I’m stepping into murky waters here. You might see words like, “in my opinion” and “I think”, hopefully you can forgive me what may well turn into a soapbox rant, which I hope it isn’t.

It was woman’s day yesterday so I spent the evening enjoying a pasttime which has one of the more severe gender layouts, (with the possible exception of competition Ro-sham-bo) namely playing RPG’s with my mates. Obviously women play RPG’s and wargame, that’s a given, but the powerful force of strong body odour and prehistoric social skills keeps a lot of them away. (For the record, I have one woman amongst my group, but she’s the first I’ve GM’d for in a campaign.)

So what do we, the great unwashed, do to support the fair sex in thier search for fair treatment? Well, first of all, we acknowledge woman’s day for what it is, which is a day of protest against unfair treatment. Which in case your wondering, is still happening, day in, day out. This isn’t a day about celebrating women for being all around nice people, (which they are by the way, with a few exceptions) this is a day about fighting for recognition that they still aren’t getting.

Which brings us to the topic of this entire post, RPG’s, fantasy settings and women’s place therin. I’m going to throw some historical perspective in here, as well as taking in a few of the books I’ve read that take certain of these issues into account. If you’ve got a book you think takes these issues into account quite well, feel free to suggest it to me, I’ll endeavour to add it to the mountainous collection of books I’ve told myself I’ll read, if it’s got tanks in it I might be convinced to move it up the list.

When someone sits down to run an RPG, they usually have an idea of what kind of setting they want, high-magic, low-magic, horror, dark-humour, yada yada yada, admittedly you quickly have to resign yourself to the fact that the title of “hero’s of the thrice-spliced beam of divinity” isn’t really descriptive of the group and they would by better served by a title like “six gobshites and a magic sword”.

Within this commitment to run a particular setting there is a commitment to a particular style of gender politics. With a lot of high fantasy, for example, there’s a greater commitment to an even 50-50 split among roles between men and women. This works quite well within settings like that. But it’s not for everything, which is sort of what this post is about.

I really hope you don’t think I’m a mysogionist or a chauvenist or anything else, but if your considering running a fantasy RPG, I’d ask, just for a moment, to consider being a sexist.

Women have only been acknowledged as having equal rights under the law in the past century. Even with such a broad statement, they are still battling under the kind of social stigma that sees them as second rate citizens, babymakers and “emotional”.

If you think this is bad, then consider the law beforehand. They were forbidden access to education, segregated within the workforce, but worst of all, they, half the population of the planet, were quietly ignored.

What effect does this have on you playing Dungeons and Dragons? None, if your playing 4th ed. (Oooooooooooooooooh, buuuuuuuuuuurn.) But if your planning on making your world “realistic”, I’d encourage you to consider some gender issues. Why? Because women have gone through hell over the past few millenia and I think that deserves to be recognised. Nay, it needs to be acknowledged. It’s a great way to increase your own knowledge of early modern and medieval society and a fantastic way of introducing some realism into your environment. I’m not saying that your whole game needs to be an all encompassing crusade to free women from the male yoke. (Couldn’t find any good penis jokes to stick in here..Oh wait, that’ll do!) But introducing some confusing property laws and occasionally groping hands (Thanks Dan, you dick) improves the level of realism and maybe opens people’s eyes.

Is it fair? No, no it isn’t, it is distinctly UNFAIR, but remember, in a game of about six players, there may be no female players, but there may be female player characters. Do they deserve to have their lives made miserable for them? Hells yes they do, so the person playing that character doesn’t fall into the classic man-playing-woman trap, namely, playing a dude with boobs. What if they’re actually a woman playing a female character? Yes, you still need to be a stinker, why? Because being unfair is part of being a GM. Challange your players, they get better at this whole roleplaying thing when you crap on them from a height.

The hope here is that someone out there will get a better understanding of gender politics and be more understanding towards gender gaps and issues which, genuinely, aren’t discussed enough. I guess it’s a bonus that you get to be a horrible jerk to some of your players for a few hours.


Happy belated women’d day, peace out.