Wednesday 21 March 2018

Elves, Gender, Why am I writing this?

Thoughts on the whole sexual fluidity elves thing:
1: cool, elves being presented as minor shapeshifters and slighlty removed from human ideas of gender! This makes elves feel fey and interesting and I like that.

2: oh, the discusion around this and presentation in the fiction is tying it to real world LGBT issues. Oh.
 2a: I try to remove real world 'issues' from my games. We're here for escapism and fun, not a bleak and harrowing exploration of Man's Inhumanity To Man. RPGs are fun because you get to be a cool liberated agency-filled free agent who doesn't have to deal with all the petty shit of the real world.
 2b:  'good' elves get this as a gift from their 'good' god. Evil drow have a matriarchal society which is, basically, all the worst traits of IRL sexism taken to a bizarre extreme and then gender flipped. But, uh. Some drow also get this gift and are, uh, persecuted as a threat to the matriarchy. Oh no.
2c: if this becomes plot relevant it's probably because we get to see the LGBT stand-in being horribly persecuted in ways that are eerily similar to the actual shit LGBT people face in the real world. OH NO.
 2d: why the fuck would I put an obvious analogy for the horrible shit that happens to LGBT peeps in my nice escapist game about tomb robbers? That crap's what we're all here to forget about...
 2e: I just want to play an androgynous sidhe. If I wanted a deep and nuanced exploration of sexuality and gender identity, I'd play fucking monsterhearts, which does it far better than dungeons and dragons. Please don't make drow secretly a metaphor for terfs.

3: here come the assholes saying that 'Wizards of the coast are pandering to SJWs' and so on. This is actually largely irrelevant to me because why the fuck would I game with assholes?

4: why do I need to give WotC 50 bucks in order to include the nice progressive content in my game ? Sexually ambiguous or fluid elves can go in any DIY game without needing the official WotC stamp of approval. I've seen elves played kinda like that already, it was no big deal.
 4a: Oh, it's a 'once per day' feature. So, uh, do elves have to trade out some other mechanical perk to get it? Because that's also... not a great look.
 4b: you know, I kind of hate the way a sanitized fantasy metaphor is used for a lot of issues. TBH I think old White Wolf kind of got it right with the 'look, some of these characters are gay. Sometimes that sucks for them. But hey, they have vampire powers' thing. Not sugarcoating it in a nice fantasy filter.

5: I bet I am going to get some real fucking stimulating feedback from both ends of the political horseshoe over this.


  1. I'm with you on most of this. I guess it's nice to know that WoTC is at least trying to recognize gender fluidity as an "official" option in the game, but still... Did we need that? No. May some 14 year old queer kid need that? I could see it happening.

    The reaction I wrote at the time was that it reminded me a lot of people getting upset about the last Star Wars film. 40 year old nerds kvetching about how it "ruined" Star Wars for them. I was flabbergasted. In my heart of hearts I was screaming, "You are not the target audience for this! You are no longer relevant to Disney! This is for the kids, you morons!" Sometimes it's just fine not to be the target audience. Maybe someone else benefits.

    I don't mean this as a criticism of your post, but just wanted to share that.

    Oh, and I read a post you wrote, and you seem nice, so I just followed you.

    1. yay!
      all my rpg groups are absolutely dripping in queer content because they're full of queer people and honestly it'd be weird if it /didn't/ come up.
      But, like, it's not a ~thing~. These two vampires are having a forbidden romance (because it's VtM), but the fact that it's gay is far less interesting than the fact that one's a filthy tremere.

  2. I don't know if that's because I'm luckily sheltered from the world by playing with friends or something, but I've never had any trouble with anyone regarding whatever sexual _thing_ in the game, be it androgynous characters, trans characters, hermaphrodites, playing as a sex/gender that's not one's own, etc.

    It's never been discussed or considered to be an issue in my circles.

    1. So yeah, this is totally cool is what I mean :)

  3. On point 2b, I might be misreading it but you sound like you are against the concept of Drow having a Matriarchy. Haven't they had such a thing in the lore for a long time, save for the persecuting aspect? I apologize if I am incorrect in my assumption of what you are saying with 2b, I just woke up.

    1. that's kind of my position, yeah.
      Like if you want to put gender politics in your games fair enough but I'd rather not.
      I like my villains flamboyantly evil and twirling their moustaches while charging their doom lazer, rather than an analogy to real-life issues.

    2. Plus, you know, if I wanted to be exploring that sort of thing in my games, there are much better games for it (see: monsterhearts, which does it well) rather than D&D which is basically about treasure-hunting.

    3. Wait, are you saying your position is that you are against the matriarchy as a whole? Again, Drow society as a matriarchy has been around for quite some time, well before 5e for sure.

    4. There are quite a lot of people who dislike the matriarchy thing, actually.

      In _my_ campaigns, drow leaders can be of either gender. I'm more interested in their cool powers and clever tactics than genderpolitics.

    5. I really don't see how it is genderpolitics. Are spotted hyena also genderpolitics?

    6. If the social structures of hyenas became a relevant plot point in my games for some reason, then it would likely be because I wanted to explore ideas around gender and dominance in my games. (which I don't).
      Likewise, a society segregated by gender, with one gender being favoured by their god and in a position of total dominance... that also introduces ideas of gender-based power to my game, and that's not a theme I'm particularly interested in doing things with.
      The drow have a lot of potential as creepy underground spider-cultists, I think, but tbh I can get that by using a spider cult (most of the settings I write end up with a spider cult in them, it seems).
      If I wanted to be playing a game where gender and identity and the structures of gender-based social dominance are explored then I have Monsterhearts which is specifically set up for that. D&D, meanwhile, shines where it's about a group of treasure-hunters amorally looting the shit out of somewhere dangerous, and falls apart when it starts trying to be Relevant.

  4. I can see your point. We're playing a game. But I like games with complications. So, just like a dwarf/elf racial animosity is played as humor or as a complication (we're speaking to the dwarf king so let's not have the elven bard be the face here, etc.) I've considered the drow matriarchy to be additional set dressing (this is how the weird is weird) and complication.

    This could be my privilege talking. I've had some minor discrimination for gender and sexuality issues, but I mostly pass as stale, male and pale.