So you're playing a game that, for whatever reason, rewards you for pursuing a romantic partner. All well and good: increasing Relationship Values that have beneficial effects, some game-mechanical in nature, others less so, has a long and time-honored place in games about relationships.
But what happens if you get these bonuses for seducing everyone who's even mildly interested in you, rather than developing a single intense relationship?
Remember that this isn't limited to romantic relationships. If getting your friends to trust you results in gameplay benefits, that's this trope as well.
Not to be confused with Friends with Benefits.
- In Sentimental Graffiti: The more girls you meet and the more relationships you cultivate results in more memories being unlocked, which in turn increases your stamina, allowing you to do more things. (However, you are only allowed to have one date at any given time, and can only confess your feelings to one girl at the end of the game.)
- The RPG-DatingSim hybrid Brave Soul gives each party member Level Ups as you pursue them romantically. Once you have sex with one, though, no more dates (and thus level-ups at Intimacy 5) can be pursued with any other girl... Thus rewarding the pursuit of all of them before finally choosing your girl.
- Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia isn't a heavy offender on this — for starters, because it only has two normal love interests and a secret one — but there's points in the game where you're forced to use the girl besides the one you're focusing on romantically, and if you haven't at least gone through the motions with the other girl, the game suddenly gets harder and more tedious.
- Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica is a bit better about this. While the first allows you to go through the entire cosmopshere of each girl complete with the concluding levels that are basically marriage ceremonies, the second only allows you to progress past the halfway mark with one girl, and choosing to do this irreversibly locks you in to her ending.
- Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel reverses it, though. While you can't complete everyone's Comsosphere, you can go most of the way (and complete one if you turn down her confession). It does, however, fit more strongly than the first game in other ways: the girls can turn into other girls this time, and how deep you've Dived determines how much they'll strip for you in battle. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- Fallen London has quite a bit of this, particularly if you focus on your Persuasive skills. In some cases it's actually harder to avoid or get out of a relationship than to start one, sometimes requiring... creative measures to express non-interest.
- Fallout 4 gives you a permanent and unique Perk if you manage to impress a companion enough for them to idolize you, some of them quite powerful - damage reduction when you're outnumbered by foes, a better chance of landing a headshot, and so on - so it's worth it to build up your relationship with as many companions as possible. Which can result in a very strange playthrough, since these characters have very different, if not outright contradictory, ways of earning their approval. You don't have to enter a full-blown romance with every companion to get their perks, and indeed some are unromanceable, but since Polyamory is apparently an accepted part of life in the wasteland, the only downside comes if you're brazen enough to flirt with someone in front of another paramour, costing you approval points with them. Of course, four companions are tied to specific factions in the game, most of which hate each other, so it's almost impossible to get every possible companion perk.
- The newer Fire Emblem games give you bonuses for developing relationships, and while a character can only have one A-rank relationship, if you surround them with their A, and the rest Bs, they become an unstoppable weapon of destruction. It's effective to the point that people have created charts detailing how to arrange and ship your army in order to get optimal stats. Many of the relationships make little-to-no sense, in-character.
- In the GBA games, Supports are predetermined and not all end in actual relationships, just friendships or deeper backstory.
- In all games before Radiant Dawn to use the support system, you're limited to a total of five support conversations. You can only have one A and one B, or two B's and a C, etc. In Radiant Dawn, you're only allowed 1 support per character and it can be with any other character. (However, you can delete and change said support if you wish.)
- Awakening removes all limits on how many supports you can have, even A-level supports. S-level supports, on the other hand... you only get one of those. And it can result in babies. This new system is retained for Fates.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a Shipping variation: as in most games in the franchise, building up support levels between units also increases their effectiveness together in battle. For the most part, this simply incentivises building friendships, which is pretty normal and intuitive. However, the highest support rank non-protagonist characters can reach with each other (A-rank) is sometimes explicitly romantic, and there are no restrictions on how many A-rank supports a character can unlock. Because of this, setting up complex polyamory webs late in the game provides some pretty nice bonuses. (It doesn't work the same with Byleth, however, as their supports don't become romantic until the S Rank, which can only be achieved with one character.)
- A minor example in Lunarosse, as there are only two relationships to build. This is a more plausible example in that only one of the relationships is romantic in nature while the other is platonic (much to the other person's frustration).
- If you want your entire team to survive Mass Effect 2's suicide mission, you're advised to obtain their loyalty by doing each party member's personal sidequest. However, you can only date one of them. Note also that they receive an extra ability once they are loyal, so it has more direct benefits.
- While most of the relationships aren't romantic, gathering Brotherbonds in the Megaman Star Force series increases your link power, which allows you to have more stat/ability bonuses. The effort needed in order to get a Brotherbond decreases as the series goes on. In the first game, getting one is a story event, which first occurs roughly a third of the way through the game, while in the third you get them from virtually every NPC who gives you a sidequest.
- Nonromantic example: in the original Neverwinter Nights game, talking to your henchman or -woman every few levels will get them to increasingly open up about themselves, and solving a little sidequest for them (usually by simply handing them a Plot Coupon you've found) pays off in the form of a magic item they'll give you. What makes it an example of this trope is that with enough gold you can hire on all of them (all but one conveniently hang out in the same inn originally), then leave all but the one you really want at the moment behind and simply revisit them every so often to get the exact same subplot advancement benefits from each as though every single one had been adventuring with you all the time.
- Persona 3: Nearly every female Social Link winds up becoming of a romantic nature, and since maxing out each Social Link allows you to create the best Persona of that Link's Arcana... yeah. The game does punish you if you try to, erm, "level up" two girls at the same time (they get jealous), but once you hit max Rank and create an "unbreakable bond" you are free to resume building your harem.
- One of the improvements Persona 4 made on this system was allowing you to max out your female Social Links without having to enter a romantic relationship with the girl in question, simply giving you the option to do so, complete with a warning if you chose an option that would cause your relationship to move beyond friendship—especially if you already had a girlfriend. (You can still end up two-timing if you wish, though if you attempt such a thing you suffer absolutely no negative consequences... if you're playing the original. If you're playing the Golden remake, the game will make you feel like a horrible person.)
- The female MC of Persona 3 Portable defaults to Just Friends with various potential Love Interests, but can move into romance via a Guide Dang It! set of choices.
- As expected, Persona 5 gives you the option to romance up to nine women at once, and because of the effects of the calendar mechanic, some of those romances will be initiated simultaneously. Doing so is consequence-free for nearly all of the game, right up until the day after Valentine's Day, and you're inevitably caught by all of them at once, which... doesn't end well. It should be noted that, as with its predecessor, most players don't choose to go the harem route.
- Rakenzarn Tales is planned to have 15 different dating prospects, each providing their own stat boosts, items or even new moves for dating them. However, dating both Yuffie and Dark Magician Girl leads to them having a minor squabble in Chapter 8, suggesting that there will be consequences for trying to hook up with that many girls.
- In the RPG-Dating Sim hybrid Sakura Wars series, each character's combat stats are dependent on her relationship with the player character. Been neglecting one of the girls? Hope you weren't banking on her being any help to you in the next boss battle.
- In Sid Meier's Pirates!, every port city in the Caribbean has a Governor's daughter whom the player character can court for a series of quest rewards. Although he can only marry one, he can still have A Girl in Every Port and get those quest benefits (in an entirely literal sense) from each and every one.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic you have companion Affection which you gain by saying things your companions like and giving them expensive gifts. The benefit is a significant time reduction in how long companion missions take, more chance of a critical result, and a slight improvement in their combat effectiveness.
- In Thousand Arms, your Relationship Values with each girl determines what spells and abilities can be given to your weapons. You need those spells to survive the later stages of the example. For example, if you don't get a more powerful Heal spell, later enemies will hurt you faster than you can heal.
- The original Harvest Moon and Harvest Moon 64 rewarded you in the final evaluation if you had all five of your potential brides at Red Heart level (and the original gave you a "Ladies Man" ending if you didn't marry any of them.) In fact, in HM64, you had to have a certain level of friendship with the other brides to get them to marry their alternate suitors. (And in Karen's case, keep her from leaving town). Later games eliminated this by locking down affection points once you got married. Friendship was a separate score and still counted.
- The Sims:
- In The Sims 2, if you choose the romance aspiration for your sim, one of their goals will be to "woohoo" with twenty different sims, which gives you points. It's even possible through very careful planning to juggle that many relationships at the same time. Heaven help you if you get caught cheating, though.
- The Sims 3 makes it even harder: the entire town exists, rather than separately loaded lots, and to make matters worse, if you get the Late Night Expansion Pack, rumors will spread. They don't even have to be true!
- A non-romantic example is the necessity to befriend people to get job promotions, a mechanic that has existed in all three games. However, it varies between jobs (the Slacker career introduced in Night Life almost entirely revolves around making friends instead of building skills), and while in the first two games you could befriend anyone and it would count, in the third it's changed so that you need to build your relationship with your boss and/or co-workers specifically.
- In The Sims Medieval there's an achievement for making 25 friends with the Monarch, as well as quest objectives that go better, or only work at all, when your Sim's relationship with the other one is good.
- In Stardew Valley, in a non-romantic example, increasing your relationship with the locals will result in them sending you gifts and recipes in the mail.
- In Tokimeki Memorial, and the first game of the Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side series, unlocked love interests will get frustrated and 'bomb' the player, reducing affection levels around the board, if ignored for too long. This means that unlike most dating games where monogamy is rewarded, it's much harder to play unless you occasionally go on dates with characters you aren't intending on ending up with. However, it is often possible to simply not meet a love interest to begin with, so most players avoid unlocking unnecessary love interests to minimise the problem.
- Verdant Skies doesn't exactly have gameplay advantages to polyamory, but there is a specific achievement for dating seven people at once.
- In order to get Hundred Per Cent Completion of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, it's necessary to complete the date with both Paz and Kaz, and certain Extra Ops won't unlock until you do; they also both yield various useful items, some of which can only be obtained by achieving maximum affinity with them. Ironically, the prize for successfully seducing Paz (the girl) is Big Boss's fanservice outfit, but the prize for successfully seducing Kaz (the man) is a bikini for the female characters. Since Big Boss dating a man causes mass Squick with certain fanboys, it's not uncommon to hear the instructions for obtaining the Patriot blueprints euphemistically described as 'knock out and pat down the lone soldier in Extra Ops 68'. Dating them doesn't impact on the plot or change the relationship between Snake and the character at all, but since the dates are only unlocked by completing the main story, this isn't unusual.
- World of Horror: Allies typically offer various stat boosts and other passive bonuses; Kana, for instance, can lower the amount of damage you take in combat. Many of Mizuki's Perks are specifically geared around having as many allies as possible, and you can play with all unlocked Perks being accessible to all characters, potentially incentivizing everyone to surround themselves with Allies... if they can.
- The only stats you have in Bliss Stage are Relationship Values - if you can get high-Intimacy, high-Trust relationships in most of La Résistance, you're unstoppable in your Empathic Weapon Humongous Mecha.
- In Maid RPG most player characters can benefit from both seducing and being seduced (this doesn't have to mean anything sexual in context); in general, affection keeps you going. In the less competitive games where players aren't trying to manipulate each other, the rulebook explicitly states the rules limiting seduction attempts and mandating some form of resistance (and encouraging things to go very awkwardly wrong) are an attempt to prevent - well, this.
- HDD and SP Moves in Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart use a gauge that can only be filled by your all-female army trading power-up kisses. The quickest way to fill it is to have 2 or 3 characters kiss the active one at once. In addition, the platinum trophy requires you to max all the characters' Relationship Values with all the other characters.
- In Record of Agarest War it is possible, through judicious use of a guide, to have all 3 love interests at intimacy 5 at the end of each generation. You can still only marry one, but having all of them at level 5 lets you choose any bride.
- Sengoku Rance is essentially More Friends, More Benefits on steroids. And for good reason, too befriending (for males)/romancing (for females) the characters nets you most everything for a particular character: personal powerup, squad powerup, H-scenes (girls only, naturally) and backstory. Some characters start as The Load and can be turned into Game Breakers.
- Grand Theft Auto:
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, CJ's girlfriends each have their own bonuses for dating them. There is a cop who lets CJ keep his money and weapons after getting arrested, a nurse who does the same if he becomes incapacitated (even if the incident doesn't happen in the ladies' jurisdictions), a mechanic who fixes and paint his cars for free (but only if you go to her garage in San Fierro), and a few others with minor bonuses. At some point you can even drive your girlfriends' cars, despite the fact that they're never returned in one piece (if at all.) Dating one of the girls is necessary to complete the game; the rest are optional.
- Niko Bellic can do the same thing in Grand Theft Auto IV, though his girlfriend perks are substantially less useful. He can also maintain limited relationships with male friends that are substantially more profitable, but no more in depth than drinking or darts. Truth in Television.
- In Bliss Stage: Love Is Your Weapon. If you manage to get the stable triangular relationship - the one where Josh, Anna and Meredith are all partners - you have TWO pilots, each with TWO weapons at maximum power!
- Downplayed in Daughter for Dessert. There is a harem ending which is very hard to get, but other than that, there is no discernible difference between the number of girls that the protagonist has sex with.
- Played with in Double Homework. Dr. Mosely/Zeta, in her experiment, wants to guide the protagonist into bedding Lauren, Morgan, Amy, and Rachel, because only then will she get the grant money that she seeks. That said, she gives her assent toward him getting down with Ms. Walsh, and even conducts her own x-rated “experimental therapy,” in order to further his sex odyssey.
- Inverted in Melody. The player can obtain Melody points at certain times if the protagonist is only in a relationship with Melody. Also, dating Melody and Amy simultaneously leads to a bad ending if the player lets it go on long enough.
- Zigzagged in both the Galaxy Angel and Galaxy Angel II trilogies. While it is better for you to build and maintain good rapport with all the Angels under your command, you can only ever specifically romance one member throughout the game and its sequels. That being said, it is still not a good idea to make others lose their trust at you, because this directly translates into poorer performance during the Real-Time Tactics segments. Romantic plot-wise, this trope is mostly averted as at no point do the games allow Tact or Kazuya to two-time on their choosen girlfriends, so harem endings are out of the question. The closest that this trope may come into play is on Kahlua/Tequila's route in the final game, when Tequila manages to manifest in a separate body thanks to an accident involving nanomachine organism Cookie, and she says that Kazuya now has to take care of both of them. This does end up bringing out its own troubles, though.
Non-video game examples:
- The first chapter of 12 Beast (by the author of Monster Musume) has its hero leading an army of assorted Cute Monster Girls as if it were a strategy game, using their traits to best effect.
- Negima! Magister Negi Magi, wherein the protagonist kissing/forming a pactio with as many girls as possible is highly incentivized, though not so much for his sake as theirs: it allows them to borrow his magic energy for self-defense, communicate with him telepathically, and grants them a unique magic item related to their abilities. In a strange subversion, by the time of the fight with the Big Bad in the magical world, several of the girls have effectively used Negi to get the cool toys & powers without having hardly any romantic feelings for him. It's just one kiss, after all. Played straight in later chapters, when Negi obtains the ability to use the magical items of all the girls he has formed a pactio with.