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Author Topic: Mechanical Gender Differences  (Read 16253 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #30 on: May 07, 2004, 07:29:28 AM »

Hey chief,

About the penalties for male PCs in social interactions:

So far in you fantasy world, men, on average, are stronger than women.

And women, on average, are more socially manipulative than men.

You weren't doing your defense against a priori stereotyping silliness any good by bringing that up again.

Christopher
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Ben O'Neal
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Posts: 294


« Reply #31 on: May 07, 2004, 07:41:18 AM »

I can't keep up with all these posts!

Thank you Hal, you said it better than I could.

Christopher, the term socially manipulative was one used by you, and not me. I intended the meaning that they were more socially adept, as in had greater interpersonal relation skills and empathy. If you view this as manipulation, well, that's your opinion, and one which I had hitherto not considered.

Regarding the reason it's included: I'm having difficulty understanding what the hell could qualify as an acceptable reason.

Gender will be important throughout the game, though not so much so as species or social class.

Gender does not impinge on playability or character effectiveness, it only provides differing potential for success in various avenues of pursuit. Hell, since everyone loves strength so much, a female with a power of 13 and a male with a power of 13 will both have the same options available. If both wish to pursue physical strength, the male will be able to achieve higher in the end. The reverse would naturally be true for other attributes. Since physical strength really isn't the best way to do stuff, neither player would find their enjoyment stifled.

Gender does correlate with the reality of the world. It also shares some correlate to my percieved reality of our world, but this is neither here nor there, any more than combat shares a correlate with my percieved reality.

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The question that has been asked repeatedly and ducked by you repeatedly is this: what does any of that have to do with your game?

Have I ducked it? If so, it surely was not intentional. But you know what? I don't think I could answer that any more than I could answer the same question regarding my inclusion of social interaction mechanics. Let's try:

I included social interaction mechanics because they both provide an avenue for exploration and reflect the reality of the world. The actual mechanics I chose because they conceptualise what I think is happening in the shared imaginative space.

Yep, I've pretty much said the same thing for gender a dozen times now.

So I have a question: how would you answer it? Would you say "Because I want gender to be an issue which is explored?". Well, that's pretty much what I've said though I've been sure to qualify that I don't want gender to be the sole focus of exploration.

So if you can tell me how you would answer the question, perhaps I could follow your example and provide a satisfactory answer.

My apologies to anyone offended, anyone annoyed by the lengthiness of this thread, or anyone whose concerns I have not explicitly responded to.

-Ben
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #32 on: May 07, 2004, 07:46:12 AM »

Whoa! Lot's of heated debate going on here. I just thought I'd drop in and address a couple of points.

Going back to the intent of this thread, I would not have a problem with mechanical sex-based differences. While it wouldn't affect the characters I chose to play, it does seem reasonable and logical.

It seems to me Ravien's trying to create a game-specific reality based as much as possible off of real life, and I think sex-based differences work in that model. If anything, I think the modifier is under-representing the strength difference, as shown below.

The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a fitness study a few years back, in an effort to determine male and female overall strength averages. This study used 10,000 participants of each gender, chosen from different countries, ethnicities, ages, and professions. The study used the squat lift as the best overall indicator of strength, and came up with the following results: average male lift was 351 lbs. and the average female lift was 86 lbs. That puts the male average at about 4 times the female average.

That said, I think physical strength has got jack-all to do with armies being composed mostly of men. Okay, maybe that's too far...sure physical stength is a benefit to a soldier, but I'd hardly qualify it as the most important factor. Physical agility, endurance, phychological readiness, ability to endure pain...I think these are all more useful.

I have no agenda here -- feminist or misogynistic -- just addressing the orignal post, and adding a few facts and comments.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #33 on: May 07, 2004, 07:49:47 AM »

Quote from: Andrew Morris
Physical agility, endurance, phychological readiness, ability to endure pain...I think these are all more useful.


Oh, and to be clear, I'm not saying these are male traits, either. Or that men are superior in regard to these traits. I was agreeing with earlier comments that biological and social reasons have created the mostly male military.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #34 on: May 07, 2004, 07:59:10 AM »

Hey,

This is the polite (first) version of my moderator intrusion on this thread.

Please take a full hour before replying to this thread. That means that between (1) your desire to reply and (2) the actual "submit," a full hour of real time should pass.

"But someone might post my point first!" In which case be grateful.

"But I have to reply! Right now!" No, you don't.

Best,
Ron
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clehrich
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« Reply #35 on: May 07, 2004, 08:08:05 AM »

[oops -- x-posted with Ron]

Quote from: Ravien
Quote
Why do you feel the need to explain that particular aspect of the game's "reality"?
Because it is a big part of all human's reality, whether we acknowledge it or not, far more than combat or whatever. Also, with my game's focus on social interaction, it just, you know, fits.

As a side note, I'm beginning to notice a trend in people primariy focusing on strength. This is notable not because it is strength, but because it is a negative for females and a positive for males. No-one so far has any problem with males suffering -1 to their emotional aptitude score, nor their memory score.....
John and I have, in fact, mentioned the issue of beauty.  If you like, I can certainly add the issue of emotional or social aptitude, or memory.  As I mentioned before, none of this is absolute or certain in humanity.  One of the neat things about anthropology, in fact, is that you can pretty much find that there are several examples of every conceivable possibility somewhere in the world.  I've mentioned the Enga of New Guinea, and I'll give a little more detail to explain.

The Enga believe that female qualities are intrinsic, inherent, and basically strong; they are also evil, ugly, and dangerous.  Male qualities are imparted and basically weak; they are also good and beautiful.  Therefore it is fantastically important at all times that women be kept away from other people, usually including other women.  Boys at about age 6 or 7 are taken from their mothers and put through a lengthy (15 years or so) series of initiations to bolster their maleness; without this, they would slide into femininity and die.

According to anthropologists who have spent time among the various Enga peoples, women are generally extremely socially awkward; they have little experience with other people, and live in a perpetual state of partial seclusion.  As a rule, they seem to have little self-esteem (no wonder!).  The men of these societies are commonly quite outgoing and socially adept.  They spend a good deal of time preening themselves, in terms of appearance, trying on feathers, shells, and other decorations and demanding constant attention from other men.  So far as anyone knows, everyone in these societies -- including women -- considers men to be superior in every respect, particularly with reference to physical prowess, personal beauty, intelligence, and social ability.  Women are understood to be essentially reproductive and nursing vessels, a tolerated but unpleasant necessity.

The point being that it is perfectly possible to argue, on solid evidentiary grounds, that social qualities of any kind are in no way intrinsic, but encultured.  In your game, however, these qualities are at least partly intrinsic.  Why have you chosen to do this?
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... my game has a broad focus. Rules for combat, social interaction, economics and trading, moving up the social ladder, differential species cultures... if I included all these things and neglected gender it would be all the more obvious for it's absence. It's appeal is the same as all the things I've included: it's another thing in a long list to explore. Also, I love challenging conventions and inspiring critical thinking of such norms. :)
It sounds as though you are trying to model absolutely everything.  In which case, certainly some sexual modeling would be necessary.  But there are two points here.  First, you will not succeed in modeling everything -- there simply isn't enough space or time in a lifetime to do so.  You will have to make choices, and those choices should have reasons other than "because it's there."  Second, you have chosen to do sexual modeling in a particular way.  So why that way?  I've mentioned an equally possible life-path structure which has no intrinsic qualities whatever, but produces the same divisions at adulthood.  Why do you prefer not to do it this way?  Both produce the same final result, but they say different things about sexual divisions.
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This is in some ways parallel to one of Mike's Standard Rants, the one about combat systems. If you write a detailed combat system, you're saying that combat is important to your game. That's fine, but you need to think about whether combat should be important to your game.
I think the issue is more why it shouldn't, which seems to be the focus of posts thus far. If someone says "i'm including combat in my game" people say "why" and they say "because it's a cool thing to do" other people say "cool". But when I say "I'm including gender mechanics" people say "why" and it seems no reason short of declaring myself a mysogynist and thus system dismissable is enough to suffice. Yes, I want people to explore gender, in much the same way as they explore combat. This does not mean I want to make an issue out of it any more than i want combat to be an issue. Only an avenue of exploration.
I don't agree with you about what people are saying in their posts; certainly it's not what I'm saying.

You say: "I'm including combat in my game."
I say: "Why?"
You say: "Because it's a cool thing to do" and "I don't want to make an issue out of it."
I do not say, "Cool."  I say, "If you don't want to make an issue out of it, why are you including it?"

And lest this be read as a binary, "include or exclude" approach, let me put it this way.

Combat system, version 1: If you get into combat for some reason, the group should decide immediately, by a show of hands, whether your character wins or loses.  You, the player of the character in question, should very quickly narrate the combat events such that the chosen result occurs.  Then everyone can get back to what's important.

Combat system, version 2: Rolemaster, AD&D, Champions, etc. etc.

Version 2 says, in essence, "Combat matters.  Go do it -- it's cool."  Version 1 says, "Combat is stupid and a distraction.  Don't waste time on it."
And most systems fall somewhere in between.  But both are totally reasonable, and serve different ends.  In designing a system, you need to think about where on this spectrum you want to fall, and why, and how that serves your game.

Now here's a sexual division structure:

Version 1: "On average, men are probably a bit stronger than women.  In Society X, women are conversely thought to be more physically attractive and more socially adept."
Version 2: Yours.

Version 1 says, "This doesn't really matter much, but it's worth mentioning that this isn't a totally egalitarian world."
Version 2 says, "This matters quite a bit."

Okay, so why does it matter?

As I've said several times now, there is no intrinsic reason not to include sexual divisions in a game system.  But you asked, at the outset, whether we thought this was a good idea.  I have responded, repeatedly, that I do not understand why you have chosen to do it.  All I hear from you is, "Because it's there."  This is not a reason.

Here's one last example, deliberately extreme but quite serious.

Do you intend to model and explain the social ramifications of excretion and garbage management?  Do you intend to do this in considerable detail?

This may seem like I'm trying to cause trouble, but let me tell you this: about 20 years back or so, English archaeologists working on medieval and early modern county life suddenly realized that an ancient village dump for faeces was an extraordinarily good indicator of all sorts of things about the society.  You could tell what they'd been eating, a good deal about their medical histories, and even a fair bit about their average ages and lifespans.  You could also determine quite a lot about social organization based on who had the delightful task of carting everyone's crap away, and who had to live relatively near the dump.  In fact, the more we study waste management, the more we discover that it's one of the best indicators of how societies really function, deep down.

So do you intend to model this in detail?  Do you intend to spend as much time and effort on it as you have on sex-divisions?  I suspect not.  So ask yourself, why not?
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Chris Lehrich
simon_hibbs
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Posts: 678


« Reply #36 on: May 07, 2004, 08:19:43 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
For sure, but try telling a girl that she can't join the army because she might get pregnant nowadays. Why should they accept that reason in a game?


In the next sentence I specificaly target this comment at ancient world armies. Your game does not appear to have logistical infrastructure that make this problem moot in the developed world here, so it seems to me you're the person best placed to answer your own question.

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See my previous post concerning higher-order functions. Essentially the reason you would have no problem is because you aren't providing an innate reason for the rules, and thus you are implying that they are arbitrary, and only there to define the game. Such things are fine, but apparently as soon as you give a reason things get icky.


WHat I'm pointing out is that you are pretending that your rules choices explain why the world is a certain way, and that this is bogus. There are many far more important resons for the features of society we are discussing, that relegate the physical distinctions your system models to the status of statistical noise.

There is no need to give game mechanical justifications for social structures, any more than there is a need to give game mechanical descriptions of childbirth, or breast feeding.

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It isn't about gender in the same way it isn't about combat or social interaction. it is about exploration of the setting through these avenues. I can't remember who but someone earlier gave a suggestion for a way to make gender influential during play (as opposed to confined to chargen, which is where it stands atm), and this suggestion I will take up.


That sounds interesting and I'd be interested to see how that goes. The best of luck to you.

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Also, one TV programme does not even match decades of olympic events.


That's true, but the game it's not about the Olympics, where by the way the performance of women is rapidly approaching that of men in many sports. Already the medalists in many womens events outstrip the low-end (but still olympic class) competitors in the equivalent mens events. As has been pointed out by others, your game mechanics are orders of magnitude too coarse to model these kinds of distinctions.

Your game is about small groups of characters having adventures. The TV program is about small groups of civilians going off into extreme environments, facing incredibly tough challenges and solving problems. It seems to me that the TV program is just the sort of thing to judge your game against.

If your game rules were going to be the basis of a huge computer simulation of a mass population that's one problem to solve, but it's not. It's a simulation of a small bunch of individuals who nobody could reasonably expect to be either broadly representative or average.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Valamir
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« Reply #37 on: May 07, 2004, 08:26:08 AM »

Quote
I included social interaction mechanics because they both provide an avenue for exploration and reflect the reality of the world.


What world?  They reflect the reality of what world?  Your fantasy world?

That's just circular reasoning.  You crafted your world...why did you set the reality up that way to begin with?

Quote
The actual mechanics I chose because they conceptualise what I think is happening in the shared imaginative space.

Yep, I've pretty much said the same thing for gender a dozen times now.
 And yet this statement doesn't actually answer anything.

Me:  Why is it there?
You:  Because that's the way my world is
Me: Why is your world that way?
You:  <dead silence>


I find it incredibly telling that you keep persisting in not answering the question.  I'll ask it again.

Why is it important for you to create a fictional world where women are quantifiably weaker than men?


"Because I want gender to be an issue which is explored?" is NOT an answer.  You could explore issues of gender by making women stronger then men, or using cultural differences, or changing the ratio of men to women in society or any of a number of other factors.  

Its your world you could simply declare that in your world men and woman are equally strong regardless of "years of olympic evidence" because real world olympics have nothing to do with your game.  You are CHOOSING to make it an issue.

Please note.  I am NOT saying you shouldn't make it an issue.
I am NOT saying that you're wrong and there aren't any biological differences between men and women.
I am NOT saying that those difference shouldn't be in a game.

What I AM saying is that like any mechanic they shouldn't be in a game unless you have a damn good reason for them being in the game.  At best they're just useless chrome crap that adds nothing.  At worst their ill thought out nonsense that makes the author look ignorant.  To avoid either of those perceptions you need to have a reason as to why it is important to you to mechanically highlight this issue in this manner using this mechanic in this game.

IMO if you can't answer the key crucial question of why this choice is meaningful and important to your game, than it doesn't belong in your game.  Period.  And any protestations of it being "more realistic" is utterly irrelevant.


Quote
So if you can tell me how you would answer the question, perhaps I could follow your example and provide a satisfactory answer.


I don't have an answer to the question.  And since I don't have an answer to it, I don't design games with blanket gender based modifiers.  If you don't have an answer to it, you shouldn't design a game with blanket gender based modifiers either.


If you were to design a game set in 19th century England, for instance, where there where very strongly delineated male vs female roles in society.  And you wanted to highlight how those enforced roles led to different distributions of attributes.  And you wanted to indicate how women of upper social status were physically weaker because their role in society didn't permit them to engage in strenuous physical activity and so they never had the opportunity to develop strong musculature.  And you provided an opportunity for a player character to elect to ignore that negative modifier in exchange for taking on the social stigma of being a non conformist within society's expectations...then yes...THAT would be a valid and viable use of attribute modifiers...especially if one of the goals of the game was to highlight the effects of social stratification.

Similarly if you wanted to design a game set in late 20th century corporate America with gender based personality traits, such that a man who is aggressive and ambitious gets the Trait of "go-getter" while a woman who is aggressive and ambitious gets the Trait of "bitch" then that would be a valid use of gender based mechanics.  Its a controversial issue that you'd be taking a specific stand on, presumeably for a specific agenda that you wish to pursue with it.  Which side of the issue you wanted to argue doesn't matter.  The point is, you have something to say, and so you're saying it.



But I can see at this time no good valid reason for including a blanket attribute penalty (or bonus) based on gender in your game.  If you have one that isn't based on the questionable notion of "modeling reality"; now is your opportunity to share it.

But I hope you can see, and I say this without any antagonism towards you at all, why some might percieve your continued insistance on including such a modifier, without providing such a reason to be based on either ignorance or latent sexism.
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #38 on: May 07, 2004, 08:29:07 AM »

Quote from: Andrew Morris
study used the squat lift as the best overall indicator of strength, and came up with the following results: average male lift was 351 lbs. and the average female lift was 86 lbs. That puts the male average at about 4 times the female average.


First of all, that's only one very specific measure of Strength.

However even taking this result at face value, it tells us next to nothing about genetic potential, and therefore the results at the extremes of the population, such as adventuring groups.

There may be a million reasons why adult women tend to be less strong than men due to cultural roles and taboos that mean they never reach their full potential, or that lead men to develop more physicaly than they otherwise would. Those reasons may apply across a population as a whole, but whether they apply to a specific individual is a completely different question and the rules are for creating individuals, not populations.

Whether a particular cultural effect infleunces an individual created by these rules is not a random or statistical event because it's a points-buy system and you can define your own character concept, therefore using random-population or statistics based arguments is irrelevent.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
redivider
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« Reply #39 on: May 07, 2004, 08:29:24 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
... if D&D, a game primarily concerned with combat, included a -2 penalty to STR for women ...


Ravien wasn't claiming that D&D does include gender differences; the quoted statement was a 'for instance' example.

Still, as an aside, this got me trying to remember if or how gender differences were handled in earlier editions of D&D.

There are no gender differences in character generation in the 1978 basic set.

1st edition AD&D set maximum strength for female characters. The maximums weren't modifiers like racial modifiers (you didn't subtract 1 or 2 from your female character's strength, there was just an upper limit.) The max for human females was 18(50) compared to 18(00) for men. Female half orcs could be as stong as 18(75), compared to 18(99) for their male counterparts. Female halflings (max 14) and gnomes (max 15) were disadvantaged the most vis a vis males (17 and 18 respectively.)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #40 on: May 07, 2004, 08:31:34 AM »

Simon, that's ten minutes elapsed between your last post and this one.

This is the harsh moderator post: if y'all don't wait at least one hour before (a) deciding to reply and (b) actually replying, as inferred by me from the timing of your posts, then I'm shutting this one down.

Best,
Ron
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dragongrace
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« Reply #41 on: May 07, 2004, 08:51:46 AM »

Not sure why this one caught my eye but, there is little true difference in the actual physical limitations of men and women.  Trace the history of land speed records, weightlifting, and any other physical determinations of the human body throughout history and the records are constantly being broken.

Physically I think women possess more body fat than a man on the average.    This however is not a hindrance.

In the mental attributes, I think history can be somewhat unfair due to the role that women were assigned by their male counterparts throughout said history.  While the (considered) most intelligent person of today is a man,  this is I would argue, not because he is a male.

Beauty is a subjective trait in today's modern world.  In shakespearean times the more corpulent women were the more beautiful while today it is the waif (for the most part).  This is due to cultural shifts, which I think someone mentioned.

In short, physical limitations based on gender when trying to simulate a real world comparison are typically the perception of the game designer towards the real world.  If however you are trying to assert a different kind of reality (which would normally have a proper explanation for the gender difference) then attribute modification based on gender difference is ok.

JOE--
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contracycle
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« Reply #42 on: May 07, 2004, 09:20:05 AM »

To address the point about armies and pregnancy, yes there significant differences between the modern day and the ancient world, primarily medical.  We have the pill, of course, but also we have good medical practice that makes surviving childbirth common; mortality in labour I think is a much more fundamental reason for not composing fighting troops of females.  Also of course we know what happened to children born to the camp followers - most were simply exposed to die.  But camp followers could be quite large groups and many children were simply raised with the army, and this group may well, such as with Rome, settle down as a village when the legion was retired.

Back to system.  Conspiracy X uses a heavy Karma system that abstracts all characteristics to 5 levels and they are very broad.  Almost all people will fall into Strength 3; 4 would acocunt for professional or olympic class athletes of either sex; 5 is for extermely heavily built weight-lifters, professional American footballers, wrestlers and sundry aliens and machines.  Going down, strength 2 would be adolesecents and the elderly, and 1 small animals, pre-teens and similar.

Note how wide this scale is, this really does cover the spectrum of human strength.  Every number in the system is meaningful, too.  You have to have a pretty firm character concept to want or need to go to strength 4, and you pay lots for it at chargen; likewise you get lots back for going down to 2.  going to 5 or 1 would probably require a backstory in the Seriously Weird category.

This system doesnt start from inputs like sex and then calculate an output, it merely asks you to describe the character as they are.  It may well be that you or I feel that its less easy or likely whatever for a female character to achieve 5, but that only really changes the weirdness required of the rationale.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #43 on: May 07, 2004, 09:26:45 AM »

Ron, I hope I haven't violated the wait time. My computer clock is wrong, and the Forge times don't match up to my watch. I believe I have, but if I haven't, then I apologize. I'll be keeping an eye on my watch from this point on.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
First of all, that's only one very specific measure of Strength.


Well, as I said, but perhaps didn't make clear, they did perform a host of other strength measurements. Based on this, they found that the squat lift aligned almost exactly with an overall measurement of strength.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
However even taking this result at face value, it tells us next to nothing about genetic potential, and therefore the results at the extremes of the population, such as adventuring groups.


Okay, that's a valid point. So, let's go by the maximums, which are closer for the two genders. The current Guinness world record for menís squats is 1047 lbs., compared to the current womenís world record of 508 lbs. It's still showing a much greater difference than some people are indicating.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
There may be a million reasons why adult women tend to be less strong than men due to cultural roles and taboos that mean they never reach their full potential, or that lead men to develop more physicaly than they otherwise would. Those reasons may apply across a population as a whole, but whether they apply to a specific individual is a completely different question and the rules are for creating individuals, not populations.


Agreed. But what is the difference (from a character creation point of view) if the modifier is based on genetics or society? Well, I mean, of course if you believe it's due to the former, it's not open to easy alteration, whereas if you believe it's due to the latter, you can easily say, "Well, my character doesn't conform to the average." On the other hand, if an average exists, whatever the reason, I think it should be hard to move away from that.

Quote from: simon_hibbs
Whether a particular cultural effect infleunces an individual created by these rules is not a random or statistical event because it's a points-buy system and you can define your own character concept, therefore using random-population or statistics based arguments is irrelevent.


Let's say that in a theoretical game, males have an average Strength of 10 and women have an average Strength of 9. Further, let's say that in this game world, men an women have exactly the same genetic potential for Strength. Why then should it cost a player the same amount of points to have a female character with a Strength of 12, as it would cost to have a male character with a Strength of 12? Shouldn't it cost more for the female character, as the score of 12 represents a 3-point deviation from average, whereas the male character has only a 2-point deviation from average? To use another example, if you had a point-buy system, shouldn't it cost a member of a physically weak race (average Strength 6) more to have a Strength of 12 than a physically strong race (average Strength 12)? Just because you have a concept that's different from the norm doesn't mean it's easy to deviate from the norm, and this can be simulated by paying more points.


As a complete anecdotal side note, I mentioned this topic to a female coworker. While I was suprised by the 4:1 ratio of male to female strength, or even the 2:1 ratio, she was not. She then made what I think is an interesting point. Not sure if it's valid or not, but it was interesting. She pointed out that most men can lift another person without much difficulty, while most women can't. Keep in mind this is her experience, not a generalization that I am making. I thought about it and realized that I (as an almost completely average male -- height, weight, strength, etc.) wouldn't even think about lifting another person of my own weight as a difficult challenge. Sure, I wouldn't want to carry that person for any length of time, but getting them off the ground for a few seconds is no problem at all. She, on the other hand (as a women who is notably stronger than average) found the idea of lifting a person to be a daunting challenge. Like I said, just food for thought, is all. I found it interesting to get a female non-gamer's point of view on this, and her response seemed to be something that most people would be able to relate to on a personal level.
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John Kim
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« Reply #44 on: May 07, 2004, 12:14:08 PM »

I'll try to summarize here.  First of all, let's not kid ourselves that this is political -- on both sides.  The reason why this is political is that this bit of reality (i.e. genetic vs cultural) is a terribly important issue for attitudes and policy regarding sex in the modern world.  Other issues of realism are not generally so charged (i.e. no one cares whether a bardiche is better than a halberd).  

I also have to disagree with some other posters on one point.  There is no "neutral choice" here.  It is not true that no attribute modifiers for sex is the natural choice and any change from it needs to be justified.  OK, it has the advantage of being simpler. But it is still a commentary on gender.  When I chose to have no attribute modifiers and strong social gender typing in my Vinland game, I was making a politically-significant choice just as much as Ben is making in his attribute modifiers. So I don't think it's fair to to say that his sex-based attribute modifiers require more justification than any other choice.  

He's right that lack of inherent mechanical differences between the sexes can be a feminist statement, albeit a mild one.  I mentioned "essentialism" and "constructionism" before, but didn't really explain them.  Essentialism in this context is a position that differences between the sexes are primarily genetic, and observed differences between men and women just reflect this genetic essence.  Politically, it is generally used to argue for the status quo -- because if, say, women earn less than men that is because of an inherent preference for home over career.  Constructionism is a position that observed differences between the sexes are primarily social.  It is used to argue for cultural and political change to address the disparities.  

Quote from: Ravien
  If gender is only defined by genitalia, then perhaps some people could profer explanations for the following things, all of which are facts I have learned through my degree or blatant observations of my world which no sane person could dismiss:

Olympic potential. All events are split into gender. Males consistently run faster and for longer than females. Males can become significantly stronger than females. They can swim faster and for longer. None of these things can demonstrably be caused by any factor other than genetics, as all athletes can reasonably be assumed to have comparable access to nutritious food and hours of training. To imply culture in this difference is to suggest that playing with barbies makes Jane a slower runner.  

But culture does clearly have an effect.  How else do you explain, say, the marked change between the 1950s and today in women's Olympics?  I don't think women have changed genetically.  I think the only reasonable explanation is that the culture of the 1950s inhibited women athletes more than today.  

So I don't think your assumption of equal nutrition and training is reasonable.  There is also the issue of selection.  i.e. If 1 in 10 boys are encouraged to be Olympic athletes, but only 1 in 100 girls are, then you may see a marked difference even if the individual athletes are treated equally once in competition.  In other words, there are many children who genetically have potential to be Olympic athletes but were not properly encouraged and trained.  A disparity can arise in how many potentials are found, encouraged, and trained.  i.e. Many girls who genetically tend to be big and bulky are teased, put on diets, and given advice on how to dress up better rather than being encouraged to be weight-lifters.  

A common answer is "Oh, there used to be sexism in the 1950s, but now it's pretty much gone.  Now culture has no influence -- the remaining differences are purely genetic."  But this same argument has been used for decades.  In the 50s, anti-feminists would say that women had equal education and political power, and the disparities were due to genetics.  But with action, the disparities grew less.  Then in the 70s, anti-feminists admitted there was sexism in the 50s -- but now that was over, and the remaining differences were purely genetic.  And yet still with effort the disparities shrank.  

Maybe at some point in the future we'll get to the point where we really do see only the pure genetic differences.  But I don't accept that just seeing disparities proves that it is purely genetic.  Now, you can disagree, of course.  But I hope I've shown (with the Essentialism vs Constructionism issue) why people think this is important and object.
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- John
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