*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 27, 2022, 07:28:07 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 81 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Gender themes in Well of Souls  (Read 6934 times)
Kerstin Schmidt
Member

Posts: 289


« on: February 14, 2005, 06:58:57 AM »

Elsewhere Chris Chinn (who wrote Well of Souls) and I started to discuss the gender power issues in the scenario.  Chris said:  

Quote from: Bankuei
I think its interesting because I put up two very serious gender themes in WoS. First, you have Collette and Josette, who are motivated by love and responsibility towards men, and are also in positions of power that are in danger of being taken away by men.

Second, you've got Lady Noella who is independant and in power, to whom folks ought to be scraping and bowing to impress, and her daughter, Aimee, whose been living under her mother's iron fist and is about to be given away to some man to live under his iron fist. Both mother and daughter are dealing with themes of power and independence, one through political manuever and circumstance gets the social order to back her up, the other rejects and trying to escape the social order.

Brier and Aimee are both examples of women in tough situations, with little social power but a lot of desperation... And Ophidia is the meta-theme of gender issues, while the other characters are the specific themes.



Quote
Aside from the obvious Male/Church, Female/Pagan thing with Ophidia the snake spirit, I loaded a lot of really cool female protagonists and room for drama in there I haven't seen anyone use just yet. On the clearly powerful side, I loaded this whole political side struggle for power between Lady Collette and Noella, sexual power/domination struggle between Sister Josette and Ratier, and both Brier and Aimee are timebombs waiting to take drastic measures to break the social order.

There's a LOT of powerful female NPCs waiting to shift the whole damn balance and I haven't seen anyone apply them. Noella alone can apply heavy pressure, Collette is probably the only person with insight into everyone involved(remember, Lord Eustef isn't just sleeping with her, she was his unofficial advisor! She knows the dirt!), Josette has the power of the people behind her, and both Brier and Aimee are desperate to take action. And that's not even talking about the magical coolness that you have with Ophidia...



Quote
I assumed that it would be expected that NPC's would be detailed to the PCs, especially if they get relationship status. I guess that's something I'll have to spell out clearly next time.



Quote
Upon some hindsight, I think I would have probably made the unrecognized power of the women a little more pronounced and explicit.



At around that point we decided to take our discussion here and find out what you people think about the gender theme in WoS.  


If you have run WoS or (like me) are considering running it, what draws you to the scenario most?  How much did the gender themes Chris talks about figure in your decision, if at all?  Were the gender themes even clearly visible?  If they werenít visible or didnít appeal to you most of the many facets this scenario offers, what did you focus on instead?  

If you have run WoS, how much did the gender themes come into play, if at all?  If they did, what did they contribute to (or detract from) the game fun?  If they didnít, what turned out to be the focus instead?  

Assuming for a moment that you were going to run WoS and wanted to bring out the gender themes (I do), what changes would you make, if any?  What added guidance would you have liked to see in the scenario, if any?

Chris, please feel free to add questions and/or shout some of mine down. :-)
Logged
Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2005, 10:15:47 AM »

Hi,

Yep, that about covers it.  I'm just interested to hear observations from folks who have played it, currently playing it, or looking forward to playing it.  Players, Narrators, folks who have read it, etc.

Thanks,

Chris
Logged
Kerstin Schmidt
Member

Posts: 289


« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2005, 01:37:40 PM »

I've read WoS several times, and I'm getting more and more eager to run it;  so I guess I count. :)

As I read it, WoS has tons of wonderful stuff to explore, not least that great succession conflict triangle between Eustef and his two sons.  

Now the angle that interests me most currently is the inherent gender theme.  Again as I read WoS, gender theme is in there if you want it, but you don't have to explore it if it doesn't interest you.  Notably the succession triangle at the heart of the scenario (or at one of its hearts anyway) is all-male;  this means that you can get a great political intrigue game by focussing on those three men - no gender to worry about.  

That's great in one sense because it makes the scenario very playable for groups who don't want to explore the gender theme.  

It's not so good in another sense because if you want to use the gender theme to its full effect (and as you've said, you wrote tons of potential into the scenario), the all-male succession conflict is sort of in the way.  Or that's how it felt to me.  

I'm currently thinking that if I run WoS with a focus on gender themes, I may want to run the gender dividing line right through the succession triangle, by changing the gender of one of the three men in it to female.  
(Of course that means that some other NPCs have to change gender as well to replace certain lost dynamics with new ones, but let me focus on the three major NPCs for now.)  

So, who of the three is gonna change sex in my hypothetical game?  

Hugo is pretty much out.  He already has too many drawbacks in being the younger child and lacking the degree of popular support that Guilbert enjoys.  Making him female as well would put him out of the race for succession and destroy the political triangle.  

Leaves Eustef or Guilbert.  Either could work as a female NPC I think:  

Assuming I make Eustef a Eustacie instead, the banneretcy can still be in Seshnela.  Only I want Eustacie to be the ruler in her own right to further charge the conflict with my theme, which means she shouldn't be, say, the widow of the former, "real" banneret.  So I'd put the banneretcy on the fringes of Seshnela, in some harsh and isolated place where the One-God-Church-King principle hasn't yet gained as much of a hold hold as in more pleasant and more civilised lands.  
Eustacie is the ruler under some old local law, and when the Church first moved in a couple of decades ago, they didn't think it would be a wise move to displace her:  Eustacie had strong support form the people and a good grip on the banneretcy, so was useful, plus the problem would go away with time, what with both Eustacie's children being male.  
Now the problem is looking like it may be going away.  Eustacie's death will make for a generation change and for a shift in power to men.  So what do the Church people do about Eustacie's coma?  Do they really want to bring her back?  Also there's the question what Guilbert and Hugo really think about the Church, Ophidia and power in female hands.  Do their opinions differ? Are they open about their views? Who are they exploiting by holding back on their true beliefs - the women who support them or the church functionaries who back them?  Lots of possiblities here.  

If I leave Eustef alone and give him a daughter Guilberta instead, I have a slightly trickier problem to legitimise her.  How do I give Guilberta enough oomph in the succession struggle?  She's got to be the heir or she's out much like a female Hugo would be.  
Not entirely easy since evidently the Church has a strong presence in the banneretcy these days.  However, if I can find some reason for Guilberta to have a strong claim to the title even under modern patriarchal law (some weird technicalility, say), I can then go on to charge the Guilberta-Hugo conflict with gender in a very immediate way.  Does Hugo try to wrench power away from Guilberta? Do the people who support Eustef back his daughter (because that's what he'd have wanted), or do they opt for the safer and more comfortable solution of helping a man on the throne?
 

Does that make sense?  As I see it, in both alternatives and almost without effort on my part the succession triangle opens up and charges itself with all those gender questions that are floating around in the scenario already.  I hit on that by accident, when I played around with various ideas for modifying bits of the scenario, trying to work out what my changes would do to the gender issues in it.  


Does that mean I think that's how you should have written the scenario, with a gender conflict inherent in the succession triangle?  Not necessarily, no.  Because if you'd done that you'd have narrowed down the options for playing WoS:  you'd have forced the gender conflict on groups playing the scenario.  To me the complexity and openness of the r-map is part of WoS's strength.  I'm just playing around with additional options here.
Logged
Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2005, 03:45:18 PM »

Hi Kerstin,

One thing that struck me upon later review is that I never really clarified the primacy of Lady Noella as a legitimising factor for the long term stability of the banneret.  That is, its in -everyone's- interest that their chosen heir impresses her, and that she chooses to side with that one.

The gender flipping idea is rather interesting, though I think if you were to flip the gender of one of the heirs, it would make sense to flip Hugo to female AND make her the older child.  The injustice that comes without a meritocracy always spikes conflicts and pushes players' buttons :)

Chris
Logged
Bryan_T
Member

Posts: 75


« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2005, 08:23:36 AM »

I like the Eustace to Eustacie flip.  In my original reading of Well of Souls I'd really missed the gender theme--I think in part because the succession triangle is all male.  (And probably in part because of my bleak take on Seshnela, where I figured that any woman trying to revolt against gender roles was ripe for a tragic tale because I just saw the Seshnelans as bloody idiots in that regard--but at the time I views Seshnela as pretty much an unplayable setting--I've mellowed since).

By flipping Eustace you raise that question, without tilting the ground in favor of either Hugo or Gilbert.  You also make it clear that sometimes unusual solutions are possible--sure eldest son should normally inherit, but if a woman could rule in her own right, who is to say the younger son couldn't inherit?  It also gives more hope for the poor gal who is brought there to be married off, maybe she doesn't just have to be an ancillary.

Beyond those logical reasons for liking it, for me it just somehow gives more hopeful emotional response, like there is a chance, like there is hope for a sane solution and not just mass tragedy (buckets of blood optional).  Then again, I seem to have had a much bleaker emotional response to Well of Souls than most people did.

--Bryan
Logged
Peter Nordstrand
Member

Posts: 501


WWW
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2005, 08:52:28 AM »

Hi,

I never deliberately tried to focus on gender issues when running Well of Souls. In hindsight I can see that I didn't manage to focus on anything in particular. I had so many things on my mind and I most certainly would handle the scenario differently were I to play it today. However, despite my many "mistakes", Well of Souls made a world of difference for me, and roleplaying has not been the same since. So I love it, and I always read about other people's experiences with it with great interest.

Anyway, a few things come to mind:

In my game, Colette was rewritten and turned into the Evil Witch Bitch from Hell. (This was Mike Holmes' idea, by the way.) One of the players had created an ambitious character (Rickard) who had a very clear and fairly selfish goal. Rickard was Colette's secret lover. The purpose of rewriting her was to create a character that would be able to force Rickard('s player) to make moral decisions ("will I murder my best friend for power?") rather than just pursue his goal.

Now, this changed everything, and Colette became one of the most important NPCs, even though most of her scenes involved only her and Rickard. As a woman in a patriarchal society she had no formal power, so she became the schemer and the temptress. Sexuality was always present; Colette was always the active one. The scenes with Rickard and her make me think of a dark and dangerous version of The Graduate in some ways ("Are you trying to seduce me, Lady Colette?"), except that Colette always had an ulterior motive beyond the affair itself. This may sound strange, but I kind of sympathize with Evil Colette.

Later, all player heroes participated in the heroquest to save Eustef's soul. Things went really bad, and Ophidia crushed the questers with her Earth magic. Rickard realized that he, one of the worst fighters present, would never be able to defeat ther goddess by use of force. In my actual play report I described it like this:
Quote from: Peter Nordstrand
At the final stage of the heroquest, when only Rickard was still standing, Rickard changed strategy. Realizing that he could not defeat the goddess, he decided to join her instead. He seduced her, and they made a deal. She would put his soul in Lord Eustef's body. In return, he would free her from her prison mound, allowing her to once again influence the mortal world as a landscape daimon.

Here's how it really happened:

Rickard's player looked at his character sheet for alternatives. "Can I seduce her?" Using his Seduce spell augmented by Good in bed he achieved an ability rating of 2W or something. It was unexpected and unplanned. I decided that Ophidia probably wouldn't mind a little seduction, and gave her a resistance of 14. Marginal success for Rickard.

I had described Ophidia as an enormous Venus from Willendorf figure with twisting and thrashing snakes in place of hair, limbs, and tongue. The Goddess accepted poor Rickards offering by penetrating him, well, just about everywhere. It was a bizarre ritual where Rickard was raped, killed and then brought back to life in Lord Eustef's body.

So, yeah, I think there was gender issues.

Feel free to disect Rickard's story if you like. Have you read Sex and Sorcery? It is a supplement for Sorcerer, not HeroQuest. Of Ron's books, it is the one that most directly touches upon themes that I associate with Glorantha. Check out the diagram at page 17.

All the best,
Logged
Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2005, 10:39:49 AM »

Hi Peter,

Quote
As a woman in a patriarchal society she had no formal power, so she became the schemer and the temptress.


I definitely designed WoS with the power imbalance in mind, but what is very interesting is how folks look upon and treat characters dealing with that.  All the women characters who have power, have it in "unorthodox" fashions(although, I would argue that politics is all about utilizing any form of power...).   Noella is widowed, and has inherited land and power, Collette is wise/knowledgable about politics, Josette has popularity and support from worshippers.  Brier and Aimee both lack power, but they have desperation- which, does mean a lot thematically.

What is also interesting, is that the way I felt about the struggle for inheritance is that probably neither of the brothers wants to fight each other for power, but all these outside forces(both male and female) are pushing them towards just that.  So while they are male- they're not taking the "active" role that most males do in stories.

Quote
Rickard's player looked at his character sheet for alternatives. "Can I seduce her?" Using his Seduce spell augmented by Good in bed he achieved an ability rating of 2W or something. It was unexpected and unplanned. I decided that Ophidia probably wouldn't mind a little seduction, and gave her a resistance of 14. Marginal success for Rickard.

I had described Ophidia as an enormous Venus from Willendorf figure with twisting and thrashing snakes in place of hair, limbs, and tongue. The Goddess accepted poor Rickards offering by penetrating him, well, just about everywhere. It was a bizarre ritual where Rickard was raped, killed and then brought back to life in Lord Eustef's body.


This is one of the things I like about Ophidia- you can't deal with her without doing some serious thematic action.  

Question- What kind of input did you get from your players(any/all of them) regarding Ophidia?  And that scene in particular?

Chris
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2005, 02:47:24 PM »

I haven't played Well of Souls. But here's how I see the gender issues in Well of Souls.

There are men and women NPCs. So there will be gender issues.

I don't think you have to do a lot more than have a relationship map, which the scenario already does. I see Peter saying that he doesn't have any focus on issues, but that's not how you design scenarios. That is, there's no requirement for such. Not for gender or any other issue. As Chris points out, you just have to have a central conflict, and then let things go, and the issues will come out.

And in any case, it's far more important what the PCs are like than the NPCs in these terms. That is, if you have players who have made characters who are relatively immune to gender issues, then that'll smash any prep you do in trying to bring out the issues. That said, I've said it before, but I think gender is foolproof. Male, female, neuter, doesn't matter, these issues are there to play with.

Put it this way - when you're doing your prep, you'll be looking at the PCs, and trying to figure out bangs, adjusting the ones in the book to fit, this is where you embed your focus on gender issues. Because if you don't have a character make a gender issue move, no issue will occur.

This is generally related, again, to the problem that I have with pregenerated scenarios as a whole: they never take the PC issues into account. They can't unless you play pregens. How can you embed issues when you don't know who the characters are? Want a sex issue? And you write that NPC X, a hetero female is looking for a lover? What if the character is female? You're going to have to change something to make the material work. The point is that it'll always be the GM putting the issues in play, not the scenario. That can only serve as inspirational material at best.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Donald
Member

Posts: 69


« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2005, 06:18:48 PM »

Quote from: StalkingBlue

So, who of the three is gonna change sex in my hypothetical game?  


If I was going to switch sexes I'd make two women and have a bannertcy with a tradition of female succession. Then Eustef becomes Eustacie and one of the sons becomes a daughter. That imediately brings in conflict between the traditional way and the church way and puts both children in with a chance of succession.

That's just from reading the scenario and I realise there's a lot of work in changing characters and maybe even some plot but getting some players on each side should make for a good game.
Logged
Peter Nordstrand
Member

Posts: 501


WWW
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2005, 06:02:06 AM »

Quote from: Bankuei
This is one of the things I like about Ophidia- you can't deal with her without doing some serious thematic action.  

Question- What kind of input did you get from your players(any/all of them) regarding Ophidia?  And that scene in particular?


In think they found the scene disgusting. Ha! I did, anyway. It was quite clear that this was an unusual roleplaying experience. Rickard was extremely successful in getting a better position in life. So he did even better than he ever hoped. However, it wasn't a happy ending. I think we all felt that Rickard payed a far too high price for his success. Yet everybody seem to find the story quite appealing for some reason. We have talked about it from time to time, and we always exchange these glances. Like "yeah, we were there, we know what happened."

Sorry for being so vague.
Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!