Whether it’s falling in love with an NPC—be they your partner’s character or a sexy vampire—attempting to flirt your way out of a high-pressure situation, or searching for your long lost love, like many aspects of our lives, romance and sexuality are part of tabletop role-playing games. And ideally, they’re a really fun part!
In this post, I am talking about consensual interactions and engagements between both the people at the table and the characters involved in the game. It’s really important for the player(s) and the DM to be on the same page in terms of the types and expressions of romantic and sexual interest in-game, so be sure you talk about it together.
Crushes, relationships, and desire are a regular part of D&D and RPG games for many of us. So, if you’re wanting some ideas for bringing more sexual tension to your character’s life, you’re in the right place. If your character is trapped in a love triangle or some other relationship struggle that occupies your in- and out-of-game mental space, this is for you too.
As a final note, I recognize that not all duets are couples, and we want to be as inclusive of everyone as possible. If you’re running a game for a child or parent, for example, this may not apply much at all. However, if it’s natural for your character to find others attractive or to fall in love, perhaps that’s something you could talk about with your duet partner to see what that might look like and how the two of you can comfortably negotiate different aspects of relationships.
Now, on to the juicy stuff.
Approaches to RPing Sex and Desire
Though not an exhaustive list, here are some ideas for different ways of including an active sex life as part of your character’s narrative.
Fade to Black
Kinda like in Mama Mia when they say “dot, dot, dot,” it might be easiest or most comfortable for the player and DM to allude to sex and related activities and then hand-waive the rest: “They walk upstairs in the inn and spend a lovely night together.” Add a wink and you’re done.
In the larger group Jonathan and I play with, outside of our duet, my character is a cleric of Sune, the goddess of love and beauty, and she views sex as part of her worship. As there are multiple people at the table and I (Beth, the player) get too awkward, we use the fade to black method for my PC’s evenings. She finds a woman she’s attracted to, sees how it goes, and, assuming the feeling is mutual, spends the night with her, giving a kiss goodbye the next morning.
Lots of Flirting
One of the challenges of playing a duet with a romantic partner, I think, is that it can become difficult to separate out your personal feelings for the person sitting across the table from you and your character’s feelings for the people they’re encountering. In our first session, I was positive that at least two of the four NPCs my character interacted with were in love with her, and I had the hardest time telling if that was because they actually were or if that was just by virtue of the two of us playing together.
I am sure that this can and does happen in multi-player games too, but part of what makes it more confusing in a duet is that there’s just the two of you, so it would be easy to very quickly have an overwhelming number of NPCs who seem to have fallen madly in love with the one PC. Or maybe that’s exactly what you’re going for!
I don’t actually have a solution for this part so much as to advise you to enjoy the RP. When my sister first started playing in a duet with her husband, she described the interactions between the characters as feeling like they were at the beginning of their relationship again, which I thought was a perfect explanation.
Ideally you are not in a long-lasting love triangle like my lovely PC, but she and I are coping as best we can.
From Limited to Full Narration
This is where things start to heat up. Again, make sure that you have a conversation with your duet partner about what you’re both comfortable with being brought into the game and how before getting into the nitty-gritty of your character’s sex life.
I list some ways of incorporating more detailed sexuality and romance below, with a quick foray into two overarching models for talking about sex.
I discuss some of the framing around sex and RP in our one-on-one game in this post, if you’re interested in reading more. As a brief recap, we have a sex-positive world where there are no stigmas around sexual orientation or consensual practices. We also decided that while sexual assault is something that happens in our world, it is not something that we would permit to happen to our characters, especially in an RP situation.
Language and Literary Realism
In literature, there tends to be a difference between sex in capital-L-Literature and texts of the Harlequin Romance or pop-literature variety. Take, for example, the infamous lines like “my cheeks turned as red as the Communist Manifesto” from the Fifty Shades books.
My caveat is that one method is not necessarily better than the other; it’s more about preference and what is easiest and most natural for you.
The difference between descriptions of sex in various literary genres is not in the level of detail but in the words used to describe sexual acts and parts of the body. Literature is going to tend to use specific terms: penis, breasts, vagina, as opposed to more illusory references like “Reginald’s quivering member” in the guidance counselor’s romance novel from 10 Things I Hate About You.
There’s an amazing series of posts on Shadow of Pindus from a few years ago about playing a duet that has some great advice. My favorite part, though, is probably the conversation between readers following the entries discussing flirtation and romance. There are lots of allusions to the characters leaving the table and continuing their role play elsewhere…*wink*
If you enjoy taking the RP to that level, the more power to you, but I’m going to leave that between you and your partner. But how, if desired, do a player and their DM RP sex verbally at the table?
Leaning toward limited narration first, stating in the clearest language you can manage what’s going on with your character or what they would like to see happen is probably the easiest way to manage this. You’re providing some level of detail—use the bases if that’s easier for you—but you don’t need to feel obligated to lay it out moment by moment.
Some of this can happen in dialogue as well between the characters, which is a great way to lead into whatever is asked or described and establish consent.
For the highly detailed version, I’m going to pivot us over to written methods, though it should work either way.
I get too uncomfortable in-game to get extremely detailed about what’s going on in our characters’ intimate lives. So, instead, I write it down.
There are two options for delivering your composition at the gaming table. After writing it out ahead of time, moment-by-moment, using either very specific language or more suggestive language, whichever you prefer, read it aloud during the session.
I can’t quite manage that either, so if that’s you, let me suggest method two, which is handing over the outline or several paragraphs of the sexy encounter to your duet partner so they know what’s happened. Meanwhile, you’ve been able to put the interaction together in detail and deliver it in a way that feels natural to you.
If you want to try out an engaging and, possibly, flirtatious adventure, we’d love for you to check out Cupid’s Sparrow on DMsGuild!* We wrote it as a Valentine’s Day adventure, but it works at any time of year that you can throw a small town and a festival into your game! It’s not limited to duets either, so if you’re looking for an adventure for a larger gaming party and you like randomizing tables, we think you’ll really enjoy it!
Part of the adventure takes place at the Lovers’ Nook Inn, just outside Duskhollow, depicted in the main image for this post, created on Inkarnate.
What role (if any) does sex or romance play in your D&D games? How do you navigate sexual mores at your table? Add a comment below or send us an email! We’d love to hear from you!
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