Hi! It’s Annie!
As someone who has played D&D for only a little while now, I still don’t feel like I have a whole lot of experience. But what I will say is that between full campaigns and some partial campaigns, I actually have more experience with role playing romance in my games than I initially thought I might. I’m not the kind of person who goes in expecting my character to have a romantic relationship. I know people where romance within D&D is part of what makes the game fun for them. And that’s completely ok! Just like there are plenty of people out there who absolutely don’t want to roleplay romance at all and try to avoid it at all costs. (Ahem, Travis from ‘Critical Role’.) But I usually don’t care either way. I’ve had an even amount of characters end up in a relationship and stay single so far and I felt equally satisfied with all of the endings. Because those were the endings that felt right for those characters at the time. I honestly think that the absolute best D&D romances are the ones that nobody at the table was really expecting from the off. The ones that sort of developed out of nothing because of coincidence or a progression of a specific friendship. So I’m going to go through some of my own experiences with unexpected romantic relationships within the game and some of my favorite unexpected romances in the D&D that I watch. Specifically, ‘Critical Role’. MAJOR SPOILERS FOR CAMPAIGN ONE OF ‘CRITICAL ROLE’!!!
‘Critical Role’ Couples:
Percy and Vex (Unexpected on Both Sides)- I feel like all of the major romances in campaign one of ‘Critical Role’ were pretty unexpected from where the group started. Of course, there was a point with both where it became obvious. But I don’t feel that any of these romances were a given. Percy was absolutely set on revenge when we first meet him and was absolutely a tortured soul. And while both Vax and Vex seemed to keep to themselves in a way, Vex was definitely the more hostile of the two. It feels like we should have seen coming that the two would end up together with how distant they each kept themselves; but really nobody did. Especially not Laura and definitely not Taliesin. This reached a point where Percy had died within the game and Taliesin had already completed another character because he felt that even if they performed a resurrection on Percy, he would never consider coming back to the land of the living. The character that Taliesin actually created would eventually become Mollymauk Tealeaf in the second campaign of the show. Taliesin sat backstage while the others pleaded with Percy to come back to them, almost certain that nothing would make a difference. That was up until a crying Laura Bailey as Vex confessed her love to Percy. Not only was Taliesin not expecting the confession, but it also completely rewrote Percy’s fate.
Keyleth and Vax (Unexpected on One Side)- I think Liam knew what he was doing when Vax started really noticing Keyleth. And I think part of that was Liam attempting to give Keyleth the confidence and respect that she deserved. Vax already had something going with Gilmore that really could have been something bigger; but Keyleth was constantly undermining her own abilities while Marisha herself was still unsure of all that Keyleth could do. Which is so relatable when you’re first starting out in D&D. Liam was so sweet in trying to support Marisha and Keyleth in a way that eventually led to him suddenly realizing that Vax had feelings for Keyleth. This was such a pure, sweet, and innocent relationship that started from the absolute purest of intentions. In fact, they confirmed that Keyleth was most likely asexual and that their relationship kept with that. The progression of this relationship was also fairly slow because it was based off of how ready both characters were. Vax and Keyleth are definitely an iconic fictional couple. Very much goals! Except for the tragic ending part, of course.
Unexpected Until it Wasn’t- I talked a little about this in my post about women playing support in gaming. That’s still one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written, so please go check it out if you haven’t! I had an incident where, as a healing main, my healing within the game was seen as something romantic to a male player. Not only did this make me uncomfortable, but it also put me in a love triangle (which I really dislike) because the guy who was trying to romance my character had already written himself a girlfriend in his backstory who was a major NPC within the game. While at first I wasn’t sure how to react, I eventually decided that there was no way the two female characters would not get along just because of a guy. That’s one of the worst tropes to come out of love triangles in major media. This began a huge friendship between the two female characters. Eventually as things with the guy character got more brooding and slightly frustrating; my DM (who is one of my best friends) half-jokingly suggested in a private conversation that the girls just end up together. And after a fancy party session where my character asked the NPC to dance while the guy was debating which one he would ask; that’s exactly what happened. This love triangle ended with the two girls together instead. Not only did everything seem to click together naturally after this decision was made, but it also eased my sense of uncomfortableness. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the love triangle would end up that way, but it was glorious.
Unexpected by Pure Coincidence- In a completely different campaign, I was playing a character who was fighting her way to the throne in her own kingdom in a patriarchal society. In other words, I didn’t want her to get married or find a romance in any way partly because I didn’t want her to have a King. I was also playing a Cleric in this campaign and it was written in the story that my character would stop having contact with her goddess because of a mysterious reason. Instead of leaving it alone, she marched out of where the party were staying and visited the two major temples of other gods in the city in order to find some answers. While the first god (Death himself) wasn’t very forthcoming, she ended up having some luck in the second temple she visited. This was the temple of the god of torture and punishment in the afterlife. I ended up rolling two freak natural twenties which not only resulted in my character being able to speak with this god, but also being able to start a connection with him as she would have with her own god. After the gods started going to war in the campaign, she became worried about the only god she still had a connection to and implored him to stay safe. Somehow all of this resulted in my character, who I never wanted to romance anyone, accidentally romancing a god. This got especially complicated after she landed herself in an arranged marriage that the both of them were trying to undo. How the hell do you even romance a god?
I think anything you want to do with your character is right for you and your character. D&D is here for people to have fun. And if you feel you need a romance to have fun, or feel that a romance would ruin your fun; there is nothing wrong with putting a strong foot down. But I hope that something about this post will encourage D&D players to have an open mind. Especially new players because, as somebody with anxiety, it can be difficult to be new and just let things happen. Especially if you’ve been daydreaming of playing it for as long as I had before I started. But after watching campaigns and playing campaigns, I feel like some of the absolute best things to happen within the game will absolutely be unexpected. Whether it be an unexpected romance or a campaign you meant to be serious becoming more parody than anything else. Because that has happened to me too and it was amazing. It’s fun to see where things will go when there are multiple people telling a story and you never know what you’ll roll and when you’ll get that crit. Absolutely set firm boundaries; like how I should have by making sure my healing was seen as my party role rather than something romantic. But, definitely still have an open mind for whatever might happen at the table. Some of the best story points will be the ones that nobody, not even the DM, was expecting.
See you across the pond!