Smooching In Non-Smoochy Games

I play tabletop RPGs, and I tend to play them with a flavour of a sort of high-impact pulp fantasy. These are stories inspired in no small part by anime, mostly anime that are themselves inspired by the JRPG genre.

Now, JRPGs are character-driven; they tend not to want to represent a sort of agnostic world. Most western RPGs, and most tabletop RPGs that like that feel, are trying to present a world that simply is the way it always was – your characters, your people don’t matter that much to the world until you start engaging with it. This means that it tends to be more common to see games and settings where characters have their own lives that they want to get back to, and that means that it’s not so common to see characters you can romance.

The tabletop games we tend to play then are games which work in the opposite genre; the plot is in some ways structured around our characters; we’re known by important characters, or locations have some reason to resonate with our characters. My Paladin, for example, will almost always go out of his way to free a slave or punish a torturer, which may sound like it’s basic Paladinning, but in his case it’s definitely above and beyond, and it comes from a personal place.

I also really like smooching in plots.

I like that sort of general non-specific characters-romancing-characters. It’s just something I really like in a plot. On the other hand, I am also super shy, so I don’t often actually get to do romances – certainly not anywhere prominent. In some cases, I have elaborate headcanons about my characters and the NPCs they wound up smooching, just, you know, in private and it’s not anything anyone else has to deal with.

Now, it’s not a shock that many other gamers are awkward, and when you hear the phrase romanced an NPC odds are good you have a flashing warning sign in your mind going oh God no please no.

I just wanted to share my general ideas about how to handle this, as a player who wants to romance characters, both player and nonplayer.

  • Read the Room. Lots of people at the table may not be interested in watching your character flirt with another character or an NPC. It may be that they really do like watching the cool or funny or entertaining bits and you can play those out. Remember in these situations, romance is often a thing that makes you the centerpiece of attention, and in those times you’re not just satisfying yourself, you’re entertaining the group. And also be respectful of their time in general, and themes they don’t wanna see happening.
  • Make it Convenient. Don’t interrupt important things for your romantic thing. Ask your DM or the other player if you can work out a conversation later. This ties into the first thing. If you can’t think of the cool line or the perfect moment, then just say ‘I’ll work it out later’ or maybe even ‘I said something cool, let’s move on.’ This may be less satisfying than perfection, but you don’t want to make everyone wait for you to workshop your flirts.
  • Avoid The Rules. Know what kills a romantic conversation real fast? Looking up rules in a book. If you want to try something that would work for a scene, if it’s not going to get you game mechanical advantages, just pitch it to the DM in terms of it works for the scene. Maybe your character does zippo tricks or helps someone walk along a lovely mossy log – ask your DM if you can just skip dice rolls and avoid talking about Acrobatics or Tumble checks at that point.

This isn’t to say this is a system that Gets You The NPC or PC you have your heart set on. These are just the rules I use to make sure that when I play romantic moments in games, I’m doing it in a respectful way that keeps other players from being bored or bothered.