Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Women of Valley of Blue Snails

I've been meaning to talk briefly about gender in Valley of Blue Snails but never seem to get around to it. Gender stations of the historical medieval days were not very interesting, so I suppose that is why most Sword and Sorcery devolves into something completely not based upon reality. I am inclined to agree since half of all fantasy written in the past 150 years is motivated by getting laid one form or another. Gold, sure, sounds good. Power, yeah that cool too. Debauchery with the twenty nubile Elf maids of Anacor - yeah, screw gold and power, I'm there.

And so, I try to place women in as many different elements as possible since they are as fine of story elements and adventure seed as anything. Not to mention they can make PCs do things they would ordinary not even consider.

Off hand these are the primary themes of the core races:

Elf - Women are the primary forces of action within the Elven community. Males are lethargic and self interested. Women are brash, passionate and tend to act first and think later. I think of the men as a group a lazy gay dudes with a bunch of lusty straight women watching them 24/7. This is not the case I assure you, but its the sort of social tension I want to be present. So present, that it motivates almost everything the women do while the apathetic men barely take notice.

Halfling - On first glance Halfling women appear to be on equal terms with their male counterparts. However different communities take drastic swings towards one direction or the other. The Halfling maids of Gnaeun kill most males. Other communities enslave their females, or females of other races for one reason or another. Both extremes are considered odd to Halflings, but not truly aberrant as one may think. Slavery is another theme of of the Halflings although I am not sure how omnipresent this will be yet.

Dwarf - Dwarves I initially imagined as a hyper intelligent group with the appearance of squat Mongoleans. Their women have mostly been in the background, as most Dwarven women appear to be in D&D, but I really should include them more. I may make them the stern proctors, instructors and the like. Perhaps drill sergeant types and masochistic dominatrices. Also with your incredibly intelligent types mixed in, but socially awkward. Hot librarian types too (okay, well maybe not so hot).

Human - Two strands here, the nobles and the non-nobles. The non-nobles will be rife with drudgery, oppression and daily toil. Nobles will be more along the lines of your helpless females ignorant of peril and responsibility. A seldom few would tread outside of these themes, but those that do would quickly become folk lore.

Non-human women would run the full gambit. Water dryads would just as easily serve a savior for life in any way she could as she would be to lure a man to a watery grave. Most non-human women I would likewise make unpredictable, dangerous, and seldom what one expects. Surely they would be no less dangerous than their male counterparts, and in fact more so since they lull and seduce as part of their arsenal. Mythology is full of such creatures so there is no lack of source material here. In all respects they would be alien in their thought and mind with motives that no mortal would fathom.

Superstitions among the collective women of the world would revolve around fertility, family, nature and safety. Most of female-only traditions and rituals would revolve around one of those aspects. This is nearly universal and many such rituals and traditions pass between races and are recognizable between them. Bring a gift of a bowl of milk with stewed acorns to a group of Marggots and it would probably be more effective than carrying a white flag. I listed some of these superstions earlier. No doubt darker rituals of sacrifice and pain inflicted upon males is common, although rare. The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books are full of cold and vindictive women who do just that. Interesting stuff and I am sure to put it in some adventures when the need arises.


  1. I am assuming by these notes that you do not have (m)any female players in your campaign group. Otherwise, if you do, I would ask what if any input they had when you were devising this background.


  2. No women. I am not sure if any women anywhere play OD&D on their own motivation. Almost all are begrudging players who do so to humor their enthused mates.

    Anyhow, since the game is set for a single player who will be a hen-keeper in Iraq for 16 months, I think some unrealistic women may be a good route to go.