Friday, January 14, 2011

Women, D&D, and Miniatures

I always loved D&D growing up, but the biggest problem was that girls were not into D&D. There are tons of reasons why they are not, as well as why they should be. I won't go into many of the "whys," as frankly some of them over-generalize, particularly that females are more interested in character and story, something RPGs supply and video games do not; though it is fairly valid. Stereotypes don't just fall out of the sky. The biggest "why not," I think, is the inherent misogyny of fantasy. Many role playing games, including D&D have tried to curb this; the succubus is no longer drawn straight from the pages of Juggs, and they have foregone the 1st Edition rules about ability score differences based on gender.

There are still some problems here, but it is not always the RPG maker's fault, but often the miniature companies. There is a fine line to walk with miniatures. I have played D&D with numerous women, and I find that the miniatures is in fact very important. I can't tell you how many miniatures I have bought for my wife's characters that she hates, or how many we go through when she has a new character.

It has been said that men have synonyms, but women have shades of meaning. One place the light and shadow are best defined is the difference between sexy and whorish. Below is a miniature I did for my wife's Eladrin Fighter (they were still grey elves back then). This is one of the few that she approves of.

Despite the chainmail bikini, this looks like a woman you underestimate at your own peril. Her liking of the miniature might be more due to the amount of work I did to customize it. It originally had a sort of sabre and buckler, but Bryn Willowfeather used a bastard sword, which was a frost brand, and no shield. She had had the character for a while, and I am not sure what we used previously. Her minis are the only ones I would to take instructions on. Typically I would paint them how I wanted, but Brynn had to have silvery hair (a grey elf trait) yet be tan (not a grey elf trait). It did not really matter that the miniature was actually a human; she looked right, in general.

Miniature companies do seem to still have a problem here. Their females are often so realistic that they are sexless, or else wearing a thong with their tits out. Finding a mix is difficult. One company which Tim of The Other Side reminded me of is Darksword Miniatures. They seem to do a fair job of riding the line. Here are two examples:

This is the Female Warrior with Long Sword and Shield. Bare midriff (not the best place to leave unarmored, admittedly) and crotch (again, a weakness armor-wise) is one of the better examples, I think. She looks tough and serious, sexy without being whorish.

This Amazon still has a bit of a stripper quality to her, but at least she is wearing a top. BTW, totally not trying to 'dis my dancer/stripper friends out there. Everybody has a dress code at their job.

Of course, you can never escape the cheesecake.

Obviously the last two are for male buyers. Despite having few real gaming applications, they will be purchased, and perhaps used. They problem is, are they the reason there are no women sitting at your D&D game? Female players, do these offend, or are they just silly? Nudity is one thing (as perhaps with the summoner above), but the last Amazon has a "hey, big boy" look to her that is far more sophomoric. Guys, would you let this on your table? Gals, would it give you a bad feeling for the game or just the gaming group?


Lyndsay said...

I'm a woman who plays D&D. I find the sexy miniatures to be bull. They make me feel excluded at the table, or they give the group the impression that a female character with a 'sexy' mini is sexy all the time. It can really take away from a female character, even if she's played by a man.

I was miniature shopping last night, and found some female pirates who were pretty great: ... so it isn't like we can't find female minis who have armour over their squishy abdomens.

While the minis themselves don't necessarily offend, if every female mini on the table is suggestive/sexy it sends a message as to how I might be treated by the players at the table. Whether this judgment is fair on unfair I can never be sure until I meet the people playing, but I look for these clues before introducing myself because I've been treated very poorly by some of my fellow D&D gamers.

The miniatures are just part of the attitudes about women in the D&D community that can be used to make us feel excluded.

The Vicar of VHS said...

When I was a player (D&D, not Lothario, obviously ;) ), we never even used the miniatures--our only accessories were our own velour dice bags and stacks and stacks of graph paper. Therefore, I can only assume the problems I, my fellow campaigners, and my DM had with women were due to some other factor, the nature of which still eludes me. ;)

We did have a girl sit in one time (saying "girl" not as a diminishing term, but b/c we were all 13-14 years old) because she was interested in seeing what D&D was like--drawn I think by a lot of the Satanic Panic centered around it. As I recall, the game had nothing like its usual flow, mainly because we awkward nerdy guys altered our behavior/gaming style in imagined deference to the lady present, and admittedly in hopes of impressing her. It didn't work--she never came back. :P

If you were waiting for there to be a point to the story...sorry. :P

Darius Whiteplume said...

Reaper does some great stuff too. The miniature I did for the wife is a Reaper. They do make a lot that look like men-styled bodies with female heads, though. One of my favorites they don't seem to make any more, but it was a very action-y pose with full chain shirt AND pants :-) I'll have to dig it out, even though my paint job sucked, IIRC.

Perhaps the suggestiveness is the bit I danced around. I have seen plenty of pictures of Red Sonja where, despite the chain mail bikini, she looks like a killer; yet others where she is straight out of a men's magazine. Same costume, different attitude.

The wife thinks some of my minis are just silly, and some offensive. I don't game with them, but did get on a jag where I preferred painting skin. She said, "why are there no naked men miniatures?" When I offered to convert one she said, "why would I want that?" :-D

Miniatures aside, I prefer playing with women. Most of the female players I have played with have a better team spirit, and often role play better. They are less likely you behave out of character for some small reward than men. Last session we came across some dragon-spawn type creatures, aberants created by a wizard. The last one knew they had lost and ran. The one other male player wanted to hunt it down to not miss out on XP. The rest of us wanted to let it go, as it was no longer a threat. The XP was not worth the personality trade-off. Granted, the other male player's character wants to kill everything, but that is indicative of his personality too.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Vic - When I was younger we never used minis, but once third edition came out they were pretty essential for combat.

For a short while we went with our regular DM to a game shop for D&D Encounters. The place was full of 15 year old boys, and a smattering of girls. They mostly were playing Magic the Gathering and Yugio. I did not notice so much until the wife pointed it out to me, but it is true that a room full of post-pubescent boys who have yet to discover the wonders of the grooming section have a... smell. Something like onions and desperation. I hope I did not smell that way, but I am positive I did. :-D

Lyndsay said...

My swashbuckler turned is in to the city guard for what we thought was a clean hired job but turned out to be a dirty hit. My counterparts all wanted to run away.

One difference I've also seen is now that I wear a wedding band, I have an easier time just playing and not putting up with dude posturing to impress the Girl Playing Dungeons and Dragons!!!!
Even when my husband (then boyfriend) was at the table, I had to put up with it. Now that I'm boring and married I'm good...

Maybe I'll paint a wedding band on my character Perrin. Even if he's single. This is the mini I chose for Perrin:

Also reaper DOES have a male mini who isn't wearing pants. Just a codpiece. It's... um... well it's a codpiece I guess

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Lyndsay - I always loved Garrity's stuff. She's been around long enough to still provide an old school feel.

When we first moved to Fayetteville we did not really know anyone, and wound up trying a Living Greyhawk game in Raleigh. Oh, it was so bad. The wife was the only one in the place, and it was like Penny walking into the comic book shop (Big Bang Theory). A lot of young guys, but a few older ones that seemed to only interact with pre-drivers license gamers. One guy was calling my wife out on a rule. She's no rules lawyer, but you can't get much past her. She laid it down for him, and I am surprised she didn't end with a "suck it!" :-) She's not aggressive, but will suffer no fools ;-)

dr.morbius said...

I haven't played an RPG in forever, but I still paint minis. My favorite female mini du jour is this one from Reaper, though I do also like GW's Sisters of Battle. None of these commits the fallacy of the chain mail bikini.

By the way, I've painted that mini you made for your wife, though I painted it unconverted. You can see it here.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Awesome stuff, Dr. M. I am humbled by your work.

Nathan said...

I've never totally gotten the connection between fantasy and misogyny, since most of the fantasy I read ISN'T like that. With D&D and probably some pulp fantasy as well, I guess it's because of the emphasis on fighting, which is usually thought of as a man's game. Hence, female characters are either unusually tough or play the roles of healers and the like, when they're not simply love interests.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I may throw misogyny around instead of using sexism, which is more often the proper case; I don't think Red Sonja is misogynous, there there is definitely a sexist argument. Not saying it is always valid, but an argument none the less.

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