We played the penultimate game session before the summer break of my home-brew campaign Stories from Darkmoon Vale yesterday. The game’s main McGuffin was the demise of a tyrannical lumber baron. The session contained lots of interesting character-driven scenes and a lot of cloak & dagger -style manipulations and investigations. About 3/4 through the game session something very strange happened…
I really like character-driven scenes, that have a strong immersive quality. In my opinion this is the meat of a role-playing session, whereas game mechanics are just the potatoes. I have this habit of pushing my players into situations, where they are forced to act out their character’s personality and motivations. One of the players in my group is very much into mechanics, but he doesn’t know dick about character or drama, so for the past few sessions I’ve done my utmost to force a reaction (any kind of reaction, really) out of this player.
This player’s character is a nobleman who dabbles with arcane magic. The player has described the character’s personality as “rash and hot-headed”, so one would think pushing the character would be a breeze, right? Wrong. Permit me to elaborate. I started out easy with a few burly mercenaries quipping, throwing thinly veiled insults, and hinting about said nobleman’s sexual preferences. The player’s reaction was: “These guys are dicks. My character walks out of the room.” And here I was expecting fire and brimstone. Silly me.
During the game session I gradually increased the pressure on the player. The climax was a meeting with a fellow nobleman, an elderly gentleman wizard with a preference for young boys. I started with descriptions of light flirtations and sexual advances like touching hands and thighs. No reaction.
Later on, when the wizard was encountered in the bar of a brothel, I turned the heat fully on. The wizard was drunk as a skunk, and took to desperate measures to get the younger man into bed: He cast a dominate spell on the PC, who promptly failed his Will Save. Then he started to force himself on the player character. The poor PC was dragged upstairs to a room, and the wizard started undressing the player character. I gave the player a lot of wiggle room to get out of the situation his honor intact, allowing him new Will Saves about once a minute. He didn’t succeed on the save until the point when the NPC was down on his knees between the PC’s legs giving him a blow-job. Did I expect him to blast the old pervert with a lightning bolt? Yes, definitely. Did this happen? Nope. The player just sat there opening and closing his mouth like a guppy out of water. It took the combined efforts of two other player’s to actually get him to do anything at all: “Come on, blast him already! Your character’s supposed to be a hot-head!” and such. Eventually, the player got out of his stupor and started rolling his damage dice. Sigh. My experiment had failed miserably and I now consider this particular player a lost cause. There is nothing else I can do. Oh, almost forgot. I did get one reaction out of the player: He threatened to tear his character sheet in half if his character got one up the ass.
Another unexpected consequence of this scene was the strongly averse reactions I got from two other players. After the game session they berated me for including a scene, which (their words, not mine) made them feel extremely squeamish and uncomfortable. I replied with the question: “Would you have been equally uncomfortable, if instead of a homosexual old wizard, the seducer would have been a hot succubus with a huge rack?” to which one of the offended players remarked: “No, since that would have been funny and entertaining.”
This is how I read this: The players weren’t really that uncomfortable with a scene depicting explicit sexual acts. The problem was, that the scene depicted very explicitly HOMOsexual acts. Also, none of the player’s have any problems whatsoever with scenes containing graphic, gory violence. To me this smacks strongly of hypocrisy and homophobia.
I’d like to point out that I have no problems with people choosing what kind of content they want in their role-playing experience. As long as they tell me about it. If you have a problem with something, just speak up. Open your goddamn mouth and bloody well tell me if something I’m narrating makes you uncomfortable. I’m not a mind reader, after all.