Sweet tap-dancing Jehova, what’s wrong with you? Must you “do” every bar-maid that serves drinks to the party? Is it your mission to out-creep all the other creeps at the table? Do you really want your poor dungeon master to reenact another awkward tavern flirtation after your bard gets handsy with the wench? No? Cause that’s what’s going to happen. DM Ted is going to strain his voice trying to hit those high notes on “No mister, I’ve never seen a singing cockatrice.”
No, don’t start rolling CHA checks. Good lord man, keep your D-20 in your dice pouch. And put away that wand. It’s not even consensual if charm spells are involved.
You know what… fine. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. Think you can handle the awkward? Is this what you wanted? You got it. Here are 4 ways to include romance in your game (that won’t be creepy as hell)
1) Ditch the One Night Stand
Pictured: The only safe night stand. May also include bugs…
It’s late. The party has rented rooms at the inn. Acorns are being roasting over the fire. Drinks are being served. Hobbits are dancing a merry jig on the counter. And suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, you start asking about the Charisma Score of the ale wench.
Don’t try arguing historical accuracy with me. The real reason you’re hitting on that wench has nothing to do with the proud legacy of female sexual liberation. It’s not because you’re staying in-character as a womanizing rockstar, either. No, the only excuse for you clutching that D-20 in your sweaty meat glove is because you crave wish fulfillment, and you’re trying to establish; a) that your character has genitalia, and b) said genitalia works when it’s mashed against another person.
Sure D&D is all about wish fulfillment in fantasy. But here’s why you don’t need to tell me, the DM, why you’re rolling to summon the Beast With Two Backs;
If you play a Paladin, all of us at the table will assume you’re keeping your sword sharp and your armor oiled behind the scenes. If you’re a Shaman, it’s generally understood that you’re still in contact with Mother Gaia, and you’re recycling your dreadlocks for rope, or whatever hippies do. And if you’re playing a walking penis dressed as a bard (or any genital-class combo for that matter) we all assume you’re bumping uglies at every truckstop, manhole, and prison yard you play your lute in. The only dice roll I’ll ask of you is for an STD check.
Unless, of course, you’re trying to seduce a non-playable race, which brings me to…
2) Ditch the Alluring Nymph/Mermaid/Vampire Trope
Try not to imagine Dio playing while looking at that picture.
Let’s get one thing straight: the monsters are trying to kill you, not sex you up. There’s a ton of real-world lore, from Greek mythology to Norse song, warning warriors to keep their +1 Longswords in their scabbards and out of sexy-looking beasts. And there’s a damn good reason for this.
It’s only in modern ‘Twilight’ times that movie monsters have departed from the “seduce the mortal until they’re within snacking distance” philosophy. In fact, Dracula was considered not only to be profoundly un-sexy, but a warning against shacking up with strangers who might be carrying syphilis. Almost without exception the moral behind every alluring monster story is that, well…
Having said that, I believe there is a time and place for a monster to grow fond of a mortal character, sometimes romantically. There are great comics, novels, and movies wherein the bloodsucking otherworldly creature gets too attached to their pet. But this is the rare, lottery-winning exception, not the rule.
If you ever try to seduce a mermaid or vampire in my game, without any role-playing to back it up, you will be eaten. Messily. And if you roll a natural 20 to seduction beforehand, the blood-soaked vampire may comment on the attractive plating of the meal.
Ah, but what if you do roleplay the scenario?
3) Roleplay that Shit
Because how could I not use this picture after Google searching “roleplay”
If you’re going to get your character involved with someone romantically, roleplay it! And I don’t mean sexually, you perv.
Be subtle. Leave details to other player’s imaginations. If my characters is out of the game for more than a few sessions, I might mention a new wife whom he spent the winter shacked up with. Or if my character visits a brothel, I’ll tell the group he’s going to “Sample the local talent at the bathhouse.” No need to be lewd. No need to roll charisma, or draw any more attention than if I were heading to the smithy, or the temple, or the vagina stor– goddamnit.
If you meet someone special along the way who sets your heart a’ pitter-patter, consider getting that heart arrhythmia healed. Also, ask them out on a freaking date once in a while. Just because it’s an NPC doesn’t mean your character wouldn’t try to woo them. That’s practically all bards and knights do in epic legends. And you can make it fun, too. Compose actual, cringe-worthy lyrics and poems to read in front of the group. Make grand declarations about your love. Get wrapped up in insane quests to prove your worth to the damsel (or dude-sel?) It will be much more rewarding, and much more impressive to the party than say; “I rolled an 18 and my CHA is 19. So we’re, like, doing it, right?”
And of course, no fake relationship is complete unless you…
4) Explore the Consequences
In the above example where my character was married, do you think I followed through?
Hell yes I did.
I sent my mythical wife a percentage of my gold at the end of each quest, and my character got more and more embittered toward her as the years (sessions) wore on. Because my warrior was terribly impulsive and didn’t consider the consequences of anything.
By the end of his miserable life, Ogath the Curmudgeon would trudge through stinking swamps and pits of snakes, hoping something would end his dreary existence so he wouldn’t have to return to the shrill, coin-pinching harpy that shared a shack with him. (She interestingly turned out to be a harpy, but that’s beside the point, and slightly sexist)
It got so bad that Ogath once dared a dragon to eat him, telling the beast that Mrs. Ogath would never let him off so easily, and they would both share in the humiliation of having his spouse pull him from the Elder Red rectally.
How did this go over with the party? They thought it was the best piece of character building at the table. They were effectively traveling with Al Bundy on steroids, with a pinch of Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide.
All I can say about experimenting with romance in-game is don’t overdo it. Make it a side joke. Or throw out a few one-liners to explain what your character was doing while the game was on break. Put some effort into it, make it interesting, but don’t turn it into the main quest. You want your character’s dalliances to reinforce your hero, not dominate their story.
Lastly, if you’re already playing Dungeons and Dragons with a significant other (you lucky bastard) go ahead and ignore my advice. Make Charisma checks to see if your characters get along in-game, as well as you do out of game. Unless you’re actually seducing one another during the session. In which case you should apologize to the other players and go get a room.