So I decided to talk to Venger Satanis about it. He, like me, is a wizard. Unlike me, he worships Cthulhu and the rest of the lovecraftian gods as if they were real. That may or may not be relevant here, but I love reminding people about it.
So, let's get started!
PUNDIT: you could start by giving a brief description of what Alpha Blue is all about
Second, by answering the question: How does Alpha Blue approach eroticism in a way other rpgs don't?
SATANIS: Alpha Blue is a space station brothel in the 23rd century. It's a bit like a futuristic Vegas, but everything about Alpha Blue (the setting and game) is meant to be viewed from a 1970's and 80's perspective. Although, if I had to pick just one year, it would be 1979.
Mechanically, it's a cross between Crimson Dragon Slayer and The Outer Presence. Humor-wise, it leans towards CDS. There are a lot of jokes and referential nods to nostalgic sci-fi packed in there and that's supposed to be half the point of playing it.
What I've done with Alpha Blue is to just "go for it" with the attitude that I've got nothing to lose. A larger, "professional" RPG company probably wouldn't include a table for sexual fantasies and fetishes or venereal diseases. It's fun and sexy like an 80's raunchy lampoon film, but also a bit sick and dark in a 70's exploitation kind of way.
PUNDIT: Is it OSR?
SATANIS: It's quasi-O5R compatible.
PUNDIT: Why do we need eroticism in RPG products?
SATANIS: Eroticism isn't necessary in RPGs, and I completely understand why most gamers wouldn't want to touch it with a ten foot pole (pun intended). Listening to some old, bearded guy talk about his character's erection is not my idea of the perfect evening. But, on the other hand, roleplaying is escapism, a way into a strange, new world that I prefer to the real one (most of the time). But why escape if there's no chance for a hot and dirty time?
(not all the stuff in Alpha Blue is erotic, apparently; at least, I HOPE Venger doesn't find this erotic):
PUNDIT: You took, intentionally or not, that line about 'listening to an old bearded guy talk about his PC's erection" right out of my review of your previous product "How to Gamemaster Like a Fucking Boss". Given that you admit that 'most gamers' would not want to have this sort of thing in their game, why is this a somewhat repeated theme in your products?
SATANIS: I've heard similar reservations elsewhere (many times, in fact). But yours was the freshest in my mind.
There's a certain amount of squeamishness that must be overcome if one is going to pursue eroticism in gaming. Personally, I think the rewards outweigh the potential gross factor. Just like if a male friend was telling me about his date with another man. My first instinct might be to think or say, "Yuck!"... but that's just my own personal preferences I've got to get over.
Sex is a fundamental aspect of human beings and I think representing sexuality is a vital part of roleplaying games. And to get even more personal, that's my jam. Maybe it's because I'm part French or I went so long without a girlfriend (before teaching myself how to become a pick-up artist by reading books - NERD) or perhaps it's just the way I was born.
Now that I'm married, watching porn, daydreaming fantasies, and roleplaying sex stuff are really my only ways of exploring unknown territory. The fact that sex in RPG material is under-represented makes it a good business decision, too - at lest from an underground or indie perspective.
PUNDIT: I have to question how much of this is just attention-getting. Because seriously, the only people I see doing this stuff are people who have (even more than me) made a career out of courting controversy: you, James Desborough, and to a lesser extent Jim Raggi. I have to question whether you actually roleplay with these elements in your game. I have to question whether anyone does. I certainly don't. Zak Smith's group is full of porn stars and I'm betting even they have much better things to do than roleplaying out sex scenes.
So if you want to admit that this is all just for promotional value, and that your product has other virtues and you're just using sex to get attention for yourself and court controversy, fine. I'd be totally cool with you doing that, fooling the rubes and all, as a capitalist. But if you're seriously arguing that that this has merit besides for publicity purposes, I have to ask: what is the merit? Why should it matter? ESPECIALLY if almost no one will ever ever use it, how can you claim that there is a value to having it?
SATANIS: No, it's genuine, alright. If I wanted to make more money, I'd do something safe and boring.
Yes, I occasionally include various forms of sex in the games I run. I don't beat anyone over the head with it, but those elements are in there and I'm cool if players want to pick up the potential bones I'm laying down.
Opening up the floor to sex also allows for love, cuddling on the space beanbag, lady and the tramp-ing a space chocolate milkshake, etc. Just because XXX is ok, doesn't mean that PG13 is off the table.
As for why it should matter... why should cleaving a person's skull in two matter? Is it something I like? Pretend there are two boxes. One for yes, the other for no. If I check the "yes" box, then I want to put it into a roleplaying game, campaign setting, or adventure. One might just as well ask why there's nudity and sex in shows like Game of Thrones? Because it's what a lot of people like.
I might have been apprehensive about including naughty things in my games a decade ago, but now I'm like, "Why the fuck not?"
PUNDIT: But RPGs are not HBO shows. Seeing Daenerys in a nude scene is very different then hearing the semi-autistic 340lb guy in the filthy t-shirt across from you at the table talking about how he's butt-fucking a barely-legal tiefling prostitute.
I WOULD LIKE TO WATCH HER HOT FANTASY SCENES:
I WOULD NOT IN ANY WAY WANT TO EVEN HEAR THEIRS:
"Why the fuck not" is because having make-believe sex roleplayed in a game is awfully close to something like jerking off on the internet, and I wouldn't want to see even my good looking friends doing that.
Now, you have yourself admitted that most people, most gamers, will not be interested in doing this stuff at the table.
If you still want to cling to the notion that you're not doing this for publicity (I'm not denying that you could be doing it out of personal interest, but that doesn't mean you aren't ALSO doing it for attention), are you willing to admit that its likely the people who are buying this are buying it more out of some kind of 'collecting' interest than for actual use at the table?
SATANIS: True, RPGs are not HBO shows. But, in my opinion, they're closer than any kind of board game, card game, computer game, or cosplay. Immersion-wise, isn't a show like Game of Thrones what many of us are trying to emulate?
Using your example of the 340lb semi-autistic filth guy... I would rather not have him describe his character's platemail. In fact, I'm not sure I want his dice co-mingling with mine on the game table. Sometimes, a Game Master doesn't have a choice.
If roleplaying sex is like jerking off on the internet, then wouldn't talking about sex with friends also be like jerking off on the internet? I don't know about you, but I've never gotten an erection from hearing about a friend's hookup or discussing strategies for making a move on the first date. Sure, roleplaying sex can be uncomfortable or disgusting, but it can just as easily be beautiful or satisfying or rewarding.
I'll admit that the attention doesn't bother me. Recognition is awesome, so I'm glad to have it in whatever form it comes in.
I hope the majority of purchasers are using my works in some capacity, rather than just taking up room on a bookshelf. Ultimately, though, that's for the owner to decide. I can't force him to run a session of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.
Maybe a paradigm shift is approaching, and sexual content in RPGs will be the norm.
PUNDIT: Finally, what about those gamers that most definitely DON'T want to add in descriptive RP about erotic encounters to be played out on the table? Does Alpha Blue have anything for them that would make it worthwhile to purchase anyways? How easy would it be to divorce those things from the smut?
SATANIS: The eroticism and sex can definitely be downplayed. As in, the diplomat assassin named Qarl needs to get information from an Alpha Blue satisfier named Lyssa. Instead of going into any detail, the Space Dungeon Master and player can agree that "they hook up". Afterwards, Qarl searches around Lyssa's pad, looking for clues.
Can Alpha Blue be used for something completely different? Well, it's not suited for hard sci-fi (no pun intended) because the rules are so light and interpretive - I would describe them as neo-old school. But if a group simply wants an easy-to-play 70's sci-fi simulator without any kind of sex stuff, emulating Star Trek (even though that was the late 60's), Blake's 7, or Space: 1999, I think there's still a lot of value to be had. However, Alpha Blue might not fully blossom until you add in stuff like Ice Pirates, Flash Gordon, and The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue.
Alpha Blue is on sale at DriveThruRPG. 1/11 is Kort'thalis Publishing Day!
So, this concluded the interview. Satanis said, in a hopeful tone "maybe 10 years from now sexual content in RPGs will be the norm".
I sure fucking hope not. Is that the "norm" you want to see in this hobby? Do you want us to become like the Furry-fandom hobby, which went from samurai adventures and ninja turtles and sci-fi stories to being best known for illustrations of diaper porn, "cub bondage", nine-penised fox-herms and other fetish stuff that completely swamped and washed away any other theme in (or value to) the genre?
Do we want RPGs to be about going into dungeons to kill orcs, or watching your fellow players describe intimately just how they're engaging in a three-way watersport gang-bang with them?
What do you think?
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Oversize + H&H Beverwyck