Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Women as PC and NPC

A Mongolian Woman, painting of Dashtseren GUNGAA
More than many other medieval cultures, the nomadic one can offer opportunities for interesting role play of a traditional woman, that is not only as a shamaness, an artist or a kind of tomboy. A recent blog entry about women on the Celestial Empire blog reminded me that I wanted to write a bit more about this topic in order to encourage women as PCs -and hopefully as player as well.

First statement: Nomad women are no Barbie girls, they can be as terrible as she-wolves.

Second statement: Nomad women have much more freedom, at least of expression, than many of their sisters from other medieval settled civilizations.

Some tasks are of course traditionally reserved to them, like cattle milking or raising babies, as others are reserved to men. But women must take care of the camp when men are away: they command the servants and the slaves and have to be able to protect the cattle and the children from all the dangers of the Steppes, including predators like wolves. They are helped in this task by dogs, which obey to them. They are skilled at survival. Women need therefore not only various skills, but also a strong willpower, both things which make women PCs interesting to play. In the domains they are assigned to, they are the rulers, but outside of this, they must not stay shy and self-effacing.

Women are supposed to obey to their husbands but do not owe total submissiveness like in China or in Muslim kingdoms, and this even after their conversion to more “male chauvinist” religions (it is also true that these conversions have been very superficial). They can shock foreigners from male-dominated countries like China, Muslim kingdoms or medieval European countries. Women are neither prudish, nor shy, and men have no problem with it. Love marriages are not impossible. Women give their opinions: as Jean-Paul Roux said, the father gives orders, the mother pieces of advice. If required, women grab weapons without hesitation to fight enemies, would they be predators or foreigners: they learned bow during their childhood as their male counterparts. Women have therefore the same basic skill levels as men, including tribal weapons and ride.

Therefore even a “standard” traditional woman PC allows her player to be involved in decisions and actions, however in a more subtle way than for rude warriors. Of course, in a history-flavoured game, the GM may want to find a reason for such a woman to go adventuring, which is easier in a campaign game. In our test play, one of the PC is the daughter of a Bek trying to help her brother being chosen as successor against the odds: for this, she accompanies male PCS through a quest, one of them being her fiancĂ©. Should they succeed in the quest, she will marry a hero and be the sister of the future ranking Bek. As the highest in status in the group, she is very active and respected.

I propose the following skills for women:

Khatun (Mong.)/Begum (Turk.)
A Mongolian Queen, Dashtseren GUNGAA
A Khatun is a noble woman, born in a noble family and probably the first spouse of a Bek/Noyan.

Primary skills: Etiquette, Insight, Knowledge [genealogy], Persuade, Status
Secondary skills: Allegiance [Tengriism], Craft [Breed Dogs], Craft [herding], Craft [Household], Knowledge [Natural History], Perform [sing/poem/dance], Listen, Survival [Region]

Cattle breeder
credits: ??
This is the usual nomad woman. She takes care of the ail as explained above. She can be accompanied by one or two dogs.

Primary skills: Craft [Breed Dogs], Craft [herding], Craft [Household], Listen, Survival [Region]
Secondary skills: Allegiance [Ancestors], Appraise, First Aid, Insight, Knowledge [Natural History], Perform [sing/poem/dance], Persuade, Sense

New Skills:

Craft [Household] 15%: this is the art of managing a household, planning provisions, shelter, resources and all what is needed to live in good conditions. It can also help to know what is edible and is used to prepare supplies. A group preparing a travel or a migration may be in trouble if the supplies have been badly planed.

Craft [Breed Dogs] 15%. Except for the hunt, dogs are working mainly with women, helping them to protect cattle. Unlike in many other cultures, there is no contempt for dogs which are respected as indispensable auxiliaries to the life in the steppe. This craft includes the training and commanding of dogs. A woman may have one or two big dogs accompanying her, which provides some “muscle” to the PC.

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