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Author Topic: Gender rules revealed [Sex & Sorcery]  (Read 9771 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: December 03, 2002, 01:17:37 PM »

Hi there,

I finally got a spare moment to jot this down for public discussion. Basically, it's full disclosure time for the Horrible, Awful, Sexist Pig Discrimination rules as promised for the Sex & Sorcery supplement.

Here's the good news: it has nothing to do with character creation options. Nothing at all to do with "Male players have these options for their characters, and female players have these other options for their characters." I've said this before, but people keep persisting in clutching their hair and alternately grieving and swearing that such things would be intolerable or horrifying or whatever.

Yeah, OK, intolerable. Horrifying. I agree. Now be happy, because I'm proposing something else.

Take a look at Sorcerer, as a rules set. You have three or four interacting vectors of rules-impact. One of them, clearly, is Humanity going up or down due to character behavior. Another is the array of rituals, specifically Contacting, Summoning, and Binding, all of which incur Humanity checks. Another is the range of possible consequences for Humanity hitting 0, most especially the possibility that it's conceivably desirable and fun to do so (although never trivial). And finally, the Binding rules, which significantly link relationships among sorcerers and demons in order to push Humanity-oriented decisions.

Well, Azk'Arn, the insectoid-fantasy, Heavy-Metalish setting I'm presenting in the supplement, has a pretty hefty gender-specific content in terms of demons. Basically, demon reproduction is what sorcerers tap into - they might act as surrogate mothers, they might act as surrogate prey for developing parasitoid larvae (for a while), they might set themselves up as drones to serve a demonic "mother," and so forth and so on. All of this is gender-heavy in-play stuff, but none of it restricts or defines what a given player or character might do, in terms of gender. So far, this is just plain setting. No funky rules yet.

Couple twists:

- Going to Humanity 0 has two possible consequences, player's choice, neither of which entails "losing" the character, at least not immediately.

- Humanity is extremely plural, being both reproductive and social, each of which entails two internal avenues for gaining or losing Humanity. I won't go into it in detail here - just realize that this setting is very dense in this regard, and there are tons of "paths" either to gain or to loss.

Now.

1) Male players' characters, if they perform a Binding in conjunction with a female player's character's help, do not suffer Humanity checks for Binding. Conversely, female players' characters, if they perform a Contacting in conjunction with a male player's character's help, do not suffer Humanity checks for Summoning.

2) If any player's character performs a Banishing without the help of another player of the other gender, that character incurs a Humanity check roll instead of a Humanity gain for the Banishing.

3) If a player-character hits Humanity 0, "the story" of what happens (I'm keeping the options secret at the moment) must include a player-character played by a player of the opposite gender of the first player, or the Humanity-0 character is lost per the standard Sorcerer rules.

Please note that any of these might be reversed in gender and have the same effect. That's the point. That is the point. I am not making any specific gender statement with these rules, except for the all-important one that male and female players have incentive to interact with one another across the gaming table, to achieve in-game effects that would otherwise be inaccessible.

For those of you who are staring, crestfallen, at how basic and straightforward and "un-innovative" this is, consider this: what role-playing design has ever admitted that such an action (male players and female players cooperating on something) could be given an incentive?

Best,
Ron

P.S. By the way, if anyone has any criticisms or suggestions, I'd really like to know about them. The text is nearing submission time, so hippety-hop.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2002, 01:59:19 PM »

1) Male players' characters, if they perform a Binding in conjunction with a female player's character's help, do not suffer Humanity checks for Binding. Conversely, female players' characters, if they perform a Contacting in conjunction with a male player's character's help, do not suffer Humanity checks for Summoning.

2) If any player's character performs a Banishing without the help of another player of the other gender, that character incurs a Humanity check roll instead of a Humanity gain for the Banishing.

3) If a player-character hits Humanity 0, "the story" of what happens (I'm keeping the options secret at the moment) must include a player-character played by a player of the opposite gender of the first player, or the Humanity-0 character is lost per the standard Sorcerer rules.


Regardless of the genders of the characters? It's a gender-based affirmative action social contract.

Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2002, 02:08:46 PM »

Hi Paul,

Right, regardless of the genders of the characters.

Right, it's an affirmative-action gender social contract. Precisely. Sorcerer has always relied on a curious mix of Do as Thou Wilt plus Donkey Treat Over Here.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2002, 02:21:56 PM »

Question:

Since these apply to the gender of the PLAYERS and not the gender of the CHARACTERS, what is the net effect on the Premise/lit-101 analysis of the story creation process and/or the resultant story in hindsight?

Hope that made sense.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2002, 02:35:03 PM »

Hi Jesse,

Um, that's what the whole supplement is about. Premise during play relies on social and creative interactions among all the players. By cutting out, denying, ignoring, or diminishing the power of male-female interactions, you're similarly diminishing the potential range and power of the Premise for that group.

Basically, I'm treating these real-people interactions as a very powerful engine, potentially more powerful than any other. To extend this metaphor, why should we keep sput-sputting along with our dinky auxiliaries (non-gender interactions) when the main engine is just idling there?

As a side point, I am referring to men and women at the role-playing table utterly irrespective of sexual preferences. If all of them were gay as three-dollar bills, my point stands.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2002, 02:52:55 PM »

Ah, then as usual, I'm eagerly awaiting the full analysis of the supplement.

I ask because if you reverse what you said and have it apply to the characters and not the players, it seems to have a much more focusing effect in terms of Premise.  I don't want to use the words, 'in character' or anything else to suggest a more Character-Sim focus because that's not what I mean.  I'm very much talking about the metagame level of addressing Premise.

How to put this...

If my girlfriend and I sit down to write a story together and we agree that gender roles and relationships are central to the Premise then when we create a scene involving two male characters followed by a scene involving one male and one female character, shouldn't we, as story creators, be focused on how two males relate with respect to the Premise in the first scene and how one male and one female relate with respect to the Premise in the second, regardless of the fact that BOTH scenes were created by one male and one female?

It just seems your mechanic shifts focus AWAY from addressing the intended gender focusing of the Premise and the creation of a thematically driven character, since you're nullyfying the gender of the character from a hypothetical hindsight audience or reader who would be, theoretically, blind to the genders of the authors.  If that makes any sense.

Jesse

Edited Note: Unless, all you're trying to say is that if you and I, being two males, sat down to write a story with a given Premise, and me and my girlfriend, being one male and one female, sat down to write the same story with a given Premise then the result, due to our gender interactions, would be different and you want  to promote and harness that difference in play, then, okay, I see your point.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2002, 02:57:02 PM »

Hi Jesse,

That's just it. The Premise of play doesn't have to be gendered at all. I devote a fair amount of space in the book to examining when it is, and the whole Azk'Arn setting is one big Hoo-wa of gender-based Premise, but the role-playing in question doesn't have to be.

I'm claiming that real, actual play is always gendered, and that the interactions thereof are an amazing potential engine for getting good stuff to happen in the game. But what happens in the game ("the story") may or may not be gender-type stuff. That's simply not a relevant issue in terms of this particular rules-suggestion.

H'm, I'm really glad you brought this up. I better make that clear in the text of the final chapter.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2002, 03:00:20 PM »

Oops, cross post/edited.  See my edited note in my previous post above.  I think I get what you're saying.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2002, 03:13:17 PM »

Hi Jesse,

You got it! Your edited addition nails it.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2002, 03:24:45 PM »

Okay, now that we're on the same page, here's the next question.  Why these, SPECIFIC, rules?  For example, why not simply say, if a male player and a female character interact for ANY ritual, the humanity check can be bypassed?  Or have the genders swapped for addendum #1 above?

Or am I probing too deep into the text of the supplement?  If, I am, then I'm cool.  I just want to be sure these questions are addressed somewhere.

Jesse
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2002, 03:51:41 PM »

Ron,

Give the too-commonly "only male players" RPG group an IN-GAME reason to get females involved in their play?  One that also works just fine in the (hypothetical, IME) opposite situation?  Why, what a devilishly clever idea!

I'll stress the realization in your response to Jesse - that it'll be important when communicating this idea to be real clear about WHY it exists.  Not to model anything in the game world and not to directly make a gender-oriented Premise or story element richer/better/etc.  Not about the characters, but rather about the players.  This rule (by my understanding of what you've communicated) exists to help the players ensure that their game play actually does include the differing perspectives they, as males and females, bring to the table.  It's designed to highlight something that is basically already happening, to make it more visible to - and useable by - the play group.

Good stuff - I'm thinking about ways to do a GM/player gender-rule that encourages women to GM.  And of course, many variations - rich vs. poor players, college-educated vs. HS-only, technical vs. artistic . . .   Or the pervy side of me wants a meta-role, where players of whatever gender "take on" a male-player or female-player "slot" in this context.  I can feel Jared - and maybe you - shuddering across the T1 lines :-)

Gordon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2002, 03:56:31 PM »

Hi Jesse,

These specific rules happen to dovetail nicely with some of the in-game Azk'Arn setting stuff. Otherwise, there's no reason for which is male and which is female. It's actually part of the point that which gender gets what isn't important, only that the two genders get different (and complementary) things.

Best,
Ron
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jrs
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« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2002, 07:21:55 PM »

Quote
1) Male players' characters, if they perform a Binding in conjunction with a female player's character's help, do not suffer Humanity checks for Binding. Conversely, female players' characters, if they perform a Contacting in conjunction with a male player's character's help, do not suffer Humanity checks for Summoning.


I've a question about the above-- why the asymmetry?  Gender one refrences one ritual (binding), while gender two references two rituals (contacting & summoning).

Julie
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2002, 09:38:37 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I finally got a spare moment to jot this down for public discussion....

Take a look at Sorcerer, as a rules set. You have three or four interacting vectors of rules-impact....

...The all-important one that male and female players have incentive to interact with one another across the gaming table, to achieve in-game effects that would otherwise be inaccessible.

...Real, actual play is always gendered, and that the interactions thereof are an amazing potential engine for getting good stuff to happen in the game.

A spare moment?  That, I'm not buying.

I believe, here, we are seeing the whole purpose of the 'Infamous Five Threads.'  Last time you tried to explain this concept, so many people got so wrapped up in subordinate non-issues that what you attempted to explain was completely lost.

Considering the audience, I'm not surprised if it looks like a totally new concept.

What is this idea?  Here's how I put it to my wife; it makes role-playing games into a marital aid.  Not a new idea to us, we often joke that my six-year old son is not my son, but that of a particularly well-played non-player character.  Suffice to say we do a lot of one-on-one, consenting adult gaming without 'drawing the veil.'

How does this relate to the 'Infamous Five Threads?'  Well, try explaining how to make a role-playing game into a socializing gimmick.  Harness sex to sell a game; make its play dependent upon sexual interaction.  (That's not necessarily about having sex, but about making the connections that lead in that direction.  Talk about 'a new dating possibility.')  Here's what you'd have to cover:[list=1][*]Sex is Mainstream, pretty much defines the limits, but there's no sex in Dungeons & Dragons.  (You sit down, Foglio!)
[*]Don't even think about 'picking up chix' at your Friendly Local Gaming Store.
[*]Get past the meta-game level if you want to talk about people meeting people.  'I met my wife through gaming' is true for me, but I'm told I'm usual.
[*]Vanilla and Perverted, if that doesn't scream sex, maybe the fact that it talks about 'attention to the game' along a (then unspecified) social paradigm, about coherent design of rules' 'Points of Contact,' is a necessary ingredient to see how a game could inspire (and not impede) interaction between the sexes.
[*]How does the Forge aid your love life?  Or anyone else's?  How do we make it a place where these 'new' kinds of games can be discussed and supported (either in play or in design)?[/list:o]Now it all makes sense.  I'm glad you've finally done this Ron; I really appreciate it.

We've been designing something in parallel since before I joined up here.  I've mentioned it around here a number of times; Back here, I started talking about 'consenting adult games,' later I spoke of the range of Scattershot's supplements noting a Romance product for between adults of the age of consent, and most recently I included it as a boundary of 'number of players' from a romantic couple to a large LARP.  So, I've been about the same thing (without delving into rules that work on this way) for a while with little interest or discussion, so thanks.  (Our 'sexist rules?'  The Romance Novel game has 1 male gamemaster and 1 female player.)

So rules that get people "hein' and shein'?"  Go for it!

Fang Langford
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Bankuei
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« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2002, 09:41:20 PM »

Ron, I really like the fact that the players with less of their gender at the table will become much more influential to the game.  Whether 1 guy and 3 girls, or 3 girls and 1 guy, whoever is in the minority becomes much more pivotal in terms of action.  Now, does the GM also count for this little bonus as well?

Chris
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