Tabletop Tales is another part of my attempt to create thematically connected segments on here. Rather than talk about mechanics, or worldbuilding, in this segment I’ll share some stories of games that I think are worth sharing with people. This one talks, in detail, about some of my successes at introducing romance into an RPG. I’ll be sharing two stories, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ll share them both with you.
Story 1: A Space Inferno Love Story
The name of this story is super dramatic. I get that. There’s totally a reason though. This story takes place when I was like, sixteen. I had an off and on gaming group at my local gaming shop and I had decided to try to run a game set in the Cowboy Bebop universe. I used the d20 Modern and future rules. My player characters included an experimented on young girl (think River from Firefly but with less punch and more psychic stuff), a giant ex-mobster with a flamethrower, a bionically enhanced professional bounty hunter, and a cold sniper chick. So similar to the plot of Cowboy Bebop (Don’t worry, not major spoilers), the story arcs were played out like episodes revolving around chasing that episode’s bounty, with occasional plot points tying back into the character’s backgrounds. The psychic girl was worrying about the people who had worked on her, the mobster was out for vengeance, and the professional bounty hunter and sniper chick didn’t have much more than that they were professional mercenaries. Along the way the players interacted with a nightclub owner named Dante (his club was called “The Inferno” because I was super original in high school). Slowly, and I’m not even really sure how it happened, a vaguely hinted at romance began to form between the sniper and Dante. It was entirely PG, because the sniper’s player (who we’ll call Meg) was the youngest member of our group and there was never even a description of them maybe kissing. That would have made me feel like a creep. Maybe that was another part of the reason things were so vague. Because of the vagueness, no one was really sure if Meg considered the two of them to be a couple or not. Until the time came that Dante had to join the PCs on a mission because they needed his connections. One of the enemies, deciding that Dante looked like the leader, opened by targeting him. Now, part of the reason I had Dante accompany the players was basically so that the enemy’s damage could be a bit higher than normal without him just obliterating the PCs. Basically, he was meant to be an extra HP pool. However, the enemy’s first shot was a crit that put him down. I described the player’s companion as getting shot in the head right out of the gate, and while he ended up surviving, what happened immediately afterward is what this story is about. As soon as I finished describing Dante hitting the ground her face got really tense. She rolled initiative and said angrily, “I’m going to kill him. That asshole just shot my boyfriend and I’m going to murder him.” And she did. I’m very proud of that sequence for a few reasons. The first reason is that it was the first example I’d ever seen, much less created, of a player forming a strong emotional connection to an NPC, The second reason is that it was the most invested in a moment I’ve ever gotten a player. I mean, I’ve had players invested in storyline events, but I’ve never had a player become that emotionally invested in a single scene before or after that moment.
Story Two: Love and Undeath
Ok, so I wasn’t able to come with nearly as perfect a name for this story. It happened a lot more recently and involves my friend Ran, whom I mentioned in my second Big Fights article. She originally came into my circle of friends in the summer of 2013 and joined my game shortly before I started this blog. Originally she played an Elf who got ripped to pieces in the climactic battle of the third story arc. After that, she changed over to a Dhampir Sorcerer named Ransome who specialized in necromancy. So that merry band of adventurers was off doing what adventurer’s do (adventuring) when they ran into what was intended to be a rival adventuring party. On that party was a bard named Francis who was intended to be the charming rogue-type, and who was the rival party’s token good teammate where Ransome was her party’s token evil teammate. The two parties met in a tavern and I had the bard approach the necromancer and start hitting on her in what I was pretty sure would be completely fruitless. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t. This started a long romance between the two that managed to not really be a part of the main story, but that was consistently present. They never went to rescue one another or even fought for one another and their growing love was never really in anyone’s face. Instead their romance was almost entirely a background event, with the two parties only really having a significant reunification in the climactic battle of the entire campaign, where both parties ventured into the depths of the final unholy dungeon to fight the world ending demon. After the world was saved and we were in epilogue mode, Frances and Ransome were married. There was a really awkwardly roleplayed wedding ceremony that I’d rather forget, but never will. I never will because the story of Francis and Ransome (Fransome) is still prominent in our group. In the next campaign that I ran, set in the same world, Ran played the daughter of Francis and and Ransome who had also started adventuring. I’m really proud of this story because I don’t think that it’s something any of the players will ever forget about. It was a story that left a lasting impression on the people involved, and that’s something that I think all GMs really hope to achieve. Well, that’s the end of story time for now. Happy late Valentine’s everyone.