Monday, November 12, 2012

LGBTQ Discovery In An Old School Text

Guido Reni's Saint Sebastian (c.1616)
My assumption until quite recently was that M.A.R. Barker's Deeds of the Ever-Glorious (Adventure Games, 1981) was the first-ever RPG product to present positive representations of LGBTQ people. I believe that is still the case. The Legion descriptions make it quite clear that Tsolyani society has significantly different social values than society in which the book was published.

I made another interesting discovery this evening looking at the table of saints in the book Fantasy Wargaming, ed. Bruce Galloway, also published in 1981. The Higher Powers table, which begins on page 244, lists "Archers, soldiers,  homosexuals" as the Areas of Interest and Patronage for St. Sebastian. It also lists "persecution" as the Area of Disfavor for this saint.

Derek Jarman's classic gay film Sebastiane was released in the UK in 1976. It is certainly possible that some of the Cambridge University gamers that collaborated with Galloway to produce Fantasy Wargaming were familiar with the film. But I doubt that in the early 1980s many of the non-LGBTQ faithful were paying a great deal of attention to this aspect of the saint - unless they were art students. Sebastian was the first gay saint adopted/appropriated by the LGBTQ movement.

And that may be it. I just picked up this book after work, so we'll see in the next few weeks whether there are any other references in the text. But I can't help but think that just mentioning this aspect of the saint in 1981 - without any further comment - was still a very bold move in gaming for the time.


  1. And apparently Bruce Galloway authored a number of books at least two of which dealt with gay history/politics.

  2. Hi John, glad you found my FW info.

    Interestingly FW has been criticized as being homophobic because homosexuality seems to be a 'disadvantage' on the bogey chart (by the same reasoning though bisexuality is an advantage in FW!) -- but I think that is very unfair. Being a moslem, jew, etc. are also disads in FW because it is assuming a medieval worldview where such groups are persecuted.

    I think the St. Sebastian thing could be a bit of an in-joke because some art historians claimed that anyone depicting his martyrdom is eroticizing the male form, etc. Hmm, come to think of it there is that REM video too.

    Anyway Bruce Galloway definitely had a political and personal interest in LGBT issues, but I don't think there is much about that in FW. You probably caught the only mention of the subject apart from the bogey table and a few miscellaneous jokes and comments, some very goffy, like the chapter on fantasy literature.

  3. Arg...just tried to leave a long comment and looks like blogspot ate it. Anyway glad you found my info on FW and good catch with St. Sebastian (probably a reference to art history as much as film too).

    Yes Galloway became very interested in civil rights for LGBT, but that was mostly after FW.

  4. Thanks so much for stopping by, Mike. I found your in-depth piece of FW very illuminating.


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