by Tobie Abad
Oh Love. Such a powerful force in life. Love can inspire and can empower. Love can twist and distort perceptions. Love can prolong life, survive death, and even overcome extinction. How often do you throw love into your games?
This Valentine's Day, I throw you a few Love-related suggestions to try adding to your game. Don't worry, these suggestions aren't all romantic. Definitely not at all.
Do any of your players have an NPC whom they really like? Maybe a well trusted ally, or a recurring shop keeper they have enjoyed visiting often? Or maybe you can choose the most influential NPC they have always interacted with. What do you do? Make that NPC fall in love. If its doable, have it happen to with one of the player characters. If not, then with someone the PCs have never met before.
You will be amused at how many potential plots that move opens up. From players thinking the lover is a spy, a threat, a wonderful thing to happen, or a huge mistake that's bound to bite them back if they don't do "something" about it.
Now the question is, how do you feel about it? Will you have the lover actually be a spy? A threat? A real distraction? Or could it be the lover is genuinely someone the NPC will be happy with for the rest of their lives? Could it be the NPC finds something the PC never thought to look for?
Any game that touches on romance should of course touch on the regrettable moments in the past where we allowed certain people into our lives. A typical narrative approach is to have the ex show up and stir a whole new pot of trouble. Usually this happens cause the ex is a recent break-up. But at times, especially for games such as Houses of the Blooded and Vampire the Requiem, the vengeful jilted lover comes back to hurt you after a long period of what you thought was peaceful. Revenge, after all, is a dish that can be wonderful when served cold.
But what if you have the ex show up, and she genuinely has moved on? She appears, bumps into the player, and says hello. She smiles, and never stops smiling (which of course makes them all think the worse has already begun!) and for some reason the two keep bumping into each other more and more! But no, no mischief planned. No slander nor blood to be drawn. Just the fact that you and her got along before the break-up is enough reason to why you two tend to bump into each other: you have interests in the same things.
Bonus points if you get the player to wanting to have her back.
But she's clearly moved on.
Some games might like a touch of the divine. Grab inspiration from Neil Gaiman's The Endless and have the player find himself the companion of the very embodiment of Love itself. Or in some games, you don't even have to invent one up. Aphrodite might be real. Sune was prominent in Dungeons and Dragons before. Warhammer 40k even has two: Slaanesh and Nurgle. Maybe he/she once a century manifests among humanity to interact with one particular soul. A touchstone to maintain a familiarity with the very beings that celebrate his/her domain. Or perhaps a habit he/she indulges on out of simple desire.
Debate on love. Discuss its facets. Show the extremes. And if your players ever ask, "So who does the very embodiment of Love love the most?" simply smile, cup a hand on the player's cheek, and say, "Time's up. I have to go."
The Other Half
Fantasy games or romance lovers might want this twist: You wake up one day and you see through someone else's eyes. You see through the eyes of the person perfect for you. In fact, you and that person have swapped bodies. You spend one whole day as that person, seeing and feeling and moving as the person. And during this time, you have no control, no perception and no sensation of your own body. Some players might spent this time gathering information about this new body. Addresses. Pictures. They might even send it to "themselves" and try to contact or visit themselves. That's fine, you can let them.
Then throw the twists:
The person they're inhabiting? It is someone from the past. So when they go to visit "themselves" they see you from a time in the past. And at this time, the player remembers he did meet this person. And brushed her off.
Or, the person they're inhabiting, is not the person in their body. It is someone else. It wasn't a swap between two people. In fact, it isn't clear how far the swapping has gone and how many people are involved. After all, people don't necessarily realize who they love. Or are meant to love.
Or you could just have a one-shot Romantic Comedy session. I have a second article even giving some ideas on how to Approach Romance in a table-top game. Why not?
So yeah, try throwing in some LOVE into your games.
No one said it had to be chummy lovey-dovey.
Happy Valentine's Day!