I’ve already discussed this in a piece on romance in-game, but this posting will focus more on the physical act of love and how it can be used (or not) in your campaign.

First off, introducing sex into your game depends heavily on the maturity level of the players. You don’t want full-on X-rated game play with underage kids at the table. Or guys that haven’t yet realized that women are actually people, and not some breathing sex toy. (Rent Deadgirl for an interesting look into this mindset.) Secondly, make sure everyone is comfortable with the subject. Some people have no issues with sex being part and parcel of the gaming experience — it’s a major factor in people’s lives, after all; some find adding sex really spices up a game, especially in settings where romance is a key factor (the World of Darkness settings, for instance); others cringe at the very notion of sexuality, or are simply embarrassed in that contxt (you will find female players are often embarrassed to pursue this when they are a minority in the gaming group. Men, too, but that seems less common, in my experience…)

The level of comfort and maturity tells you what you can do. With kids at the table, you might want to keep it G-rated, where a kiss is the high point of the romantic pursuit. With mature adolescents and adults, PG or R is doable: you can keep it veiled — the old we’re in bed and the pan away to blowing curtails while the girl sighs, “Oh, James…” or you cut to the next morning. For most instances, this is where most games will leave it. And having read about troubles with maturity levels on other gaming blogs, it sounds like a good idea. (Man, I’ve been lucky with my groups..!)

But for campaigns where sex might be the goal of the character, or it is an integral part of the storyline, a bit of show and tell is not necessarily a bad thing. You can still keep it “clean” but onscreen — ala Battlestar Galactica, where the sexual relations of the characters was important; it was a motivator for some, a means of control for others. For instance, the classic femme fatale of pulp and spy soties uses her feminine wiles to control the male characters. When you’re thinking with the wee head, you can find yourself in a bad situation quickly…and you put yourself there because of a woman.

Example: in our current pulp game, one of the characters has the flaw “Sucker for a Dame” — this gives you an insight into the mindset of the man. Maybe he’s overly chivalrous, but more likely, he’s a horndog who gets emotionally attached or sexually fixated on a woman (or  more) a session. This has played directly against him in the game: he has a “girlfriend”, a half-Chinese smuggler that has bedded him senseless. He’s completely smitten, now, and she’s used this to her advantage to get him to help her buy a larger vessel, to gain access to important information on the mellified man, etc. He also gets sidetracked by other women, and this will most likely eventually bite him on the ass.

A man or woman desperate for love or affection is likely to be more easily swayed with a few honeyed words or a good shag. this puts them at a disadvantage when dealing with those that would use sex to manipulate them. A character that uses their sexuality for advantage tend to have certain modes of operation that once known, could be countered easily; more over, in certain times and cultures, being sexually rapacious or even simply “sexy” can get you into trouble: you’re scandalous and have trouble with certain elements of society, you might be branded a criminal or simply an acceptable target (if you’re talking money for sex, or homosexual…)

And there’s the obvious issue with sexual relations…what is the act for in the first place: procreation. You don’t want to be a super-spy or viper pilot who finds yourself pregnant in the middle of long-term mission or the robot apocalypse. The Walking Dead dealt with this the other night: you don’t want a squalling brat that will bring even zombie in a 5 block radius to your encampment, or alert the Cylons to your location, or have it get sick while you’re on the road to whatever destination in your fantasy world. It’s also hard to fight a pack of kobolds effectively with your bairn in a papoose.

Maybe you don’t get a kid out of it…maybe you just get a case of something unpleasant. If you’re sleeping around with the busty barmaids of the fine village of Whereverthehellweare in your D&D campaign, you might want to introduce a bit of the itchy-scratchy to the character…preferably once they’re already on route to whatever dungeon or adventure they’re headed for, just so they can enjoy the burning sensation for a few sessions. You could use it against them: hard to ride a horse, or run in those cool leather pants when a case of the crabs.

Sex doesn’t have to be about fantasy porn. A GM can use sex to enhance the motivations or characters, their relations with NPCs, and to be a right bastard from time to time.