In the season of good will and love, we take a look at how love is represented and possibly expressed in a fantasy world. In most fantasy settings, there are deities of love and beauty, these same deities may even inspire the arts and music as well. Such examples would be Aphrodite in the Greek myths, or Bes and Hathor in the Egyptian mythos. Most deities of love represent sexual or physical expressions of love. But in a more modern concept where dungeon masters and even players may view love in various facets, so can the deities that represent love.
C.S. Lewis wrote about the Four Loves, which were: Stroge (empathy), Eros (erotic), Philia (friendship), and Agape (unconditional). Friendship and Empathy (though different in context but not in intent) fall under the concept of platonic love. Eros is your general lust, and Agape is what some may define as “pure” love or divine love.
Now conceptually, most basic fantasy settings do not differentiate the various aspects of love. If on the other hand, one were to separate and focus on the individual aspects, there are some suggestions.
Three Deities for Love
You could do a trinity of deities that encompass the varying aspects of love, if you want an example of a trinity deity in Dungeons and Dragons, in the Forgotten Realms, the elven goddess, Angharradh personified three elven goddesses but was simultaneously the queen of the Seldarine. A triad of deities for love can encompass the aspects of platonic love, physical/affectionate love, and “pure” love.
For your platonic love, I can envision a younger looking deity around preteen and young girl archetype, or even male. But it’s the youthful innocence that you wish to capture, the notion of a love with no preconceived notions or expectations. For the more lustful, physical personification of love can be a male/female in their peak physical prime. Deities like Aphrodite and Apollo are examples of deities of peak physical beauty and sexuality.
A common psychological element to keep in mind with deities of love and beauty is that they typically do not take well to betrayals or deception. While seduction is a separate practice to acquire love, seduction with the illusion of false love could be spiritual crusade that a deity of love might undertake, or it could be a dogma that a love deity might endorse instead.
Under the concept of unconditional love, divine love, or “pure” love; we have to assess the more specific entries that define it. This form of love often reflected as true altruism, the principle that a being would seek to the betterment and benefit of another without any form of compensation or benefit to themselves. It can often described as a selfless love. It is also a love that remains constant and consistent in spite of outcomes and life events (for good or ill). A deity of this nature can vary and does not need to conform to any singular archetype. I personified this aspect into a small child before, there are others that personify this concept as a motherly figure. The standard father figure is also acceptable but gets lost in other common archetypes and tropes.
The One God of Love
A singular deity that embodies all forms of love can be tricky, it requires a boarder definition of love yet still have enough room for flexibility. You could have this deity be instead a principle or ideal if your world does not support deities. Instead of a gender, the deity could even be unisex. Most deities of this mantle typically are female in form, but it could even be an animal if your deity hierarchy is more of an animal spirit system.
What forms of love does this singular deity exhibit and exemplify? How does it deal with the injustices or evils against love or the use of love for perverse/corrupt purposes? Is this deity the guardian of sacred love and union, or is it the teacher or the one who bestows it?
Is this deity neutral? Chaotic or lawful? Good? Or perhaps even evil, if you view love’s destructive potential.
Love Potions…the ultimate cliché
Yes, the infamous and dreaded love potion, the sort of item coveted by young adolescent girls in the hopes of acquiring their admirers.
In D&D sense, mechanically love is expressed as infatuation or being charmed. The Philter of Love in the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide bestows the charmed condition for 1 hour upon consumption.
Dominate Person as a spell has iconically been used as method to subvert the wills of our loved ones. That shouldn’t stop any would be admirer or dreamer, think of Marvel’s Jessica Jones’s Killgrave, though maybe with less ego and psychopathic tendencies.
Using a potion or love letter laced with a love potion is quite an entertaining notion. Especially when used in an intrigue sort of game or for social encounters even.
Something that comes to mind is prolonged exposure to a love potion, what sort of effects would arise from such treatment? I would suggest something along the lines of Madness tiers which eventually reach to severe Madness to create flaws such as “enamored and obsessed with random evil NPC”. That might something to consider for an evil and dastardly dungeon master, using love as a form of madness.
A Day for Lovers
Now the question that plagues many creators and worldbuilders, do we include a day to celebrate lovers? Well for deities of love, it would make sense to have sacred holidays that embody the dogma of the particular deity. In a world with no deities or merely ideals, there are more opportunities to incorporate more with the world and its historical lore. Was the holiday spurn from a Romeo & Juliet sort of tragedy? Is it a holiday that is tied to a particular seasonal change or other cosmically linked event? There are gift exchanges? What other sort of customs are incorporated into this holiday event? Is it even a day, or a week, or a month-long celebration? These are the sort of questions that a worldbuilder often is plagued with in the creation process. It’s always easier to use the real world traditions and transcribe them over to your setting if you’re a newer DM or a DM who simply wants to incorporate the spirit of the holiday without letting it detract the players from the majestic world you have crafted instead.
Love and Player Characters (PCs and/or NPCs)
I have not personally ever had player characters I oversaw or played in a group have a romantic relationship in the game itself. I have heard stories of such instances, some ended well and others were horribly executed. If you ever have players who wish to have such a bond (strictly for narrative/roleplaying purposes), it solely depends on the temperament of your players. If the players are comfortable and understand each other well enough to narrative enter into a romantic interest, I would say let it happen. Understand however, that such a scenario is under the pretext that the players understand that it needs to be an organic experience and not one born out of convenience.
I have seen players who are in a relationship outside of the game (a few of them were married couples) and they played romantically involved characters in-game. There were mixed results, some of these characters became distracted with this aspect of their characters and often they became static or a direct translation of themselves. Other times, their relationship problems were carried over into the game. My advice, is to leave relationships out of the game whenever possible, players and their characters need to be organic with their evolution into such a scenario. Every playgroup is unique and should be treated with care, the dungeon master has to moderate these sort of interactions should they prove to detract the game or its progression in narrative.
Thank you for reading, these are simply suggestions and personal interpretations of concepts and ideas for Valentine’s Day in a fantasy setting. I do no have anything mechanical to implement here, but rather treat this article as a brainstorming article to launch your worldbuilding ideas. I hope this article was informative and fun, if you have questions or comments please leave them down below. If you want to follow and chat with me, please follow our Facebook and Twitter accounts. We have a tip jar set up if you wish to drop a little something, the proceeds go directly to help improve our content and our future endeavors as a playgroup. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day this February, I know this post proceeds it by almost a week but I felt that it might aid in some ideas for DMs that wish to play with your player’s emotions (you cannot see my evil grin, but it’s there). Roll some dice and have fun everyone!