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Author Topic: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?  (Read 548 times)


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PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« on: September 21, 2022, 10:24:28 AM »
So, even though I play almost exclusively with grognards these days, I like to keep half an eye on what's going on in the nu-school RPG scene. One of the ways I do this is by occasionally watching those "RPG horror stories" videos that are all over YouTube, and one thing that jumps out is what a high percentage of nu-school games seem to implode over (usually botched) PC-on-PC romances.

Thing is, in my 20 or so years of playing and running RPGs, this has literally never been an issue in one of my games. Maybe it's because I've rarely played with women, but romance was always something where it was just an unspoken understanding that was not what we were there for. The closest I think I've ever come to this problem was one of my players getting salty at another for pranking her NPC boyfriend. My initial reaction was just to assume that this happens because of immature players that are over-exposed to anime and YA novels. I thought about it a bit more, though, and even in the old school games I've played, the DMs have seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to set the PCs up with NPC girlfriends, and most players tend to lean into it. Now, I'm curious: Since this is such an old-school-centric forum, Do you guys ever engage with PC romances in your games, either between characters or with NPCs, or is this a nu-school thing that some of my grognard friends have picked up from the internet?

Steven Mitchell

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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2022, 10:42:30 AM »
I think this is going to vary a lot by the player. Of all the players I've been in games with, I'm the most likely to pursue a character romance. However, since I'm usually the GM, it doesn't happen often (or it's NPC with NPC almost entirely in the background--barest hint with a few bits of dialog). 

Most of my games have been been about 50/50 male/female players, seldom more than 60/40 or 40/60 either way, though it does move around some.  In my anecdotal set, the ladies have been less likely to even hint at a romance than the gents.  They are usually playing someone there to kick butts and take names. 

Now "romance" in the classical sense--knights and quests and that sort of thing, we've had plenty of that.  Note that whether you have "courtly love" lathered on top of it or not, it's still a romance for the hero to go rescue the dragon from the evil princess. 


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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2022, 11:34:24 AM »
On the current year timeline you are out of your mind to even entertain this as an idea. You even look at a woman the wrong way and if she has been poisoned by the SJW indoctrination you are guilty of 'assault' but you are going to construct some weird romance angle around what? A female gamer? A male gamer playing a female character?

The cost benefit analysis of doing this in any way comes out close to zero in any imagining I can think of. I'm not a grognard and I run games with the "Critical Role" crowd, lots of females have sat at my table and in no universe I would exist in would I ever introduce a romance element due to the sheer liability you would induce by even suggesting it. You may as well send flowers to your subordinate at work while you are at it...

EDIT: Caveat-- I am talking PC to PC or NPC to PC above. NPC to NPC should be "ok" but in today's climate you can't even really count on that TBH.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2022, 01:07:13 PM by Darkwind »


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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2022, 11:46:55 AM »
As an observation...

1) Back in the day - It was very common for female players and male players to have PC-to-PC romances in my games. Even real-life couples whose PC's were involved with other player's PC's that were not their real-life significant other (which I'll admit back then I thought was cool and mature but initially raised an eyebrow at). I've only ever had one male player have a relationship with a male player whose PC was a female (to add more nuance that female PC was played by a gay man, while the other man was a very alpha guy - again mature players). I've *always* had PC-on-NPC romances in my games - and it was always pretty organic.

2) Today - ZERO PC-on-PC romance. My current group are all guys. But literally every campaign I've run in the last decade or so has had PC-on-NPC romance. And not in some trivial manner. Those relationships were campaign impacting.

Romances are big thing for my games because hypergamy is real, and if your character is a good looking male/female my NPC's will flirt and act accordingly. And if you have gold, and titles? Well it's even going to be more heightened. It also means your enemies might use that against you.

I've never not done things this way. I don't know what the kids today do... The younger players I have gotten into my group (younger to me means: 21-30) do tend to be more awkward in this kind of roleplay, but they warm up to it pretty quick.


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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2022, 02:43:27 PM »
My gaming group is frequently all men so we rarely want to roleplay this type of situation. When it does happen, it's more or less offscreen.

In general I think it's a good idea to have the player either agree upfront to this idea or initiate it themselves, because I've been in situations where the group collectively decided my character was suddenly in a romantic relationship with NPCs and it wasn't really what I was interested in doing with that character.

I do think romantic involvement is a good way to anchor a PC in the game world. Having a love interest or wife is a really strong anchor to the world that the GM can use to make all kinds of interesting things happen. If you've got a player that isn't really engaged with the game world, throwing in a love interest can be (with their buy-in) a cool way to give them more to do. One thing I'd be cautious about though is how much tabletime a PC to NPC romance can eat up. The other PCs aren't likely to be involved much in this RP.


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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2022, 03:40:27 PM »
This has varied a lot for me, with PCs getting into in-game romances a lot more often back in the day (the 90s) than in more recent years. It depends a lot on the group, though, with some players being put off by it (specially if both players are male) and others having no problem and looking at it strictly from an in-character point of view.

I also heard stories from before I started gaming of PCs from the group that introduced me to TTRPGs getting into romances with NPCs, and they only played Basic back then (I was the one who got some of them into 2e when I got my own books and started DMing). So PC romances (PC-PC or PC-NPC) have always been a thing as far as I can tell, but it depends a lot on the people you play with. Granted this is all anecdotal, but in my experience the more mature and RP-focused the players involved, the more likely there's going to be PC romances at some point.

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2022, 06:28:12 PM »
There's a certain argument (admittedly a reductionist and tongue-in-cheek one) to be made that if you're playing in the "proper spirit" of the old school, your PCs shouldn't have time for romance, whatever inclinations or potentials might exist in the party. Dungeon crawls make bad first dates.

More seriously, I think part of the reason romance subplots don't show up in old school RPGs as often as they might is that games in "old school" mode don't generally provide mechanical structures meant to protect the characters throughout their romance arc (e.g. metacurrency "Fate Points"), or rules by which relationships between characters provide tangible benefits to those characters (e.g. a "True Love" feat which, for example, might provide protection against certain mind-affecting or alignment-based effects).
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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2022, 06:57:58 PM »
My current group, in our 2e campaign, the Bard was engaged to an NPC, the player was chasing this since day one, he would have married her but he decided to go chasing Yuan-Ti bad guys with a town's guard, turns out the guard was a Yuan-Ti. Alas poor Lyle I hardly knew ye.

Now the player is playing a Dwarf Warrior, very rough around the edges, and he's still chasing tail. In a very... lets say unusual way.

Incidentally he's almost got his Dwarf killed twice already.
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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2022, 08:44:09 PM »
This is definitely a "talk with each other" matter. I don't ban romance via fiat (although I often do ban explicit sex because it's tasteless for everyone else.) I generally permit it should the affected PCs agree and the rest of the party doesn't feel it's distasteful or inappropriate for the campaign.

But I will absolutely not allow PCs to wing it with no metagame conversation. I think it's really rude to use game time like that without getting players to buy into the arrangement.

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Re: PC Romance, does it happen in the Old School?
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2022, 10:53:08 PM »
I'm more of a wargamer, but I play a couple RPGs, including my own, which has an old-school feel (if I was successful).  Since it is set in the 1980s and in high school, romance and dating are meant to be a part of the game.  In the advanced rules, romance is one of five areas where you can focus your energies in-between scenarios or during down time.  (The others are fitness, academics, economics, and leisure.)  One of the game's scenarios, Masquerade Dance, has elements of romance, and is designed to be played by a girl PC who just suffered a break-up, although the GM can reverse the roles for male players.  The rules treat romance as flirty and fun, or tough if you're not in the popular crowd, but since GMs and players can do what they want, they can get raunchier and heavier.  But in the books, I keep the romantic content at a PG level.