An (Incomplete) History of Gender Identity in Fantasy RPGs

Pathfinder Race Chart

Gender identity is currently a big issue in the United States, with progress toward acceptance of all identities proving to be a slow, bumpy process. Despite a long period of time when Dungeons & Dragons and its kin were hesitant to discuss anything that might offend parents, the RPG industry seems to be slightly more progressive than mainstream American society on this matter.

That said, in fantasy gaming this subject has gone from accidental misrepresentation to a verboten subject to something that is openly accepted. Here’s a quick overview of gender identity in fantasy games from the 1970s to now.

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Pathfinder: Origins #2

Pathfinder: Origins #2

With Valeros having told his story in the previous issue, Pathfinder #2 brings us Kyra’s tale. Valeros interrupts the issue by expressing his concern that this is going to be a preachy religious screed. Kyra doesn’t alleviate concerns all that much, since the first thing she does in her story is loudly proclaim that she’s far too holy to drink wine at a tavern.

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A Burning World: Remembering Dark Sun

Dark Sun

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons had a pretty set flavor. Sure, there were variances between published settings such as the Known World, GreyhawkDragonlance, and the Forgotten Realms, but they were all variations on a Tolkienesque fantasy world where elves lived in forests, dragons sat on piles of gold, and halflings didn’t eat people. Then Dark Sun came out in 1991 and showed how far you could stretch the game.

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Pathfinder: Origins #1

Pathfinder Origins 1

As a series, Pathfinder: Origins scratches many itches of mine. Although the six stories are all interconnected, they are presented as a series of one-shots – a story format that I think the comics industry needs more of. Each one-shot reduces the cast significantly, giving us more character development for each of our heroes. As an added bonus, this series also introduces the other six iconic characters from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, showing us what these other adventurers are up to.

The series picks up a few weeks after Pathfinder:City of Secrets ended, with our heroes trying to track down the puppetmaster behind the conspiracy that threatened Magnimar. Unfortunately, local venture-captain Sheila Heidmarch won’t allow them access to the Pathfinder Society’s vault – and for pretty good reasons.

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Controlling your Destiny: A Look at the Fate RPG

Fate Dice

The d20 System is the 800-pound gorilla in the RPG industry, powering the top-selling games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. It’s a very good, very flexible system that is most ideal for games where combat is the cause of and solution to most of life’s problems. Today, we’re going to look at another robust system that powers multiple RPGs – one I consider to be the opposite of the d20 System in many ways. That system is called Fate.

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Starships and Space Hippos: The Spelljammer Setting

SpelljammerThe 1990s were a time of terrible business management for TSR, the company behindDungeons & Dragons, but it was also a time of great creativity. Few people argue that the 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was a really good system, but just about everybody loves the campaign settings.

Every other edition of D&D has stuck to pseudo-medieval European settings – stuff likeDragonlance, the Forgotten Realms, and Greyhawk. Even in the more modern Eberronsetting, with robot PCs and magic-powered trains, a group of adventurers heading into a dungeon to recover an artifact is pretty much the assumed standard.

2nd edition created settings that broke the normal D&D assumptions. You had a setting where the PCs were dragons, a setting where magic destroyed the environment with every spell, and a setting where a character’s beliefs could literally reshape reality. Then there was the Spelljammer setting, which is what I’m going to talk about today.

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Pathfinder: City of Secrets #4

City of Secrets #4

In the last issue, the bad guys did a hit and run on our heroes, injuring but failing to kill Kyra. This issue opens up with the group hot on their trail. They quickly learn that the villains not only cut out the hearts of priests of the sun goddess Sarenrae, but they’ve also taken the bodies of some of the fallen faithful.

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Deadly Penguins and Pacifist Wolves: The Mundane Animals of D&D

Monstrous Manual

I’ve talked a lot about demon lords and magic in Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve overlooked the mundane critters that populate the world. As it so happens, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Monstrous Manual, which is in my opinion the best and most comprehensive monster book in fantasy gaming, is available as a PDF from Wizards of the Coast. I was originally going to go through some of the more interesting critters therein, but I got sidetracked when I noticed the surprising amount of detail put into real-world (and real-world-ish) animals. So instead, let’s see what sort of information D&D has about birds, cats, and wolves.

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