Wait. There really aren’t rules for this kind of thing in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Or the DMG. Or any game master’s guide. No problem, you can pick up any of the third-party products out there and…
Wait again. Rules for sex and love? Srsly? Do we need rules for this?
In my years as a gamer, this seems to be the sticking point for many when it comes to romance in a game. There are those who insist that rules are necessary for everything in a game, so love should be no exception. Others are vehement that rules for romance make it weird, kinky, and possibly even creepy, and that people who want such rules are some sort of degenerate freaks. (In full disclosure, I was a very vocal supporter of the Book of Erotic Fantasy, and my husband was a moderator on the Valar forums. On other internet forums, some very nasty things were said about us and other supporters of the book, making some rather crude assumptions about our sex lives. Sad.)
Do you need rules? Most of the time, no. Except when you do.
I Think You Know How This Works
If another member of the party turns to your character and says, “Keriwyn, I’m going to go to the temple and see if they’ll sell us some healing potions. Want to come with me?” do you roll an ability or skill check to decide if your character would go? No. While on occasion you may make a Wisdom or Intelligence check to see if your character would think of the idea that you, the player, just had, for the most part you just take social interactions as they come and make decisions on the spot.
Even if you’re still waiting for your real-life knight in shining armor to arrive on his or her white horse, you probably have a pretty good idea how love, sex, and romance work. You’ve spent hours, days, weeks, maybe even months, working on your character, finding her voice and personality. You know how she’ll react in battle, in an argument, in a bad situation. Surely if you know her that well, you know how she’d react if the Elizabeth Swann lookalike at the bar offers to buy her a drink? If you need rules for your own character’s personal reactions, you need some lessons in roleplaying. There should be no need to have PCs (and most NPCs) interacting with each other make any sort of roll in romantic interactions – just roleplay it out.
Besides, can you imagine having to play out a love scene after rolling a natural 1? Gah.
Times When Rules Are Good
Situations do arise when romance is not as simple as a couple characters making googly eyes at each other. Sometimes, it can even have an effect on the game – one that would be better left to the dice to decide than the GM. For example:
Looking for One-Nighter: The party has just one night in town before they have to hit the road again, and you can’t blame them for wanting a little action before they leave. We’ve already determined that flirting among established characters works or fails based on those characters’ reactions. When a PC is trying to pick up a stranger – who isn’t an NPC the GM already has a personality for – a few simple Diplomacy (or similar social skill) rolls can rule success or failure, no special rules needed. A great true story: in a D&D campaign several years back, our badly wounded party stumbled into a temple of Haela Brightaxe. After we were healed, one of the players with a dwarven character asked the GM to “roll for a random sexual encounter”. Idnar got lucky that night. Fast forward to a little over a game-year later, we encountered the same group of priestesses, and one stepped forward to introduce Idnar to his baby son. It was awesome.
Seduction/Putting on the Charm: The local count isn’t really your type, but he has a soft spot for handsome half elves (which you happen to be), and you really need his sponsorship for your trip into Undermountain. With a couple good Diplomacy or Bluff rolls, he might decide you’re very cute and charming, and he’d be glad to fund your adventure – so long as you promise to come back and see him when you return.
Pregnancy: Unless the characters involved make clear note that they are using some sort of birth control – be it herbal, physical, or magical – babies can and do get made when men and women roll between the sheets. Sometimes, it’s unintended; other times, the characters are actually trying to have a baby. Either way, pregnancy doesn’t automatically occur. This is a situation where rules are handy. If both characters involved are human, you can wing it with a 25% chance, but if you have different races consorting, a table to consult would save the GM a lot of math headaches.
Disease: Many GMs choose to ignore the common cold, the flu, and similar illnesses in their games, and if you want, you can pretend venereal diseases don’t exist either. But if the characters are spending a lot of time at seedy brothels or picking up strangers in the tavern, a mild case of the clap might be what it takes to remind them that sometimes, bad things happen to good characters. Some players may react poorly to having a disease “forced” on their character, but it’s not much different from ending up with filth fever after a sewer fight, or being poisoned from a snake bite. Get thee to a healer and all will be well again.
Magic: Even without employing adult gaming references, good ol’ spells like charm person can have romantic consequences. Love potions can be poured in a drink. Illusions can make the orc at the next table look really hawt. In times like these, the characters are not in full control of their actions and reactions, so obviously, you need dice and rules. Magic like this can be a lot of fun, so long as all the players are good sports. I would caution heavily against making these magical situations the only times that romance appears in your game. If the only time the characters can get any nookie is when they slip someone a magical mickey…well, some might find that a little weird. But it can be a great occasional addition to the game if played well (like anything else).
Where Are These Rules Of Which You Speak?
The various adult gaming books and PDFs out there range from the tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek (Mongoose Publishing’s Nymphology) to focused so much on being sexy and provocative that the content is somewhat lacking (BoEF, I’m sad to admit), to general, seriously-written rulebooks (Christine and Tim Morgan’s Naughty and Dice, which I think has some of the best information, but is not written for D20 rules). One thing they all have in common is that they contain good, useful material – you just have to spend some time with the book and pick out what will actually be of help for your game. We own them all, and they all see use in our games, but we don’t use every single rule out of each one. (Who knows, I may write my own romantic rule book one day…)
Play romance by ear, use rules when needed, and above all, make sure everyone’s having a good time! Following those simple guidelines will make any game a success.
How often do you consult rules for romance?