When the hell did so much online RP become erotic roleplay (ERP)? When I started running games in a public forum, when I opened up a campaign to include people I’d never met, I began to encounter a style of play I had never seen before. Players contriving reasons to have their characters be naked, or falling all over each other dramatically. Literally rolling around on the ground screaming about their feelings while other PCs or NPCs were standing around with question marks over their heads. Breathing into other people’s faces with “kiss me you fool” and the like.
I was running a post-apocalyptic zombie game. There were dead people all over the place, fresh memories of headsplosions and terror in the background, and I had a few players running their characters like that – or edging in that direction like creepers feeling out boundaries for the trespass. Why?
There’s a culture clash at work here. Apparently a lot of RP on these sundry intertubes is entirely focused on romance &/or fuckin’. I’m from the era before that came to pass, so I never saw it coming. OK, wherever there’s a culture clash, there may be room for learning about each other, coming to a comfortable middle ground, right?
I’m not so sure that’s even possible. For someone who sees the entire point of RPGs as a way to get their rocks off, doing anything else has to be maddening. They certainly seemed immune to taking hints, and the one time it did blow up into a confrontation, acted incredulous that anyone would be bothered by their characters wallowing in physical PDA.
Maybe we should just recognize these are wholly incompatible ways of doing RP and part ways, but – and I don’t know if this is just because I’m the kewlest GM evar – some of these guys tried to hang on and steer things ERPy, way past the point of reason. At minimum, people with a very erotic or romantic RP style need to check their mental boners at the door, because even a tiny amount of that in the wrong place is a giant problem for the rest of us.
The main problem? Inappropriately sexual or even romantic RP can become real deal sexual harassment in a heartbeat. Even the most prudent players are going to emotionally identify with their characters at least somewhat. Forcing intimacy with them is like trying to trick or harangue women on dating sites into participating in your fetishes. The behaviors are so similar, I have no doubt that ERPers have sent unsolicited dick pics to other players before. Maybe that’s being a bit harsh, but fucking A, man. Stop sleazing on my d20.
I keep bringing up romantic RP as a separate but similar problem because it is. The “kiss me you fool” was directed at a character whose player was broadcasting discomfort all over the place and being dangerously ignored. Don’t force intimacy. Find a player who is into the same shit if you must, and do it in a private channel.
Romantic and Erotic RP can both break a scene. They are often ludicrously unrealistic, stepping outside of the scene as written to force a narrative that no other players or GMs signed up for. Like when you have characters screaming about love and rolling shirtless on the ground, when the scene as described is a filthy bathroom with five more realistically portrayed PCs and NPCs standing around watching ’em go uncomfortably.
Like when you have characters making bedroom eyes or having romantic conversations with people they met a few hours ago, when the zombies started tearing heads off. Like when you have players literally wanting to RP bonin’ in a room described as being full of the stench of death and rolly maggots. This stuff almost always involves willful ignorance of everything and everybody in the world as described, complete disregard of scene and story.
Since the ERPers I’ve encountered are fantastically oblivious, here are some hints that you might be playing a character as inappropriately romantic or intimate: Pretty much the same as when you make people uncomfortable in real life. The harassed character may simply leave the room, with or without an excuse.
If they can’t get away, they may try to treat your character as if they are joking, punch ’em in the arm and say stuff like “you go, champ.” They may drop heavy hints in-character, like reminding you of the situation (“Man, can ya believe we saw so many people turned into slime an hour ago?”) or your level of familiarity (“Funny, we hardly know each other. What’s your grandma like?”).
If for you, RP is all about playing intense romantic or sexual relationships, recognize that it is completely incompatible with a more conventional campaign. Everyone has to be on your page. If anyone isn’t, they have to go, or the rest of you have to change. Anything else is – for you – embarrassing at best, abusive and arguably criminal at worst.
I’m for real. I know someone on the ace spectrum who is tied by social obligation to a campaign that involves other players doing ERP, and we make fun of those players sooo hard. You’re a joke, ERPers, unless you leave normies out of your business. It isn’t for everyone. Drop the coercion.