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Ok, I say PCs... but I actually mean PC.

I am running a 1-player D&D 5e game for a friend (let's call her Jane), as a way of introducing them to the game. It was only meant to be a "non-canon", one-time-adventure that was supposed to peter out when the actual game started, (we are both PCs in the actual game, that is run by a different DM, with additional players). However, Jane spoke with the DM, and they decided that my game would be part of the characters' backstories.

I was fine with this at first, and I have a storyline to follow, that will eventually end in a way that doesn't affect the actual story of the main game.

For reference, the PC's name is "Cass".

So the story arc I made was:

  • Cass' father (an "evil" king, from her backstory) wants to bring her back home after she ran away.
  • Enter Big Bad Guy - objective: Bring Cass home. The party has a run-in, and only barely escape with their lives.
  • Now the party need to turn the tables, find the Big Bad Guy before they find the party.
  • Kill the Big Bad Guy.

Pretty simple, just to keep things short. However, Jane has decided to develop a love interest between the PC's (which I decided to entertain at first), after my PC saved hers, but it has now gotten out of hand, so much so that she has completely abandoned the storyline, to focus purely on the relationship.

It has arrived at the point where I no longer want to run the game, because it has turned into some kind of weird third-person sexting adventure more than anything.

Yes, I do have an interest in Jane, but I don't want to bring that into the game as well. The game is becoming a hassle, because I don't want this to be what it has become, and I'm not sure how I can bring the focus back to the storyline. I want to finish the game, and get back to the actual game that is being run for the larger group.

I have spoken to her about this issue more than once, and she does agree that it is taking away from the story development. I have then tried to continue the plot, but every time I do, she always brings it back to the love interest. Every time I have spoken to her about it, she has said that she agrees that the story is not developing, and she sounds like she's sincere about trying to restrain herself, but I have not seen any change in that direction. So I really don't feel she has any real issue with it.

(We do have something going on the outside the game romantically, so there's no need for it during the game that I can see.)

So my only real option seems to be to alter the story in some way to change her focus. How can I get this game back on track? What kind of simple plot hook, twist or in-game device can I introduce to bring Jane's focus back to the story?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Simply that. I pointed out that the story wasn't developing at all due to the love interest, and she said "Yeah, it is." The tone made it sound like she was remorseful, but the actions speak louder than words. Thais to say: she has made no effort to restrain herself in that respect, and at times even has made more of an effort to have another "moment" \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Apr 27 '17 at 23:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah… why did that not result in just continuing with the plot? What's in the way of you just getting on with it next session, besides your suspicion? We need to know what the actual hurdle you need help with is. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 27 '17 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're interested in her. She's clearly interested in you. Why not just do the obvious thing and ask her out? This might just be her way to continue something of a romance with you. \$\endgroup\$ – Karelzarath Apr 27 '17 at 23:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Remember Good Subjective, Bad Subjective - answers should have some kind of experience or documentation backing theup and not be just "here's my opinion on what to do." Have you had to GM overly romantic couples before and here's how you did it? Are these tips to keep characters on track that have worked for you but you haven't tried them on overly romantic players? All that's important to how well tested your suggestions are. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 28 '17 at 12:36
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Do not introduce a twist. Just progress the plot

Your story structure is based on a villain hunting down the players. The benefit of having a villain is that they are people with dynamic plans. They will not wait until the players do something to thwart them, but they will carry out their own plans in the absence of the players.

So all you need to do is bring the villain's plan to fruition in a manner that will make it impossible to have her bring the story focus back to the relationship.

Present a scene that challenges her

If the villain's plan was to abduct her, then if he were to come in and take Cass away, separating her from the party, she must respond. It becomes impossible for her to steer the story back into romance.

This is a little "railroad-y," but the fact is, if you find the relationship between Cass and your PC to be the problem, then you take the problem away by removing one of the people involved in that relationship.

But if you really want a twist...

Kill your PC (temporarily)

In the villain's attempts to find and abduct Cass, maybe he also kills your PC while doing it. This again removes your PC. Now you can set up a bridge quest where she can find a scroll/potion of Raise Dead, which you can tie back into the main narrative. She must now pursue the quest or else lose her love.

(In the event that she fails this quest, you must also have a plan for reviving your PC. Write it in a way that it does not seem like Deus Ex Machina.)

Remember: as the DM, you must understand the motivations of your players so you can use it to your advantage in the story. Her motivation is her relationship with your PC, so use that as a plot hook.

Introduce an alternative love interest for her

Once you have your PC out of the picture, introduce an NPC who does not appear in the main game, who can then take on the shoes of the love interest. If she goes with the plot hook, then you have successfully written your PC out of this game while simultaneously removing the love aspect from the larger game, where both of you play. It also gives you an NPC whose fate you have much more control over, because this one doesn't have plot armor, unlike Cass and your PC.

If she doesn't go with the plot hook, then you have a fantastic opportunity for a great story. Have the NPC follow her around, helping her selflessly when she needs it. Meanwhile, she is rejecting his advances in true "friendzone" fashion. Play on the emotions of love and rejection while using the NPC and villain to advance the plot you have designed.

Talk to her with your real feelings (of the non-romantic kind)

Let her know that you're finding the third-person sexting weird and uncomfortable. As the DM, you need to be on the same page as she is, and she needs to be on the same page as you are. While she seems sincere that she thinks she is hampering the main story, she doesn't look like she thinks it's a problem. And indeed, why is it a problem? She's still having fun.

Meanwhile, you have not told her that it is not fun for you when she veers away from the main story. Perhaps you've put hours of effort into preparing an adventure for her, and not going down that path feels bad for you since it makes you feel like you wasted your efforts. Let her know this with as much gentleness as you can.

Fade to black when it comes to scenes of that nature. When you sense that the scene is now moving to something like that, narrate over it immediately and go to the next day.

This might seem like you're pulling the rug from under her, but...

Does she really want to play the game you want to play?

Consider that the two of you may just be out of sync. Maybe she does not want to play the game you want to play, and vice versa. If there is no point of compatibility between your play styles in D&D, I recommend you stop the game altogether. Continuing to host a game you do not enjoy will only breed dissatisfaction and other negative feelings between the DM and the players, and it might leak out into your real world relationships.

So yes, while it might sting when you drop the game, it only hurts as much as pulling a band-aid. It might just be the best course of action for you in the long run.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A 1 on 1 game sounds more like a vehicle how to spend time together. If you want to boost the relationship, just have fun with it and keep going, getting into the role-play. If you aren't that into this and want to be more of a "friends only" relationship, definitely come up with a plot action to join up the storylines. If you're somewhere in the middle, you could still link the storylines up eventually, but take a medium-paced thing. \$\endgroup\$ – General Anders Apr 28 '17 at 5:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GeneralAnders Generally true, but from what the querent says, this is not the case. Querent wants it short to establish a backstory and "intro to D&D" for Jane. Querent also says he is already pursuing something romantic with Jane outside D&D and doesn't want to bring that into the game. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Apr 28 '17 at 6:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Remember too, that the querent can talk to the DM of the parent game as well. Great answer though, I need a +2 button. \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin May 13 '17 at 6:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel the last part of the answer hits close to the problem the OP is not asking about. Does Jane want to play D&D, or spend time with you in general? Without knowing anything about OP or Jane, I support including her in fully, as long as she understands what a full D&D game will be like. Perhaps bring in another player with a throwaway character to figure this out. In a 3-player game, maybe she will be more game-focused. \$\endgroup\$ – curt1893 May 18 '17 at 16:05
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Precis

The issue seems to be that you're playing two different games, or desire two different results from the game. You're playing 'cops and robbers' and she appears to be playing 'house.' (Saying that might be a bit impolitic, though. Just a touch (I recommend that you don't, in fact, say this or any permutation thereof.))

Additionally, if she's not new to role playing games in general, then she may have 'bad habits' from other games she's played. In many Computer Role Playing Games, for example, there can be a few 'love interest' side-plays or quest-lines (Neverwinter Nights (1 and 2), Knights of the Old Republic (1 and 2), Skyrim, Mass Effect (1, 2, and 3)...that's a lot of Bioware there). Perhaps those color her view.

A Fix

Get your PC out of the picture. I'd strongly suggest capture; the Evil King might know, or suspect, the attachment.

The benefit of this capture to your introductory game has at least two forks that I can see, perhaps there are more. First, it gets your PC out of the picture; both you and she can then concentrate on the story you want without distractions. Second, her character has in-game motivation to go do the quest.

This feels much less 'railroad-y' to me than forcing direct confrontations or having her character captured; it doesn't remove her agency. Perhaps there was some meeting with a double dealing NPC who was supposed to capture you both, but only she manages to escape. Or perhaps you were separated trying to escape a squad of troops, and were to meet up, but you don't show. She might not even know how your character was captured initially and might have to use 'social' or investigatory skills in game.

This solution provides quite a few possibilities, and you can be released later if it becomes canon in the main game somehow, and she hasn't managed to effect your escape.

Good luck.

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I like markovchain's answer. The bad guy can force the story to move forward, even if she isn't ready. In fact, a smart enemy would see that as the perfect time to advance their plots...

But I think there are a few things to add to that...

If you're not the GM of the main story Don't kill off your own PC without talking to the main GM first. They may want to have some warning if your PC is about to die out. And if you choose that path, have a Plan B for yourself. It is entirely possible that the party won't be able to rescue your body / find the resurrection spell / etc. How will that impact you and the game? Or it may take them a few sessions to do so. Will you be okay being "out of the picture" for that duration? (Heh. maybe instead of resurrection, you just haunt her favorite magic weapon or something. Bad idea. Nevermind.) This is sort of a nuclear option: it could blow up on you and her both.

Maybe talk to that GM about the idea of the big bad guy kidnapping your PC, and that's when she's forced to call on the full team to merge herself into the master story arc. Be willing to work with that GM to plan out the "off screen" events, and be willing to sit out some significant portion of at least one game session as the party tries to rescue you. But it forms a great segue between the private romantic "side-quest" to the main story line.

Maybe you can just agree to "skip ahead" rather than play through the entire sequence of events from the midst of your current romance to the "post-romance" phase where she joins the main group. If she as a player is ready for to do so, there's really no harm in skipping ahead. Just jump in with a short, agreed-upon, not-actually-roleplayed-out backstory to fill the gap from where you leave off to where the new game starts up. (If you've watched "Princess Bride," this is like the bits where Grandpa, as narrator, skips past the "kissing parts". They happened, but we didn't watch it happen; we just jumped to the next scene.)

Remember that the other players in the main group probably won't be excited about listening to you two roleplay the romance once she joins that group, either. She may not have thought that through yet.

Regardless, I think you need to have a meta-game discussion with Jane and work WITH her to plot out how to move the story back on track. This is where you, she, and the GM of the main group need to decide what defines a "fun" game for each of you, and especially what Jane wants from the game. If the awkward romance side-game is making you uncomfortable, then that should end. Maybe the two characters remain romantically involved, but you two agree to just "fade to black" on what, exactly, that romance looks like.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer is quite difficult to follow, but I like the "skip ahead" part which is both very simple and effective. +1 for that. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme May 3 '17 at 15:36

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