Ironfangs and Scumbag Dames!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

With Thurston Hillman's Pathfinder Adventure Path 118: Siege of Stone about to hit subscribers, this is a great time to talk about themes and stereotypes and writing with intention. You often hear that people insist that their pop culture—their video games, their action movies, their roleplaying games—should be free of politics and "agendas," but the truth is that the personal is just politics on the small scale. Your own needs, opinions, and preferences become politics when shared or opposed by multiple people. As an author or a game developer, at some point you have to accept the responsibility that everything you create carries cultural weight, that you describe what is and isn't normal, what is and isn't moral, who is and isn't a protagonist or a villain or even a person. The orcs of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books were self-loathing and aggressive, without personal goals or culture, while elves are nuanced and individual and reflect a long and storied history—one of these groups is defined as "people" while the other are faceless opponents. Killing a hundred of one is the background noise of the trilogy; killing one of the other is a tragedy that Tolkien uses to dredge up emotion in his readers.

And yes, I realize the irony of this specific example as I talk about an Adventure Path built around conflict with and killing hundreds of members of a specific species.

These are fictional races, but every creative work paints a perspective of the world, and who does and doesn't fill what roles. Many creative repeat what we see in the world around us. Some of us try to depict idealized worlds we want our world to become. Still others exaggerate the evils of the real world into more dire or naked threats, washing away the shades grey to highlight change they feel the world needs. There's no one right way to wield the influence you have as a creative, except perhaps to remain ignorant of it.

One of the common themes in the way Paizo wields our power is to depict women and minorities as heroes. One of our big goals as a group is to paint a world where anyone can be the champion. And we've done that well; we've painted women as crusading nights, spellcasters of devastating power, freedom fighters, gladiatorial champions, and swashbuckling pirates with hearts of gold. Ironfang Invasion specifically kicks off with a female companion there to aid and train the PCs as they grow from nobodies into heroes. But sometimes that urge to champion a cause can push too far, and we end up putting a group on a pedestal. The elves from Tolkien feel flat to a lot of readers because they're TOO good and TOO nice and TOO enlightened; even at their worst, they feel like overbearing parents, rather than people who make mistakes, dirty their hands, or occasionally are just jerks.

The one thing Paizo rarely does is paint women as jerks.

That's not to say we never portray female villains. Queen Ileosa, Areelu Vorlesh, and Queen Abrogail Thrune are unabashedly wicked. The Inner Sea region in general overflows with evil women rulers. All of a certain type: politically powerful, charismatic, and conventionally attractive. Pathfinder has plenty of female villains.

Like I said: The one thing we rarely portray are female jerks. The scum. The bastards. The glorious panoply of disreputable antagonists. Women in Pathfinder or fiction in general are rarely allowed to be dirty and violent and unladylike. One of our goals in Ironfang Invasion was to portray a huge variety of female antagonists, from the traditional "sexy spellcaster" like Arlantia (you'll meet her next month), to masters of tactics and arms like Azersi and Kosseruk, to crazed cultists like Naphexi, to violently anti-social scum like Jang and the redcap Dearga Finlay. In Siege of Stone, author Thurston Hillman gives us the small-potatoes gang leader in Origa, the lecherous bully in Chief Grax, the condescending intellectual in Zanathura, the greedy mercenary in Kisegar, and the scheming manipulator in Elacnida.

Chief Grax with one of her myriad mates.
Illustration by Yan Kyohara

We still have plenty of female allies and heroes—Aubrin, Gendowyn, Navah, the overeager treant Longfrond—but Ironfang Invasion is also packed full of women being every flavor of villainous and objectionable—an important facet of representation oft forgotten in our efforts to display a given group as varied, diverse, and fallible. Save your pedestals for statues, and let the women of the Ironfang Invasion scheme, belch, and stab their way into your hearts.

Crystal Frasier
Developer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Ironfang Invasion Pathfinder Adventure Path Yan Kyohara
Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

*slow clap*

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

*joins in on the clapping*


Well said!

(Also I think you mean "crusading knights" in the fourth paragraph)

Grand Lodge

Here here!

*joins in the clapping*

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

*More clapping*

Also, I love the art for Chief Grax. I've always wondered who actually uses a 9-ring broadsword.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I originally subscribed to the AP line because of Strange Aeons. I stuck around because the next AP was being headed by Crystal Frasier. It's reasons like this that make me glad that I continued my subscription. Ironfang Invasion is a wonder to read.

Silver Crusade

A compelling and nuanced argument. Well said.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Wait, Queen Abrogail Thrune is supposed to be a villain? I've been way off the mark in my interpretation of her.


*brazillian´s claps*

Couldn´t say it better.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Blog wrote:
The elves from Tolkien feel flat to a lot of readers because they're TOO good and TOO nice and TOO enlightened; even at their worst, they feel like overbearing parents, rather than people who make mistakes, dirty their hands, or occasionally are just jerks.

*In a sing-song voice*

Someone hasn't read The Silmarillion!

Spoiler:
To be perfectly clear here, I am not trying to be rude or insulting hear; it's just that anyone who has read the Silmarillion knows that Tolkien's elves can be as big jerk as anyone else, it's just that jerks tend to do things that kill themselves off?/ mature after a few life ages of the world


I still remember my reaction when Amiri was revealed way back when. "The barbarian's female? Cool!" Ameko is still one of my favorite females. A princess who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty.

I know you have worked to bring non-cisgendered characters and their relationships into the light, but I appreciate the "tomboy" characters. Characters who physically keep up with the guys, but have a decidedly feminine side. These are the ones I have a special connection to.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There's valuable lessons here for GMs who aren't running Adventure Paths too. When you're coming up with NPCs or foes on the fly it's easy to fall back on simple cliches.

The filthy goblin who rules the tribe with an iron fist, could certainly be a lady goblin.

Paizo Employee Developer

20 people marked this as a favorite.
RocMeAsmodeus wrote:
Wait, Queen Abrogail Thrune is supposed to be a villain? I've been way off the mark in my interpretation of her.

Well, she's a hardcore devil Nazi, so if that doesn't scream "villain" to you, I don't know what to tell you.

Scarab Sages

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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber
Mark Moreland wrote:
RocMeAsmodeus wrote:
Wait, Queen Abrogail Thrune is supposed to be a villain? I've been way off the mark in my interpretation of her.
Well, she's a hardcore devil Nazi, so if that doesn't scream "villain" to you, I don't know what to tell you.

My interpretation was that she inherited a lot of problems from her family (the whole selling of souls to Hell thing) and does her best to stay strong despite being trapped in her current role. As in, she has to stay with her family tradition of working with devils because they are in too deep to back out of the deal.

Liberty's Edge Developer

11 people marked this as a favorite.
GreatKhanArtist wrote:
I know you have worked to bring non-cisgendered characters and their relationships into the light, but I appreciate the "tomboy" characters. Characters who physically keep up with the guys, but have a decidedly feminine side. These are the ones I have a special connection to.

Cinnamon rolls, not gender roles.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

There's valuable lessons here for GMs who aren't running Adventure Paths too. When you're coming up with NPCs or foes on the fly it's easy to fall back on simple cliches.

The filthy goblin who rules the tribe with an iron fist, could certainly be a lady goblin.

I'm a fan of the flip-a-coin method, making sure to sprinkle in the occasional nonbinary person.


I so much want to fave this original blog post that I went to the trouble to sign in on my phone while on the bus instead of waiting until I got home


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Bravo! Well said!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yes! Absolutely for more female jerks!

Maybe even female Pugwampis! Lots and lots of them!

:)


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Ironfang Invasion is quickly becoming one of my favorite adventure paths.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Well said. I was already a fan of your artwork, now you can count me as an admirer of your perspective-filled prose.

Brava!

Paizo Employee Starfinder Society Developer

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Tusk the Half-Orc wrote:

*More clapping*

Also, I love the art for Chief Grax. I've always wondered who actually uses a 9-ring broadsword.

Chief Grax does, because Crystal brought out full awesomeness!

Seriously, having had a chance to read the full adventure once Crystal finished her development pass... this is one of my all-time favorite products I've written for. Despite all the numerous examples of NPCs in this blog article, my two favorite NPCs from the adventure (and associated art piece) aren't mentioned here.

*hype train intensifies*


This blog post by itself has pretty much single-handedly convinced me that this should be the next AP I run.

Also, the art for Grax is awesome.

Liberty's Edge Developer

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Thurston Hillman wrote:

Chief Grax does, because Crystal brought out full awesomeness!

Seriously, having had a chance to read the full adventure once Crystal finished her development pass... this is one of my all-time favorite products I've written for. Despite all the numerous examples of NPCs in this blog article, my two favorite NPCs from the adventure (and associated art piece) aren't mentioned here.

*hype train intensifies*

I was lucky enough to have great raw material to work with. Paizo has some amazing freelancers.

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

6 people marked this as a favorite.

Well said, Crystal!


8 people marked this as a favorite.

Well said, I 300% agree. I'm gay and I'm honestly tired of gay characters being always shown in a positive light in most modern media. I hope that we get the same representation as everyone else soon, including the scumbag jerks like this post talks about. :)

Contributor

Yeeeeeeees! This is so awesome!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I'll echo what others have said: Bravo!
To put it in rather coarse terms; we will never have equality until we have equality in the mooks.
All too often in modern media we have a diverse cast of heroes, a slightly less diverse cast of villains, and a totally homogeneous suite of supporting baddies.
No reason that the thugs, bandits, gang members, enemy soldiers, and the other rabble the heroes square off against can't be as diverse as the heroes themselves.


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Okaaaay. I thought this was common sense. Not necessarily news. Of course women are multi-faceted/diverse. I've been married to one for over 22 years...still loving every aspect of her.
Has it been easy? Nope. But neither has it been easy being married to me (and having 5 boys to add to it all).


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Iammars wrote:
I'm a fan of the flip-a-coin method, making sure to sprinkle in the occasional nonbinary person.

A trick for doing a random "sometimes A, sometimes B and rarely C" decision is to roll a pair of dice:

White die high - A
Black die high - B
Tie - C

Pick the dice to give you the odds that are right, (e.g. using 2d20 will give you an equal amount or men and women and 5% nonbinary).


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Chakat Firepaw wrote:
Iammars wrote:
I'm a fan of the flip-a-coin method, making sure to sprinkle in the occasional nonbinary person.

A trick for doing a random "sometimes A, sometimes B and rarely C" decision is to roll a pair of dice:

White die high - A
Black die high - B
Tie - C

Pick the dice to give you the odds that are right, (e.g. using 2d20 will give you an equal amount or men and women and 5% nonbinary).

Neat. Simple and quick but effective (and easily customisable).

Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Fourshadow wrote:

Okaaaay. I thought this was common sense. Not necessarily news. Of course women are multi-faceted/diverse. I've been married to one for over 22 years...still loving every aspect of her.

Has it been easy? Nope. But neither has it been easy being married to me (and having 5 boys to add to it all).

As they say, common sense is not always so common. There is still an unfortunately large demographic of men that sometimes forget women are *gasp* people.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wish this was a forum post so I could mark it as a favorite. I guess I'll just have to settle for framing it.


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Fourshadow wrote:
Okaaaay. I thought this was common sense. Not necessarily news.

It's news since paizo haven't done it much previously:

The Blog wrote:
The one thing Paizo rarely does is paint women as jerks.
The Blog also wrote:
Women in Pathfinder or fiction in general are rarely allowed to be dirty and violent and unladylike.


Michelle A.J. wrote:
Fourshadow wrote:

Okaaaay. I thought this was common sense. Not necessarily news. Of course women are multi-faceted/diverse. I've been married to one for over 22 years...still loving every aspect of her.

Has it been easy? Nope. But neither has it been easy being married to me (and having 5 boys to add to it all).
As they say, common sense is not always so common. There is still an unfortunately large demographic of men that sometimes forget women are *gasp* people.

You are correct of course. "Common sense" has become an endangered species. What was once so 'common' is now rather 'rare'.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

When I was a wee 'wampi, I had my common sense particle surgically removed. I've never missed it. And now I can simultaneously enjoy both tea and no tea.


Crystal Frasier wrote:
The one thing we rarely portray are female jerks.

I don't know, I'm pretty sure Nox and Xanesha are huge jerks.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

And both are footnotes.

Dark Archive

Axial wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
The one thing we rarely portray are female jerks.
I don't know, I'm pretty sure Nox and Xanesha are huge jerks.

Isn't Xanesha at least a charismatic jerk? I mean, her tactic is less charismatic compared to her sister and more brute force, but still, she is into whole manipulation and recruiting to dark side thing


Axial wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
The one thing we rarely portray are female jerks.
I don't know, I'm pretty sure Nox and Xanesha are huge jerks.

Hence the use of the word "rarely" and not "never". :)


#WomanCanBeScumToo

#Feminism


Love it. Really dig this aspect of Ironfang Invasion.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Thurston Hillman wrote:

Chief Grax does, because Crystal brought out full awesomeness!

Seriously, having had a chance to read the full adventure once Crystal finished her development pass... this is one of my all-time favorite products I've written for. Despite all the numerous examples of NPCs in this blog article, my two favorite NPCs from the adventure (and associated art piece) aren't mentioned here.

*hype train intensifies*

I was lucky enough to have great raw material to work with. Paizo has some amazing freelancers.

By the way, Crystal, Thurston, Amanda, Amber, Ron, and Larry, great job on this AP. I may have said it as RicMTheGM on Twitter, but y'all did great work and made an epic path well worth the money and owning.

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