Have you seen a roleplaying game go horribly wrong when someone tried to play a character of a different sex to their own? Was it a guy trying to play a woman?
While some roleplayers prefer to play characters with a different gender to their own it is not always an easy thing to get right. When it goes wrong this can go spectacularly wrong.
I took this challenge to /r/rpg on Reddit and asked roleplayers there for three tips. This list is a distilled version of the advice and debate from the group. Do you agree with them? You agree with the contradictory tips? Any tips you would add?
- This gender is not to be used as a butt of a joke.
- This gender is not to be used to you can inflict sexual assault or harassment on anyone – that includes your own character.
- This gender does not limit you to one kind of personality or way of behaving. Choosing a gender does not mean you have to strictly observe gender roles.
- Pick a sustainable character voice.
- Playing a different gender does not inherently change your character’s personality. Don’t overthink “how would I react to this if I had/didn’t have boobs,” chances are, most situations will be the same response.
- Do not flaunt your sexuality (worst with male players playing female characters.) It always makes the table more awkward, and you’re not doing yourself any favors in the eyes of the other players.
- Don’t be afraid of romantic relationships. Note, not sexual relationships. This is very group-dependent, but a deep personal connection with another PC or even NPC can open up a lot of roleplaying that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
- Don’t obsess over it. By that I mean, concentrate on making an interesting character, not an interesting male/female character
- Don’t play the opposite gender to show you are forward thinking and modern.
- Don’t play the opposite gender to show you can do it because you are that versatile and awesome of a gamer.
- Don’t be cliche or stereotypical.
- Don’t abuse this aspect of your character, such as using it to hog the spotlight, or impede other players’ ability to have fun in any way.
- Do be creative with it. Why is this important? How does this change the way you interact with the world? How do you interact with others with the same characteristic? How do you interact with others with the opposite characteristic? Make sure that this characteristic enriches play in some way.
- Play as you would play your own gender.
- Don’t do anything romantic or sexual, nobody else is interested.
- Wear sensible clothes.
- If you’re a man, don’t think like a man playing a woman; think like a woman playing a woman. Also, vice versa. Otherwise, you’ll come across as a caricature of the other sex.
- In addition to defining your sex for the character, define their gender. This is between you and the character–unless you have built in psychological issues, most people will find exposing this information to be a pretty intimate thing.
- The different sexes, genders, and races have different cultural hangups in regard to how it is acceptable to fulfill their needs. Ex: Just because most men won’t turn down sex does not mean that all men are comfortable having sex with just anyone. If you’re a girl playing a guy, don’t assume your guy character is a horny idiot because he’s a guy. Likewise, just because you’re playing “the hot elf chick” doesn’t mean you’ll sleep with whatever bartender you run across to get shelter. Sleeping with the bartender ranks lower on your options that “sleeping in a tree outside town” but no doubt, if you had the funds, you’d prefer the comfy bed all by yourself. But will the elf flirt with someone in the bar? Sure, if that’s in her character. But it’s not because the character is female. She could just as easily flirt with the barmaid.
- Don’t be a dick.
- Think about the kind of person you’d want to be, not the kind of person you’d want to do.
- Stay within the accepted limits of what your group is comfortable with.
- Take it seriously.
- Think of it as trying to portray another Individual as accurately as possible
- Genders aren’t really binary, and you should consider playing a character that sits somewhere in the middle perhaps. Its more controversial take on the same question, but some players might have an easier time playing a character that acts like a gender they aren’t because they don’t identify as the gender they were born with.
- Don’t play a different gender just to play a different gender. Have a good reason behind it so you’re not just female because you were tired of being male.
- Don’t do overly feminine or masculine voices. If you want to use a different one just make your regular voice a shade different tone because otherwise it is just going to sound absolutely silly no matter how good of a voice you make.
- Don’t try to think what your gender would do. Try to think what your character would do.
- Just like a Hollywood movie, you’re making a character – and just like a Hollywood movie, one-note characters suck,especially if they’re trying to be the protagonist.
- If you aren’t sure which gender to use – pick gender last.
- Don’t overthink your character. Men and woman have the same basic motivators, so just act like a normal person would in the situation.
- Don’t make your sex about sex. Just because you are playing a different gender doesn’t mean every interaction should be about your sex and sexuality.
- Boobmail will get you killed.
- Stop thinking of people of different genders as being aliens, as ‘other things’. You do not need some in depth guide to figure out how someone of a different gender would act.
- Unless you’re experienced at roleplaying, character writing, etc. do not make the ‘essense’ of your character gender-gnostic (ie. don’t play a character whose history/personality revolve around issues specific to that gender). Instead, and especially if you’re inexperienced roleplayer/character writer, write your character from a gender agnostic standpoint, don’t even consider gender when you think about who they are and what they do. Of course, this doesn’t mean “Build the normal guy character you play, and then make them a girl”… it means “Build an interesting and believable person and make them the opposite gender to you”
- Interesting characters need motivations (why are they doing what they’re doing), goals (what physical endpoint do they want to achieve to fulfill their motivation), methods (how do they go about it, what are they willing to do?) and maybe an evaluation process (how do they evaluate how their method/goals are working out? If at all). This goes for male characters as well as female characters, whether they’re your gender or not.
- Unless you’re a professional and have some great feminization voice therapy, don’t try to sound like a girl. It brings unneeded attention to the fact that you’re actually male. Instead try and talk an octave higher than normal, but still “like a guy.” Even that can be forgone, since voices are actually really minimal for getting the point across.
- Correct people when they say the wrong gender. Just say “she” or “her” whenever they say “him” or “he.” Nothing else, don’t even push the issue, just minor corrections.
Wonderful illustration by hangemhigh13 on deviant art.
8, 20 and 31 (reinforcing 8) are the ones I would highlight from my experience playing cross-gender characters. Play an interesting character first and foremost, one that you find interesting as a character regardless of their gender and treat them with respect.
A lot of these echo the general advice given to writers writing characters of a different gender than their own: only make the gender relevant when it ought to be relevant, and create a solid character who happens to be a given gender rather than the other way around. I’m impressed with this list, but I assume coming from reddit that you had to edit out a lot of crap. :) It was a really good question to pose, though. As a female player, I have played both male and female characters and the gender has only really mattered for… Read more »
Kimberly Chapman Reddit was impressive on this one. The last time I checked the thread. There was one user who didn’t think cross-gender play was possible but didn’t really argue the point. I understand where that point of view might come from but was’t really on brief so I culled it from here.
Sea_of_Stars I’ve spoken to male gamers who argue that playing a female character is what makes it interesting. That’s okay… but if their portrayal of that character isn’t up to par then it effects the enjoyment of others in the game.
GeekNative Apparently I can. Ain’t that right r1Pped? #carathelegend #unhelpables #pathfinder
DavidBrashaw r1Pped Do you agree with most of the 38 tips?
GeekNative r1Pped Yes. If you can’t do a voice, don’t! I especially agree with number 20 lol
gmsmagazine That’s very kind of you. Thanks!
AndrewGirdwood My pleasure! Some amazing points there!
GeekNative DavidBrashaw I think these are cool and would put number 20 as number 1
Great post! I wrote a game that deals with this called Breaking the Ice. It’s wonderful to see people ease themselves into playing a character of a different sex or gender from their own. http://blackgreengames.com/bti.html
Emily Care Boss Those are some rave reviews for BtI. I’ll have to check it out.
When roleplaying, I find decisions that don’t have gameplay impact to be difficult, so with my most recent character, I postponed making the decision until it became relevant–when my character needed to bathe in a lake (slipped in something foul-smelling, as I recall). So, I rolled a d2 to decide–and decided to keep it up. Every time my character puts pants back on, sex resets until the next time it becomes relevant. I call it quantum sex; I even filled in that blank on my character sheet using ket notation.