That One Time My Bard Made The Dungeon Master's Girlfriend Jealous
A Comedy of Errors
It's time for another installment of my ongoing Table Talk series, where I share tales of my gaming tables past and present. This week, however, I wanted to tell a story about something that went on outside of the game itself. A comedy of errors that, by the time the drama was over, all I could do was shake my head at all the falling dominoes I had been completely oblivious to.
And like all such stories, this one starts with a bard.
The Necessary Backstory
For this tale to make sense, I shall begin at the beginning.
Many years ago I was living up in the great white north. I'd just gotten into RPGs, and I was having trouble finding groups that didn't fall apart after a few sessions. My roommate had met some folks down at the local gaming store, and had invited them back to our place to join a Mechwarrior game. This was how I met Holly, who was short, fiery, and who made it quite clear (particularly to men at the table, like myself) that she was a lesbian. I heard that message loud and clear, and focused on just playing the game and having fun. After a few sessions to feel out whether the group was cool or not, Holly brought her girlfriend Michelle who also became a regular part of our burgeoning gaming group.
While the Mechwarrior game wound down in fairly short order, Michelle mentioned that she had a campaign she'd like to run, if we were down for a genre swap to Dungeons and Dragons. Everyone agreed, and so the stage was set for our tale to begin.
A Bard Enters Stage Left
The character I brought to this game was a bard named Eirik Perdhro. The polar opposite of my usual grim and gritty characters, Eirik was the son of two tavern owners up in mining country. He'd slung drinks, waited tables, told stories, played the flute, and when his music had started awakening he wanted to get out and see the world much like his grandfather had done. He had a good home life, a supportive family, a serious wanderlust, and a tendency of getting into trouble. This is the same character from That One Time I Played a Bard Out of Spite (And Had a Ball) for those who read that entry.
So of course he fell in with a group of adventurers who were being tasked by the king to go and investigate the rumors of a cult forming out in the empty country of the kingdom.
Before any of that plot actually happened, though, Michelle ran us through a scene where the party attended a royal function that was more than a dinner, but less than a ball. It operated as a chance for us to better integrate the PCs, and to establish positive relationships with NPCs who might recur later on down the line. In service of that second goal, every PC was given an NPC escort for this function.
That was how Eirik met Jade, a dervish dancer and fellow mischief maker.
What proceeded from that point was something out of a Disney montage. The two of them performed for the other guests, playing and dancing. Japes were had at the expense of others, drinks flowed, a prank or two was played, and a great deal of fun was had. Then, before the others headed out the next day, Eirik left a letter for Jade that he'd enchanted to play her favorite song when she opened it. Then he was off into the gray light of morning, head aching, but ready for adventure.
A lot of the lessons I learned playing Eirik were the basis for my 5 Tips For Playing Better Bards, for those who haven't come across it yet.
What Went On Behind The Scenes
Even early on in my career as a gamer I knew not to play a character who rolled to seduce someone. The Pickup Artist is the top entry in The 5 Bothersome Bards You Meet in Your Gaming Career for a reason, after all. It was why I tried to keep things light and sweet, and not to make things creepy. After all, Michelle was in a relationship with another woman, so I figured that when Jade came back into the plot it was a reward to me as a player for putting in the time and energy to actually try to build a relationship with the character.
It's not like this whole thing was some kind of proxy flirtation between us.
As the campaign went on I noticed that Holly got progressively less involved with the game. At first her character became more confrontational, but then she withdrew more and more until she just left the game entirely. At the time she said it was because her schedule had changed, which we all accepted. Stuff like that happened, after all.
Fast-forward half a dozen months. We were all hanging out after game, and I was just chatting with Michelle. We were discussing plot arcs and hooks, where things might go, etc. That was when she informed me that Jade wasn't just a random character, but her former personal PC that she'd played to level 18 in a previous campaign. She'd been half expecting the new bard to do the sort of things new bards often did, which is why Jade was present to slap my wrist and keep me in line if I'd tried to roll to seduce the queen, attempted to use my bardic music in questionable ways, or otherwise just make a spectacle of myself. Overall she'd been extremely pleased that I hadn't done any of the negative things she'd half expected.
I considered that fairly high praise, and I said I hoped she enjoyed the storyline I'd opted for instead. Michelle had, but Holly hadn't. In fact she told me it had come up in more than one fight before the two of them had broken up and gone their separate ways. This confounded me. After all, it was a game we were playing, and a story we were telling. How could Holly get so bent out of shape about something like that if Michelle wasn't even interested in men?
The look she gave me told me immediately where my mistake had been. Because even though Holly had said she was a lesbian, Michelle had never made such a claim for herself.
For those who are curious, Michelle is also one of several people who inspired Partners and Polycules, the system that classifies your polyamorous relationships based on a standard set of DND dice. To this day, I remain one of her d12s.
What's Next on Table Talk?
This is the first Table Talk installment I've put here on Vocal instead of on my gaming blog Improved Initiative. Part of that is to test the waters to see if this platform works better, but it's also because I'm going to try something different with the next project for this feature. Namely that, rather than a blow-by-blow account of my group's run through the Hell's Rebels campaign, my intention is to write a series of pulpy short stories that capture the deeds of the party, without getting bogged down in nuances of XP grinding and fetch questing.
If that sounds awesome to you, stay tuned for the Silver Raven Chronicles! Also, don't forget to dig through my Vocal archive to check out all my other gaming content that's already here.
For those who don't want to miss any upcoming installments, consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter! And if you want to help keep the wheels turning, become a Patreon patron, or consider leaving a tip on this article. Every little bit helps!
Lastly, if you're looking for something to tide you over until the next installment, check out The Irregulars, which is the Pathfinder Tale I wrote for Paizo many years ago. And if that's not enough to quench your thirst, take a spin through my Amazon author page to see the rest of my novels, short stories, and more!
Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.