A few months ago I wrote an article about how tabletop roleplaying games are the perfect avenue for telling stories about sex and romance. Whilst the responses to it varied wildly, it was interesting to see how many people felt uncomfortable with the idea of mixing tabletop roleplaying with sexual and/or romantic situations. However, considering the disappointing number of people who still don’t understand boundaries, consent and playing TRPGs with consideration for others, it’s not unsurprising that so many players didn’t like the idea of their roleplaying games including sex and romance.
Which is possibly why the sex and romance featured in Baldur’s Gate 3, the roleplaying video game based on Dungeons & Dragons 5E, has been so well received by its players.
As with many roleplaying video games before it, Baldur’s Gate 3 allows players to develop relationships with other characters, some of which can become romantic and/or sexual. These relationships can develop through dialogue between the player character and their potential paramour(s), but also through the other character(s) witnessing the player’s actions. For example, while some characters might approve of the player offering to help someone for no payment, others may not.
Players can decide whether they want to roleplay in a certain way to impress the character they’re crushing on, or choose to forgo romance and/or sex in favour of acting however they want. Learning more about a character in Baldur’s Gate 3 can just be for the sake of hearing their backstories and understanding their motivations, but it can also be a path towards hooking up with them.
Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t shy away from including explicit content, with one of the game’s most iconic marketing moments being a trailer featuring clip that implied sex between the characters of Astarion – a human-sized elf – and a bear-shaped druid named Halsin. Nevertheless, players are able to select options surrounding how much explicit content they see in the game – both nudity and sexual scenes – whenever they want from the menu, with the romantic and sexual aspects of the game remaining entirely optional.
The risk of including sex and romance in tabletop roleplaying game storylines is that not everyone may be on board.
Players who do want to explore the sexual and romantic elements of Baldur’s Gate 3 are catered to with a refreshing level of enthusiasm. Rather than the cursory hint at sex or a black screen accompanied by a scattering of suggestive noises, Baldur’s Gate 3 features conversations, references and complete scenes about sex. Should players choose to engage in them, they’ll experience a storyline that doesn’t weakly wave towards sexual content but indulges in it in a way that embraces both the silly and the serious. Above all else, sex and/or romance in Baldur’s Gate 3 provides players with an avenue to explore these aspects of roleplaying in a way that doesn’t make anyone else uncomfortable.
The risk of including sex and romance in tabletop roleplaying game storylines is that not everyone may be on board. Obviously, making sure that every player at the table is comfortable with wherever a story is going is an essential part of roleplaying that groups are still struggling with to this day. Nevertheless, when it comes to topics like sex and/or romance, even the most communicative group may inadvertently find themselves feeling discomfort at some point – simply because it’s something that can veer into sensitive territory.
Whilst some players may be interested in exploring a sexual and/or romantic relationship in their TRPG games, others may not and could feel that a chunk of time dedicated to a storyline they’re not invested in as being poorly spent. Playing tabletop RPGs like D&D 5E means that players have to consider everyone at the table, which can make romantic and/or sexual storylines difficult to slot into the overall narrative.
It’s great to see fans of Baldur’s Gate 3, many of whom will have likely played D&D, embrace the game’s hornier elements.
However, Baldur’s Gate 3 has safeguards in place to ensure that players remain comfortable and engaged. Players are able to outright remove the aspects they might not be comfortable with, even when playing multiplayer, or just not engage in the sex and/or romance if they don’t want to. Those players who have wanted to explore sex and/or romance in a roleplaying game, but have felt uncomfortable doing it with others, can do so with Baldur’s Gate 3 as there is no need for other players or a dungeon master.
It also helps that the storylines and scenes in Baldur’s Gate 3 have been written, visualised and acted by professionals, meaning that you’re probably going to get a much better experience with sex and romance in this video game than in any standard tabletop RPG campaign. Whilst there are undoubtedly plenty of dungeon masters and players out there who can pull off telling a great romantic and/or sexual storyline, they’re unlikely to have the resources and tools – such as professional actors and graphic artists – that a developer like Larian Studios has, meaning they’re on the back foot in comparison.
Most of all, it’s great to see fans of Baldur’s Gate 3, many of whom will have likely played D&D at least once in their lives, embrace the game’s hornier elements. The numerous pieces of spicy fan-art, videos and fanfiction featuring the game’s characters proves that there are parts of the roleplaying community who do want to explore sex and/or romance, but perhaps haven’t had the right opportunity to do so until the arrival of Baldur’s Gate 3.