Ok – so I need to preface this question a little bit.
Actually. I don’t. Here goes:
Hi Anna! Can you tell us about the best eRP experience you’ve ever had? Thanks <3
“So there I was, mindlessly questing in Goldshire, when suddenly! I was attacked by a half-demon catgirl vampire sticking mechanical tentacles where tentacles shouldn’t be stuck!”
Ok maybe not.
All joking aside, I think it’s probably timely to address this question again, both in light of the posts about Aely and Arrens, and after a few things mentioned on Twitter recently.
There is a (huge) difference between an in character romance/relationship and so-called “erotic” RP (where people actively seek out explicit, sexual encounters in game, to be played out by their characters.)
Because I feel like I need to mention this here, ERP is, technically, against the ToS you agree to when you sign into WoW and every time you patch the game. It’s frequently not policed, due to Blizzard not always enforcing party chat and guild chat, but should you get reported for it, explicitly sexual RP (or just explicitly sexual conversation) is enough to get a warning or a ban from a GM. This post is not a place to discuss whether or not ERP (or its legality) is good or bad or indifferent, it just /is/, and let’s move on from there, ok?
I don’t participate in ERP – “erotic role play.”
I am an active participant in an in-character romantic relationship.
The difference between the two lies in the realm of Out of Character communication (here I go harping on communication again). For what it’s worth – Arrens’ player and I are both happily married, and not to each other. In fact, we’ve never met in real life.
Whatever Aely and Arrens are doing in their evenings together is their business, and though we joke about it, and occasionally will discuss what leads up to such things, or the aftermath of such things, or even conversations that they’ve had, the actual time they spend in the bedroom is their own.
So how, you ask, do we work around that?
The best way I know of is a technique known as “fade to black”. It happens on TV all the time, and in the movies (or used to, back before they were willing to show characters in the sack with each other left and right) – basically, the scene sets up, and then the camera fades to black. When it fades back in, what’s done is done, and the characters can progress from there. This works in game (you both log out for a bit, go check a banker, take an AFK, or just leave the characters overnight) as well as in fiction writing, where you have the ability to add a line of asterisks and just pick up in the next scene.
But how do you handle this at the beginning?
What happens when you first start seeing signs of a developing relationship between two characters, possibly with someone that you aren’t overly familiar with OOC yet?
Obviously, you can all guess the answer – Communication.
There are four basic answers to finding the right balance in this kind of situation. You can roll with it/let it progress, choose to write it out of game as fiction, leave it up to your collective imagination, or put the brakes on and call it quits.
If either player is uncomfortable even with the idea of any relationship at all, then stop.
RP is not fun when it makes people uncomfortable (and pushing the issue makes you a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.) This includes either player’s real-life partners being uncomfortable as well. RL > WoW.
Talk to the other player and find out what they’re looking for – just a quick fling? Is your character OK with that? Do they want a real, meaningful relationship? Is that ok either? Will the characters be even remotely compatible? Do you care? (Not caring can be fun, and can result in explosively disastrous RP… which can also be fun, as long as the OOC conversation is there to support it!) Talk it out, and if you want to give it a go, discuss some general ideas of where to go from there.
As for the other three, the only way to find out what’s best for any situation is to talk it through with the other player. Obviously this includes knowing your own limits, and what you are or aren’t comfortable with. And it should go without saying that if one person has more conservative limits, those are the ones that should determine what happens (see above: not making people uncomfortable/not being a jerk).
Just like in real life, how fast or slow a relationship progresses will depend on a lot of external factors – and those will be something individual to every single character, so I can’t really generalize about them here.
The best advice I can offer is to keep a good handle on what’s going on from an OOC standpoint – discuss where things are going, and what you want to have happen. Aely and Arrens’ relationship took a pretty dramatic turn when Icecrown opened up, and she was going to face the front lines again. That was a catalyst in their relationship, largely because both characters are pretty shy about actually being in a relationship, let alone one that is remotely physical. Other characters wouldn’t need that kind of an event to push things along. Know your characters, and talk things through both before and (when necessary) during your RP.
Some situations will work better as fiction, simply because you’re not limited to /emote and /say or /party. You can explain, give better emotional detail, and set a scene that might not exist in game (like an apartment). Some conversations are better had in game, because the emotional charge needs to be there, as well as the back-and-forth nature of discussion. And sometimes you’ll want to just say “alright, let’s leave them to go knock boots, I need to head out for the night anyway, early work day tomorrow.”
An example of how this works, because sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words… or in this case, a chat file (This is from when we were working on the Revelations fic, which also happens to include a rather dramatic fade-to-black):
Arrens: While you’re working on the front end and setup, I’m going to tackle the back end of the morning after. Are you comfortable with them being a little nervous/giddy at the start yet? Or would you like to rework it entirely?
Anna: No – the nerves are OK to start, but I think they’d probably settle into something more serious more quickly, given the nature of how that day is likely to go. Having her realize that she’s got to leave isn’t going to be fun
Arrens: Agreed. I’m keeping the pants part in though. I like that. It’s cute.
Anna: I do too. “I… already tried these. They’re yours” is an awesome line
Not a particularly extended conversation, but it gave both of us enough information to proceed with the writing (in this case, with editing stuff that had already been written, after Icecrown hit and things took a dramatically different turn than expected).
Keep in mind that occasionally people have real life experiences that will crop up in relationship to roleplay as well – and that’s OK. Handling those things out of character is the best way to deal with them. They aren’t anyone’s fault, and nobody is expected to be a mind reader. If you’re not OK with a specific facet of a situation – or the situation in general – SAY SOMETHING. You don’t necessarily have to explain why, either, if that’s not something you’re OK with sharing (sometimes traumatic experiences leave scars – those scars are the prerogative of the person carrying them, to be shared or kept secret) – so long as the other person(s) involved know enough to help make things comfortable for everyone.
If you’re not comfortable saying to the other person “Hey, this isn’t really ok?” then you’re probably not going to have a successful IC relationship – regardless of whether that relationship is romantic or platonic or that of enemies.
The moral of the story is… (say it with me kids) communication. Talk things out, know where both players are at any given time, and don’t be afraid to put the brakes on if something doesn’t sit right.
RP relationships can be incredibly rewarding. They can also be unbelievably frustrating.
Knowing in advance where both of you stand is a good start towards more rewards and less frustration.