[RPG] How should I deal with a fellow player’s sudden decision that affects the character?


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?

Best Answer

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.