In the studio, Mace, Verias and Oshigan are working on animating the short story I adapted for Cosmic Feline: Surrender. We have cast voice actors and everything is looking great! I am presently also working the script with Mace for Episode 2 of that arc, Survivor, so please check out our Discord for updates!
A couple weekends ago, I was able to host a panel at Fallfest 18 put on by The New Universes Project and OngoingWorlds. Fallfest was a virtual convention accessed for free over Discord focused on online roleplaying or simulations communities. It was all text based so it lacked a speaking component.
My panel was on Relationships in Roleplaying.
The main questions I helped foster discussion on were:
- How do you initiate a relationship in roleplay without being creepy?
- How do you write a relationship that feels real?
- How do you write polyamorous relationships?
Please note that this blog is going to contain spoilers for “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “the Prince of Tides”. These are some old media and should be beyond the point of indignant rage for being spoiled.
The biggest thing to keep in mind for writing relationships is that if you want it to be realistic and believable, it’s like managing a real relationship. If you lack positive personal experience, then it would be best to do research through good sources to understand relationships. I enjoy observation to learn but I also enjoy reading psychological research on interpersonal relationships. Good solid research in psychology journals or books on relationships might help broaden an understanding. Books like “the Players’ handbook” or “I hope they serve beer in Hell” should be avoided as legitimate dating advice. I would also include most romantic comedies or romance novels as bad sources for realistic relationships. I think they would be good for identifying troupes.
To this effect, I think that “Mrs. Doubtfire” is one of the more realistic depictions of a relationship in a movie. The father is desperate to become a part of his children’s lives after his divorce and after his elaborate ruse is revealed, he loses custody and cannot visit them unsupervised (since he is now considered a deviant). He and his wife do not end up getting back together. He and his wife move on but eventually work something out- though she’s still pissed he lied to her. There were consequences for being a negligent husband and father. It sucks but that’s real life.
One of the books that I grew up reading was “The New Male Sexuality: The Truth About Men, Sex, and Pleasure” by Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld. It helped me develop a deeper appreciation for the pressures and issues that men must deal with. As a woman, there is quite a bit of attention on how female sexuality is distorted through dated cultural perceptions and the view of modern media. To not acknowledge that men don’t have the same issues or misconceptions is foolish.
For instance, in Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides, the main character, Tom, is talking with his twin sister’s psychiatrist because she’s attempted suicide. Tom explains his family’s background and their childhood. At the root of the unified trauma of his childhood is when he, his mother and sister are raped by a group of escaped convicts. They are saved by his older brother and their pet tiger, Caesar (yes, a real fricking tiger) but they are told to never talk about the incident. No police, no hospital, no closure. He questioned his own sexuality for years and blocked out the incident because, “men don’t get raped”. He never talked about it, so he couldn’t deal with the issue.
Modern definitions of “rape” have finally evolved to include assaults perpetrated against men which, did not change in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report until 2013. When we talk about rape in media, the idea of prison rape is funny to must so there are lots of jokes about not dropping the soap, but we don’t do this when we talk about rape when it involves women. These things are equally wrong but with males, its more socially acceptable which is horrible.
When we perpetuate the stereotype that men can only be strong or dominating to be considered men it hurts people. In roleplaying, it means that there is an uptake of carbon copies of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone in their heyday doing MANLY things. Tall men, rippling muscles barely concealed by tiny shirts, carrying big guns and kicking ass while dealing shitty one-liners. Characters trying just so hard to be a badass that it’s laughable. Or the men that play the silent, stoic type that brood darkly in a corner and glower still hoping to win the girl.
“What do you mean you don’t want to go with me? Didn’t you see me just solo that big monster?”
Excuse me, you cannot see my eye roll through this wall of text.
I can’t tell you how annoyed it makes me to have people that are full of themselves parade themselves in front of me, talking about nothing but themselves and flexing. They reek of douchebag and I avoid those types as best as I can in real life and roleplay. The silent types… if you don’t TALK to someone ever, why should I be expected to like you? I mean, who says: “oh wow, that dude that doesn’t talk and stands in the shadows staring at me is SO SEXY, I WANT HIM”?
Then there are those other types. The “heroes” that go, “But I just saved you, why don’t you want to go out with me?”
There is this toxic idea that people are machines that you put tokens of “Kindness” into that will eventually drop out sex. This is true in real life as it is in roleplay.
No one is entitled to you for helping you.
You are not entitled to anyone if you help them with something.
Think about this a minute.
Take a scenario where you character has broken their leg and has fallen unconscious. When they wake up later in the hospital, they are told that DUDE B saved them. You are grateful, so you offer to buy them dinner or a beer. But DUDE B says, “You can thank me by having sex with me.”
Doesn’t that just FEEL skeezy? I mean, the nerve. You didn’t ask to be saved. Why do you owe him anything? You only offered something because that’s how you were raised. Someone does you a favor and you reciprocate the favor, but that doesn’t automatically mean you have to throw yourself at them.
A less extreme example is when two friends go out for lunch and one friend covers the other.
Does this mean that this is suddenly a date and sex should be the compensation for a meal?
No it doesn’t.
I don’t understand this notion that dates are a transitional affair.
Meal ≠ Sex.
Dates are supposed to be a way to get to know the other person. Sometimes dates are the first time that two people meet, and dinner/lunch is a safe time to get to know someone new. Think about it, you are both sitting in one place and aren’t being distracted by anything (put your phone away!) except the person sitting across from you.
It’s a neutral place to decide if you want to continue spending time with someone. Unfortunately, most modern approaches to dates consider it a short cut through all that relationship nonsense to sex, placing more pressure on both parties. The person that gets told "no" thinks feels he’s entitled to sex and the person that says no is made to feel worthless.
I have had guys tell me that they don’t consider women that put out on the first date worthy of a relationship. They also hate it when a woman does not put out on the first date. I have also told them that they are idiots. This is the type of thing that makes people crazy.
So what does this have to do with roleplay? Everything.
These are things that happen in real life.
Writers will write what they know. If someone feels that dates = sex, then their character doesn’t have sex on that first date, it can lead to some angry out of character ranting. Then the other player who turned them down gets to be berated in and out of character for saying “no”, when they shouldn’t feel pressured to write something they don’t want to. Which will likely lead to them not wanting to write relationships with that person or anyone in the future if they constantly get this sort of reaction.
If people want to yield more in character relationships in roleplay, they need to communicate positively with the people around them. Being a decent human being will get you further than being an entitled douchenozzle.
The characters need to interact normally in character to get to know one another to figure out if they like each other. I have seen far too many people just try to force a relationship with the first person of the opposite gender that talks to theirs. It’s easier than people think.
Talk to people, interact and if you decide that you want to date them, you make your intentions known.
“Hey, I really like you, would you like to go out on a date?”
Rather than, “Let’s hang out some time.”
If the other person tells you no to the date but yes to the hanging out, it might just mean that they want to be friends. That doesn’t mean that “nice guys” finish last. It just means that the other person is not interested and it’s creepy to hang around at the edges with the desperate hope that the person will come running back to you.
You cannot get mad for someone not being able to read your mind that you want to be romantically involved with them. It is not enduring to make puppy dog eyes at your friend and hope that they will some day look at you with the same love as you.
(I’m looking at you Taylor Swift).