Love and the Species
Many campaigns and games are filled with very different and unique races, species, and offshoots. Often times these groups have their own cultures and identities. With such groups it would not at all be uncommon to see very different types of love, or different ways of expressing that love. And even if your game is only one kind of race there is certainly the potential for different cultures to poses different customs and ways of handling love. So let's take a look at some considerations for how societies and races handle love.
Understanding love: There's a lot that can be learned just by looking at how people quantify love. Take a society that believes there's only one kind of love. They may experience a great deal of trouble and confusion when it comes to identifying their feelings, especially towards close friends, lovers, and family. They may realize that these are different kinds of love, and yet without an understanding of why; they may face many uncomfortable experiences in life. Meanwhile a culture that has 1,000 kinds of quantifiable love speaks of a very emotionally intelligent people who have an easy time quantifying their feelings. Likewise there may be races with no understanding of love and how it works, whether they be incapable of it, or even incapable of any emotion.
Expressing love: Sometimes saying how you feel can be very hard. Races and cultures can have many different ways of expressing ideas. A vampire experiencing something close to love might choose to enslave or torture the object of their fascination. Meanwhile someone else might write a nice letter or e-mail. Perhaps a Dwarf would create a gift for their beloved, while an Orc might take to bullying or teasing them, intending it to be harmless. Other's might not know how to express their feelings at all, and that can be every bit as painful and confusing as not being able to understand. Some groups might have varied and clashing romantic ideals, others might have a very formal and well documented courting system. Also consider the symbolism of love. Is love represented by a heart? A Kidney? A sea sponge? Are lovers seen as waifish whimsical poets and young idealists? Or is the archetypical lover someone older, experienced, nurturing and supportive?
The rules of love: "All is fair and love and war" but does this hold true for all peoples? Every society has customs and beliefs about who, how, why, and when you should or shouldn't love someone. Some might contain love to within the same social caste, or even only to someone of a different caste, or to people above or below a certain age, or of only the same or different species. There are of course also rules for conducting courtship. Is it taboo to hit on a friend's ex? To seduce away their spouse? To date a friend's great grandmother? These rules and values become moral touchstones for a civilization. They speak volumes about how to view love, life, and themselves, and the world around them.
The differences of love: Even more dramatic than how they pursue and quantify love, some races may experience it differently. Perhaps a long lived race only feels love for anything in relatively short intervals of time. They love passionately for a few years before completely shedding those feelings. Perhaps a race loves incredibly easily, every bit as committed as a more slowly built bond. It's also possible there are some beings that cannot feel real love at all, and instead are only capable of lust and obsession. You can also create brand new kinds of love that most people might never even consider a possibility, or envision a culture or race that only feels a single type of love.
Hopefully this look at love among different cultures and species has sparked some ideas or a new take on a classic ideal.