Thursday, August 25, 2011

DMing for girls. Smallish ones.

So, it came to pass that I might run something for a group of 10-11 year old girls (all but one with no RPG experience). Not this week, not the next, but sometime, possibly.

I've started thinking about what I should run. The system isn't much of an issue - it's probably going to be some sort of simplified D&D, or maybe WEG D6 -, but coming up with themes, styles and a setting is a tougher nut.

See, there's already something out there that would be perfect, were it not for one issue: Pendragon. Not the system, the setting. I mean, it has:

- A background that even young non-roleplaying girls can relate to: King Arthur, Knights of the Round Table, Excalibur, etc.. They haven't read Mallory, but they'd know enough about it from pop culture.
- Several reasonably simple themes that might give them something to think about (and getting them thinking about things is good, this should be an educational experience): good versus evil, chivalry versus villainy, etc.
- Things that are a bit more complicated but probably still crackable: loyalty versus freedom, mercy versus nipping evil in the bud, idealism versus pragmatism. Depending on the game's angle, racial (Britons vs. Saxons) and religious (christians vs. pagans) tension.
- A soft sort of setting. I mean, these are young girls. You don't want S&S-style shades of grey and amorality, or low fantasy cynical nihilism. It's about noble knights and fairies and dragons.

But there's one glitch: it's about the Knights of the Round Table. Not the Ladies who stay at home knitting and swooning. And let's face it, even at our adult age, most of us roleplayers hardly (if) ever roleplay the opposite gender. 11 year old girls won't be doing it. And I'm NOT going to go the "your lady characters are so smart King Arthur makes an exception and says you can be knights" way; it'd just break the setting too far for me, plus it would teach the wrong idea of how the players' individual desires get to override the DM's setting assumption.
Sure, if I was a dad myself with my daughter in the group, I probably wouldn't bat an eyelid over allowing armour-clad Lady Knights of Camelot, or a cuddly Conan who respects women and doesn't kill people, or a Darth Vader who can be persuaded to shut down the Death Star if the heroine looks at him cutely enough with puppy eyes. But I'm not a dad, and I'm not going to twist established source material to fit the players any more than I would twist the players into a game style they just can't do.

So, there it is: what would be a good setting - possibly built from the ground up - that's like King Arthur in themes and sensitivities, but readily allows for female PCs? Chirp up in the comments!


  1. An elite team put together by King Arthur, secret as to avoid gender discrimination, and sent on missions even the Round Table cannot accomplish.

  2. Yeah, I think it's a bad idea to treat the little girls any differently then young boys. Allow them to be brave swordswomen, wizards, and such, and make certain that the encounters vary, with many options for resolution.

    At that age, plan for about 90 minutes, so 2-3 encounter with intro and denouement.

  3. Ladies of the Court of the Fairy Queen... Tinkerbell-meets-Arthur style. She's the Fairy QUEEN, so of COURSE she has girl knights! Silly boys, thinking knights are only men!

    And let them play anything. Pixie? Sure. Unicorn? Why not? Lady Ent? Piece of cake...

  4. My 10 year old daughter plays in a Fairy's Tale game that hits a lot of the points you mention. Personally, I would just run some D&D set in Camelot and let the girls play what they want.

  5. According to GURPS Camelot, "in at least one instance, two ladies of the court (Dames Elyzabel and Lore of Carlisle) pursued a quest of their own."

  6. There was a game called "Blue Rose", that tried to be the Marion Zimmer Bradley/Jacqueline Carey of role-playing games. They succeeded in making d20 where your wizard can be gay if you want. Pendragon actually is the Marion Zimmer Bradley/Jacqueline Carey, if you'll let it be. Your knight can not only be gay, but the system will actually make that choice meaningful (e.g., your knight might be the only one not to be overcome by Morgan Le Fey's beauty, only to fall for the Sauvage King).

    So, one of the things that's neat about Pendragon is that it has "feminine" things to do in it, like having a formal party, playing house^h^h^h^h^h manor, dressing up in fancy clothes, throwing weddings and pageants, and highly-stylized g-rated romancing. Of course, the fun thing about Pendragon is that it also points out that it's the hyper-masculine knights that are doing a lot of this "feminine" stuff. Pendragon is a game where it matters that you are dressed properly AND that you can kill dragons. That's pretty awesome.

    So, let them turn the tables the other way, too. The boys are getting to have fun doing girly things, let the girls have fun doing boyish things. Skip Uther and the dark times and roll with the enchantment of Britain. There are too many fairies around for anyone to be able to stir up too much trouble over lady knights.

    Or, if you just can't handle that in Arthuriana, try the world of "Jonathan Strange & Mister Norrell" as a setting. Napoleonic period, but with Britain being once again enchanted you can really just roll with Pendragon systems for a lot of things.

  7. I like the Ladies of the Seelie Court idea - maybe the PCs are changelings who've grown up among the faeries - hence they might have some magical powers and come from a gender-egalitarian background -, but are still outsiders who get sent back to the world of mankind to sort problems out: peasants cutting down holy trees, priests stomping out the Old Faith, the Questing Beast gone missing, the Unseelie Court being overeager and bringing human retaliation on all faeires, and some sort of big calamity forming around Arthur and Merlin.

    Make no mistake, it's still going to be an adventure game, even if one suited for girls. It will be about brigands and villagers in peril and monsters and evil wizards and stuff - only the party's sensibilities will be a bit different from the usual, and likely a lot closer to LG than the usual adventuring posse.
    Maybe some 'mannerpunk' on the sidelines. Hmmm... maybe Camelot ~ Gormenghast?

  8. Obviously, the faerie queene idea is so good that I'm jealous I didn't think of it.

    But my idea is more brutal: The warrior women of the Sarmatians. (Sarmatians were horse-riding nomads. Their women had to kill at least one enemy before they were allowed to marry.)

    Sarmatian women wore scale-mail made of horses' hooves and mostly killed with shortbows, from horseback. They were very skilled at riding.

  9. Pendragon 5th (or whatever the latest edition is, 5.1?) has a sample Order for lady knights as well as some other tips. Not sure if this is in previous editions, don't have any others handy at the moment.

    Or if you have Chaosium's other Arthurian RPG, Prince Valiant (if not it can usually be picked up cheap on eBay etc.), that would likely work better, not being as tied to Knights Being Knightly, has a much less complex system (coin flips which can be changed to die rolls etc. easily) and can be used with Pendragon to taste.

    Fairy Tale or D&D lite is good too yes.

    Heh, Gormenghast. Dickens + Taking the Mickey out of the genre. Hopefully they'll do better than Titus' sister.

  10. Woodland Warriors, perhaps?
    Hell, even I would like to play that :P

  11. You could base it on Narnia, after extracting that nasty line about "battles are ugly when women fight".