Astarion night out after the Tielfing Party, Baldur's Gate 3.
(Larian Studios)

The ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’ Relationship Mechanics Work Because the Creators Value Complexity

Very few AAA games have been able to incorporate sexual encounters without feeling cheap or voyeuristic. However, like every other one of its metrics, Baldur’s Gate 3‘s approach to sex and relationships has excelled. Not just in a technical sense (the game features a wide breadth of sizes and species), but in how a player even experiences the most optional elements of the story. With very few exceptions (or unless the player actively chooses to), none of the romances are one-night stands. They are all full relationships, even if it’s friends-with-benefits or an allegiance made before a priest. This was only possible because of the care given at every level of production.

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The elephant in the room: not everyone takes this as seriously as the writers, artists, and other creatives who worked on BG3. For example, sex speedrunning is apparently a thing. It’s also, unfortunately, one of the few fandom spaces where Lae’zel is a popular choice (that’s another conversation for another day). Still, for those interested in the whole experience instead of a quick accomplishment, Larian Studios has us covered. The Belgium-based studio managed to deliver incredibly intimate moments mostly by constructing an elaborate tapestry of possibility before, during, and after each midnight romp. All of which is to say that they made these relationships feel real and centered consent.

Designing characters as fully realized people with no loyalty to you

The only SFW image I have of me and Lae'zel from 'Baldur's Gate 3' is her holding my hand.
(Larian Studios screencap by Alyssa Shotwell)

Be yourself and don’t treat the romance as just a quest.

Baudelaire Welch, Senior Narrative Designer

The day before Larian Studios released the full PC version of BG3, I gave some advice about romancing, which includes just being yourself (or whoever you are role-playing) and listening to your party members. These words have only gotten more valid as all the characters I’m romancing have begun pushing back against my plans and wishes. I’m pretty amicable and compromising, but many are testing it, and I’m trying to steer them away from bad decisions (for themselves and others) without striking a nerve. Based on my own experience and this July video from the creators, this advice remains relevant. (Also, for those who need to hear it, it’s just good relationship advice!)

@larianstudios You are at the centre of Baldur’s Gate 3, and your identity drives your relationships. Our writers talk about the depth of choices, consequences, companions and romance in Baldur’s Gate 3. #baldursgate3 #gamingontiktok #gaming #dnd #dndtiktok #gamingtiktok #whattoplay ♬ original sound – Larian Studios

This strategy is only possible because the creatives designed the Origin Characters and companions as people independent of the player’s story. Sarah Baylus, BG3‘s Principal Writer, expanded upon this weeks before the game’s Early Access released (and years before I’d even heard of BG3). In Community Update #7, posted in September 2020, Baylus said, “When you meet the characters in this game, they’re not really waiting for the player character to happen upon them. They have their motivations, reasons to be there, history … When the player meets them, they have an opportunity to form a party that has a shared goal.”

Each character has their own wants and needs beyond rest and a good roll of the dice. These needs and wants aren’t fun facts for a mixer. These are their realties. That’s why your every action or inaction with regards to the environment, other characters, and the story colors their approval of you. The side characters don’t all agree (or even like each other), and they’re often pulling you in different directions. As the story progress, you and your companions can and probably will change. The initial hate some characters even have for one another will lead to death—and quickly—unless you can prevent it.

Beyond the romantic relationships in the game, you ultimately have to build trust with these characters or you won’t even have them in your party—not as backup in a fight, let alone as someone to contemplate the severity of your mission with. This works because both the player and the romanceable characters are fully fledged people. (Well, to the extent they can be as video game characters.)

Baldur’s Gate 3 captures intimacy

Gale takes you on a date in the stars.
(Larian Studios screencap by Madeline Carpou)

Handling with care is not just something the players must do, but something the behind-the-scenes team focused on throughout shooting. One of the most talked about (though not the wildest) sex scenes includes Astarion (Neil Newbon) and Halsin (Dave Jones), in the druid’s bear form. Newbon (who also served as a game’s consultant) was actually the motion capture director for that shoot. When‘s The Character Sheet asked what it was like directing a scene like that, Newbon became really serious and emphasized the discussions of boundaries and trust with performers.

Newbon revealed that Larian contracted multiple intimacy coordinators to work on Baldur’s Gate 3. With roots in theater performances, these coordinators act as choreographers and advocates for the performers. They ensure consent is present during every step of the scene. Unfortunately, the TV and film industries (and yes, video games) have yet to make the inclusion of intimacy coordinators standard practice. Before BG3, Immortality was the only game known to employ these essential experts. Performers—particularly women—continue to sing the praises of working with intimacy coordinators.

In an interview with BBC Newsbeat, Jennifer English (Shadowheart) and Devora Wilde (Lae’zel) shared similar experiences with Newbon. They both agree the game definitely got weird at times but never crossed a personal line. “I never felt ‘yuck’ in a recording session at all,” said English. “And I’ve got quite a low ‘yuck’ threshold.”

In the aforementioned Community Update #7, Cinematic Director Jason Latino explained how this consent extended to the animation process. After artists drafted the storyboard, the animation side showed performers what they were looking for. Latino “[let] the actors know how we’re going to use that data, and how we’re going to present that performance to the audience.”


Ellesméra (Alyssa) at camp performing 'Sing to Me' on lute for Madeline, Karlach, and Shadowheart in 'Baldur's Gate 3.'
(Larian Studios screencap by Alyssa Shotwell)

They give a shit.

Neil Newbon

Beyond handling their characters and sex scenes with care and nuance, it appears that these principles of respect and collaboration were maintained throughout the production. In that same interview with, Newbon shared that he and the hundreds of people he worked with felt supported by Larian. He saw and worked with people from a wide array of backgrounds, sexualities, and genders in all parts of the production process—and felt that everyone was always included.

Newbon’s just one guy, but you get the same sense from every person involved in the making of Baldur’s Gate 3. I rarely heard an “I” in any of the behind-the-scenes videos or during big onstage presentations. This includes when Larian CEO Swen Vincke comes out to talk about the game in a literal suit of armor. “You’re all part of the same team and it’s really open like that,” Newbon exclaims. “It’s also reflected in the game.” Whenever someone from Larian speaks, they reference the work of others who made their task—and ultimately, this game—possible.

(featured image: Larian Studios screencap by Alyssa Shotwell)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.