Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Sex in Table Top Games
by Tobie Abad
Not everyone is comfortable with doing the nasty in front of their friends (and yes, I understand there are exceptions to the rule). Nor is everyone comfortable watching their friends get it on. But given how sex is a vital part of the human experience, there are times when it might have to... shall we say... be consummated in a role-playing game scene.
So how does one approach the topic without turning the whole game into a queasy moment of die-a-sutra?
REMEMBER THIS IS A GAME, NOT PORN
If you keep in mind you are in a table top game, and not a simulated porn flick, you should already be moving in the right direction. Given how many role-playing games focus on showing rather than telling, but tend to get played with telling rather than showing, when it comes to having a sex scene, you might want to stick to the telling if your comfort levels aren't that flexible. The Princess and the Knight make love in the woods after he steals her away from the Dragon that kept her locked up all these years? Then just run it as "I make love to her with the stars as our ceiling, the grass as our bed. We kiss and savor each moment. We fall fast asleep beneath the full moon." End scene.
And mind you, that example is already a tad too advanced for some groups. A simple, "I make love to her in the woods," might be the most one can be comfortable about in some groups. And frankly, that's fine. Because the scene is still given a narrative which supports the feel of the moment. Compare that to a player going, "Sure, I fuck her nice," and while for some people that might not be an issue at all, generally speaking such a delivery would sound less about making love and more about just rutting in the woods. What scene did you want to have again?
BE A CAMERA
And focus on the key parts. She breathes heavily. His fingers trace the moles on her skin. They exchanges kisses gently. Sweetly. Roughly. Her hand clamps over his, and finger intertwine. She bites her lip. His eyes close tight. They fall asleep, locked in an embrace, naked against the grass.
Lovely. Sultry. But definitely not porn-ific in approach.
When it comes to sex, less can be so much more.
BE THE POET
The two loves lie beneath the canopy of stars. Their eyes stare into each other. Not too far away, a bee lands gently on a flower, its actions purposeful yet gentle. The nectar is sweet. The flower smells intoxicating. The midnight blooms open. The fireflies dart into the sky. Silence. Peace. The two lie asleep with their skins damp with the morning dew.
The montage of images usually has been used in films to comedic effect in talking about the sexual act (Austin Power's for one was infamous for this) but when delivered with less humor and more drama in mind can be an effective non-porn approach to the act of love.
The two lovers step into the glade. Their hands slide across their clothes as they kiss. Fingers untie knots. Flumbing loosens buttons. And as they move closer, we focus on the full moon above them. We dissolve to... next morning. The Moon is now a Sun. We pan down to see the two, still there. He is half-asleep, naked save for the blanket of leaves.
The cut-away is a huge show rather than tell approach, and might be the best especially when dealing with younger players (mentally or chronologically.)
BUT IF WITH A GROUP YOU CAN TRUST AND TRUSTS YOU BACK...
Then don't be afraid to let sex take even the focus of the story. I recall in a Weapons of the Gods campaign I ran for my group, the finale sequence had the heroes duking it out against the Demon Emperor, who had prophecised that he would be unstoppable once the Emperor's child, who was destined to ensure the Emperor's legacy was not forgotten was conceived. But given how the Emperor and a player's character were already consummating their love that moment, the character had to use her immense sexual techniques and acupuncture to keep the Emperor from... finishing, while the two other heroes defeated the mystical nemesis. So yes, that was a game where the combat rolls were punctuated with "Roll your acupuncture skills to keep him from releasing." We were laughing, but at the same time, celebrating the awesome martial arts over-the-top Wuxia feel of the game.
It can be easy for sexual related stuff in a game to take the direction of a Monty Python movie, or a comic sequence from Oglaf, but with the right players, sex can be a factor just as valid and important as a fight sequence, an interrogation scene, or a reaffirmation of loyalties in a game. For instance, I ran a Call of Cthulhu inspired World of Darkness one shot where the players realized the evil wanted to use the other player character to become the host of the Great Old Ones' return. Her virginity and purity was what made her a valid choice. So, given they were trapped underground with no means of stopping these hideous godlike things, the other player realized there was only one last way to save the world, and somehow keep them both alive. He raped the female player character. While in no way do we condone rape, or violence against women, given the game's gritty disturbing nature and premise, we all felt it was an unthinkable act done to save an undeserving world.
SEX... ONLY IF YOU'RE MATURITY LEVEL CAN HANDLE IT.
Consider shows like Spartacus, True Blood, Game of Thrones, and even older movies like Fifth Element and Eyes Wide Shut. The presence of sexual acts can, if done in a way the group deems mature and dramatic, work to enhance the narrative elements of the story itself. So stop thinking that the moment you mention breasts, the game has devolved into a fantasy wank fest of socially inept teens. That's what the non-geeks want you to believe.