Tales from the Gazebo – Sidebar: What’s Love got to do With it?

Sidebar: What’s Love got to do With It?
By Cape Rust

The last three weeks have been about guns, but with Valentine’s day fast approaching I thought why not take my finger off of the trigger and discuss love in RPGs. If you have never had to deal with love in RPGs then you are lucky. Just like in real life, love in RPGs can get complicated quickly. As a GM the last thing you need is more complications at the table, think about it: Here you are trying to keep the players entertained, you are trying to tell a story, you are trying to manage NPCs and monsters, and now all of the sudden to players want their characters to have a relationship.

I’m not trying to say that there shouldn’t be love in RPGs, but if it occurs, it must be managed and watched closely by the GM. One other thing to remember is that sex and love are two very different things. Let’s face it, at one time or another every GM has had a player (male or female) who has decided to go into town and get their freak on. For me, as a GM, I generally have that player roll a skill or stat check based around interpersonal communications/personality to determine what price they pay for services rendered. Then for kicks, I’ll have that player make a fortitude check. Most of my players think it is to see how long the player character lasts during the encounter, but in my head, if it is a low number, that character might end up with a burning sensation when urinating.

First, let’s look at real life relationships that manifest themselves at the table.  I recently ran a Spirit of the Century game where the husband and wife of our group played a married couple in the game; their in-game relationship was estranged, which was very much not like their real world relationship. However, because I sometimes play with fire, we had one of the other players have a life-long crush on her. I know my players and they did an amazing job at toying with this, without crossing any lines, but I would never try something like this with a group I didn’t know really well. Conversely, I’ve seen real world relationships ruined by in game hanky-panky. Interestingly enough, in my experience, love in fantasy games seems to be more dangerous than in modern games, not sure why but that is a pattern I have noticed.

If you decide to take the plunge, I recommend a love-type relationship between a player character and an NPC, this seems to make things much easier. I have had great success as a player, playing a character that is married. Most players like to have no living family members and no love interests. Some folks just don’t want to put up with the perceived hassle while others might be worried that the GM will use those loved ones against them (plot hook much!). A player with an NPC wife or husband must be watched carefully as well. What if that player is married or in a relationship with another player at the table, and their partner gets jealous of that player’s relationship with that NPC? Sounds crazy right? You can’t make this stuff up! I was in a group with a guy who was a real butthead as a boyfriend (he was a good gamer but a horrible boyfriend). The GM was not in favor of this woman seeing this guy, and got her character entangled in a relationship with an NPC who just happened to be the exact opposite of her real world boyfriend. The better the NPC love interest treated her character, the angrier her real life boyfriend got. The couple broke up in the real world and because of the silliness; I found a new gaming group. I wonder if she and the GM ever hooked up?

I’m sure some you have never run into these problems at the game table, but I have and I have rarely seen it work out for the good of anyone at the table. Now you might be thinking that I really shouldn’t write an article like this for Valentines’ Day, but these are lessons learned that need to be written about. I will say this: If you are in a loving relationship, take this special holiday to spend some quality time with the one you love. Put the dice away, push away from the table, dress up and show your significant other how much you really do love them. You don’t have to break the bank, but nothing says I really love you more than skipping a gaming session to spend time with that special someone.

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