Friday, March 06, 2009

RPG Musings: Gender and System Matters

Every Friday, I'll toss an idea or two with regards to tabletop RPGs.

There's two things I want to talk about that go hand in hand. The first is the "system matters" philosophy. This is best summed up that the design of the game supports what you want to do with it. For example, Robin D. Laws has an excellent RPG called The GUMSHOE System which is optimized for investigative-type games. From what I understand (I don't own the game--we're an RPG dystopia here in the Philippines--but I'm basing it from what I've heard of it), the various players don't need to roll dice to determine whether they figure out an important clue or not. It's assumed by the game that one of the players find out and it progresses from there. This is great when you're running such games because the mystery doesn't grind to a halt just because your gaming group missed an important clue (or didn't spot that hidden door). In other gaming systems such as GURPS or D&D, it's certainly possible to run investigative-type games but there's usually some hand-waving (i.e. ignoring certain rules) on the part of the GM. One might omit skill checks altogether for example in order to progress the investigation.

Now the system matters philosophy is one of the endless debates out there in gaming fandom so I won't dwell too much on it. Suffice to say, it has its own examples and counter-examples. Now to those who believe in such a theory, my question out there is what RPGs out there have rules for playing a different gender? There's certainly a difference between male/female physiology and psychology after all yet it's not reflected in games whereas we have rules for different "races." When I play D&D for example, roleplaying aside (hence thet system matters inclusion), there's no difference between a male Fighter and a female Fighter. In many ways, this is reminiscent of most video games, where choosing one's gender only affects how you look, not necessarily your particular skills or abilities.

Interestingly enough, one video game where gendere mattered was Pokemon. While not universally applied (what's the difference between a male Pikachu from a female Pikachu?), there were distinctions between male/female genders of a species.

So, what tabletop RPGs do you know have meaningful rule differences between genders? Or should rule differences between genders matter at all?

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