“Etiquette & Protocol” (E&P for short) is an occasional feature where I answer thorny out-of-character (OOC) manners questions about gaming and game groups. Why? Because, my dear gamer-ladies and gamer-gents, outrunning/outwitting/outgunning BBEG & Co. will be ever so much more fun, if the game table isn’t turned into a soda-bottle and sourcebook mêlée field.
My very first question comes from ogehn of the D20 Radio forums, via D20 Radio’s Facebook page and is quite fitting as tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.
Q: “When there’s an in-character (IC) romance, how should the players conduct themselves OOC? Also how to approach potential in-game romance, does it work or not for the characters?”
A: Ah, yes, IC love affairs, one of my favorite things to roleplay. A long time ago, my sig line on a SW gaming forum was “I play RPGs instead of reading romance novels.” While I no longer use that sig line, I am still upfront that this is something I enjoy, whether PC/PC or PC/NPC.
First off, I recommend talking to the players and GM about romances. If it’s something you would like to do in a new campaign, bring it up in the Session 0 or other discussions beforehand, just like any other suggestion for the campaign. You should also be clear about what you are looking for–the GM to provide an NPC girl- or boyfriend, a star-crossed lovers subplot, the two characters getting engaged or marrying by campaign’s end, etc.
I have no problems asking, “Hey anyone interested in their PC having a relationship with mine?” Sometimes, someone is. And yes, other times I get–crickets. By the way, you don’t just talk with the person, GM or player, who will be running the lover. You need to talk to the whole group. They will have to listen to the RP after all, so need to be onboard.
What if the possibility of romance comes up after the game begins? You, or another player, think it would make the game more interesting. Or you had a good time when the NPC knight was flirting with your PC, and start thinking there’s some chemistry there. Then have a talk between sessions.
And this doesn’t mean there’s no room for spontaneity, or one-night dates or stands. This is fine and can be a fun and/or charming change-of-pace that doesn’t change the campaign longterm, but makes a good game better. One of my fond gaming memories is a session that ended with another PC presenting my PC with a rose and then sharing a bottle of wine with her. Discussing this ahead of time would have taken all the fun, and surprise, out of it. (Now, should we use these characters again, I may very well ask if we could build on that.)
As I mentioned above, I don’t always get takers and neither will you. Just as in real life, take “No” for an answer. Not all players or GMs are into this kind of RP. Or they may feel that their PC/NPC wouldn’t do this (with your PC or in general) but would be willing to go this route in the next game. Or it might be the campaign. Not every one will lend itself to romance. It may be more focused on action, or the group might be larger and therefore it would be harder to give everyone enough “screen time” for similar subplots. You can try again with a different player group or a different game.
Please, do stay away from TMI. Exactly what veers into TMI territory will vary by group. (And, for message-board-based games, the site’s TOS.) Personally, I suggest only roleplaying out PG or milder things. Unless there are kids in the group, it’s likely fine if everyone knows that a couple of characters have gone all the way–but no need to describe beyond, “Yeah, they spent all night on that island. Alone.” But, again, know your group.
As I wrote, I realized that much of this advice parallels sensible Actual Dating Advice. You don’t just assume someone is interested, you don’t push it when they aren’t, and you can try again, with someone new (or at least someone’s new PC). So if IC romance is your style, give it a whirl. And happy Valentine’s wishes to you and your PCs.