The Feminist Barbarian

Making a game rooted in 30’s era pulp fantasy presents some tricky situations for the modern developer. Let’s be straight (or not, whatever) — I wholeheartedly agree with modern ideals of equality for all, regardless of race, religion, gender, or any other detail that makes us a little different from each other. This modern ideal though sometimes works at cross purposes with the source material. Barbarian themed fantasy if full of slave-girls, savages, and other very non-PC portrayals. How can we avoid being offensive to our player base without cutting the legs off our genre?

It’s a tough line to walk. In some cases we allowed ourselves to play into old stereotypes. Yes, the main character of our game is a powerful, brutal, white guy. There is some content in the game where you can go rescue a swooning captive woman being sacrificed to evil demonic gods. That said, two of the more powerful allies you can get to join your band are a tough female Aesir warrior and a deadly spell-packing sorceress. I can also promise you that neither of these characters will be wearing chain-mail bikinis or other skimpy unrealistic articles of clothing.

There are slaves in our game, though they are not of any specific race or culture. We made the conscious decision to not have any case where you end up buying or fighting a slave. You can free them or you can ignore them, but we shied away from everything else. The difficulty was that we do want the game to feel like an old school roleplaying game where you can “do anything”. That said, we still have to author all possible outcomes, and we were just not comfortable going down those roads.

I hope our players appreciate the game for what it is and enjoy the stories they create with it. I hope we can attract a wide and diverse player base who all enjoy pillaging the lands and declaring themselves king. What is best in life? Hopefully just crushing your enemies without the lamentations of anyone.

2 thoughts on “The Feminist Barbarian

  1. Another approach would be to randomize gender for both protagonist and persons to be rescued (or whatever). Red Sonya, princes to be rescued, slave boys in addition to slave girls, etc. I don’t know much about the mechanics or story of your game, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that the approach you took is wrong (I do enjoy the classic Conan stories), but random assignment of those aspects would handle the basic issue well, I think.

  2. The problem with random assignment is that it doubles the content requirement. We’d have to create twice as much character art, re-write the text with different pronouns (or come up with some clever system for dynamically constructing sentences), etc. It’s a good idea, but it really does create a huge quantity of work.

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