Role-Playing Romances - DISTURBING!

This is less a how-to than it is a testimonial. My problem is, I believe in subplots and character development for my players' characters. I really do. However, I find it really awkward to play out ANY romantic scene with a player, especially where I'm playing a female NPC. It's not that I can't role-play a woman, I most certainly can (or a gay man, if that were the task). No, it's that these conversations always feel really ridiculous (at best) or disturbing (at worst). I just don't want to be hit on by one of my players, nor do I want to whisper sweet nothings to that player, neither in private nor across a public table.

Latent homophobia on my part? I must admit that it's a little easier with female players, but not by much. There is still some awkwardness there as we thread the line between what is acceptable and what is not. So it's not a same-sex thing, it's really an awkwardness thing. A difficulty in divorcing, in that one circumstance, the player from the character. I feel like I am speaking romantic lines to a person I am not romantically involved with, and it feels, well, icky. So what are my options?

1) Get over it. Which I do. I mostly carry on with it, but it's a sigh-inspiring moment in the game for me.
2) Turn it into mechanics. Roll Seduction and the like. No go, that's the worst kind of social interaction gaming in my book. If a roll is indicated, then sure, but it should be in addition to actual words and actions that will modify that role. In other words, roll for the target's reaction, not to replace the actual wooing.
3) Gloss over it. For unimportant romantic encounters, yeah, I've done this. "You bring her up to your room and the next morning..." I find it unacceptable for more meaningful relationships though, whether we're talking about plot or subplot.
4) Add a filter of narration. The best solution for me, this involves describing the romantic encounter as narrator, focusing on the non-verbal, but adding "she says" in front of the dialog without actually performing it. Sometimes hard to do in a real-time conversation, but it's just enough distance that the encounter doesn't feel awkward, silly or disturbing.

How do you handle it? Perhaps you don't have to. I, on the other hand, have a player who loves to play the ladies' man, so I need SOME strategy. Help me out here, blogosphere!


Anonymous said...

try talking to that player about the roleplaying experience he wants to get through his seductions. You could be opening yourself up for hassle than you need to.

An if you think that's a tad awkward; I had a player on player romance, the whole deal, she's now the mother of my character's child. While playing this out, my love interest's player's husband was also in the game. He was great about it, but damn, did that feel a bit weird...

idiotbrigade said...

I say go all-out. Do the voices, wear a wig. Maybe add some lipstick. Take the awkwardness you feel, and turn it right back around to the players so they just forego any romantic entanglement with NPCs, and just stick to the whole punching people in the face thing.

Chang Cheh would want it that way.

Tommy Chu said...

Not having any female NPCs seems to work out pretty well for you ;)

Siskoid said...

Shorty: You can ask the commenter calling himself Tommy Chu. This post is pretty much dedicated to him.

Idiot: I know what you're trying to do.

Tommy: The last two games were straight out of the manual, so I'm guiltless of the ploy. However, I dread the ballerina scenario and what you'll do with it.

Pout (Tommy Chu) said...

To be honest, the ladies man schtick is more a side effect of wanting to play the "cool guy" than it is a goal in and of itself. I'm perfectly fine with your narative style of dealing with it. Believe it or not, I don't crave flirting with you

... even if you are quite handsome *wink*

Craig Oxbrow said...

I tend to option 4. When distancing, I also tend to play things a bit light and jokey.

PC-to-PC romances at the table can also be fascinating, particularly when the players aren't involvd (sometimes those they are involved with are sitting right there too).

I suppose "author stance" has an effect too. Yes, I'm using jargon, but it's relevant. If the players view their PCs, and the GM views NPCs, as characters they guide in a drama rather than as their avatars, they're happier to throw them into heartbreak, comic misunderstanding, tragedy and the like.

wriphe said...

The players at my table tend to want to have sword and sorcery adventures like overgrown boys, not become bogged down in any romantic situations with icky girls. That generally makes it easy for me to avoid the situation, which I, too, find occasionally uncomfortable. I guess I'm lucky (or manipulative enough) that my gamers want to play escapist action fantasy, and not play house.

Siskoid said...

Fine for your standard D&D game, but it IS an important element of other genres, like secret agents and musketeers.

Anonymous said...

Well it not that different from roleplaying any other type of relation. I mean any in-character moments of anykind usually get quickly awkward. Just keep the scenes short and everthing will be ok. Short scenes are fun. :)

Siskoid said...

I play with an improv crowd pretty exclusively, so we're used to interacting as characters. Romance remains the only awkward scenes (and even so, I think it's awkward because we just forge ahead and do it anyway. It's awkward because it's not awkward ENOUGH.)


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