|Sex and Text Roleplaying Games
||[Jul. 25th, 2013|10:58 am]
This is: http://talzhemir1.livejournal.com/97203.html|
SEX AND TEXT ROLEPLAYING GAMES, Part 1. You might be wondering why, when there are so many beautiful and easy-to-play games you can play FREE...There are still all-text games out there. WHY? There are many parts to the answer, but one thing that stands out the most is that RPGs are extremely puritanical.
The mass-market graphical roleplaying games are mainly about combat and commerce. They give no window for sexual expression other than whether one is male or female in appearance. (As if to overcompensate for their prudishness, the females are consistently dressed and given facial expressions and physical poses the way our culture pictures prostitutes.)
It's not just that the RPGs are worlds of where everyone is "neutered". There are hardly any other relationships at all of ANY kind between players. Games like "World of Warcraft" don't do anything to suggest your characters can be friends, parents-and-children, brothers-and-sisters, cousins, employer-and-employee, or even liege-and-vassal, which would be appropriate in a feudal world.
Outside of facilitating 'raids' and 'guilds' with 'ranks' and tools to enforce rank, they don't care about any other form of relationships. All they support is more combat and more commerce.
They *are* "roleplaying" games... but only if your fantasy is to be a sexless orphan merchant in a pseudo-military setting. Even "City of Heroes", a superheroes RPG, was strongly slanted this way. I'm enjoying playing "Champions" (also superheroes) but the hours that my character is a -butcher- far outweighs the momentary attempts of the canned civilians to make me feel like a -hero-.
Most all-text RPG worlds are very different. They have moved considerably beyond their all-text "MUD" ancestry. These resembled an eternal game of Dungeons and Dragons where you kill-monsters-and-take-their-treasure.
I don't mean to say the text RPGs are all wall-to-wall sexual encounters. There is a wide range of activities possible.
Some don't allow mature content or strong mature themes. You don't get murder and drug runner plots in Narnia or Equestria.
Some allow "mature themes" but sexually explicit talk is not allowed. A character in a Harry Potter MUSH could be kidnapped and tortured. The MUSH may specify that any such events take place "off-camera". They happen but they are not played out with dialog and descriptions.
SEX AND TEXT ROLEPLAYING GAMES, Part 2. The World of Darkness setting claims the lion's share of the all-text games. You may never have played any of these tabletop RPGs but most supernatural TV series are based on it. "True Blood" is World of Darkness warmed-over. So are "Supernatural", "Lost Girl", and "Dresden Files".
There is extensive coding for character generation from the tabletop games. Anyone can start their own MUSH, and a complete World of Darkness character generation machine is easily installed as a "module".
Two of the WoD character types are 'vampires' and 'werewolves'. NO other setting gives players clearly-defined supernatural abilities. The rules of each MUSH describe to what extent these abilities may be used upon other players' characters.
As described by its authors, in the rulebook "Vampire: the Masquerade", the daylight-impaired blood-dependent sorts are known as "Kindred". They are ALL capable of various forms of mind-control, such as feeding one drop of their blood to a mortal to cause infatuation. Some World of Darkness MUSHes are especially for players who want to roleplay non-consentual sexual situations that this enables. Ethically speaking, this goes past 'assault' (as using a needle on somebody to draw blood would also be) and on into virtual date-rape.
In "Werewolf: the Apocalypse", the WoD shapeshifters are known as "Garou". They have a quirk in that they may not mate with each other. They are required to find half-human half-werewolf mates known as "Kinfolk". ALL werewolves are capable of a specific form of mind-control that causes the victim to be helplessly aroused. Again, this is a form of fantasy date-rape. (The books specify it's also used on wolves, so, throw in an off-stage background that includes bestiality rape.)
The games' creators didn't intend for these rules to be applied to player-characters, just NPCs. But, rather than being something done by six friends for four hours once a week, MUSHes daily, 24/7, and involve hundreds of players. The players often wish to roleplay these situations out, as both perpetrators and as (out-of-character willing) victims.
These powers are part of a canon setting, the owners of the MUSHes have found themselves powerless to rewrite it. (You have the right to do so, but if you start making house rules, you drive players away.) Since they can't ban it without destroying their own game; they are only able to regulate it. (This has major implications for anybody who wants to write an RPG. What you want the game world to be like, it will be. Unlike tabletop, where the GM can alter the setting at-will, you have far more power as the designer than online GMs.)
A huge part of development of rules for online RPGs has been devising rules for the real-life social end of this kind of setting. To what extent when one opts-in to playing a World of Darkness game must one also consent to strangers roleplaying out date-rape scenarios?
After a decade, the most common default is that players must give out-of-character consent to any scene. Injury of the character, artificial alterations to their psyche, any kind of "removal" of the character from the MUSH, and permanent death require a player's okay. ("Removal" covers being held captive permanently, having a huge bounty placed on the character, etc. Being unwilling as a player to play the character does not.)
Online RPGs that make use of tabletop rules and mechanics allow the player's characters to attack one another. A blanket "consent rule" could allows a player to cause a situation and then dance away. Some MUSHes completely accept this and say, "If you don't like how someone plays, do not play with *them*."
Others uphold a that "consent" does not trump in-character actions leading to in-character consequences. So, if you are in the Mos Eisley Cantina on the Star Wars MUSH, and you walk up to someone and pose drawing a blaster, you must automatically consent to the logical possibility that someone else does the same and shoots first.
* The frequency of the need to resolve this kind of situation and give players fair opportunity to react has driven most non-dice "storytelling-oriented" MUSHes out of existence. They still do exist, though.
(See next post for a look inside Shangrila, an all-text MUSH that's sexually-oriented...)
SEX AND TEXT ROLEPLAYING GAMES, Part 3. "Shangrila" is a bit unusual as a MUSH in that it is not based on any established movie or book setting. It's one of the few "indy" MUSHes that is popular. EXTREMELY popular. At any given time, you'll find about 300 players are on. The typical MUSH has between 20 and 60.
It is adults-only. As all you need to connect is a computer and a MUSH client, there is no way to verify this. Like web pages, they post a rule and players must affirm they are of-age. There is no age-verification being done. This amount of effort has sufficed, legally, for 18 years.
Here's Shangrila's disclaimer:
This is an Adults Only game! For those who are at
least 18 years or older. We take no legal responsibility
for what is written on your screen, regardless of your
age. Proceeding further than this screen means that
you waive any legal action towards the staff, players,
and anyone else connected to this MUX for any reason.
If it is discovered that you are not of legal age, your
character will be @nuked immediately and removed
from the game. Period. If you cannot accept these
terms then type 'QUIT' now.
Although it isn't based on any tabletop RPG with stats, the character generation process is VERY long. Why? First, there's the commands of the MUSH to comprehend; how to talk, emote, use an exit. Second, there's familiarizing oneself with Shangrila's rules.
For example, speaking foreign languages is "regulated" through in-MUSH game commands. New characters start out knowing two languages. To learn more requires an in-character teacher, i.e. another player's character. It takes 15 sessions to learn a language. (A "session" is a scene, typically 2-4 hours long, with no more than one per 24 hour period.)
The third part of character generation is cosmetic details. You can set these other optional attributes about your character: eyes, hair, skin color, species, height, weight. Also, a player openly tags their character with a gender, gender-preference, and age. As a rule, no character may be under age 13, nor may they LOOK as if they are under 13.
The fourth part is familiarizing oneself with Shangrila's proprietary unique custom setting: a dimension in which human society consists of several "castes", including slavers at the top and slaves at the bottom. The rules specify:
--- Do not use boards or channels to request scenes involving ---
--- characters or settings from other media or out-of-Shangrila ---
--- scenes. ... Do not conduct faction- or government-related ---
--- roleplay without first obtaining consent from faction leaders. ---
The ban on other settings effectively prevents players from heaping supernatural abilities on themselves AND expecting others to react as if it was valid. A character can come from a world where they were an "Elder" of the Skubidu Vampires; here, they're just another bloodsucker, until they have earned their prestige in the context of this world.
The fifth part is one's list of +Kinks. All other players who have created a character will be able to view your Kinks. When they look, if you happen to be online, you will be notified they are checking you out. (You can opt-out of this notification, though.)
If there is something a player does NOT like, they can specify this, as well. Everyone has their "kinks". It's a really important insight that everyone also has their "squicks"-- their major turn-offs.
In the interest of keeping this post "safe for work", I won't display Shangrila's +Kinks list here. However, I *will* give a link to it. If you are not of legal age in your community, do not look. This is adult material from an adults-only all-text game.
SEX AND TEXT ROLEPLAYING GAMES, Part 4. Players on the all-text MUSH "Shangrila" can also tag their characters with special "flags". While most people would not want other players to impose events on their character... many players DO. From here, my "tour" takes is into darker territory. (For some, the words "CREEPY AS HELL" may apply better.)
Non_Consent is a flag that announces the player doesn't want to be asked OOC if something is okay. (They have already given consent; please don't break the mood.)
" When a players sets the NON_CONSENT flag on, they are authorizing *all* other players to initiate *any* scene with them. This means OOC consent does not need to be sought to begin a scene, including difficult scenes. However, the player may bring the scene to a halt at *any* point. "
The "Victim" flag is a more extreme version of the Non_Consent flag:
" ...this is considered a special request on the part of the character to be abused, humiliated, vilified, and in any other way victimized by others. Victims cannot be killed, unless they are also prey. "
"Don't become a victim unless you ENJOY being made into a victim -- frequently. If it's just nice for an occasional thrill, nothing says you have to be an official victim. If you want to spend your days at the rough mercy of others, by all means be a victim."
The "Prey" flag is even more extreme than "Victim" in that the player has consented for their character to die. Prey can be a slavering beast that needs to be put down, or a lost damsel in the woods, or a renegade warrior who is marked for death. It can be an innocent bunny rabbit (provided the bunny rabbit is at least age 13, of course).
This includes what is referred to as "snuff". In the case of a vorarophilia scene, there might not be any sexual references made at all. The news files provide extensive description on how such a scene is carried out. This is one of the VERY few places the game's staff step in to enforce In Character action. It is done via the +deathpact command.
Both players must "sign" that they consent to this kind of scene. Once it's done, the Prey is going to be removed from the database of the game; the player will not be able to appeal for the saving of their character on any grounds. (In all of Shangrila's years of operation, it's never happened.)
Now, here's one of the places where Shangrila's social status system comes into play. To *be* a killer, a player's character must be of the Master/Mistress caste, the rulers of the society. They alone have power of life and death in this way. If the virtual "slave's" fantasy is to be under the threat of in-character death, this mechanism makes sure the player really really knows what they have signed up for.
Shangrila is not solely a "bondage parlor", however. There are MANY players who really don't want any part of the "S&M" side of this game. They can opt for the Castes of "Citizen" or "Denizen" instead. It's just that, being more obscure, prospective slaves and Masters/Mistresses have to advertise more, and thus seem more... hehe...
SEX AND TEXT ROLEPLAYING GAMES, Part 5. On most MUSHes, characters can meet serendipitously on "the grid", non-private "locations" described in a paragraph. There are often +hangouts to which you can teleport; you can see a list and how many people are already there. A medieval tavern, an internet cafe, and a sunny beach can be +hangouts.
+Hangouts can have rules specific to their setting. A posh nightclub might require disarming via a pat-down. Some +hangouts are set up to favor particular factions, with enemies of the faction not allowed, by OOC plot device/plot assumption.
Although it has factions, Shangrila doesn't really have many active +hangouts. Most players find roleplay via the filtered search functions to find out if someone else online fits particular criteria. For example, you can search for a list of all male/gay/Masters or all female/bisexual/slaves. Then, they can pore over one another's +Kinks hoping to find someone appealing, and then send a whisper-page hello.
The person invited can look over the profile of the person approaching them and decide if that's to their tastes. If they are already engaged in a scene, they may arrange to meet at a later time and date.
An additional possibility is that of the 100% pre-arranged scene. On Shangrila, players are allowed ONE post per day on the public message boards.
By allowing these +BB posts, players can form IC connections between their characters by pre-arrangement. This isn't unique to Shangrila and it's not just done for sexual arrangements. On the MUSH "City of Hope", I could request someone to play my character's aunt who happens to be the owner of an art gallery. I might play a Ghoul and want a vampire to serve, or I might play a doctor and want an orderly. I could put together a team of mercenaries who originally served in the military together.
On Shangrila, though, the +BB requests are often pretty kinky. A player can post a synopsis of what they would like to play out. It can be general, it can be very very specific. It can be open-ended but there is more often an assumed ending/outcome, with only a very limited number of surprises. It can be a full story-arc spanning many sessions. Here's excerpts from a request post:
...In Ken's case, he doesn't plan for there to be any others in his daughter's life. He plans to be her first, and her last, and to influence every aspect of her life, from what she wears, to where she goes, and whom she sees...Seeking someone interested in this setting. I'm looking for more than TS, I also want a story and character development. One possibility includes keeping your character a virgin till she's reached a certain age. If interested, or to discuss more / chat about ideas, feel free to page, +finger, or @mail me. Human females only.
It can be a one-shot (referred to as a "sandbox" scene):
Pretty simple concept, I want to play out a scene where Zackery gets turned into a monster by another monster. If this is how the monster reproduces and makes Zackery its child, all the better, particularly from a mommy monster but either gender is possible. Bonus points if the loving parent teaches the hungry newborn how to feed on unsuspecting humans so that he grows up big and strong . Page me if interested.
Sometimes a player sees a +BB request and makes an alt (new alternate character) just for another player. Sometimes a request is so successful that the person who posted it makes an alt, running several versions of their +BB request. Ken's request for a slave-girl daughter will be VERY VERY VERY popular. Incest is a major kink-- while watching two women get it on has become a "Who cares?"
If you live in the United States, this is probably news to you. If you are from anywhere else, which requests turn out to be popular will probably not shock you, because it's far more likely to have come up in casual conversation.
I've been running online games since before there was Windows. I think that kinks are not "the exception". They're "the rule", and our culture in the United States insists on trying to keep all of this secret. Despite the abolition of arranged marriages, we often get married not really know one another sexually. The questionnaires from matchmaking services ask what your income is, and what your skin color is, and what your favorite kind of restaurant.
Text roleplaying games are one of the very very rare arenas where people with something in common sexually can find each other. If you happen to be looking for a mate, wouldn't it also be nice to know in advance that they are amazingly turned on by shaved privates or having spaghetti thrown in their hair...? It's rather unlikely that will come up while playing Guild Wars using headphones and microphones.
I think there's room in the market for RPGs that are not oriented towards combat and merchantry, but instead, simulations of social interaction. Some will be as extreme as Shangrila. Much of it will be more "vanilla"-- settings as banal as the Anytowns in which countless Silhouette Romances and softcore porn novels take place. (He was a young doctor... she was a stunningly successful socialite florist...) When it hits, it'll be as shocking to Americans as the billion-dollar success of FarmVille.
SEX AND TEXT ROLEPLAYING GAMES, Part 6. One reason I've been "making much" of the sexually-oriented text RPGs because they have consistently been the source of useful and successful social rules for online play. What we learned there, became useful in the non-sexual RPGs.
Combining a "consent rule" and a theory of In Character Actions Yields In Character Consequences ("ICA->ICC") has led to a fair balance between granting all players their in-character due and protecting players from abuse by other players. By introducing character sheets and dice, fair and neutral resolution is possible.
Online text RPGs are changing.
I think that the sex-oriented MUSHes, with their +kinks and other "amenities" have made prowling around for X-rated interaction on other MUSHes obsolete. In general, hunting for sex on "adventure-oriented" places becoming less and less acceptable.
Also, for the past five years, player-versus-player combat has become less and less popular. It is being replaced by player-vs-NPC (non-player character) action. New mechanics enable a player to be a temporary or permanent GM/storyteller for these "PRPs" (player-run plots). Obviously, these are just those +BB scene requests without the sex.
This has a huge advantage over tabletop in that the player has more of an ability to request a particular opportunity, one more relevant to their character. If you are playing a demon-hunter, you can request a demon hunt. If you are a werewolf that engages in eco-terrorism, you can request that. You can go through a PRP as a solo player or you can bring along your Coterie/Pack/whatever group.
PRPs allow the player to fulfill the role that they wrote for themselves. Arguably, what we do in a typical Dungeons & Dragons session is play a generic group "role" of "We're some adventurers". The Elf rarely has a chance to do ELVEN things; the Bard rarely feels like a Bard. To a large extent, many tabletop games are frozen at a stage of a boardless board game serial. (Moving beyond this has to come from the game designers. It is going to require innovative mechanics, and not be some vague grail for the GM to jump and try to grab.)
Player-motivated requests can finally tie in very cool backgrounds written up by players to the present play. If you have an enemy in your character's background, a check can be made to see if they come after you (a la Champions/Fantasy Hero). Events that ought to emerge from a character's established history can finally occur, with events being a surprise to all players involved (including the one acting as referee).
...It's been extremely difficult to get my older friends to see the point of the player-run plot. They tend to view requesting a scene as being "high maintenance". They're used to doing what the group does, at the GameMaster's direction. The PRP concept is mainly coming from a younger generation of players who are free of their elders' self-limiting preconceptions. :)
One of my favorite scenes I ever requested was the chance to go to Alaska and sign on with a crab boat. The Storyteller made me come up with a plan of how I would get around the taboo that many captains have against hiring women crew. I made saving throws against being washed overboard by icy swells. When a fellow sailor was pulled overboard, I discreetly used my supernatural abilities to rescue him, with no-one the wiser. There were luck rolls to see if the crab pots were full or empty.
The text of the scene was captured and logged and sent to the MUSH's administrators. They skimmed the text, and rewarded my character financially using admin-only game commands. As a greenhorn I only got 1 'share' but in game terms, that was enough to bring my character from 'Resources 2' to '3'. My character went from renting to owning a house, which let me offer other players a place for their characters to dwell.
PRPs are regulated by recording what they are meant to be, and registering a commitment to the continuity by choosing a Risk Level. Inspired by the high mortality rate that real-life crab fishers face, I signed on for a "death fully possible without my OOC consent" adventure. Deciding this on an adventure-by-adventure basis works much better than trying to do it as a permanent "blanket" setting. I made a kind of "wager with fate".
If a player wants to, they can reciprocate by running a scene for others. Unlike tabletop, since the bookkeeping is automated, and it's short-term, more people can handle the complex task of being the GM. I've run a LOT of PRPs.
In the years since the release of many RPG rule books, online text gaming has become very sophisticated. Conversely, it has made *playing* the games *easier*.
Unfortunately, the rule books are still being written mainly with tabletop in mind. Game designers are neither taking advantage of the opportunities, nor showing they are aware that choices that cut a game off from successful online adaptation is a big handicap.
One of the least successful, overall, of the World of Darkness games is "Mage the Ascension". Its continuity is a minefield of plot disasters and later editions only made it worse. It can only be run online with major house rules kluged on. As a tabletop game it's fine. As an online game, it's a dinosaur's dinosaur.
Dresden Files (the game), by contrast, is doing extremely well, despite a $50 "entry fee" for the two books required to be a GM. Both the rules and the canon history adapt to online better. (Dark Spires MUSH comes to mind.) Make a game that runs well as a MUSH, and you'll sell a lot more copies.
If you're curious about what the current MUSHes are, MudConnector keeps a list, and links to the various web sites.