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So You're Going to Write a Romance


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This is a post from David Gaider, BG programming guru. Date on the post is September 30, 2001 and is taken from Quiz 68:


- try to keep the limitations on when the regular romance dialogues are going to occur to a minimum. Dialogue that is supposed to take place on a Rest (before everyone goes to sleep) or after a Rest (in the morning when everyone wakes up) is OK and not too hard to script...but adding plots into the romance and dialogues that depend on the outcome of those plots can be considerably more complicated for the scripter.


- *if you are going to add plots into the romance*, consider the following: what occurs if the player drops the romance from the party during the plot, what if the party takes too long to continue the plot, what if the plot fails, what if the plot succeeds, what are some alternate paths (if possible) that the party could complete the plot.


- if the romance interest is going to leave the party at any point, make it very clear whether or not the party must go and pick them up from somewhere or whether they will return. Consider that, on their return, the party might be full again.


- Jaheira's romance is NOT a good romance to use as a baseline. By this, I mean it was so complicated with its quests it was almost impossible to de-bug. Perhaps something similar could be done to a limited degree...but consider how long it took post-release to get this romance working. And it was not for lack of trying. Consider that Aerie's romance, which is dialogue-only, still had considerable scripting complexity due to the Haer'Dalis triangle but was far far easier in comparison to Jaheira...and was probably one of the most popular romances in the game. Anomen's quest-driven romance is, in contrast, a good compromise between the two.



Dialogues that must be considered:


- consider a point in the regular dialogues where the romance becomes 'committed'...where it would be unrealistic that any other romance would be going on at the same time (if someone wants to be juvenile and play with a patch that allows three romances at once, let them dream). This is where the 'romance global' gets set to 2 and other romances are no longer possible.


- Before the global gets set to 2, consider that there may be other romances that are still in the 'build-up' stage. Insert several 'jealousy dialogues' before that point that lead up to the PC having to make a choice right before the romance becomes committed.


- don't forget NPC reactions to certain events, like when Madame Nin in the Copper Coronet brothel asks the PC if they would 'like someone'. Also consider any alread-existing dialogues that the NPC does that should be either negated during a romance OR given a different path.


- for female NPC romances, there must be a reaction to the Phaere seduction.


- dialogue must be added for Bodhi when she kidnaps the romance (this is easy), but must also be prepared for the NPC when they are saved from vampirism.


- remember the Tree of Life dialogue, as well as the initial reaction upon entering Hell.


- for ToB, consider whom the romance will be 'meeting' in the Gorion exchange.


- there is always an exchange after Saradush is discovered to be destroyed.


- don't forget the exchanged right before going to the final battle (when all the tests are completed in the pocket plane) and the 'final speech', both good and bad. This includes a different ending for the ToB epilogues, should the player decide to remain with the romance.



That's about all I can think of. I bet there's some I've missed, but overall I think this is a pretty decent guide for people to follow (esp. when combined with the dialogue format below). People might want to contribute items I've missed or even specific NPC dialogues that might need changing/deleting for referene. Then this whole thing could be collected in a single FAQ document, should anyone think of doing this in the future...it would make it that much easier for these romances to become a reality, no?



David Gaider


Design, Bioware corp.

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You don't *EVEN* know how much digging I had to do to find it. The only clue I had to go on was the date of the post. Then had to dig through the archived quizzes.


But I decided to put it here, since we're all struggling with LTs - or will be.

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There was some other interesting stuff there from him. It was just after he'd finished TOB and he was telling stuff that had gotten dropped or not included. One thing that got dropped that he was kinda upset about was a plot involving Minsc and Boo. It seems that Boo goes missing. There was also to be a more involved plot with Haer Dalis'. And lots more banter, but the word count got too high so it had to be pruned. Interesting stuff.

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There was some other interesting stuff there from him.  It was just after he'd finished TOB and he was telling stuff that had gotten dropped or not included.  One thing that got dropped that he was kinda upset about was a plot involving Minsc and Boo.  It seems that Boo goes missing.  There was also to be a more involved plot with Haer Dalis'.  And lots more banter, but the word count got too high so it had to be pruned.  Interesting stuff.

the minsc and boo kidnapping is in unfinished business, written by cliffette...incredibly funny, well worth downloading and installing ub just for that quest alone... :D

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Yes, it's a pretty good one-stop summary of the important elements to create a Biowarean romance. Note that not everyone has chosen to follow that model, specifically Weimer with Solaufein, although over time he's added in most of these components.


Rastor still needs to fix a few things in that tutorial before it'll be as helpful to first-time romance writers/implementers as it could be, though.


Experience has taught that things like rest dialogues do not have to be feared. It would get very frustrating for all involved if every other LOVETALK on the main track required resting, but players are fairly well conditioned nowadays to know that if they haven't heard from the romance for a while, it's time for a rest.


Another thing Bioware didn't think of doing but that has gone over pretty well is the inclusion of romance dialogue _outside_ the main LOVETALK track. Romances can have banters that occur on a "whenever" basis, so long as certain conditions are met (like the romance being sufficiently far along.) Same goes for rest talks. Your love interest can tuck you into bed after, say, LT40, but as long as you don't _require_ that other elements of the romance wait for that tuck-in sequence, no one's the wiser.


A few new "rules" I'd like to include:


- Unless you have a HIGHLY COMPELLING story attached, pregnancy of the PC or NPC (as applicable) should be, to some extent, a player choice. That's not to say that I think everyone has to do it the way I did it in Kelsey (if the PC says she's pregnant, she is, if she doesn't say it, she isn't) but that IS to say that it should NOT be done the way it was with Aerie: there is no way to avoid impregnating Aerie, short of ending the romance before TOB LT4. This is a bad design decision. If you want to try to simulate a menstrual cycle with a timer, and/or create an x% chance of pregnancy every time the romance gets hot and sweaty, more power to you.


- PC-initiated romance is a Good Thing. That can mean whatever you want it to mean, be it the ability for the PC to spur LTs from the NPC, be it flirting in the Comptonian vein, or something completely different... but whatever you decide, players DO want some ability to advance, or at least enhance, the course of the romance by doing more than simply waiting around.


- Gifts are a Good Thing. But try to avoid the concept that they have to be enormously, or even at all, powerful. Jaheira's Locket is one of the best items in the game, and it does dick all. And by flagging it Quest-Critical, Jaheira gives it to you every time she runs off, making it very poignant--she wants you to have it in case something happens to her. (whether this is what they had in mind or not, I don't know, but the effect is the same.)


- More than two epilogues are a Good Thing. It can get very clumsy dictating the PC's actions after the game finishes because really, you know very little about them except that they've completed the game's core quests and have a relationship with your NPC. Even having two branching paths based on a decision the PC made, or his/her reputation, is something. Similarly, unless your NPC was truly unaffected by the love and then loss of their ascendant boyfriend/girlfriend, a separate epilogue for their life after being "abandoned" is also good.

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Very good suggestions indeed JCompton.


I must echo that along the lines that pregnancy is a bad thing to enforce. Mind you, having a question of "Should we have kids or not?" is a fair question, and I wrote something like that with Tashia (which will be implemented in the upgrade sometime in the future), but she didn't get pregnant as a result of ToB.


And I must agree, having matters that the MainChar can do definitely is a plus. It gives the impression that the romance just isn't one-sided.

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Oh, almost forgot.


- Don't have your SOA romance end on a sexual encounter, as Aerie and Jaheira's did. The romance shouldn't fundamentally seem to be about "scoring." You can accomplish this in a variety of ways, including the presence of flirting/random/PC-initiated contact, a romance-tied quest that only takes place after the relationship reaches that stage... etc. (presuming, of course, that your romance gets that physical in SOA, or at all. It's not required. And you don't even have to feel bad for the Mac people anymore, because they finally have TOB.)

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One thing I would also add:


If you are going to the point of making a romance, there is nothing wrong with having a few extra, non-essential parts thrown in. Much like Jaheira's locket for example, such things add to the overall experience.


I mean, if one argues, "You are trying to rescue Imoen, and shouldn't be wasting such time..." then one would extend that to mean a person shouldn't also be involved in a relationship either.


Ugh, anyways, to get back to my point, there will be a dinner sequence in Del's module, but that won't prevent us from adding something to the BioWare four, for example, as well.


Of course, for those who don't care for romances, this is all a moot point anyways :D

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