Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sex and Your Characters

This is going to be the last of these more heavily Sociology related entries for a bit, with today tackling the big S word. You know the one, the one that has the 13 year old kids giggling as they say they have it with the bar maids, and that we all avoid in the middle of our gaming careers out of caution of being that person, only to realize it is a totally valid story device later on. Unlike the other entires in this sociology stream I've been doing (gender and race) this is not a matter of observation. That being said, the intention here is still not to offend, just to give my opinions on some way to handle Sex and your characters.

So, sex is a great thing. I don't think there are many people who have experienced sex that would say they hated it so much they wouldn't try it again. Sex sells, sex motivates, sex allows people (traditionally females in fiction, but some men) to manipulate the people around them and get what they want. It is a powerful thing that we see in all forms of media, so much so that there have been several non-official sex books released for the ever popular and well known D&D. That being said, there are some things you should probably consider before throwing sex into your game, or before as a player you go out there and try to seduce every third barmaid (or barman) you come across. So, lets begin.

Human Girls Are Easy, Elven Girls Are Prudes
 So, aside from the fact this just popped a random 4 line (and quite bad) poem into my head, I figured I'd start with race and how it can relate to sex. Now, generally speaking in fantasy worlds there seems to be a base level of compatibility assumed between the various humanoid races, and even some non-humanoid ones. This is how you end up with things like half ogres, half orcs, half trolls, half goblins, half elves, half dragons, and so on down the line. So, I'm going to ignore compatibility issues and if you want to bring them up in your game, well you can do that on your own.

The first thing to remember when dealing with interracial relations is what I started talking about yesterday. The exotic versus the repulsive. Remember how the brain short circuits to the biggest obvious difference? (that'd be race) Well depending on the individual that difference will either make the person exotic, possessing a different quality that makes them more attractive than a member of their own race or species might be. Alternatively, it could be a turn off, just a bit too much of a difference to even really consider it. Something that would be viewed as being closer to sleeping with a beloved and trusted pet, sure you like them and would trust them with your life...but you just don't do it man. This is, as a GM, a good way to shut down a player from just constantly trying to use that charisma roll to get anything he wants in bed. Almost everyone loves dogs, but no matter how charming a dog is if the thought of sleeping with it in anything but the strictest of platonic senses brings about a sensation not unlike vomiting, well, it isn't going to happen. Something to keep in mind the next time the players meet ye olde Elven Princess. On the other hand, that quality of exoticness could make someone of a different race worthy of being pursued. A good way to try and draw a reclusive player into the action with some simple and light fun, give them the center stage as the roguish dancing elf prince, or the strong and hearty dwarf woman comes up to try their luck with the cute - to them - new thing on the block.

Heavily linked to this idea of Exotic versus Repulsive is also the very header for this section, Human Girls Are Easy. Now, in the real world we've heard this before right? American girls are easy, European girls are easy, Asian girls are easy, etc, etc, etc. The thing is, girls (and guys, though lets face it boys we tend to be easy in general :) ) are about the same everywhere, easy or not based on the individual. The difference is, when you are a foreigner that exotic thing plays right into your hands. You're different, an unknown quantity, you have the accent, you're "alone" in a strange land which means you need a friend, or someone to look out for you. All of which are things that help make people just that much more attracted to you. The fact that you probably won't be around in a few weeks also helps in the marketplace of the "no strings attached" tryst that your partner may be looking for.

Now, apply that to interracial relations in a fantasy sense, there isn't just the accent there is almost everything about the person. Familiar enough to relate too, but oh so different. The sturdiness of a dwarven form, the grace of an elven one. The different manners of speaking, the different priorities, it is all there - provided of course the differences aren't enough to be a turn off for either individual - and you have the makings for some very epic pinings of "he/she is soooo dreamy!" Now for attitudes on it, factor in life spans. Think again of that dashing roguish Elf prince I mentioned before. Used to wooing and courting Elven laides over the course of years with his charms, only to find that with human girls he can get the same effect with merely weeks or months. It's not that proportionally the human girl is any easier, it's just that she has much less time and lives at a vastly accelerated rate to that elf. He's probably still going to see her coming off as 'easy' though. On the other hand, we have the human rogue courting the elven girl. Now, she may not be in for the whole human thing but we'll at least assume she is open minded. Only, she is used to courting and flirting that takes place over years, small and slowly building up to say...a kiss, two years down the line. A hand hold in several months. Little things played over decades and centuries in the true extension of the elven way. Even if he does get the elven girl to relent earlier for him, you think the human guy isn't going to think the elves are a bit locked at the knees?

This is all just theory and opinion, extrapolation off the fact of how life span tends to affect the speed at which a race works. It is also not to say that there aren't elf girls out there who enjoy a wild and passionate night out, and who have to be slowly courted. I'm just making a theory on what the base level should be. At the same time, I know human females can be very choosey of who they will sleep with, but a human life span is like a three month tryst when compared to an elven one, and that should be considered as well.

What Are You Doing?
Lets get off the topic of race and actually get on to the bigger question with sex and your game. What are you doing with it? I mean it, ask yourself why is it there? Is is there because your players like to go to the bar between adventures and relax and get laid? If so, that's fine. I don't see why you'd need to focus on it but go for it. Are you running a more complex drama with politics like you'd find in a court based game of L5R or White Wolf's Vampire games? Then sex is probably going to play a much bigger role in things, as people use every trick they can find or figure out to grab the advantage.

As a GM you need to know what you are doing with the sex in your game. You need to be careful with it too. As many people as will goofily laugh about it will get nervous and uncomfortable around it. This isn't an excuse to have fun at their expense, it is a reason to lower the focus on sexuality. Sex is a very mature theme to have running in a game, and by mature I don't mean 18+, I mean a serious serious thing to be handling. So ask yourself what you are doing with it, why you are doing it, and if you don't have a good answer you may need to cover it with gloss overs and gleaning.

If, on the other hand, it is something you and your players all enjoy, then have fun with it. Just try to have it be somewhat meaningful to the story, and be careful for signs that someone is growing uncomfortable with it.

Sexuality and Your Character
Now, in most games I've been in character sexuality has been a moot point. Not needed, or even needed to be known. That being said it does come up, and sometimes you as a player may want to explore your character's sexuality. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, just talk about it with your GM and make sure they're fine with it as well. I say this for two reasons. 1) If it doesn't fit in with the game the GM is running (presumably that you all agreed to) then he can let you know about that and 2) It gives you a chance to talk to them about what you are trying to explore, and what you want to face in that exploration (things you should be doing with your GM anyhow). Your GM can also bring up the subject to your game anonymously to make sure the other players are in on it, so really you should talk to them about it.

Aside from that, I'd recommend you think heavily about the type of sexuality you are looking to explore. Are you looking to explore an alternative sexuality (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans)? Or a more (I hate this word) "normal" one like a person who  sees sex as a way to get attention and be treated as a human being due to a childhood full of abuse. Combos of these are fine too, but think about the type you want to do and make sure you also talk to your GM about that, just so they know and can help.

Finally, you also want to think heavily on the why part of this. Why are you looking to do this with a character? Is there a meaning to it, or do you just want to be having tons of sex with your character? Do you think it would add to the story? Do you think it would add more depth and resonance to your character? Is it just a way to further break the mold and expand your horizons? All of these are legitimate reasons, but knowing which is your answer will help you get more out of this.

A Quick Note on Rape
I apologize, I can't not talk about this when talking about sex. In my experience rape has absolutely no place at the gaming table. If you want it in your character's back story, that is between you and the GM. But it shouldn't be happening in game. It is just way too volatile of a subject, it stirs up very powerful emotions and can lead to all sorts of real world consequences that just are simply not worth the risk compared to what little bit of 'reality' or 'drama' that you can get out of it.

Some people can do it, and thats fine for them, but the default on it should simply be no, nada, no way, no how, leave it alone. So just leave it a lone. You can do dark and gritty without it, really you can. So leave this one alone. You'll be happier you did it, especially if you've ever had to deal with the fall out not leaving it alone can cause.

Final Thoughts
Sex, as I said, is a mature topic that when handled right can bring a lot to a game session. It doesn't have to be RPed (honestly, at a table I'd recommend not doing so), but can still bring with it tons of fun IC drama. Power players, relationships, trysts, no matter what it is you can learn a lot about a character, and add a lot of depth to the story - and characters in it - but including it. Sex is also a complex thing that needs to be handled carefully, you need to make sure the people in your group are comfortable with it and the level of prominence it has in your game. As I said before, it rarely needs details associated with it. 95% of the time you can do some RP leading up to the decision and just leave it alone. The other 4.999999% of the time you may need to pick up after.

However you are handling it though, handle it with respect and it will pay off in countless ways for you. Don't handle it with respect, and you may as well go back to being those stereotypical 13 year old geeks sitting around the table talking about how they "totally score" with the hot elven princess. If that is how your group has fun, nothing wrong with that either. But for those looking for a more fulfilling experience, well, you've been warned.

Have fun, and Happy Gaming!

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