11
\$\begingroup\$

My fellow player and I had started a 5e campaign with the plan that our two characters would be childhood friends that would eventually start a romance together. It worked well for a while, and I'll admit that I might've gotten too invested in the relationship as I planned out what eventually might happen between them, as I assumed that my partner was on the same page. Recently, however, she announced that she was going to play her character as polyamorous-- able to have romantic relationships with multiple people at once. Apparently she came to this decision after a flirtatious moment between her character and an NPC evolved into genuine romantic feelings. I have to admit that I'm very upset about this change, partially because she had never discussed it with me beforehand, and partially because my character has extreme trust issues and would not be at all happy with the idea that she would have to "share" him with someone else if they did end up together. I spoke to her about this and how it upset me, and she said that she apologized for not informing me of her decision beforehand but that she "had to play [her character] honestly." I should note that she's a very good friend of mine, nothing more or less, and my feelings about her decision are in no way influenced by our relationship outside of the campaign.

I feel as though she's backed me into a corner with only two unappealing options open to me-- have my character accept that her character will eventually seek love with other people, which I doubt she would be willing to do, or to just not have the romantic relationship come to fruition at all, which seems unfair considering all the planning we have done beforehand. I should also add that the DM in control of the NPC was also not given any indication that this would happen, and has no intention of roleplaying a romantic relationship, but the player in question has asserted that this would not change her decision to play her character as poly. This is my first campaign, though, which may have something to do with my reaction to this change in narrative-- though I've roleplayed in other mediums before, I'm not exactly used to the "yes, and..." aspect of improvising, especially when it comes on the heels of something we'd already planned for months.

I'm unsure where to go from here: how do I make this work?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: What is “my guy syndrome” and how do I handle it? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Sep 17 '18 at 15:51
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ A related comment by a Mod: Questions like this can be bad if answered with a brainstormed list of answers, and good if answered with general guidance. So far, most answers have been general and I think that makes this question (and the answers) all good. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 17 '18 at 18:20
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I think as written, it sort of just asks "this happened, what do I do?". I think it'd be a better question (and a more answerable one) if you added a sentence or two about what you want to accomplish, and then we can answer how you can do that. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 17 '18 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ If people are determined to make bad answers to a question then it's a bad question. Please downvote "brainstorm" answers and OP should consider adding to their question to indicate they are not looking for random untested ideas. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Sep 18 '18 at 8:51
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ In fact here, as I read this more I agree with V2Blast - let's put this on hold a minute while we tease the actual question out of this. "What do I do?" Well you can do anything on God's green earth. What is your goal? "Not feel bad" and "Have a monogamous person become comfortable with poly" are two things we probably can't answer, but other stuff related to gaming we probably can. In other words, "How do I make this work" - make what work? What's your desired outcome? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Sep 18 '18 at 9:00
33
\$\begingroup\$

This is a My Guy Syndrome question. You've written that your character "has extreme trust issues" -- but that's something that you've decided, and you can decide differently if you think the alternative would be more fun. Likewise, your fellow player has said that she "has to play her character honestly" -- but she's the one making the decisions about what her character wants, and she could decide differently if she wanted to.

So, we can rephrase your question like this. The two of you started a roleplaying game with the plan that your characters would be romantically involved. Now, your friend no longer wants her character to be romantically involved (only) with your character. You'd prefer the opposite, but in the game (as in real life), we don't get to control how other characters feel about us. :-/

(One theory for what's happening: the other player might be losing interest in having her character follow your lead, and simply wants to make some decisions for herself for a while. Most of the fun of role-playing games is in doing crazy stuff and seeing what happens, so this might be understandable.)

At this point, your goal is to react in a way that will be fun -- fun for you, ideally fun for the group. If you (and the rest of the table) now feel like it might be fun to play your character as bitter and jealous and controlling, that's something you can try. If you think it would be more fun to play your character in some other way, you can do that instead. You could roleplay all the fun stuff your character is doing to try to hold the other character's attention, or you could roleplay a poly romance with someone else (and does your character mean it, or are they just trying to make your friend's character jealous?), or you could roleplay how your character is competing for that same NPC's affections in a love triangle. Or you could focus on non-romantic parts of the game for a bit.

If the only thing you were enjoying about the game was that romance, you also have the option to drop out of the game. People who are new to RPGs often believe that an RPG commitment is unbreakable and they have to stick it through to the end. This isn't true -- like any activity, you can stop doing it if it stops being fun. (We hope that you're enjoying other things about the game, though!)


In pen-and-paper roleplaying games, many groups will try not to do too much with romance. The reason is that romance is usually a two-player activity (or a one-player plus the DM activity). It might be fun to roleplay your character on a date, but it's not as much fun to sit there quietly at the table and watch someone else roleplay their character on a date. I don't know how this impacts your table -- maybe you have a small number of players and you don't mind watching each other roleplay dates. But, if you really want to do romantic roleplaying, it's possible you'll find that a pen-and-paper RPG isn't the best setting for that.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "the other player might be losing interest in having her character follow your lead, and simply wants to make some decisions for herself for a while". This seems like a good hypothesis that might be eye-opening. \$\endgroup\$ – Behacad Sep 17 '18 at 18:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A link to Burlew's "making the tough decisions" article might be a good thing to add to your first two paragraphs, or between the first two paragraphs. The part on "decide to act differently" might be useful for querent and her playing partner. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 17 '18 at 18:32
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Can we please stop declaring any negative roleplay actions as "My Guy Syndrome"? This answer completely glosses over the fact that simply rolling with the change in-character could produce an amazing, deep, memorable and enjoyable story for everyone involved. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan The Brave Sep 18 '18 at 13:16
6
\$\begingroup\$

Roleplaying and rolling with change

It's important to note that you are both playing characters in a story. Events happen and characters grow - and that's okay!

Although there may have been an initial plan, plans change just like life changes. You've got to be able to roll with those changes and keep on going. How you, or your character, chooses to react to the changing situation is entirely and 100% up to you.

Whatever you do, make sure you're still having fun and it's not taking away from other people's fun at the table (whether it's the other player in question, other players at the table, or the DM.)

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention that this how relationships roll out too sometimes. A friend of mine realized she was poly after she was married and that put the marriage in a tough spot. There is actually an opportunity for good roleplay here imo. \$\endgroup\$ – Lux Claridge Sep 17 '18 at 18:07
5
\$\begingroup\$

There are a number of issues wrapped up in this question so let's tackle them in pieces.

1. It's just a game

I'm one of those players that don't consider a character complete and playable until they have a reasonable backstory (Yes, he's a bugbear barbarian, but why is he adventuring?). As such, I have great plans for how the character should be played, and always include at least one or more hooks for the DM1. But the moment I sit at the table, it all goes out the window--Things change, there are good and bad dice rolls, and players change their mind. So regardless of the romantic plans you've designed, you need to accept that things won't stick to script.

2. Planned romance

"...and I'll admit that I might've gotten too invested in the relationship as I planned out what eventually might happen between them..."

Here is a big problem; you've already committed in your head to a romantic relationship with this person, whom you say in your comments is only a friend. But now you've had to think long and hard about how you would woo their in-game persona and that's translating into subconscious feelings. You are now feeling in real-life what your character would feel having learned that their "true love" won't be true; or at least what you call true. True love is completely possible in a poly relationship, as is commitment, and faithfulness, and so on.

And what's worse, your in-game romance doesn't have anywhere near the limitations a real-life romance would. You can literally use magic to spell your love out in the sky. Time and money are inconsequential. You are guaranteed time with her while adventuring; your jobs won't keep you apart because your jobs force you to work together! Did your planning include a single hiccough? A fly in the ointment? An opposing force? Highly unlikely. You planned for smooth sailing and a perfect union.

3. Being your character

She is playing her character how she feels the character should be played; by loving two or more people at once. You, on the other hand, are confusing your REAL feelings for your character's "trust issues". If you were detached, this just becomes another game hook. Your character needs to role-play out trying to win her heart. But you as a person, should be able to walk away from the table feeling you had fun.

Your question is more about how to make her change her mind than a role-play issue. Otherwise, why would you care to find out how the DM will play out their part of the romance? You want the DM to stop this so you can keep your romance.

In the end...

Be honest with your feelings to everyone, including yourself. By fantasizing about this romance with long term goals, you have created this perfect bubble of love.

Try this mental exercise: If the other player said, "I don't want to be a bard, I want to be a hexblade.", how would you react? You've already planned for her to be the bard with song, spell, and sword, but now she wants to use dark magic. Would you feel as betrayed? Would you feel "backed me into a corner with only two unappealing options open to me"?

Take a break and really examine why you feel the way you do.


1 Which is actually silly considering I only play Adventure League so there is no real room to add in unplanned content. But it helps me get into the part.

\$\endgroup\$
4
\$\begingroup\$

I don't know if your campaign is an ongoing one, but you've got more than two options.

  • You can have your character stick around and try to woo the wayward poly-amorous character anyways, have her realize that it's true love. This can either be reciprocated or not. If yes, be on your merry way, it not, your character can grow resentful, perhaps have flashes of unprovoked/disproportional anger at the target of her affection.

  • You can have your character, as you've mentioned, leave it. Good option as well. It's as much of a strenuous emotional arc but opens the door to a whole world of opportunities for your characters and new things to latch on to instead of a predetermined thing.

    Note: You have to remember that, as in battle, a plan lasts only until the first dice is rolled. Once the character sheet is written, and the background stories established, your character is subject to the great random. Ambitions and desires of characters might, and likely will change. Keep that in mind as well when determining which route to take for your character.

\$\endgroup\$
4
\$\begingroup\$

What would real people actually do?

Think about this through the eyes of your characters. A romantic interest of yours just came out as polyamorous. How would you react? There's nothing to work out here; that's just life. People make plans, and sometimes they work and other times life shoots them to pieces. People have feelings, and sometimes they're reciprocated and sometimes they're not. Sometimes you think they're reciprocated and they aren't. Sometimes they really are reciprocated but you and the other person are just too incompatible to make them work.

If you were your character in this situation, how would you feel? What would you(r character) do? Would they (you) try to get over their doubts about polyamory, or would they break off pursuit entirely? Would they do something else?

Your IRL friend has committed to playing their character honestly; it's time for you to do the same and stop worrying about plans or playing God. That's what makes it role-play.

\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

I would like to offer a frame challenge to your question:

...my character has extreme trust issues...

Trust issues arise both in polyamorous and monogamous relationship configurations. One can certainly trust in the context of polyamorous partners or relationships, and one can certainly mistrust in the context of monogamous partners or relationships. (And of course the converse is also true.)

Perhaps you (the player) can simply collaborate with your friend (the other player) to slightly reframe the nature of your agenda for the characters emotional/relational constructs.

You may find that the relationships still play out quite rewardingly, and that the "trust issues" you want to play with can fit within a polyamorous relationship, which can present a win-win for both you (the player) and your friend (the other player).

\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

"my feelings about her decision are in no way influenced by our relationship outside of the campaign", TBH your question reads so that these things are related. Then again, considering the subject matter, how could they not be affecting each others? But this is a game, and your friend wants her character to do things in game, which she thinks will be fun. Now you gotta respect that.

There are at least these possible outcomes for your character:

  • she shrugs it off, all cool or after a bout of rage, shuts down her feelings and has only professional relationship with your friends character from now on (for now). Perhaps become a chaste monk/paladin type character...
  • she starts to really fight for the heart of your friends character (this has the risk of your character failing, and this questions kinda hints you might have trouble dealing with that as a player...).
  • she can't handle it and leaves the party (roll a new character).
  • she tries to kill your friends character and/or the NPC out of jealousy, or at least tries to make one or both of them to leave the party.
  • she is tempted by the whole polyamorous thing, and starts doing the same thing (it's not certain how well that would work in your table between you and other players or GM's NPC, but it could be... educational, and develop you as a roleplayer).
  • she doesn't do anything, just grudginly accepting the situation, leting things happen as they may, biding her time for an opportunity to do something, or perhaps ending up accepting it eventually.

I'd go with one of the two last options, because other options might interfere with your friends fun as a player, and that's never a good thing to choose to do.

Also note that these are not mutually exclusive options, they can follow one another.

One final thing: this is, or should be, something between characters. Whatever you do, do it in-game, in-character. Do not try to manage what other players or NPCs do out-of-character. Let situation develop in-game, because that will happen anyway, as it did now, and then you end up offended or upset when things don't go as you planned. They never do! There is a place for planning things between players, but from your description, this isn't it, and your way of doing it isn't the right way.

\$\endgroup\$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.