A Look At Gender in Dragons of Stormwreck Isle

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 06 August 2022

Warning: There will be some minor spoilers for the adventure, Stormwreck Isle, in this blog post.

I recently purchased the new Starter Set, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, from Target. I have a bit of a soft spot for starter sets and I was interested to see how things have changed from the first 5e starter set, Mines of Phandelver.

My son has been asking to start doing his own YouTube videos so I convinced him to do an unboxing of Dragons of Stormwreck Isle with me.

Over the past few years, I've really felt that the adventures have become more inclusive and intentional, at least when it comes to gender. I know at the beginning of 5e, I used to be keep count of how often named characters were mentioned and which pronouns were used in the text, and, well, I decided to check this adventure using that methodology.

Before we dive into the results, I'd like to define my approach. I only counted characters that were named. So I didn't capture references to a certain type of dragon, the harpy, or to a character's unnamed lover.

Additionally, I'm struggling a little on how to talk about pronouns versus gender. I did a quick search on myconids and saw them referred to as gender neutral and no pronouns were really used for them. I captured when she/her vs he/him were used. I didn't notice any uses of 'they' about named characters but I may have missed something. There are some characters where nothing more than a name is given and they are listed as unknown.

I also did not look at any of the information within the appendices.

I want to stress this is something I put together in about two hours, so it's not scientifically rigorous. :)

Frequency of Names Mentioned

First thing I'd like to look at is just how often characters' names appear in the adventure. Each time a character's name was mentioned, I put a little tick and added it up in the end to create the following chart.

Number of Mentions vs. Character Name - Dragons of Stormwreck IsleNumber of Mentions vs. Character Name - Dragons of Stormwreck Isle

The counts show two primary NPCs, Runara (she/her) and Sparkrender (he/him) with Tarak (he/him) and Aidron (he/him) as secondary NPCs. There is then a fairly large cast of additional characters with about 47 named NPCs in total.

What's interesting here, is that Sparkrender has more mentions than Runara and overall the mentions of male NPCs is a bit higher than those of female NPCs.

Number of Pages Where Names Are Mentioned

However, one of the things I noticed as I read through is that often the character needed to be named repeatedly on a page in order to reduce confusion. This is partly due to the NPCs being in spaces together where they can interact. So when we look at the number of pages that each character is mentioned on, it looks a bit different.

Number of Pages vs. Character Name - Dragons of Stormwreck IsleNumber of Pages vs. Character Name - Dragons of Stormwreck Isle

One character, Runara, is mentioned consistently throughout the adventure. Sparkrender and Aidron are still near the top of the list, but we see additional characters come through as well, ones that often didn't have their name repeated for clarity.

Overall Comparison by Pronouns

The next check is to see how many named characters are in each pronoun designation.

Numbers by Pronoun Designation - Dragons of Stormwreck IsleNumbers by Pronoun Designation - Dragons of Stormwreck Isle

Here number of characters using he/him (13) is a bit more the number of characters using she/her (10). We also have 16 characters, Myconids, whose group doesn't have genders and 8 characters where no pronouns were used and are marked as unknown.

While the number of overall mentions is much higher for characters with he/him pronouns, the number of pages is much closer (47 vs 45).

Comparison to Mines of Phandelver

Next, I wanted to compare this to what I saw in Mines of Phandelver.

Gender in Mines of Phandelver and Dragons of Stormwreck IsleGender in Mines of Phandelver and Dragons of Stormwreck Isle

Here we're just looking at the number of named characters grouped by gender/pronoun groups. In Mines, we had 27 named male characters, 9 female, and 7 unknown whereas in Dragons we have 13 male, 10 female, 8 unknown, and 16 with no gender. This definitely explains why I felt the adventure was more balanced when it came to gender.

Qualitative Remarks

The numbers are definitely exciting to me but there were a few more qualitative things I noticed in reading through the adventure.

One of the characters has a former lover mentioned. We don't get a name and gender pronouns are never used, giving space for the Dungeon Master to add a non-heterosexual relationship to the adventure. In fact, I only remember reading two defined relationships, one that is heterosexual and this one. I'm a bit torn overall on this one, but it seems clear that the ambiguity was intentionally there.

The myconids and the lack of gender pronouns in that section was very interesting. I knew before reading this adventure that they had gone that direction but it was interesting to see it here.

I loved that detail given that Tarak (male) is the botanist and the best cook of the lot and that Varnoth (female) is a retired soldier who is well-known.

I'm sure I could go into more, but I don't want to give away too many spoilers. I hope to write up my thoughts on the adventure itself in a separate post.

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