DM: “The air is brisk and the night skies are clear enough to view the stars. With your insight check, you notice that she’s standing a little bit closer to you than usual. What do you do?”
PC: “I go to put my hand on her cheek and look deeply into her eyes.”
DM: “Ok, roll for performance.”
PC: “SHIT. Natural 1.”
DM: “Ok, you put your hand on her cheek affectionately and go to caress it but accidentally stick your thumb up her nose a little bit.”
PC: “Hahaha! Ok, well, I panic and try to go in for a kiss instead.”
DM: “You can certainly try. Roll for performance again.”
PC: “NAT 20!”
DM: “Miraculously, you manage to put your other hand on the small of her back and lean in for a deep, passionate kiss. You feel her lean into it. She doesn’t seem to mind your awkward caress, perhaps even finds it endearing. You get the impression that you both are filled with swarms of butterflies.”
Flirting and romance always comes up in D&D. Like ALL the time. It, of course, has its advantages in game: batting eyelashes at the shopkeeper to get discounted items, attempting to seduce an arch villain, or trying to swindle information out of a guard. But have you ever tried out a romance arc in your character’s story line just for the sake of story? Whether I am the DM or a player character, I LOVE involving a romantic arc. It allows me to further dive into my character’s head to figure out their motivations and priorities. Dungeons and Dragons as a role playing experience can be an amazing tool for self-discovery and a fun outlet for romantic intrigue! I totally get that sometimes, it can feel intimidating to implement romance in sessions. Improvised in-character flirting with your friends around the table can be simultaneously hysterical, heart-warming and awkward. But don’t worry, DMs and PCs.
What do I want from the romance?
As a Player or a DM, this should always be your first question. You may not know who your character is pursuing yet, but knowing what you want to experience will help you improvise when you find the right NPC or character. This can be as simple as making a flirtatious character that hits on anything that moves for the fun of it, or it can be as deep as acknowledging you want to use your character as avatar to help you overcome the emotional trauma of a bad breakup in real life.
I find it helpful to associate adjectives with the relationship I’m after. Word association provides an easy point of reference when you’re trying to role-play. When you’re blanking on what to say because your DM is making you blush with all the flirts, you can remain in character like a champ. Some examples: Flirtatious, exploratory, tumultuous, shallow, angsty, cheesy, socially awkward as f*ck, etc. Once you know the feeling you want to experience or convey, you can start thinking about how that sort of relationship fits your character and why they crave it.
Which areas does my character excel at in a relationship? How could they grow?
1) You need to be insightful. Just like every other role-playing aspect of the game, you need to be able to gauge your players’ reactions. Having a bit more one on one time to develop a relationship between characters is perfectly acceptable and often still entertaining to the rest of the table. But you have to be able to notice if the player your NPC is flirting with isn’t in to it, while also gauging how engaged the rest of the table is reacting. Being a DM is akin to being an event planner: you’re always on the watch for how events are affecting those at your table. You want to find that sweet spot where you’re giving attention to the romance at hand and be wary of the other players mentally peacing out. When you start seeing dice stacks or spinning dice contests, you may be losing your audience.
2) Don’t worry about appearing silly. You bust out some smooth line on a PC and the whole table laughs? The best thing you can do is stay in character. The laugh will fade momentarily and they’ll be left knowing that’s just who the character is. I’ve heard stories of people banning romance at the table due the the blurred line between role-playing and real life. Hear me now. Fake flirting between your NPC and their PC is role playing, nothing more. You role play your combat and your dungeon delving. You even role play your interactions with the barkeep. Is any of that real? Flirtation between you and your PCs doesn’t mean that you’re interested in them in the real world. You’re just flexing another facet of storytelling! Keep the boundaries clear, and you’re smooth sailing.
Phew. So how was that for you? Feeling in the mood? Romance in game can be so much deeper than just flirting to get a “bardic discount”. It can help you grow your character so you more readily connect with them during your sessions. The better you know your character, the more satisfaction you get from your sessions and the more you can contribute to the game experience! So why not find a little bit of love for your character?
All art by our very own Joy Feddema.