My sincere thanks to KC Green for giving us the term magical realm. In addition to introducing us to that lovable scamp the Whizzard, KC’s lovely little asparagus-scented comic has given us a handy short-hand for talking about that most difficult of TRPG subjects: sexuality in gaming.

We touched on the idea way back in Fade to Black, but the advice remains the same. If you’re thinking about bringing your (very) personal preferences to the table, you should think long and hard indeed. Your ‘magical realm’ is in fact full of peril.

While researching for this post, I dared to crack open the pages of that running-gag of a source book, the infamous Book of Erotic Fantasy. As it turns out, the adage about books and covers was spot on. I was surprised to discover a fairly mature tome of titillating tabletoppery, including some rather pertinent advice in the intro:

Generally, there is no need to describe a sex act in detail anymore then there is a need to describe the swing of the sword and the angle at which it strikes the opponent… If you and your players have decided that spelling out sexual acts in the game is cool, then do so with as much or as little description as you want. (6-7)

It’s that second line that really struck me, mostly because I’ve heard the same sentiment repeated elsewhere. The question of mature subject matter in RPGs recently came up in my academic work, and I was fortunate enough to get former Paizo developer Liz Courts’s take on the subject:

The decision whether or not to include certain topics, (such as sexual violence, violence against children, bigotry, or racism) in their games is something that is best left in the hands of the GM and their group. *Every* group should cover what they are comfortable with at the table, before books are opened up, before character sheets are readied, before the dice are warmed up, and it should be approached without judgement or shame. (Courts)

What’s interesting to me about this sentiment is that it isn’t the job of the developer, the module writer, or anybody else outside of the room to decide what’s OK at the gaming table. That is the job of the group. It’s the job of the GM and the players. And even if it feels uncomfortable or unnecessary, it’s still a job worth doing.

In that sense, Wizard’s bout of TMI in today’s comic isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. However, he probably should have asked Cleric about his preferences before sitting down at the table. As The Book of Erotic Fantasy says, “Once the topic of sex comes up in a game, it can quickly, if left unchecked, turn into a sophomoric joke, with bawdy humor, crude references, and otherwise inappropriate behavior resulting.” However, says the book, “There’s nothing wrong with this.” In other words, it all depends on the comfort level of the table.

What a sage source of advice The Book of Erotic Fantasy turned out to be! Funny old world, innit?

Question of the day then: How far is “too far” at your table? Are you a strictly “fade to black” group, or does your table enjoy the occasional bout of “bawdy humor and crude references?” Let’s hear it in the comments!