Romance stories come in all forms, spinning a narrative around charming or chaotic get-togethers. As with any genre, romance stories have plenty of tropes that often pop up. Even when it isn’t the focus, weaving in romantic pursuits is common in most forms of media.
Video games are no exception to this and can be some of the best parts if executed well. RPGs and visual novels particularly excel in this department, with Baldur’s Gate 3 being the latest journey to spur discussions over fan-favorite characters and interactions. More specifically, who to romance — since that kind of relationship is a key feature.
This applies whether players create a custom character or play as one of the origin characters. These pre-made characters consist of the companions found in the game’s first act and have interactions unique to their perspective. Just as with a custom character, the origin character forms deep bonds with others and can even pursue romance.
I’m currently doing a Lae’zel run, and I went in thinking Shadowheart would be my romantic choice. It’s a classic enemies-to-lovers story of a half-elf who dislikes githyanki and a githyanki who only knew battle.
Things took a change when Karlach and Lae’zel began interacting. I’m playing the latter as a slightly nicer version of her pre-set personality, and apparently, that meant bonding with Karlach. Before I knew it, the tiefling with an infernal engine as a heart set off a flame in mine. She’s a great character, whoever you play as, but there’s something special about her and Lae’zel’s romance.
A little Baldur’s Gate 3 romance pairs the unlikely
When not playing Baldur’s Gate 3 as Lae’zel, she comes off as quite prickly. Bred and raised to battle as a githyanki Fighter, Lae’zel has a tough exterior and doesn’t leave a great impression. Initial encounters can make her out to be callous, but her attitude comes from decades of brutal training. Once broken away from the githyanki armed forces, she softens and grows as a person. Still, it’s a hard road to travel as she reevaluates her core beliefs.
Karlach, meanwhile, wields a strong identity but carries a decade of trauma after serving under Zariel in Avernus. The allegiance was against her will as Envor Gortash betrayed her and sold her off to Avernus’ Archduchess, who turned her heart into an infernal machine. Despite everything she went through, Karlach remains a cinnamon roll of a person. She refuses to join players who invade the grove and disapproves of instigating violence. She’s a Barbarian with a heart of literal iron, but it’s still the softest in the party.
Opposites attract is a typical romance trope, but this is more emphasized in Lae’zel’s relationship with Shadowheart. Those two begin the journey hating each other before forming a genuine bond, and something similar doesn’t occur with Lae’zel and Karlach in most playthroughs. Karlach’s story mostly intersects with Wyll’s, while Lae’zel’s story is largely independent.
Yet when the stars align, and destiny brings them together, a sweet romance blossoms. Either character can be the protagonist, but in my case, it began with Lae’zel as the lead and a single line that changed everything.
Bringing the astral warrior and infernal warrior together
As mentioned, getting Karlach to like Lae’zel mostly involves playing as a slightly nicer version of Lae’zel. I would categorize her as more willing to help out anyone in need. I’m still rude and insensitive, but I try not to be quite as abrasive. I also play things cleverly, as she does, taking the first opportunities to strike when I can or avoiding conflict when needed.
It was how I played her when attempting to romance Shadowheart, but then Karlach’s one-liner swooped in. After recruiting the tiefling, a conversation begins about where they would be in different circumstances. I had this conversation before, but this was different because there was a githyanki-specific line available. I clicked it for role-playing purposes, and Karlach painted a picture of the mighty Lae’zel riding her dragon. She called the scene magnificent, and I swooned.
Karlach doesn’t endorse everything Lae’zel does, but that’s balanced by her encouragement elsewhere. This includes the kindness or sympathies my Lae’zel offers with a grimace, with her attempts never going unnoticed. I also go a bit out of my way to be sweeter to Karlach as a show of care and appreciation. Then, slowly, Laezel’s hardened surface begins to crack.
Since Karlach is literally too hot to the touch, the bond begins as solely an emotional one. Lae’zel and her talked under the stars and attempted to kiss after Karlach was doused by water, beginning a genuinely cute, endearing affair.
The most cathartic moment was undoubtedly when Karlach’s heart finally cooled, letting her and Lae’zel share a long-awaited kiss. They could finally express their feelings without using words, and hopefully, the latest patch means a happy ending. I haven’t reached the end yet, but I’m hoping for the best.
Baldur’s Gate 3 lets players indulge in their ships
Romance options in an RPG are nothing new. The second Baldur’s Gate even had them back in 2000. Many RPGs with romance let players pair up with companions as custom characters exclusively. Games like Witcher 3 offer a pre-made protagonist with two romantic candidates, but Baldur’s Gate 3 interestingly explores both ideas.
Baldur’s Gate 3 would typically only allow for a custom character to be the active protagonist and keep companions as eligible singles, but its side companions can be the protagonist. Lae’zel was my first romance in this game, but this playthrough has her as my lead since I picked her in the beginning. She has pre-established tension with Shadowheart that can easily turn romantic, but Karlach could warm even her cold heart.
I realized here that I thought like the typical fandom shipper, and Baldur’s Gate 3 is a shipper’s dream game. Ships can be fun, and Baldur’s Gate 3 allows players to explore those options thanks to having the origin characters be playable.
Are you curious what a Wyll and Gale romance would look like? That’s doable. Have Karlach act out of character and get with Minthara? Baldur’s Gate 3 says yes.
There are probably ships some fans have that are impossible to bring to life in Baldur’s Gate 3. Someone like Jahiera isn’t romanceable, so a pairing with Lae’zel is reserved for fan fiction. Yet the game lets players live out interesting pairings that many other games wouldn’t allow.
By now, I’ve probably played too much Baldur’s Gate 3. My time split between the PS5 and PC versions has eaten up my schedule, and I should probably move on. Still, the shipping possibilities have broadened my idea of romance in games, and I’m all in for their touching journey.