Memories of Connor's Adventures

Orlando the Adventurer pulled a Scimitar from beneath his Robes and smiled...

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Character Development: Female characters and the hero's journey

Had a holy crap moment where I realized I knew stuff applicable to Female character Development posting a comment in a monsters and manuals blog post:

The problem isnt portraying women positively. Its portraying them accuratly. Most of my female cousins have been defined by their relationships with men. Moving from one unreliable guy and failed relationship to the next until they reach a maturity where they conclude 'screw men...time to fend for yourself'. Only then did they find they could 'go it alone'. The problem is they are wasting decades on the journey of discovery and not passing that to the next generation as anything but a 'learn it yourself' life lesson. Applying the hero's journey to women characters must ultimately deal with the shedding of their reliance on men as the 'giant penis' central to their universe.

Hope that is helpful in your own development of female characters.

Updated: Apparently it isnt.

The hero's journey is about shedding the current state of life in which you (male or female) are confined to a particular state. Not every individual ventures forth in search of change - some think the status quo to be fine thus never developing further. Of those who do, not everyone arrived at the same outcome.
Not every female PC/NPC rolls the wealthy merchant or Royal family as their weath and background. Most are going to begin at the bottom, dependant on or enslaved by Men, educational and/or economic limits. Shedding the status quo can mean ostracism by society (precisely why the evil sorceress is regarded as evil). If your female PC were subjected to public assault by the village priest and stoning by the mob for your character choices, is that PC going to risk change? Why risk change at all?


  1. Are you serious? So, do you also have a one paragraph go too description for all male characters? People are people. I have female characters, one of my all time favorites is a female. She doesn't fit this description at all. She has identified the problems that she sees with society, and has sought to correct them.

    Go back and reread Tolkien, it has amazing female characters that were true heroes, Eowyn dealt with a society that saw her as weak, and she overcame it. She wasn't a man hater, she had what it took to fight for what she believed in, regardless of who or what told her that she couldn't.

    Lady Galadriel was the most powerful character in that world, and she doesn't fit your description at all. I have many women play at my table, all of different ages and personalities, and not one of them play what you have described. Not one. Maybe you can tell me again what makes that statement so accurate?

  2. And apart from the fact that the examples I provided are of real humans and their 'evolution', Gladriel is detatched from mortal concerns of putting a roof over one's head and food on the table for the kids sufficiently to be considered 'Alien'.

  3. You own it, I'll give you credit for that. I still find it a bit on the sexist side, unintentional or not. I like having women at the table, they play differently than men do, when the guys at the table are ready to act, the women are still asking questions and taking the table to places that it normally would never go. As a DM, I find that women add a bit to the challenge of running a game. I can't tell you how many times I read something and they spotted a detail that could be used to their advantage that I never even realized was there, and I had prepped the game.

    Female DMs also offer great games, again, it is all in the details that they put into them, forcing you to really pay close attention to things else get your behind handed too you.

    I guess that I play primarily fantasy based AD&D, at our table we just let our characters develop as they will. None of the ladies that I have ever played with ever brought sexuality into it, they showed up for an action packed game, and creative problem solving as a form of escapism from everyday life, just like I always have.

  4. Playing with female players is different than playing a female character. Character Development:
    In the real world there have been women who use men as the chameleon uses camouflage. Just because women are also on the 'heroes journey' doesnt mean that they all reach the same destination.
    Women Players: yeah...thats harder to deal with. While you dont want to alienate any player, most players and dungeon masters begin as poorly educated children, not university educated psycologists. It means that at some point someone will bring their baggage to the table or otherwise do something that offends the crap out of someone intentionally or accidentally. Basically people are idiots. The only recommendation I can give is be polite to your fellow gamers and leave your baggage at the door.

  5. I stumbled across your blog only a few days ago, and this short quip on female character development was my introduction. As a female, a female player, and female DM, I have to say your advice on developing a female character is rather short sighted and misguided. I honestly can’t figure out if you’ve just had limited interactions in R/L with women outside of your family, or if you’re bitter from ill-treatment, or if you’re a chauvinist.

    Women are people, just like men are. Our personalities and what drives us is as varied as men are. Women are far from being one note characters, nor are we so dependent on men that we have to shed our reliance on them in order to make our way in the world, fantasy or not. To lump all women characters as such is not just shitty writing, but it’s shitty DM’ing.

    To give you R/L examples, I’ll use myself and my sister. We were never told that we couldn’t do something just because we were girls. From the time we were little we were taught how to take care of ourselves. We learned how to work on cars, home maintenance, to hunt, fish, basic welding, and all the things that are typically defined as “boy things”. I’ve never felt that I’ve had to rely on a man. I view men as my equal; not above me, not below me, but equal. There is no “giant penis central” in my universe. I am not a rare bird by any stretch of the imagination. I know lots of other women who are just as independent, and always have been. No decades wasted here. A few of these women play at my table, and are hella good at it.

    As for female character development, if one wants to portray a female accurately, then the player needs to take into account the region, culture, and family values of said character, and then determine if that character is going to follow her societal role in life. Some societies view men and women as equals and have very few defined gender roles. Men can be caregivers while women can provide. In other societies women are subservient to the men. For instance, a Great Britain noble Lady is going to be much different in play than a Norse Shieldmaiden; and she is going to be completely different to play than a Geisha. Era, culture, societal demands, ect. are what make for accurate (either good or bad) female character development, not a single paragraph based on a very small demographic.

    If this one small paragraph is how you advise folks to develop female characters, then what about males? Turnabout is fair play. Are men nothing more than meatheads with swinging appendages between their legs? Obviously they’re not, but if women are only one dimensional characters in your games, then why not the guys too? At my table, this would make for an incredibly boring role-playing session. Who would want to play the same boring character over and over again? All female characters would be either man haters or subservient, and all the male characters would be playing “who’s dick is bigger” at every game. BORING! I like more flavor in my games and in my role-playing than what you’re handing out. Sorry.

  6. How is the hero's journey which once stripped of the male-centric superstructure anything other than development of the individual's ability to stand alone without a continued reliance on the status quo they are leaving behind?

    Read it again. I point out that not every woman reaches the same destination. That affords you a broad array of possible outcomes. Not every woman takes the journey. Not all those who do reach the same developmental outcome.
    If that fact offends you I suggest you undertake a lifetime of experience before commenting further.

  7. Without really divulging my age, I'll just say I've been playing tabletop RPG's for about 35 years now. Believe me; I've got quite a bit of life experience under my belt, both good and bad. Not sure how much life experience you think I need to have in order to comment further, but those are my credentials and I think it’s enough. Now, to address the rest of your response.

    I must have hit a nerve with my response, because you did go back and add some additional information to your original post. In the original post, no mention is made of "not every woman reach[ing] the same destination...” In fact, your addendum hits pretty much the same points my response did; however, your original thought did not. So, I'm not sure what it is you're wanting me to read again-the first thing you posted, or the addendum that made more sense.

    What offended (and I'm not even sure that's the appropriate word choice; annoyed is probably more accurate) me in the first place, was the fact in your opening thought you talked about portraying women “accurately” versus “positively”, and then gave the example of your female cousins who apparently were never taught better or how to value themselves as more than what a man can give them. Basing female character development on such a microcosm is a great disservice to the characters themselves, and to the men and women who play them. It’s not an accurate portrayal of women. I take that back, is it accurate for some women? Sadly, yes it is, but it isn’t for ALL women, which is what your opening statement implied. I will give you credit that your addendum does somewhat fix that assessment, but again, it wasn’t until you were called out for your inaccuracies did you choose to redefine how to go about female character development. But, it is what it is, and it is your blog after all. You can write as much inaccurate B.S. that you want. You can use as many fifty cent words in a dime sentence as you want if that’s what makes you happy, just remember-There are lots of female players out there that read these blogs, and many of them are coming from the younger generation. Don’t count us out, and definitely don’t underestimate us. And if you’re going to write about what it takes to accurately portray a female, do some more research first. There is definitely more to us than meets the eye.

  8. Do more research? These are real women who have parted company with men because they were raised in a third world agrarian culture where they insist on handling the finances. A culture that will topple as women demand sperm banks. Have a chat with your girl friends and imagine you are chasing husband number three and the daughters you produced with the first two hate you for leaving their fathers. No research needed. Sure there is diversity in their choices and the outcome of those choices as there will be when you and your friends arrive at your own destinies. Will you be the mom who gave up on guys to pursue your own income and freedom to choose? Will you be the mom who needs a man the define your existance? Will you be the fourty year old child who never took a chance while your friends did?