When two people fall in love, the urge to marry usually follows. Whether they want to get married just to make it official, to benefit from some rights granted to married couples, or for spiritual reasons, that short formal ceremony holds quite a bit of importance.
If a couple of RPG characters fall in love, it makes sense that they’d want to get married too. Sometimes, though, marriage seems even harder than romance to work into a game. It’s a big commitment, after all. What if it changes the dynamic of the game? It can be awesome and awkward all at once.
There are a lot of things to consider when bringing marriage into a game – more than I can cover in just one column. So we’ll start with the proposal, and finish up in another column with weddings themselves.
Before I go any further, let me make one thing perfectly clear – as in real life, marriage between characters should not be entered into lightly. Marriage shouldn’t be brought into a game just to shake things up, or just for kicks, and certainly shouldn’t happen between characters who just hooked up in the last game session. If it seems bizarre or gratuitous, don’t do it.
Marriage between two PCs should, for the most part, be initiated by the players in question. In most situations, I would recommend the players discuss it between games, so that when it comes up in the game, the rest of the table may be surprised, but the players involved aren’t. We’ve all seen the painfully awkward YouTube videos where a guy proposes to a girl in a big public venue, and she freaks and runs away, leaving him holding the ring and feeling like a douche in front of a ton of people. You don’t need that awkwardness at the game table.
Should the GM be clued in on the PCs plans to marry? Possibly. As players, you should know your GM well enough to have a feel for how she’d react to such news. If the GM is used to the players doing the unexpected and sometimes messing up her plans as a result, and can roll with it, you should be able to just do it. If you think the PCs tying the knot will have serious implications on the game, run it past her first.
When could the GM be the instigator for PC marriage? By playing the role of one of the character’s parents, urging them to make things official for the sake of appearances or for political reasons. Perhaps the duke is tired of getting inquiries from prospective suitors for his daughter, and tells her that if she and her boyfriend would just get engaged already, it would make things easier for everyone. Or maybe the party’s guide on the journey to a fair-away land tells them that couples have no rights to share rooms or look out for each other’s interests in the lands of their destination – if they want to make sure they can be together and take care of each other, they need proof of marriage.
When the GM is playing one half of the happy couple, she pretty much has to be involved if marriage is being considered. Taking the GM by surprise is one thing, springing a marriage proposal on her paladin NPC is another. Have a talk with your GM about this, just as you would (or at least should!) any really big thing that will affect both your character and one of hers.
You’re the GM? As always, you need to know your players. If you and the player have established a comfortable, serious relationship between your characters, you may be able to just roll with it – and odds are, the player will wonder what’s taken so long for the other to pop the question! If you know, though, that this particular player doesn’t always handle big surprises well, talk about it in advance.
In Public Or In Private?
Based on the style and intensity of romantic play in your game, proposals can take place at the table or away from the table. With the public proposal, again we have that potential awkwardness factor – even if the answer is “yes”, even close friends aren’t always comfortable bearing witness to such an intimate moment. It may be better for the characters involved to simply announce to the rest of the party, “We’ve decided to get married,” instead of one of the players dropping to one knee in character. On the other hand, if the proposal is one that’s been a long time coming, and the party is very close knit, it might be just fine for it to happen in front of everyone. This will usually result in a lot of cheers and drinking and merriment. Who doesn’t like that?
If the players and/or GM involved want to roleplay it, but don’t think the characters would necessarily want the question popped in front of everyone else, a private roleplaying session between games is a great way to have the best of both worlds. It can even happen during a game, if the players involved want to just step into another room for a few minutes, then come back and make the announcement.
Now that we’ve figured out how to broach the topic of marriage and get that proposal out of the way, it’s time for the ceremony! We’ll tackle that next week.
Have any of your characters gotten married in-game? How did they propose?
NOTE: C and her gaming company, 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, will be at ValleyCon 36 in Fargo, North Dakota, October 15-17, and visiting family the days before and after the con. Her internet time will be limited, so she may be slow in replying to your comments, but she will reply as soon as she can!