(yes, I'm writing about nothing but D&D lately. It's what I've been thinking about.)
Am enjoyably lingering my way through DMG2. Really enjoying myself, for the most part.
However. I just finished the "Skill Challenges" chapter & I'm annoyed.
There are a *bunch* of sample skill challenges. (yay!) Most of them have generic male NPCs where NPCs are called for. (boo.) The two that have non-generic NPCs with names and movtivations are also the only two with female NPCs. The male NPCs in those skill challenges are all burly military men with strong military fighty goals. The female NPC in each of those skill challenges is a fey wizard (one elf, one half-elf). Sheesh, stereotype much?
On the upside, the DMG2 has, in the 'companion characters' section, a rare gnome defender with a limp. Looky there! A Small defender/soldier PC-race: how often do you see that? (answer from a recent thread in Astrid's Parlor: rarely, unless it's a swordmage) And with a physical disability that doesn't prevent him from being a defender: yay! Contrast with Dragon & Dungeon magazines, in which the only two characters who limp are both elderly females, both described as having a "pronounced limp." Again, stereotype much?
I'm calling you writers out by name: Richard Baker, Mike Mearls, Robert Donoghue, Ari Marmell, Scott Fitzgerald Grey. I challenge you to create more thoughtful NPCs. Instead of rehashing tired tropes. At least some of you I know are capable of wonderful, creative, insightful work -- Ari & Mike in particular, I've loved a lot of your stuff! Now's your opportunity to extend your talent and creativity to another spot, dearly in need of your input.
This is one of the things that editors should be for. I'm calling a few more people out by name: Steven Winter, editor-in-chief of Dragon & Dungeon magazines. Kim Mohan, managing editor for D&D. PLEASE find whatever box these five disparate writers (and all the rest who are doing the same darn thing) are pulling their stereotypes from and BURN IT.
( this is long and not so well edited. )
Over and over again, in this forum and elsewhere, I see the same mistake made: when talking about diversity & underrepresentation in the social arena, people tend to mash together the public sphere and the private one. This is a mistake!
Lack of diversity in the public face of gaming is a problem because it creates the impression that RPGs are for white, straight, cisgendered men. This impression fosters an environment that's hostile to people who don't fit the public face. Private gaming groups treat women like interlopers or mythical creatures, instead of just like other gamers. Women at conferences have to fight twice as hard to be heard because half the room assumes they're just there to follow their boyfriend around. Non-gamers think women who are into gaming are especially freakish, because "everybody knows" only men do that sort of thing. And so on.
This continues without regard to the actual representation of women in the private sphere of gaming.
"Tokenism" is the messy middle ground of diversity . It's the process of finding one representative of an under-represented group and setting that person up as the solution to underrepresentation. As such, the token serves instead as a barrier to real diversity, and creates a mindset that ends up getting rid off the first token before welcoming a new one. Tokenism-as-a-process is a trap. Going through a state of having only one representative of a particular group is a phase on the way to being actually welcome to that group. Telling the difference between the two is extremely difficult.
the bits I didn't post, because I didn't want to actually engage the anti-feminist troll on specific points:
"Some groups are all guys" is a red herring when speaking of diversity in the public sphere. Responding to public-sphere criticism with a private-sphere example is a common tactic used by people who are purposely trying to derail real discussions about diversity -- so even if you're not doing it on purpose, by doing so you resemble a group of people who are not operating in good faith, just by using one of their favorite tactics.
There is no such thing as a "self-made" celebrity. Celebrity is something created by the environment. The public face of gaming is currently men. The only way to change that? Put some non-male gamers in the public eye.
When I'm reading published articles and adventures I want to see fewer mentions of NPCs who are "merchant's wives" and more who are "merchant's husbands. Fewer stories about the female adventurer who had to lose every single person she loved before embarking on a life of adventure. Fewer monsters where the *really* scary version is called "mother." Fewer articles that rate level-of-attractiveness of female NPCs (and only for females).
And, yes, I'd like to see fewer images of leather-armor-clad adventurers with bare bellies, because all I can think of when I see them is those poor adventurers getting their guts sliced out.
And I know that there are some articles, some books, some adventures that don't fall into these traps. They're just too few.
I want to see more NPCs who are male herb-gardeners or female woodcutters. More PC portraits that are something other than light-skinned people with western-european features. More women's names on the bylines of articles and books.
And there are certainly some of those out there. But again, too few. There's just enough so that people who complain get told that there's nothing to complain about. That somehow the tokens are supposed to be enough to settle for. That I'm supposed to be satisfied that the game I've loved for half my life has gone back to treating people of my gender as an afterthought.
The little things bother me, nearly as much as the more-obvious stuff does. Maybe more.
and then, after the conversation got seriously off-track, and somebody objected to my "tone," somebody else posted a link to this discussion of the tone argument, I responded:
oh, nice link. I'd been looking for some kind of 101 on "the tone argument" but they always seem to require so much context, which this post provides. Thanks. This thread has been a fairly extensive example of derailment bingo but I'm glad I learned something from it anyway.
In an attempt to drag it back to something resembling a conversation about D&D: What adventures have you played that have explicitly moved away from the tried-and-true fantasy cliches? My initial post was inspired by yet another mention* of "a merchant prince's wife" in one of the adventures published in Dungeon, contrasted with the book I recently read by Elizabeth Moon called Paksenarrion's Deed, which avoided the fantasy cliches without being terribly obvious about it. I'm looking for D&D adventures that feature more of the latter and less of the former: what have y'all found?
* that mention inspired a survey of 4e Dungeon magazine adventures: when an adventure described both a husband and a wife when describing NPCs, the wife was generally an accessory with little or no role in the adventure, with only a few exceptions: In two cases, they were a husband-and-wife team that shared power. In another three cases, the husband was dead. And in just one case, the wife was an important NPC and the husband was an accessory with little to no role in the adventure.
I'm hoping that after this, I have the sense to just shut up. Because I'm sure that anybody who would have listened has already done so, and I should not argue with idiots.