More of This Please

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 30 January 2012

With the announcement of D&D Next, I hope to talk about issues of inclusivity and how a game can foster a more friendly environment for non-traditional fans. Over the past two weeks or so, I've been using Pinterest to collect images that are closer to the style and content that I really enjoy. I've also been trying to be more conscious of the media I consume, looking for things that really appeal to them and thinking about why. I hope to do more of these posts in the future but for now, here are a few that stood out to me.

Knight Exemplar

Knight Exemplar from Magic: The GatheringKnight Exemplar from Magic: The Gathering

What I love:

  • She's part of the army. The card just reads Knight Exemplar. I have no reason to believe that there aren't more female knight exemplars.
  • While her breastplate is given extra room for her anatomy, it doesn't emphasize her breasts. They are just a part of her, not objects to look at.
  • She's looking at the camera. While she has an aura of confidence otherwise, she's riding with her back straight and shoulders back and is properly equipped, looking into the camera contributes to this feeling of self-assuredness.

Arctic Druid

Arctic Druid by Gary Gill (via Deviant Art)Arctic Druid by Gary Gill (via Deviant Art)
What I love:

  • Somehow she has been able to get a polar bear, a wolf, and a snow owl all to follow her and not go after each other.
  • She's wearing something other than Western European clothing. It makes me wonder more about what her culture and her life are like.
  • It's a scene out of her life. She and her animal friends are going ice fishing so they can fill their stomachs.

Elven Archer

Elf Archer by Michael Ivan.Elf Archer by Michael Ivan.

  • An action shot where a woman character is going up against multiple foes. What isn't there to love?
  • It's hard to tell for sure, but it looks like she is protecting a fallen ally. I love when women are shown as martial protectors, not just the people who need to be rescued.
  • She's determined. I don't think she'll give up without a fight.

The Conscripted Girl Soldier

I love the TV show, Once Upon A Time, for a number of reasons. One of the big ones is that it often passes the Bechdel Test by having two or more women on screen without talking about men or a man. What I love even more is that it doesn't do so at the exclusion of the romantic element.

One scene that got me really excited happened in the episode "Desperate Souls." The episode centers on Rumplestilskin's origin story, the lengths he went to to save his son for being conscripted into the army at the tender age of 14 and how they changed him. It opens with the duke's people conscripting another child into service. However, instead of a boy, they take a girl. Not only that, there's no discussion about whether or not a girl would make a good soldier. The default is gender equality and the focus is on their young age.

I like the artwork, aside from the part where Michael Ivan doesn't know how bows work. Arrow's on the wrong side, given her handedness.

I will admit that I like cheesecake art, but if every piece of art of a female in an RPG was like the three examples you posted here, I would have absolutely NO problem with it. They are far more evocative than the woman walking around in the arctic wearing a little bikini and looking like she's not cold (that's some enchantment!).

Huzzah for realistic clothing/armor in RPG/fantasy art!

I think this is fabulous, and wish I knew the Twitter handle for WotC's art director so I could point his attention here. I'll be encouraging people to make similar posts.

Thanks! His twitter handle is @artorder.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. One of the main things that had my parent's hating RPGs when I was a teenager (almost 20 years ago), was the art of the female characters. If the art was more like what you posted I think we could increase acceptance of RPGs with everyone.

I don't know if you know about this site, but it has some very cool pictures.

And with a name like Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor, I believe you are going to like it.

Oddly enough, I noticed that very thing about the Once Upon a Time episode. It struck me very unusual at the time. But it was nice that it was never revisited, as it was just normal for them.

I like the first image, but not so much the second and third. Purely for artistic reasons, though, not for the content. I think the idea of more inclusive artwork is a good thing, but I can't say that previous artwork was incredibly exclusive, really. I do think TSR and perhaps WOTC with 3.0 & 3.5 may have been catering more to the target male audience at the time, but more recently, most D&D related artwork seems to be pretty fair about sexual equality.

I understand that you think the artwork is pretty fair about sexual equality, but obviously not everyone agrees. Please try to keep an open mind about that.

Equality does not mean showing the same number of men and women. Rather, it has everything to do with how they're depicted. Marketing may have determined that gamebooks sell better with scantily-clad women, but it perpetuates a culture of objectification.

I always liked the art of Laurana from Dragonlance.

Solid character with a good arc, lots of growth.

Of course, Dragonlance had it's fair share of cheesecake. One character(Tika) was added to the story because the artists wanted "a babe" to draw.

Great resource Tracy. Thank you for sharing. It's always possible to find useful female images if you search hard enough through the dross but it's good to find another resource that groups lots in one place. Especially if I'm running low on time preparing for a game and need a female image that isn't doing impossible things with her back. Good to see awesome taste displayed in the art showing males too.

In reply to Jester David I feel I have to come to Tika's defence. She may have been added for dubious reasons but I never felt of her as a babe and certainly didn't go mad at the depictions of her in the art of the time (and I was only just in my teens when I first read the DL Chronicles). I thought of her as being a pretty good member of the team. She wasn't a skilled fighter but those guys weren't the model of a balanced party (the modules depicted them as being of widely varying levels in 2nd Ed) and while she felt that she wasn't contributing enough I though she did. I must admit that, as a boy, I identified with her as the one who was swept up in the circumstances and forced into a life that she never wanted amongst all the seasoned campaigners but managed to pull her own and find her place in the madness.

I was never particularly a fan of Laurana. I felt that, while she did have most of the character development of the female characters, she ended up still a bit of a spoiled brat. But you've got to respect the fact she commanded the, male only, Knights of Solamnia to victory pretty well. I think she probably just annoyed me so much at the beginning that I never got over it.

I always thought that the Chronicles were largely about the females in the group, with Kitiara brining darkness to the world, Laurana fighting it back, Goldmoon bringing back the old gods and Tika keeping it all together. However my view might have been skewed because I thought that both the authors were female for the longest time *shamed cringe*

Sorry, getting back on topic I love the pinboard Tracy and hope to see it influence the pages of #dndnext.

First off, I agree with the points about the art. The pictures shown above do a good job of conveying a scene without objectifying the women depicted. I remember having some issues of Dragon taken away from me in junior high because the teacher thought they were porn.

I have found that one of my biggest mistakes, as a DM, has been in the way that I incorporate women into my game as characters. About two years ago I following an online discussion that talked about inclusiveness in gaming. Some of the things that were said really opened my eyes. I took a really hard look at the content in my own campaigns and found some things that I was not comfortable with under closer scrutiny.

1. Women in my game were either victims that needed saving or characters in supporting roles. Even women in authority were always handicapped in some way. For instance, the queen in my game was only had influence because the king had been kidnapped. In fact, she wanted the characters to rescue her husband so she would not have to deal with the stress of running a kingdom. The high priestess of the church was secretly in love with a noble and was always running around fawning over him rather than leading the church.

2. My NPC descriptions were biased in that I rarely described a male characters physical appearance in great detail, instead focusing on personality traits. With female characters, I focused almost entirely on physical traits. The only time I really went into a woman's personality was if she would be considered "unattractive".

When I really took a look at these things, they were not what I wanted in my game. Since I noticed these traits in my game, I have made an effort to change the way I design the characters that appear in my games. Having an some women in my gaming groups has also helped me to be more inclusive. It has also helped me notice other ways that women are treated differently at the table, although that is a topic all on its own.

Once again, thanks for trying to make our little hobby a little more well rounded and keep up the good work.

Agree Agree Agree!

The picture of the Knight Exemplar is downright awesome. Inspiring even. The Elven Archer literally makes me want to play one. Don't get me wrong, I like sex as much as the next guy, but I don't need to try to find it in my D&D artwork. I want artwork that evokes a sense of wonder, curiosity and adventure, not sexual conquest or deviance.

As the father of a seven year-old daughter who loves adventure stories, I couldn't agree more that game designers and art directors need these sorts of examples plopped in front of them, to demonstrate that evocative and inclusive are not mutually exclusive.

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