8/21/2014

Published on 8/21/2014 Written by 7 comments

How much Sex & Violence do you like in your games?

I've been pondering this question the last few days. I never really considered it in the past - it was always whatever seemed appropriate in the moment - but lately, spending more time in discussion online has made me realize that some people have strong opinions on this one way or the other.

First of all, let me state that I hate how "sex" and "violence" are always lumped together discussing the appropriateness or maturity of content, because they are completely different things that should probably be handled in separate conversations. The only reason I use them together in this scenario is because I suspect the biggest sticking point for most people will be the area where "sex" and "violence" blurs.

So how much violence is too much? For some players, just saying "You do 10 damage. He dies." is all the violence you need and they don't even think about it. For others, they want it to be really graphic, with descriptions of severed intestines spilling blood and feces onto the floor coupled with the sounds of ribs popping and tendons snapping. Does that turn you off from a game? Is it the responsibility of the GM and players to decide, or should the level of gore be suggested by the game itself?

As for sex, I know it's a touchy subject with many people. How much loving and boning do you want in your games? I posed a similar question a few years ago and most of the feedback was "we just fade to black and hand-wave the details." Yet from what I've been reading lately, there seems to be a market, or a least a sizable niche, for games that aren't afraid to shy away from sex.

I am fascinated by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and I know there are a lot of fans of that game in the circles I frequent. When I first checked out the free (no-art) basic rules, it seemed like a really cool, streamlined retro-clone. It wasn't until I started digging a bit (and saw the actual art!) that I realized how incredibly dark and horrifying it is. There's a lot of sex and violence in there and the two are intrinsically tied together. On the other hand, it's still not as explicit or obscene as some of the stuff I've read from White Wolf. The LofFP modules (at least the ones I've read) mentions and implies a lot of sexual violence but doesn't spell it out too explicitly. It's kind of like it passes the buck to the GM, expecting them to take responsibility for putting that stuff in the game, even if the module kinda assumes that you will. It's a fine line that I think is brilliantly played even if no one in their right minds can argue that LotFP is isn't set in a dark, sexual world.

Full disclosure for bringing up this topic: I'm trying to find a sweet spot for the game I'm tinkering with. I know I want gore, blood and guts, but I'm wondering how much "tits and ass" should go in there along with it. To clarify, the violence in my game is so over-the-top that it's almost cartoon-y. Should the sex be the same? Should it be dick jokes and high school toilet humour? Should I steer clear of it altogether? I feel like it should be broached in some fashion.

I know I don't want to go that deep down the rabbit-hole, but how far is too far? Magical chainmail bikinis would fit perfectly in my game, as would giant crab lice and +1 magic wands of vibration. Should it just be left at that tongue-in-cheek kind of level, and leave the rest up to the player's and GM's imagination? That would be my gut reaction, but dark stuff seems to be all the rage these days. Do folks want this included in their games?

As an average RPG fan and gamer, what level of sex and/or violence are you comfortable with/want in your games?

7 comments:

  1. In my games, we had a long stretch where we wanted to do the most perverted things possible. These games included males, females, a mix of gay and straight. What happened eventually is that it got utterly ridiculous and it stopped being fun for me. I took the game in another direction, and found that the players lately have been trying to pull it back in a more perverted direction.

    I think a lot of people don't like sex stuff in their games. But tone is very important. If you run it as a fun, hilarious thing, it can work great. There are a lot of pitfalls. Rape is something I don't want in my game in any way. And you have to make sure no one is going to be made uncomfortable by a sexual situation. Also be aware that something in the game might trigger an emotional response due to some dark incident in the player's past.

    I would say that if you include a magic chain mail bikini in your game, you should also include a magic codpiece to keep things even (and interesting).

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    1. Oh yeah, it's definitely a table-thing; whatever is comfortable for that paticular group of players. But how do you make sure your game gets to the right groups that would appreciate it?

      And there will most assuredly be magical codpieces. In fact, it may be a primary item slot, like rings and shields. Players should have to contemplate long and hard (sorry, phrasing) about which codpiece they will choose for battle that day.

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  2. Hey, interesting blog post. I agree, it can be a touchy subject. I broached it in my Liberation of the Demon Slayer module. Some say I crossed the line, others appreciated the occasional perverted dalliance.

    My advice to those RPG authors and designers thinking about taking things further: It's a risk, but I think it's one worth taking. If we always back away from the edge, we'll never get to explore the other side.

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    1. That was always my default opinion too, but are you cutting off half your audience simply by including it? I've seen numerous reviews on RPGDriveThru of people complaining about writers using "the f word" in their modules. Is there really a significant portion of gamers who are that uptight? Or is it just one guy writing all those reviews?

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    2. Yes. Unfortunately, an artist is cutting off a portion (I don't think it's half, more like a quarter) of his audience simply by following his instincts and/or passion. That's the price we pay. I, for one, am more than willing to pay it.

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  3. Agreed, it is very much tied to the group you are playing with. As a GM, I feel it is necessary to occasionally remind players that violence is being done to people and things and a good, gruesome murder-description is needed.

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    1. It's true. After murdering and butchering hundreds of goblins, orcs and faceless soldiers, a good-old shock of gruesome, explicit reality is called for to remind everyone of their humanity.

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