Let a Little Love in Your Game

Today’s blog post isn’t by me. It’s by fellow Man-Day Adventurer Eric, who is an invenerate rules tinkerer. Thus, the “I” mentioned below isn’t yours truly. It’s Eric, who thought these rules might be of general interest. So, he emailed me the doc, and I whacked away a bit with my editing stick. So, without further ado….

The In-Game Effects of Love

First some background on why I started down this road. One of our characters, a dwarven warrior by trade, through a set of unusual circumstances fell into the good graces of a certain marilith. This marilith, whose name pains mortal tongues to speak, answers to Shen-Kriltha. The dwarf didn’t seem to mind the scales and took a liking to her in turn. This led me to think, how can I make this strange love affair matter in game terms?

Have you ever asked yourself why characters seldom if ever fall in love in the game? Surely in a world full of heroes, princesses, maidens, and such, there are plenty of eligible, attractive candidates. In my experience, the reason is simple: It would be nothing but a liability. Having a wife back home while you go out adventuring would be like having a neon sign begging some big bad guy to come and kidnap her. How many DMs could resist the urge to use this significant other against your character? [Editorial Aside: I know I couldn’t!]

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? Many movies and books feature protagonists spurred to greater heroism because of their undying love. Having a partner provides encouragement to strive harder and do better. The demonstrable benefits to having a partner to share one’s life with can be simulated for PCs.

Quantifying Dedication

This is the part where we have to sacrifice some realism for playability. The challenge is to take a concept as vague and mystical as love and reduce it to a useable game mechanic. Something will be lost in the translation, but this cannot be helped. A PC with a significant other earns Dedication Points during play based on the following guidelines.

Demonstration of Love: 1 point. For example, a PC could earn 1 DP for leaving the dungeon after slaying the dragon only to rush home and into the loved one’s arms.

Minor Sacrifice for Love: 1-3 points. For example, a PC could spend some of that dragon’s hoard on a ring or necklace. The key thing to remember is that this is rather subjective. Don’t get too carried away on awarding points here, and it’s not about actual gold piece value. The idea is to reward the player’s roleplaying and the PC’s use of a valuable resource in a way that doesn’t really benefit the PC. After all, 300 gp spent on a fancy necklace is 300 gp not spent on a useful potion.

Major Sacrifice for Love: 5 points. Examples would be choosing an extremely suboptimal class for the sake of their love, sitting out from adventuring for a time because of the new baby (meaning the player has to play a standby for a while), and other major demonstrations of love and dedication.

Here’s an important point: Dedication Points never really go away. While certain effects happen due to a PC’s Dedication Point total, you do not subtract the points that caused that effect. As long as the roleplaying dedication is consistent, the points continue to accrue, representing the growth of deeper levels of dedication, commitment, and strength.

Also, the objective of these rules is not to reduce love to a game mechanic that can be calculated and manipulated by the players, but rather to provide some small reward for good roleplaying that phenomenon we call love.

Implementing the Effects

Now that a PC has these points, how does he use them? Well, he doesn’t. Rather, Dedication Point totals are a tool the DM uses to grant a PC a boon he otherwise wouldn’t have. Here’s a summary of suggested love boons:

* 5 Dedication Points can earn a +1 bonus to a single saving throw.
* 10 Dedication Points can earn a +2 bonus to a skill check or a free rank in a new “hobby” skill.
* 15 Dedication Points can earn a bonus feat in new “hobby” area or turn a failed skill check into a successful one.
* 20 Dedication Points can turn a failed saving throw or skill check into a successful one.

The save bonus is intended to be small, just enough to push a PC from failure to success due to that inner spark and drive to see his loved one, to prevent harm from coming to a loved one, et cetera.

The skill bonus might not come into play in a life or death situation. Perhaps the PC gets a small bonus on a Craft check and the necklace they were making isn’t ruined as a result. Or maybe the PC has made so many gift baskets for her hubby that she gains a free rank Craft(basketweaving).

The bonus feat is not intended to be something combat related. Rather, it should be something that ties back to the PC’s romantic interest. Feats such as Negotiator, Great Fortitude, Toughness, or Iron Will might be appropriate. If all else fails, create a custom feat.

The failed saving throw and failed skill check becoming successes are just what they sounds like. Again this represents intense dedication and focus motivated by love.

None of these effects are continuous, or they quickly would get out of hand. Rather the exact timing is up to the DM. As a guideline, I suggest Dedication Point effects occur no more than once per game session per PC.

If all of this seems too complicated, just make a little mark somewhere each time a PC does something for their significant other. Use those little marks as the record of Dedication Points.

A Short Love Story

Suppose the rogue has been really playing up how important his sweetheart Sophie is to him via little comments and small demonstrations. “I take one of the dire lion teeth and cut it out of the beast and use it to carve a little ivory tiger for my honey,” says the rogue’s player. These small things are consistent and represent good roleplaying by the player to show how much his PC loves Sophie.

Later, the rogue is in a dungeon and is ambushed by a carrion crawler. A paralyzing tentacle strikes the rogue, and he fails his save by one point. The DM announces, “As you slump to the ground paralyzed, you think of how this is your last day, how your will die on this dirty dungeon floor, and will never see Sophie again. This thought causes your heart to race even more than it already was and infuses you with new energy as you hold the image of Sophie in your mind’s eye and shake off the paralyzation!”

Imagine the look on the players face when that happens!

June 6th, 2010  in Man-Day Adventures, RPG 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Let a Little Love in Your Game”

  • Alzrius says:

    Very, very cool new mechanic here. I really like not only the acknowledgment that family members are usually a vulnerability (something I blogged about myself, recently), but the new method for having a loved one affecting your character’s rolls is a very simple-yet-intuitive mechanic. Excellently done.

  • admin says:

    Thanks, Alzrius. I don’t think there was any mind-reading going on. After all, great minds think alike!

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