Dating work colleagues, asking a woman her weight, talking politics and/or religion at Thanksgiving dinner and, most importantly to us, sex in your RPG. All of these topics are usually considered taboo.
Personally, I find the idea of inserting sex or romance into a D&D adventure intriguing. However, there are obstacles to achieving that, obstacles that I’m not sure I want tackle. For starters, my fiancée is one of the players at our table, the lone woman at a table full of my guy friends. As Jon Stewart would say: “Aw-kward!”
I’m sure you can see why having my PC’s involved in a romantic tryst within our group could be considered off-limits. How about introducing an NPC who falls in love with one of my PC’s? Ixnay on the possibility of having my NPC’s (i.e. me) flirt with my fiancée, since that could get a little uncomfortable (not to mention redundant!) for the other players. The next option is obviously having a beautiful female NPC seduce one of my male PC’s. Yet again, however, that puts me in a squeamish position of having to play a girl flirting with my male friend.
“But,” you could certainly argue, “what’s the point of role-playing if you can’t suspend your sense of self and fully embrace the situation?” Fair point, but I don’t think that level of comfort in role-playing yet exists with my group. It’s not homophobia—I just don’t see the fun in playing some saucy wench (although I envy you if you can). I’m secure in my heterosexuality, but preening around the table trying to seduce one of my male friends holds zero appeal for me. I’m quite certain they concur.
What about if you theoretically remove my fiancée from the table and have me DM for strangers? Furthermore, what if there are a couple of female players, thereby removing any gender bias? I still think it could create some discomfort. Call it table-top RPGs version of the Uncanny Valley. Sexual lust is such a primal desire that if you get it even a little bit wrong, the whole enterprise feels hokey. You know – the difference between Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” and Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” is a fine line, after all.
You also have to take into account the understandable human emotional reactions that can occur with the other players at the table; jealousy, envy, disgust. “Why does that player get such a fun side-venture, while I’m stuck picking locks trying to find the sorcerer’s magical underpants?” (wait, that might be the seed to an epic D&D sex’venture!) Mostly, you don’t want to cultivate a sense that you’ve come to the table to try and hook up with a female gamer.
I’m obviously not the first person to touch on this subject. Kismet’s Dungeons and Dragons has an exhaustive guide on introducing sex and romance into your adventures. That guide references a 3rd party sex rule-set that is still available at DriveThruRPG.com, but was so controversial that it was stripped of its D20 license after it was released.
It’s not all doom and gloom, mind you. I’ve personally never tried testing my DM skills with a sexual or romantic hook, but I imagine that if you do and get it right, it adds a layer that players forever remember as an epic story line. You’d have to find the same ingredients that make the greatest on-screen romances work, like Jack and Rose, Han and Leia or Bogie and Ingrid. It’s an endeavor that would take careful planning, a deep understanding of your PC’s, and a delicate touch.
Sex is a thorny issue in any social context. It’s not difficult to see why introducing it in our role-playing fantasies can evoke such strong reactions. Thoughts on what is acceptable sexual content varies from person to person, sometimes with extreme differences between people who otherwise appear completely in sync. Sex wrecks friendships, relationships, and football teams. It can also wreck your gaming table, so tread carefully.
In the interest of avoiding disaster when incorporating sex and romance into your TTRPG group, what are some of the tips and tricks? Have you experienced great romantic experiences while playing? What about a sex calamity? Let us know in the comments section!