Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Love Interests!

Love interests have always played a large role in comic books and the lives of superheroes. Superman (Clark Kent) has Lois Lane. The Thing (Ben Grimm) has Alicia Masters. Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) has Steve Trevor. Spider-Man (Peter Parker) has Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy. Batwoman (Kathy Kane) has Renee Montoya. Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier) has Kyle Jinadu. It's only natural for significant others to play a large part in a tabletop roleplaying game about superheroes as well.

When creating a love interest for your character, there are several key questions you have to ask yourself:
  • What does the love interest do for a living?
  • Does the love interest know about your character's secret superheroic identity? 
  • Is the love interest a superhero as well? 
  • Is the love interest secretly a supervillain?
  • What supervillains know the identity of your character's love interest?
  • Am I putting this person I love at risk because of what I do, and if so, how?

A love interest should be a collaborative character, one developed jointly between the player and GM (Game Master), or if the love interest is with another player's character, the relationship should be developed between both players with the GM's approval. Everyone should try to work together to create a fun and challenging roleplaying experience for all.

In ICONS, a love interest is usually listed on the character sheet as a quality aspect, a connection to be exact. As a player, you can tag any of your hero's quality aspects to spend Determination points to do various things - a determined effort, a focused effort, a power stunt (a new application of one of your superpowers that you normally can't do), recover from injury, or a retcon. The GM on the other hand can compel any of your qualities just as they can your challenges (another type of aspect, usually a weakness or some other negative connotation) and bring them into play in the game, awarding you a point of Determination to do so.

As a connection, this opens up a lot of storytelling possibilities involving love interests. Supervillains will frequently target the love interest of a superhero in their evil machinations, making the significant other a potential weakness. A love interest's career or station in life can sometimes provide the superhero with an important connection in his or her fight against crime - reporters and police officers can provide valuable insider information, scientists and professors can provide knowledge and cutting-edge technology, a lawyer can defend you when needed. The CEO of major corporation can provide you with all of this and more. Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!

And just like your love interest is there for you, you must be there for them in their time of need. If you should fail, therein lies the tragedy that is the stuff of legends.

Thanks for reading, and see you on Monday!


  1. I like the part where you describe the strengths a love interest can add to the hero. I think those love interests are the best, where it adds dimension to the love interest, that they are there for more than romance in the story.

  2. Comic books definitely rely on the hero saving the damsel trope. I hope with modern stories we can find more women characters who aren't always needing to be saved :)

  3. Comic books have always provided role models, and it's good to see more and more strong, independent love interests in modern comics and related media. The Damsel in Distress routine is tired and dated. Fortunately, there were a few enlightened minds working in comics even in their earliest days. I've featured a couple of Golden Age superheroes (from the 1940s) here at Just Add Heroes that broke the stereotypes (or started to), like the Woman in Red (the first female costumed superhero) who was a police detective in what was at the time exclusively a man's world, and the Fighting Yank's love interest Joan Farwell broke the mold by being an accomplished aviator and knew how to handle a gun.

  4. Heroes can also have hidden identities, of course, so I'd probably break down the questions to:

    * Is your love interest super?

    * Is your love interest's identity secret?

    * Is your love interest a villain?

    Your love interest might not have powers, but secretly be the Black Velvet Cat, international painting thief who always leaves a black velvet version of the masterpieces she intends to take. (That might count as a supervillain.)

    Another thing to think about in a campaign setting is whether the love interest has a job or location that puts her or him in danger or otherwise involved in the story. It's a bit difficult to drag out Trixie the Generic Girlfriend every week if all she likes is malls and pro wrestling unless some supervillain knows about her, or her relationship with the hero is general knowledge. But Lois Lane was a reporter, Vicki Vale was a photographer, Sue Storm was another hero, and toward the end, Mary Jane Watson ran with a pretty famous crowed of celebrities, so she frequently got in trouble. Having the love interest work in the same lab or airfield as the hero (she designed his exosuit, perhaps), or she`s a cop, or he`s the hero`s publicist, or he`s the villain's publicist...all put the love interest in a position where she or he can be used easily in adventures. (Hasn't there been a comics story where the love interest, an adventuring type, breaks up with the hero because the hero's life is just too dangerous?)

    There are also interesting things to do with the love interest not loving you back, or not being a romantic interest. In one game I ran, the player created a character who had been missing for eight years (while he had been having a tumultuous battle of wills with a Wendigo; he won and had an orgin that resulted in effective immortality...but a body at 4 degrees C and a habit of creating a ten foot circle of snowfall around him as he slept). He had been declared dead and his wife had moved on, so part of the relationship was winning over his ex-wife again, and getting to know the daughter who had been five when he left. (The ex-wife wasn't averse to this, but she wasn't going to jump in with both feet when he'd been missing for so long and came back changed...but she had also started dating a guy who was really nice for her circumstance just before the PC showed up again.) Lots of complications there, but few were overtly romantic love.

    Love for a ward, a child, a family member can also be fruitful, though not a love interest as considered traditionally.