Romances are Badass, p3

Part 3 of 3, by Patrick Weekes

As a simple rule of thumb, go with the comfort zone of the least comfortable person who has to be there at the time. If the fighter’s player isn’t comfortable even talking about romance, and the fighter’s character has to be present and active in this scene, then the romance should be glossed. (If the fighter’s character should be there but doesn’t have to be active, and everyone else in the group is comfortable, then you can tell the fighter’s player to go hunt down more chips in the other room while everyone else deals with the flirtation or romance or whatever, and promise him a chance to hit something later in the evening.)

In addition to comfort, an important aspect of fun is prioritizing your screen time. Unless I got the sense that people were going to enjoy the roleplaying aspect of purchasing 50 feet of rope and a light warhorse more than they’d enjoy fighting some wyverns, I tended to err on the side of wyvern-whacking. Same deal for romance. I got the feeling that my players enjoyed the goofy flirtation and the exchange of bad pickup lines. I got the feeling that they enjoyed the comfort of being in a relationship. I didn’t feel like they wanted the “So, uh, do you like me?” scenes. Even if they were comfortable, they didn’t feel fun, and if it wasn’t fun, it shouldn’t be something we spent time on.

In the end, I don’t really treat my game treatment of romance as any different from my game treatment of puzzles, negotiations, grappling, or the rules for Use Rope (Dex): like all of that stuff, the degree to which I use anything like that always depends on the interest and comfort levels of the people I’m playing with, and the introduction of that element should never dramatically change the tone of the game to something your pizza-and-chips buddies didn’t sign up for.

You thought I was going somewhere dirty with Use Rope and grapple, didn’t you? Shame on you.

Patrick Weekes has been gaming since he saw some cool kid flipping through the AD&D Monster Manual on the bus in fourth grade, and he is all about the d20s (with no disrespect intended to the White Wolf d10 or Steve Jackson d6 folks). He’s been working at BioWare since 2005 and was a writer on Mass Effect. Both of his sons have their own large and non-swallowable dice, so that they will stop trying to steal his pretty sparkly ones.

Romances are Badass, p2

Part 2 of 3, by Patrick Weekes

I’ve been involved in romances in tabletop games, both from behind the GM screen and in front of it. The short version of what I’ve learned is that it varies from group to group and from person to person within any one group, but that doesn’t attract legions of commenters arguing that I’m full of it, so… here, yell at these:

Implication
In my longest-running campaign, I had a guy who was actively interested in an in-game relationship, a few players who liked the idea of their character having a significant other but weren’t comfortable with the idea of having to roleplay falling in love with a pasty bearded white guy (me), and others who were not only uninterested but actively thought that it was a stupid idea to waste time on someone else’s love scene when everyone was really here to eat pizza, roll dice, and hit monsters.

To balance these varying levels of interest and comfort, I kept most of the interested guy’s love story in e-mails exchanged between sessions. (This avoided the “two straight guys trying to roleplay a romance between a man and a woman” bit, and it also let us refer to those events in game without explicitly playing out the whole romance.) The camera moved in and out (or panned to the lamp) as was comfortable for us in those e-mails, and in-game, the two characters were an established couple talking with easy familiarity.

The players who thought that their character ought to be with somebody but didn’t want to roleplay it could just describe, in extremely vague detail, what was going on. Their characters got both the advantages and disadvantages of being in a relationship: the cleric in love with the captain of the guard could get classified information about the state of an important diplomatic matter, while the wizard had to watch as an attack aimed at her hit her boyfriend instead, killing him and leaving her grief stricken. Their relationships were just as valid in-game as the one with more detail – we just left the specifics up to implication and inference.

Utility
If you’ve got an NPC love interest, they’re probably going to be onscreen a fair amount of the time. For this NPC, as with anybody who’s onscreen a lot and doesn’t have a pizza-eating dice-rolling player behind them, it’s really really helpful to walk the line between “Great, another one to Protect” and “Why are We Even Here?”

For the player in my campaign who was comfortable with an onscreen girlfriend, the girlfriend in question was a fairly standard Third Edition D&D Rogue. Since the party lacked a straight-class rogue, this let her show up and occasionally help with lockpicking or device-disabling, making her useful without letting her overshadow an actual player. She was also an information gatherer by trade (okay, assassin, but information-gathering was often involved), so whenever I’d gotten the players halfway through the plot, leading up to the betrayal by the Ironkeep only to realize that I’d forgotten to actually foreshadow said betrayal, I could have her toss in a bit of information she’d picked up on a job.

On the flip side, I screwed up by making her too useful in combat. (She was originally an antagonist who then fell in like with the party bard. I thought that they’d gained enough levels that she wouldn’t outshine anyone. Sadly, I forgot to take away her overpowered loot, which is understandable since all the PCs had overpowered loot as well, because I’m horrible about that kind of thing, and wow this is not the point of this blog post.) When it became clear that she was out-damage-dishing the party ranger, she lost her overpowered combat items in a hurry.

I also found that the character worked better when used sparingly. When I tried to turn her into an effective party member, with the default assumption being that she’d be along for any mission, she got less fun, and was instead one more thing I had to plan for.

Game Effect
This one was minor for me, since I tended to run games with a completely ahistoric assumption of gender equality. As a rule, if it comes down to historical accuracy of gender roles or people having fun, fun wins. Speaking of which…

Fun
Again, as a GM/DM/Storyteller/Narrator, it’s always important to observe the moods of your players and get the tone that matches what they want from a game. Romance is no different. Some groups are going to want overwrought emo-angst. Some groups are going to want goofy flirtation and then a “The next morning, you roll out of bed, kiss the barmaid goodbye, and head for the hills” lighthearted segue. Some groups will want to roleplay the first kiss, while others will want to fast-forward from flirtation in one session to “these two are established as a couple” in the next.

Part 3 wraps it up with Patrick’s thoughts on ‘screen time’ and player comfort

Patrick Weekes has been gaming since he saw some cool kid flipping through the AD&D Monster Manual on the bus in fourth grade, and he is all about the d20s (with no disrespect intended to the White Wolf d10 or Steve Jackson d6 folks). He’s been working at BioWare since 2005 and was a writer on Mass Effect. Both of his sons have their own large and non-swallowable dice, so that they will stop trying to steal his pretty sparkly ones.

Community News and the BioWare Blog

Community news, found on the Dragon Age: Origins site is a space reserved to report on the manic happenings and goings-on of the BioWare community and the community team itself. Featuring a wide range of news news from PAX and Gen Con to Halloween fan art we want to keep this channel filled with news that directly affects the community.

Read the latest community news

This is different then what we are doing with this blog. The plan here is to get BioWare staff and experienced gamers to pass along their thoughts on the world of story-based gaming. I expect the blog posts to be filled with opinions, anecdotes and advice on the wide world of gaming.

Now I think Mr. Weeks had something to say about romance…

-Jay Watamaniuk, Community Manager

Romances are Badass, p1

Part 1 of 3, by Patrick Weekes

me-softerworld2

I should note, as we get going, that I’m uncertain as I write this how much of this is supposed to be words of wisdom, and how much of this is supposed to be an actual blog, which would look less like what I’m going to write and more like:

“Got into work late OMGPARKING!!! Horrible programmer took last cinnamon bagel I NEED BAGELZ 2 WORK 4 SRS!@!
MOOD: WTF?
MUSIC: Faunts”

That said:

Some gamers hate romances. Some gamers love them. They are an enormous and complicated bunch of conversation files that a lot of gamers will never bother to see. They are a true attempt to create a real emotional connection with the player. They are cutscenes that cost a ton of money and create public relations hassles. They are a chance to see side-boob on a blue cutie. They are an annoying distraction from the main game and a breath of fresh air between long combat sections.

Personally, I think romances are badass. As a gamer, I’d love to see a game whose main story was a love story (and which did not involve a tentacle-based minigame). The argument for awhile was that not enough gamers cared about these simulated relationships to have that be the main focus of the game, and that it would largely be a long bunch of conversations instead of a game. On the other hand, the new influx of story-focused gamers, combined with new advances in digital acting, make it entirely possible that a love story could succeed with modern fans.

(And as every gamer who has never picked up Nora Roberts gives me the look of death, imagine this done with some level of choice in the matter. You decide whether you want the story of your love to be The Princess Bride, Shakespeare in Love, or House of Flying Daggers. Do you want to live happily ever, watch them leave while knowing that it was the right decision, or die in each other’s arms? Tell me that wouldn’t be sweet.

Also, I could be all alone on this. I’m at peace with that.)

Part 2 takes a look at diffeent facets of what romance adds to the game mix such as the implications, utility, game effect and the fun-factor

Patrick Weekes has been gaming since he saw some cool kid flipping through the AD&D Monster Manual on the bus in fourth grade, and he is all about the d20s (with no disrespect intended to the White Wolf d10 or Steve Jackson d6 folks). He’s been working at BioWare since 2005 and was a writer on Mass Effect. Both of his sons have their own large and non-swallowable dice, so that they will stop trying to steal his pretty sparkly ones.

BioWare Halloween Costume Gallery


I am declaring Halloween the gamer holiday right here and now. Despite the long and evolving history of the annual event I feel it belongs to the gaming community and always will. Scaring your friends, suspension of disbelief, junk food, and dressing up like someone or something else seems right up our collective alley. A group that invests time, energy and near-hysterical passion into an activity that, at it’s core, is exploring a fantasy world, experiencing a story and putting yourself into the shoes of a hero or villain has to connect with Halloween in some way.

Plus, it’s the only day of the year you can wear a costume and walk down the street without being tackled by authorities.

On to the BioWare staff costume gallery. Check back over the course of today as more and more costume photos are added.

-Jay Watamaniuk, Community Manager