February 14, 2011 by
The Secret DM™
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Love in a roleplaying game can be a very sensitive subject. In its most base form, the mere mentioning of love at the gaming table can derail an otherwise exceptional story and turn the rest of the night into nothing but inappropriate jokes, off-color comments, and uncomfortable snickering.
It’s quite possible that your own group of players has no interest in the subject of love, and would much rather spend their time slaughtering orcs and looting treasure hordes. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t take a chance to at least attempt to include love in your game, you may very well be missing out on a very fun — and rewarding — play experience. Let’s talk about some of the ways that love can be a powerful tool in your next game:
Hook your players with a surprise twist
If you’re sitting down to your 300th battle with a band of roaming bugbear bandits, it might be time to interject something a bit more saucy — for example, a love interest. It’s best to choose a player who has some degree of comfort with the topic — you might have to do some pre-screening interviews to get a feel for which one of your players could best handle the task…although, it might also be fun to try this out on a more hack-n-slash type, as long as the player understands its all in fun.
This could be accomplished with something as simple as making the leader of the bugbears an old flame of one of the player characters. Even tossed into an adventure on the fly, this should create a new challenge/obstacle the party wasn’t expecting to overcome — reconciling one characters emotions against the nefarious actions of monstrous thugs — without creating a player/player or player/DM conflict because “Sir Ivan Bartholemew Isaacs Montgomery NEVER wasted time with love” — or other such anxiety-inducing objections.
Be upfront about it, but keep IT in the background
Rather than wrangle your players in a surprise love trap, use love as the motivation behind your next adventure. Orcs have kidnapped a local king’s wife, and the players have been hired to travel north, kill the orcs, and rescue the queen. This way, love keeps a safe distance from the player characters, while still acting as an integral part of the story.
Mix love as a plot device with a surprise twist
Suppose the queen from the previous example has in fact been kidnapped, but what if the orcs had nothing to do with it? The party has spent the better half of their time risking their lives to kill off orcs in the north, only to discover the queen is nowhere to be found. In fact, the kidnapping was all a ruse to get the party of heroes to do the king’s dirty work. Perhaps the king figured the heroes would perish in the process, but their assault on the orcs would help create confusion and give the king’s army an advantage, which has already begun a full-scale invasion to claim a larger portion of the northern lands.
You might even toss in a few more twists — the king has been replaced by a doppelganger, and the queen really has been kidnapped, but is being held by the king’s vizier in the west…and the vizier is a necromancer, driven mad by his own love for the queen, whom turns out is an old flame of one of the players…
…alright, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away, but you get the idea. Love can be a very handy tool, and if you’ve never used it before as part of your game, you might be surprised by how much fun it can add to an adventure.
Then, once you feel comfortable with the subject of love, you might start branching off into the more complex elements of PC/NPC relationships, and the fun challenges those can add to a campaign!
But I’ll save that topic for another time. Until then, happy adventuring, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
The Secret DM™ is just an average guy, trying to navigate the complexities of a successful career, a happy marriage, and raising a daughter…all while secretly rescuing damsels from fire-breathing dragons. Visit him at www.thesecretdm.com or find him on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/secretdm), or contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.