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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

DMing a Female NPC

Main Character "Girl" from a comic book project and story
of mine.  Drawn by the incredible
Amanda Wells.
Heroine:  a woman of distinguished character or ability admired for her brave deeds and noble qualities.  The principle female character in a story, play or film.

This blog article is not about the inequality of portraying female characters in art in RPGs with big boobs and bare midriffs.  Personally I think there is plenty of room for tasteful female characters in an RPG and female characters that look like Red Sonja.  I plead guilty to not being particularly PC in this regard.  Nor will a bunch of angry argument change me in this.

However, you don't have to sit down at to many RPG tables to understand that a fair number of male Dungeon Masters out there find it a challenge or uncomfortable to roleplay a female NPC.

To often a DM (and I hope its obvious that I'm speaking of male DM's here and not females) will slip into unfortunate female character or villain stereotypes if they even attempt to roleplay a female character at all, every single time.  DM's this can get predictable and old.

Female NPC's (non-player characters) are out there in the campaign world.  They are not and should not only be portrayed as barmaids, harlots, the female thief with a heart of gold or potential love interests for the male player characters.  Of course these other types of female extra on the set of your unfolding story do sometimes make an appearance.  I find no problem with that whatsoever.  Yet there should be a wider range of female NPC represented in the campaign.  Women can be members of the city militia.  They can be shop keepers.  When was the last time that you wrote up a female blacksmith for the local town?  What about a dangerous and competent female arch villain?  What about a female hireling with no amount of love interest in any of the player characters whatsoever and not because she's a lesbian.

Personally I very much enjoy female characters.  I enjoy writing for them.  I enjoy their independent and heroic aspect.  This is not to say that suddenly there needs to be some politically correct increase in female NPC characters.  Screw that politically correct garbage when it comes to writing your own fantasy campaign.  This is fantasy remember?  Still.  Guy DM's I am telling you that your ongoing campaign will improve and become more interesting if you can get a handle on roleplaying a female NPC character in a competent and interesting fashion.

I offer this as only an observation and DM advice for one of several ways that a DM can polish up their campaign, perhaps make it more fresh and interesting for the players involved in it.

Female Elven Manslayer
by Mr. Johnny Ledford
Take the female character to the right.  This character was raised in a world where every surviving elf is either a slave or an escaped slave, bound magically into service from human master to human master.  Her long life has led her to become a piece of property which is inherited.  She is like grandfather's antique clock and listed in the roles of property passed down within a wealthy estate however she is grandfather's personal bodyguard and killer and likely from time to time his traveling companion and servant, but never friend.

By now five generations of human have lived and died and this character has no end in sight for her enslavement.  She takes an almost Joker-esque glee when an opportunity is presented to her where she is ordered to dispatch a human being.  Now to another elf she might be kind, even good to a certain degree but when it comes to her human masters her long decades of hatred have turned her into something twisted, evil and utterly vile of heart.

Take this Kingdom of Carolan cavalry officer.  She is a dragon rider in a world where much of the landscape is airborne.  Her mount, while the size of a small house and able to breathe a sap like burning poison, is not the intelligent spellcasting dragon of your standard AD&D monster book.  Dragons in this setting have about an equivalent intelligence to a dog.  They can be loyal, devoted and trained to perform certain vital tasks.  They also have the personality of a camel.  They can be bellowing, crude, hungry, obnoxious brutes much of the time and so this dragon rider must be just as easily capable of comforting her beast as she is to deliver her best closed fist blow (don't worry she can't possibly do any real damage like this) to get the thing to behave.

She comes from a lesser noble house.  One without significant land holdings or real wealth.  Much of her personal wealth is tied into her armor, weapons and her mount.  She follows a noble calling and series of oaths.

The worst possible thing that can happen to her is that she be put into a position where her family honor is called into question or damaged through some action or inaction of hers.

So there you have it.  A few examples.  I know there are many out there in scores of wonderful NPC books with far greater detail than what I have provided here.  Write and roleplay female NPC characters like you would any other character.  They should have strengths, flaws and goals like any other character you have decorating the landscape of your campaign.  Don't be afraid to introduce them and cast them in ways you maybe haven't thought of before.

Happy Gaming!!!

Ed Kann

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