It was the first time I’d been alone with The Witcher 3 all week, and I wanted to do something weird.
Someone—girlfriend, friend, dogs—had been looking over my shoulder or sitting next to me on the couch since I’d gotten to Novigrad, the biggest city I’d seen so far in the game. Metropolis that it is, Novigrad is happy to indulge its residents’ carnal instincts, despite the puritanical influence of the militant Church of the Eternal Fire. And the mission I’d been on—investigating a series of grisly murders—had taken me right past a brothel.
I’d earlier set foot in the Passiflora, a high class bordello, for the first time, though Geralt, The Witcher’s stoic protagonist, had been before, according to the Marquise Serenity. She ran the place, and she remembered Geralt’s hijinks there—some debauchery involving a pair of dwarfs and a bard—well. She’d asked if I wanted the same girls again, or something new. I challenged her to a game of Gwent, The Witcher’s in-game competitive card game, because I wasn’t alone on my couch.
Crippled Kate's—the sodden riverside brothel my mission had taken me near—was not the Passiflora. But at this point I was alone.
I guided Geralt inside. The madame—Crippled Kate herself, I have to assume—greeted me with hostility; Geralt is a Witcher, a magic-wielding monster hunter, and the Madame believed the Church’s tales about “freaks.” Or she was just ignorant.
She let me stay, though she warned that I’d take whatever girl she threw at me unless I wanted to pay more. Cost being no issue to a successful Witcher like myself, I perused. I was on the fence still—one foot out the door and back to the mission—until I saw her.
She was a ginger, or maybe it was just the light. The freckles I wasn’t imagining. Her corset half-unlaced, her legs bare, the “Material Girl” lyrics she kept muttering for some reason—Geralt was entranced. I could tell. I approached her and we got down to business.
The Witcher does a better job than many other games at being “mature.” Its sex scenes aren’t gratuitous—the ones I’ve seen so far at least—a few different positions, network TV-safe thrusting, a playful smack of Geralt’s ass. It was over in seconds. Geralt was resting facedown on the bed, catching his breath, when she briskly snapped him back to reality. She didn’t speak; she didn’t have to. The outstretched hand said “pay me,” and the look on her face said “get out.” Geralt smiled wryly. I felt vaguely ashamed, but at least I’d sated my curiosity.
JUST ANOTHER JOB
That wasn’t the last I’d see of “Bertha,” which I doubt was her real name. I, like Geralt, was eager to forget what I’d done and get on with the business at hand. But the investigation, via a trail of hoofprints, led me right back to Kate’s. Of course—the mission was called “Deadly Delights.” I should have seen this coming.
Geralt seemed sheepish (or maybe I was projecting) as I ducked back through the rickety doorway. Madame didn’t want to chat, but luckily Geralt can do Jedi mind tricks (he calls it “Axii,” but it’s the same shit). Un-luckily, she confessed that she’d been harboring a succubus. She knew the risks, but the coin the creature had brought in! And this is Crippled Kate’s, not the Passiflora. She needed it.
I wouldn’t have balked at the Witcher bedding a succubus—he’s probably done weirder.
Being a Witcher, Geralt’s whole job is to hunt down monsters for coin. That’s his purpose, and he’s damn good at it. Odds were I’d have to kill the succubus, given the soldiers she’d recently dismembered. That’s why my first thought was: I hope it’s not her.
She hadn’t met my gaze since I’d entered. Was she pretending not to recognize me? Did she know that I knew? Or is this a video game, where the vast majority of characters walking their pre-defined loops around the world weren’t actually programmed to form memories?
Turned out to be that last, to my and (I imagine) Geralt’s relief. It’s not that I would have balked at the Witcher bedding a succubus—he’s probably done weirder. I just didn’t want to have to kill her.
I found the succubus in a locked-up love den down the road. She claimed self defense—the guards had ambushed her, not the other way around—and I convinced her to skip town. She gave me a souvenir so I could prove I’d done the job, and that was that—or so I thought.
I encountered “Bertha” one more time before shipping off to Skellige to continue Geralt’s quest. I’d been sprinting to the harbor, ready to leave Novigrad in my wake, when she called to me from the mud outside the soggy brothel. Something was wrong.
Crippled Kate’s had been overtaken by Skelligers—apparent barbarians from the land I was headed for. That didn’t bode well.
Would the witcher deign to help? I seemed like an honest man, she said—they could pool together and pay me a fee, she promised. Everybody knows a Witcher never lifts a finger for free.
Again, she didn’t recognize me. Maybe it was the recent trauma—a heroic deed or two would jog her memory for certain. I cleared the barbarians out using more Jedi mind tricks. A fight might have been more impressive, but I thought she might appreciate me not getting blood all over the walls even more. When she tried to pay me, I gallantly declined.
“So there are good men left in the world,” she sighed. And that was the end. She’d forgotten me after all—the second she’d seen the door hit my ass, most likely.
What had I expected? She’s a lady of the night—a working woman—and Geralt is just another John to her. Plus this is a video game.
I entered Crippled Kate’s one last time, to make sure Madame was OK, to say goodbye for good, or for no reason at all. Then I spied her, swaying in the corner where I’d first seen her. I peeked outside again—still there. Had the developer re-used the same character model with slightly different clothes? That would explain why the version outside was simply called “strumpet.” Was I losing my mind? Or were they—twins?
Maybe I could stay just a little bit longer—or not. Girlfriend’s back on the couch. Another time, then, Bertha.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. If you thought this was weird, you haven’t seen his Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 coverage. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.