Romance #

Like horror, romance doesn’t automatically suggest a setting. It is more of a mood, or more specifically an approach, to how the game is played. It suggests an emphasis, at least somewhat, on relationships, interactions, and connections.

Suggested types and additional equipment for a romance setting are the same as in a modern setting.

You must get consent to cover these topics in a game ahead of time—you don’t want to make people uncomfortable. Everyone involved also needs to learn everyone else’s boundaries. Someone might not want any part of a romance scene, while others are okay talking about emotional connections but not anything sexual.

Obviously, all of this is doubly important if age is a consideration. If there are younger players involved, romance probably shouldn’t go beyond a fairly chaste kiss. (You’ll find that kids are sometimes more open to romance in their games than adults, but only because their understanding of the topic is understandably pretty shallow. A kid player might declare that a character is their boyfriend, but it doesn’t mean much. And for some adults, that may be the way they want to approach the subject as well.)

Lastly, recognize that there needs to be a clear boundary between the story and real life. Two characters having a relationship has no impact on real-life feelings of the players. Two characters in a game might be in a relationship while each player is in a relationship in the real world with someone else. And maybe they’re gaming at the same table! If a player can’t distinguish between in-game flirtation or words of endearment and real-world feelings, they shouldn’t be in a romance-focused game.

For more information and advice on safe ways to address consent issues in your game, read the free Consent in Gaming PDF at

The Check-In #

It’s vital that the GM and the players all check in with each other to make sure everyone’s still comfortable with what’s going on in the game. This is particularly important to maintain the boundary between emotions expressed in the story and how people feel in real life.

Basic Creatures And NPCs For A Romance Game #

  • Distrustful relative: level 2
  • Jealous ex: level 2, attacks as level 3
  • Nosy neighbor: level 2, perception as level 3
  • Rival suitor: level 2, interactions as level 3
  • The unattainable: level 3, interactions as level 7, resistance to all interactions as level 9

Optional Rule: Infatuation #

When a PC is near someone they are infatuated with, particularly in the early stages of that infatuation, they must make an Intellect defense roll with a difficulty determined by the GM based on the situation (not on the level of the subject of the infatuation). Failure might mean that the character does or says something awkward or embarrassing either in an attempt to impress or when trying to hide the infatuation. Or it could mean that for one round, the player loses control of the character, and the GM decides what the PC does next, such as risk their own safety to help an endangered character. However, GMs should welcome player input into this situation. The point is to portray that when we’re distracted by the powerful feelings (and hormones) related to infatuation, we don’t always react in the best way, the smartest way, or even the way we want to.

Infatuation can happen whether the PC is attracted to an NPC or a PC.

Optional Rules: Relationship Levels #

When a PC first establishes a relationship with a character (PC or NPC), the GM should assign the relationship a level. If there’s no connection at all, there is no relationship (level 0). Otherwise, the starting relationship is probably level 1. In certain circumstances, a relationship might start at level 2, indicating a far stronger initial connection than usual.

As play progresses, the PC can attempt to improve the level of the relationship, indicating a strengthening of the bond between the two characters. The requirements to improve the relationship are twofold. First, some story-based action needs to be taken. This can be dates, gifts, a meaningful speech, a pledge of commitment, some amount of self-sacrifice, or whatever the GM and the player feel is appropriate to the story and the level of the relationship. This action might require the PC to succeed at specific tasks (with appropriate rolls). For example, writing a love poem will require an Intellect-based task, while helping to retrieve a loved one’s cat from a tree might require a Speed-based task.

Second, the player must make an Intellect-based roll with the desired level of relationship as the difficulty (modified as the GM sees fit).

A relationship can be improved only one level at a time, and the GM and the player should work out an appropriate time interval. For relationships of levels 5 and above, multiple story-based actions and multiple rolls are almost certainly required.

(It’s possible for relationship levels to be lopsided, such that the relationship from the point of view of one person is a different level than from the point of view of the other. This should be used sparingly, because it makes things far more complicated. In the case of polyamory, it is possible to have more than two people in a relationship, but even in these situations the connection between any two individuals should have its own level.)

Romantic Relationship Levels #

Level Relationship
1 First meeting. Interest or curiosity.
2 A sense of connection above the norm. Strong physical attraction.
3 Affection and a bond that will last longer than a single encounter.
4 Serious affection. Almost certainly physical affection.
5 A profession of love.
6 A serious long-term commitment.
7 A lifelong commitment.
8 Soul mates.
9 A love affair for the ages.
10 A bond that transcends time and space.

Relationship levels can go down as well as up. Neglect, carelessness, inappropriate emotional displays, lies, infidelity, and bungled wooing attempts can all potentially lower a relationship level. This is entirely in the judgment of the GM, although a lowered relationship level is very likely an appropriate use of a GM intrusion.

Relationship levels indicate the strength of the bond and thus help dictate an NPC’s actions in regard to a PC. An NPC in a level 5 relationship probably will be more generous and forgiving toward the PC than if the relationship was level 3 or 4. An NPC in a level 6 relationship or higher would likely give their partner most anything, even maybe sacrificing their own well-being or their life for them. (And people in a higher-level relationship certainly would.) Likewise, a relationship level can influence a PC’s actions. An Intellect defense roll with a difficulty equal to the relationship level might be appropriate if the PC wants to act against the best interests of their loved one, or if they must keep their cool and act normally when their loved one is in danger.

You can use this optional system in any genre, for any type of relationship, even platonic ones. If desired, the relationship level a PC has with an authority figure, a contact, a relative, or anyone else can be measured, improved, and decreased just as it can with a romantic relationship.

Platonic Relationship Levels #

Level Relationship
1 First meeting. Interest or curiosity.
2 A sense of connection above the norm.
3 A memorable connection. Indications of a mutually beneficial relationship possible.
4 Real friendship.
5 Deep friendship.
6 Relationship akin to that of a close sibling.
7 A pledge of complete partnership.
8 Platonic soul mates. Something akin to a life-debt.
9 A friendship for the ages.
10 A bond that transcends time and space.