Back in the old days of pencils-and-dice gaming exemplified by “Dungeons and Dragons”, “Dragon” magazine ran a comic strip by the famed Phil Foglio that covered the topic of “Sex and D&D”. Well, it actually kept threatening to but was continually prevented; Foglio knew that promising a look at sex in gaming would be far more fun than actually doing so.
After many years, I have finally had the opportunity to give a quick read to “The Book of Erotic Fantasy”, a rules supplement published in 2000 for the Third Edition of the Advanced D&D game. The book was released under AD&D’s “Open Gaming License” which allowed third-party books to use the official rules without needing to be officially approved. The Open Gaming License is no longer available; conspiratorially-minded readers may make whatever connection they wish. Anyway, I have some opinions, out-of-date though they may be; overall, I think I agree with the cartoonist.
Just to provide some context: I don’t run a game of AD&D, I run Shadowrun (which is basically an AD&D game with computers, machine pistols, and attack helicopters). Shadowrun, being based on modern American culture, acknowledges sex more than high fantasy usually did. Also, my game group runs the spectrum from vanilla to hyper-kinky, but is generally sex-positive and alt-tolerant.
Having said all that, were we playing AD&D (and I have a 4th Edition set that’s just dying for a trial run), I can’t imagine us using this book very much. It’s not terrible. There are parts that read like they were written by the old gamer stereotype of the glasses-wearing basement troglodyte (“hurr hurr hurr penis”), and there are parts written with wit and sensitivity. But while sexual behavior has come up a few times in our campaign, it’s usually handled “off-stage” by mutual agreement between players and gamemaster. No need for random die rolls, no need for role-playing a sexual encounter around the table; we cut away, and the characters return to the game with bruises, bleeding scratches, and big silly grins. (Okay, it is *that* kind of game.)
There are some pretty interesting spells described in the book, but mainly from the Munchkin perspective of “What could I use this for besides what it’s designed to do?” (Mages do this a lot, in my experience.) The special sexually-related character classes might be useful in a game which is mostly social interaction and limited monster-slaying; but again you’d have to assume they wouldn’t seduce everyone they ran across, but mainly use their skills to improve gamemaster-run characters’ reactions to the characters controlled by players. (A double-edged sword in a more repressed society…)
Unusually for a fantasy game book, and slightly surprising in one about sexual activity, the book is illustrated (somewhere between PG-13 and R) by photographs instead of art. They’re generally well done, though the fantasy Photoshopping does fail sometimes. Kudos to the editors for including naked fantasy guys as well as naked fantasy ladies… though it’s about a 30:70 split. Oh, well. Know your audience, I guess.
All in all, I think it’s a well-meaning effort to provide game rules for something that shouldn’t be run with game rules. There’s a time for every GM to throw out the rulebook and use his creativity, desires for the ongoing story, and the wants of his players; and I think this is it, whether one wishes the interaction to be a major part of the evening’s game session or not.
And honestly? If I’m going to be roleplaying sex… well, I’d prefer to do it as live-action roleplay, with willing playmates in the desired roles. (Those sessions usually aren’t very ‘realistic’, but no one cares.) I have to say, I don’t think the Tuesday night gaming group is quite ready for such a thing.