Posted by: Jess Riley | January 4, 2009

An Old Favourite Of Mine: The Sliding Scale of Erotic Role-play

I’ve spent so long away from the blog that I felt I needed to give you guys something a little more than a short rant about other roleplayers. And, I thought, what better way to return to the blog than to return to one of my old favourite topics, and see if I can add a little more to the table?

You guessed it. I’m talking about erotic role-play.

It’s a long-standing feeling of mine that there’s too much conflicting emotion about the subject of erotic roleplay on roleplay servers. I recently witnessed people /kiss’ing and similar being accused of being ERPers, even though that’s about the most mundane ERP it’s ever been my pleasure to witness. (Admittedly, this was in a Battleground, so that might explain a few things – but anyway, let me get back to the point.)

Then there’s the people who openly state that they feel that ERP is cheating on your real life partner, plain and simple. Well, you know, I can see where you might be coming from there, but I still disagree for one major reason.

There isn’t a clear divide that we can point to, saying ‘These people are real roleplayers, and these people are just ERPers’. Not really. If I roleplay my character as a well-rounded character, with a lot of different kinds of roleplay, who happens to be in a relationship with another character, with very careful in-character and out-of-character distinctions, and make it clear to the person I’m roleplaying with that I’m not at all romantically interested in them outside of our roleplay, and we never touch anything sexual, the vast majority of roleplayers wouldn’t bat an eyelid at it. And yet, if I were an exclusive ERPer, there are considerably more who would consider that some kind of breach of trust between my significant other and I.

Of course, these two examples are at two extremes, in a way. The fact is, though, that there’s a lot of examples and situations between someone who exclusively ERPs with random people they find in chat rooms, and those who roleplay full, well-rounded characters who get into romantic but strictly non-sexual roleplay only with people who they know will understand the IC/OOC divide.

That’s why I thought I’d go on record giving a full description of what I think this sliding scale is like.

Behind Closed Doors: At the least erotic end of the scale, we have those whose characters are in a romantic relationship, which may be sexual off-camera, but which is never explored, even in the slightest. It may be assumed, between the two players, that something sexual is going on somewhere, but they simply don’t roleplay it, or anything closely related to it.

It doesn’t have to be shy or discreet at all, even. A character who happily opens discussion with, “I got laid last night.” is still Behind Closed Doors if this is the most detail that comes out. Your character can be very open, or very quiet, about whether or not they have a sex life – but if nothing about it is roleplayed, that’s strictly Behind Closed Doors.

The Fade To Black: Maybe he’s just bought her dinner, or maybe they’ve just come back from a romantic date killing wolves together, or they’ve just decided to get to it right there on the floor – but as soon as it’s clear where it’s going, the scene seamlessly fades out into nothingness. You know what happened, you know what’s preceded it, and you know what comes after – but you don’t actually roleplay what’s going on. All the personal details are left up to the imagination.

The Consummation: The bulk of your roleplay is doing adventure things, or everyday things, and that’s absolutely fine with you. However, when things start to get hot and heavy, that’s absolutely fine with you, too. There’s no real distinction between roleplaying hunting some boars and roleplaying the personal details; the erotic roleplay is just another scene, neither better or worse than anything else, and while you wouldn’t want every scene to be like that, it can be just as important a part of your character’s story as the hunting boars.

Actively Seeking It Out: Once again, you may do plenty of roleplay that doesn’t involve eroticism, but sometimes that’s what you’re in the mood for, and you’ll happily seek it out – either with a dedicated roleplay partner or with someone you don’t know so well, it doesn’t matter. Unlike the Consummation, it’s not just a matter of ‘if it happens, it happens’; sometimes you’ll actively look for it and want it to happen, just not all the time.

PWP: Either ‘Plot? What Plot?’ or ‘Porn Without Plot’. You may have a character mapped out in your head – or maybe a whole variety. Or maybe you’re just making it up on the fly. Either way, other kinds of roleplay just plain don’t interest you much, unless it’s a precursor to or followup to the erotic roleplay. This is what a lot of people think of when they think of erotic roleplay, and even though it’s still a relatively big category, I’m lumping it all together for convenience.

As you can see, three of those five engage in erotic roleplay – or may do so – on occasion, but they’re not the classic ERPers that we might think of.

Of course, I’d like to point out here and now that Blizzard doesn’t care. If you’re roleplaying something graphic on a Blizzard server, it doesn’t matter if it’s PWP or if it’s part of an over-arching plot. It’s against policy, end of story.

However, plenty of people take it off the game, and that’s fine too. Plenty of people would be OK with The Consummation, but leave it at Fade To Black to keep it in line with the TOS.

To me, that’s all fine. But what do you think? What level are you most comfortable with? And am I right in observing that not everyone who engages in erotic roleplayer is “an ERPer” in the common use of the term?


  1. I role played a romantic relationship between not so compatible species back in my Star Wars Galaxies days. Unfortunately, if it interferes with real life, it’s got to go, and it started to, but not on my end. For me it was just a well established business partner who became my cuddly furry interest after hours. For my husband it seemed different. So, I “ran away” to another galaxy.

    Now, the only role play I experience is in story lines centered around characters my husband and I play. All saved to files, no in game fun.

    I miss my romantic moonlit walks along the beach!

  2. I’m not, of course, trying to say that there can never be problems; I’m merely responding to the notion that anyone who roleplays an erotic situation is being unfaithful, no exceptions, as I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

    If the people involved see a problem, then that’s something for them to work out between them, and what they think is much more important than what I think.

  3. In actual play, this has never come up, possibly because it seems like damn near every hero and villain and City of Heroes and City of Villains is a lesbian, but that’s a whole other argument and a topic for another day.

    In theory, I’d go no further than the Fade to Black, personally. I’m fine with people practicing the Consummation, as long as they keep it to themselves, and, ideally, out of the game, for legal reasons. Beyond that, you start to lose credibility, and it’s THOSE people that I would called “ERPers.”

  4. PS: In general, I’d prefer Behind Closed Doors, except as a throwaway joke or running gag, but if the other party INSISTED…

  5. “seems like damn near every hero and villain and City of Heroes and City of Villains is a lesbian”

    Or bisexual. Or into BDSM. Or some sort of furry. Or into some other strange fetish that only my dark melee/regen scrapper could provide satisfaction for. *cringe*

    Anyway, back to the point.

    I’ve never been the kind of person who frowns on other people’s RP habits, ERP or otherwise. The important thing to consider is that everyone should be able to get what they want out of the game. If the people you’re RPing with are expecting you to do something you don’t want to do, or don’t want to RP something you’re interested in, then find some way to change your circumstances. If there’s anything to be said about an RP server, is that drama is a wonderful tool.

    As far as my preference… I’d have to be a Behind Closed Doors or Fade to Black type. There’s no point in writing the equivalent of a Penthouse Letter or trashy romance novel if you’re not going to make any money for it.

  6. “In actual play, this has never come up, possibly because it seems like damn near every hero and villain and City of Heroes and City of Villains is a lesbian”

    If I had to make a guess, it would be those are female toons rolled by male players and can only imagine themselves in a relation with a female regardless of the gender of their toon.

  7. […] relationships, Role play, Warcraft Reflecting Life So, I’ve learned a few things from ERP. I’ve learned a few techniques about how to write a good erotic scene. I’ve also […]

  8. Personally, I’ve always been more of a “Fade to Black” or “Behind Closed Doors” kind of guy, mainly because I tend to play female characters (and I’ve been told I’m quite good at RPing as such)… Therefore my imagination for a “Consummation”-style scene would be a tad limited. Not to mention the fact that previously I had a rather negative opinion of ERP as just an excuse to cyber.

    HOWEVER, I did end up jumping in the deep end and went along with a friend for a Consummation-esque situation, and while at first I was somewhat uncomfortable with the whole thing, I was able to put my whole sexual identity issues aside (A guy RPing a female in a sex scene… uuuuuh) and go with the flow using simply my artsy-fartsy imagination.

    ERPing with someone who you are not actually in a Real-Life relationship with can indeed be awkward. But in my opinion, roleplaying is just like acting. Lovemaking scenes on camera does not necessarily mean romantic relationship off-camera. Okay fine it does happen but not all the time. It’s just a comparison.

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