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.
❤ I’m here to help you level up your D&D Romance game. ❤
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?
Is your character really good at communication but perhaps a bit too self-conscious to say what’s really on their mind? Or maybe they’re very outright with their desires and come across too strong, pushing away their crush. This is where the third dimension really comes into play for your character. Just because you want an exploratory relationship (for example), it doesn’t mean that your character is necessarily good at or comfortable with achieving it. You could have a straight-laced cleric still in the closet who wants to explore her options with a brothel maiden she’s smitten with, but is too shy to actually action her desires (may or may not be based on an actual character of mine). This is a great point to ask yourself exactly why your character would want this sort of relationship. Think about how their past relationships may have shaped them, romantically or otherwise. Determining how your character contributes to a healthy relationship and what baggage they bring to the table helps tie in any back story you’ve created for them. Really push yourself to get into your character’s mind!
As a player, what do I allow the DM to do with my love interest? What goals could the partnership grow towards?
It is tremendously important that you and your DM are on the same page when it comes to how much freedom they have regarding your romantic interest. Do you want a simple, easy to acquire romance or one with some more realistic issues involved? Bandits attack your town while you’re off questing. Are you alright with your DM potentially killing off your love interest? What if while you’re off adventuring they fall for someone that seems well suited to them? If these are not things you’re comfortable with, this is something you should vocalize to your DM. Although the DM crafts the world and events, players are allowed to make core happiness checks. Everyone should have fun playing! Once you’ve established your romantic boundaries, let your DM know of potential goals you have for the partnership. This gives them a guideline of how to steer the growth of that NPC, should all go according to plan. When they have so much already on the go for a campaign, a bit of guidance is often appreciated. Whether you want your PC to be able to show their partner off to Mom and Dad, or to make them an unofficial member of the party, let your DM know so that they can work with you on it. It often helps them develop side quests involving your favourite NPCs.
How to DM Romance
Generally speaking, as a DM, there are two major skills you need to hone if you want to up your D&D Romance Game.
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.
Consent and Fade to Black
Respect the table. This applies to all aspects of the game, but consent needs to be a bit more obvious when it comes to romance. If a DM or a player doesn’t feel comfortable role playing romance at any level, then there should be no pressure to continue it. No questions asked. If you do want to progress your romance game, some things are best left unsaid. A really easily agreed upon rule at most tables is that if thing are about to get spicy, events can be implied, but details are left to the imagination. You want your character to sleep with someone? Simply state that you take them back to your room, maybe roll a performance check, and call it a day. Roll a particularly good performance check? RP it up the next day by having them walk down the stairs with a particular swagger to their step or a smirk across their face. If all members at your table are on board to hear more, then go for it but make sure that it is 100% cool before diving in. Read the table, and if necessary, ask directly. Nothing kills the mood faster than unwanted advances.
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.