I can only speculate why other bloggers don’t write about sex in their D&D campaigns. Maybe people really DON’T do “Sex and D&D” anymore. Maybe they never did, and my gaming group was a bunch of super-perverted adolescents. Maybe they feel that this kind of “role-playing” is private and need not be discussed in the blog-o-sphere. Leave that for those Indie gamer guys that are so “in your face” about role-playing their emotional content anyway.
Or maybe, like myself, folks are kind of/somewhat embarrassed to even bring it up.
I mean, it’s hard to imagine now the games I played as a 12-14 year old kid. I’ve played with other kids in the 12-15 year old range over the course of the last year (acting as DM) and they seemed pretty immature to play the kind of games I used to play, “way back when.” Then again, what do I know? In general the kids always minded their P’s and Q’s around Uncle JB, and I know that at their age I was swearing like a sailor. Who’s to say what kind of game they’d be interested in, if they were hanging with their peers?
Perhaps we all tend to forget how fast we grow up as children. Not that we know everything (God forbid…I was immensely stupid, even in my 20s, and still am about a variety of things!), but kids aren’t nearly as infantile as we assume they are for as long as we assume they are.
Or maybe they are. Hell, my friends and I were reading well above our own grade level at the time (thanks for the education, TSR!)…I think I was tested as have reading skills equal to college freshman when I was still in the 8th grade. So maybe we were “forcing” our games into more mature realms, even as we did so using a game.
A game for ADULTS, at least originally.
So what then, exactly, did our games involve? How did “Sex and D&D” look in-game so to speak? Are we just talking about buying drinks for the resident harlot at the local inn or what?
Well, sure, “wenching” was a part of the game, as might be expected from young adolescents privy to pulp fiction/comics and B Fantasy films. I think a lot of young male players from way back can probably relate to this kind of action. Later on, Comeliness played a good sized role in this.
Character back-story was another place sex showed up…especially the heredity/ancestry of humans and semi-humans. Demihumans, of which there were very few player characters, were left pretty much alone as a kind of “alien” species…practically immortal and inhuman, they could care less about things our mere mortals worried about (i.e. breeding and dying). Halflings (especially post-Dragon Lance) were generally played like kender (after all, every f’ing Halfling in AD&D is an f’ing THIEF), a basically sexless race if ever there was one. Sorry Bilbo, you old batchelor, you!
However, character back-story (which for us, fed directly into the direction our sandbox campaign moved) wasn’t just limited to who was a bastard or who grew up an orphan. We had broken marriages, widows (and widowers), characters fleeing arranged marriages, at least one semi-incestuous sibling pair (well, maybe not, but the brother sure was over-protective of his sister). Virgins and virginity was a semi-big deal and we did tie it a bit to alignment (Chaotic types being much more “free love” than Lawful characters, and treating a sexual partner badly was sure to draw you closer to the Evil side of the alignment tree). Not that anyone ever faced an XP penalty (or divine “Bolt from the Blue”) for any particular sexual episode (well, with perhaps one particularly memorable sleazy Halfling whose player will remain nameless), but it WAS an influence it how we interpreted character alignment and personality.
As far as actual “sex scenes” being narrated, generally we made good use of “curtains/veils” as described by Ron Edwards. Saying, ‘ok you guys go to bed together,’ or even ‘you screw each other’s brains out and fall asleep’ is not particularly graphic, in my opinion. That’s not to say that a character or two wasn’t interrupted “in the act” (especially finding their spouse/lover in bed with someone else), but we weren’t being overly gross or detailed about it.
Hell, we were 13! What the heck did we know about sex anyway? We weren’t having any! And the idea of doing anything “live action” never crossed our (dirty little) minds…at least not mine. We didn’t even gesture or pantomime (well, not much anyway). In general we were as depraved as good, clean kids from nice homes and non-abusive families can be…which might still be pretty filthy, but it was only 1986. Wow, would you look at what’s on TV today? Even basic cable!
So in addition to “back-story” and “wenching” we actually did have romantic relationships (sexual and non-sexual) between player characters and prominent NPCs. In one campaign, one of these relationships was a driving force, involving multiple PCs (there was a “love quadrangle”) and NPCs, one of whom was especially prone to jealous rages of murderous force. However, in the end the girl chose THAT GUY (perhaps out of fear…for herself or others), and an elaborate plot was hatched to take the asshole out. Unfortunately, despite having a skilled archer with an Arrow of Slaying (the illegitimate bastard son of the intended victim…from a prior relationship!) the ambush went horribly wrong and the bride-to-be ended up slain. It was a sordid, messy affair…though one that will probably be remembered by all of us that took part in the campaign.
What else? Oh, yeah…how about offspring? The usual outcome of sex in a world without birth control (you’d think some magic-user would invent a spell…) we had to come up with random chances of pregnancy (I think it ended up being 1 in 8), especially as the campaign had fairly long-lived, high level characters (half-elves and longevity potions, yo). We even started one whole new secondary campaign composed of just the adult children of our primary characters…which of course meant determining who everyone’s parents were…which then got incorporated (or at least talked about) in the primary campaign.
That idea came straight from Pepsi (“the choice of a NEW generation”) even though we refused to drink anything other than Coca-Cola.
So now some interested parties may ask, “How the hell do you even START incorporating this kind of stuff into your D&D campaign? Do you just roll up a harlot in random city encounter and go from there?” Um, no.
For us, I think it started with trust first and foremost. As a group, we’d been playing for years together (shit, we were growing up together!) and since none us were huge assholes, people had the space to develop these ideas in-game…and the ideas were supported by the source material (1st edition AD&D and the surrounding literature and supplements).
For another thing, I think it was important that we had a good male-female player dynamic. No…males playing female characters does NOT count towards this (what is it about Libras always having to play “both sides of the fence,” anyway?).
[hmmm, it occurs to me I may have just offended a bunch of Libra folks. Sorry; just my experience, please give me the benefit of the doubt. I won’t even talk about my experience with Gemini types]
Trying to introduce sex or sex-related issues into an all male group can be…awkward, to say the least, as occurred with my first Vampire the Masquerade saga (“okay, so, I’m not gay or anything, but…”). Ugh!
Having both male and female players in our group, even though it never got better than a 3 to 2 ratio, provided a degree of balance to the game. I mean we WERE friends after all, so we did listen to each other’s feelings and generally didn’t try to make each other uncomfortable or squeamish (basic Social Contract stuff…we learned it without being taught).
On the other hand, it may have helped that none of us were in a true romantic relationship with anyone else. Rivalries of friendship (which at times reared an ugly head) were bad enough. Keeping our real lives platonic allowed us to be more intimate in-game…which made us a closer and more intimate group of friends in general. While I’ve pretty much lost touch with all these people over the years, I still consider them the best collective group of friends I ever had.
Yeah…like that line from Stand By Me.
To be concluded here...