And Speaking of Pragmatic…

Why is it that we who play RPGs are assumed to be unable to cope with being adult?

In a thread on the Forge–a forum for the discussion of RPG design–the two examples of the “dysfunctional” inclusion of sex in a game are “the GM going “snuffle snuffle” when a dog encounters a passed-out female player-character to the infamous “the orc bandit leader rapes you four times that night” scene.”  Now, the dog thing is dumb, in that it might be exactly what a dog would do (heck, most dogs don’t wait till a person’s passed out!) but I very much doubt that it was relevant to the action at hand.  But why is it ipso facto dysfunctional for an orc bandit, presumably not a nice person, to express not-niceness in a way that is, for lack of a better term, classic?  Not-nice people throughout the ages have raped other people.  I doubt a similar thread would have called “and during the night, the bandit leader tortures you for fun” an example of the dysfunctional inclusion of violence.

Now, I’ll grant that there’s idiocy all over the place when it comes to sex in games; in large part this is due to the stereotypical gamer demographic of teenage males who talk to women’s boobs.  And it’s certainly possible that the specific example the poster was referencing was one of those times when a male GM decided that a female player needed to be taken down a notch, or some similar abusive behavior.  But I don’t see that it’s completely beyond the pale for such things to happen.  If you say that PCs (male or female, attractive or not, it doesn’t matter) can never be sexually abused by the Bad Guys, you are eliminating two things that I like in RPGs: the verisimilitude of the world, and the potential for story.  For verisimilitude, bad people do bad things, and threatening death gets tedious; there has to be more than one potential bad thing.  And story, well…I mean, just picture it: the PCs escape the bandits and limp back to town, bereft of most of their gear, bruised and barefoot.  Several weeks later, they’re out again when a party of orcs leaps from the bushes–and the leader is the same orc.  Now, does our abused PC snarl, “That one’s mine!” and go in with sword slashing?  Or turn pale and cower?  Oh the possibilities…

(Besides, where the heck else to half orcs come from?  The racial description in the D&D Player’s Handbook does not actually say that they are generally the result of rape, but it implies it all over the place.)

Anyway, to drag this back to my main topic:  why is sex taboo?  Sure, a bunch of 15-year-old boys is not likely to handle it well, but we’re not all 15, or male.  We’re grownups; we can cope with it, though I imagine there’ll be some snickering, especially at first.  Sex is one of the topics you have to laugh about because it’s so serious.  Still, real people have sex, and if our characters are going to be real people they need to have it too, or at least relate to it.  A virgin priestess may not have sex, but she sure relates to it…

Note that I am not saying all characters need to have sex as a central part of their personalities.  Some people just aren’t interested, and there are any number of campaign types in which it isn’t terribly relevant: Kick In The Door D&D, for example, or a game where all the PCs are under 10.  But a game in which characters are of breeding age and more than collections of attack bonuses needs to give some thought to how that sort of thing is going to be handled.   Too, if a player was once raped and can’t handle the theme showing up in-game, by all means outlaw it (and don’t play Hero Quest, it seems), but don’t throw out an entire sphere of human existence on the grounds that mentioning sex in an RPG is immature.  Grow up, instead.

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