Old women in fantasy


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A cursed girdle that swaps the sex of the one wearing it recently hit the pathfinder party I've been running through kingmaker. Luckily it was identified and locked away but that didn't stop the players from entertaining the idea of playing an opposite-sexed version of their hero. Both the Monk (age 56) and the Wizard (age 85) reviled the thought of playing a female elderly character. They explained to me "no one wants an old lady in their party"

So I began thinking of reasons why they felt that way. Or why in all my years of gaming I've never seen an elderly woman PC. Are old women just not included in any Fantasy role other than "Wise Oracle", "Spiteful hag", or "that-king's-wife"? Maybe old people are generally avoided as PC's and only male wizards get a break because of gandalf and Merlin.

What do you think, guys?


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Nanny Ogg!


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I think the majority of players are still male, so female characters as a whole are probably lower than male characters.

As far as traditional "old" features, I can't remember a player ever making a character as such and actually RPing those features. The only time I've seen someone want to play an old character is for the stat benefits.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Seems like most of the old ladies I know are badass, so your monk and wizard are stupid. This is fact.

Seriously though, it is uncommon, yes, and it's kind of a shame. Most of the old ladies in traditional fantasies are witches who live in candy houses and eat children and the like.

Video games, as much as they seem to usually have to be the ones to catch up with the times, have done more for Badass Old Lady Liberation. There's Kreia from KoTOR2 (she could rip Gandalf in half and eat him for breakfast, and possibly would depending on the mood she was in) and Wynne in Dragon Age.

In d20 based RPGs, I'd say people avoid playing older characters to avoid age penalties (or as Tormsskull notes, insists on playing one for the boosts to mental stats), beyond anything else. I've certainly used elderly NPCs.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

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I briefly roleplayed an over-50 woman who was a sensei monk, in Pathfinder. (not using any age rules) The game died in our first combat, though. (Would love to find a home for Shi-ru someday....)

I'd love to see a badass-grandma type character in a game, but yeah, frankly, the majority of gamers are still male, and of those, the majority are probably still unlikely to want to play a female character, especially one that isn't relatively young and therefore hot. I know I'm making a generalization about a lot of guys with that (sorry dudes), but I feel it's a borne-out one.

In fiction, I can think of the occasional badass old lady. Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince series, while not necessarily great literature, had a pretty b*@!#in' old woman named Andrade who was the head of the world's magical organization, and routinely kicked ass both in terms of magical power, and political machinations.


dien wrote:
...yeah, frankly, the majority of gamers are still male, and of those, the majority are probably still unlikely to want to play a female character, especially one that isn't relatively young and therefore hot. I know I'm making a generalization about a lot of guys with that (sorry dudes), but I feel it's a borne-out one.

There's nothing about which to apologize. Your take is time-on-target. I almost wrote something of the sort before reading the thread and realizing you'd already handled it.


Seriously, how can you expect to punch a dragon in the face if your ovaries don't even work?!

Or in other words: I guess old women don't feature prominently in fantasy, but I'm honestly not convinced that old men are common enough that the lack of old women is a 'thing'. Old People in fantasy tend to crop up as some really specific tropes. For men, it's usually the mentor (who is going to die in a little bit) and the "wizard" types. For women, it's typically the 'wise woman', 'witch' or 'evil queen'.

...actually, thinking about it, I could probably name more old women than old men, from fantasy, so I'm really not convinced this is a 'thing'. Granted, most of them would fall into the same very common character types.

(Edit: For reference, do guys like Galadriel or Elrond count as old?)

Silver Crusade

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Umbral Reaver wrote:
Nanny Ogg!

Hell. Yes.

Also, have they not seen Red?

It's still shy of 50, but the grizzled female barbarian in our WotR campaign is looking to be in her early 40's. One hell of a badass Team Mom, if she falls into that role.

I do know that in both of the Jade Regent campaigns being run by our GM, Koya has been one of the more beloved NPCs.


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Forties is not old ...

... by cracky.


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Mikaze wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
Nanny Ogg!
Hell. Yes.

I am vaguely scandalized that Nanny Ogg got mentioned before Granny Weatherwax.

In our most recent Pathfinder game, after shipping my character off to magic college, his mom got tired of sitting at home and got her old adventuring party back together. Years later, it was fairly awkward moment when the PC party ran into an enemy adventure group that turned out to be my character's mom and her gang (all grizzled veterans).

The Exchange

DeathQuaker wrote:

Seems like most of the old ladies I know are badass, so your monk and wizard are stupid. This is fact.

Seriously though, it is uncommon, yes, and it's kind of a shame. Most of the old ladies in traditional fantasies are witches who live in candy houses and eat children and the like.

Video games, as much as they seem to usually have to be the ones to catch up with the times, have done more for Badass Old Lady Liberation. There's Kreia from KoTOR2 (she could rip Gandalf in half and eat him for breakfast, and possibly would depending on the mood she was in) and Wynne in Dragon Age.

In d20 based RPGs, I'd say people avoid playing older characters to avoid age penalties (or as Tormsskull notes, insists on playing one for the boosts to mental stats), beyond anything else. I've certainly used elderly NPCs.

Can't imagine how you'd mention Dragon Age yet neglect to mention the one and only Flemeth! she might not be a playable character (yet), but she is cooler than Wynne in almost every was possible. She has a hawt daughter, too.

Quote:


Nanny Ogg!

Nanny Ogg is so singularly terrifying she might be the reason why people are afraid to play elderly women in RPGs...

As for memorable older women, the best example I can think of is Avasarala from Caliban's War - it's a science fiction, not a fantasy, but I think science fiction has the same lack as fantasy in this regard.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Well there's Dennis...


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I once played Mother Maybelle Toescruff, a venerable halfling witch. She had a toad familiar named Mister Beelzie, and insisted that people kiss him whenever she cast a healing spell. She got et by a ghast during a TPK. So, you know, there's that.

As an aside, the word "crone" may come from a shepherding term for a female sheep who is no longer able to breed. Not the politest epithet, I suppose.

The Exchange

Slaunyeh wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
Nanny Ogg!
Hell. Yes.

I am vaguely scandalized that Nanny Ogg got mentioned before Granny Weatherwax.

Granny Weatherwax is too stubborn to allow anyone to create a character based on her. Any one who will try might just be in for long sessions of crafty headeology directed their way. Wouldn't want to be the first one to try it, honestly.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

Slaunyeh wrote:

Seriously, how can you expect to punch a dragon in the face if your ovaries don't even work?!

Or in other words: I guess old women don't feature prominently in fantasy, but I'm honestly not convinced that old men are common enough that the lack of old women is a 'thing'. Old People in fantasy tend to crop up as some really specific tropes. For men, it's usually the mentor (who is going to die in a little bit) and the "wizard" types. For women, it's typically the 'wise woman', 'witch' or 'evil queen'.

...actually, thinking about it, I could probably name more old women than old men, from fantasy, so I'm really not convinced this is a 'thing'. Granted, most of them would fall into the same very common character types.

(Edit: For reference, do guys like Galadriel or Elrond count as old?)

Pretty sure I can think of more old men than old women. And more roles. Grizzled old veteran of the wars: going to be a guy, 90% of the time. Ruler of the kingdom? Old kings are, I think, just as common as old queens, if not more so.

And for purposes of this discussion, I wouldn't count characters who are immortal, and aged, but look 'young', because if physical attractiveness is part of the rubric here as to why gamers might shy away from Old Characters, then that would matter. Like, nobody is going to turn down playing a badass vampire that looks 20 because "ew, he's old".

Tolkien's old men: Denethor, Theoden (he may not be decrepit levels of elderly, but he's not 'young', he's clearly 50+ or in his 60s), Gandalf, Saruman, maybe Radagast

Tolkien's old women: ....crickets?

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Heck, Pathfinder's iconics include an explicitly 'elderly' wizard, despite the fact that there's no in-game rationale for why wizards need to be old, since they level just as fast as fighters; and, in fact, the explanation for why you can have Ezren as an 'old' wizard and still relatively low level is that he came to it late in life. There is no similarly 'old' female character in the iconics.


Lord Snow wrote:


Can't imagine how you'd mention Dragon Age yet neglect to mention the one and only Flemeth! she might not be a playable character (yet), but she is cooler than Wynne in almost every was possible. She has a hawt daughter, too.

She did essentially...

DeathQuaker wrote:

Most of the old ladies in traditional fantasies are witches who live in candy houses and eat children and the like.

Sure Flemeth does not live in a candy house but she does live in the woods and have magic powers and abduct children. Clearly she is a classical witch. Yeah its a well done take on the most traditional role for old females in fantasy mainly because it looks hard at what a witch is and emphasizes the grimdark elements of this classic fantasy stereotypes but it is not breaking the mold.


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Lord Snow wrote:
Slaunyeh wrote:
Mikaze wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:
Nanny Ogg!
Hell. Yes.

I am vaguely scandalized that Nanny Ogg got mentioned before Granny Weatherwax.

Granny Weatherwax is too stubborn to allow anyone to create a character based on her. Any one who will try might just be in for long sessions of crafty headeology directed their way. Wouldn't want to be the first one to try it, honestly.

I'll take that brunt for you. My version of Kingmaker's Old Beldame was very heavily based off Granny.

Heck her apprentice even ended up a weird hybrid of Magrat and Tiffany.

The Exchange

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:


Can't imagine how you'd mention Dragon Age yet neglect to mention the one and only Flemeth! she might not be a playable character (yet), but she is cooler than Wynne in almost every was possible. She has a hawt daughter, too.

She did essentially...

DeathQuaker wrote:

Most of the old ladies in traditional fantasies are witches who live in candy houses and eat children and the like.

Sure Flemeth does not live in a candy house but she does live in the woods and have magic powers and abduct children. Clearly she is a classical witch. Yeah its a well done take on the most traditional role for old females in fantasy mainly because it looks hard at what a witch is and emphasizes the grimdark elements of this classic fantasy stereotypes but it is not breaking the mold.

The short glimpse we see of her in Dragon Age 2, as well as what we know of her history, suggests she is MUCH more than just a witch of the wilds.


Are old women not included in fantasy? Well, there's Molly Grue from "The Last Unicorn".

Dien mentioned Andrade of the "Dragon Prince" trilogy. What's interesting is that a lot of time passed in that series, so everyone aged. The main "hawttie" of that series was Sioned, who was 21 when the first book started. The second trilogy began with her at 60.

And since DeathQuaker and Mikaze mentioned NPCs, yes, good old women exist. "Rudwilla's Stew" comes to mind. Right now, I'm running "Night's Dark Terror", and...

Night's Dark Terror:
...one of the NPCs is an old woman cleric named Kuzma. The module intended Kuzma only as a healer, as she's too old to go out adventuring, but she insisted on taking watch during the "Long Night" part (during which a homestead is besieged). Just this week, we were playing this part of the adventure, when the sorcerer PC made the foolish mistake of sleeping on top of the battlements, and was attacked by dire bats, who would have killed him if not for Kuzma, who dragged him to safety, taking AoOs in the process.


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Aaron Bitman wrote:
Are old women not included in fantasy? Well, there's Molly Grue from "The Last Unicorn".

Sorry, but ... Molly doesn't remotely qualify as old, unless you're twelve.

Snot-nose. :)


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There were plenty of old witches in "Harry Potter". Minerva McGonagall comes to mind.


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There's also the Firekeeper series, where typically the women actually elderly tend to be still active, and one of which proves to be a good mentor for the wolf-raised woman. She kinda fills the wise woman role.

I actually did run a campaign where one of the NPCs was an old woman. The players learned quickly that "elderly" and "epic-level sorceress" sometimes go hand-in-hand. Specifically, they learned it when the woman saved the party by using Bigby's Big Hand to choke-slam a dragon.

For Pathfinder, that elderly woman would have mythic levels.


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I played an old woman once.

Sarae Somellin, high priestess of thieves' goddess Eloéle in the Birthright world. There was very little information about her, and so I decided to make her an old crone, incredibly useful yet duplicitous, with a large brood of children and grandchildren who would do most of the emissary work while Our Beloved Grandmother coordinated spy networks from home.

LOTS of fun, that game. I was spewing prophesies everyone else was eating up, but I was just making everything up on the spot as I felt like it.


Lord Snow wrote:


Can't imagine how you'd mention Dragon Age yet neglect to mention the one and only Flemeth! she might not be a playable character (yet), but she is cooler than Wynne in almost every way possible.

Oi, you take that back I says.

Flemeth kinda cheats. She body jumps, She's not really "old" so much as "Ancient".

Wynne's an honest to Maker old woman, despite her..."condition" and she's still the ass whippin'-est healer you'll ever encounter.


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How about Fin Raziel, from the movie "Willow"?


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Tolkien - Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, despite her faults resisted Saruman and died of old age a hero of the Shire.


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okay because of this thread my next character is going to look and sound like Maggie Smith


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Right, my next character will be a old and cranky female Hellknight completely based on Margaret Thatcher.

Will have to have 'Land of hope and glory' on my phone or something for every time she makes a speech


Polgara is thousands of years old but refuses to look the part. I believe they mention in the books that old men are considered wise and whatnot, while old women are considered crones.


I did once a crazy and venerable drow sorceress, which has been buried on forgotten ruins for half of millenia with ring of sustenance. I wasn't allowed to play it. :(


Reckon that sort of character might have 'party issues' :p

Looks like PFS play is the best bet for playing old people as melee classes, because you don't change the stats. Aged characters tend to be sup-par choices for melee otherwise. Which would leave us with the hackneyed stereotypes of 'wise witch' and the like.


knightnday wrote:
Polgara is thousands of years old but refuses to look the part. I believe they mention in the books that old men are considered wise and whatnot, while old women are considered crones.

...which would play into the thesis that no one wants an old lady in their party.

It's like "Queen Zixi of Ix" by L. Frank Baum. The centuries-old queen magically keeps herself looking young, but her reflection shows as that of an old lady, so she forbids mirrors in her presence.

Shifty wrote:
Aged characters tend to be sup-par choices for melee otherwise.

Well... yeah. Would you expect them not to be?

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Aaron Bitman wrote:
How about Fin Raziel, from the movie "Willow"?

Hell yes.

And Fin Raziel vs. Bavmorda makes the fight between Gandalf and Sauron look like a tea party.


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For sure Aaron, but in a fantasy game a little bit of leeway is always nice. If we can suspend disbelief long enough to accept the volume of 'beyond Olympic weightlifting champions' that happen to also be better than the Olympic Gymnastics team too on account of freakish dexterity, and all that packed in a svelte frame of an apparently 'young girl'/'otherwise normal looking guy' we have dished to us every second day then sure a little age-flex should be cool too.

Paizo Employee Associate Editor

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Tenar, in the later books of the Earthsea Chronicles! (She has an in-book rumination about old, marginal women being scorned/persecuted as witches in Tehanu.)

One of those books also has a tale of an old woman in a fishing village who one day takes flight as a dragon.


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http://dragaera.wikia.com/wiki/Sethra_Lavode

Sethra Lavode is OLD and bad assed beyond bad assed. However being undead she's not typically viewed as old by a number of artists. I personally see her as much older looking than the artwork I've seen of her.


DeathQuaker wrote:
Aaron Bitman wrote:
How about Fin Raziel, from the movie "Willow"?

Hell yes.

And Fin Raziel vs. Bavmorda makes the fight between Gandalf and Sauron look like a tea party.

First Gandalf doesn't fight Sauron so I have no idea what you mean. Second - Fin Raziel is fantastic no arguement there. Third - flashy scenes in a move don't measure power. If you think Gandalf isn't powerful you have to review his backstory (Simarillion). That Balrog in Moria is not much below a Demi-God in power. Gandalf defeats it in a battle that takes days - and is reborn more powerful than before. Had he been a woman - it would have been just as epic - but not as easy to imagine Tolkien writing in his era.

Galadriel is a bad ass - and old old old but elven; hard to imagine how old.

One other issue I think is that most older, powerful fantasy types are settled not adventuring. Adventuring is a young person's pastime. Once characters accumulate enough wealth and power they tend to retire and/or become embroiled in too many political and guild related activities to go on the adventuring road...

Sovereign Court

Gandalf is a Maiar. Only restricted by his body. Technically speaking, he is as powerful as Sauron, but chooses not to be.


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unclevanya wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
Aaron Bitman wrote:
How about Fin Raziel, from the movie "Willow"?

Hell yes.

And Fin Raziel vs. Bavmorda makes the fight between Gandalf and Sauron look like a tea party.

First...

Uh Oh DQ, you made the big mistake on geeky parts of the internet, Never Say Anything Is Better Than A LOTR Character. Run, run while you still can!


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unclevanya wrote:
First Gandalf doesn't fight Sauron so I have no idea what you mean.

Yeah! Legolas does!


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Orthos wrote:
Uh Oh DQ, you made the big mistake on geeky parts of the internet, Never Say Anything Is Better Than A LOTR Character. Run, run while you still can!

"Fly, you fool!"


Harry Potter has the whole gamut of kick arse women of varying ages.


Hama wrote:
Gandalf is a Maiar. Only restricted by his body. Technically speaking, he is as powerful as Sauron, but chooses not to be.

Very wrong - Gandalf begs Manwe not to send him to Middle Earth because Sauron is the most powerful of Maia and he would not stand a chance against him in a straight up fight. Manwe tells him that's the best reason for him to go because his job is to advise and help the resistance to Sauron, not go toe to toe.

The Balrog was also a lesser Maia and it took more than 8 days of fighting and his death for Gandalf to win.

Even when he was sent back with a lot of restrictions removed and a level up ringless shadow Sauron could kick Gandalf and his armies arse from the Black Gates to Dol Amroth and back. Only the destruction of the ring could ensure victory.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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unclevanya wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
Aaron Bitman wrote:
How about Fin Raziel, from the movie "Willow"?

Hell yes.

And Fin Raziel vs. Bavmorda makes the fight between Gandalf and Sauron look like a tea party.

First Gandalf doesn't fight Sauron so I have no idea what you mean.

Whoops! I mistyped, being in a hurry. I meant Saruman of course. I hope given time you can forgive my paraphasia.

Let me put it this way: in watching Willow vs watching the movie adaptation of LotR, I enjoyed watching Fin Raziel more. I was not evaluating or comparing power levels. Your mileage may vary.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Orthos wrote:
unclevanya wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
Aaron Bitman wrote:
How about Fin Raziel, from the movie "Willow"?

Hell yes.

And Fin Raziel vs. Bavmorda makes the fight between Gandalf and Sauron look like a tea party.

First...
Uh Oh DQ, you made the big mistake on geeky parts of the internet, Never Say Anything Is Better Than A LOTR Character. Run, run while you still can!

So saying that LotR was one of the most boring series of books I ever read would be a bad idea?

Bring it, nerds!

The Exchange

Rynjin wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:


Can't imagine how you'd mention Dragon Age yet neglect to mention the one and only Flemeth! she might not be a playable character (yet), but she is cooler than Wynne in almost every way possible.

Oi, you take that back I says.

Flemeth kinda cheats. She body jumps, She's not really "old" so much as "Ancient".

Wynne's an honest to Maker old woman, despite her..."condition" and she's still the ass whippin'-est healer you'll ever encounter.

Wait, are you saying Flemeth is too old to be considered old? I disagree. She could body shift again if she wants, right? meaning she is quite comfortable in the body of an old woman. Which goes to show she is more than an old women in body, she is an old woman is heart.

Plus, nobody disqualified Gandalf from being an old man just because he is EXTREMELY old, or because he dies and reborn and things like that. If he gets to be an old man, Flemeth gets to be an old woman.


DeathQuaker wrote:

So saying that LotR was one of the most boring series of books I ever read would be a bad idea?

Bring it, nerds!

Electra is one of my favourite superhero movies. What? :p


DeathQuaker wrote:
Orthos wrote:
unclevanya wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:
Aaron Bitman wrote:
How about Fin Raziel, from the movie "Willow"?

Hell yes.

And Fin Raziel vs. Bavmorda makes the fight between Gandalf and Sauron look like a tea party.

First...
Uh Oh DQ, you made the big mistake on geeky parts of the internet, Never Say Anything Is Better Than A LOTR Character. Run, run while you still can!

So saying that LotR was one of the most boring series of books I ever read would be a bad idea?

Bring it, nerds!

I got your back =)


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DQ you are one of the wisest, calmest, most eloquent speakers for sanity and a fair go for all, on these boards....

But LotR books boring, NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Don't tell me you are one of those people I have a sad face now :-(

;-b

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