Everything felt a bit fuzzy as Charlie woke up again. She slowly blinked, her memories fighting with her mind to recall what exactly was real and what was part of the virtual reality, as if it had been an intense dream. However, just like a dream, it rapidly became clear as she looked around. She wasn’t Princess Cherry anymore, she was just an avid roleplaying fan with all her friends.
Charlie soon noticed she wasn’t the only one struggling. The room filled with groans as the group collectively started to rise. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Zoe was the first one to recover, helping the others out of their headgear and getting them to sit upright. “Everyone okay? Nobody feels like throwing up?” She held up a bucket in case.
Maureen shuddered at her words. “I wasn’t until you mentioned it. That was one hell of a trip, Zeni-Zoe. Fuck, please don’t tell me I’ll be doing that all day.”
“Probably not,” Zoe replied. She looked over at Jaidan who was wide-eyed and staring back and forth between Vera and their game master. She looked to be a mix of bewildered and astonished at her situation. “Looks like someone’s having trouble adjusting,” Zoe said with a laugh. She snapped her fingers in front of Jaidan’s face. “Hey, you alright in there?”
Jaidan blinked, her eyes refocusing on Zoe. “I- that was- woooah. I’m fine but I think I need a minute.” She slumped back down into her chair. “Damn, that was intense. And I’m not just talking about waking up here, I mean the session.” She looked up at Vera. “Seriously? That was an incredible performance. You really got into character there.”
Vera responded with an innocent giggle. “You’re one to talk, Miss I love playing the group heel. If you ask me, I think you enjoy it a little too much.” She stretched her arms up above her head, working out the knots in her muscles. “I have to admit I didn’t think I’d like playing that archetype. But now I’m thinking a noble rogue could be fun to try in a future campaign.”
There was a singular clap from the head of the table. “Yes! Truthfully I was a bit worried about you, but I’m glad you liked it. After all, one of the duties of the GM is to encourage players to test out new boundaries.” Zoe looked incredibly proud of herself. And as far as Charlie was concerned, she fully deserved it. The VR technology had gone without a hitch, and it resulted in a uniquely intense campaign.
As the room filled with general chatter about what had happened, there was one thing that still left Charlie a bit worried. Her girlfriend had been quiet this whole time. Which wasn’t especially uncommon for her, but it was something she worried about. Fortunately, they had a system worked out to check on each other when out in public. Beth happened to be a nerd for Morse Code, and over time Charlie had picked up a few things.
Beth was staring forward, vacant and unfocused, as Charlie began tapping and scratching the desk. Two dots, four dashes, and then a dot and a dash. She didn’t pause at all the correct times, but they both knew what she was saying. U O K?
Although she continued her silent staring, Beth responded in kind. Scratch tap scratch scratch. Charlie had to admit that she didn’t know all the details, but she knew enough for their own private conversation. In morse code, the letter “N” had two symbols and “Y” had four. In their own personal convoluted way, Beth was saying that she was okay. There was no pressure, no need to make excuses or feel guilty in this case.
“I’m glad to see you again. The real you.” Charlie had a smile on her face as she spoke to her girlfriend, figuring it was time to break the silence. “That was a pretty wild ride, huh?”
Beth nodded. She slowly turned her head, finally making eye contact. A gentle smile grew on her face. “It was scary,” she admitted, her voice a low volume that only Charlie would hear. “But it’s a good kind of scary. I want to go back in.”
Charlie wrapped her arm around her girlfriend’s shoulder. She pulled her in tight and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “So do I. I’m not sure where Bellwyn was, but Princess Cherry was in a rather tight spot when we left off.” Her mind drifted back to the virtual world. Everything had felt so vivid in the moment, but looking back it still distinctly felt like a roleplay. She was having a hard time putting it into words. “So I guess you told Zoe how much you like heavy bondage, eh?”
Immediately Beth’s face turned red as a beet, while the rest of the group looked over in their direction. “You bet she did,” Zoe commented with a laugh. “What was it you told me? The less I can move the better?”
There was a round of laughter as Beth sputtered in place. “Zoe! That was told in…” her protest trailed off. It wasn’t exactly told in confidence, especially considering they would all see it anyway once the game resumed. Instead she shrank back into her chair, crossing her arms while pouting about. “It’s like sleeping in a weighted blanket. It makes me feel nice and safe.”
“Please, you don’t have to justify your weird kinks. I’m pretty sure I’ve got you beat there.” Maureen shook her head. “I mean, why would I deal with my real Mommy issues when I can turn them into a kink and erotically roleplay something incestuous with my friends?”
Zoe shuddered. “Yikes, bit too real there. Anyway, let’s all take fifteen. Grab a snack, stretch your legs, whatever. Just no sneaking away to rub one out with someone. We’ve literally got a game dedicated to that.”
Maureen and Vera got up to walk around, while Jaidan turned to Zoe. “I gotta say, this is some pretty impressive technology. I’m still a little confused though. I mean, how much of the decisions are ‘us’ and how much is the programming.”
Zoe sucked in her teeth. “Short answer? It’s complicated. Basically, your characters have predetermined paths that they naturally gravitate towards. An autopilot of sorts. That’s why you’ll feel a strong urge to do something or act a certain way.” Her knee began bouncing up and down, a sign she was starting to go into nerd mode. “It’s doubly complicated since you guys aren’t fully conscious of the game. So really, there’s way more chances for everything to get derailed, even more so than usual.” Her eyes were shifting back and forth between the people who were still sitting with her. “So what did you think so far? Anything I can improve on, any specific direction you want to take once we start again?”
“No! Bad Zoe!” Charlie was quick to cut her off. “You know the rules, no feedback until the module is finished. We’ve all seen you take your brilliant plotlines and throw them away because an offhand comment made you doubt yourself.” It was true. Zoe was a phenomenal game master most of the time, but she occasionally struggled with believing in her ideas. “But yes, it’s been immensely enjoyable so far. You also took to the dominatrix role a lot faster than I expected.”
Beth nodded in agreement. “I’m really happy that you managed to write good characters for everyone. I feel bad for you though, since you don’t get to lose yourself in a character the way the rest of us do.”
“It’s a price I’m more than willing to pay,” Zoe responded. “You know, being the dominant one in a kink dynamic is weirdly similar to being a game master.”
There was a snort of laughter from across the room. “Oh sure,” Vera said with a laugh. “Just like the sky is green and overthrowing monarchies can be considered evil.”
“I’m being serious. It’s a group activity, but the group is on unequal footing. One person inherently has more power than the others. It’s their job to make sure everyone’s okay and having fun. But it’s also important for the GM to have fun as well. And players trying to outsmart the GM is kind of like bratting - it’s great as long as everyone knows when to stop.”
Jaidan let out a groan. “Zoe, you need to stop talking because you’re actually starting to make sense, and I hate it. I never want to hear you calling tabletop RPG’s a BDSM group again.” She let out a deep sigh. “Anyway, what all have your characters been up to? We got split up, and I want all the deets.”
“Not all of them,” Vera cut in. “Y’all are in for a massive surprise next time you see Jinta. But please, tell us about what the Queen and the rest of them were up to.”
For the next few minutes, the friends chatted about their various exploits and the sexy situations they’d been in. Some details were left out, both to keep a surprise and to save on time. Before they knew it Zoe was gathering up the headsets again.
“Alright everyone, it’s time to jump back in to the second half of this module. Quit your yapping and get to… nevermind.” This time people were much better at hooking up to the headsets. One by one, the group got themselves properly connected and prepared to reenter the virtual world.
“See you on the other side, girls.” Without further delay, they fell back in to the Kingdom of Tirencia and the wicked sorceress ready to punish them all.”