You know what I always liked about World of Warcraft? It’s this little chunk of text right here:

“In the game… men and women are equal in Azeroth, so the only differences between the two genders are cosmetic.”

– World of Warcraft manual, p.15

When you’re worldbuilding, it’s tempting to gloss over hot-button issues like gender and sexuality. After all, you’re trying to tell a story about high adventure and daring do and dragon slaying, dammit! Why bog down the adventure with all this irrelevant stuff? Tolkien didn’t pause the action for identity politics!

Here’s the thing though. Even if “the story” isn’t explicitly about the relationship between the sexes, an RPG is more than a story. It’s also a simulation. When you’re running a game based on (pseudo) medieval Europe or (alternate history) ancient Japan or Arabian Nights (but with magic!), the source cultures bring very different ideas of gender to the table. These details also happen to be extremely relevant to the setting. Same deal if you’re one of those poor oppressed male drow down in Menzoberranzan. This stuff is going to come up. 

That’s why I like the WoW take on these things. It acknowledges the issue, then addresses it quickly and efficiently (if not particularly creatively).

How about you guys? How do you deal with gender and sexuality in your games? Do you downplay it? Make it a major setting detail? Try to ignore it? Let’s hear it in the comments.


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