Love without Eroticism

Love is a great way to get your players that much more invested in their game’s setting. Lovers, spouses, and children can all make your PCs suddenly and intensely invested in the well-being of a particular town/city/region. Depending on your group’s dynamic, however, utilizing love as a narrative tool can get tricky.

Too often in rpgs, love and sex appear either in far too much detail or they simply don’t appear at all. In just about all cases, both of these two extremes will detract from the overall game experience. On the one hand, it would be blatantly dishonest to ignore something in a role-playing game that we spend so much time thinking about or pursuing in our own everyday lives. Giving your players too much time at the table to talk through and represent this important yet extremely personal element of their character, however, risks ignoring or side-barring the other players in the group – to say nothing of player comfort levels, play-styles, or ages.

So, love (in all its various forms) should be treated with care in tabletops. Here are some ways to allow your players to acknowledge their character’s romantic sides with minimal waiting or discomfort for others!

Pre-Established Relationships
When they’re designing their characters, ask your players about family members as well as past or present love interests. This will allow you as the GM to involve/incorporate established character loves (familial or romantic) into the story without needing to take too much time developing them in-game.

NPC Courtship
When establishing new loves in-game, the most important thing is not to leave other players waiting in the sidelines for too long. The best way to do this is to make the pursuant/pursued interest valuable to the whole party in some way. Make him/her an NPC the group needs to interact with anyways – an informant, barmaid, employer, victim, VIP, objective, etc.. This makes the budding relationship with one NPC potentially significant for every PC. As a result, they shouldn’t resent the digression any more than they’d tire of one player taking a minute to pick the lock on a treasure vault!

“Hat on the Door”
One of the easiest and safest ways to minimize both the narrative intrusion and potential group tension caused by romantic love encounters is to practice a “Hat on the Door” policy. Allow your players the freedom to culminate their courtships, consummate marriages, or pay for their bodily comforts by simplykeeping the sex itself off-screen. Once the door closes, as it were, jump the story ahead to when it opens again and leave the rest to player imagination!

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