Into each holiday season comes a new product simply indispensable to the modern world and all those who believe in rapturous, never-ending, high-hormone-charged love.
When "Rapture's Voyage," "a role-playing game for lovers," came across the desks in Scene, we knew we had to find a loving couple to test-play this latest offering from the romance trade and TDC Games of Itasca, Ill.
"Will he be a heartless, seafaring scoundrel . . . Or the captain of her dreams?" asks the game, which mimics a (bad) historical romance.
Being fresh out of heartless, seafaring scoundrels, we tapped our sources for recommendations. We wanted one of those couples who tell everything ("My mother wore gravity boots") on afternoon talk shows.
We tried attorney Greg - "Somehow I never thought of myself as having `loins' " - and flight attendant Jan. They read the scripts and turned us down.
We tried several others - who all, suddenly, "were leaving town."
At last we found Ed and Sue Goodsport (no, this is not their real last name; who would want their names linked to this?), a self-described romantic couple, married 14 years, parents of 4-year-old Alex, and Federal Way residents.
They were just what we were looking for: Mr. and Mrs. Middle America, still believing in love, romance and a good paperback; a couple who still have dates with each other and are each other's best friend.
But she is a woman who: Asked for "feetie" pajamas for
And he is a man who: Bought something "sheer, red and feathered" instead.
He is: The Willy Loman of appliance sales.
She is: A freelance writer.
They are: 39.
For the game, they became: Lord Jonathan Coulter, one day the 15th Earl of Thorne, and Abigail Charington, "the auburn-haired tigress . . . a spirited beauty." Each had a complete script, but costumes and props - to turn one's own bedroom into a privateer's ship, without redoing the wallpaper - were optional.
As the story begins, Abigail has escaped the hideous, drooling Abner Micklewhite, to whom her terribly indebted father has arranged a marriage, and has posed as a boy in order to gain employment on the Rapture, Jonathan's ship.
Lord Jonathan has set sail for Boston with cargo of guns and powder to assist a dissident group rising against the Massachusetts government. His "heritage abounds with the exploits of seafaring adventurers," although his personal life is a wreck.
Then, one day . . . in the privacy of the Goodsport split-level . . .
Cabin boy-in-disguise Sue/Abigail knocks three times. Capt. Jonathan/Ed bellows for her to come in, "in a matey-like voice." She stows her gear carefully so the captain can't accidentally catch a glimpse of her "woman's amenities." And they spin the wheel of chance, which points the direction of their journey.
Back in the 20th century the following night and sitting in their comfortable living room drinking white wine and eating apple pie, the Goodsports reflected on the adventure. They played the game three times.
"There she was sitting there in her T-shirt and blue robe," Ed says. "Of course, I was looking good."
The next thing they knew, Abigail helplessly fell to the floor and Capt. Coulter picked her up in his arms like the "raging sea lion that he is," a role Ed said he could identify with.
Then a spin of the dial and a turn of the page and . . .
"I'm dead! I had a heart attack!" Ed complained.
"That's when I kneed him in a vulnerable spot," Sue said smugly.
Game 3. "Damnation! She's naked in your bed!" according to the script. Then a first mate came in and shot them both.
The problem with the game is that "just about the time you think you're going to reach Tukwila, you're back in Federal Way," said Ed.
According to Sandra Bergeson and Lawrence Balsamo (the Sandra Lawrence team who wrote the game), it was created in answer to public interest in romance-themed books and movies. Neither she nor Balsamo has played the game, which is available through mail order.
With "Rapture's Voyage" out in national circulation, their next offering is "Ecstasy Fulfilled."
"Well, it does give you an excuse to get together. Maybe if you played a whole lot . . .?"