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So some background: 3 sessions into the campaign, we arrived in Neverwinter and went to the nearest inn. At this inn, one of the barmaids started to flirt with our Paladin. Our paladin had sworn an oath of celibacy, and when the serving girl found her flirting didn't work, she started to work again. However, for laughs, our Rogue tried to make a CHA check to seduce her. He rolled a 20 and they ended up in the barmaid's bedroom. At this point, we decided to call it for the night.

The problem is that in my GM notes, this barmaid was actually the Rogue's sister, who was kidnapped at a young age. In addition, the entire storyline I was planning on going with is that the people who kidnapped his sister are also the people who the party is currently tracking down for other reasons. There are also other plot reasons that make it so I can't easily just make her a childhood friend retroactively. For example, the barmaid possesses objects and knowledge that only the sister would be aware of.

You probably understand my issue:

  • Keeping the barmaid as his sister could cause conflict both at the table (Rogue to GM: "why did you not warn me she was my sister, GM?") and on the table (Paladin to Rogue: "Why would you commit such an unlawful act?");
  • Rewriting part of my campaign to remove the surprise incest would be a lot of work;
  • I did see a 3rd option of starting the next session with a short segment in the sister's bedroom the night before, where either the sister or the rogue notices something peculiar about the other person. However, this would be the first time that we do not skip the night between 2 sessions, so that would put up warning lights. The other players might think the wrong idea when I take the rogue apart for some personal GMing.

I'm not sure how to handle this. Part of me wants to see the looks on their faces when the reveal happens, but the sensible part of me thinks that might cause irreparable damage in the group. However, the alternatives would invalidate much of the work I already did on this campaign.

How do I deal with this situation?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by mxyzplk Jun 1 '16 at 12:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This has turned into a very wide ranging idea generation question, partially due to the question and partly because of poor answers. Please focus it more, and expect to have all comments and probably soe answers deleted as not coming close to site quality guidelines. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 1 '16 at 12:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Was a conclusion reached? I see from reading chat that this situation is made up and not really happening, which makes me sad, as it means this probably isn't a good question (and that all these questions about it are being asked in vain). \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 1 '16 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Nothing explicit, but--yeah, in order to be re-openable the asker would need to invent many more hypothetical details about this imaginary problem, and they seemed understandably reluctant to dig that deep into the pretence. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 1 '16 at 23:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NightOwl It's not germaine because it didn't actually happen—the question is a hypothetical made up to try to ask about how to deal with situations like this. That's why the question is unlikely to be fixable to reopen. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 2 '16 at 6:21
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First: Ewwwww, yuk.

Second: The bar is big enough to employ 2 barmaids - luckily the one he slept with is not his sister. This changes the situation from really gross to "dodged a bullet, lucky your sister wasn't working the first night, eh?" Oh, and they share a bedroom and each other's stuff because they're BFF. She comes home in the morning and doesn't trust the rogue because she thinks he is ... a rogue and doesn't have her friend's best interests at heart.

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Talk to the Rogue's player, out of game and before the next session.

Explain to them what is going on and ask if they are happy to either run with the accidental incest plot line or want to change it retroactively. Even let the player come up with a reason why they did not end up sleeping with said bar wench: maybe a talisman, tattoo, birth mark, or something stopped it. They chatted, realised they were long lost siblings, and for $reasons decide to keep it a secret. For example, not to raise the kidnappers attention.

If the whole incest is a problem with other players, then you have but little choice to drop it.

Personally, I have a list of things that shall not be approached during play. Everything else is open. So, I know what I must not do. It is harsh but those are my rules. This forestall some of these thematic problems.

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Hot diggedy.

Can you keep the story intact with this twist?

I think it's a fun option that could really add drama, tension and character into what you're doing, but it is likely to be off-limits for some people and as a GM you need to respect that. You need to figure if your players would be uncomfortable with casual, accidental incest. You could print some questionnaire sheets about topics the players would be comfortable/uncomfortable with. List many: torture, amputation, racism, slavery, and slip in incest too. Have your players grade them on a scale (EDIT: Per excellent suggestion by Angew in the comments, you could use the "lines and veils" system) to see if they're ok with these, anonymously if they prefer, under the guise that you want to be sure to not cause any accidental distress with your plot developments. Voìla, you've got results, and can use them to determine whether it's worth keeping the twist intact.

As a side note, having such results is beneficial in any case, if you plan on doing anything potentially controversial in your game.

Suppose someone doesn't want even casual, accidental incest in the game.

Don't fight it - in this case, it's pretty much your duty to work your way around without the incest twist. You'll have to retcon your story to remove the sibling incest in some way. I take it by your question that the barmaid being the kidnapped sister is a very integral part of the story, but luckily, since (by the presence of Rogues and Paladins) this sounds like a fantasy setting, people stealing each others' identities shouldn't be too hard. Maybe the barmaid was actually a shapeshifter beast preying on careless adventurers using a female form it had seen somewhere, or has people see it selectively as "the person they most desire" (with "desire" not specified as necessary sexual).

If the idea of the barmaid not being the one she seemed to be doesn't strike you fancy, but you don't want incest either, you'll have to either suck it up and rewrite the relevant parts of your campaign, or interrupt the action before it gets sinful.

The third option, interrupting before incest

That's not a bad idea, and by my experience players would likely appreciate such foreshadowing. If you want to avoid ringing too many warning bells, you could interrupt with something actually dangerous to keep the players' attention away from the barmaid. Have a gang of rogues storm the bar before bedtime, or a fire break out. Anything that prevents things from escalating into erotica, and you've dodged the bullet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Some ideas for that questionnaire, its interpretation, and its application, could be taken from the "lines and veils" paradigm. \$\endgroup\$ – Angew Jun 1 '16 at 10:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Angew That's a great addition, cheers! \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 1 '16 at 10:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ option 4: it didn't happen... rogue was piss drunk, passed out and made up the story after... "Sister" didn't know about story until later (Many guys "score" with someone only to later hear a different story from the other person... either to drunk to remember, and filled in the fuzzy parts... or simply lied) or didn't argue it out of a sense of protection... She tucked him in and slept on the recliner. option 5: rogue was drunk and had performance issues. Talk about a close call. \$\endgroup\$ – WernerCD Jun 1 '16 at 12:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WernerCD I like your style! \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 1 '16 at 12:51
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Let it be AS IS. In real life this could happen. If they didn't have a reliable way of knowing, it doesn't really matter, and will only give a bit of awkwardness between them.

If you have a prudish(?) set of players though, it wouldn't be a good idea...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I highly support this answer. Seriously, why try to bend your (virtual) reality if this could very well actually just happen like this? It will make for an interesting story arc and character developments. \$\endgroup\$ – Florian Peschka Jun 1 '16 at 11:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @FlorianPeschka The asker is worried about potential "irreparable damage" to the real-life group of friends they play with. Real-life fallout should certainly trump any added narrative value, and this answer doesn't really address that part of the asker's situation (except to say such concerns are oversensitive--I think; I'm not sure what (?) is meant to say). \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 1 '16 at 12:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ the ? is to signify that I'm not sure of the word. I'm convinced they would be oversensitive, but that's for OP to decide :) \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowFlame Jun 1 '16 at 12:45
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My advice: Keep it a secret, reveal it only to the Rogue, let him come up with why the party needs to go on the quest. Maybe he'll reveal it to some other party members to get them on side, or maybe he'll blurt it out and have to convince the Paladin that there is a greater evil at hand that the party needs to contend with. This is something that happened to the party, no different than if the rogue had backstabbed someone, thinking they were an evil henchman, but that turned out to be innocent.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see I'm incorrect. Never let the PCs roleplay, that's dumb, sorry. \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Jun 1 '16 at 11:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ A better phrasing is "don't force the players roleplay sensitive topics they may not wish to address without talking to them about it first". \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY Jun 1 '16 at 11:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gaynorvader I think it would be taken as a given that nobody thinks it's "dumb" to suggest the PCs should be allowed to roleplay, and so we both know that couldn't be why you're getting downvotes. Personally I downvoted this because it's not adequately handling the whole incest topic, which is the whole question. You immediately segue into something about a quest, but since the question never really brought up a quest that needs explaining, I don't see what that has to do with anything. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 1 '16 at 12:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you @doppelgreener, that's what I wanted to know and why I posted such a sarcastic comment. I dislike seeing downvotes with no comments. \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Jun 1 '16 at 13:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Folks only comment alongside a down vote when they can see something in the answer that can be improved without fundamentally changing its meaning; otherwise it's just saying "I think that's not useful," which is what the down vote says already. Even then, there's no obligation. You can often look at the content of other answers and how it's being voted on to get a sense of what folks think IS useful, and if that's not giving you an answer then the Role-playing Games Chat is often willing to offer its speculation in a less structured atmosphere. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 2 '16 at 0:34

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