Roll for seduction!
It’s a phrase that comes up often around a D&D table. Someone wants to charm their way into the royal court, get out of trouble with the local constabulary, or just really like the look of that busty barmaid. When all conventional weapons fail, seduction can be as powerful, and as fun, as stealth or violence, if handled correctly. Today, we’ll talk about how Love, lust, sex and romance can add to your game, and grow your DM’s arsenal.
This article assumes you’ve got some basic sense of how to broach the subject of romance in your game, and that you know what both you and your parties are comfortable with, and to respect those boundaries. If you’re new to the subject, there are many, many blogs already on that subject, but I highly recommend reading the Book of Erotic Fantasy. As always, when in doubt, communicate with your players.
Especially in the case of games where your players are well immersed in the game, and even more so in roleplay-heavy games, the character’s (Not the players’, though the two aren’t mutually exclusive) attraction to an NPC can be enough to get them to sympathise with a character, or even take on missions on their behalf. It is also a good way to subtly get players to just like, or dislike a character and have it think it was their idea – let’s face it, players, and society, aren’t as evolved as we’d all like to think and often the sweet, doe-eyed elf is assumed to be the good guy where the curt, unattractive characters will be assumed to be the bad guys. This is especially true where the personalities of characters match their appearances. This can also be an effective counter-strategy to lead your players:
All’s fair in love and war
Often characters aren’t what they seem. Almost anyone with an ex can attest that this is true in the real world as well, but in a campaign setting where wars, spies, and the forces of evil are commonplace, deception is rife as well. A weapon of both a DM and the NPC’s, the assumption that the attractive, kind, helpful NPC’s are on the same side as the PC’s, can bring a layer of surprise to a setting where things can often be predictable. The reverse is also true – the unkind or unimpressive characters that everyone assumes is the bad guy (or would just like to punch the first chance they get) could be revealed to be the secret benefactor working against the same forces as the party all along – this is especially true when their gruff attitude is just from the stresses of the job. There’s good shock factor in revealing the beloved town idol was the villain all along, and when the unpleasant ones come around and praise the players, it’s a very different kind of victory to what players often get. After all, players do love a good win, and a hard-won one is all the sweeter.
As I’ve discussed before, rewards are a big part of an adventure, but sometimes it’s not about the booty, so much as the booty. A character’s romantic interest is often a large factor in an adventure, and just as often, the promise of the gratitude of an attractive character is an excellent motivation (games, movies and books do it all the time). This can range from earning the favor (and possibly the beginning of a courtship) with the rescued damsel/dame, or, if your party isn’t so lofty, a quick and dirty “bestowment of gratitude”. While this can sometimes be somewhat tangential and usually only directly benefits one member of the party, it can drive the story forward as well. A character courting an NPC gives you a way to consistently give more quests and involve the players in one faction, and a quick tryst can be a good pivot to reveal more about who the lucky NPC is involved with. Learning more about an NPC in this regard is also a great platform for your players to learn more about the world you’ve created for them.
My first player kill was actually based on a more “physical” quest reward – the players had gathered some artifacts for a sweet young mage for the library, and she got the bard alone to more properly “thank” him. Turned out she was a succubus, and the rest of the party arrived just in time to see her teleport the artifacts off to the Big Bad Evil Lich, leaving the poor bards’ corpse behind.
A world of possibility
One of the best things about D&D, and indeed most RPG’s, is that the world tends to be wondrous and full of unusual things. Players love exploring, being part of, and interacting with those worlds. One side effect of this, is that conventional romance tends to go out the window. Everyone loves a good Romeo and Juliet story – the forbidden love between Rom’o the peaceful Orc and Ju’l’i’e’tt’i, the elven scholar is one that will stand the test of time (seriously, what is with fantasy names and apostrophes?). Player will often sympathise with a character who is oppressed and just wants to be with the one that they love, and such hardships make great plot hooks. Another side effect, is that players get to explore other ideas of what conventional or unconventional romances are like – A PC might have a loved one with a curse, and get to play through the struggle of trying to cure it, or perhaps the players might experience the lighthearted hijinks of the complications involved if a fairy fell in love with a giant. Both in their own romances, and those around them, players can immerse themselves more deeply in the world around them in this way.
Bringing the world together
Players get many chances to form relationships, be they alliances, romances, dalliances, friendships or rivalries, throughout the worlds that they play in. While it’s possible that some characters might outright pursue certain NPC’s, and equally possible that characters planted as potential partners might be completely overseen, such characters often have a level of depth and detail that others might not, and their presence in a campaign will make it all the richer. For this reason, any character that I expect to survive for more than a session (some players being the psychotic murder-hobos that they are, this expectation can be somewhat hit-and-miss) I try to flesh out to the degree that they could be candidates for such pursuit. The other reason for this is remembering that not all players will have the same tastes and interests as you, especially if your party is not mono-gendered, and this can lead to some surprises in that field. As such, as much as with romance as with combat or intrigue, you should always, always expect your players to circumvent your planning. Also like combat and intrigue, romance often intermingles with both combat and intrigue, and the three are not always so clearly defined, which brings us to an important facet of D&D that is not as often associated with romance.
The darker elements
D&D often has fairly defined levels of good and evil, but sometimes it’s difficult to really hate an evil character. “Sure, he’s an evil lich that’s killing everyone and raising them as zombies, but how is he worse than the bandit who was killing everyone and looting their houses last week?”, you might hear some players say. A long-running villain might gain more animosity from players because they’ve had more time with the villain making their lives more difficult, sure, but that doesn’t make for the most compelling story. Romance and sex can be just as much a force for evil and bad things in the world as they can for good – A character who broke one of the player’s favourite NPC’s hearts can very quickly become just as hated as the big bad villain burning the kingdom, even more so, due to the more personal nature of that slight. Similarly, characters who are perverse and harass the townswomen, or even assault them, are often reacted to far more harshly than some warlord just killing everyone (I refer to the disclaimer on this one though – the subject of rape or even harassment can be a sensitive one) and, especially if you have female players, defeating such a foe can become a far more critical goal for the party.
Many truly evil characters are also those who have lost all faith in love, or who have declared love the enemy. For cultural portrayals, this works similarly – a fantastic race that treats a gender with intense discrimination, that shuns romance, or that encourages slavery and taking advantage of weaker members who can’t defend themselves makes it more easily identifiable as an evil race, and villains who carry this attitude, even without any explicit actions, can also be a far less ambiguous enemy. A villain leading such a community can also become a party’s greatest aspiration to defeat.
Spreading the love
Love prevails when the forces of good triumph. A lesser spoken goal of most parties (at least good-aligned parties) is to make their world a safer place for love to prevail. This is especially true of characters, if not players – many NPC’s go to war to protect their families – be it their wives or their children, or even their countrymen who have wives or children of their own. Also one of the most common tropes in games/movies/books is the whole “Save the world, get the girl” trope, and while the notion that being the big hero means your character will be successful in romance. A character who has a romance already in progress gets to see the real reward that many actual soldiers go to war after – not the pursuit of a new romance, but the safety to pursue and enjoy the now safe future with the loved ones that they were protecting from the start.
Spread the love
There’s a lot of room for romance in any campaign, whether to make the story more compelling, to flesh out your game world, to motivate your players or to emphasise the wretchedness of an evil player. So go forth, and spread the love. Your players will love it too.
Have any good stories of in-game romances? Any questions or comments about using sex and candy romance in the game? Let us know below or on the Facebook Page