Tuesday, 15 March 2016

All-purpose romance rules for freeform larps

I've been thinking about freeform (larp) romance rules recently. Part of that has involved what has worked for me and what hasn't - and without going into that detail, I've written what I think are my ideal rules for romance.

I've written these as if they were part of a character envelope, although I have yet to lay it out properly (The link below goes to a somewhat utilitarian grid). The numbers would all need testing - I've assumed that this would work for a four hour game rather than a weekend game (which would have a much higher target number).

Romance Rules

These are the optional romance rules.


First, decide whether you want to be involved in romance, and how flexible you want to be in your romances. Get a pen/sticker from the GM desk and mark your name badge as follows:

  • No heart: I'm not participating in romance.
  • Black heart: I'm being romantic, but only with someone from the opposite sex.
  • Pink heart: I'm being romantic, but only with someone from the same sex.
  • Gold heart: I'm being romantic and I don't mind which sex you are.

(If you're not involved in romance, you need read no further.)

Second, your envelope contains a romance card that contains a number of behaviours that you would like to see in a romantic partner. Choose the six that you like the look of and delete (cross out) the rest.

The romance card also contains a number of behaviours that are unromantic - behaviours that you don't want to see in a romantic partner. Choose four of those, and delete the others.

(It's probably best if you choose these once you have read your character, so that you choose behaviours that suit how you want to play your character.)

Third, decide how easily you want your character to fall in love (your "Romance Target"). We recommend starting with a Romance Target of three, but if you want to make things easier or harder, that's great too.

That's it for setup.

During play

During play, as people play the game they will (deliberately or accidentally) behave in a way that makes your character feel more attracted to them (the romantic behaviours), or do things that put you off them (unromantic behaviours). To help you keep track we've put the tasks in as a grid so that you can check them off. (Example here.)

(We are expecting that you will only have half a dozen or so people that will be tracking. If you want to track more, you’ll need a separate sheet of paper.)

You will have a romance score for another character which is calculated by subtracting the number of unromantic behaviours from the romantic behaviours. If your romance score equals (or beats) your Romance Target, congratulations, you have just fallen in love with that person.

Falling in love

Once you have fallen in love with them. Here's what you do:

First, tell someone. That may or may not be the person that you have fallen for, but it will be more fun for everyone if you tell someone.

Second, you have a new goal.

Help the love of your life succeed: You have a new love in your life, and you want them to succeed. Depending on how hard you have fallen, this may involve putting their goals ahead of yours. (You decide - we suggest using your romance score as a guide.)

Falling in love together

If the person you have fallen for also falls for you, that's fantastic. We look forward to hearing all about it.

Unrequited love

If you've fallen in love with someone but they haven't fallen for you, well, that's just how life works sometimes. Deal with it (through roleplaying).

Falling out of love

Just because you've fallen in love, please don't stop tracking behaviours. If the love of your life behaves even more romantically, then you are even more in love with them. However, if they also start to behave unromantically, then you may fall out of love.

If that happens, roleplay it. (And again, tell someone.)

Falling in love with someone else

Keep tracking your scores. If another person ends up with a higher score than the person you’re currently in love with, then you have changed your heart. Tell people! Roleplay it!

A few useful guidelines

Respect other people's boundaries: If a player doesn't have a heart on their badge, please don't track their romantic behaviours.

Don't talk about the romance mechanics: We're prefer it if you didn't talk about the specific dos and don'ts needed to win your heart. It's fine to talk about them generally, but not to be too specific. Try to keep the conversation natural.

"What does a guy need to do you get you to fall for him?"

"A sense of humour is a good start."

Ignore all these rules if you want: If these rules aren't giving you the results you want, please feel free to go ahead and ignore them completely, particularly if it's more dramatically appropriate.

Example romantic behaviours

  • Spend time with me
  • Make me feel special
  • Make me laugh
  • Laugh at my jokes
  • Stand up for me
  • Smile at me
  • Make me feel good
  • Give me gifts
  • Help me achieve a goal
  • Take charge
  • Be an underdog
  • Fall in love with me
  • Be my type
  • Take care of me

Example unromantic behaviours:

  • Make me cry
  • Not my type
  • Laugh at me
  • Too clingy
  • Wishy washy
  • Needy
  • Domineering
  • A loser
  • Smarmy
  • Abandon me
  • Played an ability on me that I object to
  • Thwarted me in one of my goals

Behaviours could be tailored to the specific freeform - accompany me to the county fair, dance with me at the ball, and so on.


  1. I like it! Puts a neat little framework, still the possibility of falling for someone unsuitable, but still gives plenty of power to the players around where they want to go. And it's inclusive of same sex relationships, without pressuring anyone. Quick query around suggested heart colours: what about romance preferences for non binary people / characters? 'opposite' or 'same' doesn't necessarily make sense! Rei

    1. Thanks. I'm not sure what the answer is for non binary people, other than they get to choose like anyone else.

      What would you suggest?

      (It did occur to me that the heart is just a signal to others saying who you are happy to court you. You could choose to disregard it for deciding whose romantic behaviours you choose to track. But I'm not sure that helps.)