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This article discusses some concerns regarding matters of love, sexuality and consequences for characters in Westeros. Given that Dorne is featured less extensively in the books and given the Dornish characters that we do meet, there’s particular emphasis on how such matters are handled in Dorne. However, the document is important reading for those playing outside of Dorne as well, especially considering that we are now in the reign of King Baelor. Players in King’s Landing should focus on the sections “The Seven Kingdoms” and “Consequences”. Players in Sunspear should focus on the sections “Dorne”, “Sleeping Around”, “Paramours”, “Marriage and Fidelity” and “Consequences”.
Even under normal circumstances, the society of the Seven Kingdoms is one that is highly unforgiving of transgressions against the governing moral code. An unmarried woman who loses her virginity—or even comes under the suspicion of being prone to less than honourable behaviour—can find herself rendered unfit for marriage and even packed away to a Motherhouse. Now, during the reign of King Baelor, the slightest suspicion of inappropriate behaviour can result in a young maiden being unwelcome at court. No lord wants to risk the king’s disapproval by allowing a female member of his house be present at court if she is not acting appropriately. And ultimately, all such decisions do fall to the lord of a house. He has final say in all matters regarding members of his house and lords can and will recall relatives from court if they are not representing the house as intended.
Men, too, will have to consider their behaviour more carefully at this time, even though they usually have far more leeway than women. King Baelor is not one to look kindly upon men who have a reputation for sleeping around, whether with whores, common women or, in particular, leading noblewomen astray. Though it is certainly true enough that he is more likely to blame the women.
Given the nature of a medieval court, where there’s very little privacy to be had and where there’s almost always servants around, players should not assume that their characters can manage to carry out trysts in secret. Making the assumption that you’re never seen by any NPCs simply isn’t realistic.
We Dornish are a hot-blooded people, quick to anger and slow to forgive. Prince Doran Martell, AFfC
The people of Dorne move to a different rhythm than their northern brethren, and even more so in and about Sunspear, where the Rhoynar made their deepest mark. Beyond the mountains, it’s said that the hot spices the Dornish enjoy make the men hot-tempered and the women wanton. That said, Oberyn Martell, Arianne and the Sand Snakes are not the norm for the Dornish when it comes to social interaction or sexual relationships; PCs should not be modeled on them on the assumption that their behaviour was perfectly acceptable.
Yes, women of Dorne do have more leeway than those of the Seven Kingdoms in these matters, though it is important to note that the mountain houses are less influenced by the Rhoynish heritage and closer to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms in their attitude towards women. It is also not the case that there are no consequences in Dorne for behavior beyond the bounds of propriety. There is more room in Dorne than in King’s Landing for PCs that act in a more scandalous fashion, but it still has to be made plain by players of such PCs that their behaviour is out of the norm. Playing a character who defies the norm carries a strong responsibility to make it clear when that character is out of line and even to take on consequences without being forced to do so. To do otherwise sets a very poor example.
In many ways, the Dornish court is no different than the one in King’s Landing. The vast majority of knights and ladies are well-behaved. Secrets don’t stay secrets for long. Love affairs will be found out more often than not. Promiscuity is only somewhat more tolerated here than it is anywhere else in the Seven Kingdoms, and there is still an interest in seeing women come to the marriage bed as virgins.
To that end, there are some things a player is responsible for doing in order the maintain the balance between reasonable secrecy and reasonable consequences. Discretion is one thing, but one cannot sleep around with impunity—everything is at risk of discovery, eventually. It is unrealistic to expect that your character can sleep with whomever they wish without consequence or discovery. Courtly standards of conduct still apply.
Noblemen may sleep around. Generally, they can bed whomever they like with impunity, so long as it does no harm to someone else’s reputation—if he deflowers Lord Uller’s favorite daughter, he might have a fight on his hands—and is handled with moderation, otherwise their reputation might be stained with the taint of being whoremongers and the like. A man bedding a noblewoman risks the anger of her husband, father, brother, and other kin, unless he’s discrete. Even Oberyn Martell must fight a duel with a lord whose mistress he bedded, so not even princes are above this unwritten law.
Women, on the other hand, generally can’t sleep around so freely without risking their reputations. Taking a lover, discreetly, might well be looked over… but being known as an easy companion for any gentleman who tickles her fancy would be seen as degrading to herself and to her family. Such a woman will receive little respect at court, and it will damage her chances of marriage. Her family may even choose to disown her, if her behavior is public knowledge. While Dorne as a whole does not place the same emphasis on virginity as the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the pressure still exists, and a family will be happier than not if their daughters (and their sons’ brides) come to the marriage bed as innocents. This is particularly true among the mountain houses.
Taking someone for one’s paramour is an action almost as serious as marriage. A degree of fidelity is assumed by both the involved parties, and the relationship should not be considered one that typically allows for more promiscuity outside of the relationship than a marriage. It should be noted that as Dornish attitudes towards sexuality are somewhat more open, this also applies to the question of homosexuality: men and women may have publicly acknowledged, same-sex paramours.
This is not to say that taking a paramour does not have consequences in itself. Women may well endure censure and possibly even wrath from her family, seen as having sullied themselves and worsening their marriage prospects. A family might accept the relationship for a variety of reasons—for example, known infertility, some physical debility that lessens her chances at a good marriage, a worthy political connection—but there could be anger from the family, and pressure to make it into a respectable marriage. They can withhold her living allowance, or bar her from family gatherings if they so choose. They can even disown her. How the family feels about this, if the woman’s parents are not in play, is up to the Staff.
The man could likewise face repercussions for choosing to take a paramour. His honor might be called into question, because if he loves her enough to bed her, why won’t he marry her? His own family may react with anger because he will likewise be more difficult to marry off. In some cases, depending on Staff decisions, an ill-advised paramour relationship might even be grounds for disownment, reduced monetary allowance, and/or loss of court position and reputation.
Any children born in a paramour relationship are bastards unless their parents marry before they are born. The status of bastards in Dorne is generally better than elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms, especially if they are the children of paramours, but they are still illegitimate. If the parents marry after, the Prince must issue a decree of legitimacy for those children. Request this from Staff.
Men can sleep with women who are not their wives, although there are those who frown on it. There are usually little or no repercussions for him if the woman is not noble-born. If she IS married, or is of the nobility, however, he could rightfully be challenged to a duel by her husband. His reputation could suffer at court as well, as he has demonstrated a lack of honor and respect for a fellow nobleman, and a lamentable lack of self-control where another man’s wife is concerned.
Women cannot, generally, have affairs outside of marriage without serious repercussions if discovered. A woman who has an affair outside of her marriage not only calls the paternity of her children into question, but she is likely considered untrustworthy and dishonorable. That said, Dornish attitudes towards love and sex do allow for the possibility of a spouse to have a paramour, or even both spouses to have paramours. This is scandalous behavior, but depending on who the individuals are, it may have little effect on their public conduct (e.g. a powerful ruling lady is not likely to be much affected by the scandal of having a paramour besides her husband). Within a marriage, if one spouse proposes taking a paramour, it’s a matter for negotiation… or not, if one spouse holds all the power in a marriage; this applies equally to both men and women.
Consequences of adultery against a spouse can include estrangement, loss of access to one’s children, or even (in the case of a wife’s adultery) the potential for some or all children from the marriage to be stripped of legitimacy and rendered bastards. All of this is tempered only by how the rest of society—and, more importantly, the families of the spouses—may see matters. An adulterous woman without the support of her family is truly on her own, while an adulterous consort to a powerful ruling lady may be in similar straits.
If you choose to enter into an adulterous affair outside of an IC marriage, you MUST be willing to accept any and all consequences for your character, including the possibility that she might just be rendered unplayable. Infidelity, even in Dorne, is a serious matter, and not one to contemplate on a whim.
Please keep in mind that the following notes most definitely apply to all characters on the game, regardless of which area they are played in!
Scandalous characters can be a great amount of fun, if they are played with all the attendant consequences to reputation and honor. If you want to cause a scandal, talk to the Staff about the possible consequences, and be aware that if you do it ICly, you accept any and all results of your actions that may come your way. If you do not care for conflict in RP, do NOT play a scandalous character, as conflict is part of the territory. Please note that it is entirely possible for a character to be rendered unplayable—for example, by being recalled from court by the lord of their house—if the player does not consult with Staff regarding the consequences of the character’s behaviour.
If your character is engaging in scandalous behaviour, you will be expected to make this plain by making posts to the Roleplay board and/or using +jobs to request that Staff place anonymous +rumors about your character. If the scandalous behaviour includes cheating on a paramour or spouse, do not assume that your character’s paramour or spouse will not find out just because you don’t want them to—you are expected to RP accordingly, including displaying changed behavior indicative of a cheating spouse. If your character’s paramour or spouse is not a PC, his/her reaction may be decided by the Staff.
It is also very important that all intimate relationships are recorded as Relations. If your character has an affair with another, especially if it results in a loss of virginity or constitutes infidelity against a spouse or a paramour, you must update your +cdb relationship to that character immediately. Whether you choose to set it as a public or private relation is up to you, but if you feel uncertain it is best to consult the Staff about this, as setting a private relation does not mean you will not be discovered. Failure to set a relation to a character that your character has had an affair with—even a one-night stand—may result in disciplinary action from the Staff.
Finally, bear in mind that there is no 100% reliable method of birth control in Westeros. Players of female characters should keep in mind that the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy would always be a very real concern.
The Westeros network consists of several different sites, including a forum and a wiki, for all your A Song of Ice and Fire needs.