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RPG human gender differences

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I'm designing an RPG and am trying to figure out a way to balance differences in stats and other aspects between genders. For instance, males are stronger, so what should females realistically get more of in balance? I'll leave the question open to whatever ideas, not specifically in the context of my current game design. [Edited by - JasRonq on October 3, 2007 9:24:00 AM]

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If they're good looking I would say charisma. I know I'd do more for a female than a male any day. If you've got something like a luck factor you could increase that and chalk it up to "woman's intuition". Maybe they are bargain shoppers and get discounts when buying things from the local market.

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Trading off strength and charisma is traditional, and more or less realistic.

But that's not a significant improvement over making the difference purely cosmetic. The more interesting RPGs will change dialog options, quest opportunities, etc. based on gender. Playing a female in Vampire: Bloodlines was particularly advantageous, due to more opportunities to use the seduction skill to manipulate people in dialog, and some, uh, more explicit opportunities.

You could also have, say, a religious order that you could join only as a female. I wouldn't be concerned too much about tit-for-tat balancing of these kinds of things, but rather using them to make your game world a little more engaging.

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I've met a ton of males that were pathetic enough in the strength category to know gender isn't an automatic determination of stats. It might be okay to lean randomized male strength slightly higher than females, but it should be insignificant enough to allow some random females to be stronger than some males.

I would do the same with the female attribute. Many females have better agility and flexibility/mobility than males. Not always, but probably on average.

In the end, the difference will probably be so miniscule that it's barely noticable. I didn't even bother to differentiate between genders for abilities in my own project. But mine is set in the future. I can imagine that a caveman game may want to employ more dramatic differences. As you go into the future, the difference between genders becomes less significant. Mainly because of the transition males seem to be going through, becoming more feminine.

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Even in a caveman style setting, its more lack of conditioning due to difference in general role in society than a physical difference.

The thing to remember with an RPG, especially a traditional fantasy style RPG where the player is cast as an "adventurer", is that the player characters are generally intended to be unusual, and usually above average.

While there are differences in the general development of the potential strength of males and females, there is a lot of overlap, where a strong female can out-muscle a weak male, etc. Except for cases where youre talking about either a perfect specimen of strength, or a decidedly below average character, the chances of a female existing that has equal strength to any given male are pretty high.

Therefore, in a system like an RPG, where the idea is generally to let the player create the character that suits their own design, it seems rather counter-productive to abitrarily limit what you can create on the basis of "its not quite as likely".


Id agree with drakostar... I think its much more meaningful to change the options available to characters in terms of interaction, than to limit the physical aspects of the characters.

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Most games give females better abilities with magic, and/or makes them more agile to balance with males being stronger.

For my RPG though, I wanted to make things a little different. It is generally agreed upon that women endure pain better than men, so I thought I would make women more defensive and men more offensive. As a result, men would have higher strength, accuracy, and magic power, while women would have better evasion, magic resistances, and hit points. I like this approach because not only it balances pretty well, but it seems to matches the general personalities of both genders. (Obviously, I'm generalizing BIG TIME in that last sentence!)

Another point of balance could be equipment. Squaresoft used to have a big habit of making feminine equipment (dresses, skirts, barrettes, ribbons, perfumes, etc) hugely overpowered. In FF:Tactics, that alone sufficed to make Agrias just as good as Orlandu even though the latter had a FAR, FAR better class. I don't suggest you go this far in buffing female equipment, but it could serve as a balancing point if you don't know how to compensate for the guys' higher strength.

Anyway, I think it's better to match the abilities and proficiency of a character to its character class rather than gender. In my RPG, I balance my characters depending on what they are in a fight, not on aesthetics. For example, for a "warrior" character, I hate the overused stereotype of the big, ugly and stupid barbarian with a big axe and thin head who is incapable of anything besides being Her Majesty's first rank face smasher; in my RPG, for a change, I wanted the "warrior" character to be a beautiful (but tough!) lady. But I'm not going to take a single point off her gargantuan strength stat just because of her lack of testosterone: she needs those stats to work as a playable character, and that's all that matters for game design. So yeah, Class before gender. (or age, for that matter, as old people are even more stereotyped than girls in videogames.) If you want to systematically give your guys more strength, give them classes that will benefit from strength, and give the girls classes that don't.

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Quote:
Original post by Bearhugger
Most games give females better abilities with magic, and/or makes them more agile to balance with males being stronger.


Could you give a few examples? Im interested what genre that sort of trend is found in. I play quite a few rpgs, and havent noticed any that follow that trend... D&D based rpgs, and all the blizzard rpgs i can think of, for example, all make a point of having no gameplay differences between the sexes.

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I dislike the idea of differences in stats between genders. Mainly because I like my avatar to be male, but rarely go for the same class of character twice.
I don't want to have to put up with being wolf-whistled by builders just to be able to dodge a bit quicker. At the very least provide some in-game gender reassignment surgeons who could help people out.

A couple of other thoughts:
1)
I want to suggest again the idea of being born with a natural talent. Unique to the player, not a gender or species. So the player can districute a set number of points for various skills etc, but can also lump a large number of points on a chosen skill.

2)
There is never any reward for the all rounder, other than having moderate skill in each area. - I'll start another thread...

[Edited by - thelovegoose on October 1, 2007 9:02:52 AM]

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Quote:
Original post by aCynic2

BG series: Imoen is a thief/mage, Dynaheir, Viconia, Jaheira, Aerie, Branwell, Skie and Alora are thieves.
Compare that to: Jan, Edwin...Xan...
in ToB, in Watcher's Keep in the 2nd to last level, there is a red, green, purple, blue globe puzzle. When a mage is produced, it's a female. Most antogonist spell casters are male, btw.

NWN: Sharwyn was a bard, Linu, Nathyra is a wizard and assassin, The Valshares is a cleric, so too is the Seer, J'Nah, Heurodis.
NWN2: Qara, Elanee, Glina and Heatha...the female vampires are spell casters...Neeshka is a thief, I suspect Light of Heavens had a high dex because she was hard as hell to hit, Zhjaeve is a cleric.


For the BG1 part, how do you mean "compare that to"? Youve mentioned female mages and thieves, and then male mages, including an elven male mage (low constitution). So yes... I compare them, and in terms of their abilities, they have no penalties or bonuses from being male or female.

For NWN... again, none of them have any penalties of bonuses because they are female or male. Also - Linu was a cleric = high hit points class and moderate combat abilities. Compared to Tommy = high dex thief.
NWN2... Qara was a mage, yes, but compare that to her male elven counterpart wizard, Sand. And on the other side, theres Shandra Jerro who is a rough and ready fighter. And Light of Heaven is a heavily armoured paladin... being in heavy armour, her AC cant come from a high dex.

There are a few stereotypes in those games that show some specific characters fitting certain stereotypes. But there are also characters who counter those stereotypes, and none of the games give different stats for being male or female.
More importantly, none of those games ever give the player different stats for being male or female. They are all great examples of why stat differences between the sexes arent necessary.

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Do y'all think that in a game where the player is playing above average characters in terms of ability that gender differences should not show up in the case of physical attributes?

btw, in my design, the character creation process involves creating multipliers for the attributes which would be multiplied by the characters attribute throughout the game, as in a male might have a multiplier of X+.2 and females X-.2 X being whatever the player selects. then the attribute would be multiplied by that throughout the game, so there would be as much impact on the attribute at the start of the game as there would be when the attribute is maxed out. Point being, it is a system that allows for a sort of bonus while still allowing the opposite sex to have higher stats in that attribute, some females can still be stronger than males. Should such a system be entirely player controled or should gender based differences be incorporated into it?

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I strongly disagree with the concept of having stat differences for the genders. To say that men are physically stronger on average is one thing, but to nerf the ability of women to perform certain tasks no matter how they spec is irritating and unnecessary.

The player is not roleplaying your average jack or jill, but an exceptional person. So, for example, if I want to play a man whose beauty outshines Helen of Troy who can multitask better than anyone, and has little upper body strength but all the stamina in the world, and I roll a character in your game and find all or any of these things impossible because of your rigidly defined terms, I am going to feel that your game is limiting and somewhat stereotype-enforcing. (atypical examples were intentionally used in this post)

I'll tell you something: most female gamers I see who want their characters to fit female stereotypes will self-select for those stereotypes. I.e., they will roll mages, archers, healers, and other characters with low physical attributes. The female players who want a high strength score shouldn't be kept from that because your view of their roll in your setting is more limited than theirs.

And believe it or not, most women I know who game will not, the majority of the time, play characters that require a high strength score to begin with. Due to societal molding or whatever, they simply don't find that choice attractive.

However, you absolutely should not penalize the ones who do find that choice attractive.

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I've 'never' found that a gender based stat changes benefits a game. In theory it could, if you were trying to make the 'ideal' warrior, he would have to be male, but I don't think that gender should really have an impact at all, let alone something major. By major I mean that a person who would usually play a female warrior would play a male one because his stat boosts are significantly higher. Therefore, balancing of the stats shouldn't have to happen, and having a constant multiplier by a stat is also irrelevant. The constant multiplier ( male multiply strength by 1.2, women multiply it by 0.8) or similar seems a particularly bad idea except that if you were able to choose a trait that would grant women that extra boost that men get (a woman normally has a strength multiplier of 0.8, but choosing THIS trait grants her 1.2, while sacrificing whatever she had a bonus multiplier in). It'd make the balancing bit easier, possibly. I just think that if I want to play a male wizard, I shouldn't be strongly tempted to be female for extra magic strength (or anything else), and vice versa, for all class/gender combinations.

As with the D&D/Blizzard use that gender doesn't matter, D&D never (to my knowledge) made a distinction stat-wise on gender, but a few classes are exclusive. Since D&D made no distinction, Blizzard never made any distinction (for obvious reasons). Their use of making women more magic-based is purely not based on stats granted by gender, it's just design.

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Why are people using DND PC games as examples? DND doesn't have stat differences for the genders. Strength is up to personal lifestyle, not decided at gender.

And as for the characters in NWN.

Dorna thief / cleric
Linu Cleric
Sharwyn Bard / Fighter
Aribeth (who is a player character in Hordes of The Underdark) is a Paladin.

If you chose a weaker class, some of those characters could have been your tank.

There are many types of men who do not excel at strength, and many types of woman who have low charisma. Charisma isn't just looks, it's force of personality. If you mess with the stats like that, you are just making it harder for people to play certain types of characters, like a wild amazon woman, or something like Red Sonja, who held her own pretty well against Arnold in the movie. ;)

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this post is a wee bit on the long side, and sort of an expansion of the topic of equality in gaming, and deals not only with the concept of stat differentiation, but also the stereotypes created and enforced by this, so if you decide that this deviates a bit too much from the topic at hand, you're more than welcome to skip the rant. ^_-

I think the most important thing to recognise here is that realism is not always better, and if we're not going to give the women distinct social advantages that are coded as part of the game, why should we try to create a generic distinction between characters as far as statistics go?

On some level, game design is about choosing when realism is better than a more platonic outlook, and in terms of character equality, I find that creating an illusion of equality works better on many levels.

if I were female, I imagine I would be fairly annoyed if games gave women higher stats based on 'female intuition' and a certain feebleness nested in the whole 'damsel in distress' argument.

Personally, if I were a female playing serious games (and trust me they do exist, as well as women on the internet for that matter) I would despise the continuous weakness shown by female characters and enforcement of negative stereotypes. Because lets face it, in most video games, women are objects placed in the game to either be saved, or 'romantic' interest with breasts larger than their damned heads (which of course are filled with sawdust), and often times the latter as a result of the first.

most female gamers, due to the generally competitive and adrenaline pumping nature of games, are once behind the controller, or keyboard, just as bloodthirsty and badass as we like to think we are as we fight the hordes of undead, or bunnyhop our way to victory with a glock, and the presence of these weak, pathetic, hyper-sexualised women must drive them insane.

How many times have you wished you were able to kill a team-mate or group member in a single-player game for being a whiny little so and so? now imagine having this burning urge to destroy every character of your gender, and you will feel some of the frustration of female gamers, since most female characters have a tendency to be spandex clad, helpless sexpots, who in the presence of any one of the male characters has a tendency to start drooling and profess her eternal love of <insert character name here>

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firemonk3y > I can relate to some of your concerns. But like it or not, feminine sexuality is not a fictional male fantasy. Or at least it isn't where I live. Have you ever been to a north american shopping mall? Personally, I wish it would calm down a little. Some public areas are starting to look like barbie doll clone factories.

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Hmm... I was thinking of console-style RPGs (ie: FF) when I wrote my last post. In these games, characters are usually pre-made and girls happen to fit mage classes better while the guys make better fighters.

If it's like most Western-RPG where you can customize every little detail about your characters' look so that the player can be identified to their avatar, then make both genders equal. It's a little silly to provide the choice between a male and a female for a warrior if the male is superior in every way.

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I think there's also a slight amount of unfairness in making women weaker and compensating with Charisma, because the typical RPG's gameplay is 90% combat, while Charisma will come into play once in a while in a few dialgoue trees, where not having the charisma just means you get to fight the guy you're talking to.

I have a feeling that a lot of guys would suddenly change their mind and NOT want Strength vs Social stat differences if they were designing a game where there's no combat and it mostly involves winning debates. Or worse, they'd start talking about how men are more aggressive and dominant, and should get a bonus to debating while women could instead get a bonus to being polite.

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Original post by makeshiftwings
I think there's also a slight amount of unfairness in making women weaker and compensating with Charisma, because the typical RPG's gameplay is 90% combat,

There are quite a few games out there that promote dialog over combat. And even those that do not usually give "strength in dialog" a lot of weight. It usually means you get what you want a hell of a lot faster. In a few games, being excellent with dialog can mean zero combat.

I don't think balance is the problem. And I don't think real-world sexism or the gender of the human player is very related. The problem is that no one wants their character's potential to be restricted by their fictional gender.

Quote:
I have a feeling that a lot of guys would suddenly change their mind and NOT want Strength vs Social stat differences if they were designing a game where there's no combat and it mostly involves winning debates.

I think a lot of guys don't want it already. I seriously doubt the problems associated with gender differences in games have anything to do with our real world sex (ie, not just "guys"). I've role played both genders countless times, and I wouldn't want women to be inferior any more than a real female playing the game.

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kest, although feminine sexuality of course is a rather blatant thing in many places, I still believe, that behaviour as well as costume of female NPCs, especially in RPGs is ridiculous. Almost to the extent where finding a real female counter-part would be challenging, for while a few female individuals do exhibit similar qualities, the majority don't, and while many women do enjoy looking attractive (makes sense, almost everyone would like to think that they're attractive to some extent), there is a huge behavioral difference between many real women, and video game women, in that feebleness and reliance upon males is grossly exaggerated in video games. Most women, whether they truly are or not, just like us men, would like to believe that they are strong and independent individuals, which the majority of female video game characters really aren't, and that gender stereotyping in particular annoys me, and many female gamers, and more importantly potential gamers, as I myself know several girls who are not impartial to a game or two, but are generally put off due to the agonisingly feeble nature of female characters.

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Original post by firemonk3y
kest, although feminine sexuality of course is a rather blatant thing in many places, I still believe, that behaviour as well as costume of female NPCs, especially in RPGs is ridiculous.

Many would argue that the behavior and costumes of some females in real life are ridiculous as well. I'm not one of them, but plenty are out there. Personally, I believe most attractive females actually embrace their sexuality, and enjoy the distraction they cause to most of us males. In other words, they don't mind being fantasy sex objects. Just because we portray them as "sexy" doesn't mean we need to ignore their other qualities. There are plenty of heroines out there that are both beautiful/sexy as well as intelligent/strong. And although this conversation is interesting, this topic is proposing skill differences between NPCs, not behavior and costumes.

Quote:
there is a huge behavioral difference between many real women, and video game women, in that feebleness and reliance upon males is grossly exaggerated in video games. Most women, whether they truly are or not, just like us men, would like to believe that they are strong and independent individuals.

At the risk of sounding sexist, most of the women I know are less independent. Almost as if they were floating in the sea, unable to swim, and males/boyfriends/husbands were floating devices. I've even brought this analogy up a few times around women, and they almost always agree with it. Many women feel a deep emptiness when alone, and it's painful enough that they put up with neglect and abuse in order to avoid it long enough to grab onto someone else.

Not that this has anything at all to do with the weakness in the knees that you were describing for games. But to be honest, I haven't noticed that much of it in gaming. What female NPCs are you referring to that are willing to cling to the avatar so easily?

Quote:
as I myself know several girls who are not impartial to a game or two, but are generally put off due to the agonisingly feeble nature of female characters.

I'm put off by it as well. I'm more attracted to tech girls myself.

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well, the women in gaming I refer to primarily exist in single players RPGs, and also arcade shoot-em-ups as well.

Have you noticed that as you bust out your pound coins (or quarters, or whatever you happen to be wasting at the arcade) to go on a merciless killing spree against the undead, and because your friend is player one, you picked up the red gun, and you happen to be the female character in the duo, and you rampage through the game, and even if you double your friends score, the custscenes always portray the tightly clad avatar as weak, and constantly asking the dashing male character what they'll do in this hopeless situation, to which he responds in a masculine way that they must either take the path to the left or right, and that he'll protect her all the way.

as for RPGs, how many 'evil' women that work for the 'evil' general trying to take over the world, who initially seem to be strong characters, fall for the charm of the ever so charming protagonist, converting to his cause just to collapse in his manly arms, because she can't live without him. Oh, and on the opposite end of this, how many times havn't we seen the truly awe-inspiring female character, who has saved your rear more than a dozen times in fights, kidnapped by the antagonist, who holds her by her wrist as she feebly tries to squirm free, unable to break the iron grip of the antagonists manly arms, despite having been able to chop the heads off things three times his size.

and god bless tech girls ^_^

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Original post by firemonk3y
Have you noticed that as you bust out your pound coins (or quarters, or whatever you happen to be wasting at the arcade) to go on a merciless killing spree against the undead, and because your friend is player one, you picked up the red gun, and you happen to be the female character in the duo, and you rampage through the game, and even if you double your friends score, the custscenes always portray the tightly clad avatar as weak, and constantly asking the dashing male character what they'll do in this hopeless situation, to which he responds in a masculine way that they must either take the path to the left or right, and that he'll protect her all the way.

To be completely honest, no. I've never experienced that type of situation. Most of the player-character females I've seen are bad asses. I have seen plenty of non-player-character females that play the role of the distressed damsel. But other than in survival horror games, I've never seen a vulnerable female player character.

Quote:
as for RPGs, how many 'evil' women that work for the 'evil' general trying to take over the world, who initially seem to be strong characters, fall for the charm of the ever so charming protagonist, converting to his cause just to collapse in his manly arms, because she can't live without him. Oh, and on the opposite end of this, how many times havn't we seen the truly awe-inspiring female character, who has saved your rear more than a dozen times in fights, kidnapped by the antagonist, who holds her by her wrist as she feebly tries to squirm free, unable to break the iron grip of the antagonists manly arms, despite having been able to chop the heads off things three times his size.

I can agree with most of this.

Quote:
and god bless tech girls ^_^

And this.

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sorry for the slightly extended drift away from topic there, but my stance on the whole situation is that gender equality in terms of stats would be best way to approach it, unless stats are randomly generated, with a slight tendency toward lower strength, and perhaps higher charisma or stamina for females. Though the problem with rolled stats are that the player will simply reroll a character until they have nigh-on perfect stats, which defeats the purpose of rolling stats in the first place.

and again, as others stated above, it gives your game a lot more diversity if there is gender equality, as power players won't automatically make any warrior male, and any spellcaster female.

EDIT: sorry, first part was iteration, as I thought I hadn't successfully posted before

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