I’m trying to avoid repeating myself too much, but bear with me, since gender equality is one of my favorite topics and also one of the areas where the RPG industry doesn’t have a good track record. You know, chainmail bikinis and such. I wouldn’t go as far to say that RPG’s are mostly designed by men who hate women, but sometimes, that sentence does not seem that big a stretch. And that’s just bad.
First and foremost, I wanted to make a game where you, the player, don’t need to think about what gender your character is. There’s no difference between men and women in any sense that matters. I admit, a pretty good amount of current games do that, for example the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. However, unfortunately most games don’t really extend this concept beyond the player characters. The settings themselves show fairly traditional gender roles and power structures, and I can say that Lions of the North doesn’t do that.
Another thing is probably more a symptom of the tendency to put “adult themes” in games without actually treating them in an adult fashion. I don’t really know anyone who cares about reading about fictional prostitution, human trafficking or other exploitation. I know less than zero people who care about including such things in their games. We play these games for fun, not to explore stuff that makes us uncomfortable. Design-wise, I assume this kind of stuff could happen in my setting, but I don’t care, really. I’m still not going to write about it.
One of the deadly sins of RPG designers is striving toward realism. I sort of assume that in a world where there’s people who can turn into living storms, curse your weapons and a picnic on a barrow might get you killed by a draugr, I don’t really need to care about “historical gender roles”. It might be worth saying that very few RPG writers are historians and even fewer are experts on historical gender roles. In a strange and alternate world, why should gender roles turn out to reflect our past and present society? And even if you want to be super historical and have a deep-running tendency to strive toward realism, what do historical or pseudo-historical gender roles bring to the table? Does it add to the fun game experience that you can’t really play a female knight in an Arthurian game?
It’s getting kinda late here and I feel like finishing this post for now, but one last thing. Some fictional works have tried doing gender equality by having “women who kick ass!” which is of course better than some other things, but essentially, this is just writing male characters who happen to look like women. I try to be as equal as possible and have both genders in all possible roles and positions in society.
I really should finish this post by now, but I decided to pre-empt a frequent argument about the physical differences between the genders. Who cares. This game is about exceptional individuals, it’s not a weightlifting contest.