Monday, June 16, 2014

Love, Sex, and D&D

Well, I knew this day would come sooner or later, so here it is: Everything you wanted to know about love and sex in D&D and were afraid to ask. This is where younger players blush, older ones sigh, and more than a few say, “Oh? Tell me more…” Alright, I will!

First off, let me begin by saying that anyone who joins a D&D group for romance or for the gratuitous nudity is really, REALLY in the wrong place! I can remember playing as young as fifteen, with other teenage boys, our hormones raging out like the Hulk, and still sex/love hardly ever made it into any of our games. It simply didn’t seem to be the right place for it. It wasn’t until a few years later, sitting in on a group made up of mostly girls, with a female DM, that I was exposed (pun intended) to sex in D&D. I wish I someone would have snapped a picture of my face when these female players started to describe in detail how they were seducing an NPC. I’ll bet my eyes were as big as saucers and my jaw almost on the floor.

It was something that I had thought about; I mean, really, when do people not think about sex? But in D&D? It was like swearing in church, it just felt wrong. However, I slowly began to realize that, just like television, moves, and advertising, sex can also be a powerful tool in D&D. Nothing will grab a player’s attention and pull them into a roleplaying situation faster than “he/she meets your eyes, smiles at you, and seems to like what they see.” After all, it’s a perfectly normal interaction in real life and it’s certainly been well represented in other forms of fantasy in the past, why shouldn’t it crop up in D&D from time to time? Is it truly that offensive to our Victorian sensibilities? If so, then I ask why do we have no trouble whatsoever with hacking away limbs, heads, and other appendages but have such a problem talking about people’s naughty bits?     

However, that being said, sex can be a double edged sword. What I mean is, sex will unquestioningly get your player’s attention, but it may not be the attention you expected or wanted.  After including this taboo’ish topic into one of your games, I think you will find that your players will quickly divide into three camps: one group will find it so offending or embarrassing that they will want nothing to do with your game, or request to be left out until the “episode” has past; the second group will listen with a grin on their faces and make some lewd remarks or whistle at certain junctures, essentially turning the whole session into a joke; and the third group will not only take it seriously but may even find it stimulating. In any of these three cases, one can easily see how quickly sex can railroad your campaign.

So what do you do if you feel that romance, love, and sex need to be a part of your game? Well there are only a very few options. Perhaps the most infamous, and in my opinion the most ridiculous, is the use of a book entitled “The Book of Erotic Fantasy”. This is no joke, go ahead look it up. It was published by White Wolf in 2004 under the Open Gaming License (OGL). Incidentally, this book was one of the big reasons why the OGL was eventually scrapped. However, from a DM’s point of view, this book was not only rather useless, it was also way too extreme for its day, or any day thus far for that matter. The one good thing I can say about it was that it was totally unafraid to tackle any sexual topic, any topic at all. But when confronted with the dilemma of how to combine D&D with the unbridled raunchiness of its pages came around, everything was reduced to a table and a dice roll. How anticlimactic (pun intended) is that? Overall, I think most people agree that this book was just an inch short (oh innuendo, how I love thee) of a complete farce.

Another option is to do away with tables and dice and simply roleplay it out. You might have a peek at charisma scores and maybe see if someone is trained in a skill that the other person finds attractive (I’m thinking Athletics, but History can be attractive too right?) but other than that you just hash it out in real time, face to face. Of course the issue here boils down to a simple question: How comfortable are you with flirting/romancing your DM? I know that some of you are laughing or doing spit takes right now, so I’ll give you a moment to get that out of your system. I realize that there are some “tough guy” playing groups out there who wouldn’t be caught dead giving the bedroom eyes to their DM, and on the flip side there might be some players out there who are so in-touch with their sensual sides that they might make the DM a bit uncomfortable describing certain erotic situations. The answer to this dilemma is simple communication. Talk with your players and to the group as a whole if need be. If you know that something like this is going to be a factor, open up the dialog and get an idea of what will work best for everyone. You might be surprised how far the “tough guys” are willing to go!

If tables and rolling seems too cold and roleplaying in real time seems way too intense or intimidating, then I suppose the middle ground would be to plan it out in advance with your DM/player/players. Fantasy is filled with amazing love stories, Lancelot and Guinevere, Aragorn and Arwen, Drizzt and Catti-brie, and D&D should be no different. If you are a DM that wants/needs a romantic couple in your game; or if you are a player that feels as though having a partner is what completes you; then why not talk to the other people in play and work it out in advance. It’s doesn’t need to be set in stone or have every tiny detail mapped out in Power Point, but simply going up to your player or DM and saying, “Hey, this is what I was thinking should happen…can we work that into the game?”, is a great idea. The DM gets to run a game with a whole new emotional level and the player/players have greatly enhanced the depth of their character(s). If the relationship is worked out in advance, it eliminates the awkwardness of trying to establish it from scratch and can be worked into the storyline right from day one.

Overall, the DM and the group have to find the common ground that will work best for everyone. Romance, love, and sex can be added to a game just as easily as combat and NPCs, it just needs to be handled according to the comfort level of the group. I realize that the jokes and the embarrassing moments will be almost unavoidable; however, if you’re serious about it, I challenge you all to give it a try and see how it goes!            

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