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MAID is a rather fun setting thing. And from a game design standpoint surprisingly well made for a game that is focused around trying to be a funny, sometimes sexy, harem Anime trope. But I have yet to find manage to get a game group to actually focus on trying to play the game and not either trying to make the other PCs just fall in love with them or maniacally giggling over the antics the other players try to make one another vulnerable so they can make them fall in love... which honestly is creepy.

So after some 2 attempts of playing the game with people, I shelved the game. One attempt was after making Exalted 3 characters, just to try some 3-hour fun filler as I needed to wait for the morning train. Asking to dial it down helped only a little. It was still fun but in retrospect creepy. The other time was the midnight-round on a con, and after the same player repeatedly tried to hit on another player character to the distress of that one, I had to resort to removing him from the table, which put a dampener on the game.

Question

What can one do to try to herd the Maids into stopping those antics and actually do the stuff that the game presents: doing the housework, protecting the clueless master, and being a good, fun, wholesome harem anime?

What differentiates MAID from other RPGs?

This is not How to stop players from making the game X-rated because the game doesn't become X-rated by using copious amounts of bathroom steam (aka fade to others). One of the origins of the problem might be the translation from Japanese, as the Nun Approved Files, the official list of translation notes, commentary, and changes to the game in trying to make the game American-friendly, tell us:

So, the author basically wrote this game as a huge dose of ironic humor at this whole Maid phenomenon. As such, he used a lot of references, gags and dialogue text that can be best described as “sexy funny”. Problem is, when we did a straight-up translation into English, some parts came out as “creepy sexy”.

Now, funny-sexy can be fun. It’s like the well-placed panty shot or unconfortable exchanges between couples in the anime we watch. Turn up the juice, and you can play up “funny-sexy” without getting too deep into it, basically ironically playing off of anime stereotypes in an ironic way rather than turning it into an exciting fetish game.

“Creepy sexy”... it’s just not what the game is about, or what the author was meaning to write. Because of differences in cultural references, language, conversation and the like, we found that a lot of words, sentences, or even concepts that would be “funny sexy” in Japan, came out as simply “creepy sexy”. This is the kind of stuff that would, if dropped, bring uncomfortable silence to a game, perhaps shutting it down for good. Maid isn’t a fetish game to be used to get all aroused in front of other players. If you see someone playing it like that, please don’t get involved, just walk [ ] away: They’re doing it wrong

Have you seen the anime Elfen Lied? If you have, that’s basically how a game that is meant to be “funny sexy” could quickly turn into “totally creepy sexy, and unfun”. If you haven’t seen Elfen Lied, don’t: [It’s [REDACTED]]1. But look it up.

Anyway, the author meant to make the game silly, fun, and a game with which one could also do romantic or “funny sexy” comedy games. So that’s what we aimed for. Ryo Kamiya gave us a thumbs up after seeing our changes, so we’re all good. But, for the sake of completion, we decided to make the original material available as well.

1 The link that is found in the bought PDF to an unlisted youtube video is... creepy. So removed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm putting a disclaimer on "Elfen Lied", though. While I also think that all the sexuality in the anime is awkward and out-of-place to the point of unsettling, the series itself is a very solid action-drama. I think the problem in the anime is actually toning down the amount of creepy sex of the original manga (I have not read it, but I browsed a few pages). In an institution where mutant girls are subjected to all kind of inhumane physical and psicological abuse - where they aren't even considered humans - I don't find surprising there's sexual abuse too. It's just not a comic for children. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rekesoft
    May 21 '21 at 8:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... making them Ninja Maid (warning: TV Tropes!) instead? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrew T.
    May 22 '21 at 5:37
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Simply encourage correct behavior by awarding or removing Favor points.

"Ecchi nano wa ikenai to omoimasu!" ("I think lewd things are bad!")

— Mahoro, Mahoromatic

The Maids are rewarded with Favor points entirely at the discretion of the Master, and can be likewise penalized if they behave in a manner the Master dislikes. However, the GM has freedom to decide the Master's personality, including what they will reward and punish.

Simply use the carrot-and-stick approach. Characters who behave correctly will be rewarded, while characters who behave incorrectly will be punished. Likewise, Maids who report misbehaving will be rewarded for their commitment to morals.

Of course, the usual answer of "talk to your players" also applies. Tell them up front not to do the lewd things in the Maid RPG, so that they can't complain when the game punishes them for it.

Also, especially in RPGs where romance may be an option, give players the option to veto sensitive topics that make them feel uncomfortable. See the question What do the terms “lines” and “veils” mean? for discussion on tools to handle this. An example is the "X-Card", which lets a player "nope" out of an uncomfortable interaction at any time for any reason. Another idea is "lines" (things which we agree in advance will not be covered in our game) and "veils" (things which may happen, but only in the background or briefly skimmed over).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there any concern of judgement on what is reasonable or 'good flirting'? The carrot-and-stick method works when the rewards are clearly tied to actions, but this is a case where the requirements may not be what the table wants. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    May 20 '21 at 15:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm uncomfortable with the idea of trying to train players to play the game the way you want it to be played. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frezak
    May 21 '21 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Frezak Other RPGs do the same thing. In D&D, XP rewards combat; in Paranoia, players are rewarded for betraying each other. In Maid, players are rewarded for doing whatever the DM decides. \$\endgroup\$ May 21 '21 at 17:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ A more direct translation could be "I think it is wrong to [do H]!" \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jun 11 '21 at 8:31
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Not all games are good for all groups, and that's okay.

If you wanted me to pick an activity to do with some random selection of the midnight crew at a convention, "improvisational sex farce" would be somewhere near the bottom of the non-physically-dangerous part of that list. Comedy RPGs are often hit-and-miss in practice because different people's senses of humor are different, and if you throw an overtly or implicitly sexually charged premise into the mix, that's another point of divergence that could play out very badly.

If this were a dramatic or psychological game you were playing as a campaign, I'd say "oh, have Session Zero", "oh, use your safety tools, if you haven't got one standard have you heard of Script Change?" but unless I'm drastically misreading you, you're looking for tips to run it as a light comedy one-shot. As you've experienced, not only does staging an intervention in the middle of a gag kind of blow up the mood, there's going to be some added resistance to deploying a safety tool in an unfamiliar environment because senses of humor are not only different but personal, and it can be paradoxically more difficult to detach yourself from a throwaway joke than an established character.

If you want to run Maid as an off-the-cuff comedy one-shot, your best bet is to run it with a group you already have experience with, who are already familiar with using safety tools. And even then that's no guarantee things won't go wrong.

But you might have better luck with...

The lead translator on the English version of the Maid RPG went on to develop several other games with similar mechanics, to bring the light-hearted chaos to "people put off by the maids [who] might give the same rules a chance with subject matter that won't freak them out so much", to quote a design diary for one such MAID Engine game, Retail Magic.

If what you wanted to share was the pace of play and improvisationally dealing with chaos, that's all made the transition, and I can confirm that nobody falls in love with you when you stress them out.

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I've played it once with complete strangers and it was wholesome and fun.

Agree with a group about the game you are going to play, before you play it. Set expectations. Discuss. (this doesn't just apply to Maid, it's good practice for any role-playing game)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you discuss the sexuality issues before the game? Can you talk about how that went? I very much agree with you, but your answer could use support. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    May 20 '21 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Frezak This is a good idea (see also What is a session 0?). \$\endgroup\$ May 20 '21 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Nope! Never talked to them outside that game. DM was a librarian, other players were librarians that had never played TTRPGs before. No session 0 because it was a one-shot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frezak
    May 21 '21 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you talk about why you think you didn't have this problem? WHen did you set expectations if you didn't do it before hand? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    May 21 '21 at 14:35

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