Yeah, yeah, I'm a day late. Still, with yesterday having been VD it seems a good time to talk about romance. I've done a bit here and there about romance at the table, so today I want to focus on romance in your game. However, it being in celebration of VD, I figure we should also talk about crushes and lovers as well. So pull up a chair, and let's dig in.
Love As A Plotpoint
I'm using the word 'love' loosely here, but it makes a great plot point. People do stupid things over love all the time. Many of the classic dramas and stories that are used as inspiration for RPGs are officially known as 'romances' and among other things often feature people doing the most insane things for love. Oh sure, maybe 'romance' isn't used in the same way it is now a days for those - and it isn't - but love still finds a way into the stories. Maybe it is the knight taking on a challenge far beyond him for a maiden's favor. Maybe it is a hand-maiden that braves the impossible to prove herself to the one she loves. Whatever the flavor, love is a great motivation and a great way to string a story along.
The beginnings of love are a great way to start a subplot around a PC. Have they done something particularly brave, bold, daring, cool, or otherwise noteworthy? Did someone see them? Maybe they get a fan. A lot of interesting character dynamics can come from the beginnings of a romance. Is the relationship one of challenge and chase? The kind characters like Batman and Catwoman or Spider-man and Black Cat had in the beginning? The taunts, the chases, and the rivalry which has an almost playschool feeling of romantic interest but no way to actually express it.
On the other hand, maybe it is more straight forward. Maybe there is a young knight taken by the heroic bravery shown by the female fighter. That's the kind of girl - no, woman - he wants to know more about. So he follows her. Not creepily, mind, but devotedly. He wants to know how he can help, how he can approach her. Bonus points if he can help out and save the day. Triple bonus points if the PC notices the crush and then saves them from some sort of danger.
The point is, there are a lot of ways to play these things. They don't even have to develop. Maybe the PC lets the NPC down gently. Maybe they're rude and crush them. Doesn't matter, because either way a relationship has developed.
Maybe you're lucky enough to have PCs interested enough in Role Play that they already have loved ones. The stories to tell then are ones about that relationship. Define it. Challenge it. Find where it is strong and then press where it is weak. Do the characters come back together? Do they stick it out? What is sacrificed for the love to be maintained? What is lost? What choices are made? Is the PC ok with that? Is the PC's love ok with that? There's nothing but choices here...for good or bad.
The End (a.k.a love spurned.)
All good things must eventually come to an end, and so it is with love as well. Break ups happen. Death happens. Life happens. This is where you get to be a little cruel, a little vindictive. Remember that crush in beginnings who was spurned? Maybe they come back for revenge. Maybe they decide to prove themselves to the PC and in the process cause all manner of problems. That long term relationship that broke up a few sessions ago? That has to be pretty painful for both. What if that leads to bad decisions? Will the PC come back if the ex is in danger?
The caveat when dealing with things like this is that you need to understand that love, romance, and even puppy crushes are very powerful emotions. These may resonate with your players in ways you don't expect, so be careful. If one of your players is going through a breakup, it isn't the best time to hit them with any romance related plot - let a lone one that is going to go bad. If one of your players was just denied pretty hard, setting them up to have a crush/fan could be just a little cruel.
Obviously you know your group better than I do - you'd better anyhow, being as I've probably never met them - but don't get so caught up in the scene that you forget how much a character's emotions can resonate with a players. This resonance can be an amazing thing, but it can also make games awkward for the person experiencing it. Respect that.