Cover for TWH #171, the issue this zine appeared in.
Being a House Organ for
And being called such at this time only because I started it this time
Copyright © 1992 B. A. "Collie" Collier
I wasn't going to write to TWH. I'm an irregular correspondent at best. However, George, one of my room-mates, thought that it would be interesting to comment, and that we could do some type of "house" zine. All of us being, umm, strongly opinionated types and on occasion frantically busy, we may (between the three of us) be able to keep a zine coming in to TWH. Count on the title changing often. ;-)
Since George's last quote on the subject was that he was "almost ready" to write something, I'll let him introduce himself. Ditto for Bob, room-mate #2.
But enough about you...
I am the manager of a games and comics store called Planet Ten (plug); my name is B. A. "Collie" Collier, it is a nickname, and I answer to both. Some gaming background:
The Bay Area style of play is somewhat different than what I am used to. Champions was developed locally, and the developers and their friends seem to have a very specific style of play. They think 12 to 18 months is a long campaign. I've seen little cross gender play. I'm not sure why -- maybe it's only the groups I'm familiar with. They appear a somewhat "incestuous" lot, preferring to game within their group. I heard one of them say he helped develop Champions and as far as he was concerned, there wasn't anything else really worth playing. This attitude seems to apply to the gaming style also.
I found your suggested topic of some interest. I have been requesting more interplay between characters in the games I'm in. To me this means less combat. I'd also like to see more sex and/or romance. However, sex never happens on-camera. It's always "behind the curtain" -- if it occurs at all. Often any mention of sex seems to cause a tremendous amount of furtive embarrassment. Embarrassed players and sex don't mix.
Obvious sexual relationships do exist in games. I've seen NPC-PC sexual couples . Usually the NPC was conveniently somewhere else during play. I've seen only one PC-PC sexual couple. I planned it, and I was romantically involved with the other player.
One possible reason I've seen so little gaming romance (or was that sex?) is that another female gamer left many males out here with the feeling that any sexual or romantic role-play was considered inappropriate. I disagree with her. I enjoy romantic role-play. One GM was stunned when my PC started flirting broadly with an NPC. I quote (with amusement): "Can she say that?!"
Some GMs and players don't seem to care for the inter-player implications of romantic role-playing. To analyze this type of embarrassment you must ask certain questions: are the characters involved played by people of the opposite gender? Are the characters themselves of differing genders? Are the players romantically linked? Is it a PC-PC or PC-NPC connection?
An example -- we have two male players trying to play two romantically linked PCs. If one PC is female the player may be somewhat uncertain already. Next you have one male "coming on to" another male, regardless of the PC-PC interaction. This may make either or both of them uncomfortable. If the real life romantic interest of one is present there may be further complications. Also, these two players have everyone else watching them. They may wonder if anyone thinks oddly of them.
In theory, the answers to these questions should help clarify any confusion. In actual practice, I think this type of play is too threatening for most people. I'd sure like to find a game where this isn't the norm.
Just having sex in the game is not the answer. Bad sex is worse than no sex. I remember one incident where someone's PC unwillingly "played cabin-boy" to a bunch of NPC pirates. I was offended by this, but my PC was not present at the time and no one else was objecting, including the player involved. I decided not to speak up, but to tell the GM in private how uncomfortable I felt. I found out later that I was the fourth person to say something about the situation, including the player of the assaulted PC.
When the GM later discussed this issue with the group he said that I, the only female, had found it offensive. He announced that, because I bitched, it simply had not happened. He subsequently became exaggeratedly and patronizingly apologetic to me whenever anything even vaguely sexual came up in the game. (Sarcasm alert) Personally, I think that was his idea of romance.
Yes, that game is dead.
When I wanted more romance in one game I'm in, I was asked by the rather confused GM what I considered romantic. I've given it some thought, and I think a major component of "Romance" is conflict or tension. Not conflict like "Married with Children", but a conflict of ideals.
I initially asked for something romantic in this game and got an NPC lover for my character. I found the careful "courtship" delightful to play. Then the relationship solidified as trust was gained, and I discovered that I was again dissatisfied. The long-suffering GM put an additional NPC lover into the game. I got to play a slightly different lovely, romantic bit.
I was a little startled when the GM commented on how promiscuous my character seemed to be, as that was not how I had perceived her at all. After some thought I realized that the reason the character had two very different lovers was because she was in a super-hero game. She had one lover for each "aspect" of her life. But I had caused the character to have two lovers because I was trying to recapture that breathless anticipation, that trembling moment of uncertainty when one has to decide whether or not to trust.
There's some anime movie about two people on opposite ideological sides of a war. They lead their respective fighter wings. They're both people of integrity and honor, and know that one does not casually desert one's duty. They're in love with each other, but neither knows the other's hidden feelings.
I think that's the essence of what I was looking for. I call it "romance" for lack of a better word. It has caused me some trouble, as I tend to be willing to give everyone, even villains, a second chance. How much more immediate that second chance becomes when the stakes are your PC's personal feelings! Does anyone else feel the same?
It's possible what I'm really looking for is demanding role-play with a happy ending. Demanding role-play doesn't mean everyone must suffer horribly and happy endings don't have to be thoughtlessly saccharine. This is what I want when I ask for romance in a game.
It's more exciting when my PCs' feelings are ambivalent about important people in the game. I enjoy it most when the "right" answer to a moral question isn't immediately obvious and the consequences are important. There may not even be a "right" answer. Most important to me as a player is the process of examination. Why does that character feel that way? How do they justify that position? Can I change their mind? Can they change mine? These are the possibilities and challenges I love to explore. To misquote Heavy Metal magazine, "The suspense is killing me! I do hope it lasts!"
Last Updated: Mon Aug 4 1997