With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it seems prudent to examine the role romance can play in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Let’s begin by viewing a highly informative video clip about how not to include romance in a fantasy setting, courtesy of Ator: the Fighting Eagle:
The moral of this story is twofold: don’t give the object of your affection a bear as a gift, and don’t ask your sister to marry you. Now, let’s continue.
There are three over-arcing themes in pre-modern literature: death, religion and love. And while most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns have plenty of the first and occasional allusions to the second, the third is usually entirely absent. Of course, there are often good reasons for this, as romance can detract from a storyline that would otherwise hold greater appeal for certain audiences. For example, consider how many purists were annoyed at Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films for making Arwen, a decidedly minor character, far more prominent in the films as a love interest for Aragorn, a circumstance that was entirely absent in the books.
The fact that few published adventures have romance as a central theme isn’t surprising, given that D&D is largely marketed to males, who aren’t exactly famous for their sophisticated emotional wiring. About the only such product this writer can think of meeting that criterion is the 1e classic Beyond the Crystal Cave, which cast the heroes in the role of a search-and-recovery team for a pair of lost lovers.
It was a boring adventure.
So is creating romance adventures even worth the effort? Indeed it is, so long as a handful of maxims are followed.