Sunday, March 2, 2014

When Did Gender-Inclusive Game Mechanics Start?

That cover's not for "The Village People: the RPG", although it could be; it's for SPI's fantasy RPG, DragonQuest. This is one cover for the second edition of the game. I have the third edition (blue cover) as well as two white cover second editions - one hardcover, and one trade paperback.

The second edition came out in 1981. I was flipping through it this morning while I was down in the basement, hunting down a chirping smoke detector. (Turns out the offending device was in the attic!) I happened to pull a copy off the shelf, and took it upstairs to read over morning coffee.

Imagine my surprise when, in reading the Skills section of the book, I came across this on p. 91 in the entry on Courtesans (and interestingly, it refers to male courtesans as courtiers, although the rules alternatively refer to courtesans as "he" and "she"):

[54.3] A courtesan may attempt to seduce a being with whom the courtesan is sexually compatible.

The text makes no presumptions as to the sexual orientation of the courtier/courtesan.

Pretty good for 1981.

Earlier sections of the book though still refer to something called "the opposite sex." These sections deal with choosing your character's gender (yea, players get to, unless they want to play a hermaphrodite or an asexual character, in which case the rules say you need the GM's permission!?!) and the Physical Beauty characteristic.

But [54.3] is about the earliest expression of gender and sexual orientation-inclusive rules that I have found to date. I'd be very interested in hearing from people who know of earlier examples. (And here, I am talking specifically about mechanics or rules, not setting.)


  1. I hope you get some write ins on this one because I was intrigued by this question of different systems and their mechanical way of expressing gender and sexuality. Mainly because my ex-friend was writing an RPG that had ideas on the topics and I wanted to be able to cite examples.

    1. Heeyyyy, Jason! Wonderful to hear from you! I am hoping some folks will comment too. It was a really interesting discovery. I mean, Tekumel the setting was always queer friendly, and I wouldn't be surprised if Lee Gold's "Land of the Rising Sun" was as well, but I thought this kind of inclusive language really didn't make it into RULES until the 90s during the White Wolf boom. To discover it first in an old school product is pretty interesting. That kind of makes sense, though, since SPI was based in NYC - a place with a lot of queer folks.


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