Other Games Misogynists of the Stone Age - or WT actual F?

#1
Ok guys, I just need to check – this is almost two decades into the 21st Century, right? I haven’t accidentally fallen through a hole in time and ended up in some benighted, misogynist century or ended up in Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale? Because I appear to have purchased some RPGs from there. Specifically two RPGs about the ice age: Land of Ice and Stone (OGL from Wizards of the Coast/Mongoose) and Wurm (Nocturnal).

When I moaned a bit about Land of Ice and Stone on Roger Bell_West’s gaming forum https://discussion.tekeli.li/t/how-not-to-market-rpgs-to-women/67 I was only halfway through it. Well, now I’ve finished reading it and Wurm. And while each of the games have nice bits here and there, they are both just an epic, epic fail on appealing to women. (Or indeed in some places of appealing to decent human beings of any gender). Which is really bizarre because if you know anything about the prehistoric fiction genre, you know that a metric f**k tonne of it is aimed at women.

How do I know this? Well, I have 10 feet of shelf space dedicated to prehistoric fiction. I only have 7 feet of RPG shelves. And those 10 feet are only the fiction – the archaeology and anthropology books are taking up several feet of shelf space elsewhere, and the e-books don’t take up space at all. If you want a look at the range of titles here’s Library Thing’s list of books tagged ‘prehistoric fiction’: https://www.librarything.com/tag/prehistoric+fiction It runs to 147 pages.

In 1980 Clan of the Cave Bear was published and became a best seller. It triggered a deluge of prehistoric novels over the next two decades. But, with a few notable exceptions, long gone was the “Og kill! Og want wo-man!” of the pulps. Suddenly there were female protagonists and female coming of age stories all over the place. It might be slushy romance of a Romeo and Juliet in the Stone Age sort, or it might be complicated clan politics of a Game of Thrones in the Stone Age type, or it might be a Chosen One fulfilling their destiny in a Hunger Games or LOTR way. But what they all were was plastered in women with agency and interesting lives. I even have prehistoric fiction with male authors using a female pseudonym (e.g. Charlotte Prentiss is in fact 2 blokes).

So if I spot a Stone Age/Ice Age RPG which doesn’t look as if it is being played for laughs, I buy it. Hence I kickstartered Wurm (translation of a French RPG) and I bought Land of Ice & Stone (LoIS) as an impulse buy at a convention. Having now read them, I’m no longer interested in running them, just in case anyone ever assumes that me doing so means I approve of the following misogynism and sexual violence.

Okay, I’m going to start with the irritating stuff and build up to the horrific/dazzlingly inappropriate. So if you ever reach your squick factor, stop reading at that point because there will be worse to come.

First, Gathering in LoIS. Skip ahead if you’ve already read my complaint in Roger’s RPG forum (link above). LoIS thinks it is being all equal opportunities, but keeps slapping me down every time I might dare to have the expectation that playing a female character might be fun. For instance, here’s their description of the Gatherer skill:
Although the typical image of Stone Age people is of a hunting band heroically bringing down a mammoth, the vast majority of food is gathered, not hunted. Most gatherers of the Land of Ice and Stone are women, children, old men and the crippled or infirm. Skilled in the knowledge of plants and animals, they gather nuts, berries, small game, shellfish, and much, much more. (Page 13).
Sorry, but ‘skilled’ is damning with faint praise, because your underlying message is: women are incompetent and useless. You’ve just said Gathering is so easy it be done by feeble people, such as a 5 year old child, a frail elderly person or someone with a stinking cold. It is so simple it can be done by incompetent people, such as clueless kids, pensioners with dementia or people suffering from life affecting brain injuries. Also I dare you to climb a tree or cliff to collect bird’s eggs or to harvest honey, or even to dig up tubers with a digging stick if you are ‘crippled or infirm’. Yes, hunter-gatherer kids get sent to do gathering, but that doesn’t mean that all gathering tasks can be done by kids.

Meanwhile, there is no mention in the Crafter skill that it could be done by children, old men and the crippled or infirm. The Hunter skill only mentions men, and says hunters are “self-reliant and brave”. Apparently killing small game doesn’t count as hunting, because we wouldn’t want any implication that women are self-reliant and brave would we?

Nope the wimminz won’t have any time to be self-reliant and brave, because they’ll be too busy having babies. Reproduction must be a major thing in LoIS and Wurm games, because there are game mechanics for getting pregnant (Wurm) and for surviving the pregnancy (both LoIS & Wurm). So, um, why aren’t there these sections on pregnancy in games set in the faux-Middle Ages of fantasy RPGs? Or in steampunk or Victorian RPGs? Or in any bleeding RPG set prior to the invention of modern, reliable contraceptives? Basically why is this information about pregnancy even a thing in these games?

LoIS at least makes including character pregnancy and the risk of mother or child dying in the game optional. Which is just as well, because it’s fallen into that well known trap of lies, damned lies and games designers who don’t understand statistics. Pregnant women have to make three Resilience rolls or they will have some complication. Fumble and mum and child may die. However the probability of NOT having a complication is about 1% for an average woman and 17% for the rufty-tuftiest Neanderthal woman.

Wurm (p41) says every time a male PC shags a woman, he rolls 2d6. If he gets a double, she’s pregnant – and there’s a table to determine if it will be a boy, girl or twins. If he or the woman has the ‘Might of the Bison’ gift, then the roll is 3d6, a double again means conception. I think something has got lost in translation in this bit because it has “whether the character is a man or a woman” in italics and also says “he or she can’t avoid the pregnancy”. That kind of reads like men could become pregnant or lesbians can get each other pregnant, but I suspect it means “contraceptives fail and you are banned from having an abortion”.

Wurm’s maths means sex with a regular bloke has a smidgen under 17% percent chance of pregnancy on the first date. If the pair of you have sex once a day you are pretty much guaranteed to be pregnant in 4 weeks (0.6% chance of not being preggers). For Might of the Bison guy/gal that’s 44% on the first date and on the once a day regime you’ll have a bun in the oven in about a week. Then when you give birth, you take 6d6 damage (or 4d6 for mothers with certain gifts). A typical woman has 24 HP, and has to roll once a round to avoid passing out when she reaches 0 HP. Yes, swooning during childbirth is a regular thing in Wurm! She dies when she takes a total of 34 damage. So play a Neanderthal woman – they are immune to dying in childbirth, since they don’t die until they take 40 damage.

All this pregnancy and childbirth getting you down? Then don’t worry – cheer up with a ‘Humorous Scenario’ (p167) where transgender people are used for laughs (Wurm). LoIS is better on this point and has ‘Gender Change’ as a possible Background Event for character or NPC backstory, p24, with no overtones of poking fun at trans people.

Beware SPOILERS AHEAD for the Wurm scenario called Birdcave.

So the alleged ‘humour’ in the scenario is:

Because the man your sister was to have an arranged marriage to has changed gender. Oh the LOLs!
Because the shaman has failed to ‘exorcise’ the transgender NPC back to a man. Oh the LOLs!
Because your sister running away from the arranged marriage means intertribal war. Oh the LOLs!
Because the only solution to the problem is for your sister to become a man, and marry the man who is now a woman. Oh the LOLs!
Because the PCs will have to teach a weak and feeble woman how to be a manly man. Oh the LOLs!
Because the epilogue says your sister turns out to be a brilliant tribal leader and is now crushing other tribes under her heel. Those wimminz are not to be trusted with power. Oh the LOLs!

Next… there is no ‘mature players’ warning on the cover or back of either book. Which brings me to… Underage sex.

Wurm have done some research. They have the starting age for an adult character as 15 to 20 and say boys usually have their coming of age ritual at 14-15 years old but state on p19 “For women this age is more flexible, since it depends on their first menstrual cycle.” Yes, well done Wurm guys – age at menarche is very variable, but the average is 13 for girls with a modern urban lifestyle and nutritious western diet.

LoIS however head for creepy paedo territory with this:
Because of the meat-rich diet, children reach puberty very early, typically between 10 and 13. This means that they will normally be sexually active at the next Summer Festival. Games Masters and players may feel uncomfortable with this and may prefer to raise the maturity age to something more like modern-day levels.
Uncomfortable at the idea of people shagging 10 year olds? No shit, Sherlock. So why even bother including this in the game? Unless you want to corner the creepy paedo market? And where the hell did you get that 10 to 13 figure from? That’s not from modern hunter gatherers – they average about 15 years old at onset of puberty. Also, it’s not MEAT it’s FAT which is the main nutritional factor in reducing age at puberty.

Meanwhile, when we reach the scenario section, there’s a ceremony where the kids who are now hitting puberty (the 10 to 13 year olds) pull a token from a bag to find out which of the “handpicked and trained people of the opposite sex” will relieve them of their virginity. So they don’t get to choose who shags them. And they don’t get to say “But I’m gay!” And the ‘trained people’ smacks of a creepy paedo’s wet dream.

Next we skip lightly from underage sex to… Women as treasure. Wurm has a handy list of possible adventure types your characters can go on. Search for a magical object. Forge an alliance. Appease a spirit. And various others which are fine until we reach… Conducting a Pillage Attack (p137).

The only aim is to steal something from another tribe… [snipped bit about rolling on tables] but most often the aim will be to steal food or women. It’s up to you whether this attack is a simple display of force or necessary for survival (all the tribe’s women are dead, famine is taking a toll). Whatever the result, be wary of revenge. The surviving members of the targeted tribe may seek revenge, the Spirits of those who died in combat, or maybe even vengeful Spirits sent by a shaman as punishment.
So let’s unpack that a bit. The PCs should be wary of doing this because of ghosts or an angry shaman or because spear-wielding psychos just like them might turn up on their doorstep. Not because there is anything morally or ethically wrong with kidnapping women to rape and keep as sex slaves! Oh noes, that’s perfectly socially acceptable.

Not because the kidnapped women might hate their guts and bash their heads in with a rock at the first opportunity. Oh noes, treasure never does that – it just sits there and looks pretty.

Not because this whole plot assumes that no-one in the game is playing a female character. Oh noes, this is a game for manly men characters. Og want wo-man!

Not because there is a female player in the game. Oh noes, women would never want to play a game which has all those prehistoric novels with female protagonists. They’ll be at home reading articles in fashion magazines which explain why they’ve had sex seven times and aren’t pregnant yet…

Wurm sort of realises this kind of behaviour is not what heroes and heroines are made of in another scenario, where the PCs have an opportunity to rescue a kidnapped sex slave or “leave [her] to her misery”.

And finally we graduate from implied off-screen rape to actual rape as a throwaway plot element. This time it is LoIS which is dazzlingly inappropriate.

ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT.

There is a multipart scenario about all the clans gathering for a Summer Festival. One part features the youngest girl about to go through the coming of age ceremony being tricked into running off to see a young man she fancies (Romeo and Juliet shenanigans). The PCs have to work out where she’s gone, negotiate tribal politics and get her back in time for the ceremony. All the above is fine, and quite sweet in places, and the PCs can assure a happy ending helping the girl to save the life of her beloved. A slight veer into creepy territory again when the pair get married. (She’s ‘the youngest’ so I guess she is 10, and he ‘became a man last year’, so will be 11 to 14).

Then the next part of the scenario arrives. A half-Neanderthal arrives and the PCs can prevent him being attacked by racists and picked on by bullies and superstitious locals. The PCs can help him find acceptance with one of the less racist clans – so it looks like we’re on track for a happy ending again. But wait. Here comes the WTF moment:

When Ba’Tan is feeling better, he can stand and walk for a short distance but he has a pronounced limp. One night he gestures to Sa’Tal [the lovelorn Juliet girl from the earlier part of the scenario] and when she does not react, he drags her to him where he begins to couple with her. Do the adventurers try to stop him, or do they leave him alone? If they complain, he says: “She Hearth Woman, she do this.”
Complain? Complain??? Don’t you mean react with horror and outrage? Don’t you mean beat the living shit out of a guy who is raping a girl in public? The girl you obtained a happy ending for last session. I mean even if you are playing a nasty, brutish and short RPG or are showing off your literary credentials by pointing out this is a ‘homage’ to the scene where Broud rapes Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear, this act specifically violates the game setting’s taboo about having sex with hearth-sisters and hearth-mothers!

Is any of this mentioned? Nope. We cut to the next morning, where the PCs have to escort the rapist to see the tribal elders. A bunch of the girl’s relatives are ‘spoiling for a fight’. But when the scene with the elders occurs, those elders ask “how Ba’Tan has been and whether he has been any trouble”. WTF?

So the scenario assumes that no-one has done anything about the rapist the day before. News hasn’t spread like wildfire through the camp, because the elders don’t know about it. The girl, her new beloved husband and/or her mother have not been to see the elders. In fact there is no mention of how the girl reacts or feels at all. She becomes Miss Not Appearing in These Scenes. The elders decree:

This must be settled quickly, otherwise there will be trouble at Summer Camp. You will take Ba’Tan back to Black Elk clan today.
Riiiight. There’s already BEEN trouble you wanker of a scenario writer! A girl was raped FFS. But the main concern of your elders is to prevent a fuss. So there’s no actual punishment for rape. Ba’Tan is just quietly moved to another parish. Sorry, I mean clan.

Next they are about to depart and…

Ba’Tan points to Sa’Tal and asks: “Pretty woman coming too?”
Mataan {Romeo husband] and Sa’Tal look to the adventurers for their decision, because this is their trip.
Yup, it is not the girl’s choice if she wants to accompany her rapist on a trip to another clan’s lands. That’s the PCs choice.

So the PCs are off on the trip with the rapist, some blokes from the girl’s clan (including her newly-wed husband), and some blokes from the clan he’s being sent back to. Then we get this…

If Sa’Tal has come with them, then Ba’Tan wants to couple with her most nights; after a few nights the Black Elk hunters want to share her and scold Mataan if he disagrees.
It was at this point that I realised that the writer doesn’t think what happened to Sa’Tal is rape and is quite happy with the notion that women have no choice about who shags them. And the rapist’s fate when he reaches the new clan? “They hold a feast in celebration of Ba’Tan’s arrival”. f**k you Simon E. Phipp.

I guess if I want to run a Stone Age RPG I need to write my own or use to GURPS Ice Age. It was published in 1989 and has some anthropological notes in a sidebar called Diet and the Place of Women. It specifically states that for the bulk of the Palaeolithic “Women are not treated as slaves or second class citizens”, then adds their status MAY have declined in Cro-Magnon Europe – but it is up to the GM to decide this and “it will probably vary from tribe to tribe”. So…

Land of Ice and Stone or Wurm: Women are incompetent. Women are property. So best play a Man and just use women as scenery or props.
GURPS Ice Age: People are just, you know, people.
 
#2
Never heard of this "Best selling French Ice Age RPG" but just saw only 401 misogynists (probably just the English speakers) backed this game on Kickstarter. 7th Sea on the other fielded 11,500 backers for a feminist designed RPG of swashbuckling heroism.

kickstarter_wurm_rpg.jpg
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
#3
Wow. It's like these games come from the dodgy mysogynist edge of the hobby from the 80s. Teenage boys get confused, but some grow up with a real problem understanding that women are people.
It's such a shame since there is a rich canon of both fiction and anthropology to have fun with.
I mean we really don't quite understand how matriarchal the Neantherdals or Cro-Magnons were but it's a very probable prehistory.
Of course you can have mysogynists in your game if the table is cool, but I prefer them as the villains.
 
#5
I have to say that I suspect the authors of LoIS haven't ever tried foraging let alone watched someone like Bear Grylls. Quite apart from the sexist language, they missed a chance for some more dodgy stats - the % chance for the entire tribe to be poisoned by what's been found by the gatherers.
 

Newt

RunePriest
#6
The author of LoIS, Simon Phipp, got a permaban from me on ever reading or buying any of stuff again after his first RPG release,
Merrie England the Age of Eleanor which came out during the Mongoose RQ1 days. For a book that uses the name of one of the greatest historical figures of the Middle Ages it only details her in the major NPCs section, and there all it says is in effect "in an age where the kidnapping of brides was commonplace, Eleanor was kidnapped a lot". That's it. No mention of her power and influence, her famous marriages or famous offspring - or anything her fucking huge Wikipedia entry (which if even you were a lazy rpg writer of dubious quality you could have easily raided for content). There are multiple sins committed against RPG writing in the rest of the book (the entry for the Cornish in the cultures section sticks in my throat like a chicken bone: "Cornish men speak Cornish".) but that was the final nail in the coffin,
 
#7
That does all smack of the dark old days of the 80s. I remember lads at the games club I went to gleefully rolling dice for penis size, girth, load, breast size, nipple length, probability of virginity ... the list went on and on. I find it deeply saddening that we haven't totally moved on from this.
 

ltd

Initiate
#9
That does all smack of the dark old days of the 80s. I remember lads at the games club I went to gleefully rolling dice for penis size, girth, load, breast size, nipple length, probability of virginity ... the list went on and on.
That sounds like the ghastly FATAL rpg which was rightly castigated at the time it was published. I'd certainly agree it's a sad thing that are still some people who believe this is an acceptable way to carry on.
 
#10
Sadly, whilst I realise it is very like FATAL, this was many years before FATAL and in an area where the chances of anyone having anything exotic like that were few and far between. I was considered quite cosmopolitan with my copy of Oriental Adventures and Superworld...
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
#12
Mind you.. I had some misgivings with the marriage and offspring section of Pendragon. I mean, I know it needs to be there and be roughly accurate but does the game really become quite so focused on wedding and begetting?
 
#13
Well for Pendragon the important thing is having an heir (and a spare), so you need some way to make it a matter of importance to knights (and players). Not sure how you could do it any other way if you stick to Malory (but why not go with the Faerie Queene and/or the Order of the Hatchet). Mind you we had a PC who had all daughters (I think it was about 5), so they became knights.
 
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Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
#14
I roleplayed romance for the wife and heir in our Pendragon game, and in fact whilst it was quite front and centre, it did generate a lot of fun story.
 
#15
A whole arc of my first Pendragon Campaign came from a character elevated from a Squire of another player becoming part of a love triangle between their former Knight and his Lady. Player generated and ended tragically.
 

Guvnor

Administrator
Staff member
#16
yes, in fact the romance and wife getting of the Pendragon game we played was good fun, and quite civilised. but I could see how it might descend into a baby factory.. mind you, the whole line of succession is very important in Pendragon unlike most RPGS..
 
#17
In the Great Pendragon Campaign game we played years ago, Nigel gave us fae wives in session 2 or 3 as part of a bargain. It seemed really weak at the time but it was genius. Some couldn't come to terms with their wife and they were locked into a low-drama battle with them. I played the opposite and embraced mine and did the real strong Irish Knight family thing. When the Saxons callously killed my sons and I (obviously...) fumbled my Passion roll, I went berserk, killed every Saxon I could see and ran off into the forest.

Cut forward two or three sessions and I reappeared ... at the head of my extended Irish clan. We did cut scenes of me returning home, besting the clan champion and then rallying the families to arms to avenge my sons. I then marched into the Forest Sauvage, arrived at my father-in-law's castle and demanded he honour the blood of his grandchildren and rally his fae troops. That in hand, I marched to Salisbury, saw the Lord and demanded he answer the call of his feudal knight.

And then the three warbands, the PCs and a whole helluva a lot of backstory descended on Fucking Cerdic (if you've played the campaign, you'll understand the honorific) to enforce vengeance ... and then a tearful reunion with my wife and remaining children. The idea of family, and passionate protection, and grief and a whole other gamut of emotions was present.

Sadly she was widowed a few years after... but their love was eternal
 
#18
Can I just say that I've known Simon for over 30 years and I really doubt that you would talk to him and find him a misogynist. As for not liking his work, that is a matter of taste. Some of the comments here are not too kind considering Simon is a member of this forum and will no doubt be deeply hurt to think he has offended anyone.
 
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