April 9, 2014
Sex In Tabletop Games
Sex and sexuality are issues that often come up in story-focused tabletop games. Most of the time they are handled in very mature, respectful ways. These are, after all, real world matters that everyone deals with in some way at some point during their lives, and many players of tabletop games started off in their teenage years when these issues tend to be most relevant. Tabletop role-playing games are a medium in which players can express themselves in ways they might not be comfortable doing anywhere else and they allow something of a social “safety net” by which players can try something with little to no fear of any negative repercussions from their peers. This might include playing a character of a different sex, a different sexuality, different thoughts on sexuality, one that mirrors the sexuality of a player who has not revealed that about themselves yet, a character with a very active sex life, characters who are very open or closed to the idea of casual sex, or many other possibilities. Of all the more “mature” themes to come up in gaming, sex and sexuality tend to be ones in which Gamemasters must tread most carefully. Every player out there is likely to have different thoughts and different comfort levels regarding sex/sexuality, and finding the right balance of use and detail regarding these themes is crucial in including them in your game/chronicle.
If you are going to include elements of sex and sexuality in your game, it is important to have an understanding of your players thoughts on the subject. Attempting to throw in homosexual-friendly themes with a group that is predominantly anti-homosexual (or vice versa) is not going to “open anyone’s eyes” or change their minds about the issue. It is going to make people very uncomfortable and even upset. It is important to remember that tabletop games are games and not soapboxes from which to preach your own views to your fellow players. At the same time, people should have no fear of expressing themselves in a positive light in regards to sex or sexuality. Often seen as a “boys only” hobby, tabletop gaming is by design open to anyone regardless of sex, sexuality, or any other means by which people differentiate themselves. Any action or remark levied by another player (or even by the Gamemaster) that leaves someone feeling uncomfortable should be addressed, in a calm and rational manner, immediately. The longer such things are allowed or left alone, the harder it will be to put a stop to them.
This is especially true of issues such as sexual discrimination, assault, and rape. Yes, these issues can come up during a game and they can either be used to powerful effect (as I am hesitant to use the world “great” to describe such things) or horribly, horribly wrong. I have said it already, but it is worth repeating, make sure you are aware of your groups thoughts and levels of comfort regarding such issues before you ever try using them in your chronicle. It is absolutely atrocious how common these things are in the real world and the last thing you want to do is force anyone who has had to deal with these things to relive them in what is meant to be a fun, social hobby.
These are serious issues that need a great deal of consideration before you use them in a game. Always be aware that what you are doing is, at its very core, a game and that games are meant to be enjoyable and fun. No matter how well-meaning or powerful you might think your story/chronicle might be, be prepared to let it sit on the back-burner indefinitely if that is not the sort of thing your players are comfortable in dealing with. Sometimes kicking down the door, beating up the monsters, and taking their treasure is enough.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
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