GURPS Romance

by Paul Beakley

Disclaimer: GURPS Romance is a satire. It has not been playtested. No attempts at point balance have been made.

GMAST-L's very own Deena Martin has been working on some Romance adventures as well; I'll post those as well soon.

Sales of Romance novels jumped 1400% in the past two years, making them the most popular fictional form ever. Romance novel sales exceeded horror, science fiction, nonfiction, even Bibles.

So it's time to pack away all those expensive GURPS supplements and drop by your local used bookstore. Buy used Romances by the cubic yard.

World Settings

Historic Romance (ca. 100 pts.): this is the era of knights in shining armor, damsels in distress and dark, mysterious men from faraway lands. It's also White Woman Gets Lost in Colonial America and Meets Indian Hunk Who Looks Like Fabio With Black Hair. These campaigns can run either with or without magic (see new magic rules below). Standard Plot: Rich man attracted to young, low class girl. His parent's won't allow him to pursue her, so she masquerades as upper class. Secret is revealed, he loses his standing and joins true love forever after.

Characters: Indian Brave (or Squaw), Colonist (female or male), Prince(ss), Rogue, Landed Noble, Peasant Girl/Boy, Clergyman, Explorer, Slave Boy/Girl, Nun, Mountain Man

Prime-Time Soaps (150-250 pts.): high fashion, big bucks and interwoven secrets are the order of the day. Everybody is rich (they have to be, since all they do is scheme and jump from bed to bed), beautiful (to make up for their poor moral fiber), and very cosmopolitan (to provide exotic settings). Standard Plot: too convoluted to be outlined. Lots of improvisation. Usually involves women using sex for money, rich men using women for sex, everybody using sex for something other than pleasure.

Characters: Independently Wealthy Person, Advertising Executive, CEO (Generic), Fashion Designer, Test Pilot, Politician, Movie/Rock Star, Entrepreneur (generic), Crime Lord, Professional Athelete, Renowned Artist, Model, Doctor

Paperback Porn (cinematic campaign): none of that "Christian Romance" crap here; this is the Silhouette "Red Label" brand of housewife pornography. It's graphic, but not raw. Sensual, but not decadent. Standard Plot: fantastically incredible woman seeks out man that is good enough for her. Lots of sex in great locations, lots of NPC men used and abused along the way.

Characters: as Prime Time Soaps, but with cinematic rules (see below).

Paperback Porn Variant -- Filmed by the Mafia game, in which everybody is a lounge lizard, "pro", bored housewife or lucky stud. The action is fast and furious, with a minimum of plot to get in the way. Standard plot: woman (usually previously involved) has unsatisfying sex life, seeks several young hunks to experiment with like she never could before.

Characters: Film Producer, Prostitute (male or female), Innocent Bystander, Hitchhiker, Housewife, Jailbait, Eternal Bride, Biker, the Boss, Boss' Secretary, Naughty Nurse, Playful Pirate

Campaign Rating:

G through XXX, the campaign must maintain strict guidelines in which to play. At the beginning of the game, the GM must clearly state to all players at what rating the game will be played.

G: fairy tales, cartoons (except Japanimation, see below). See "Beauty and the Beast."

PG: teen/young adult romances. Most television is PG or PG- 13. See: Sweet Valley High, 90210, etc.

PG-13: as above, with additional occasional swear words. Some brief forays into non-heterosexual relationships, some cross-racial relationships. See thirtysomething, Dallas, Falcon Crest.

R: No apparent difference from NC-17, below. Less sex, perhaps, or maybe just more violence with less sex. Lots of swear words. Most "bestsellers" are rated R.

NC-17: anatomical detail, some explicit description of various acts. Highest possible rating for Prime Time Soaps- level game.

X: explanation of specific acts, with an emphasis on anatomical details. Lots of sound effects and a crappy soundtrack a must. Also any Japanimation flix like Cream Lemon: very graphic but "only cartoons."

XXX: fetishistic closeups. Every splat, dribble and gush is labored over by the GM.

Advantages, Realistic

Animal Empathy: good advantage if your character has the disadvantage Sexual Deviant (bestiality). See below.

Appearance: essential to a proper Romance; see Descriptive Advantages below

Bisexual: advantage only if female -- disadvantage if male!

Charisma: especially useful if you don't have any Descriptive Advantages to rely on. Buy enough Charisma and you might end up with a Psychic Luv Wave (below).

Double Jointed: +1 to all Acrobatic rolls related to Erotic Arts (below)

Empathy: So you can tell if he/she is really in love, or just toying with your emotions.

High Pain Threshold: hmmm...

Immune to Disease: Specifically, social diseases, 'cause nobody wants a fella with a social disease.

Infertile: (unless it's vital to the "plot" to live happily ever after and squirt out dozens of spawn off-screen).

Luck: gotta have it. Special limitation: lucky only while being seductive. A complete clutz otherwise. 8/level.

Voice: be sure to describe it as "husky" or "strong and reassuring" for male characters, "breathy" or "liquid" for female characters. Descriptive Advantage: alluring foreign accent (skill in the language itself not necessary)

Descriptive Advantages

The following are 5 points per advantage, each of which confers a +1 reaction with the target demographic (opposite -- or same -- sex, as defined by the player)

Hair (long, flowing, golden, fiery red, jet black)

Eyes (deep, piercing, soulful, sad)

Body Parts (heaving bosom, manly chest, long legs, tight butt)

Demeanor (sultry, vivacious, mysterious, intense, radiant, rugged, sensitive, strong-but-silent, macho, bitchy)

Descriptive quirks -- anything not worth a measurable reaction bonus, but good to throw out during an interaction for character points later. Examples might include Luscious Red Lips, Always Wears Stiletto Heels With Fishnet Stockings, Pierced Nipple(s)

Advantages, Cinematic

Alcohol-proof/Drug-Proof: No matter how hard you abuse your body, you never pay for it in the morning. Drink like a fish, snort tons of coke at parties, you just get more incredible. Disadvantage: Delusion that you believe you get more incredible on booze and drugs.

Delicate Constitution: faint at will, especially at the sight of mice or blood, or during confrontations or other emotionally difficult times. Double value for male PCs.

Enlarged appendages (specifically tongue & penis).

Extra Fatigue: useful both for straight sex as well as the endurance required to withstand the moronic plots demanded of the characters in a Romance game.

Full Coordination: per Supers/Aliens, but applied toward Erotic Arts, below. Provides for multiple "actions" per turn, against single or multiple "targets" (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Hair/Makeup Always Perfect: out of bed, out of the pool, on a wind-blown mountainside, you always look like you "just stepped out of a salon."

Permanent Tan:

"Psychic Luv Wave" (pronounced "Sahkik LOOV Wave"): Inexplicably, the opposite sex is sexually attracted to you. No matter how gross you may act & look, you never have a problem finding a partner. Ever.

Trained by a Master: prerequisite for all cinematic "Erotic Arts" maneuvers. Also allows impressive bragging rights.

Transsexual: sex organs of both sexes.

Disadvantages, Realistic

Addiction/Alcoholism: only completely debilitating addictions are counted as "disadvantages" in a Romance game.

Can't Commit: variation on "Cowardice". An emotional child.

Compulsive Flirt: especially effective when combined with Can't Commit (above)

Delusions: most popular is "believes penis has a name and pursues independent motives."

Dependents: children, sick/insane relatives (also possibly combined with Secret), beloved horse (see Equus or Catherine the Great)

Disinherited: the Wealth advantage, except you can't get to it without a long legal battle. Essentially the disadvantage of "Poor" but can be bought off with character points.

Enemies: jealous ex-lovers, overprotective parents or siblings, conniving relatives, secret psychotic admirer.

Fetishist: one particular body part, piece of clothing, or other physical attribute. Basically a compulsive behavior.

Hopeless Romantic: constantly falling in love, and usually with the wrong people. Essentially a compulsive behavior.

Impotent/Frigid: possibly also a Secret. However, some Fetishists (see above) may actually be attracted to this type.

Impulsive: actually conveys a +1 reaction to some women, who just love a "crazy, impulsive fool."

Inhibited: character lives by a strict moral code which prohibits him/her from some behavior.

Low social class:


Misogynist/Misandryst: specialized Intolerance targeted at the opposite sex.

Narcissist: Character is more interested in him/herself, and will, under normal circumstances, forego outside relationships.

Obsession: an advanced form of "Fetishist," the Obsessed character will do everything in his/her power to win the love and affection of another.

Pregnant: also a good secret, if you're pregnant with your secret lover's child. Or your uncle's.

Shyness: however, this may attract some interest from suitors.

Secret: the staple of most Romances. The GM should carefully combine all players' secrets into a complex web.

Ex. 1: waitress leads a double life, going out on the town in her only beaded dress to meet her beau, a powerful oil magnate. Her Secret, of course, is her plain-Jane waitress life. What will happen should the man of her dreams find out?

Ex. 2: secret multiple relationships. What happens if Jane finds out about Matt's relationship to Mary, who's been seeing George, who is too busy most nights with his gay lover Randy to see her?

Ex. 3: Past Life: a special, complex kind of Secret, involving old (but not forgotten) flames, crimes, unpaid debts, and so on.

Sexual deviant -- pedophile, sadist, bi/homosexual (male only -- advantage if female), masochist, nymphomania (actually an advantage in a cinematic campaign), bestiality, Necrophilia, Gerbilphilia. Or, anything not heterosexual (depending on the rating of the campaign, this can be a highly variable disadvantage).

Social Disease: 'cause nobody wants a fella with a social disease. (See upcoming GURPS West Side Story)

Uninhibited: a true hedonist, the character will try ANYTHING at least once.

Disadvantages, Cinematic

Clumsy in Bed: watch out for those elbows and knees!

Excessive Body Hair: double value if female.

Poorly endowed (Male: anything under 8", the "average"; female: anything less than 36" chest, again the "average")

Skills, Realistic

Erotic Arts (P/H, based on HT, defaults to Sex Appeal -4)

Maneuvers, Realistic: all maneuvers get a +2 if Acrobatics 12+.

Manuevers, Cinematic

Animal Handling: see Animal Empathy above.

Bard: very important for delivering sweeping soliloquies, proposing marriage, making death threats to Enemies, and Final Confrontations.

Cooking: Always wins over the girls. "You mean he can cook, too?" Additional specialization in Fine Wines and French Cooking

Fast Talk: whatever it takes...

Hypnotism: Ditto.

Savoir-Faire: specialty, High Society

Sex Appeal: (duh)

Skills, Cinematic

Bodice Ripping

Meaning-laden Gestures/Body Language