Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Women of Oz

My original idea for this week's blog was to look at the strong female characters of the Oz stories. Heroines and villainesses, rulers and sorcerers. But then I thought of the gamers in my audience (all 3 of you) and wanted to give them something a little more concrete than a book review. So then I thought about the issue of gender at the gaming table.

Tabletop RPGs, like many other geek activities, is predominantly a male activity. (In fact, the only geek activity I can think of that is predominantly female is cosplaying). I'm male, though I have gamed with women (notably my wife). My Monday night OSRIC campaign has one female player. Since her character has the highest Strength score in the party, we all call her "Boots", as she's the one with the best chance to kick down doors. My Thursday night IronClaw game has two female players, one of whom is playing a female Rhinoceros Pit Fighter.

But I know I'm not typical. There are horror stories floating around the net about female players being sexually harassed by the other players or even the Game Master. Like the group that played the world of Gor (JFGI) and had the one female character that spent most of her time getting traded around by the male characters.

The other night, I found this interesting little item: Heartbreaks and Heroines, a feminist RPG. I found it via this great big honking thread on RPG.Net, which is probably still growing as this gets posted. What is a "feminist RPG"? Apparently one that puts women in the primary roles and focuses on the emotional journey of becoming a hero and finding your place in the world.

But wait, if all feminists really want is equality and parity with men, why have a game that emphasizes women? The answer seems to be to create a deliberate imbalance in one segment (the players of one game) in order to create parity in the gamer population at large.

While the project is fully funded, I'm sure the designers would appreciate an extra buck or two to help propel the project even further.


George Q said...

I've almost always had a female player or two in my games - in the past six years that's almost always been my girlfriend, Ailsa, as well as a few other female friends - but like you I know that isn't always typical. My gaming circle is mostly men and I think you'd be hard pressed to find anything different. (Though LARPing seems to be a bit more female-strong in my experience)

I've oft talked about doing a "Bird of Prey game": that is, an all-female player game as a sort of experiment to see if that produced a different dynamic. For a gameworld specifically designed around female players, I've pondered a fantasy equivalent of post-WWII. With huge amounts of men dead, injured or away on long-term postings, there's a reason why a bunch of women might be moving into an otherwise male-dominated world.

Also - have you heard of Courtesans: Sex & Society? While the subject matter makes it potentially awkward (as does the more PvP element) it's a game where players all play women and arguably quite powerful, interesting women who aren't afraid of ruffling a few feathers. Running it with male players would probably be a struggle due to the sexual tones, but I think a mostly or all-female group would probably see the funny side of narrating that kind of thing. (Men might think about sex all the time, but it seems to be only women who want to talk about it. :-) )

F. Douglas Wall said...

You don't really need to go very far to justify an all-female party. If you're going to insist on a traditional fantasy male-dominated setting, then these adventurous women are audacious exceptions (like most adventurers are anyway). And of course, the fun of fantasy worlds is that they don't always have to conform to our world in any real way. You could present your female adventurers in a matriarchal society or even a *gasp* egalitarian one.

Nezumi said...

Just wanted to let you know that it's sort of come out that the person behind Heartbreaks & Heroines sexually harassed and raped a trans man, resulting in the project being cancelled. Turns out people don't much want a "feminist" RPG from someone who seems to hold contempt for the concept of consent.

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