Archive for the ‘ Sex ’ Category

You may have noticed that I dwell on the 1980s a lot — I guess it’s because that’s when I came of age, when I got married, got divorced, ran SF conventions, hung out with the SCA and dressed in cargo pants, an Ike jacket, a checkerboard shirt and a skinny red silk tie with bombers on it. It’s also when I did a lot of experimentation in the roleplaying world and actually started getting published as a game designer. Hell, there was a lot of stuff going down. Mind you the 90s and the 00s had their good points, and the teens are going pretty well too, but the 80s, well… They had their own special flavor.

It was during the 1980s that Dungeons and Dragons really caught on as a national pastime. It had been growing in popularity and sophistication through the 70s of course, but by now it had competition, and the genre of tabletop roleplaying games had finally come of age. Others like Chaosium, Flying Buffalo and GDW had their own products, but D&D remained the undisputed king of the roleplaying hill.

Unfortunately all was not well in the house of TSR. The Blume Brothers, Brian and Kevin had squeezed Gary Gygax out of power and proceeded to run the company into the ground, purchasing automobiles, furniture and needlepoint companies (no, really!), hiring far more people than the company needed, overprinting products and generally throwing spanner after spanner into the works. Gygax was briefly able to wrest control of his company back, but in a struggle of almost Shakespearean dimensions he was eventually forced out for good in 1985, after which TSR had a series of up- and downswings that eventually ended with the heavily indebted company sold to Wizards of the Coast in 1997.

All that was in the future however — in 1981, TSR was riding high and they were determined to go beyond the limitations of being a simple little game company from Lake Geneva. In the early ’80s they changed their logo to a bearded Greco-Roman profile emblazoned “TSR: The Game Wizards” on all their products. Though some were innovative (and others, unfortunately, were horrific), D&D remained TSR’s flagship product, and they were determined to expand their customer base.

So besides games, what do gamers love? If you say “Mountain Dew and Cheetos” you’d be right, but that’s not what I was thinking of. Besides games, gamers love comics, so a series of ads aimed at comic book readers was just what the doctor ordered.

In mid-1981, full-page ads began appearing in comics across the country, depicting the four-color adventures of the bold adventuring band that consisted of Valerius the fighter, Grimslade the magic user (why the hell didn’t TSR just call ‘em “wizards” anyway? More of Gygax’s obfuscation and complications, I guess) and cute l’il Indel the elf. Not Indel the thief, or Indel the rogue. Elf was a character class back then, gods only know why.

The first strip was, well, kind of special in the way that a cute but slightly brain-damaged puppy is “special.” It’s crudely-drawn, and the adventure portrayed was about as interesting as watching bread rise.

In the opening panel, we’re told that our bold adventurers have found a secret door in the ruins of Zenofus Castle, which as we all know is a pretty unpleasant place. Zenobus, clad ina grey smock, with a grey chamberpot on his head, approaches the door while Grimslade plays the better part of valor card and hangs back. In the rear rank Indel kind of prances and flits merrily, clad in a yellow tunic with red hose and hat. He really doesn’t look much like an elf to me — he really looks more like a malnourished hobbit, and by the scale of these pictures is about three feet tall.

Well, tiny and flitty though he may be, Indel uses infravision (remember infravision? That was before just saying “okay, okay… They can see in the dark…”). The passage, we’re told is empty, but Indel bravely volunteers to go on ahead. “It may be a booby trap,” he says.

What, the whole corridor? Wouldn’t “It might be trapped” be better? And it would also avoid using the embarrassing term “booby.” There are, regrettably no boobies in this strip, seeing as how our little dungoneering trio is a boys-only club. But wait! This will change, and will also allow me to post a few NSFW pictures later on in the article.

The adventurers proceed cautiously through narrow, twisting corridors, the caption tells us. This is portrayed by having Valerius crouch down slightly, holding his sword and puny little shield in such a way that he looks as if he doesn’t have arms, while Indel walks about a foot ahead of him, torch in one hand, creeping along in his little elf-boots.

Suddenly…

They hear sloshing noises, smell rotted vegetation; they see a shambling mound. Now I may not be the best grammarian in the world, but damn that’s a crappy sentence. Just because you’re producing a cheapo, crudely-illustrated pseudo-adventure strip to sell your damned roleplaying game.

This is all kind of clumsily presented, for in the first panel we see the shambling mound striding forward while Indel shouts, “LOOK! ASHADOW!” (that’s how it’s written, anyway). In the next panel, Indel is leaping up as if he’s on springs, his face even with Grimslade’s bearded visage, while Valerius hovers in featureless orange space nearby.

Grimslade, who apparently missed the elf’s original exclamation, says “What do you see, Indel?” while the mysteriously weightless Valerius shouts “QUICK! ATORCH!” (This adventure evidently took place before spacebars were invented.)

In the next panel, the three adventurers are standing calmly in the middle of the orange corridor while the mound’s shadow approaches. Valerius’ sword projects from his side and the shield appears stuck to his chest — again, he seems to be utterly armless, which is bad news if you’re a fighter. Beside him, Grimslade looks pissed-off, as if someone in the kitchens burned his omelet, and says “Maybe a hold-monster charm will save us!” to which Valerius replies, “We need a charm, quickly!” At least this is how the conversation appears to go due to the placement of the word balloons.

Next panel, Grimslade raises his arms and chants a bunch of squiggles inside a hexagonal word balloon, while Valerius, now mysteriously shrunk to the size of a pixie, stands rigidly at attention, his sword upright and his shield still epoxied to his chest. Jagged orange lightning leaps from Grimslade’s fingers, hitting the shambling mound with a “ZAP!” sound effect.

In the final panel, the mound is shambling off away from our heroes, but their troubles are far from over, for the walls are now green and dripping oozily.

“Look out! It’s dripping!” Indel cries. You can’t slip anything past that elf, let me tell you.

“Green slime!” shouts Valerius, now grown back to full size, with a real right arm clutching his broadsword.

“Don’t touch it!” Grimslade warns, reaching out a finger as if he’s about to touch it. “It is certain death!”

Boy, I’m worried for our heroes now. Are they ever going to get out of this bind? Well, we’ll just have to wait until the next episode, since that’s the end of part one. Instead of a final panel, we have one of those little dotted-line clip-and-send-in coupons that no one ever clips and sends in. This one says Explore exciting worlds of fun, fantasy and adventure with Dungeons & Dragons (R) and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (TM) adventure games. Send in the coupon today for your free color catalog of games and accessories. At the bottom is the ubiquitous TSR “The Game Wizards” logo, along with seriously inadequate space for the eager new gamer’s name, address and zip code.

Well, we didn’t have to wait too long to find out what happened to our heroes, for a couple of months later the second installment hit comics. And damn, was it an improvement. The art was head and shoulders above part one, and the lettering and coloring were better as well. No longer did our heroes float in an orange void — now the dungeon actually had walls and doors. And Indel doesn’t look like a red-and-yellow clad pixie anymore.

But things looked grim for our boys, for the green slime nails Indel squarely, eliciting an AGGH! from the unfortunate elf. Though his friend is about to perish, Valerius knows that elf rogues are a dime a dozen and is more concerned for his equipment. “It’s eating my sword!” he exclaims.

Grimslade is sensible. “Forget the sword, Valerius,” he says. “We’ve got to save Indel!” So Valerius rolls his eyes and evacs Indel while Grimslade casts a fireball to take out the green slime.

Now our story takes a jarring left turn, for the caption tells us that Suddenly, a figure steps out from the shadows. And what a figure it is, too — a strapping blonde in a skin-tight tunic with her luscious thighs visible for all to see. And oh, yeah, she has a mace, so she must be a cleric.

Valerius knows this vision of clerical loveliness. “Saren!” he cries.

“No questions now,” she shoots back. “How’s Indel?”

Okay, so where was the cleric all this time? Or did they just forget that the party needed one when they threw part one together? And did it also occur to TSR that they should throw at least tiny bone to female D&D players and admit that not EVERY character is a strapping all-Hyborian male? Anyway, Saren is with the party now, and she’s a definite improvement.

Within the space of a panel, Saren’s powers restore Indel and the party loots the room. “A magic sword!” Valerius exclaims. “It’ll replace my ruined one!” Again with the sword, Valerius! Don’t you know that there are more important things than swords? Like hot, blonde clerics with impractical armor?

Grimslade is having none of this. He orders Indel to look for secret doors, and the poor elf’s luck deserts him yet again — not only does he fail to detect secret doors, he falls into one and vanishes.

Saren now shows that she’s just as good at stating the obvious as any man. “He’s gone!” she says, and the now-bald and -white-bearded Grimslade replies, “That means we’ll have to go even deeper into the dungeon, to rescue him!” And so, with yet another free catalog coupon, we end the second installment of Dungeons and Dragons comic ad cartoons.

A panel from Bill Willingham’s “Ironwood.” This is that NSFW part I was telling you about, btw.

So who’s the new artist, anyway? He sure makes a difference, and he seems to really like drawing women. Well, I’ll tell you — it’s none other than Bill Willingham, writer, artist and all-around talented guy, who got his start illustrating early TSR D&D modules like White Plume Mountain, Isle of Dread, Against the Giants and a bunch of other stuff. These days he’s known as one of of the comic industry’s leading writers, with such diverse books as Fables, the Elementals and Justice Society under his belt. His early work here added a touch of class to a rather unexciting advertising campaign, and still lives on in D&D nostalgia websites and blogs like this one.

Now, I’m the last person on earth to pander. You know that I hate the very notion of using such tawdry concepts as nudity, sexual titillation and innuendo to make my blog more interesting. So when I include a couple of panels from Bill Willingham’s erotic comic series Ironwood here I do so in the interest of historical scholarship only. And when I recommend that anyone who reads this blog and likes hot comic art with handsome guys getting it on with curvaceous women, and curvaceous women getting it on with each other, go out and find a copy or two of Ironwood from Fantagraphics, I’m doing it only so that the fine art and writing of Bill Willingham will gain greater and more widespread appreciation.

And I can’t mention Willingham and Ironwood without noting that my own Wulf the Freelance series (available right here on my Smashwords page in a variety of electronic formats, at a price that is so cheap I’m practically giving it away) drew huge inspiration from Ironwood, both in terms of appearance and concept, to the point that I’m not sure that it would have existed had it not been for Willingham’s work. My hat’s off to ya, Bill. Keep up the good work!

Anyway, back to our thrilling D&D adventure and the vaguely interesting exploits of Valerius, Indel, Grimslade and (yum!) Saren.

Soooo, we’re to Episode Three at last, in which the now much-better-drawn Valerius, Grimslade and “the mysterious Saren” (as the caption informs us) now search the dungeon for their lost companion, Indel. How do they do this, you ask? Well, by wandering around the dungeon, shouting Indel’s name.

Clearly our heroes aren’t terribly experienced with dungeoneering, since everyone knows that this is a pretty dumb thing to do. Sure enough, a band of evil goblins jumps from the shadows!! shouting “Get them!” and “Take their treasure!” as goblins are wont to do. Maybe next time they won’t go stomping about, making noise and bellowing at the top of their lungs.

Grimslade, all resplendent in his new white, wizardly beard, doesn’t bat an eye. He declares “Stand back! I’ll take care of them,” and sure enough in the next panel the goblins are all snoozing quietly. “A simple sleep spell stopped them!” Grimslade cries, while Valerius urges “Come…! We must find Indel!”

(Notice how everyone shouts in this strip, since every single piece of dialog ends in an exclamation point. They still haven’t learned that you need to keep quiet in a dungeon…)

Well, since Valerius mentioned Indel, we cut to the luckless (and somewhat clumsy) elf, who has tumbled down a shaft, shouting “Oh, my head!”, once more alerting any monsters that happen to be nearby, and this time it’s nothing so mundane as a bunch of goblins.

Indel (who is now blonde, even though last episode he had brown hair) mutters “A light from around that corner. Perhaps it’s a way out!” and blunders right toward it.

No such luck for Indel. After almost getting killed by green slime, then failing to find the secret trap door, he is now confronted by a glowering, green-eyed red dragon who, in typical draconic fashion, rumbles “Greetings, mortal worm!” to which Indel gulps “Oh my! I think I’m in trouble!”

That, Indel, is the understatement of the age, and just happens to be a pretty good cliffhanger to end our epic seven-panel strip on.

The next installment is the first one which Bill Willingham actually signed and opens with a recap of poor Indel (now once more a brunette) and his monstrous encounter. Indel should not despair however, for elsewhere the “mysterious” Saren tells her companions that “My powers tell me he’s behind this door,” while leaning forward against a door and displaying her rather curvaceous assets.

Valerius is all business however, and shouts “Then we must get through!” Clearly this dungeon was built by the low bidder for in the very next panel we’re told A mighty blow from the fighter’s shoulder opens the door with a crash, revealing Indel and his new scaly, firebreathing friend, who doesn’t look at all happy to see the intruders.

Well in the words of AC/DC, if you want blood, you got it, and as Valerius unsheathes his new magic sword and says “Now it’s your turn, dragon!” we’re primed and ready for some heavy-duty combat, with magical steel and courage pitted against dragonfire and magic. Wow, what a showdown it’s going to be… We’ve been waiting months for this and now…

Now, the dragon looks at the glowing yellow sword and his face takes on the expression of a disappointed puppy. “The great sword Naril!” he whines. “Stay your hand, warrior! You and your friends may leave in peace!”

Aw, crap! After all that buildup the great worm caves like a house of cards and lets our heroes escape unscathed. It’s kind of like Sauron’s army issuing from the Black Gate, only to have the big guy say, “Hey, Aragorn! Only kidding! You can be king and I’ll just leave, okay?”

So in the last panel, everyone’s smiling as if they’ve actually done more than just put some gobbos to sleep and bully a defenseless dragon. “What a day!” Indel says (laugh it up, buster… You’re the one who couldn’t find the stupid trap door). “Come!” replies the mysterious Sarel. “Gavin’s Inn has a warm fire to relax by.”

And so ends the first incredibly lame installment of Dungeons and Dragons comic book ads. The caption urges us to Watch for Indel and his friends in upcoming Dungeons and Dragons adventures! but it just doesn’t seem worth it at this point.

What I’m seeing here is evidence of TSR’s great 1980s wimpout. As D&D grew more ubiquitous and widely known, that whole stupid “D&D makes kids worship demons and kill themselves” trope grew with it. TSR was determined to become a wholesome family game company, and if they showed what really went on in D&D games (and in the pages of a comic book read by children yet!) they’d probably end up adding fuel to the fire. So as they removed references to demons and devils from 2E they also produced the infamous Dungeons and Dragons Saturday morning cartoon show (which featured a band of dumbass kids transformed into obscure D&D player classes such as acrobat, cavalier and barbarian, then set loose in D&D land along with the bleating horror known as Uni the Unicorn), and pap like these comic ads in which goblins are gently put to sleep and dragons are intimidated into letting the heroes escape.

Kill goblins? No sirree, not in our wholesome family game! We overcome monsters non-violently. After all, Valerius’ sword really doesn’t serve any purpose other than scaring off big lizards… If we actually had him stick it in something, that might be construed as violence, a thing that TSR and D&D would never, ever advocate!

Sorry, I wandered. We’re not done with the adventures of Valerius and company, since the strip ran for another four installments, longer than that other classic comic strip, the wretched Pinsom, which I blogged about a few months ago.

So we pick up our heroes’ adventures as they relax at Gavin’s, and for a few panels the story threatens to turn into a clip show.

Willingham’s art has evolved once more, growing more distinctive and detailed. There are a few slightly more “cartoony” elements to it (such as Saren’s surprised face in panel five), but overall it’s obvious that his artistic technique is improving by leaps and bounds.

Saren opens the strip by saying “That was a close call, eh Valerius?” (which it really wasn’t… the dragon was a complete and total pushover). Valerius — now with his helmet off, revealing a chisel-jaw and a full head of rich raven locks — replies, “Not nearly as close as our first adventure, Saren!”

Rolling his eyes upward Grimslade (now looking a little less angry mage-like and more peaceful and grandfatherly) reminisces, “It seems like only yesterday when we were introduced by my mentor, Grindal…”

And now of course we cut to a flashback, while Wayne and Garth wiggle their fingers and say “Doodle-oo, doodle-oo, doodle-oo,” and the wizened and balding Grindal (who looks an awful lot like Grimslade does now) encompasses the group with a wave of his hand, saying “…A healer, an elf and a fighter. They will be your companions on this quest, Grimslade.”

Here’s another page from “Ironwood” because I’m getting tired of staring at four-color process, and also because this blog needs more gratuitous nudity.

So your mentor gets to pick your companions for you? That seems kind of harsh, and I’d probably have issues with being given dungeoneering partners in that fashion, but Grimslade (younger now, with a ginger beard and a full head of hair) doesn’t seem to mind. The others all look pretty much the same, and the partnership turns out to be a match made in the seven heavens, for Grimslade then says that “We had to overcome many perils to find the fabulous Heart of Mekron!”

Now here they do show Saren and Valerius fighting a black dragon, but all the curvaceous Saren is doing is casting a defensive spell while bold Valerius just holds up his sword. Not exactly a rip-roaring blood-and-thunder melee, but I guess it’s better than just scaring the dragon off.

Grindal approves, since they don’t bother to sell the Heart of Mekron off for half book price, but instead bring it to him. He says, “You have all done well! You will make a fine wizard one day, Grimslade!”

All this reminiscing is strangely prescient, for now we cut back to the present, where a ghostly figure has appeared in the inn, wailing “HELLLP MEEE!”, causing Indel (who really is the Snails of the group) to fall backwards out of  his chair.

The apparition wastes no time in introducing himself. “It is I…” he begins, but Saren cuts him off, crying “Grindal!” Grimslade (who looks as if he’s had one too many) stares and says “GASP!!”

To be continued, kids. Where did the strange figure come from, what does he want, and what does fate have in store for our adventurers? Well, the fact is that we never do find out, any more than we learn that clod Pinsom’s destiny, but we’ve at least got a couple more strips to go before our heroes are consigned to limbo.

So with that I think I’ll bring this installment to a close, but stay tuned, for more descriptions of our brave adventurers’ brave adventures lie ahead. Personally I think they’re a pretty inept bunch of bunglers, but hey — at least they have their own comic strip, which is more than I ever had. See you all soon.

And oh yeah — Merry Christmas! Or Happy Solstice, Hanukkah, Festivus, Kwanza or whatever you’re celebrating. If we all wrote more gaming supplements, erotic swords and sorcery novels and blogged about trivialities, this would be a much happier world. Peace out.

The New Wulf Archives

As I have finally completed work on at least the tentative version of the new, New NEW Improved Wulf Archives site, where you can read my adult (and for those of you who need explanation, that means 18 years and over only, please) fantasy adventures featuring Wulf the Freelance — rogue, warrior, adventurer, philosopher, lover and all-around grumpy guy — and his various friends and lovers.

I’ve described how I came to write the Wulf stories several times — in short, I loved both the works Bill Willingham, Stephen Brust and others, and in the early days of Usenet, I posted to the infamous alt.sex.stories newsgroup, mostly because I thought most of what was posted there was crap. In short order I started getting positive responses, and eventually started a couple of different websites. Various other adventures, including divorce, loss of job, new relationships, family matters, work matters and lots of other cool projects kind of got in Wulf’s way and my last site died of neglect about four or five years ago, besieged by spambots.

Well hopefully that’s all fixed now and this site, imperfect though it is, will be around indefinitely. I’m hoping to add some stuff like forums and art galleries, but for the moment people can go there and download the Wulf stories as html for free, or go to my Smashwords links and pay me real cash money for the ebook versions.

It’s been a long, strange trip and I honestly think I’m a better person now than when I first set electron to electron back in ’92 or ’93 when I wrote The Demon Crown, the first real Wulf story. As you can read in the introductions to the various Dark Vengeance tales, writing the last trilogy of Wulf stories reflected the depths to which my life had descended in ’99 and ’00, and hopefully set the stage for the long road back home.

In the spirit of Bill Willingham’s classic Ironwood comic, the Wulf series has a plot, has characters and hopefully is decently written, but is also pretty unashamedly erotic. Actually, I always kind of disliked the term “erotica,” since it’s really nothing but a nice word for “porn,” so I won’t mince words — the Wulf series are pornographic, though hopefully in this day and age that won’t be considered a negative. If you like swords and sorcery, fantasy adventures, explicitly erotic writing and epic-level tales that include lots of sex between people of various species, genders and social persuasions, go check out Wulf, and by all means let me know what you think. Like I said, it’s been a very long time since this whole affair started, and I’m hoping that Wulf will be with me for a long time to come. Check it out.

 

More Sex. Oh, Yeah…

Sex and Roleplaying Games, Part 2

Now on to the conclusion of my sex and roleplaying (games) essay. Again, this isn’t as much an attempt to encompass the entire history of rpg sex as a personal reflection on some high and low points. As with the previous entry this one leans toward the PG-13/R end of the scale but attempts to avoid the overtly pornographic, and is suggested for mature readers in addition to being probably NSFW unless you work at a garage or something. 

The Flawed and the F.A.T.A.L.

In the early days of the Internet, the infamous Netbook of Sex raised eyebrows and hackles with rules for pregnancy, STDs, prostitution and other things. As with most Netbooks, the rules contained therein weren’t official and also skirted the fringes of legality, since many publishers were known for strictly enforcing their own interpretation of copyrights.

With the advent of the Open Gaming License, or OGL, the further expansion of the Internet, print-on-demand publications, desktop publishing, the increasing age and sophistication of players, and the ever-widening popularity of roleplaying, sex suddenly took center-stage and became the subject of a number of professional and semi-professional endeavors.

The last decade produced some noble attempts to deal with the topic. The best known of these, and probably the most influential, is the Valar Project’s Book of Erotic Fantasy, which briefly threw the gaming industry into a tizzy and resulted in a restrictive official response. Originally intended as a product released under the d20 license, it was found unacceptable and released as a general OGL product. Its publisher was Anthony Valterra and its coauthor was Gwendolyn Kestrel, both talented Wizards of the Coast employees, something that further muddied the waters regarding its true status.

In many ways, The Book of Erotic Fantasy was an imperfect animal. Its typography was marginal — the text was (in the view of this ex-typographer) too large, its header fonts all but impossible to read and the decision to use photographs instead of drawings and paintings, though daring and sometimes effective, also produced some really silly images. In addition, though the book’s primary focus was on sex, there was a lot of general OGL material only obliquely related, of the sort that was readily available elsewhere, and wasted space that could have been devoted to the book’s main subject.

Despite these flaws, The Book of Erotic Fantasy remains one of the most important books in the OGL’s tumultuous history, since it deals with a serious and possibly uncomfortable subject with grace, maturity and style. Sex is discussed in sensible, unemotional language, and serious issues such as interbreeding, STDs in a society with magical healing, sex among the immortal and other matters, get surprisingly thorough, measured and serious treatment.

No reason she's here. I just like the picture. And I'm not even going to START on sex in MMOs.

In addition to forcing Valar to remove all D20 logos, Wizards of the Coast also responded to the book’s release by instituting a “quality standards” policy for D20-compliant products requiring that they conform to “community standards of decency” which for all intents and purposes meant no female nipples and no bad words. Interestingly enough WotC itself continued to produce books with at least some small amount of nudity even after the quality standards policy was in place, leading some to do “nipple counts” on each new WotC product. This and other similar restrictions sent a few publishers away from strictly D20 products, and toward the less legally hazardous “OGL Compliant” designation. They didn’t get to use the nifty D20 logo, but at least they had more control over content.

While The Book of Erotic Fantasy is certainly a flawed masterpiece, the same cannot be said for some of the other products that have tried to incorporate sex in one form or another. Most prominent of these was a particularly vile little (and by “little” I actually mean “small-minded” as the PDF weighs in at a lean, mean 900+ pages) toxic abortion called F.A.T.A.L. The name was an acronym that originally stood for Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery (as incomprehensible as it is ungrammatical), but was later modified to From Another Time, Another Land in a vain attempt to deflect the firestorm of derision that its intended release provoked.

Believe me, this is MUCH better than looking at anything associated with F.A.T.A.L.

Aptly described as being composed of equal parts “suck, dead puppies and evil”, FATAL was the first (and hopefully last) game to include rules for “aureola width and detection percentage”, “nipple length,” “urination distance,” “anal circumference,” “fist circumference” (those last two presumably used in conjunction with each other), “retard strength” and “hymen resistance”. Male attractiveness was directly related to muscular build. Well-endowed women were less likely to be lesbians (yes, there were rules for determining your sexual orientation). A vast and indigestible magical malfunction table could potentially generate a mishap in which an ogre appears and attempts to rape the nearest individual. Magical items such as the Armor of Jewy Jewbacca (I swear I am not making this up, and I apologize profusely to any Jewish people reading this) caused stereotypical racial behavior (rules which the author defended as “humorous”).

Sexual abuse of women (variously described with such delightful monikers as “Cuntrina,” “slut,” “trollop” and “slovenly slut” among others) was not only openly discussed, but was actively encouraged, and in defending his work online, author Byron Hall (who claimed numerous university degrees, and also said he was married to a “model” — all of which remain unconfirmed) only managed to make himself look even more stupid and repulsive which, given the game’s utterly repugnant nature, was quite an achievement. After all the hype surrounding the game’s repellent content, the author and his equally-unpleasant sidekicks insisted that sexual violence, game statistics for genital size, and repeated sexist, racist and scatalogical references were placed in the game purely in the interest of “historical accuracy.” This little article can’t come close to capturing the reality of the FATAL story — those interested (for whatever reasons) can learn more about it elsewhere on the net.

F.A.T.A.L. (known in gaming circles today as “The Game That Shall Not Be Named” and yes, I named it — sorry, guys) was of course never released commercially and existed only as free PDF downloads from the designer’s website until at last it and the associated website vanished, preserved only on derisive mirror sites as a warning to others (no, I’m not linking to it — you can bloody well go find this festering crap-pile of a game yourself).

Great Cthulhu frowns upon your shenanigans, young man.

While FATAL and its pinhead author have thankfully been submerged into the cesspool of history, other works have filled the void. Empire of Satanisstill available as a free download from lulu.com, allowed players to portray sadistic, flesh-eating demons, rape nuns and devour children in a game that its unfortunate author described as being based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, while at the same time revealing a complete lack of understanding of Lovecraft’s work.

A supplement that claimed to allow “XXX Roleplaying” in the EoS setting, was more of a rambling discourse by someone who appeared to have never actually spoken to — let alone touched — a woman than anything else. The author made himself unpopular on-line, claiming to be a “Priest of Cthulhu” and noting in his forum posts that he had placed Satanic curses on those who gave him bad reviews. Satan and Cthulhu both apparently had their hands full at the time and no serious consequences were reported.

That thing in the background, behind the dagger? It's a penis! A PENIS!

Another entry into the worst rpg sweepstakes, Wraeththu (no, don’t ask me how it’s pronounced) was purportedly based on the works of British fantasist Storm Constantine, and portrays an apocalyptic world in which gamers can play snotty, arrogant pretty-boys, who are actually a race of post-human hermaphrodites with sea anemones where their penises should be.

Though the game was far less innovative than its designer claimed (always beware of games that claim innovation while not telling you how they’re played, by the way), it was the fact that you had to play outwardly male hermaphrodites, there were no humans or females, and that you were encouraged to actually roleplay the sex that set the game apart.

In all fairness I have never actually seen or played Wraeththu, and my information is entirely from other people’s reviews. For all I know, it could actually be the groundbreaking triumph of brilliant design that its publishers claimed, though given the tone of most reviews, I doubt it (evidently in the world of Wraeththu chainmail provides complete protection from flamethrowers and you can die from kicking a car or from tripping and falling down). And of course there’s that whole creepy anemone-penis sex thing… In the words of reviewer Darren McLennan:

By the way, if you GIS "Wraeththu" this is the kind of stuff you get...

“Okay, so it’s the near future, right? And the humans have totally screwed up the world, so there’s these new Wray-thoo things that are slowly taking over. And these Wray-thoo all look like boys, see, ‘cause they used to be guys, but now they’re hermaphrodites, and they’re all willowy, but they can do magic and they spend all their time hunting down humans and forcibly turning them into Wray-thoo when they’re not drinking beer or getting stoned. Oh, and it uses a new system, so you’ll have to learn it. Plus, everybody in the group has to have sex with each other or they’ll die. In the game, I mean. Also, everybody’s character doesn’t have a dick anymore.”

Which, I suppose, explains why you can’t find copies of this game anywhere, anemone-penis sex or no anemone-penis sex.

 The Wolf and the Rose

It was probably White Wolf Games that finally realized gamers weren’t all 14-year-old boys who liked to blow shit up. Released in 1992, Vampire: The Masquerade (part of their celebrated Noun: The Verb series) was an instant success, and eventually the game and others in the Storyteller line unabashedly presented explicit language, gore and nudity to a slightly more sophisticated audience.

White Wolf’s success was something of a two-edged sword, for while they finally made playing rpg’s cool, there was an unfortunate undercurrent of pretentiousness that made them and their fans seem, from some perspectives, almost silly. Let’s face it — the sight of a bunch of goths in a hotel hallway lurking about with their arms crossed on their chests or sitting in the hotel restaurant playing rock-paper-scissors IS a bit goofy, isn’t it?

On the other hand, the Storyteller games contributed a great number of things to the hobby, not the least of which was the influx of… of…

W..W… Women!

White Wolf got women like this involved in gaming. Any objections?

Something about the White Wolf emphasis on story, character and atmosphere and the basic sexiness of goth-vamp-Anne Rice style roleplaying appealed to people of the female persuasion and they actually started playing and hanging out with their male counterparts.

Storyteller does not (as far as I can recall) contain explicit rules for sex — the sexiness is all in the setting, and is often completely interwoven with blood and horror.

WW just released the 20th anniversay edition of V:tM and boy does it make me feel old. As a former freelancer who for a few fun years served as developer of WW’s gone-but-hopefully-not-forgotten Scarred Lands series, I miss the days when WW was a roleplaying powerhouse. Sigh.

Sorry. Digressing again.

It's Conan. This one's for the ladies.

A few other products have tried to approach sex in the OGL setting; Mongoose’s Conan rpg isn’t shy about nudity (hey, it’s Conan after all!) and has a “seductress” PC class, while Sabledrake Enterprise’s supplement Naughty and Dice includes rules for “Turn-ons” and “Turn-offs”, skills such as “Acting, adult films” and “Intercourse, anal” and OGL modern and cyberpunk rules for sex.

Mongoose is also responsible for the OGL version of the hoary classic Macho Women with Guns, originally published by Blacksburg Tactical. As you might guess from the title MWwG is a largely satirical piece of work but which nevertheless has some valuable features, such as the “Run in High Heels” feat and the “Topheavy” disadvantage.

Mongoose’s version of the game has its moments of brilliance, retaining “Topheavy” and “Run in High Heels” as well as advantages like “Plastic Surgeon on Retainer” and drawbacks like “Kinky” (Hey! Who says that’s a drawback?). The marriage of over-the-top spoof and the crunchy goodness of the OGL system is a bit of an uneasy mix, however, though it provides the opportunity to add some pseudo-sexist humor, such as the inclusion of Advanced Classes like “Destroyer in a Fur Bikini,” “Busty Vampire Layer” and “Business Bitch” and rules for catfighting and hot oil wrestling. Still in all, the book is more of a novelty than the rules for a long-running campaign and the art is downright dodgy. Though Mongoose’s effort retains a lot of the humor of the original, I still have to give it a C+.

Some might say that the distinction between the over-the-top but obvious satire of MWwG and crap like FATAL is so subtle as to be non-existent, as if both games are two sides o the same coin. I don’t agree – in the end it’s the difference between overt (if somewhat immature) humor and a really sick attitude toward women.

There are a goodly number of indie rpgs these days that deal with sex in one form or another and attempting to list or describe them would be a sure way to madness. One such rpg that shows up on drivethrurpg.com regularly is Dakkar Unlimited’s Hot Chicks, a game that I have not yet had the pleasure of purchasing, playing or reviewing. All I can say is that the art that they have published for it (including yearly Hot Chicks calendars) features a lot of 3-D poser art of women in very brief outfits, and that the game includes a warning that it contains Strong language and mature themes! Once more it seems “mature” has been conflated with “pictures of chicks with big hooters,” but I’ll tell you more once I’ve actually seen the game.

Green Ronin took a more measured, romantic (and arguably more intelligent) approach to adult themes with the release of Blue Rose in 2005. It utilized a stripped-down version of the d20 system which was eventually released on its own as True20 to a fair amount of success. Blue Rose was both more chaste about sex and more open than many of the other games (and “game-like piles of semi-organic sewage” like FATAL) mentioned here. While alternative lifestyles were right out in plain view, the rules didn’t go beyond passionate handholding.

Blue Rose was an attempt by Green Ronin to develop what they called a “Romantic Fantasy” rpg. By this they mean adapting the thick fantasy novels written by mostly female writers such as Mercedes Lackey and Diane Duane, which feature (as listed in this enworld review) loner characters who end up joining and “belonging” to a bigger group, few if any non-human races, an open and egalitarian society (especially when it comes to sexuality), magic talking animals, lots of touchy-feely environmentalist stuff and smaller, less world-shaking plots than other, more epic tales. 

It’s a genre that has never appealed to me. I’m entirely sympathetic to many of the elements of the genre, of course, but the approach normally taken by these books just doesn’t float my boat. I prefer to read stories about individuals who are fighting against the dominant culture which may be fanatically religious, homophobic, anti-environment, totalitarian, etc., rather than making these the standard values everyone has.

I tend to chafe at authority, and sometimes go so far as to subvert the dominant paradigm in my own mind just for the hell of it. I have a hard time envisioning the idealized societies that these authors envision, because I agree that, as Rousseau suggested, “Everything is good in leaving the hands of the Creator of Things; everything degenerates in the hands of man.” If humanity creates a society, it seems almost inevitable that our human nature will corrupt it.

I can envision a scenario in which the game’s environment-loving, gay-friendly, happy talking animal-having, egalitarian society where everyone is good and cool and friendly and nice to each other degenerating into a politically-correct world gone amok, like that conservative pinhead postulated in that stupid comic book series about what happens when Chelsea Clinton becomes president and Sean Hannity becomes a superhero (no, I’m not making this up — fantasy artist Larry Elmore was involved and shares at least some of the blame). Fortunately for all us America-hating liberals, the writing was bad, the art was bad, the public didn’t wake up to the danger in time and the comic died after a mere three issues. Real Americans everywhere are waiting for a comeback, but this seems unlikely since we haven’t seen a new issue since 2005 back when all the right-wingers were terrified of Hilary Clinton instead of Barack Obama.

Veering Suddenly Off-Topic

That's SUPPOSED to be Sean Hannity on the right. It looks more like Toby Maguire with an eyepatch, but no one really cares anymore.

(By the way, I want to hit “pause” for just a moment, because I can’t resist sharing the premise of the above-mentioned right-wing comic book (from their website):

‘It is 2021, tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. America is under oppression by ultra-liberal extremists who have surrendered governing authority to the United Nations. Hate speech legislation called the “Coulter Laws” have forced vocal conservatives underground. A group of bio-mechanically enhanced conservatives led by Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, and a young man born on September 11, 2001, set out to thwart Ambassador Usama bin Laden’s plans to nuke New York City.’

Let me repeat that.

Bio-mechanically enhanced conservatives. Led by Sean Hannity.

No, really.

BIO-MECHANICALLY ENHANCED CONSERVATIVES. LED BY SEAN HANNITY.

I wish I’d been writing the publicity for this mag… I can see it now…

LIBS BEWARE! HE’S PART MAN, PART MACHINE AND ALL PATRIOT. HE’S CYBER-SEAN HANNITY, with the power to stretch the truth to the breaking point, and bionic eyes that can SEE SOCIALISTS THAT AREN’T EVEN THERE!

Sorry, I wandered again. It’s either a symptom of oncoming dementia or possibly severe ADD. Well, it’s my blog and I can do things like that. Back to sex.

Back to Our Regularly-Scheduled Programming

As I was saying, I prefer stories where the individual must fight or change society, rather than embrace and join it. I don’t like the idea of surrendering my independence to join up with a bunch of tree-hugging hippies, yet to some extent I AM a tree-hugging hippy. Go figure. 

The gods and goddesses of Blue Rose. Groovy, man.

To be honest, I found the niceness of BR’s setting, as did one otherwise sympathetic reviewer, “cloying.” Everyone in the good-guy kingdom of Aldis is nice. The overall feel is new-age neo-paganism with some Native American-style spiritualism thrown in. Everyone loves one another. The gods look like guys you’d run into at the Rainbow Gathering. The country is protected by mountains so they don’t need an army. The ruler is selected by a magical deer and can be anyone, including commoners. To become a noble all you have to do is touch the magical Blue Rose Scepter and presto! The government sounds kind of like that paradisiacal ideal that Socialists keep promising but never seem to deliver.  Everyone eats granola and organic rice (no, I made that up, but you get the idea). The threat comes from those damned homophobic religious fanatics on the other side of the mountains, the Glennbeck Empire. No, not really. I made that up, too.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Blue Rose is notable for its attitude toward sex, which has prompted some doofuses to call it “that gay RPG.” It isn’t — you want gay, go play Wraeththu.

Blue Rose is, however quite even-handed and sensible. Being romantic in nature, it’s more about relationships than it is about doing the deed, and as might be expected the kingdom of Aldis is a paragon of tolerance. Homosexuals are known as “Lovers of the Dawn” while heteros are called “Keepers of the Flame.”

On the other hand, bisexuals (whom some believe actually outnumber those of purely homosexual outlook irl) fare poorly in Aldis. They are mentioned only in passing and don’t even get their own cool nickname — I call shenanigans, Green Ronin. Aldan bisexuals demand their own title, preferably something less pretentious-sounding that “Lovers of the Dawn.” (And does that mean that homosexuals are people who love the dawn, that the dawn loves them, they have sex with the dawn, or that they are lovers who somehow belong to the dawn? Crap… It’s pretentious and ambiguous…)

I’ve spent a fair amount of time with it, and all kidding aside, Blue Rose brought a refreshing maturity to a hobby that desperately needed it. I still had a hard time keeping track of damage conditions for NPCs in True20, but that’s just me.

The Graying of the Hobby

As rpg enthusiasts get older and popular prejudice against the hobby fades, I think that sex will continue to have its place, and that it will continue to grow and evolve. In the end, most campaigns will probably follow the same model as most of mine — we play adults and adults have sex sometimes. Exactly how explicit this sex is depends on how comfortable people are with the subject and, more importantly, how significant sex is to a campaign. What a character has for dinner can add color and flavor (pardon the pun) to a roleplaying session, but isn’t important enough to dwell on for more than a few moments. If what he is eating, or how he eats will affect the session or the opinion of people around him, then more time can be taken to roleplay out the meal. The same applies to sex, and hopefully it will be dealt with in an increasingly mature and sensible manner.

Several years ago I saw something at a Gencon that I found both sweet and encouraging. Lou Zocchi, the king of weird dice and inventor of the d100 “golfball” die was at his booth, displaying dice of all shapes, sizes and colors. A young goth couple came up to him and eagerly chatted with him, watching as he discussed his career and his products. The image of that elderly gamer talking to a new generation — a pair of pretty young goths in all their finery — represented to me the best that gaming could offer. If anything can act as a bridge between generations, a hobby enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age, sex, race, orientation or nationality, then long live gaming. And let the new generation discover gaming in all its glory, sex included.