During a recent game session, my players' characters had a lengthy wilderness journey with some NPCs. Among the many things that might happen along the way, one of the possibilities I considered was a romantic entanglement.
Romance is not something I've ever really tackled seriously as part of D&D. Yes, there was juvenile sex stuff going on in the game when my friends and I were teenagers, but that's an aspect of those days I'd rather forget. Nowadays my interest is in running D&D as a simulation, and let's be real here, sex and romance are a huge part of our everyday lives. It feels a little odd that the game puts so much effort into different possibilities and aspects of life, but gives zero guidance in that area.
I mean, I get it. It can be a touchy subject, and one that a lot of players probably just don't want to deal with at the table. Leaving out the potential trouble that can come from being socially entwined with certain NPCs (and DMs who want to use those connections to screw the players), there's also the possible awkward situations that can come when you have to roleplay a sexual encounter with one of your mates, or even worse, with someone you only know on a casual basis. All of this could wreck the tone of the looting and monster-killing fun times that D&D reliably provides.
With those reservations in mind, I decided to take a crack at it anyway. My first resolution was to take myself out of it as much as possible. I might decide as a DM when an NPC falls in love with a player character, but I've been trying to avoid that kind of thing. My current style as a DM is to leave as much to random chance as possible, so I had to set about writing up some rules.
The first thing I determined was that these rules don't apply to the players in any way. I'm against any rules that take choices away from the players, or dictate their behaviour in any way (magical influence excepted, of course). I don't even enforce alignment, unless someone is playing a paladin or a cleric with a strict alignment code. So these rules below are for determining how NPCs feel. Players get to decide who they're attracted to, and who they might want to pursue a relationship with.
One thing to consider with these rules is that we're not just talking about characters falling in love. We also have to figure out whether there's an attraction in the first place. And the starting place for that is to determine their - oh boy, I know I'm stepping into a minefield here - sexual preference.
To figure this out, I did some statistical research. As far as I can tell, about 4% of the population identifies as gay. I suspect that number is low, but it came up in a number of surveys, so I'm going with it. So I begin with a percentage roll for each NPC that could be a potential romantic partner to determine their sexuality: 95% heterosexual, 4% homosexual, and 1% bisexual. If the preference matches the sex/gender of the PC in question, we can move on to the next step.
Now we determine if the NPC is attracted to that character. There are three factors in play here: the PC's Charisma score, the race of the two characters in question, and their respective alignments.
I figure I'm stepping into another minefield with the race thing, but "race" in D&D terms is a very different thing than in the real world. I'm not suggesting at all that humans of different ethnicities would be less attracted to each other, but when it comes to D&D I like to maintain some of the stereotypes. So yes, I am suggesting that elves are less likely to be attracted to half-orcs, or dwarves. Take that as you will. The chance is still there, and I would definitely try to play it out if the dice came up. And we all know how the dice work in D&D: assign a chance to something, no matter how small, and it's going to come up. Anyway, here are the racial modifiers I came up with:
|NPC Race:||PC Race =||Dwarf||Elf||Gnome||Half-Elf||Half-Orc||Halfling||Human|
For alignment, a modifier is determines based on the relative alignments of the character in question. For the Law/Chaos axis, there's a +6 modifier if the characters have the same alignment, and a -6 modifier if their alignments are opposite. If the alignments are only one away from each other, there's no modifier. The same applies for the Good/Evil axis. So if one character is lawful good and the other is chaotic evil, that's a -12 modifier. If both characters were lawful good, that would be a +12 modifier. This is the closest I could come up with for whether character like each others' personalities. Alignment is pretty much the only concrete part of the game that defines a character's personality, so I'm using it here.
Both of the above modifiers are added to the Charisma score of the PC in question. Then the whole lot is doubled, and that gives a percentage chance to see if there's an attraction.
As an example, say that Morf the Dwarf (a PC) is spending a lot of time with Barvork the Half-Orc (an NPC). As the PC is a dwarf and the NPC is a half-orc, that gives us a -5 modifier to the roll. Morf's alignment is neutral good, and Barvork is lawful evil. Lawful and neutral are only one step away, so there's no modifier there, but good and evil are opposites, so that makes for a -6 alignment modifier. Finally, Morf has a Charisma of 13. The percentage chance is 13 (Charisma) + 6 (alignment modifier) -5 (race modifier), with the total being doubled. That gives a 14% chance that Barvork will be attracted to Morf. Not a huge chance, but large enough that it could definitely come up.
That's just attraction, though, and doesn't factor in whether an NPC might fall in love. Having gone fairly in-depth with the modifiers above, I decided to go simple for this roll: it's simply another percentage roll, with the chance being 1/4 of the chance for being attracted. In the case of Morf and Barvork, that's a 3% chance.
Finally, I came up with a chart to figure out the intensity of love/attraction. I didn't come up with any rules beyond what's here, but I figured I'd use the chart below as a guide for role-playing. I've considered implementing saving throws for each category below, for when a PC tries to use love or attraction to coerce an NPC into something they might not otherwise want to do, but I haven't figured those numbers out yet.
- 01-50 - Mild attraction/love
- 51-70 - Moderate attraction/love
- 71-85 - Strong attraction/love
- 86-95 - Intense attraction/love
- 96-99 - Irresistible attraction/love
- 00 - Dangerously obsessive attraction/love
In play, I rolled on the charts above for every NPC that would be travelling with the PCs. There were six NPC, and two PCs. Of twelve romantic possibilities, I got a hit on three: the half-elf Noble Nightbreeze had a strong attraction to the half-orc PC, and the NPC leader - an elf named Erian Silverbough - had a mild attraction to both PCs.
One thing I didn't want to do was force these kinds of interactions on my players, so I simply told them (after some Wisdom checks) that they were picking up on signals that there was an attraction there. Alas, neither of my players tried to take things further. The player of the elf PC said that he considers his character asexual, so he's obviously not into exploring this kind of thing with this character. The half-orc PC made some jokes about it, but didn't bother to pursue things; he's fairly goal-oriented in the game anyway, so I figured he wouldn't be all that into it.
With the lack of interest from my players, I left it there, and that's how I intend to use these rules. I'll roll this stuff in secret and let the players know the possibility is there for romance, but if they don't bite I'm not going to push it onto them. I didn't get much interest with this group, and if I'm being honest I'm not sure that this is an avenue I want to go down too deeply, but I'm happy enough to have rules for this kind of thing in my game. Like I said, I'm into simulation, and romance is part of life. I'll keep using theses rules, and I might report back here if they ever come up in my game in any significant fashion.