Love, Sex & Dice

Because of the special romantic holiday we celebrate this week, I decided to come up with a special romantic theme article. Did you know that February 15th was National Flag of Canada Day?


Of course, the holiday I'm referring to is Valentine's Day, and the special theme is lovin' and bangin' in role-playing games. For those of you who are uncomfortable with this topic, you can stop reading now, and go here instead.

Does love and sex have a place in table-top role-playing games? It obviously has a place in video RPGs, if Final Fantasy VIII and Dragon Age are any indication (WARNING: That second link is probably NSFW). But many players are uncomfortable acting this at the table and I can't really blame them. Sitting around the dining room table with four other sweaty guys drinking Dr. Pepper and eating Cheetos can make it hard to look into your friend's eyes and profess your undying love for him - I mean, his character, Mistress Clitoria Hexblade. It's just really difficult to take it seriously. I ran a game once where one of the characters was trying to seduce a princess, but he kept giggling as we role-played it. "I keep seeing this hot chick with your head on her body," he told me.

Even if you're lucky enough to have players of compatible genders and sexual orientations, this can still become awkward. I guess it's fine if the players who are significant others in real life have their characters become involved, but what about if those characters get involved with someone else? I currently play a game with my wife, her sister and my brother-in-law. Am I supposed to role-play a relationship between my sister-in law and an NPC with her husband and my wife sitting at the table? Picture Abed and Annie on Community in the D&D Episode (Jump to 2:00 for the scene in question, but the whole episode is pretty awesome). Now picture how weird family dinners and special occasions would be at our house from then on.

Like this. But more awkward.

What happens if the parties involved don't want to just describe what their characters are doing to each other, but want to roll dice for it? Since there are rules in RPGs for everything from fistfights to diplomacy to turning on a computer, should there be rules for sex? There have been a number of fascinating and interesting books written on the rules for intercourse in D&D. While they're great reads, they're far more useful in theory than in practice. The rules they suggest, while hilarious (and in some ways frighteningly realistic) really don't add any romance to encounters.

Player 1: I roll a 19 on my Constitution check. I can keep going for another round.

DM: Okay, Player Two, make your Time-to-Climax check.

Player 2: I fail. Sorry, you're going to have to keep going.

Player 1: Dammit, I can't keep this up all day.

DM: Wait, Player One, how big is your wang again?

Player 1: Um, 11 inches. I rolled it fair when I made my character!

DM: Whatever. That gives you a +2 to your TTC checks, Player Two.

Player 2: Awesome! We'll get this right yet!

I tried these rules a couple of times and just gave up. It was much less embarrassing and painful to just say, "You go upstairs with the barmaid. You come down an hour later and she has a satisfied look on her face."

Sometimes you just can't win.

Despite the awkwardness, some players still insist on charging forward with romance like a bull in heat through a sex toy trade show. I ran a Call of Cthulhu game once where a male player, playing a female character, spent the ENTIRE session getting ready for a date, acting out the date, and then taking the guy home, all while the other players fought for their lives against the unspeakable forces of madness-inducing darkness. That takes commitment. Of course, being Cthulhu, she also ended up being the only character to survive the game, so maybe that was the player's intention all along.

Has anyone else had better luck incorporating love, lust and related paraphernalia into their games? If not, feel free to share more hilariously awkward stories. National Flag of Canada Day is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the foibles and flubs of imaginary sex.

Or to reflect on the rights of sex workers.

Happy Valentine's Day! Now go roll some dice with that special someone in your life.

Like this?


  1. Never have I attempted to deal with sex in an RPG and I probably wouldn't allow it if I was running the game. It's too risky to even try. You hit all the obvious problems right on the head: Being able to roleplay a situation like that in a mature manner; trying to stifle the embarrassment when a player goes into a little too much detail; or god-forbid, using rules to try and play the situation out. None of it works and all of it contributes to the sort of awkwardness that could kill a game.

    If there really needs to be sex in my games, I would let it happen with a fade-to-black. Chickening out? Maybe. But if it keeps the game alive, I'm not going to complain.

    Of course, I suppose it could be done right. But I haven't found an effective manner yet.

  2. Elwyn needs a miniFebruary 14, 2011

    I have to admit, the first thing that would come to my mind if someone were to try to introduce sex to an RPG session would be "why?" Unless of course the group came together with the expressed intention of doing an RPG sex game so that everyone is on board (or on the table, under the table, etc.), it would just make for awkardness. But then again, maybe I'm just a prude.

  3. Elwyn needs a miniFebruary 14, 2011

    PS that show looks hilarious. Is that Chevy Chase?

  4. Book_ScorpionFebruary 14, 2011

    Sex has played its part in the RPG rounds I have been in, but none of us has ever played it out. The fade to black Joe mentions worked well enough for all of us.

    I did play a situation out in a play by mail and it was a lot of fun, but play by mail is private. The only real problem we had was that the girlfriend of the guy I was playing with was totally jealous (and she hadn't even read the mails...).

  5. CDGallant_KingFebruary 14, 2011

    If you find it, let me know.

  6. CDGallant_KingFebruary 14, 2011

    Hmmm. You just gave me an idea. I've wanted to create my own game for awhile, but I've been searching for a theme/setting to make it unique. How about "Orgy: The RPG"? We might be able to capture a whole new demographic of gamers.

  7. CDGallant_KingFebruary 14, 2011

    Yes, that is a very old Chevy Chase. And the show is awesome. Go find it. The Christmas Claymation special was particularly brilliant.

  8. CDGallant_KingFebruary 14, 2011

    With sex in play-by-e-mail, at what point does it stop being "gaming" and start being "cyber-sex?" It's a fine line, and some people may cartwheel back and forth across that line with abandon (which is totally cool), but for most people there must be a limit somewhere.

    That may be an excellent definition of how RPGs are different than most other games. In Monopoly, you can't accidentally start having sex.

  9. Book_ScorpionFebruary 15, 2011

    The mails got pretty graphic. The fact that we were interested in each other definitely played a part in that (but not interested enough to do anything about it in real life). But on the whole, it was more gaming than cybersex and we needed that PbM-session to find out how things would work between our characters.

    I definitely would not feel comfortable with doing that, even in much tamer form, with just any player and not even with any player I'm good friends with. And I think it could definitely go out of control if one of the players is attracted to the other one, that has a great potential for anything between awkward and friendship-destroying.

  10. While people can game however they want, of course, I'm of the opinion the "fade to back" or avoidance of dealing with sex directly is the best approach. I do think settings should aknowledge that their fictional inhabitants are having sex and resemble the real world to a certain regard, but that mostly it should remain a background element, like most other biological functions.

  11. It can sometimes add to the story... We'll see how it turns out in the current game.
    I admit it can get tedious for the other players who are not involved, but if your DM breaks the party up and leaves your extremely charismatic Eladrin with the super-hot elf maiden, well he's just asking for it.

  12. CDGallant_KingFebruary 18, 2011

    I'm surprised no one has tried a game yet where they have rules for basic biological functions (ie, you have to go to the bathroom X times a day or you suffer effect Y). Maybe there is such a game, and I just haven't heard of it.

    If it hasn't been used, then I'm definitely adding "Bathroom Rules" to the Advanced Options for Orgy: The RPG.

  13. I haven't dared to track down a copy of FATAL and actually read the rules for myself, but if what I've read second-hand is any indication, any game daring to feature such mandatory behavior would have to be that terrifying weeping abscess of a game.

    It was probably somewhere between the rules on gang rape and the random tables for penis size. :P

  14. Just mentioning FATAL in passing means that somewhere a game designer dies of crushing depression at the thought that a game like that exists.


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