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Author Topic: Mechanical Gender Differences  (Read 30194 times)
talysman
Member

Posts: 675


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« Reply #45 on: May 07, 2004, 12:59:26 PM »

I dunno what to say about Ravien wanting to indicate gender differences mechanically. it's his world, if he wants mechanical gender differences, I suppose that's fine; but he shouldn't expect anyone to agree.

now, as for justifying his mechanical choices by reference to the real world, or addressing the more general question "should RPGs include mechanical gender differences to increase realism?" I have to say that such mechanics are not a good idea, because the supposed physical differences (+1 Strength vs +1 Beauty, or whatever) is just BS. one pound of well-toned muscle produces the same amount of strength in either male or female bodies. a male athelete and a female athelete, both in the top of their class, will have equal strength in proportion to their bodies. and things like "beauty" are such a bundle of subjective statements and cultural biases that it seems pointless to argue for a genetic basis.

furthermore, although the average woman may be weaker than the average man, that's a statistical statement, not a genetic statement. if you want to include city population mechanics that generate the same statistical profile, fine. but when you get to a player generating a character, I'd have no gender restrictions whatever, aside from maybe social restrictions on what different genders are likely to learn.

the reason is because, throughout history, there were examples of women who didn't fit the statistical model. they were exceptional. as far as I'm concerned, RPGs are about playing exceptional people. if someone wants to play a five-foot-something tall woman who can lift a 200-pound man above her head, fine; since such a woman exists in real life, I can hardly see telling a player "NO, you have to subtract 1 from your strength."

the issue of slaves in the antebellum South came up earlier. again, throughout the period, there were examples of highly-educated slaves or ex-slaves; so, although statistically slaves were less educated than the white people around them, what exactly is the point of giving an intelligence penalty to slave PCs? if the game is about the attitudes towards slaves, then play the social side, not the supposed genetic differences. if the game is set in the antebellum South but isn't really about slavery per se, then don't even worry about the social side as far as PC slaves and ex-slaves are concerned -- everyone recognises the PCs as the exception to the rule.

so, to summarize: including gender biases in NPCs is one thing, but I wouldn't build gender biases into chargen for PCs. it goes against the spirit of RPGs.

that's my advice. I'm not going to argue the point, because I think this thread has gone out of control.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #46 on: May 07, 2004, 01:33:45 PM »

On reflection, I think my possition is that there are some obvious physical differences between men and women at a statistical level, and even at the extremes of ability within the population (though less so than at the average). Nevertheless, I don't think this is significant enough, or worth enforcing at a game level unless these differences are in some way the subject of the game.

Quote from: Andrew Morris
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?


Because game mechanics aren't statistical simulations of the population. They are naratively based simulations of fiction. In the game in question, the characters can have any backstory the players and GM can agree on. These aren't going to be ordinary people, so why adopt a game system limitation that enforces normality?

Are the game mechanics there to enable character concept, or to punish concepts that don't match the game designer's pre-concieved notions of what they should be?

Quote from: John Kim
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.


I think it's a commentary on narative freedom. It's saying that the game designer is not making value judgements about the character concept choices of the players.

If the game designer makes female characters with high strengths more expensive, the game designer is saying that character concepts for strong females are poor choices in his game. Even character concepts for moderatley strong felmale characters lead to overall worse characters because the player has less points to spend on other things as a consequence of that choice.

In this game it's not quite that bad because the game designer simply limited character maximum strength, but at a rating of 14 relative to the maximum male strength of 18. That's a 28% difference, which is a hell of  a lot. It appears that characters can improve stats after character generation too, exacerbating this discrepancy. It also means that, even though women can ultimately become significantly stronger than this and perhaps even stronger than starting male characters, in the early stages of the game they are put at a huge disadvantage compared to men regardless of the player's character concept. That's incredibly judgemental.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #47 on: May 07, 2004, 02:14:59 PM »

Hi Simon,

I was thinking along the same lines you were, and came to a different conclusion.  (Kind of.)

I don't think Ben is concerned with "naratively based simulations of fiction."  He really is striving to create "statistical simulations of the population" -- and then run, kind of a fantasy meets that simulation.  Like predictive weather programming.

Now, whether or not the concerns already named (how valid are Ben's assumptions for the population's progamming, why certain data input but not others, how do exceptional people who beat the norm figure in, will the limits he's working with still be valid in say 50 years and many more) completely invalidate his model is another matter.

But, as far as I can tell, he's going for the Sim Dream: his fantasy world would keep going even the players stopped.  I personally see such an goal as impossible, not to mention not to my taste.  But we have to consider his goal of his work.

And it seems that your goal of RPG play (and mine), are very different from his.

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #48 on: May 07, 2004, 06:06:04 PM »

Ok, quite a few good points. Thanks for that World Records data Andrew, it was exactly what I was going to reach for.

Also, thanks John for your point about including/not-including gender. You managed to articulate exaclty what I wish I could have, but I think it was all the more poignant coming from you.

I've had similar experience as Andrew when discussing this with the girls I know, who all had no problem with the modifiers I included.

Now I have two things I would like to say:

1. Valimir, you said this:
Quote
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.

But no matter how many times I read it and play around with it in my mind, I can't for the life of me see how that is any different to me saying "they reflect the reality of the game world, which in turn, reflects the reality of the real world"... which is what I've been saying all along.


2. I'm getting confused with the whole nature vs nurture thing. See, everything I've ever learned confirms that it is never "either/or", only ever "and... but to what degree". I have given as yet undisputed examples of things which all evidence suggests are primarily nature (but because of nurture, there will always be plenty of room to move). For a while there it seemed as though people were only concerned about the lack of nurture in my modifiers, but now, it seems that argument has swung completely against the inclusion of nature at all costs. Do genetics really mean nothing? I cannot fathom such a position, but this is likely because I know a bit about genetics and psycho-biology.

Is a 13:1 male to female genius ratio "not significant enough to include in a game"? Is being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift "not worth enforcing unless the differences are the subject of the game"? (italics mine). Apparently politics is far to strong to surmount with even the biggest and most blatant differences, even though these differences are perfectly relevant to the "exceptional" characters. I guess I'm one of very few who sees the elephant.


So in conclusion, I will remodel my gender mechanics, shifting the focus from what is percieved as implying genetic determinism, towards one which implies the inclusion of social learning, and will be a continuing factor throughout character development. I will create a topic in the Indie Game Design forum about the actual mechanics I will use, because that's where it would belong. I invite all discussion of the effectiveness/problems of the mechanics to that thread, but would ask that anything bordering on underlying reasons or such should be directed here, where I am happy to continue this discussion.
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Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


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« Reply #49 on: May 07, 2004, 07:14:19 PM »

Quote
Is a 13:1 male to female genius ratio "not significant enough to include in a game"? Is being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift "not worth enforcing unless the differences are the subject of the game"? (italics mine). Apparently politics is far to strong to surmount with even the biggest and most blatant differences, even though these differences are perfectly relevant to the "exceptional" characters. I guess I'm one of very few who sees the elephant.


It has little to do with elephants from my perspective.

If you were to tell me that the ABC machine gun has a rate of fire 3x higher than the XYZ machine and ask "isn't that significant enough to include in a game?" my answer would be "not unless machine gun use were an emphasized feature of your game worth highlighting."

If you were to tell me that the ABC car gets 13 miles to the gallon more than the XYZ car and ask "isn't that significant enough to include in a game" my answer would be "not unless running out of gas was an emphasized feature of your game worth highlighting."

So when you say "isn't being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift significant enough to include in a game", my answer is again "not unless weight lifting contests or hauling around alot of gear is an emphasized feature of your game worth highlighting."


How is this relevant?  How do you envision inclusion of such rules enhanceing the enjoyment of your game?  Under what set of circumstances will players kick back in their chairs and say, "wow, this game was alot of fun...and it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without those gender modifiers for attributes...those really made the game sing"

If you can't envision players saying that...then the question returns to "why bother".  Superfluous detail is exactly that.  Superfluous.

The reason I keep asking why you think they're important, is because if they had some significant impact on your game or how it plays, then they'd stop being superfluous and start being a valid design element.  But in the absence of such a reason they are pointless.
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #50 on: May 07, 2004, 10:33:24 PM »

Valimir, I am currently working on making gender far from superfluous.

However, I just realised a noteworthy parallel with this thread.

No-one could reasonably argue that
Quote
"wow, this game was alot of fun...and it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without those ______ modifiers for attributes...those really made the game sing" (inserted blank mine)

could possibly apply to the topic of that thread now, could it?

In fact, I'd say that the inclusion of the encumberance mechanics in TROS stems from an identical reason to my inclusion of gender mechanics, and follows a similar controversy. ie: they are there simply because they are significantly real enough to make noteworthy, and the whole controversy pretty much stems from dislike of the mechanics and their implications regardless of all factual evidence.

By your definition, TROS should not contain these encumberance rules because they are superfluous, and pointless.

I feel that you are trying to get me to admit that I have no real reason to include these things in any game. I do not agree. I think rules can be included for flavour, realism, color, and just plain ol' "I want to". This would be a bit of all of the above.

From my perspective, given the powerful controversy and obvious significance of gender, it has everything to do with elephants.

-Ben
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simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #51 on: May 08, 2004, 02:25:51 AM »

Quote from: Christopher Kubasik
I don't think Ben is concerned with "naratively based simulations of fiction."  He really is striving to create "statistical simulations of the population" -- and then run, kind of a fantasy meets that simulation.  Like predictive weather programming.


That's not what his game says. it says I as player have a free choice of what my character concept is. Given that, his decision to make some character concepts radicaly more expensive than others, or even completely impractical, needs some justification. Does he realy expect  the population of characters generated with this system to conform to the population of the world?

If 90% of the populatioon are peasants does he expect 90% of player characters to be peasants? Is the game mechanical cost of not being a peasant the same as the game mechanical cost of being in the top 10% of women? Let's assume that 5% of the population are nobles, so therefore being a noble character costs 20 times as many points as being a peasant. Then suppose that 5% of noble women have the social freedom to pursue their own goals. Does that realy mean that the game mechanical cost of being an independent noblewoman should be 400 times that of being a peasant lad? Is that kind of character-concept-restricting cost structure realy what the game designer wants? lookig at the rules, it doesn't seem so. Other parts of the game system don't seem to cost things based on rarety, but on the consequences of the choice for the game effectiveness of the character.

Quote from: Ravien
Is a 13:1 male to female genius ratio "not significant enough to include in a game"? Is being able to lift 200% the weight of what a female could lift "not worth enforcing unless the differences are the subject of the game"? (italics mine). Apparently politics is far to strong to surmount with even the biggest and most blatant differences, even though these differences are perfectly relevant to the "exceptional" characters. I guess I'm one of very few who sees the elephant.


Lets supose that this is true, that geneticaly even if environmental factors were equal for everyone, still 13 out of every 14 Nobel prize winners would be men. Even so sme women are still genuiuses. Your game says I can choose whatever characetr concept I like. If I want to play one of the few Genius level women, why should I be penalised for wanting to do so in the game system? Your game explicitly states that the character concept is a matter of free choice, yet the game mechanics are incongruent with that freedom.

In fact if you were to set maxima for characteristics that limit female potential inteligence you'd be making it effectively impossible to play one of the few genius level women. If the mechanic was just to make female inteligence more expensive at least I'd still be able to swallow the cost and buy up inteligence anyway.

Looking at the rules it seems to me that most of the cost structure does not exist to encourage a statisticaly representative population of characters. Rather it seems to exist as a play balancing system, to make the generated characters balanced from a play point of view. You've made several statements here that seem to support that interpretation. So again this is incoherent game design, because there's no obvious play balance issue with respect to playing strong (or inteligent) women.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #52 on: May 08, 2004, 05:43:16 AM »

Quote
That's not what his game says. it says I as player have a free choice of what my character concept is. Given that, his decision to make some character concepts radicaly more expensive than others, or even completely impractical, needs some justification. Does he realy expect the population of characters generated with this system to conform to the population of the world?

Given the terminology of "more expensive", I'm guessing that you ahve read my topic in Indie Design? If not, I apologise for the following: I'm afraid you may have misinterpreted the mechanics as I have presented them. They don't work by making things more expensive, but instead by making it easier to focus in certain areas. It does this because if you raise a +! attribute by 1 point at the standard cost of 3 GP, then you get a bonus 1 for free (that's the +1 part). If you buy points in a 0 attribute, you don't get a bonus. The analogy I gave in a recent post was "kind of like a father who tells his daughter that for every dollar she saves, he will put a dollar in her account. But nothing stops her from spending it instead."

And no, the system is not designed to generate populations of characters, because it is a point-buy system. Doing so would be incrdibly arduous for any GM. Instead I will provide a bunch of templates in the final rulebook and suggestions for modifying them.

Instead, it is meant to represent the biological and environmental influences in play through a character's life. As far as I can see, it does this, but if you disagree, I encourage your comments in that thread.

Quote
Is the game mechanical cost of not being a peasant the same as the game mechanical cost of being in the top 10% of women?...

...Does that realy mean that the game mechanical cost of being an independent noblewoman should be 400 times that of being a peasant lad?

There is no mechinical cost for choosing your social class. They are there for exploration. And what, pray-tell, is the top 10% of women? Are we still talking about strength? Why is strength synonymous with the "top"? I could quite easily create a female character who was in the top 10% of learned women at no cost. In fact, to do so would be easier than pursuing other goals, not because it "costs less" but because my efforts into that area give more in return.

Quote
Other parts of the game system don't seem to cost things based on rarety, but on the consequences of the choice for the game effectiveness of the character.

Nothing is based on rarity. Only on the factors that are in play, and, as you mentioned, characer effectiveness. Sorry, my mistake... the economic aspect is based almost purely on rarity and quality, having nothing to do with character effectiveness.

Quote
Your game says I can choose whatever characetr concept I like. If I want to play one of the few Genius level women, why should I be penalised for wanting to do so in the game system? Your game explicitly states that the character concept is a matter of free choice, yet the game mechanics are incongruent with that freedom.

How so? How would you be penalised for pursuing a genius woman? Fluid is a +1 attribute for women... and a +2 attribute for men. Not even social class affects that (though species will). Where does the penalty come in? how is freedom undermined?

Quote
In fact if you were to set maxima for characteristics that limit female potential inteligence you'd be making it effectively impossible to play one of the few genius level women. If the mechanic was just to make female inteligence more expensive at least I'd still be able to swallow the cost and buy up inteligence anyway.

Then there's no problem, because that's almost how it works (except the "more expensive" part). There are no limits. Seriously, powerful characters can have attributes exceeding 100. Nothing limits this.

Quote
Looking at the rules it seems to me that most of the cost structure does not exist to encourage a statisticaly representative population of characters. Rather it seems to exist as a play balancing system, to make the generated characters balanced from a play point of view. You've made several statements here that seem to support that interpretation. So again this is incoherent game design, because there's no obvious play balance issue with respect to playing strong (or inteligent) women.

No, the "cost structure" exists to represent the biological and environmental factors in play on a person's life. If everyone were to always opt for the easiest (is: most beneficial) options, then they would probably end up with characters who are largely representative of the population. The genders are "balanced" because that's how I see things. Another reason things are balanced should be obvious: gender is controversial enough without me making one or the other "better" overall.

I'm unsure though, how my design is incoherent. Perhaps the answer belongs in the Indie Desing topic though, being that it is specifically about mechanics and their consequences for my design.
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simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #53 on: May 08, 2004, 09:41:35 AM »

Quote from: Ravien
There is no mechinical cost for choosing your social class. They are there for exploration.


But 'exploring' the character concept of a strong woman in a world predominated by strong men isn't - or rathr is discouraged. That's an entirely arbitrary game dsign choice, with n systematic justification.

Quote
And what, pray-tell, is the top 10% of women? Are we still talking about strength?


I think predominantly yes, because that's a particular subject you rasied in the orriginal post although you have also raised the issue of inteligence.

Quote
How so? How would you be penalised for pursuing a genius woman? Fluid is a +1 attribute for women... and a +2 attribute for men. Not even social class affects that (though species will). Where does the penalty come in? how is freedom undermined?


You raised the subject of a 13:1 genius ration between men and women, and I'm adressing that point and wether or not I think it should be addressed in character generation rules in general.


Quote
There are no limits. Seriously, powerful characters can have attributes exceeding 100. Nothing limits this.


Then I'm not sure what the modifiers in chaacter generation do. Do they or do they not make some female character concepts less effective choices in the game? In other words takign strength as an example, if I were to have two characetrs one male and one female, surely it's be more expensive and less effective to develop the female character to the same strength level as the male character, all other  things being equal? Surely that's the whole point of these game emchanics, or am I missing the point?

Regarding incoherence, this comes down the the issue of enabling character concept. Reading the section on character concept I as a player am likely to form expectations about the character creation rules in terms of enabling character concept (especialy with respect to female characters) that are at variance with the way the rules actualy direct and channel player choices. In fact the choice of character concept is anything but free, but this isn't made clear.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #54 on: May 08, 2004, 06:12:32 PM »

Quote
But 'exploring' the character concept of a strong woman in a world predominated by strong men isn't - or rathr is discouraged. That's an entirely arbitrary game dsign choice, with n systematic justification.

Oh please. Entirely arbitrary? I just pulled that idea out of my ass did I? That choice has the same systematic justification as why my character can wield a sword: Because it parallels reality, and thus provides familiarity for players to explore.

Quote
Then I'm not sure what the modifiers in chaacter generation do. Do they or do they not make some female character concepts less effective choices in the game?

No, they just make some concepts require more effort. A male with strength of 24 is exactly as powerful as a female with strength of 24. Effectiveness is not sexually dimorphic. But there's a point here that I want to come back to.

Quote
Reading the section on character concept I as a player am likely to form expectations about the character creation rules in terms of enabling character concept (especialy with respect to female characters) that are at variance with the way the rules actualy direct and channel player choices. In fact the choice of character concept is anything but free, but this isn't made clear.

For starters, by that exact same token, TROS would be incoherent if it gave expectations of freedom in chargen (I don't own the full rulebook, does it?). According to the quickstart rules, I can't make a totally kickass rich guy. But back to my game, what about gender makes my game incoherent? If it is merely the fact that I claim that you can create any character concept and then play that concept, but my rules make it hard to ahieve some concepts, then hell, gender isn't special. If your character concept was to be a totally awesome sorcerer, who was one of the finest swordsman in the land, could best any person with a bow, and could call on divinity to help him out, then that character concept would be very hard to realise. If you wanted to make someone filthy rich and extremelely compassionate, that concept would also be harder to realise. Hell, if you want your character to be King, then that concept will be hard to realise because you would have to play it out. But in all of these cases, "hard to realise" is not "impossible". The only concept that is impossible is to create a God.

But here's something I have a problem with that I wanted to come back to:
Quote
(especialy with respect to female characters)

Where does the especially part come from? How is it harder to achieve character concepts for females than for males? Their modifiers are balanced. If I wanted to make a character who was extremely agile and dextrous, who could slip inside an enemies guard and stab them, say, under the armpit (something accomodated in the rules), then it'd be much easier for me if I chose a female. This doesn't mean that I couldn't do the same thing with a male, just that to do so would require more effort. But my problem is that no-body cares about this part. No-body cares that some concepts are harder to achieve with a male, and they ignore the fact that the difficulty in achieving those concepts is equal to the difficulty in achieving female concepts. It is very much beginning to look to me as though the only problem that remains is that females require more work than males to achieve the same physical strength. I feel that this point is an impass, as factual evidence has been provided for the reality to justify such a decision. It seems that some people want to see the elephant and play with it, and others refuse to see it and get frustrated that they can't walk in a straight line through the room. I can't do anything about that.

And for the life of me, I can't see how my game is special in making some things require more effort than others. In fact, it has more freedom than many games for pursuit of character concept. Try making a skilled swordsman/sorcerer in AD&D 3e.

-Ben
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Walt Freitag
Member

Posts: 1039


« Reply #55 on: May 09, 2004, 08:36:59 AM »

[stares at stopwatch] 4... 3... 2... 1... time to post!

(Just kidding, actually I started thinking about this post 2 days ago.)

Ben, thereís a point you've asserted repeatedly in this thread:

Quote
The game does not curtail the choices at all, it merely implies focus for avenues of pursuit.


Quote
Gender does notimpinge on playability or character effectiveness, it only provides differing potential for success in various avenues of pursuit.


Quote
Given the terminology of "more expensive", I'm guessing that you ahve read my topic in Indie Design? If not, I apologise for the following: I'm afraid you may have misinterpreted the mechanics as I have presented them. They don't work by making things more expensive, but instead by making it easier to focus in certain areas. It does this because if you raise a +! attribute by 1 point at the standard cost of 3 GP, then you get a bonus 1 for free (that's the +1 part). If you buy points in a 0 attribute, you don't get a bonus. The analogy I gave in a recent post was "kind of like a father who tells his daughter that for every dollar she saves, he will put a dollar in her account. But nothing stops her from spending it instead.


What youíre overlooking here is basic principles of economics as they apply to currency in character creation -- especially, the concept of opportunity cost. Your statements, going back to your very first post about "the problem" and how your system avoids it, appear to be based on the idea that thereís a difference between rewarding players for choosing certain character configurations that you prefer ("providing focus," increasing the potential for success in certain avenues, giving the extra dollar for a dollar spent wisely) and punishing them for choosing character configurations that you donít prefer. That distinction is an illusion. If adding a point of physical strength to a female character costs a dollar, while adding a point to some other attribute for that character costs a dollar plus you get a second point in that attribute for free, the real cost of the strength point for the female character is two dollars, one dollar spent plus a dollar in opportunity cost. You can say the attribute you prefer female characters to have "costs less" or you can say the attribute you prefer female characters not to have "costs more" and thereís absolutely no difference in the reality whichever way you say it. You can say you want to focus on or encourage certain avenues of pusruit by making them require less effort or resources, or you can say you want to punish or discourage the complementary avenues of pursuit (the avenues not in that "encouraged" group) by making them require more effort or resources, and thereís absolutely no difference in the reality whichever way you say it.

Thus your system has exactly "The Problem" that your initial post describes for other systems. Your stating it in terms of plusses and minuses that you start with before adding additional purchased points, instead of as a plus or minus that you apply after the attrtibute is otherwise determined, makes no difference at all. [This is going by what the system document you referred to at the start of this thread says.] Your stating in terms of more "free" additional points given for preferred characteristics, instead of as a higher price for the un-preferred ones, makes no difference at all. [This is going by the mechanics described in the Indie Game Design thread that you brought up later in this thread, which are completely different. Next time can we please discuss one system at a time?]

In either case, you are saying, quite clearly, that you, the game designer, prefer female characters to have lower physical strength, lower analytical ability, higher beauty, higher agility, etc. than male characters do. Your system says it, by rewarding players for creating characters that conform to those preferences. And youíve repeated it numerous times in this thread, every time you talk about wanting to "focus" playersí options or make "certain areas of pursuit" require "less effort." In the end you're rewarding players for making male characters stronger and female characters prettier. Presumably, you're doing that because you want them to be so. (Or else it wouldn't make much sense to reward them that way.)

That the deal might balance out in the end, in terms of overall potential effectiveness, is beside the point. One could similarly argue that a +2 strength for males in AD&D wouldn't be a problem if there were also a +2 in intelligence for females, because magic ability is just as much of a focus of the game as combat ability is. But what if I want to play a female fighter? "That's fine with me, you just have to pay more" is not a valid answer on the designer's part. It is, in fact, an oxymoron. That I have to pay more for the female fighter means that it is not, in fact, fine with you; you've seen fit to penalize me for it.

The point I was trying to make in my previous post is that people have good reason to get more annoyed at gender modifiers than at other types of modifiers that work the same way. If lizard-man character have lower speed (due to cold-bloodedness) and higher constitution (due to regeneration) than human characters do, you wonít see many complaints. If characters from lower social classes have a different cost rate for initial attributes than characters from higher social classes, you wonít see many complaints. The difference is that most players simply donít care as much about the social class or species of the characters they play as they do about the gender. If the costs and benefits of the lizard-man species or the middle class donít conform to what they want their charactersí strengths and weaknesses to be, theyíll make different choices (sometimes a bit grudgingly, perhaps, but without actually taking offense ). But people arenít as flexible about character gender, most of the time. Theyíll object much more to havng to pay more for certain attributes "just because Iím female" than they would "just because Iím a lizard-man."

If Iím female and I want a character whose abilities focus on having a high physical strength (or if I'm male and I want a character whose abilities focus on agility), your system is telling me that I must either:

(1) Change my character concept to focus on a different attribute instead;

(2) Play a character opposite my own gender; or

(3) Accept a penalty in effectiveness because my attributes cost more compared to everyone elseís.

Yeah, sorry, people are going to resent that. The best you can hope for is that most players will ignore the gender modifiers. Few are going to like them or think better of your game because of them. Many will think worse of your game because of them.

- Walt
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #56 on: May 09, 2004, 09:39:21 AM »

Reading this post, I'm starting to wonder if the whole problem might be simply that different people like different kinds of games.

What I mean is (and this might be covered in the GNS theory -- I haven't finished reading those articles yet) some people like detailed rules that "make sense." That is, rules that are based on reality. Others like less detailed, cinematic rules. Personally, I prefer the latter. However, if I were playing in a game with detailed, "realistic" rules, I would work within that construct.

For example, I just played in a Sorcerer game where my character was a teenage female cheerleader. She had a high Stamina, which made sense for the character. But that meant that she was better in a fight than most adult males in the game. That doesn't seem realistic (at least to me). But it was fine for the type of game. Accurately mapping reality is not central to Sorcerer.

However, if I were to play the same character in a game designed to accurately map reality, I would expect rules to exist that would avoid this situation. Specifically, in such a game, I would expect a teenage female cheerleader to be good at cheerleading, but not necessarily a good fighter. If I wanted to play this character with high levels of kick-assitude, I'd expect to pay more for it than if I had a male teenage football player character. I wouldn't be offended by such rules in this type of game.

As to everyone who feels that this is limiting to character "freedom," c'mon people. To quote our president (who'd have thought I'd ever do that?), "There out to be limits to freedom." Sure, I could decide that I wanted to play a halfling with the strength of a giant. Is my "freedom" being impinged upon when the GM tells me I'm a crack-smoking idiot and that I need to come up with a more realistic concept? Maybe, but I think that's a good thing. At least in most games. If that were a game which encouraged unrealistic/funny concepts, that'd be another matter. But in a game which makes an attempt to simulate reality, it's perfectly justified for the GM to deny such a concept. Just like it's okay for the rules to limit other unrealistic concepts.

As to gender being a special case, I'd argue that, in fact, it's not. Mechanically speaking, at least. If people have a tough time coming to terms with that, then they need to work out those problems on their own. It's not the designer's duty to make a game where everyone's ideologies are incorporated. If you're offended by a game mechanic, don't play.

On the other hand, having modifiers based on sex, but not on social class, does seem pretty inconsistent to me, from a mechanical point of view.
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Halzebier
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Posts: 216


« Reply #57 on: May 09, 2004, 09:45:40 AM »

Quote from: Walt Freitag
You can say you want to focus on or encourage certain avenues of pusruit by making them require less effort or resources, or you can say you want to punish or discourage the complementary avenues of pursuit (the avenues not in that "encouraged" group) by making them require more effort or resources, and thereís absolutely no difference in the reality whichever way you say it.


Yep. However, I'd like to stress that (a) this is in principle a valid concern and way to focus a game, and (b) there may be better ways to achieve this.

[Edited to add: Not that Walt has claimed anything to the contrary.]

A longtime regular on RGFA once formulated the following piece of advice:

Quote from: Mary Kuhner
Never make something expensive when you really want to make it impossible!

If having a character hyper-specialize in something breaks your game,
the best thing to do is set hard limits.  No matter how expensive you
make it, you'll always have to worry that someone will still manage to
get it, and your game will then be broken.


I think this may apply here as well.

If I want to have, say, a game modelled on westerns with John Wayne , I'm probably better off saying "No female gunslingers" or perhaps "No more than one female gunslinger per party", than imposing a penalty.

("No more than one female gunslinger per party" may require a player settlement or could conceivably be handled with a bidding contest, roll of the dice or whatever).

Such a flat-out ban may seem 'unrealistic' at first glance, but is in fact very advantageous:

(1) It is honest. (The game will probably seem *less* sexist because the issue is out in the open.)

(2) It is transparent. (Everybody at the table understands that the absence of female gunslingers is part of the feel of the game, i.e. a design goal.)

and

(3) It is effective. (There will be no female gunslingers.)

*-*-*

That said, I can empathise with the desire to use the same rules for PCs and NPCs. This is an old (and possibly problematic, I dunno) sim aesthetic.

[Edited to add: For *some* sim gamers on RGFA, at least - if memory serves me correctly.]

Would a system work for you wherein a randomly generated female NPC will have - on average - a lower strength than a random male -- but where a female PC can be as strong as a male PC, at no extra cost?

(This would violate the above aesthetic, of course.)

*-*-*

Regards,

Hal
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Ben O'Neal
Member

Posts: 294


« Reply #58 on: May 09, 2004, 06:48:20 PM »

Quote
However, I'd like to stress that (a) this is in principle a valid concern and way to focus a game, and (b) there may be better ways to achieve this.

By all means, I am completely open to any suggestions of a better way to achieve my goals. Any at all.

Quote
Never make something expensive when you really want to make it impossible!

I think this may apply here as well.

Good advice, doesn't apply. There is nothing short of God-hood that I want to be impossible in Eclipse. Should they invest the necessary effort, characters should be able to become truly extraordinary, having the physical strength of a dragon, the wisdom of an angel, the speed of a wraith and the constitution of a rock. Hell, they can even modify their own bodies to have the wings of a falcon, the eyes of an eagle, the ears of a bat, the sense of smell of a condor, talons, fur, tails, whatever. All you need is an excruciatingly rare stone and viola, modify your body to your heart's content. Another even more rare gem (!) let's you trap the soul of any target you wish, to leash and control it at will.

Everything in Eclipse follows the same philosophy: everything worthwhile achieving is difficult to achieve, but the rewards are worth it. You can't become a God, but goddamn it, you can get close.

Quote
Would a system work for you wherein a randomly generated female NPC will have - on average - a lower strength than a random male -- but where a female PC can be as strong as a male PC, at no extra cost?

What would be the point? Players aren't going to make NPCs, they are going to make PCs. If the GM wants realistic female/male ratios of attributes, they can make them without any rules.

Quote
Thus your system has exactly "The Problem" that your initial post describes for other systems.

No, The Problem isn't a matter of differing effectiveness, it is a matter of how that difference impacts the focus of the game. D&D is combat focused, so any difference that impacts combat will face The Problem. Because Eclipse has many foci, the two most important being combat and social interaction, then if one type of thing (gender in this case) is better than the other at combat, but worse at social interaction, whilst the reverse is true of the other type of thing, then there is no Problem. It becomes instead a matter of preferred choice of where you want to focus, and the best choices to achieve that focus.

Quote
That the deal might balance out in the end, in terms of overall potential effectiveness, is beside the point. One could similarly argue that a +2 strength for males in AD&D wouldn't be a problem if there were also a +2 in intelligence for females, because magic ability is just as much of a focus of the game as combat ability is. But what if I want to play a female fighter? "That's fine with me, you just have to pay more" is not a valid answer on the designer's part. It is, in fact, an oxymoron. That I have to pay more for the female fighter means that it is not, in fact, fine with you; you've seen fit to penalize me for it.

I don't see it that way. What if I want to play a swordfighting sorcerer? Looking at the rules of D&D, multi-classing tells me that the designers think that "that's fine with me, you just have to suffer in some areas". Now, D&D is an incoherent game, but that particular aspect is not what does it. Choice at a cost is a valid and useful tool. Without it, a game really ceases to be a game. To change analogies, what if my character decides to get drunk. "thats fine" the GM says, "but you'll suffer penalties to your rolls from now on until you sober up". Is this the GM telling the player that drinking is not fne? No, it's telling him that his choice has consequences.

As a side note, a +2 to strength does a shit load more than a +2 to intelligence in D&D. Sure, magic is important, but your INT really doesn't have anywhere near the same impact as a fighter's STR. Hence why any gender difference (or social difference or any difference) in D&D that included STR would epitomise The Problem.

Also, regarding combat in Eclipse, females are not, as some people believe, combat inept if the follow the "path of least resistance" for their character. Dodging is a very useful thing to do in combat, having the potential to grant free attacks, and attacks that ignore the heaviest armor (ie: requiring much less power to deal damage). Dodging can also be used to avoid missile fire. Females and males alike are basically equal (though different) with their magic potential, which is as good a way to kill someone as any.

Quote
The difference is that most players simply donít care as much about the social class or species of the characters they play as they do about the gender.

If they care so much about gender, why don't they care that gender is a completely meaningless choice? If I care about something, I want it to mean something. I'd hate to choose to play an elemental mage who could command fire at will, and then find that my choice meant nothing and could not be explored within the game. This is where I am coming from.

If I choose to play a female character, I want the game to tell me that she should be played differently than if I chose a male character. I want it to help me see how I should play her. I don't want my game to tell me that females should do typically male things simply because that's what the game is about. Seriously, combat is a "male" thing. Sure, girls can get into it, why shouldn't they. Guys can get into romance as well. But ask a girl if she'd rather play The Sims or Soldier of Fortune 2, and see which one she chooses. I get a blast from both, but goddamn it, those little fucks spend an hour to piss and then miss their goddamn lift to work so often that I just feel an urge to start up SoF2 and let rip. So I don't like the idea that in order to be "good", a girl must be "male". Why can't they be female and still be considered "good". In short, I want all my choices to be meaningful (well, as many as can be reasonably accounted for). [/rant]


-Ben
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #59 on: May 09, 2004, 08:16:33 PM »

Hello,

Ben, perhaps it's time to review your goals for this thread.

1. Are you looking for agreement? Then I agree specifically with all of the points in your latest post. Fully.

2. Are you looking for approval of these specific mechanics in your game? Then I approve. Yes, actually, I do. Why? Because it's your game and if these features satisfy #1 above for you, then they bloody well do.

3. Are you looking for reasons why people might disagree with you about that? You've found some - but why you seem compelled to defend yourself against such disagreements is completely opaque to me. It even seems masochistic: "Object to my notion X," then, "Your objection is not valid from my standpoint!"

I think that one of the reasons some of the folks posting here might seem argumentative or stubborn to you is that they want their comments acknowledged by you. You did ask for comments. You got them. This obliges you to say "thank you" and to acknowledge your understanding of these points both socially and intellectually. You certainly don't have to agree, and they didn't ask for that: just that you get what they said.

When people offer up their judgments on request in good faith, they are making themselves vulnerable to you. When you rapidly and fiercely attack the judgments or insist that they don't apply to you, it's abusing that vulnerability.

You certainly don't have to defend any of your preferences or goals for the game, or your sense of how the mechanics reinforce them.

So: since I can't see any particular reason for this thread to continue, unless you provide a clear goal for the discussion beyond "You attack me and I'll defend myself," then it'll have to get closed.

Best,
Ron
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