As part of my ongoing series on sex in Dungeons and Dragons, I'm reviewing chapters of The Book of Erotic Fantasy (BoEF). Here are my thoughts on the first chapter.
Any serious book on D&D sex (considering how oxymoronic "serious book on D&D sex" sounds), has to justify and explain itself to the reader to a greater degree than, say a book on rogues or dwarves would. The BoEF jumps right into that challenge with the first chapter, and it makes a convincing case from the start.
The first chapter, on role-playing, is funny, honest, unflinching, and thoughtful. I think it is telling and insightful that the book starts with role-playing, because the nature of the game changes when you give it a heavy emphasis on sex (that's what I meant in my screed on Core Stories last week). An emphasis on sex necessarily, I think, reverberates most strongly in role-playing.
The chapter starts out explaining why you might want to include a sexual element in your game. It emphasizes that different people have different comfort levels with the material, and encourages without judging. For example:
Will sex be one element in a single NPC, or is sex part of a continuing story line ... How are you going to deal with sex scenes? Will they be off stage or will there be description? How far can these descriptions go?
The chapter is mostly positive and encouraging without being too pushy:
Sex in the game is a means for advancing a plot, rounding out a character, creating memorable NPCs, and now as a means for increasing the power of your character. If you and your players have decided that spelling out sexual acts in the game is cool, then do so with as much or little description as you want.
The chapter goes on with concrete suggestions on how to add sexual themes to your game maturely, while recognizing that sex can be both a source of humor or a source of dismay. I was impressed with the emphasis on communicating with players, and listening so that no one is uncomfortable. Personally, I would add that a player might feel hesitant to object to sexual content if others are enthusiastic, so DMs, be alert to even the slightest hint that your game has gone too far. In my opinion, it's better to err on the side of too little. You can always intensify, but it is hard to regain players who leave the game offended becasue things got out of control.
The chapter goes on to talk in detail about specific role-play elements -- love, consent, marriage, sexual orientation, prostitution, porn, pregnancy -- all possible hooks on which one can hang stories. I especially enjoyed the look at sex through traditional Dungeons and Dragons game elements: Race and Alignment. Of special note to readers of this site, there were a few paragraphs on feline races and how they react to sexual circumstances. That earned this chapter of the BoEF a lick!
This chapter did everything it needed to do: It gently took the reader by the hand; introducing, explaining, and justifying the book; leading from one topic to another without being seedy, condescending, or off-putting. I can't think of how it could have been improved in covering the essentials and then going beyond.
Review: Chapter One of the BoEF earns itself four paws and a lick.
This is the sixth part of a seven part series on sex in role-play games: