Romantic "rivals" to your RO

So, I searched and I don’t think there’s another topic about this issue… Also, this is my first post, so please berate away if I’m going about this wrong. :blush:

I’ll try to make this short (it’s not, though… sorry).

Basically, I’ve been finding myself more and more fascinated by the romance aspects of Interactive Fiction. And, after reading some really fun examples of inter-relationship angsty jealous drama – such as, Malin Rydén’s (malinryden) Fallen Hero Rebirth, carawenfiction’s WIP The Shadow Society, Mishka Jenkin’s (seraphinite) The Wayhaven Chronicles, Devon Connell’s (MultipleChoice) Samurai of Hyuga, Kreg Segall’s Tally Ho, jeantown’s Guenevere – I started wondering about how fun (or not) it might be to put the MC in love triangles where they are not the center of it.

Not even necessarily love triangles, but I do like the idea of exploring either a more realistic or needlessly messier/drama-ier version of a romance where the MC’s chosen RO has romantic interests outside of the MC and maybe even where those interests are their primary interest. In other words, where the MC has a “rival” for the RO’s affections.

Influences/Examples listed above

(just to be clear, I adore all these games, none of these comments are at all meant as criticism)

SoH has at least one character who may have another interest beyond you, and yet another RO for whom another character shares affections. However, in both cases, the reciprocity of said feelings are not - yet - clear and so I’m not sure how much the game will/won’t represent this situation.

Tally Ho is the closest example I’ve personally played of an MC in a possible love triangle where they’re one of the “sides”, though I’m not sure I’d consider it entirely as such given that all three characters had the possibility of being interested in each other. (admittedly, I haven’t played it in a while, so I could be misrepresenting it – a wonderful game, tough!)

Guenevere already has quite a few variations of the love triangle (rectangle? Pentagon?), of which you’re the center, so far. From what I understand, the groundwork is being laid for some extra messiness where your ROs might also hold affections for others (probably in the TH vein of a poly romance, though). But that hasn’t been explored quite yet, so…

FH:R is a special case which gets to have its cake and eat it too, with MC being both the center and one of the edges of the triangle (delicious evilness). But, of course, most games don’t have malin’s delicious deviousness.
Which bleeds into the next problem: that of choice.

In FL:R, because of the aforementioned special situation, this added wrench in the relationship isn’t exactly a surprise to the player/MC, who is quite implicitly aware of what they’re doing.
TWHC goes a step further with the player getting to explicitly choose whether or not to go down the beginnings of a love triangle – being, alternatively, able to romance each RO independently of such complications.

Of course, that sort of choice/agency is a lot harder to accomplish, I think, when the whole concept of having a “rival” to your RO is that the RO is the one who, ultimately, makes some sort of choice.

Some questions then:

  1. Can it be enjoyable/engaging to be one of the “hanging limbs” of the love “pyramid”, in the same way that being its center is? TSS, for one, already has a great jealousy system which, depending on the ROS with which you trigger it, can be anything from sad to funny to hot. Could such jealousy scenes be equally engaging if you’re not the “fought over good”? Or would it just be a quick in the groin to feel even half “unwanted”?

  2. How problematic/off-putting is it if you, as a player, don’t have a choice in whether this “added complication” of a second interest for your RO exists at all – only if you wish to pursue them regardless? Or perhaps not even know of it until later down the line?


  1. Any problematic issues you think this could bring up?
    Personally, I’d be wary of encouraging the idea that you should “fight” for someone’s attention at all. As I see it, if they’re not interested, they’re not, please just move along. (But then again in real life I hate any sort of romantic entanglements at all, specially love triangles, which, in IF, I can safely enjoy, so…?)

  2. Finally, have you already played games with this sort of dynamic? Did you love it, hate it? Would you do anything differently?

How would you feel about not being, as the MC/player, the center of a love triangle? Or about your chosen RO having secondary or even non-you-primary love interests, who’d be your romantic rivals? Engaging or a bummer?

If you managed to get through all that, or if you skipped it entirely, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts!


I think it would depend a lot on how it’s done. I’d hate to have an RO I really like but think they would be better off with my romantic rival, or worse think I’m getting in the way of them being together when that’s what my RO really wants.


Yeah, that’s a good point… would it help if it were someone MC knew to be around temporarily, or perhaps only superficially interested - would you ever see a potential for some fun ribbing/posturing in those situations or would you probably still be uncomfortable/reticent?

Well, speaking from my own tunneled perspective, the way I see this “issue” is basically

“Oh, hey! So you’re this guy Alice told me before? Well, good to see you." And then we part ways holding our breath with fake smile on our face.

However, I’m not the kind of person who forces his intention or will to the others. In fact, I might not try hard to impress the RO harder than my rivals, especially if I have a comparatively lower budget than theirs.

If Alice decide to go with “this guy,” so be it. I also wouldn’t cut off communication with them both, even if that means each conversation starts with an awkward mood.

“So… how’re you going?”

Kinda hard to write this kind of interaction, now I’ve wrote my opinion :point_up_2:t4:
Considering not everyone will act and react the same way, writing a love-triangle might equals writing three different romance scenarios.

Oh, and then there’s love-dodecahedron.


Maybe it could work if the RO was very clearly not interested in the rival? But then, I mean, they’re not really a rival then. Or if the rival was more a villian then maybe you could get some interesting stuff from that but then it would feel kind of bad if you lost to them…

Or, another possibility. The player ends up wanting to romance the rival instead.


rival is one of the reasons why such romances are either ‘broken’ in the end , or I just skip them .
funny…this remind me of a fanfic I read ages ago ! about 3 way relationships (doesnt sound dirty at all XD) …and when you read it , from the outside . everything is happy sappy dandy !

Now take that same relationship , and give one of the 3 for you to guide ? guess what ? Jealousy! spying ! bickering! XD

Its actually an interesting dynamic to add to in any game tbh… but like It would honestly feel to much work when you could just not romance them XD though for this to work your RO has to be hella charming since people would be put off in trying to compete all the time with another character. The idea is interesting but the execution would be hard to do…


I remember the old Harvest Moons having love rivals. I also remember it sparking a lot of… eh… dislike for the rivals. I wonder if that was why, they stopped with it?

It can be done, but it is hard to do well, I think.


Only speaking for me personallly, but love triangles are just not content I seek or engage with. If someone I was interested in (real life or COG) was interested in someone else, I’d just back off instead of trying to change their mind, so chances are for me, any of the RO’s that involved this kind of thing would go unexplored.


@Flaine1996 Yeah, that hadn’t occurred to me at all, that you’d have to make RO that much more enticing… makes a lot of sense, though.
I suppose a good writer could either make the competition a grueling effort that is then “rewarded” with RO choosing MC (how I assume you’re envisioning it), or - and, personally, this is how I’d prefer it - the added tension would be part of the fun/appeal of that route (either for player, MC or both). But then I guess that doesn’t cater to a lot of people.

@DreamingGames yeah, how much the “rivals” are meant to be liked/disliked would have to be carefully considered. Again, I think you could go either way. Make them easily dis-likable (careful to make them fun to hate, and not just pure hatred of course), or, I suppose, much like with the RO, work extra hard to maintain their likability.

@JMH that’s entirely fair! Also my opinion irl and part of the reason I’d also be reticent about it even in fiction (but then again I’ve always hated the usual love triangles until I tried them in IF/CoGs, so…:woman_shrugging: )

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It’d be funny to do a meta-triangle of sorts where there’s an NPC who’s cute/hot/charismatic/whatever-people-look-for-in-ROs and given a lot of screen time, but who is not available as an RO because in the story they’re taken. So the reader, not just the MC, wants to romance them, but can’t, and the unstoppable power of their imagination is sadly limited by that pesky rival.


A lot of times the love triangle thing doesn’t seem to work If it was transformed into,a love line segment. If person A loves person B and C, then person A might just be happier in a poly relationship than in a monogomous relationship that is constantly fought for.

  1. It can be enjoyable to be a side part in a love triangle as long as it is done well and usually when the main RO doesn’t care about the rivals. Being one of the contestants on a dating game show or competing to win the next in line for the thrones hand and the kingdom in an official tournament might be fun.

  2. If the rival love interest is a better fit for the RO, then I wouldn’t persue the relationship and be a home wrecker. If the RO had a previous love that died and MC got into a relationship with them and the dead former love was suddenly found to be alive, I’d probably give the RO back.

  3. I didn’t like the Choice of Romance game because the cannon RO didn’t care about you and as soon as your back was turned got with someone else.


Speaking for myself, im not fond of characters being rewarded to anybody in story form which is tricky to do especially since this is more of an interactive game than a story. So every choice you make can kind of feel like a reward and yeah i get where your coming from cuz for people, who do like competing they do like that route but as you said it is difficult for those who don’t like to home wreck characters relationship. Though this shouldn’t discourage you from trying though, you or any author who would want to try may end up suprising us

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If it’s a Japanese galgame,they would be romanceable in the fandisk


@Sovereign2Lilith in principle, I totally agree (but sometimes I do enjoy unnecessary dramas in my fiction…:flushed:

  1. that’s a really interesting idea! I can see how some emotional distance could help lend some levity to it, and those already built-in competitive systems might make some players more comfortable with the idea, specially if its something that is already expected/encouraged from said RO
  2. sound plan :blush:
  3. hmm… I haven’t played that one. I might give it a look now, out of curiosity, since that was one of my “concerns”, the MC feeling “unwanted”

thanks for the detailed response!:blush:


totally understandable, and what would be one of my bigger issues with it too.
I’m not actually actively writing anything (just vague ideas in my head), this was kind of just a topic I realized interested me and hadn’t seen discussed before so… wanted to hear other people’s perspectives on i! But thanks for the kind words!:blush:

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Life is full of romantic rivals…

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There was another thread that touched on a similar topic–whether or not ROs should hook up with other characters. But that was “if they aren’t romanced,” not “should you have to fight for them.”

I really agree with @Mewsly that it could be easy to make it feel like the MC is getting between the RO and their actual true love, which would make me pretty disinclined to pursue them. But it might also feel like the MC is the second choice, or lesser option, or that the RO isn’t as into the MC as the MC is into them. There’s some old adage (that I couldn’t find a quick source for), “I will fight for you, but I won’t compete for you,” that’s pretty relevant. I don’t mind an RO who’s a bit of a challenge to romance, but I don’t think I’d enjoy it much if they were just constantly flip-flopping between liking my character or liking some other NPC better.

It would probably work more if there were some conceit in play to make it less about who the RO’s crush is bigger on–like, RO has a suitor who’s a better financial, political, social, what-have-you match as opposed to the MC, who they will agree to be with if the MC is a better personal/romantic match, something like that


Yeah; I’ve done this in my WiP (although their relationship won’t really go anywhere beyond a mutual crush until the epilogue), but I certainly wouldn’t like to have to fight another character for my RO… :confused:

I’m a supporter of anything in general that puts the MC in a non-central role. It can become quite shallow when NPCs are obviously just waiting for you to ‘take your pick’. It adds a bit of realism and relatable struggle to a title if NPCs aren’t interested, have other agendas or other people on the line. I do think you have to be careful not to overdo it though. I imagine most people play CYOA because it’s about them. Like with everything it’ll fall down to how well you execute and balance it.


Personally, I never liked the love triangles. Neither in games, nor in books, nor in films. If you like a person, then you should not run around and cheat, right? And if you want to do that. then maybe something is wrong with your relationship and you really need to think about it before you do something you might regret. But I’m a monogamous person, those who support polygamy may not agree with me.
However, regarding the first question, I believe that being not on the “top” of the pyramid, but one of the “sides” can be an interesting turn for the plot. Especially if the hero/heroine does not know that they are in a triangle.
As for the question of whether I played … in Tally Ho there is such an option, as already mentioned above. However, I never liked this vegetarian guy (girl?) and I always got rid of him in my playthroughs. In bigger games, I always knew who I want to be with at the end. For example, for Mass Effect, I always end a trilogy with Liara T’Soni, but in the second part I can flirt with Garrus and throw him away in the third, simply because I do not like him and in the second part there is no Liara romance, just a few heartbreaking scenes. But I will never be swayed from my main interest just because I want to “explore other options” or whatever.