I’ve been trying for a while now to come up with a relationship model that would promote more realistic relationship building (primarily with NPCs) during roleplay. The idea is to make players have to work at their character’s relationships a little in order to keep them going. My ideas on this are still in their very early stages.
I’m looking for something that:
- Makes players think about and work at their character’s relationships in order to keep them going
- Rewards them for doing so with a mechanical effect – preferably this would be a bonus for those that do rather than a penalty for those that don’t (or at least the penalty would be not getting the bonus)
- Isn’t too arduous such that it puts players off relationship play altogether
This has been on something of a back burner as I haven’t got a gaming group at the moment but of late I’ve had some more thoughts on it, so for what it’s worth here’s what I’ve come up with.
Relationships will be composed of two stats: Passion and Intimacy
- Passion is your character’s ardour for the relationship and is effectively a form of currency that can be spent to improve the strength or level of intimacy of the relationship.
- Intimacy is the strength of the relationship as viewed by the other person. It defines the level of intimacy or trust you have built with this other individual.
You start the game with 9 Passion points that can be spread between your passions (max 5 in any one). Obviously the more passions you have the less focused you’ll be.
When your character meets an NPC you feel invested in you can assign up to 5 of your Passion points to that relationship. The relationship starts with that amount of Passion and 1 Intimacy.
Each game session for each relationship you either pick a card from a normal deck of playing cards or roll a d20 and apply the result from the following table:
In addition, during any session you engage in a scene that can justifiably be argued as ‘relationship building’ with the object of your passion, you can trade 1 passion for 1 intimacy.
If at the end of a session either Passion or Intimacy has fallen to zero the relationship has failed and is terminated. (Note: this doesn’t stop you roleplaying the fallout from the failure in subsequent sessions but as yet I don’t have any mechanics for that.)
To add a little something there’s also a vague rationale behind all the mechanics. Somewhat cynically perhaps, the premise is that relationships are primarily about balancing things between your own needs and the needs of the relationship. Balance this well and everybody is happy. Let things swing too far one way or the other and we’re heading for a train-wreck.
Trading passion for intimacy represents your character working at the relationship (hopefully the ‘relationship building’ scenes will reflect this). Put too much into it and the passion may fizzle and die out, not enough and you’re not sufficiently investing in the relationship to keep the other person interested.
The cards or die-rolls represent outside influences on the relationship (see the following table). Using these general concepts, background (or even foreground) events could perhaps be built into the session to reflect what’s happening with the relationship.
- Session 1. Relationship initiated [Passion 5 / Intimacy 1]
- Session 2. Card = 9 of clubs = -1 Passion & -1 Intimacy – a rocky start! Fortunately as long as there is a relationship building scene within the session (-1 Passion for +1 Intimacy) the relationship won’t fail at the outset. Assuming this happens the net result is -2 Passion. The character is working hard with very little to show for it, perhaps there is some impediment such as a disapproving relative [Passion 3 / Intimacy 1]
- Session 3. Card = 6 of diamonds = +2 Passion. Phew! Suddenly things are looking up. Another negative card and the relationship would have been in trouble but thankfully there’s now an opportunity to take things forward with a relationship building scene this session. Assuming one is worked in, the relationship stands at [Passion 4 / Intimacy 2]
- Session 4. Card = 9 of hearts = +1 Passion. More good fortune! This session, if I undertake another relationship building scene, the relationship will stand at [Passion 4 / Intimacy 3]. If I don’t it’ll be [Passion 5 / Intimacy 2]
And so on …
This seems to work OK. Obviously in order to get the intimacy up at the start of a relationship you need to go for relationship building pretty much every session (assuming the cards permit it). Later on it becomes less critical and it is possible to go too far the other way and end up with no passion for the relationship left.
As for reward mechanics, something like adding the intimacy level to die rolls that involved the relationship in some way might work. I guess this would need to be modified depending on the system.
I think that about covers it. You could use something like the following as a guide to where the relationship is at. This is a slightly amended take on a similar table in Ben Lehman’s awesomely original Bliss Stage
If anybody actually tries using any of this or has any thoughts please post a comment. Cheers