I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.
Honey & Hot Wax is a collection of small freeform games on the subject of sex edited by Lucian Kahn and Sharang Biswas. The style of the games resembles blackbox larp or Fastaval scenarios and is immediately recognizable to someone used to playing smaller Nordic larps.
As a subject for roleplaying, sex elicits strange reactions. As an evangelist of sex in roleplaying games since my first book Roolipelimanifesti in 2005, I’ve been told by experienced roleplayers that nobody would want to play sex scenes with their gaming group. I’ve also seen newbie first timers jump straight into it with no difficulty whatsoever.
Published roleplaying games have tended to treat sex superficially or not at all. It’s been only recently that interesting game design about sex has started to be released in greater quantity. Honey & Hot Wax is a part of that phenomenon and immediately sets a new standard. If you want to see nuanced, interesting, well-designed games about sex, this is the book for you.
Pretty much every game in the book is worth your time but The Echo of the Unsaid by Sharang Biswas stands out because it collapses the boundary between roleplaying games and sexual roleplay. That boundary has always seemed a little contrived and this game demonstrates that you can design a game with actual sexual acts and communication by sexual touch. The game is about two ostensibly straight bros, the things they can’t say and the things they can do.
Another extremely interesting game is Lucian Kahn’s In the Clefts of the Rock which similarly incorporates actual sexual contact. It’s characters are a landscape and an explorer and it’s genius idea is to build the experience around laying a fiction on the player’s physical body while engaging with it intimately.
One of the great mysteries of roleplaying’s past design decisions for me was the way vampires in Vampire: the Masquerade were presented as non-sexual, devoid of the desires of the living. Considering the massive confluence between vampires and erotica, this seemed like a huge missed opportunity.
With that in mind, I salute Jonaya Kemper’s Feeding Lucy, which brings out the liberatory joy in the sexual explorations of Lucy and Dracula in Bram Stoker’s story. It also demonstrates how many of the games in this collection could also serve as foreplay to non-roleplay sex between the participants. It collapses the distancing alibi of the game, requiring greater intimacy from the participants but also opening up new fields of roleplaying experience and design.
Two other games I want to mention are Clio Yun-Su Davis’s Pass the Sugar, Please and Follow My Lead by Susanne. Both engage with BDSM culture with a deft, clever touch. It’s nice to see BDSM elements, dynamics and acts portrayed in a roleplaying context when roleplaying games have sometimes felt quite puritan about such things. These games speak about their thematic content with both cultural and emotional authenticity.
Every game in this collection is groundbreaking. I hope that it opens up the field for many more bold and fearless games about sex, sexuality and sexual fantasy.