Since we didn't have a listener e-mail this week, DCR took it upon itself to revisit one of our favorite podcasts and give it some fresh perspective. We put forth our thoughts on the subject of playing characters of different genders. So when it comes to putting the shoe (or heel, or sandal, or whatever) on the other foot, DCR says:
1. Pay attention! Other players can't do this for you, so it is up to YOU to remember your character's gender. Failure to do so can lead to some pretty wild and, quite realistically, uncomfortable assumptions being made about the character you play. To avoid perhaps one of the most divisive subjects from ruining your game, just always bear the appearance and gender of your character as you play. Our own gender will tend to creep through just as a matter of course. Males tend to behave like males. Females tend to behave like females. Neither is bad by any means. Which brings us to...
2. Purely cosmetic. When it comes to the mechanics of a role-playing game system, gender doesn't really alter the statistics. BUT, it has a strong (and often hilarious) tendency to alter how each player moves forward. This is good. The personality and mannerisms of your character are where distinctions are truly made. There isn't (nor should be) a game mechanic that rewards or penalizes characters for being one gender or the other, or both, or neither. At this point, there is no reason to not try playing as a different gender if you think it would be fun. But...
3. Research. Ask other players if they are uncomfortable with certain subjects of the opposite gender. Don't derail your game by offending another player over something you should have just asked about beforehand. "My new character is female. Are there things about females that are not okay to talk about? Are there things that are acceptable? When is it okay to joke about this?" These are all good questions to ask. However, this is just a game. No need to take it further than this. If another player is getting creeped out or offended, do everyone a favor and just drop it. If another player is visibly upset at what you said, apologize, acknowledge your mistake, then move gracefully forward.
Bonus XP: Playing as a different gender for the first time can be a nerve-racking experience. It doesn't have to be. To take some of the edge off, some good films dealing with this include: Mrs. Doubtfire, Victor/Victoria, and Tootsie. Also, investigate the Eclipse Phase line of RPG products. The setting and mechanics make gender almost completely irrelevant.
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