Amanda and I are chatting about our favorite romance-laden RPGs, and our favorite characters to romance in Stardew Valley, Dragons Ages (all of ‘em), Witcher 3, and more. We compare romance options, discuss favorite pairings, and yup, we really like Dragon Age. Moral of this episode: Don’t Bring Your Tits to a Gunfight.
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This podcast is brought to you by Outrageous by Minerva Spencer, book two in the Rebels of the Ton series.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 468 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, with me today is Amanda, and we are going to talk about all of our favorite romance-filled videogames. We’re going to talk about Stardew Valley, Dragons Ages, The Witcher 3; we’re going to talk about our favorite characters, our favorite options, our favorite pairings; and we’re going to chortle about a TikTok that we saw as well, and that’ll be linked in the show notes if you need to find it, which you should, ‘cause it’s pretty funny! We had the best time, and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.
A special hello and thank-you to our Patreon community. If you have supported the show, you’re making sure every episode is transcribed, and you keep the show going each week. Thank you for being part of the Patreon community. If you’d like to join, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches!
This podcast is brought to you in part by Outrageous by Minerva Spencer, which is book two in the Rebels of the Ton series. If you love romances that take expected tropes and turn them upside-down, this book is perfect for you. In this story, the heroine kidnaps the hero and threatens to have her way with him as they race to the Scottish border. When Eva de Courtney kidnaps Godric Fleming, her only plan is to stop him from persecuting her beloved brother. But once she has the intriguing earl in the confines of her carriage, she is terribly tempted by pretty much everything about him. Her forbidden plan is foiled when Godric turns the tables, taking her hostage instead and demanding that they marry at once. So we have a road trip, forced proximity, and a hero trying to be honorable with a heroine who is definitely not trying to obey the rules. This series features heroines who are determined to carve out agency for themselves, so if that is your thing, get your copy of Outrageous by Minerva Spencer wherever books are sold, and find out more at kensingtonbooks.com.
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We had a ridiculously good time having this conversation, and I am so excited to share it with you, so let’s do this thing: on with the podcast with me and Amanda and talking about romance in videogames.
Amanda: Well, Sarah and I play videogames –
Amanda: – and often there’s a romance element to the videogames where there are a variety of characters that you can choose to smooch.
Amanda: And I thought it would be interesting to discuss why we choose to smooch the characters we smooch in these videogames.
Amanda: ‘Cause we have very different tastes –
Amanda: – when it comes to romanceable characters.
Sarah: Oh yes! You know what my biggest problem is?
Amanda: And I think it, I think it reflects on our reading tastes, too.
Sarah: Oh, it absolutely does –
Sarah: – although there’s one area in which I am completely incongruous to my normal self?
Sarah: In ninety-nine percent of things, I am very decisive. I like making decisions; I don’t like being –
Sarah: – indecisive; I find being unable to make a decision extremely stressful and anxiety-provoking.
Amanda: Unless Sarah plays Stardew Valley, and she literally gives everybody gifts because she can’t decide who she – [laughs] –
Sarah: Exactly! I cannot pick a single romance in any game I play unless I know in – like, for example, okay, in Witcher 3, which I love, you wander around and you kill bandits, and you loot their pants –
Sarah: – for chicken sandwiches, ‘cause somehow –
Sarah: – some guy wearing a helmet and a pair of medieval drawers has got a whole roast chicken in his pants –
Amanda: There, maybe there’s a secret pocket we don’t know about!
Sarah: Tara and I have decided that what is actually happening is that his butt is a panini press, ‘cause sometimes you get a grilled chicken sandwich, so he’s just –
Amanda: Between the cheeks, just –
Sarah: – betwixt, there’s a whole chicken betwixt the cheeks there –
Sarah: – just, just hanging out. Waiting for you to come across him in the bush, kill him, and then take his chicken out of his pants, yep. But with Witcher 3, there are characters that you can have sex with that aren’t part of the main storyline, but the main –
Sarah: – storyline is essentially Geralt choosing between two different characters, both of whom have appeared, I believe, in prior games. And you can’t romance them both – this is a bit of a SPOILER. If you try to romance them both and you sleep with them both, they will trick him in the end of the game into having a threesome, they’ll tie him up, and they’ll leave him there, and he gets nobody. He’s alone.
Amanda: [Laughs] And I can understand having a hard time, right –
Amanda: – ‘cause some, sometimes games write really good characters, and you’re like, wow –
Amanda: – I would love to smooch both of these, and I think we’re seeing more games that allow for, like –
Amanda: – poly or, like, multiple –
Sarah: You’re not punished. [Laughs]
Amanda: Yeah, you’re not punished.
Sarah: By being tied onto a bed! [Laughs more]
Amanda: There are a few that I think are like that, like Verdant Skies –
Amanda: – is another one where you can have a relationship with multiple partners.
Amanda: And a couple others that I can’t remember, but –
Sarah: [Laughs] But I know with Witcher 3 who I want to romance, although I did send you pictures of Triss Merigold, and you were like, holy shit! ‘Cause the, the costumes for the women in this game are –
Sarah: – ooh, something!
Amanda: I just want to, like, I have no interest in playing Witcher 3, because I usually prefer not to have a male main character.
Sarah: Right, and you can’t play as Ciri, the, the girl character.
Amanda: Ciri needs her own game!
Sarah: Oh my gosh, it would be so good for Ciri to have her own game.
Amanda: Also, fucking Zelda needs her own game!
Sarah: Damn right!
Amanda: It’s The Legend of Zelda and we, like, no offense to Link, but we get to follow Link around everywhere. I want Zelda to have her own Goddamn game.
Sarah: Yes, I agree. And when you’re playing Stardew, for example, there are some characters – first of all, you can play as, you design the character. You could be –
Sarah: Unless you’re me and you forget to change the gender and you think you’re playing as a female, and then you look and you’re a male character, and that’s why the dialogue –
Sarah: – choices are sometimes confusing? But you can marry characters. There are several marriageable characters, and you can choose whichever one you want.
Amanda: And a lot – yeah, and a lot of them aren’t locked by, like, gender or anything. You can be –
Sarah: No. Mm-mm.
Amanda: – whatever gender and marry –
Amanda: – whatever gender you want.
Sarah: And then there’s characters in the background who have relationships –
Sarah: – all of which are terrible. But –
Amanda: Oh yeah. Yeahyeahyeah.
Sarah: – like you said, despite being a decisive person, I cannot choose a character to smooch and romance in Stardew. I want to give everybody ten hearts; I want everyone to have the, the, the desire to marry me; and there’s a point at the game where if you don’t walk around with a rabbit’s foot in your pocket for luck, you’ll go into a specific location, and all of the characters with whom you have ten hearts and have flirted –
Amanda: Will be pissed!
Sarah: – they’ll be pissed at you! And they’ll be, like, your hearts will drop ‘cause they’re all mad at you for leading them on, so you have to, like, protect yourself with a little phallic foot in your pocket!
Amanda: But meanwhile, like, I don’t make any friends –
Amanda: – in our Stardew Valley game. It’s like –
Amanda: – I’m just like, I’m going into the mines to kill things! I don’t care about anything else! [Laughs]
Sarah: Yep. Meanwhile, I’m farming and smooching and she’s killing things, and you, in our playthrough, you platonically married the sewer demon!
Amanda: The sewer demon, who’s my roommate! Though in my own playthrough I romanced Sebastian, who’s the emo motorcycle hacker kid, which is indicative of all of the other characters I’ve romanced in previous games, like in Mass Effect and, like, Dragon Age. I go for, like, the moody –
Amanda: – the moody, the moodiest character with the most baggage and trauma is the one I go for. Like in Dragon Age II, there’s, I think his name’s Fenris? He is like an elf character who was kept as, like, a, like, who was tortured with magic, and so he, like, if you play a magic user, it is very hard, nigh impossible, to get him to romance you. Filled with trauma, a loner –
Amanda: – angsty. In Inquisition, each time I go in thinking, I’m going to romance Iron Bull because he sounds like a good time, and each time I romance Cullen without –
Amanda: – without fail!
Sarah: Angsty, sad –
Amanda: I, like –
Sarah: – tortured, traumatized –
Amanda: He’s got an addiction to, what is it, lyceum or whatever it is. Like –
Sarah: Yeah, red lyr- – oh my God. I –
Amanda: He’s addicted to that. Like –
Sarah: – was waiting for you to bring up Inquisition.
Amanda: I, like, I’m like, yeah, I’m going to do Iron Bull, and then I black out, and next thing I know, like, I’m – [laughs] –
Sarah: You’re in bed with Cullen –
Amanda: I’m in bed with Cullen –
Sarah: – and his big furry shoulders.
Amanda: – which is weird, because Cullen can’t be a party member, too? He’s, like, technically an NPC?
Amanda: But I don’t know what it is, but I always go for, like, the sad, tortured –
Sarah: [Laughs] But what about Blackwall? He’s sad and tortured and has terrible secrets, but, you know –
Amanda: I don’t –
Sarah: – he’s very mopey.
Amanda: Yeah, he’s too sad. He’s like – I don’t want them to be so sad that I pity them.
Sarah: So you like sad and tortured and curmudgeonly, not sad and tortured and mopey.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: There’s a fine line there!
Amanda: So – [laughs] – and every dang time I’m like, it’s going to be different. I’m going to romance so-and-so. Nope! And I just do the same thing over and over. Like, I think, what is it, is it the second one with Anders? Fuck Anders! He is the worst Dragon Age character! I will never romance Anders, and I wish I could kill him off. Like, I hate Anders.
Sarah: I bought Dragon Age: Origins for, on sale for like seven bucks –
Sarah: – and after having played Inquisition for a, like a year and a half, two years I was playing that game, and I’m still not done with it. I am the most pedantic videogame player. Don’t ever sit and watch me play a videogame. It’s like one of those, I just wander around, I pick all the flowers. I’m really not interested in killing things! It’s like, aw fuck, I’ve got to kill a demon again?
Amanda: That’s how I feel about Skyrim is that, like –
Sarah: Like, Goddamn it –
Amanda: – listen –
Sarah: – I just want to explore! Can I not kill stuff?
Amanda: – I want to go pick flowers. My horse is fine; my horse will kick bandits in the face if they get too close. Like –
Amanda: – we’re good! Like, it’s a guard horse; we’re fine. But I just love the, like, I don’t know, like in Mass Effect – so the first Mass Effect, we meet Garrus, who is like a space cat-man with an eyepatch, and we all know that I love an eyepatch. There’s mystery there with an eyepatch! And people got so mad – myself included – that you could not romance Garrus in the first one, that I feel like BioWare was like, okay, fine, ya horny weirdos! You can romance Garrus in the next one, and we all rejoiced.
Sarah: The only reason I bought Dragon Age: Origins was so that I could be a male character and romance the swamp witch. She is so ridiculously hot.
Amanda: The only time that I was curious about playing a male character was in Inquisition with the very, with the, like, sassy magic man with the finely tuned facial hair. What is his name?
Sarah: Oh, um –
Amanda: Who gets with Iron Bull if you don’t romance him –
Amanda: – which is wonderful.
Sarah: Oh, Mor-, first of all, the character’s name is Morrigan; it had completely flown out of my brain.
Amanda: Swamp witch, yeah.
Sarah: Swamp witch, Morrigan. She’s the one with the drapey, the drapey top?
Sarah: Dorian! Yeah, Dorian.
Amanda: There’s a wonderful montage of Dorian and Iron Bull’s banter –
Sarah: Oh my God!
Amanda: – in the game?
Sarah: This is why I did not romance Iron Bull, because I wanted Iron Bull and Dorian to get together, ‘cause I had read, oh, if you let them, if you do enough quests with them –
Amanda: It’s a –
Sarah: – they start flirting?
Amanda: Yep. Yep, yep.
Sarah: [Gasps] The banter is so good.
Sarah: They, they tease each other and, and it’s just adorable.
Sarah: When I play Dragon Age, and I’m still on the first playthrough – I started a second playthrough, but I – [sighs] – I, this is so silly: I tend to wander around and level up so that I am overpowered whenever I meet a, a –
Amanda: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: ‘Cause I don’t like the killing things. I’m like, I would just rather be thirty-eight levels and hit you once –
Amanda: One shot, yeah.
Sarah: – and go back to playing pick flowers and bandit pants.
Sarah: So I started a new character with a new weapon, and I’m like, oh, I’m only level two! This is annoying. I keep getting dead; I don’t want to get dead. So I go back to –
Sarah: – the original game. So like my Stardew problem, I cannot decide who I want to romance. I am a dwarf, which limits your choices. Dragon Age: Inquisition –
Sarah: – will limit your romantic choices based on the character type?
Sarah: But I – [laughs] – I didn’t want to romance Iron Bull, because I wanted Iron Bull to get together with Dorian.
Sarah: I didn’t want to romance Cullen, and I, and I ended up with the tall, blonde elf named Sera? So –
Amanda: She is a handful, in my opinion.
Sarah: She is a handful, but when you are a short dwarf and there are love scenes with you and a tall elf woman? It’s amazing. There is one quest – this is a bit of a SPOILER – there is one quest where I had to run around and survey all the characters and ask them how I should groom my pubic hair for Sera! [Laughs] And it was incredible! So I ended up romancing the elf, and now she’s, she’s got such vulnerability, and it shows up in the cutest ways, that I’m afraid to break up with her! So I just stayed with her.
Amanda: Who is the very tall sorceress lady?
Amanda: Vivienne, that’s – God!
Sarah: Vivienne, yes, ‘cause there’s –
Amanda: She’s a tall drink of water.
Sarah: Oh, she is harsh.
Amanda: And I love it. I’d let, I’d let her step on me, like, hands down.
Sarah: [Laughs] And also, there are relationships that happen between the, the companion characters and the supporting characters in Dragon Age: Inquisition where if you don’t get involved with one of them, then they will hook up, and it’s just, I –
Sarah: – I don’t like killing things, I want everyone to be happy, so I want everyone to get together with someone else, and so then I can’t necessarily romance somebody because I’m more interested in seeing everyone else pair up than pairing myself up.
Amanda: One of – I know this is mainly, like –
Sarah: I think I’m a romance reader, hmm.
Amanda: – BioWare-centric, but one of the biggest things that I hope will happen in the new Dragon Age game, whenever we should get it –
Sarah: Hey, they, take your time! After –
Amanda: I know.
Sarah: – Cyberpunk, take your time; take as much time as you need. I want the developers to have good sleeping habits and good work/life balance. [Laughs]
Amanda: Please, plea-, I’m, this is a plea to BioWare: please let us romance Varric. Come on! He’s a charming –
Amanda: – romance, secret romance author.
Amanda: So sweet.
Amanda: Such a, such a great companion. Let us have Varric, please!
Sarah: I would love to romance him!
Sarah: He, he would write such fun dialogue!
Sarah: You could be a character in a story!
Amanda: Yeah! Like, that’s what I want! But then, of course, knowing me and, like, yeah, totally going to romance Varric, and then I get into the game, like, he’s not sad enough for me! [Laughs]
Sarah: Now, what about Skyrim? What are your romance options in Skyrim? Are there any?
Amanda: Not particularly. Like, you can choose to, like, I don’t know, like, have a flirtation, but there’s not like any sort of story to them?
Sarah: Right. It’s not like Dragon Age where, if you romance this character, this is what happens in the story.
Amanda: Yeah, there’s no, like, partying either. Like, you don’t get companions that you, like, go on adventures with; it’s pretty, like, solitary. And also, like, I was super – so I loved Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Kassandra is beautiful.
Sarah: You couldn’t smooch the ones you wanted to smooch, right?
Amanda: So, like, in Odyssey, there are, I wouldn’t even call them romances. They’re just, like, little affairs or trysts you can have, and it’s like nothing really, like, lasting in the storyline? And when Valhalla was coming out, they were like, oh, you know, we’re going to have more, like, better, like, romance options that will affect the story and blah, blah, blah.
Amanda: Well, technically there’s only like three?
Sarah: Ohhh, that’s not enough!
Amanda: Two, two women and one man, but one of the woman choices is a pretty big deal, and I don’t, I’m not super comfortable doing that route? SPOILER ALERT: Essentially, you get with your adopted brother’s wife.
Amanda: ‘Cause he’s, like, away, and you spend a lot of time with her, and yada-yada-yada. Anyway, I thought that was a little –
Amanda: – mm. But, like, there’s one that, like, I really wished would have delved deeper, but a lot of the stuff is more surface things, and I, based on what, was it Ubisoft was saying, I expected more. ‘Cause they’re like, this is a better romance system! And I’m like, yeah! But I just feel it felt like the same. I also did not enjoy Valhalla as much as Odyssey, I, I will say, but I don’t know.
Sarah: What did you like better about Odyssey over Valhalla?
Amanda: So, in Valhalla there’s a lot of focus on, like, building your camp necessary?
Amanda: So you have to, like, do –
Sarah: You’ve got to farm! [Laughs]
Amanda: It’s not even farming, but you have to, like, unlock certain buildings and stuff like that, and I wished, I feel like Odyssey had a lot more exploration?
Sarah: The more open the world, the happier I am.
Sarah: I just want to pick flowers and wander around.
Amanda: And so I feel like it was scaled back compared to Odyssey.
Amanda: But I don’t know. I just, like, I wish videogame creators or developers would be like, just throw in some smooching. Like, everybody –
Sarah: See, I don’t need more ways to kill things, and I know that a lot of RPGs are, you know, let’s kill the things. I actually like that part the least.
Sarah: I mean, even in, even in Stardew, the thing that I will level up the last is, is defense.
Amanda: Combat, yeah.
Sarah: Combat. Like, I, I don’t even like killing things that are trying to kill me! I just want to grow turnips and parsnips and, you know, give everybody presents. [Laughs]
Amanda: I don’t mind the combat at all, but, like, I, I love what, like, BioWare has done in terms of, like, creating character-focused stories and, like –
Amanda: – the ability to build relationships and friendships.
Amanda: I want more of that in games, and I feel like only a certain number of developers or, like, game companies do those sorts of things.
Sarah: Mm-hmm. And I can imagine the complexity of the code is significant because the, the story tree –
Amanda: The, just, like, the conversation trees, yeah.
Sarah: Right, the story tree and the conversation tree becomes very complex if you have multiple romances.
Sarah: And one of the things I think is so interesting about Stardew is that when you get divorced, isn’t there a spell where your, where your spouse will forget that you were married, and so they won’t be mad at you?
Amanda: I don’t know – there is a spell where you can turn your children into doves or something, right? [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah. That’s super creepy. That is not a thing I would be able to do.
I want to ask you about the romances in Mass Effect.
Amanda: Yeah. It’s been a while, but –
Sarah: Are they good? Did you, were there characters where you – how many characters are there? Because I know there’s, that’s one of those games where there, where Shepard –
Amanda: Okay, so wait –
Sarah: – has a bunch of choices.
Amanda: SPOILER ALERT for the first games: the first Dragon Age and the first Mass Effect are very similar, where your choices are kind of limited to, like, a, a female supporting character and a male supporting character, right.
Amanda: Like, Morrigan –
Amanda: – or Alistair or whatever. And at the end of Dragon Age I [Origins] – SPOILER ALERTS for people – there’s this thing where, like, Morrigan has this spell, and you can choose, like, there’s, like, sex involved and someone may die or whatever, and that is very present in Mass Effect I, where, like, depending on who you pick, it’s possible the other one may die. If you don’t like combat, I feel like Mass Effect is more of a, has more combat –
Amanda: – focus than Dragon Age.
Amanda: I usually either romanced Garrus or Jack, who is this, like, bionic, like, woman with, like, a shaved head and, like, tattoos, and she’s, like, mean to you.
Sarah: Oh, so that’s your, that’s, that’s Amanda-bait right there!
Amanda: Yeah! And then there’s also an assassin who’s, like, a lizard man, which I was into. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh! Okay!
Amanda: Yeah. But there, it’s also locked, too. Like, there are certain people you can romance if you’re playing a male Shepard versus, like, a female Shepard.
Sarah: Yeah. Inquisition is like that. This, the, the, the character type you play, like if you are an elf, you can romance –
Sarah: – Solas, but you can’t romance him if you’re not an elf.
Amanda: And –
Sarah: I think that’s right.
Amanda: – more characters carry over between games.
Amanda: So, like, Garrus is in all three games.
Amanda: I think Jack shows up in two and three. So there’s less variety, because a lot of the supporting characters show up multiple times.
Amanda: And I think in Mass Effect, there’s a lot more, like, casual encounter scenarios?
Sarah: Yeah. So there’s more, like, trysts and affairs and not long-term romances that span the whole story and influence the outcome.
Amanda: The, and the long-term romances are usually with established characters, where I feel like in Dragon Age, each of your party for each game is different. Like, you know –
Amanda: – Alistair is, like, king, right, in the second one, but he’s not a romance option. So you get completely new characters to romance with each Dragon Age game, whereas there’s more –
Amanda: – overlap in terms of, like, the romanceable characters in Mass Effect.
Sarah: We will be right back with more about videogames and all of the romance, but first I have one thing to tell you about.
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And now, back to my conversation with Amanda, all about romance in videogames.
Sarah: What about Dream Daddy? Because that’s just about romance.
Amanda: [Laughs] Okay, so my biggest problem with Dream Daddy is, as a romance reader, not all of the options have a happy ending.
Sarah: Ahhh, that’s –
Amanda: There are certain options where there is no romantic HEA.
Amanda: So – and I think the one that I really liked, the sad, sad man, I –
Sarah: Who is the, who is the surly, mopey one?
Amanda: The sad man, who has, like, I think, like, a drinking problem? Last I checked, unless they, like, patched something in – Dream Daddy characters – I don’t think he had, like, a romantic HEA where you, like, stayed together.
Amanda: His name was Robert, and he had, like, he had scruff and, like, a leather jacket and a, a –
Sarah: Yeah, just put him under a box with a, with, propped up by a stick, and Amanda will –
Amanda: – a V-neck. He’s an, he’s an aloof widower.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Yep. Amanda bait!
Sarah: Getting the Amanda trap ready; hang on. [Laughs]
Amanda: Yeah. So, like, last I checked, I didn’t think there was, like, a satisfying romantic Happily Ever After –
Amanda: – and that’s what made me sad about Dream Daddy is, like, normally with those sort of visual novel games, you have, like, a bad ending, a good ending, and, like, a, maybe a secret ending, right.
Amanda: Not the case here.
Amanda: But like I say, maybe it’s changed.
Sarah: I know, I know your Cyberpunk was super glitchy.
Sarah: Did you ever finish it? With your – [laughs] – tits out of your leather jacket? Isn’t there a romance in there too?
Amanda: There’s, yeah, it’s similar to where there’s different routes.
Amanda: I think like maybe, if I remember correctly, it was like maybe three or four romance options? And none of them are super, none of them really appeal to me.
Sarah: So for you, which videogame has the best romance options?
Amanda: Dragon Age. It’s, Dragon Age is the best.
Sarah: Dragon Age: Inquisition, or all of them?
Amanda: I feel like all of them, though I think I’m partial to the second one.
Sarah: No, was Origins the first one. I’m sorry; I might be mixing those up.
Amanda: Dragon Age games. But what was the second one called?
Sarah: Watch, watch: it’s called Dragon Age II. [Laughs]
Amanda: I think it is called Dragon Age II!
Sarah: I am so amazing!
Amanda: I don’t think it had a subtitle. Yeah, no. Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II –
Sarah: Dragon Age II.
Amanda: – in roman numerals, and Dragon Age: Inquisition. I think that one, mainly because I really loved, I really loved the Fenris romance plot. He’s like an elven warrior, and he’s so tortured, one of, like –
Sarah: Of course!
Amanda: – literally and emotionally tortured.
Sarah: Of course!
Sarah: Amanda bait!
Amanda: And I liked – ‘cause you play as, like, Hawke instead of, like –
Amanda: – your own – now, I think –
Sarah: It’s on sale for $6.79.
Amanda: I liked it a lot.
Sarah: Ooh, and the complete bundle is $8.60. I’m screwed, aren’t I?
Amanda: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Sarah: Okay, that’s fine.
Amanda: [Laughs] But I think that one –
Sarah: That’s, that’s good.
Amanda: – is my favorite of the franchise? And then I would say Inquisition is second, and then Origins is third, but they’re all really good.
Sarah: I think it’s really interesting that, in terms of my own experience as a romance reader and this one area in which I’m indecisive, maybe the root of my indecision is that I want to watch all of the romances happening around me?
Sarah: And not make choices that then diminish the chance of romance for someone else.
Sarah: Right, like, I want everyone else who can pair up to pair up.
Amanda: You don’t want to make anyone else feel bad.
Sarah: Exactly. I don’t want to watch anyone else feel bad, and I want to watch all their cut scenes –
Sarah: – that aren’t influenced by whatever doofy thing I said. Like, I realized in, in Inquisition that a decision that I had made in like the first couple of days influenced a conversation I had thirty levels later, and I felt awful, because I’d clearly chosen the wrong thing, and that was not, like, it was not the outcome that I wanted, and I’m like, well, can’t change it now!
Amanda: One of the worst feelings is when you pick a wrong decision, or you do something like on accident or whatever –
Amanda: – going through a storyline, and you’re like, fuck! This changes the entire game, and it’s not what I want, and I’m –
Amanda: – screwed now.
Amanda: And I just have to start over!
Sarah: Yep! And, and I did that recently: I screwed up a, a quest, and instead of saving in stages, I had accidentally overwritten –
Amanda: Yeah! Oh –
Sarah: – so I had no –
Sarah: – unless I wanted to go back like three days’ worth of play.
Amanda: There’s something like where your stomach just drops when you realize –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Amanda: – what you’ve done. The thing is, like, if you want romance in games, I know there’s like a ton of, like, visual novels, right?
Sarah: They’re not for me.
Amanda: But I want something that’s more interactive! Like, I want to –
Amanda: – run around and, like, do things, instead of, like, going through just lots of dialogue, which is, yeah.
Sarah: And – [sighs] – there’s like four poses per character?
Amanda: Yeah, it’s like, mm!
Sarah: I’m like, oh, you have your head, your chin is on your shoulder!
Sarah: Oh, your arm is behind your head! Oh, you are being coy because your hand is under chin! And I get kind of visually bored?
Amanda: Yeah! Like, I, I can only play a visual novel for so long before I’m like –
Amanda: – ugh, I need something, like, more interactive.
Sarah: It’s like reading subtitles: I have a limit to how much I can ingest that way.
Amanda: I backed a few, recently, a few, like, Stardew Valley-esque games on Kickstarter that I’m, like, super excited for, so. Like, I was playing, was it My Time at Portia or Portia or whatever it is –
Amanda: – which is very Stardew Valley-esque, but it’s more 3-D. And they have a, a sequel coming out called My Time at Sandrock, so it’s kind of the similar game, but set in a different environment, that I’m, like, super excited for. It’s more like farming and –
Amanda: – stuff like that. But yeah, I just want more of those games. I feel like I’ve kind of exhausted all of the options and, I don’t know, there’s so many, there’s only so many times that you can play Dragon Age, I feel like.
Sarah: Yeah. If I restart a game, I will get to a level that I will remember as being just endless. Like, the one in the desert?
Amanda: A pain in the ass.
Sarah: Like, oh God, I’ve got to run around the sand again? Oh fuck.
Sarah: And there’s another fucking rift, and there’s some demons. Can’t I just walk around and smooch?
Amanda: Sarah’s like, I just want to get to the good parts!
Sarah: Right? Give me some smoochy cut scenes! And it’s weird, because if it’s all smoochy cut scenes, that’s not quite enough. There needs to be –
Sarah: – some kind of tension; I just don’t need it to be all killing things. Like with you and, like what you said, with, with, with Mass Effect, it’s a lot of battle. The whole point of the game –
Amanda: It’s a lot of battle.
Sarah: – is to be in a battle, and I’m like, eh, that’s not for me. I’ll watch the cut scenes on YouTube!
Amanda: Dragon Age has such, is such, like, a popular franchise, and I just don’t understand why more games aren’t like that? I guess –
Sarah: Yeah, I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so incredibly unique. And I will say, even though you are limited to playing as Geralt, the storyline of Witcher 3 is really complicated, and there’s a lot of nuance. It’s just that the major romance elements are very limited.
Sarah: And it, how, and it’s weird: how you feel about these characters depends on how, in a lot of ways, how you were introduced to them? If you met Triss in The Witcher 2, then your impression of her might be different because Yennefer isn’t really a character in that game until the end, but –
Sarah: – she’s in the books, so if you’re reading the books it’s a completely different thing. It’s interesting, the choices that people will make inside Witcher 3 based on how they learned about the, the two main choices.
And then there’s a third person that you can have sex with, and she, like, lays out a whole picnic in a swamp?
Sarah: And I’m like, girl, bug bites? Ew!
Amanda: Get a mosquito net or something.
Sarah: I mean, I guess she’s a, she’s a sorceress, so she can keep them away?
Amanda: I mean –
Sarah: Although I will say – big SPOILER, though; big spoiler – did I tell you about the sex on the horse?
Amanda: Yes, I know about the sex on the horse!
Sarah: Well, there’s sex on a horse.
Sarah: Yennefer has a stuffed unicorn, and –
Sarah: – if you have a cut scene with her, they do it on the stuffed unicorn!
Amanda: Yeah! Why not?
Sarah: I did not know, I did not know when this was about to happen –
Sarah: – and Adam’s playing trivia –
Sarah: – online, by, by way of Zoom; he was with his bar trivia team doing an online trivia; and all of a sudden he hears me go, oh my God! Oh my God! Oh, horse! Oh my God, on the horse?! And there’s, like, silence, and, like, he’s like, we’re all wondering what just happened, and I’m like –
Sarah: – I can’t even tell you. I don’t know them well enough to tell them about what just happened on my screen. And when I had sex with the – not me, but Geralt – had sex with the wiz-, with the witch by the swamp, I was streaming at the time and I hadn’t clicked Explicit? And all of a sudden there were CGI boobs, and I was like, oh, whoa, boobs! I’m sorry, everybody! I did not expect there to be breasts! I mean, everyone’s shirt –
Amanda: Surprise boobs!
Sarah: – is low-cut enough on that, on that game, I, I mean it was bound to happen at some point, someone would need to animate a nipple, but I was not expecting nipples that soon in the game.
Amanda: Well, like, and Morrigan in, like, Dragon Age, she’s got, like, that deep V shirt.
Amanda: I was like, how does that stay – do you got, like, boob tape? Or just, like, witch –
Sarah: Witch, witch, witch’s boob tape? [Laughs]
Amanda: Boob magic?
Sarah: Witch’s swamp boob tape?
Amanda: Swamp boob tape.
Sarah: And the people who successfully cosplay that and get the drape of the cowl neck correct –
Amanda: I can’t. With the size of my chest, I could never.
Amanda: I would need, like, gaffer’s tape just, like, holding everything up.
Sarah: I would need many yards of drapery fabric.
Amanda: I could not.
Sarah: It would be a lot. It would be a lot.
Amanda: God bless ‘em, though. I couldn’t.
Sarah: So you sent me this TikTok?
Amanda: I did! [Laughs]
Sarah: It’s amazing!
@big_norway: Very large!
Sarah: All right.
@big_norway: And Brian!
Amanda: So then yeah…posted, but –
@big_norway: The four types of husband – which one yours? Watch it to and, and – [laughs] – and find it! Supportive, yummy, very large, and, and Brian!
Sarah: So –
Amanda: It’s like the four, like, male romance options in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Sarah: So Kirkwall is supportive; he’s mopey.
Amanda: He’s mopey.
Sarah: And he’s got reason to be mopey: he did some shitty things.
Amanda: Yeah. Dorian is charming.
Sarah: And delicious.
Amanda: Or yummy.
Amanda: Dorian is yummy, yeah.
Sarah: Oh, he’s so yummy. And even if you are not his, his preference –
Amanda: His type, yeah.
Sarah: – if you are, if you are a dwarf or you’re female, I don’t, I think – wait, does, if you’re a male dwarf, will he get with you? I can’t remember.
Amanda: I don’t think so.
Sarah: But even if you are not a romanceable option for Dorian, your role in his story is just wonderful. He’s –
Amanda: And he’s just like, he’s got some good, like, background dialogue, right? Like –
Sarah: Oh, he’s very snarky.
Amanda: I love him and Vivienne in a party together.
Amanda: They just snark at each other the entire time.
Sarah: And while having two – what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s not wizard; it’s not sorcerer; it’s not shaman.
Amanda: Just, like, magic users.
Sarah: Yeah, two magicians, magic –
Sarah: Having two mages – that’s what it is –
Sarah: – having two mages in your party is suboptimal, ‘cause you’ll die a lot?
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Sarah: It’s not necessarily good defensive support –
Sarah: – but dialogue support –
Amanda: Worth it! Like, if you’re –
Sarah: – is fucking great!
Amanda: – just adventuring around.
Sarah: Yeah! Just wander around the desert and listen to them bitch at each other –
Sarah: – it’s great! And then massive! Iron Bull!
Amanda: Iron, Iron Bull is very large, which makes sense.
Sarah: Do you remember when we were talking about TV shows and you said you can sort of tell that sometimes there are some, some actors that are having a really good time? You can just tell that Freddie Prinze, Jr. had a really good time? [Laughs]
Amanda: He is like the biggest nerd, right? And, like –
Sarah: I love it!
Amanda: – he’s been on, like, panels about Dungeons & Dragons and, like –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Amanda: – you can just tell that he really loved doing the voice acting for Iron Bull. Like, he was in heaven.
Sarah: The dog heard me getting really happy and excited and wanted to see what I was happy and excited about and would –
Amanda: [Laughs] He’s like, what’s in here?
Sarah: – and would I give him treats? Can I please have snacky treats? Hello, The Lady.
Amanda: He’s like, she’s in a good mood!
Sarah: Yeah, I’m going to give her, get me some treats!
And then Brian. [Laughs]
Amanda: Which –
Amanda: Cullen looks like a Brian! Like – [laughs] –
Sarah: He totally does. And he’s just the right amount of angsty emo, but still competent. See, the thing about Blackwall – Blackwall, right? Yeah –
Amanda: He’s a Brian.
Sarah: The thing about him is, ‘cause here’s the problem: there’s Blackwall and then there’s Kirkwall? And I get them mixed up.
Amanda: Yeah. Yeahyeahyeah.
Sarah: So Blackwall, he has reason to feel bad –
Sarah: – and he should feel bad, and I, and as a result of knowing what his backstory is, I don’t want to bone him?
Sarah: But I understand that the, that the romance scenes are very schmoopie.
Amanda: He’s, he’s also a little too grizzled for me. Like, the beard –
Sarah: He’s too grizzled!
Amanda: Yeah, like, he’s got that –
Sarah: Too much beard?
Amanda: – bushy beard – yeah. I think the beard is a little too much for me.
Sarah: Hmm. Of the characters you can’t – like, you can romance Cassandra; you can romance, I think you can romance Leliana, though it’s tricky. You can’t romance Julie Montilyet –
Sarah: – the, the diplomat. What is her name?
Sarah: Josephine! I was about to call her Jacqueline. Everyone’s just going to yell at me in the comments ‘cause I can’t remember names; I’m sorry.
Amanda: No, you can romance Josephine!
Sarah: Wait, you can?!
Sarah: Wait, I – I’m going to start a new game!
Amanda: Josephine can be romanced by a male or female Inquisitor of any race.
Sarah: Wait a minute! [Gasps]
Sarah: I did not know!
Amanda: Yeah. Yep-yep-yep. And then, like, there’s other romance options in, like, the DLC, right? The Trespasser DLC.
Sarah: Yes, there are Trespassers.
Amanda: But if, I think there’s a way that Blackwall and Josephine start flirting?
Amanda: Yeah. Yeahyeahyeah.
Sarah: Ooh! You know what, if any character would be able to understand him and the hard, terrible choices that he had made, I think it would be Josephine.
Amanda: Yeah, but I think Josephine is romanceable.
Sarah: All right, I’m going to have to restart and romance the –
Sarah: – romance the – oh, I love it! There are romance-specific side quests?
Sarah: How did I never know this? Oh –
Sarah: – a whole new world has opened up to me.
Amanda: I woke up today thinking about this –
Sarah: About Dragon Age?
Amanda: – to- – yeah, about this topic and about Dragon Age and playing it again, the second one. Yeah, I would just go Fenris again. I just, no one can beat Fenris.
Amanda: So just –
Sarah: I am still playing through Origins as a dude so that I can romance Morrigan. Although, have you romanced Alistair?
Amanda: Yeah, that’s who I did romance in the first one, when I first played through it is Alistair.
Sarah: Yeah. I still want to romance Morrigan.
Amanda: I mean, I don’t blame you.
Sarah: I mean, she’s like Vivienne; she’s just smoking! It’s incredible.
Amanda: Yeah, she’s hot!
Sarah: She’s super hot. And often the, the romanceable characters that have really interesting stories have really interesting romance dialogue.
Amanda: Yes! And I love an angsty dialogue, which is probably why I go for – I know –
Sarah: What? I never would have guessed!
Amanda: Shocker, yeah. [Laughs]
Amanda: So I love the whole, like, we can’t be together because I’m sad all the time! Like –
Amanda: That’s usually how it goes, and I’m like, no! My, my love will heal your sadness!
Amanda: That’s usually how it goes. That’s usually what I prefer. [Laughs]
Sarah: I, no, I misremembered. I beg your pardon. I misremembered: because I am not a male Inquisitor, I can’t romance Cassandra.
Sarah: Cassandra will only romance – and she’s just awesome.
Amanda: Please, I just want the next Dragon Age so much! Or just something similar. I just need something to fill the void, and I feel like I haven’t found anything yet, or nothing comes close.
Sarah: If you were going to create the ideal game, like creating the ideal takeout meal, like the ideal –
Sarah: – fast food meal –
Sarah: – where you get the fries from this place and the chicken from that place –
Sarah: – what elements of your favorite games would you combine?
Amanda: [Snorts] So I think I prefer a fantasy setting –
Amanda: – so I would do –
Sarah: A little bit of magic over space?
Amanda: Yeah, magic over space.
Sarah: Although space is horny, I’ve heard.
Amanda: Space is very horny. But in terms of, like, playing videogames, I prefer, like, I’m not big on, like, shooters anymore or, like, guns. Like, I used to play, like, Halo and, like, first-person shooters a lot, but, like, those don’t really appeal to me anymore.
Amanda: I like being like a range to, like, either magic or, like, an archer or something like that. Let’s see, I like a party focus, so, like, Dragon Age over, like, Skyrim, where you have to have, like, a, a group that goes on adventures together.
Sarah: And different characters have different strengths, so –
Sarah: – like I said, if you have two mages, you’re going to get killed a lot, but the dialogue’ll be great!
Amanda: Yeah. Let’s see, I do like, like you do, the balance of noncombat and combat stuff, right?
Sarah: Yeah. Like, I love puzzle quests!
Amanda: Yeah, I do too!
Sarah: Like, you have to walk in the right order to do the thing so you don’t wake up the giant or whatever.
Sarah: You have to do things in the right order or figure out the puzzle, and it’s not super obvious? I love getting that stuff right!
Amanda: And I like a combination of, like, high stakes and low stakes –
Amanda: – like, storytelling. Like with Dragon Age, you have, like, everyone’s personal, like, side quest, but you have, also have, like, this huge overarching thing where, like, bad shit will happen and destroy the world if –
Amanda: – if this, if this happens. I feel like I just described Dragon Age is what I’ve just described, truthfully.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah! It was a lot! That was, that’s most of the elements of Dragon Age.
Amanda: Yeah! I just think, like, Dragon Age aren’t perfect games, but in terms of –
Amanda: – me as a, a player, like, it pretty much hits all of the notes that I like in a game, and I just want more of that style.
Sarah: I agree. For me, combat is fine; I understand that’s where a lot of the conflict comes in, but I’m not that impressed with combat mechanics. I’m much more interested in a character-driven story and in the –
Sarah: – intricacies of the different characters affecting the story that I am in. Because, like, I’ve talked about when my brain is tired and I don’t quite have enough cognitive energy to read, the videogame has created part of the story; I just have to choose the pieces, and then I get to –
Sarah: – watch it happen and wander around different places. One thing Witcher 3 does so well, especially with a, a mod that I’ve installed that turns up the resolution? It’s fucking gorgeous.
Amanda: Yeah. Yeah.
Sarah: It’s –
Amanda: There are some really –
Sarah: – gorgeous. Not just the banging on the unicorn. I mean, the landscapes –
Sarah: – are beautiful. That pretty part is really great.
Amanda: Yeah, I feel like Dragon Age does have some, like, really beautiful zones.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, I even like Skyhold! Once you get to Skyhold, running around Skyhold’s fun!
Amanda: I like the, where you first meet Vivienne, kind of like the ritzy, magical city where everyone’s, like, wearing masks?
Sarah: I was in –
Amanda: That’s a vibe.
Sarah: I was in France; I was on a tour of Alsace drinking wine, because obvs; and we stopped in a medieval town on the day that they were having some sort of parade and festival, and it was like being in Orlais: everyone was dressed up, wearing masks, and I was completely freaked out. I was like, I’m in Dragon Age right now. No one understands what that means except me, but I’m in Orlais right now. Holy shit!
Amanda: Yeah! I just, I want more games – it doesn’t even have to be the next Dragon Age. I just want more games like Dragon Age where it’s like –
Amanda: – fantasy RPG with, you know, really good, like, character-focused quests and dialogue, and, you know, like, smooching. I also understand, like, that probably takes a lot of time and effort to make, but –
Sarah: Yeah. And I want, I want developers and programmers to have good sleep. Good sleep and good work/life balance and a healthy work environment.
Sarah: I, I would prefer to know that the game that I’m enjoying was not produced by harming other people to make it happen.
Amanda: And maybe, like, there’s stuff coming out; like, I try to stay on top of videogame releases, but maybe there are –
Amanda: – games similar to that coming out that I just don’t know about. And if so, please tell me.
Sarah: Tell Amanda. Yeah, you can tell me how I’m wrong about all the character names, too. I understand that I’m not going to remember these correctly.
Amanda: Yeah. Yeah, after Cyberpunk, which was such a disappointment –
Amanda: – that was, like, the –
Sarah: I don’t know; that glitch was incredible.
Amanda: [Laughs] That was like, that’s the only thing I could have thought of that was, like, recent-ish that had, like, RPG elements and, like, romance elements –
Amanda: – but, man!
Sarah: Was it a bummer?
Amanda: Yeah. I, like, I knew they were offering refunds, but I decided not to get a refund, and I know, like, patches and fixes –
Amanda: – come out or whatever. But yeah.
Sarah: It was a bummer.
Amanda: I don’t want – I feel like it’s a hazard having your tits out in the middle of a gunfight, so.
Sarah: [Snorts] I mean, I guess.
Amanda: I mean, I’m not speaking from experience; I’m just assuming.
Sarah: You brought your tits to a gunfight?
Amanda: Never, never bring a tit to a gunfight!
Sarah: [Laughs] I have one last question for you.
Sarah: What about World of Warcraft? ‘Cause you’re still playing, right? You’re super into it.
Amanda: [Laughs] Well, yes. Super into it. So for all you nerds out there, with Warcraft there’s, like, an expansion, right, and it’s like the new storyline, and then within that expansion is, like, patches –
Amanda: – of, like, new content.
Amanda: Well, everyone was pissed because pretty much there hasn’t been any new content for months, and we’ve all been bored.
Amanda: But the new patch came out last Tuesday.
Amanda: So there’s new, there is a new zone, and today –
Sarah: Just in time for air conditioning season!
Amanda: I know! And today – so there’s maintenance every Tuesday for World of Warcraft. Today the new raid comes out?
Sarah: [Laughs] It’s like new book release and maintenance too on the same day!
Amanda: A new dungeon comes out, and a new raid comes out, and so my –
Sarah: Oh, snap!
Amanda: – my guild and I are doing the new raid on Thursday, which I’m very excited about. And then I’ll probably do the new dungeon content with some of my other guild members today. And for anyone curious, I play a, a restoration shaman, so I’m a healer, and her name is JudiDench, and she’s great.
Sarah: And how is Judi doing?
Amanda: [Laughs] Judi’s doing wonderful!
Amanda: I also, I love naming my characters. Like, I have a warlock named Panini?
Sarah: Is his last name Betwixt the Butt Cheeks?
Amanda: No, we can’t do last names, so she’s just –
Sarah: Well, that’s a problem. Panini.
Amanda: And then I, I have a hunter who, like, she’s a void elf, so you can make her purple if you want?
Amanda: And I’ve named her CrunchBerry, ‘cause she looks –
Sarah: As you do.
Amanda: – like a Cap’n Crunch crunch berry! [Laughs]
Sarah: Can you in-, instigate romances in World of Warcraft?
Amanda: No. Unless you want to start cybering with another player!
Sarah: So there aren’t any NPCs that you can just sort of gather around and romance.
Amanda: No. No, they just give you quests, and that’s it.
Amanda: There’s nothing like that. It’s more –
Sarah: No smooching for fill-, fulfilling the quests? There’s no smooching?
Amanda: No. Well – [laughs] – it’s funny you should say that. There’s one quest where you have to help out this, like, weird, like, fairy group of people, and they need to get this egg away from this giant bird.
Sarah: As you do.
Amanda: So they turn you into a giant bird to flirt –
Amanda: – to flirt with the other giant bird.
Sarah: So you’ve got to walk up to this bird and be like, hey, baby, how you doing?
Amanda: Yeah, to get it to, like, leave the egg alone. So essentially you, they turn you into a bird so you can court another bird.
Amanda: No, World of Warcraft is mostly, like, social interactions, but I’m still playing it. It’s still very fun.
Amanda: And I love, I love my character Judi! She’s great!
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Amanda for hanging out with me and having the idea to talk about this in the first place. That was super fun! Thank you to garlicknitter for transcribing this episode, and thank you for listening! It is awesome that you hang out with me each week, and I’m honored to be a guest in your eardrums, which sounds really skeevy, but I totally mean it. I mean, audio’s pretty intimate, and I really appreciate that you listen each week!
As always, I end with a terrible joke. This one’s really bad; I love it so much.
What do you call a computer that sings?
What do you call a computer that sings?
[Laughs] Adele! I love it so much! I hope you tell many, many people and that they all groan! Adele! Thank you to KIKS1991 for that joke. It still makes me chortle.
I want to give you a special heads-up about next week’s episode: my guests will be the hosts of the podcast Whoa!mance, and we are going to be talking about a brand-new book that comes out on the 27th. It is out, so you can read it if you want to and listen to this episode! It would be nifty if you did! We are going to be talking about Awakened by the CEO’s Kiss by Therese Beharrie, so if you want to read ahead and join us in the conversation, we would love to hear your thoughts about this book. Our episode will be out next week on August 6th!
And on behalf of everyone here, including Wilbur, have a wonderful weekend. We will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding podcasts to listen to at frolic.media/podcasts.
[end of more fun music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.