiders."). Let everyone cool down, calm down, and resume play in an agreed directions.

There are also variations on safe word game stops :

Pause: When something problematic to a player shows up in game the player might request a pause. So things can be discussed OOC on how to best proceed with the situation.

Rewind: When something unacceptable to you as a person happens in game, you might request to rewind the situation and move on in a different direction.

Fast Forward: Sometimes players are ok with certain things in the story but are not quite ok with roleplaying through it. When this happens they might request to fast forward. Fading to black, might be a great way to describe this.

Find a different way: The players are generally okay with the concept, just not the way you are doing it right now. They were thinking playful romance, and the other player is a step away from erotica. The phrase "Find a different way" is key. (This phrase works really well for other questionabole contents. )

Some troupes do Romance at the table, but not on stage.

The players do side scenes off to the side of the table or "out in the hallway". Nobody but the people involved know about it or hear it. This works for some groups, but not others.

These tools are all great for at the table play. They can be used for a variety of options, horror games, realistic games with a lot of *isms, Game of Thrones inspired chronicles, some styles of Urban Fantasy chronicles, and so on.

Still, the best tool we have found for Romance is Scene Journalling. Scene Journalling allows for players to play out Romance, without taking up time at the table. This allows players not to be embarassed for more interesting aspect of romance. Bluebooking/ scene journaling are a great tool for dealing with a variety of "side scenes".

Romance in Gaming. I admit I am in love with the idea.

And remember to do your part.... Do what you can to make it work for you and your troupe.
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