The Seven-Sided Die

Paizo's response to criticism of their portrayal of women

Posted Monday February 01, 2010 at 09:31 AM

Last year I sent a slightly snarky email to Paizo in response to their virtual Christmas card mailing, which was a picture of the Pathfinder RPG iconic character Seoni[1. Not that I recognised her as Seoni at the time, not being familiar enough with PFRPG then. Granted, I still wouldn't know if not for that post, and I don't know any other PF iconic's name.] done up as a sexy Santa. As an afterthought I turned the email into a post because hey, why not get double duty out of that text I spent time writing?

Unsurprisingly in retrospect, but completely taking me by surprise at the time, that turned into a huge mess when the post was linked to on the Paizo forums.

I hesitated to write a follow-up post for a long time. When the next Christmas came around I considered writing something but ultimately skipped it just because it still left a foul taste just thinking about it. Even now I'm not really interested in analysing it, but a recent experience trying to explain male privilege to a friend and the resulting sensation of banging my head against a wall reminded me of that post and my undischarged duty to a commentor on it. That I've been reading the excellent Border House Blog that bankuei recently blogged about probably has a lot to do with it too.


When I wrote that post, one of the first comments was from Ravyn of Exchange of Realities, asking that I post a follow-up should Paizo respond to the email. They never did so I never did, but I did (eventually, when my anger with the invaders had cooled) go and read through the entire long Paizo forum thread that discussed my post.

The male privilege and cluelessness about same was predictably rampant, but there was a surprising number of eloquent people arguing my point to the rest of the forumers,[2. roguerouge in this post and cappadocius in this post are particularly fine examples.] which was great to see. Most of them were more gentle and better-written than I was, but that sadly didn't seem to change any more minds than my angry arguing in the comments of my post did.

There were some very disappointing posts in that thread, and the most disappointing were the ones from the Paizo staff. So Ravyn, here's your answer:


—Erik Mona, Publisher #

All I have to say since I ordered the Holiday Pin-Up Seoni is I LIKE IT and "pin-up" was in the art order description!

—Sarah Robinson, Art Director #

I don't think that Christmas Seoni is "bad" or sexist or anything of the sort. I think Paizo's done a great job at being open-minded and getting all sorts of genders, races, sexual orientations, beliefs, and all that good stuff out there in a non-discriminatory way. In other words, the only thing I discriminate against is bad writing, I guess.

—James Jacob, Pathfinder Editor-In-Chief #

The only thing to say about Erik Mona's response is that if the head publisher of a company is going to respond at all I would expect more of them. He could have said nothing at all, but he chose to respond and chose that to respond with? It seemed to be much more a response for the sake of the bulk of the forumers—"don't worry, I'm not taking this seriously either"—than for me or any of the forumers who brought up criticism of Paizo's representation of women.

The art director's answer is just tiring. That she asked for it doesn't mean it wasn't sexist. If she'd said, "I asked for a black slave naked except for Rudolph antlers and nose, with a white man's Santa-style boot on her back," that would have been plainly wrong.[4. This is not to compare sexism and racism, which are different yet related in complicated ways. It's an over-the-top example that I would hope the majority agree clearly demonstrates the irrelevance of an art director defending a piece with, "but it's what I asked for!" when the resulting art is inappropriate. Despite that intent, if using that example is offensive in a way that I—in my white privilege—have failed to see, I hope you feel welcome enough to say so and allow me to make amends.] It is the content of the art direction that matters, not whether or not it was asked for or even whether or not the art director happens to be female. Women can absorb and transmit oppressive cultural values just as easily as men can, because having the right bits in the pants doesn't provide magical brain-immunity to the culture that we're soaked in.

James Jacob's response I cared less about and I included it for the completeness of Paizo's response, paltry as it was. (Unlike the others though, he participated in the thread conversation beyond this response.) Still, it's annoyingly self-congratulatory. If the detractors are ignored and you make a point of stating your point of view over theirs, then you're selecting for self-congratulatory feedback. It's entirely possible to have done a great job on diversity and still have a lot of room to improve, and it's so much easier to overlook an area where there's a huge lack of improvement when you simply assert that there's no problem.

And of course, there were Sean K Reynold's self-serving responses in the comments of the original post, but the less said about those, the better.

So that's it.[9. Dammit. I just can't write a short post. I could have been working on my conversion of Shaintar to Burning Wheel.] The people at Paizo don't take concerns about sexism in their art seriously because they think their art is already not sexist.

Edit to add: Now that there have been a few comments in the moderation queue, I can see that this post is going to attract some of the same Champions of Men that the last did. I have only a little bit of interest in arguing with people who don't know—and more to the point, don't care—about the fundamental concepts that a conversation about inequality starts from. If your comment ladles a big helping of male-privilege condescension on top of the cluelessness I'm not going to approve it.

Yes, I'm going to police the comments.[5. Criers of "censorship!" are welcome to educate themselves about freedom of speech on their own time. The short version is: No, I don't have an obligation to give anyone a soapbox here; Yes, you are free to write in your own blog instead.] You might really want to add your opinion to the comments, but opinions saying that there's no problem are pennies a gallon and they get old fast. I'd rather keep the thread welcoming to all, no just the ones who ironically and loudly insist that there's nothing to talk about.[7. There's a quote of Lady Macbeth that applies here.] That said, you're welcome to add vitriolic comment to the original thread, where it would be in fellow company with all the other white men saying that they don't see what the problem is.

Otherwise, I'm happy to converse with people who are genuinely curious and make an effort to be respectful (not to me, but to women and PoC who are in the audience). I'm not setting the bar high—the least indication of having thought about it and being willing to keep thinking about it is all that's necessary.

Comments (20)

Chris Tregenza

Monday February 01, 2010 at 10:45 AM

Thank you for this post.

As a 40 something white male and part-time RPG publisher, this is an issue I think should be discussed. It is very easy, even among the most liberal of us, to have blind spots over these sort of issues and to make mistakes.

It is an unfortunate fact that RPGs are a male dominated hobby with male-centric fantasies ideas about chainmail bikinis dating back to Robert E. Howard and Conan. I suspect this is just a continuation of a form of sexism that can be found in the deception of female warriors dating back to the Greek ideals of Amazon warriors.

As a publisher, I'm interested in how to shape an RPG that is non-sexist and more appealing to female players. This is not an altruistic ideal but the simple fact that women are a huge untapped market.

There are some major stumbling blocks along the way to creating such a game. I mention them here, not because they cannot be solved, but because they need to be solved for this hobby to move forward.

Most fantasy games are based on a European dark to middle-ages style background. These were sexist times when women had limited and grossly undervalued roles in the society. Anything based on these societies will carry-over that sexism.

Creating a credible world where sexism is not entrenched is problematic. Any world based mammalian biology places women at a disadvantage. From pregnancy and childcare to a tenancy to lower physical strength and being of a smaller size; women are biological disadvantaged in an environment where physical combat is central to the game.

A writer could introduce ways around this by including female specific magic (a "Morning After Spell" anyone?). However tackling the issue of sex and childbirth in a game this raises problems for a publisher aiming games at 12 or 13 year olds. Some parents might object, some shops might not stock it. This also seems to reduce the issue of sexism to not getting pregnant and this has its own issues.

The mechanics of RPGs are themselves male-centric. Lots of tables of numbers and nerdy details on weapons. There is no doubt that this sort of thing appeals to certain personalities types and that those personalities tend to be in male bodies. An RPG designed to be female-centric (or at least less male-centric) needs to move away from these idea that have defined our hobby for 35 years. Where that takes the game I don't know but we need to end up with a structure more in tune with female group dynamics and decision making processes.

The lack of female writers is in itself a huge issue. There are many, many reasons for this, but few, if any, major RPG system have been written by women. Even at the fan / hobbyist level, few woman seem to be publishing RPGs or even adventures. [NOTE: There may be lots of women doing this but I'm not seeing it, which may be another problem]. Without women writers and creators learning the skills of the trade at the fan level, it makes it very hard to find and hire suitable staff to write women friendly RPGs. This Catch-22 problem limits the number of women coming into the hobby.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

I started gaming in the early eighties and I did not meet a woman gamer until the mid-nineties. Now, on RPG nights, at my local games stores, about a 6th of those present at female. It a small and slow improvement but it bodes well for the future.

The Recursion King

Monday February 01, 2010 at 02:03 PM

I think that the author of this post has massively overreacted to a fairly harmless image, having googled the image in question and took a peek, it's difficult to see what all the fuss is about.

Anyway, here's the link if anyone else wants to see the offending item that is riling the blog author so much:


Monday February 01, 2010 at 07:54 PM

My only problem is the label sexist. Sexualist perhaps, but certainly not sexist.

Sexist would imply that only women are drawn up as sex objects. The watermelon rule* applies to their male artwork as well.

Showing women as mere sex objects, thats wrong. It is not less wrong because they also show men as sex objects, but its wrong for different reasons when the men folk are shown as mere sex objects.

To go back to the nature of hyperbole to make a point. Murdering a person is wrong either way, but there is a difference between a serial killer and a religious honour killing, even if the net result is the same.

*Watermelon rule: There shall be two unrealistic watermelons on all characters to make them sexier. On the women they are located on the chest, with the men they are located on the arms.


Monday February 01, 2010 at 08:56 PM

there is a difference between a … and a …, even if the net result is the same.

Even if the net result is the same. No, the same effect is the same effect. The intention might be only that the art be "sexy" not "sexist", but the people who are making the art can't dictate that the art's effect is only what they intended. Execution of the intention is much more important. Furthermore, since they are in a position of power as the publisher, they're in the wrong position to even judge the effect of their art on women.

Not intending to objectify women isn't relevant when the effect anyway is to objectify women. When their intent actually is to give a little bit of fan service and give their fans a tingle in their pants with some boobage, then it's flatly contradictory to say that they didn't intend the art to objectify women. So, not only is the effect sexist, but the intent is as well.

A driver getting behind the wheel might only intend to go get groceries, not to operate a lethal weapon or create smog that eventually kills people with compromised lungs. People killed by cars are still dead though. If someone got in the car with the actual intent of polluting (say, for the benefit of smog-breathing aliens at the expense of human lungs?), there would be no way to claim that they intended no harm.


Monday February 01, 2010 at 10:40 PM

Thanks for your comment. This is the kind of thoughtful engagement that I always hope for and rarely see!

Of course, I'm going to focus on the parts we don't agree on, the parts that spur further thoughts (that are neither agreement nor disagreement), or the parts that I think a different perspective can bring insight on; so keep in mind that between every line I'm thinking, "right on! you get it! I can talk about the nuances and rough spots with you!" even if I'm saying something that challenges a detail of your comment.

Again: Right on! Awesome comment! That's a great, meaty comment to start the conversation.

Representation of women is something that I think indie publishers are in a good position to grapple with. Indie means small print runs and niche appeal—the group that will recognise and appreciate a book written with awareness of the issues around gender might be small, but no smaller than other niches that indie products succeed in. It also has the possibility to be larger—as you say, there is an untapped market of women who would like a game that doesn't trip up and make small assumptions that the reader is male.

That's not entirely theoretical, either. There are small-press and indie games that I've acquired or been acquainted with that stand out for their fair representation of genders. The designer Emily Care Boss' games Shooting the Moon and Breaking the Ice are both gender-neutral yet female-friendly.

Another, which is the setting I'm currently running, is Sean Patrick Fannon's Shaintar. Significant NPCs, both good and bad, are women, and being a fantasy world Fannon has opted to eliminate gender-specific oppression in favour of other, less problematic oppressions that the players are expected to resist, not portray. The art by Jason Engle is refreshingly unobjectifying of either gender: Everyone is dressed appropriately to their job, and women are depicted in physically demanding jobs as much as men are. There is a noted lack of cleavage shots or even sexualised poses—every character is visually portrayed being competent subjects, not objects for the reader's viewing pleasure.

This is in stark contrast with Pinnacle's art direction for their Savage Worlds system and genre companions; Shaintar uses Savage Worlds for mechanics, so the difference in approaches to women in the art are really jarring. That's another rant for yet another post though.

Shaintar is a good example of a setting that is standard fantasy superficially that doesn't rely on the "dark/middle ages" social setup and hence avoids the need to dance around that sexism. Another thing that differs from the middle ages: people live much longer in Shaintar because the year is about 500 days long but ages aren't adjusted to keep in line with Earth norms. Hey, it's not Earth! :) This seemed like a problem to wrap my head around, but in practice it's not.

Excising sexist socioeconomic models from a medieval-ish setting shouldn't be much harder. Sometimes it can just be omitted entirely, and the players will fill how it can be that a medieval-ish society could not be sexist by themselves. If the text simply states equality, that's not hard for players to rationalise. Most actual play doesn't focus on nuanced social dynamics and cultural forces that would cause players to notice any discrepancy caused by simply asserting equality.

(As an aside, there's a strong argument for agriculture, not mammalian biology, being the culprit in our own history. All evidence of pre-agrarian societies points to a relatively egalitarian standard.)

But, enough about my current setting of choice. ;)

The mechanics appeal to people with a lot of disposable time, not necessarily to men specifically. It just so happens that the division of labour statistically favours men; it also happens that girls are continually told that being attractive is the most important thing in the world, and that being smart isn't attractive. I won't completely discount personality types, but I will say that personality formation is very sensitive to cultural and parental influences. Culture and parents both largely say that "girls are like so; boys are like so," and it's unsurprising when those boys and girls end up accepting and internalising those constant stories about themselves.

That can't be changed overnight, though, and there will always be people who do really want complex mechanics regardless of gender. In any case, there already is a shift toward games that have simpler (but no less deep) mechanics. Again, the indie and small press movements are the place to look for those games and those mechanics. Primetime Adventures is probably the top game for introducing non-gamers to roleplaying because its conceit—create and play a TV series you wish was on TV—is very broadly accessible. Indie games are diversifying the style of play demonstrated in game books, and while that is broadening the styles of play people are taught via book learnin', it also makes for more games that just happen to appeal to women.

It's not that I think indie games are bastions of equality. The more experimentation with style, mechanics, and subject matter that indie games do as a mass, the more the indie movement will generate some games that will "just happen" to appeal to women, often unintentionally.

More women writers would be wonderful, but men have to get on board with making games less unappealing to women by reducing and eliminating representations of women filtered through Man-o-Vision. (Obviously you're already on board.) We need more men to accept that their writing/art has to be done with awareness that women are the audience too, in order to bring more women to the hobby and industry. Few women want to go to a game store or play with men who say (unintentional and intentional) stupid shit all the time, let alone work in an industry where their male co-workers say and produce products that say that stupid shit.

Which is all to say that women aren't going to bring change to the industry if the men in the industry are indifferent or push back on that change. It already sucks to be a woman in a male-dominated hobby and industry, but requiring them to also do the work of re-educating the male majority (on top of their actual work!) is a set-up for failure.

Of course, the idea is that women bring a different perspective to the industry that would make it less unappealing to women gamers and other potential designers. However, men can do their part to that end right now: it's no harder to open-mindedly research and listen to the perspectives of women than it is to do the same for accurately portraying a historical setting for a game. If us creative type of men can wrap our minds around how it would be different to see the world through dwarven eyes and traditions, it's not much to expect that we could do the same for women's experience. We have an advantage, actually, in that we have real, live women who are already putting a lot of their thoughts and experiences out there in an attempt to educate men, if only men would commit to listening.

There are lots of women already telling the industry, and its male writers and artists, what does and doesn't work for them. If those men can set aside their pre-conceived notions about what is sexist and listen to the experts who are already trying to educate, then they have a chance of changing things hand-in-hand with women gamers and co-workers.

It's definitely not all doom and gloom. Paizo is actually a great example of how a company can embrace diversity and equality. That they think they're done raising the bar on equality and diversity is all the more disappointing in contrast, but they're still an example of how far the industry and the games have come from their nearly exclusively-male roots.


Monday February 01, 2010 at 11:20 PM

Though I don't take it to the same extent (as in I'm not actively offended by objectification, and don't immediately become off-put by it) I do think your opinion is valuable and Paizo's response relatively typical of them. Unless they ask for them (and even then) they don't really care for dissenting opinions, except to make fun of them.

I try for my own writing and gaming to have women expressed in many roles, sometimes exclusively holders of dominant roles. Though as I said before, I'm not emotionally involved to the same extent as you are, as far as gaming is concerned. To me it just adds natural, interesting variety to a culture that is starkly testosterone dominated. I "got tired of" big manly swordsmen and inn-keeper's daughters, and of entirely male parties involved in entirely male situations. I suppose this makes me an inferior to you, but at least I share a bit of the same cultural longing.


Monday February 01, 2010 at 11:48 PM

Inferior! Hardly. :) I push and shove and shout, while you actually make it happen in gaming material that you're putting out there. That's two different approaches to the same thing, I think. That you're moving away from male-centric situations and characters and doing it of a desire to see more natural, interesting variety speaks volumes—that you see a lack of male privilege as being natural. If you're coming to it organically that's one up on me—I had to work for the mindspace that you're taking for granted.

Keep on keeping on. You are the sort of thoughtful writer who is aware of these issues (and tired of the status quo) that I think the the hobby and industry needs more of (which is a reference to my reply to Chris, if you read that wall of text). Just doing is as—or more—powerful for causing change than agitating for change is. It provides an example that it can be done, and not being shouty about it gets fewer people's backs up in the process.


a shy dm

Tuesday February 02, 2010 at 01:53 AM

Hey, I just wanted to say thank you so much for trying to bring some attention to issue of exploitative imagery in RPGs. My boyfriend and I became interested in Pathfinder a few months back, and flipping through the different books I was really turned off by just how many T&A shots of Seoni there were. Her description in the back of the adventure paths indicates that she is a detail-oriented planner, and yet in lieu of commissioning art that shows off her personality there's mostly art that shows off her cleavage.

I guess when people hear, "I feel this imagery is problematic" their brain translates it as, "You're a sexist and you should be ashamed," and they become very defensive. Still, Paizo's response is Not Cool, and that, coupled with a few other problems they've shown, means that I probably won't be purchasing much from them in the future.


Tuesday February 02, 2010 at 02:36 AM

My apologies if I implied that the effect on women was somehow something I could judge. I was intending to make the opposite point, but to highlight a flaw in this type of argument. Not a logical flaw, merely a flaw in persuading others to see your point of view.

The issue should not be that they are drawing women as sex objects. The issue should be that they are drawing everyone as sex objects.

When the issue is described as horrible because of the effect they have on women, it isolates men from caring as the default impression one seems to get is "It's ok to reduce men to sex objects, just not women". This makes men feel second class. I do not believe this is the actual message you are looking to project.

Negative body image and a feeling that men are only valuable to society if they are perfectly chiseled and ruggedly good looking are just as much an issue, though it tends to get much less attention due to the sexist societal mindset that "men can suck it up". The same reason despite the high ratio of domestic abuse against men, there are no abuse shelters for men.

I actually worry about the harmful impact this will have on young men trying to find their place in the world. Below is how Paizo decides men should be portrayed, please tell me you do not think this is any different?


Tuesday February 02, 2010 at 05:32 AM

I will agree that it's a problematic image, but I'm going to disagree that it's the same thing.

The problem with the image is that it sets up an unrealistic standard for men to live up to. If I understand your comment right, this is the point you're making.

The image of Seoni also sets up an unrealistic body image standard for women to live up to.

The images are equally problematic in that they set up unrealistic body image standards.

However, there is another layer of problem with the Seoni image (and most images of her, in fact) that the fire guy image doesn't share.

The Seoni image was explicitly designed as sexual fan service. She is apparently a bad-ass character, but instead of seeing her being bad-ass, we see her smiling invitingly at the viewer and welcoming them to admire her physical form.

In contrast, there is nothing inviting about fire guy. He's actually got a very strong "do not fuck with me" vibe going on. He is staring defiantly at the viewer, an art trick that is designed to trigger our defensive instincts and make us give the person pictured wary respect. He is not approachable, he is not inviting the viewer to admire his form. Fear it, be jealous of it, yes; but to caress his muscles with their eyes, to imagine his flesh under the viewer's fingers, no. (Also, he's on fire.)

Contrast the fire guy image with this one. The man there is sexualised right in the image, not just in the viewer's mind. Notice that he's unrealistically muscled (problem 1), but it goes beyond that into problem 2 territory. His eyes are closed, allowing the viewer to ogle him without having to deal with him looking back. He's suggestively posed, ready to be fondled; he's barely covered, allowing for the viewer to admire a lot of him. What little of him is covered merely draws the eye and engenders curiosity in the receptive viewer. This image, if it were put into an RPG book, would be demeaning to men. This image has the same problems as the Seoni image does, including that it was deliberately composed to give the viewer sexual pleasure.

So the biggest problem with the depictions of Seoni is not that the art contributes to negative body image for women, though it certainly does. No, as if that wasn't enough, an even bigger problem with how Seoni is drawn and used is that she is put into products for the viewing pleasure of the viewer and put into suggestive poses and cleavage-revealing perspectives to help the viewer best ogle her.

There's a third problem with the Seoni image (and the image I linked), which is that since it was created with the intention of giving the viewer sexual pleasure, it assumes that the viewer is interested in objectified women/men. When it's softcore porn of a guy on the internet, it's safe to assume that the vast majority of viewers have sought it out and they desire to see that. (Not that this makes problems 1 and 2 go away.) The Seoni image is not something that is sought out by people looking for sexy women pics—it's something that was mass-mailed to all Paizo customers, regardless of whether they are interested in having a female sex object dropped into their email inbox. It's even more problematic that her boobs and butt are plastered all over the PFRPG books where they can't be avoided by PFRPG players who don't want to be subjected to sexy women drawings designed to get people off.

So no, it's not OK to reduce men to sex objects any more than it is OK to reduce women to sex objects. However, men are rarely reduced to sex objects, but it's common to have RPG images that treat women as merely sex objects that add some T&A. The frequency isn't even on the same order of magnitude, indicating that there is a significant problem causing people to be more exploitive of women than of men.

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Thursday February 04, 2010 at 05:03 AM

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Zachary Houghton

Saturday February 06, 2010 at 06:43 AM

Clearly, you need to review the fine product line of Dakkar Unlimited:

;) (Sorry, couldn't resist).

I always enjoy reading your blog, and I certainly don't begrudge you your opinion, but I just can't get worked up about cheesecake art or the white privilege one of your other articles mentioned. Neither has impacted my gaming circle, which includes people of various skin colors and females. (Yes, I know this puts me in the "disagree/no issue here faction", which lessens the chances of this seeing the light of day. Well, I'm not going to lie about how I feel).

It's a game. We don't crusade for social justice while rolling d20s, and we don't analyze our white guilt while killing orcs. Frankly, I can't think of many things that would be more of a killjoy, unless it's one of those fringe games where people work out their issues with child abuse or rape or something. Uh, pass.

We're there to crack stupid jokes, fight stuff, have adventures, talk about/quote movies, and eat pizza. I don't get upset when there's beefcake barbarian dudes illustrated any more than I do the infamous chainmail bikini. March on Washington on your own time--we're here to game. At the end of the day, it's an illustration in a RPG. We don't emphasize that stuff at our table, but it doesn't bother us, either.

Look, honestly, I think the game you want is Blue Rose. It was written to be as ridiculously PC as possible, and I think you'd like some of the Social Justice-themed campaign choices.

The more notice or power you give to a difference, the less equality you have. We choose not to give thoughts of race or sexism any play in our games, and all the cartoon tits in the world won't change that. I'd feel a lot less comfortable were I black or female were I in a group where someone kept repeatedly trying to make sure I was ok with everything, and conveying to me every 10 seconds he was sorry to be born with a penis and peach-colored skin, or the consequences thereof.


Saturday February 06, 2010 at 12:44 PM

There are a lot of thoughtful things going on in this post and its comments. I mostly just want to talk about the percentage of women in gaming, being one myself. (By the way, I had to wait until one of the comments to learn that the poster is male. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but I tried to figure it out while I was reading the post. I wonder if stating one's sex in this type of thing is helpful, to learn where the person is coming from - and if the sex is male, as a reminder that there are non-oppressed allies out there.)

As a woman, I have never been in games that were entirely men. I have, of course, been the only woman in the game. Based on my observations at gaming comventions, the proportion of women is about one-third to one-quarter of the whole. (This is still low enough that I don't have to worry about lines at the bathroom, but that problem is another post entirely!)

I moved last year, so I had to find a new gaming community. My two roleplaying friends (male) are busy enough that the home game I run for them is sporadic at best. Eventually, I learned that there are game days at the library, run by a man working there through Americorps. Too cool. I love my library. These game days attract mostly highschoolers, with a sprinkling of seniors who tend to play Wii Bowling. In December, the library also started hosting a D&D game (3.5 Eberron) on Saturdays. There have been up to ten players there, all highschoolers. Besides myself, there are three women who attend. So this also supports my observations from conventions - about a third women. I did play at a table of all women last year, which was a card game. For roleplaying, I'm not sure if I've done all women but I've done half women several times.

With regard to an interest in weaponry and complex tables, I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I've got the most experience with D&D, from second edition on up. I was just as happy when third edition came out and I didn't have to calculate THAC0 anymore. I've also played GURPS, Paranoia, Serenity, d20 Star Wars, and first edition Spycraft. Serenity and Star Wars are about the right complexity for me. I like to see enough situations defined by the rules to give me something to extrapolate from when I make a ruling. I don't like to have to know the contents of myriad splatbooks to know what a PC can do, or whether certain build choices are broken. Perhaps that's why I haven't taken to fourth edition yet, because I haven't read it and played it enough to be conversant with all the powers.

The other reason I haven't been big on fourth edition is because Living Forgotten Realms had a strong tendency to be plot-weak, combat heavy, so I think my character's only second level. Never unpacked her when I moved. This gets into another aspect of differences between playing styles that may be sex-linked. I'm sure it's not true for all women, and I've definitely had times when I organazed a game with the words "I need to kill something". But three combat encounters strung together with a feeble plot doesn't do it for me. And I've heard one of the women I play with at the library say that now that the plot is developing in our Eberron game, she definitely wants to keep playing.

Probably I should finish this with an elegant conclusion, but I need to finish prepping. I'm running the library game today, since the regular DM can't make it. I've chosen the first adventure from Living Arcanis, and I need to finish packing.

Oh, I'll tweet this link once my comment is approved. Game on!

Zachary Houghton

Saturday February 06, 2010 at 06:29 PM

Rereading my prior comment, I wish to apologize if it came off as a bit harsh. There's certainly no need for that tone in my writing. Things read differently the next day, sometimes. Again, I generally enjoy your blog, and certainly don't wish to offend on that score.

Callan S.

Sunday February 07, 2010 at 04:51 AM

What might be useful is to ask them to give an example of something they would consider sexist themselves.

Because often people think something is 'okay' simply because they have drawn no line in the sand for themselves on what isn't okay.

Once they draw a line in the sand they might look at what they've done and start to see similarities to crossing that line.

But you have to prompt them for an example of what would be wrong, first.


Wednesday February 10, 2010 at 04:00 PM

While I agree with your post I also disagree to a point...

My main issue here, for me, is CENSORSHIP. I do NOT want to return to that dark time of Political Correctness where people didn't say "I'm short" they instead said "I'm vertically challenged". Oh dear... please no! I would rather be kicked in the head by a mule then have to through that again.

I mean, people overreact to everything. That is our nature. This skates CLOSE to the line for me. One censorship leads to another and another. Where does the line end or become an issue for censorship?

Are we going to remove dwarves from our fantasy roleplaying games because there are actual real life people who have dwarfism?

But I do want to state that yes I do agree with you. Yet at the same time (as my girlfriend said) "it is just a cartoon ad for a bunch of people who live in fantasy worlds".

So I'm conflicted. I want freedom. I want people to be able to express themselves freely. How far should we go to limit that freedom? The answer is usually "if it hurts somebody else then freedom has gone too far". Did the image hurt you?

I face being offended on a DAILY basis. I don't think being offended is enough to warrant limitations to freedom.

I agree that it is an unnecessary image. But then again I pass ads every day that are sexual. Sex sells, obviously. Do AXE commercials offend as well?

How far should censorship's hand reach? I enjoy my freedom, yet I also don't want my freedom to hurt anybody.

Mike Monaco

Friday February 19, 2010 at 02:13 AM

Thanks for posting this. It's easy to lose sight of the fact RPGs are not & really should not be a boys-only hobby.

I hate to compare apples to oranges but those guys saying "it is not an issue" sound an awful lot like the sports fans who say that Native American themed "mascots" are not offensive -- while Native Americans are saying, these are offensive!

Interesting blogroll over there, by the way, and I really enjoyed your "pull a level" post. Thanks!

Philo Pharynx

Friday February 19, 2010 at 09:43 PM

I think I have a suggestion.

I am a male, but I've discussed this with many of my mixed groups. From my experience, there are a significant number of women gamers that like to make pinup-worthy characters. Of course they make characters that have other advantages beyond the physical, but appearance is important to them. This is fantasy and many people play games in order to imagine themselves having attributes they don't have.

But I've been looking through a lot of art and trying to judge which I saw as more offensive - trying to separate myself from preconceptions. In the ones I've seen, a lot of the most offensive ones are "pinups" - images where it looks like the women are deliberately posing for the camera. I've found that action pictures are often less offensive. Pictures showing female characters not as sex objects, but as daring adventures. In many cases, these are sexy women. But these pictures don't start and end at sexuality.


Wednesday August 04, 2010 at 01:45 AM

Hi, I'm coming in late on this, and I'm somewhat a fan of Paizo, so I guess take that into account, but it's worthwhile to note that the paizo responses are to their own community and not directly to your post. I think that's a very important distinction to make-- you shouldn't see it as if they're not taking /you/ seriously.

I mean, that's very context-sensitive. If Erik Mona emailed you and said, "LOL" then I would be completely on your side but he didn't. He responded to another member of the community which he most likely knows personally. So taking that into account, I think responding to them directly as if these were personal attacks is a little inappropriate.

I'm not saying Paizo is super-progressive, but I don't really see the argument that they should be held to certain standards of advancing gender roles for some reason. They have a specific audience and know that audience fairly well and that's, you know, corporations.

I like the argument, and support it in a lot of ways, especially when video games just throw in random girls in bikinis without consideration, but I think the Paizo doesn't do that and their staff's comments weren't meant personally; I hope you don't take them that way. If they all emailed you with those responses that would be pretty aggressive, but I don't think they were meant that way.

Update: Hiatus (also, I reveal that I read gamer blogs) « 2nd Wave Man

Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 03:40 PM

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