Here are some unrelated gender based observations.
I have been lucky enough to game alongside 23 players in my gaming lifetime. Of those 20 were men and 3 were women.
I have glanced at some of the fantasy rich ‘fandom’ peer groups and there is see an almost 50/50 or maybe even female dominant population, people like your Whovians and Pottermores to name but two.
As far as I am aware there are no female developers on the RMU dev team although I could be wrong on that.
I have only seen 3 pieces of RMU art, the covers of Arms/Character Law, Creature Law and Spell Law and not one of them features a female hero, or villain for that matter.
Looking at Arms / Character Law there are just three(!) uses of ‘her’ but 432 uses of ‘his’ in the examples. There no uses of ‘she’ but 375 ‘he’s.
Leadership or just being bossy?
In all the examples there is only a single positive female reference and that is…
“Working together, they can search the area faster,
Kamina splits up the work and coordinates the effort
(putting her leadership into play) and they begin to
search. The average of their perception bonuses is (90 +
70 + 75) = 235 / 3 = 78 + 10 (Kamina’s ranks in
leadership) = 88. Just one perception maneuver is made
at +88. It would take one person thirty minutes to
search, so for three it takes just 10 minutes (30 / 3 = 10),
so they get one perception maneuver at +90 for every 10
minutes they spend searching. The GM decides this will
be resolved as a Percentage Maneuver, since the key is
definitely there in the long grass, and will eventually be
found if they keep looking.”
So actually her efforts are irrelevant as the GM has decided that the key would be found anyway regardless of Kamina’s leadership ability.
I am not entirely sure how positive an image that is either. Is Kamina being portrayed as bossing her friends around? Maybe I am just jumping at shadows there.
The world of fantasy and Sci Fi is full of really cool, strong, positive female characters, Ellen Ripley (Alien), Hermione (Harry Potter), Katniss Everdean (Hunger Games), Tris Prior (Divergent), Jessica Jones and Annabeth Chase (Heroes of Olympus) to name a few. So why is RMU devoid of anything that may want younger female roleplayers want to engage with it?
Is there a reason that I have missed somewhere?
6 thoughts on “Gender in RMU”
There’s quite a bit of discussion and research on this, but it would be interesting in getting some thoughts on this from the original RM team and the RMU team. I hate to oversimplify but I have to wonder how much oversexualized artwork set the tone in original DnD and rpg’s in general.
Recently there was an article on WoTC moving away from this type of gender representation. I asked Terry about his tackling of women and sexuality issues in Shadow World–he uses strong women as well as gay/lesbian people & cultures in his work.
I think MERP probably represented women better given the art style of Middle Earth. I can’t recall any memorable female artwork from the original RM but it seems the later RMSS etc reverted to the cartoon/hyper style we are discussing.
A few blogs/articles:
I cannot see how you can get nearly 800 masculine references and only 3 feminine ones and no one notice.
It should be relatively easy to change some of the ‘he’s to ‘she’s. Once you do that, the examples should even out in regards to women’s agency.
I do think that sometimes artists are in a bit of a catch-22 when depicting female characters. Many (primarily adolescent male) players are attracted to chainmail bikinis, and might be more likely to buy books with them on the cover, even though the bikinis themselves are not just unrealistic but cheesy too, and might dissuade potential female players. But if you as an artist cut out the chainmail bikinis, your editors/marketers might say, ‘Where’s the unit-shifting portrait of the buxom amazon? We have to sell this to teenage boys, you know.’
I very much like the McBride covers of the redband version of RM2, but note how the female character, while not wearing a chainmail bikini, does seem to get her skirt hiked up a little too easily.
I appreciate the art in MERP overall, though there may be some chainmail bikinis in there somewhere.
I wasn’t impressed with the examples overall, not just the gender profile of them.
I think my player breakdown has over the years averaged about 40% female, but that might be because of the nature of the games I run. Most are in non-fantasy settings, and for some reason I’ve had an easier time attracting female players because of that.
What do you think makes a good example, out of interest?
I tend to prefer somewhat long examples placed in a solid game context. They should to me also have a decent narrative so people can get what they need while still enjoying the reading. I tried to hit this in Sea Law, although perhaps with mixed success. Important spots for good examples are (to me) character creation from start to finish, at least one complete combat round with as many actions as possible, and examples of different ways GMs might choose to conduct similar actions.