Character Sexuality

As a combat oriented role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition holds a tension between the tactical parts of the game and the character elements. I’m a fan of both, so I constantly try to inject flourishes into my player characters.

One often overlooked and avoided way to inject true character into your PC is to reflect on and identify a sexual orientation. Many gamers avoid anything to do with sex in their game: for some of us, our early gaming experiences were as teenagers when we knew little about human sexuality; when the topic came up, it likely to descend into adolescent silliness. There is also the concern of the gaming group becoming creepy or feeling threatening to those uncomfortable including sex in the game.

These concerns are fair. While it is reasonable for a group of adult gamers to focus on romance and other aspects of human relationships, most D&D groups frankly aren’t interested. As an aside, the Book of Erotic Fantasy by Gwendolyn Kestrel and Duncan Scott is a supplement that is compatible for the 3.5 rule system that focuses exactly on “intrigue and manipulation, marriages of power, dangerous seducers, sex and magic.”

Even for standard hack and slash Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, simply identifying your character’s sexual orientation is a large step toward making him seem more real. It is then interesting to flesh out a character’s interest in relationships. Consider Westley’s situation before the action really started in The Princess Bride. He is clearly straight, but when he was away, becoming The Dread Pirate Roberts, he had no interest in pursuing other relationships. Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, Wildstorm comics’ Midnighter (member of Authority) and Moorcocks’ Elric of Melnibone are other characters with established sexual orientations that added something to their personas.

If your group isn’t in to it, there’s no need to role-play any of the details. This doesn’t mean you can’t add story elements to the back story or into the out-of-play scenes.

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3 Comments

Filed under 4e D&D, Advice, Advice/Tools, Character, Fluff, Fluff/Inspiration, Inspiration, Third Party Publishers

3 responses to “Character Sexuality

  1. Anarchangel

    The reaction to the publication of the Book of Erotic Fantasy was particularly supportive of your general statements about mainstream gamer discomfort about this stuff. I’ve read it, and it seems completely uncontroversial to me, but there was such a vocal outcry and WotC introduced a new policy because of it. It always seemed to me that it just to fit a niche that D&D lacked, but it’s weird that some people were uncomfortable to even acknowledge that that niche existed.

  2. Sexuality in gaming as a whole has been taboo for as long as I can remember. Most often, when it is brought up as a whole, it is mostly in a humorous setting or exaggerated to the point where there is no hidden ‘agendas’ that might be implied.

    If you are adding sexuality to your game, you would need a VERY open minded group as it can add unnecessary tension to the game. Sexual subjects usually end up between two people (characters) leaving out much of the rest of the group.

    In my groups, sexuality is usually reserved for jokes, to make a character stand out, or reserved for encounters with creatures that directly confront such issues (succubi, etc). Only in one on one role playing can I see a haven for significant sexuality content.

    • I agree that you have to know your group. I want to push back a little on the idea that a group must be “VERY open minded” to tolerate a character with a notable sexual orientation without creating tension. I find it’s more about interest in role-playing mixed with a baseline level of maturity.

      I don’t mean to suggest that player’s should take tons of time and game-space to include intricate romances. Rather, just understanding what your character is interested adds something, and you can narrate the rest briefly, between scenes of actual play.

      I also agree with your hesitance to include romance between player characters. That can be fine, but I find it’s easier to focus on NPC’s. It is simpler that way.

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