Content of the article: "Diversity in my game and how I am trying to improve"
This is a very long post, sorry about that. This is not an apology, nor is it a self-flagellation or virtue-signaling. This is just a discussion about how I, as a DM in his mid-thirties who has been playing for 20 years exclusively with straight white men, realized that the world I present to my player is only a fraction of what it could be in terms of diversity and vibrant relatable personalities. Maybe it might spark the same process in your game, which I would strongly recommend that you always try to improve anyway.
I had the chance to start in a group with an older DM who had some experience, and men playing women PCs was not only OK, it was normal. They even had romance sometimes, which for a straight teenager in the 90s was a display of openness that was not always to be expected to be honest. Basically a third of the party were women characters, without any sexist bullshit, just women. However, it took me years to realize the women in that group and every women NPC in the games I DMed down the years fell in a very specific and narrow category: strong-independent-badass-attractive human or elf. All the time, all of them, I Mary-Sued the shit out of them. I had no problem playing a flawed male character, a bit cowardly or impulsive, naive or silly, but female characters all fell into the same mold of badassery. Where was the coward super cautious female rogue? The dumb usually-drunk female fighter? The comedy-relief never-serious female bard? The normal looking (or straight up unattractive) absent-minded female wizard? I blame basically every medium for that one, even now being a female character implies not having the right to be flawed as easily as a male character, and that’s boring. It never struck me as a problem until recently I must admit, but at some point that merchant NPC doesn’t have to be a fair maiden, especially when the male equivalent is almost always burly or stocky, if not straight up fat.
And with races too, humans and half-elves have a easier time to have intricate personalities that the more unusual races. It has been said many times, weird race does not equal cool personality. This one is easy for me, I have used countless NPC that go outside of their races expected behavior since the start of my DM career. But even then, they were always the oddball, the outcast, the I-don’t-fit-in-where-I’m-from. It implies that Dwarves, Goliaths and Centaurs and anything in between would shunt or disapprove of personalities even remotely extravagant for their standard. Don’t get me wrong it still happens sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be all the time. My Loxo artificer doesn’t have to be at odds with his people, nor does my gnomish barbarian.
Which brings me to sexual orientation, which is the most tricky to me. Not out of disdain or anything negative, but out of fear of coming off insulting or forcing something that is not needed. I feel like if I tried to roleplay a CR’s Gilmore, it would just come out as offensive. After all, 99% of my NPC have not disclosed their sexual preferences, so I could just say that this NPC is gay or bi and just never had to talk about it, like normal people do. However, as a result I feel like I am conveniently just ignoring this aspect of diversity all the time, which I don’t think it is a problem in itself but I feel like I am doing so out of convenience to not have to make the effort to try it out. Which I kinda did recently, as I designed a male dwarven druid with an elven female name and very delicate manners, who spoke in a soft voice and has flowers braided in his hair. What I originally intended was that this dwarf was a female elf reincarnated in a male dwarven body after falling in battle. But when I introduced her, the party was surprised and thought I had just introduced a gay dwarf, and they though this was really nice and refreshing. This was when I realized that in 20 years I had never done that, and initially felt bad with how I designed him, maybe I went too far to make him feminine, I hope that I didn’t imply that being gay = feminine/masculine. But I decided to go along with it and change his backstory, he is a male dwarf, he is gay, and I will not push this aspect of the character further. He is an important NPC and is a fully fleshed out character who just happens to be gay.
I know it is not a big deal, but for me it was a first and I feel good about doing more of that in the future. Sorry for the long post, but as you can see even two decades in the hobby, I am still learning.
- The problem of female characters in shooters.
- The Surprising Wokeness of Wadjet Eye Games
- The Most Important Element in an Optimized Character
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