Presentation of trans and nonbinary characters in pfs


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5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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This has come up in another thread and should probably be its own topic.

The Exchange 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

I am curious to hear from people (MrBear and Hmm in particular since they seem to have a lot of firsthand experience here) on how they play these characters and in particular what sorts of buzzwords I should be looking out for in regards to non-binary characters and what sort of acknowledgement of that they would find rewarding.

Because as of right now, I still feel a little unsure of how I am supposed to respond to that beyond like "ok cool" the way I would to like, a character who spends 90% of their time looking like a bear and I get the feeling that maybe non-binary persons would be looking for something beyond that?

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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This is the conundrum I'm looking at when this sort of thing comes up

Golarion doesn't have strict (any?) Gender roles. There are women warriors, pirates, soldiers etc an no one bats an eye. A woman doing what our society would consider manly jobs isn't out of place and doesn't mean anything. Outside of taldors primogeniture gender is a total non issue.

Gender identity is entirely an internal matter: its inside the NPCs head. Its
an ineffable feeling that I don't know how to put into words much less show with the amount of screentime an NPC has.

Gender orientation is orthogonal to identity, so my husband or my wife or my partner doesn't tell you anything.

The conversations I have had on this topic have only taught me I have NO idea whats an issue when it comes to this topic. I have no idea what suggests something completely different from what I see, I have no idea what the hot button issues are, and I have absolutely no idea what makes me an absolutely terrible person*, but I know that those are all a lot of things. I cannot even have a conversation on the topic without everything I'm saying implying something wrong.

This is a game where people mess up pronouns constantly. Male playing a female character, female playing a male character, DM named an NPC something other than bob more than 2 minutes and 15 seconds ago? The pronoun gets messed up. If I show a picture that does not appear to match the pronoun I'm using the players will assume I've had too much alchohol*.

***

Now put that all together. You can have a woodcutter with a pair of x chromosomes and a loving wife with no idea whether they're a lumberjack or a lumberjane.

I have no idea how to show something that is entirely internal to the NPC who, lets face it, being an NPC is going to occupy a limited amount of the players attention if they don't have an armor class and a to hit number. The scenario could do something like a hippy vision dream trip into the center of the NPCs mind to show it, but as the DM thats not my call. And I'm normally more than happy to wing something that should get some air time in a PFS scenario but I have no idea how to do that and even less confidence in my ability to do so without stepping on a hot button topic.

So a subtle, nuanced, three dimensional presentation is just going to completely fly under the player if not the DMs radar. I don't see a solution to that.

Sovereign Court

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I also want to learn more about this. I'd be horrified if I roleplayed any gender/sexuality/lifestyle offensively and some basic pointers would be super helpful in making me more comfortable in doing so.

Grand Lodge

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The biggest problem I see is that there is no defined line... What one person thinks it's perfectly fine will get you labeled as a transphobic Nazi to the person standing right next to them.

Some people think gender is purely mental, some purely physical. Some people think gender and sexuality have nothing to do with each other, while to some they are so intertwined they might as well be the same thing. Some people will absolutely lose their poop if you use the wrong pronoun when referring to them, others could care less.

Generally speaking, I think the whole topic is best left out of the game unless it is integral to the story.

The Exchange 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

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Even if its not written into scenarios Slyme, as it isn't for the vast majority of PFS1 scenarios, it will still VERY much be a theme for player characters since roleplaying is a safespace to express things like this, not only for people who are actually nonbinary and trans but for people who want to explore through roleplaying people who are nonbinary and trans.

We as GMs should try to get to the point where we are comfortable roleplaying these sorts of interactions and not try to push these people into invisibility.

Sovereign Court 5/5

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So here’s the thing about trans NPCs in Paizo material and in PFS in general. In a lot of cases it’s not going to matter. You say that the NPC is gender they present as, and unless the scenario brings it up at some point, it doesn’t really matter. It’s kind of like real life – if you suspect the person you’re talking to is trans, you use pronouns/titles of the gender they are trying to present as, and you don’t bring it up unless they bring it up first.

That being said, PFS has two issues: the first is the original sin of Miss Feathers, the second is that it’s hard to have natural trans representation in a RPG scenario for many of the reasons that BNW mentioned. I don’t have a ton of time right now, but here’s some big tips I can give to GMs who are looking for tips on how they present trans NPCs.

1. Get their pronouns correct. – I don’t care if you think that “they” isn’t grammatical. First of all, proper grammar is crap. Second, respecting people is more important than grammar. Third, consider it practice for when you encounter nonbinary people in real life and risk offending real people.
2. Don’t walk into trans stereotypes. – Most things you have been taught about trans people by society are wrong. It’s not only a sexual thing (although for some us, sex is a part), it’s not just as simple as “man in a dress”, it’s not equivalent to drag, it’s not done for humor, and we’re not trying to sleep with you. Also, trans men exist, which is something that society tends to forget about. Basically, just like you wouldn’t play every gay character as the flaming homosexual stereotype, don’t play trans women as the dude in a dress stereotype.
3. If the scenario brings up their transness in a way that’s visible to the players, don’t skip it! – I’m mainly looking at 8-99 here. The way 8-99 brings up the fact that Medda Spiritbreaker is trans is natural and visible to the players, but I find it funny how little players ask who the NPC is in that situation, and I agree that the time pressure of a multi-table scenario isn’t helping there. But if someone does happen to run into that section, don’t skip it. Maybe that’s a place where you don’t feel comfortable paraphrasing, and that’s okay. Read straight from the scenario. But if it comes up, please don’t shy away from it.
4. If you’re not comfortable running trans NPCs, don’t run City of Strangers 1. – You’re only going to cause more harm than good.

(I may be back later after my obligations tonight, but I’m happy to answer questions.)

4/5 Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Quentin Coldwater

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I'll go on a tangent and probably hit a few sore spots here and there. Feel free to mod this post if it offends anyone, but I'm genuinely curious. Do note that while I'm a white cis male (and therefore don't have much to complain about), I am on the autism spectrum, so I do belong to a minority that also likes to be acknowledged.

How far should inclusivity go? From talking to other people I've learned that representation is an acknowledgement. People in a fantasy world are just as complex as in the real world, and can have mental problems or differences from the standard. Representing that in the narrative is an acknowledgement that your subgroup is heard, understood, and catered to. You acknowledge they exist, which is something a lot of companies have difficulty doing. Gay/trans/autistic/and so on people want to be heard. Putting them in your game tells them "you're not weird, you're also featured in our game," which is a confidence boost.
But here's the problem: Personally, I like fantasy stories because they're simplified versions of reality I can escape to when I've had enough of the real world. NPCs are just a vessel for the story, and unless their sexual orientation, mental problems, or what have you are relevant, I don't care one way or another. Being confronted with politics in-game when I don't have to just occupies more brain space than I'd like at that moment. As I said, I ping on the autism spectrum. Do I personally want an autistic person featured in a scenario, just to cater to me? No. But do I want to take that pleasure away from people who do care? Also no. But where do we stop? At some point, it feels to me less like acknowledging subgroups and more like pandering. We've had Venture-Captains of all races, shapes, sizes, and coulouration, a blind one, a deaf one, a nonbinary NPC, a trans person/person in drag (which I've never seen someone react badly towards), and probably a lot more I'm forgetting. And there are lots more options. But where do we draw the line (all assuming they're portrayed with respect, of course)? Or do we need to, at all? In a fantasy setting, anything is possible. Otherkin might be possible (people who identify as something outside their race), but how far do you go with that? A person who thinks he's an Ooze sounds ridiculous, but there are actual people who think they're a wolf, for example, so this doesn't sound too far off.

Anyway, what it comes down to for me is this: It's not my cup of tea, but I'm open to it if it's done in moderation and with respect.

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Kwinten Koëter wrote:
NPCs are just a vessel for the story, and unless their sexual orientation, mental problems, or what have you are relevant, I don't care one way or another. Being confronted with politics in-game when I don't have to just occupies more brain space than I'd like at that moment.

Be very careful. These sentences imply that existing as a trans person is a political stance. It's not. It only becomes political when people try to deny us our personhood.

As for the "where do we draw the line" argument - when all those who are seriously looking for representation can find themselves in the game. This will never end. This is okay. We will never be perfect, but we can always strive to be better.

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Virginia—Richmond aka Slothsy

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Hello, Actual Nonbinary VC here, ready to help!

Jen hits on most of the big points, but the other thing that you can acknowledge it as appropriate in the scenario. If there's a nonbinary npc, you can say "You see a nonbinary person ahead" just the same as you'd say "you see a man" or "you see a woman". That, honestly, is probably the most normalizing thing that you can do and it's appropriate in those contexts! If someone asks how they know, well, it's a fantasy world! Honestly, imo, the most important thing when presenting enby characters is to avoid misgendering them. People have tendency to want to lump enbies in with either men or women. Please don't do *that*.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Rigby Bendele wrote:
If there's a nonbinary npc, you can say "You see a nonbinary person ahead" just the same as you'd say "you see a man" or "you see a woman"..

It is very hard for me to overstate if you are some combination of older (get off my lawn) , outside of a city, and aren't involved in the lgbt scene how little this issue comes up. You see a male or you see a female has some meaning to me and my players.

Non Binary means absolutely nothing to me. I doubt it would mean anything to most of my players, and opening the wiki page and looking it over I"m very confused as to what to do with it or what it means, or how (with any gaming group i know) to keep it from devolving into a point of humor.

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Virginia—Richmond aka Slothsy

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If you need some basic "what is nonbinary", the Enby Collective (enby being a term for nonbinary people, as a spelled-out version of nb) has a great 101 page. You can find it here.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento aka FLite

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Rigby Bendele wrote:
If there's a nonbinary npc, you can say "You see a nonbinary person ahead" just the same as you'd say "you see a man" or "you see a woman"..

It is very hard for me to overstate if you are some combination of older (get off my lawn) , outside of a city, and aren't involved in the lgbt scene how little this issue comes up. You see a male or you see a female has some meaning to me and my players.

Non Binary means absolutely nothing to me. I doubt it would mean anything to most of my players, and opening the wiki page and looking it over I"m very confused as to what to do with it or what it means, or how (with any gaming group i know) to keep it from devolving into a point of humor.

Part of your confusion may come from the fact that there are a lot of ways to be Non-Binary. As that wiki page says, it is a catch all.

Sometimes it will be very obvious. (The android in the Starfinder 1-01 would be kind of hard to describe as anything but Nonbinary.)

Sometimes it will be completely invisible.

If the scenario contains a picture, the easy out is "you see a person, they look like this."

A lot of times you don't need gender identifiers. When the party is attacked by Orcs do you specify which ones are male, and which ones are female? I know that part of my wife's prep work is to go through the scenario and remove gender identifiers from block text wherever it would be non obvious. (Because frankly with a lot of creatures you encounter, you aren't going to know the gender.)

I am torn between the desire for representation for these characters in game, and the desire to treat them as normal people just like everyone else.

Grand Lodge

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I am pretty liberal leaning, I myself fall somewhere in the LGBTQ spectrum, I have numerous friends and family who are LGBTQ, play PFS with several LGBTQ people, live near a decent size city, and the idea of saying "You see a non-binary person ahead" has to be one of the most head-scratchingly puzzling things I have ever heard. Unless you are dealing with a character like Miss Feathers, there is no way to tell what someone considers themselves to be at a glance.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Rigby Bendele wrote:
If you need some basic "what is nonbinary", the Enby Collective (enby being a term for nonbinary people, as a spelled-out version of nb) has a great 101 page. You can find it here.

It's a little hit and miss. But nothing there is really something I'd use to describe a character visually. A DC 10 knowledge local for pathfinders might suffice however.

Sovereign Court 5/5

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Slyme wrote:
I am pretty liberal leaning, I myself fall somewhere in the LGBTQ spectrum, I have numerous friends and family who are LGBTQ, play PFS with several LGBTQ people, live near a decent size city, and the idea of saying "You see a non-binary person ahead" has to be one of the most head-scratchingly puzzling things I have ever heard. Unless you are dealing with a character like Miss Feathers, there is no way to tell what someone considers themselves to be at a glance.

What?

People identify what cis people consider themselves to be all the time. In fact, when you get that wrong, cis people tend to get pretty pissed when you don't id them correctly.

For most trans people, it's also not that hard. Look at the parts of their appearance that they have control over. Clothing, make-up, hair, etc. That's probably the direction that they're going. Then just use those pronouns/titles.

I will admit, it can be harder to immediately spot someone as nonbinary because our culture has pushed the gender binary fairly hard over the past couple hundred years. A fairly good rule of thumb is that if you have to think about what gender someone is, just refer to them as "they". You don't need to assume everyone's gender. (I'd make more suggestions here, but I'll leave the suggestions to the nonbinary people here who have more experience than I.)

And perhaps the phrase "you see a nonbinary person" sounds funny. Certainly if you've never heard the phrase "nonbinary person" before, it'll sound weird. Maybe it would sound more neutral to not describe them in any gendered way - making sure to use "they" pronouns, removing details that would indicate gender, etc. Maybe there's better phrasing that would sound better to your players - you know your region better than I do. But you can make judgments about what people consider themselves to be all the time - you just may not realize that you're doing it.

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Two points have come up in reflection over some of the stuff that we’ve talked about tonight.

The first is that most people don’t want to misgender trans people. Guess what? We don’t want to be misgendered either. Is it entirely realistic that your PCs would know exactly how a PC identifies just from looking at them? Given my real life experiences, the answer is no. But there’s plenty of little things that we gloss over because it makes a better play experience. After all, when was the last time your characters went to the bathroom?

The second is that people are unsure how to play trans or nonbinary NPCs as the GM. And I get it, if you’re not familiar with trans people it can be off-putting. But this is something that you need to learn if you’re going to appropriately run trans NPCs in PFS, just like you would have to learn what martial flexibility was if one of the enemies was a brawler. The PFS boards can be a helpful place for that, but only if you come from a point of actually asking as opposed to attacking us. I love helping GMs prepare to run scenarios – all of my documents up on PFS Prep can testify to that. I do not like defending the existence of trans people from ignorant arguments.


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Iammars wrote:
And perhaps the phrase "you see a nonbinary person" sounds funny. Certainly if you've never heard the phrase "nonbinary person" before, it'll sound weird. Maybe it would sound more neutral to not describe them in any gendered way - making sure to use "they" pronouns, removing details that would indicate gender, etc. Maybe there's better phrasing that would sound better to your players - you know your region better than I do. But you can make judgments about what people consider themselves to be all the time - you just may not realize that you're doing it.

If we collectively make an effort to say things like this, it will stop sounding weird or funny to some people.

Sovereign Court 2/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Virginia—Richmond aka Tgi

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Like Jen said, if saying "you see a nonbinary person" sounds weird to you, then why not just say "you see a druid-person". Or describe them with something that isn't gender-related, and stick to they/them pronouns.

If someone inquires about their gender, that's when you can say "they look non-binary" or "they don't look like they conform to either"...

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Iammars wrote:
3. If the scenario brings up their transness in a way that’s visible to the players, don’t skip it! – I’m mainly looking at 8-99 here. The way 8-99 brings up the fact that Medda Spiritbreaker is trans is natural and visible to the players

It is not. That section runs like the other guy is listing off noble titles and I have never heard a player ask about one of those unless they were into killing X and X slayer was one of their accomplishments. There are 10 possible questions there, all of them more plot relevant, and the clock ticks pretty fast and then the redacted happens.

Its not remotely fair to blame or read into the DM's not bringing that to the forefront.

The Exchange 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

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Since we have the attention of Iammars and Rigby, let me ask what you would do, beyond trying to nail the pronouns (which I flub pronouns of PCs all the time, but its a thing to work on), with player characters who make the effort to point out that they are non-binary?

3/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Iammars wrote:
And perhaps the phrase "you see a nonbinary person" sounds funny. Certainly if you've never heard the phrase "nonbinary person" before, it'll sound weird. Maybe it would sound more neutral to not describe them in any gendered way - making sure to use "they" pronouns, removing details that would indicate gender, etc. Maybe there's better phrasing that would sound better to your players - you know your region better than I do. But you can make judgments about what people consider themselves to be all the time - you just may not realize that you're doing it.
If we collectively make an effort to say things like this, it will stop sounding weird or funny to some people.

That’s actually a great benefit for many of us from including nonbinary characters in our RPGs: we have a chance to practice! Learning to get the pronouns correct for nonbinary NPCs makes it that much easier to get the pronouns correct when you have a nonbinary player sit down at the table.

The Exchange 1/5

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"I tend to prefer 'they/them/their' overall, it's a bit easier than trying to figure out which of the other two pronouns I'm feeling like any given morning."

Silver Crusade

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
Iammars wrote:
3. If the scenario brings up their transness in a way that’s visible to the players, don’t skip it! – I’m mainly looking at 8-99 here. The way 8-99 brings up the fact that Medda Spiritbreaker is trans is natural and visible to the players

It is not. That section runs like the other guy is listing off noble titles and I have never heard a player ask about one of those unless they were into killing X and X slayer was one of their accomplishments. There are 10 possible questions there, all of them more plot relevant, and the clock ticks pretty fast and then the redacted happens.

Its not remotely fair to blame or read into the DM's not bringing that to the forefront.

Completely agreed. When I played this at Gen Con, I didn't notice that the NPC was trans. Even when I read it in preparation to GM it, I glossed over it as one of those back story details that the players will never have any way of finding out in game, which are so common in PFS scenarios. But I may not have been concentrating as much as I should while prepping that one - I was dealing with the illness and eventual death of a pet at the time, so I was very distracted.

And responding to a comment from the other thread that spawned this one:

Amanda Plageman wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
I can't speak for MadSci, but I know that I felt extremely uncomfortable at my store when they hosted The City of Strangers scenarios, both because of the scenario's content and the players' reactions.

I'm sorry that happened to you.

It's amazing how differently those scenarios are portrayed. When I was first exposed to Miss Feathers, I didn't interpret her as trans at all! Nor was there anything offensive or silly in how she was portrayed. I just assumed she was a female impersonator/performance artist- no different than Lady Chablis or RuPaul. I thought it was pretty great that Paizo had put in a character that was willing to do their thing without fear or censure. I viewed Miss Feathers as one of the earliest attempts by Paizo to be inclusive. I still do, in fact, regardless of people's online reactions.

Agreed with this, as well. When I first played City of Strangers and met Miss Feathers, our GM really played her as a stereotypical drag queen. We all (apparently, including the GM) thought she was supposed to be a RuPaul/"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" type performer. We had no idea she was supposed to be transgender.

As a straight, white* cisgender male, I'm finding this whole conversation (and the start of it over in the other thread) to be educational and useful. Thank you to the LGBTQ folks who are speaking up to help the rest of us learn.

*Yes, I'm white. I chose this avatar because I'm a fan of the character, not because I have his skin tone. Funny story: I was actually surprised when I finally met Hmm in person at Gen Con last year, and she mentioned that she always thought I was black.

Scarab Sages 5/5 Venture-Agent, United Kingdom—England—Thames Valley aka chris manning

Rigby Bendele wrote:
If you need some basic "what is nonbinary", the Enby Collective (enby being a term for nonbinary people, as a spelled-out version of nb) has a great 101 page. You can find it here.

Thanks very much for that link

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Online aka Magabeus

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I am reading, thinking and learning. Thank you all!

4/5 Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Quentin Coldwater

Iammars wrote:
Kwinten Koëter wrote:
NPCs are just a vessel for the story, and unless their sexual orientation, mental problems, or what have you are relevant, I don't care one way or another. Being confronted with politics in-game when I don't have to just occupies more brain space than I'd like at that moment.

Be very careful. These sentences imply that existing as a trans person is a political stance. It's not. It only becomes political when people try to deny us our personhood.

As for the "where do we draw the line" argument - when all those who are seriously looking for representation can find themselves in the game. This will never end. This is okay. We will never be perfect, but we can always strive to be better.

Oops, I am very sorry if you felt misrepresented or anything like that. I simply meant "politics" in the sense of political correctness. It was late, and I was fuzzy.

As for representation, I recently ran Down the Verdant Path, and no one commented on that specific NPC. I tried to keep the pronouns correct, which I flubbed once or twice, but overall I kept referring to them as "them." But I also didn't spell out their situation. To me, what Rigby said, "you see a nonbinary person," is quite weird. You can tell a mental state? You can see if someone is male or female, of colour or of a certain age, but not if they have mental issues, identify differently, has a different sexual orientation, and so on. To me, that is putting unnecessary focus on it. But then again, as I said, my players didn't pick up on it, so I'm not sure if there's a better course of action.

Dark Archive 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Germany—Rhein Main South aka schattenstern

At least locally I think the biggest "problem" is that most players are interested in what the NPC tells them or what he does (relevant to the plot) not about as what he identifies or what he is (no only regarding to gender but also race in most cases).

So when I am having problem to get the players care about that the mayor is an elf and the baker is an gnome - (most players will just refer to them as "mayor" and "baker") and if there is nothing VERY defining in their pictures they will forget their looks almost immediately - I dont see any big value in trying to even try to describe it as "you see a nonbinary". For once they will have no idea what that means and even if they would the most likely reactions would be: "And how would I see THAT?" or "Does he look like the person we seek/Does he want to kill us?" In most cases my first description of an NPC includes Race (or size if they need to identify it) and their state of action ("looking for you/wanting to talk" or "Draws his weapon and tries to kill you") and would try to inform them later if it interests the players.
One of the few situations where it worked great for the players was in Merchants wake and Hakim and his husband-> it was relevant to the story and the players had the time to recognize it without being distracted by immediate combat or "how do we fulfill the mission"

As I GMed and played the Medda encounter always the focus was on how to resolve the situation without killing and the question was never even cosidered. It made literally no difference to how the encounter plays out and it does not help that this is happening in an HARD-time limited environment.

Also as someone who GMs mostly in German there are a LOT of different problems with the pronouns:
1.) We have something called "generisches maskulinum" (generic masculinity?) So in 99% of all cases the common descriotion is the male one and will also encompass the female and other versions.
2.) Singular they does not work in german as the translation for they "sie" is the same as the translation for she "sie"
3.) The other possible translation (while keeping the "they" grammar) ends up keeping them very arrogant and distanced because they sound like medieval monarchs.
4.) Other solutions also have their fair share of problems, for the android in Starfinder it "es" worked fine as this can be used to describe things that are neither male nor female but this also gets a bit of backlash for also being objectifiying.

So the TLDR: I have no problem to try to fit this in if it is relevant but a lot of the players do not even bother to remember the NPCs name or Race so their Gender or sexual orientation is even more irrelevant to them. Additionally the pronouns make it VERY difficult for non english tables to represent this in an good way, especially if there are no people at the tabel from the LBGTQ? community that know what those pronouns mean or can tell the rest of the players why you could/should use them.

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I can't respond to everything this morning, but here's a quick couple points before I run off to teach:

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Iammars wrote:
3. If the scenario brings up their transness in a way that’s visible to the players, don’t skip it! – I’m mainly looking at 8-99 here. The way 8-99 brings up the fact that Medda Spiritbreaker is trans is natural and visible to the players

It is not. That section runs like the other guy is listing off noble titles and I have never heard a player ask about one of those unless they were into killing X and X slayer was one of their accomplishments. There are 10 possible questions there, all of them more plot relevant, and the clock ticks pretty fast and then the redacted happens.

Its not remotely fair to blame or read into the DM's not bringing that to the forefront.

Perhaps I wasn't as clear with that point as I should've been (especially in the section that you cut off with that quote), so let me explain further what I meant.

In an alternate timeline where Solstice Scar was instead a three-part series instead of a multi-table special and that line of dialogue was included in the first part, I think you would find players running into it more. I agree that the time constraints of the multi-table special are to blame here. Most tables are just trying to resolve the situation quickly, not try to figure out details about who exactly this person is. In a normal scenario without the time crunch, this problem wouldn't come up nearly as much.

That having been said, my point was that despite the time crunch, if someone does engage with that line of dialogue, don't shy away from it or play down Medda's transness. There are multiple reasons why someone might have gone down that path, both intentionally and unintentionally, and it’s really important that you engage that.

Fromper wrote:
Agreed with this, as well. When I first played City of Strangers and met Miss Feathers, our GM really played her as a stereotypical drag queen. We all (apparently, including the GM) thought she was supposed to be a RuPaul/"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" type performer. We had no idea she was supposed to be transgender.

I don’t have time to go into all the problems with Miss Feathers right now, but the short version is:

1) The drag community and the trans community have a complicated relationship, but there are a lot of trans people who are not fans of drag because of drag’s visibility and its effect on how society views trans women. (I say complicated because there’s also a racial aspect to this, and probably not in the way that you first think of it. There’s a lot to unpack here that I may go into later.)

2) A lot of the trans community’s negative response to Miss Feathers has to do with the overall community’s response to Miss Feathers. There has been a lot of “man in a dress” jokes that have to do with Miss Feathers (including a Miss Feathers cosplay I saw once at GenCon which was particularly problematic), and despite Paizo’s attempt to redefine the characters, there’s still a lot of knowing winks and jokes. In fact one of the most common responses to Miss Feathers being listed as female that I heard was “Oh, looks like someone got the surgery.” This was in multiple regions, on the boards, and multiple different national conventions, and from both new players and old fogeys alike. I just want the jokes to stop, and while the community as a whole is getting better, as long as that character exists, those jokes will still continue.

3) When you only have one example of a minority group, that character defines that group in your work. I’m not going to deny that there are trans prostitutes out there (and in fact, given recent crap in the US, I’m going to actively support them even more), but when your only trans-coded character is a prostitute, you’re saying that you believe that trans people are only prostitutes. What PFS has desperately needed for years is a second trans character to diversify PFS’ message. This is why we’re so defensive of Medda Spiritbreaker.

Quentin Coldwater wrote:
I simply meant "politics" in the sense of political correctness.

You’re not helping yourself. When you use the phrase “political correctness”, what the rest of us hear is “I find it inconvienent to give people basic respect.” I obviously don’t know how you personally feel about trans people, but I do get a sense that you’re honestly trying to learn how to navigate when trans and nonbinary characters show up in RPG. The problem is, IRL trans rights are under attack, and you keep using the language of people who are trying to attack those rights. It’s not doing you any favors.

schattenstern wrote:
Also as someone who GMs mostly in German there are a LOT of different problems with the pronouns:

I’ll admit that I’m one of those arrogant Americans who only knows one language, so I personally don’t know much about how nonbinary pronouns work in other languages. (Although I’ll admit that I love the Spanish use of @ instead of a/o. It’s so brilliant!) That being said, I guarantee you that someone else has thought about this, and that I’m sure that there are German LGBTQ groups who have figured this stuff out already and have advice for you.

But one thing I’ll point out that I get that it seems awkward, especially if there are no nonbinary people at the table. That being said, this is something that you want to figure out before the first nonbinary person shows up at your table. Most nonbinary people I’ve met will explain to people who’ve never encountered it before, but it can be depressing to have to explain the basics of nonbinary gender and nonbinary language over and over again. By making an effort before any nonbinary folks show up at your table, you’re going to be much more likely to keep those players in your community.

Scarab Sages 5/5

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Here are a couple articles I found doing a google search on German and Non-Binary pronouns.

Do German speakers of non-binary genders use es and its declensions as their pronoun?

Question: German gender-neutral language

Seems that the trans community in German speaking countries are still figuring it out.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

Iammars wrote:

1. Get their pronouns correct. – I don’t care if you think that “they” isn’t grammatical. First of all, proper grammar is crap. Second, respecting people is more important than grammar. Third, consider it practice for when you encounter nonbinary people in real life and risk offending real people.

My problem with the use of 'they' has nothing to do with grammar. The problem with 'they' is that it already has a well defined meaning that most people will default to when they hear the word. All this does is ADD to the confusion surrounding gender identity issues. Not to mention, confusion of what is going on in a game that relies heavily of verbal descriptions. Anything that causes confusion over the issue is just going to make people more resistant to the subject. As such, I would argue it is better for all involved to come up with a new word that can have a clearly identifiable meaning.

Scarab Sages 5/5

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Bill Baldwin wrote:
Iammars wrote:

1. Get their pronouns correct. – I don’t care if you think that “they” isn’t grammatical. First of all, proper grammar is crap. Second, respecting people is more important than grammar. Third, consider it practice for when you encounter nonbinary people in real life and risk offending real people.

My problem with the use of 'they' has nothing to do with grammar. The problem with 'they' is that it already has a well defined meaning that most people will default to when they hear the word. All this does is ADD to the confusion surrounding gender identity issues. Not to mention, confusion of what is going on in a game that relies heavily of verbal descriptions. Anything that causes confusion over the issue is just going to make people more resistant to the subject.

I am pretty heavily involved in the local Twin Cities Improv scene, and there are several non-binary, trans, and other representing individuals. I have a friend who is pansexual and wishes to be referred to as "they, them, theirs" for their personal pronouns. It does feel awkward, but the more I use these pronouns when referring to them, the less awkward it feels.

There was an awkward moment when I was introducing my wife to them. This person physically looks very female and had identified as female for a large portion of their life. I met them as a her, so the change has been difficult to remember, but I really respect and enjoy this person, so I make a concerted effort to respect their wishes. In this moment of introducing my wife, I was talking to this person, and said, "you might have met her while you were working at the box office/concessions for Comedy Sportz." And they immediately said, "They!" Instead of getting defensive, I said, "Oh, yes! I was speaking to you about my wife just now, but thanks for the reminder." And they were like, "Oh! Sorry!" I said, "no worries."

It was a bit of an eye opener. Their first instinct was to correct, which means they have to do it often and its a frustration of theirs. So I really try to do my best to always refer to them in the gender neutral pronouns they prefer. But this is a new thing, for everyone, and paradigms don't change overnight.

The least I can do though, is respect another human being enough to call them by what they wish to be called.

Bill Baldwin wrote:
As such, I would argue it is better for all involved to come up with a new word that can have a clearly identifiable meaning.

We don't get to decide or tell people how to identify themselves. If they wish to use gender neutral terms, then it is up to us to make that work within our own paradigm.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Southcoast aka JDDyslexia

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As I get more and more involved in GMing, I literally FEAR having to GM one of these scenarios that cover any trans or non-binary NPC. The simple reason is that I'm TERRIBLE when it comes properly using pronouns for people based on their identities/preferences. It's nothing deliberate, it's just I have a hard time wrapping my head around it and using them properly (I've occasionally used the wrong pronouns when conversing with Iammars, and I feel terrible about it every time, along with messing it up for other people that I know and have met). I couldn't tell you why I have such a hard time with it, though I do have some theories (that I won't get into here because it's a derail).

But, and especially when it comes to Pathfinder Society, I WANT to get it right. What I would like to see is a list of NPCs that fall into these trans/non-binary identities and then possibly get a list of scenarios these characters appear in. I think if GMs take the time to review these lists and prepare for these situations, it'll help alleviate any awkwardness when trying to properly convey the NPC. As for any issues at the table, that's sort of a slippery slope. I'll always side with social awareness and advancement, but that may mean you may have a clash with someone who takes personal offense towards the idea of transgendered or non-binary NPCs/PCs. It would also be very useful if other trans/non-binary people can comment on the best way to convey these people, without being offensive or stereotypical (which some of that conversation has already occurred in this thread, which I greatly appreciate and hope to learn from).

So, if there's a list of these NPCs and/or scenarios, I think that's a great tool for GMs to be ready to have these conversations/situations during their sessions. I'm all about inclusivity and respect when it comes to sexual orientation and identity, and I think arming GMs with the right knowledge to help support and promote these environments in Society is important to foster a positive community and environment.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

Tallow wrote:
We don't get to decide or tell people how to identify themselves. If they wish to use gender neutral terms, then it is up to us to make that work within our own paradigm.

I am not saying we get to decide. I am saying that choosing something that avoids confusion behooves their cause.

Sovereign Court 5/5

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Bill Baldwin wrote:
Iammars wrote:

1. Get their pronouns correct. – I don’t care if you think that “they” isn’t grammatical. First of all, proper grammar is crap. Second, respecting people is more important than grammar. Third, consider it practice for when you encounter nonbinary people in real life and risk offending real people.

My problem with the use of 'they' has nothing to do with grammar. The problem with 'they' is that it already has a well defined meaning that most people will default to when they hear the word. All this does is ADD to the confusion surrounding gender identity issues. Not to mention, confusion of what is going on in a game that relies heavily of verbal descriptions. Anything that causes confusion over the issue is just going to make people more resistant to the subject. As such, I would argue it is better for all involved to come up with a new word that can have a clearly identifiable meaning.

This is a common argument against “they” as a pronoun. I’m going to start by linking to one of Rigby’s older posts about the subject. It’s not 100% relevant to this particular discussion, but there’s a quote that I want to pull out of it that’s really good.

Rigby wrote:

I'm a nonbinary person who has used all sorts of pronouns over the years, and I've found that there's a cycle.

1) I use a distinct pronoun like xe or ne, and people say that they can't learn it because it's too weird.
2) I use "they" (my current mode) and people say that it's not grammatically correct, and that I need to create a new pronoun.

People really like telling nonbinary folks what pronouns they should or shouldn’t use, or what would be easier or not for other people to learn. The fact is, nonbinary is used as a catchall term for a lot of smaller stuff, and different people feel differently. They is a good catchall term for a lot of different identities, and it’s already built into our language.

Besides, languages change and words change. As a former IT helpdesk, I will occasionally get confused when someone says “window” to refer to a pane of glass in a wall. Never mind the playing this game and the overuse of the word “level”. As we as a society are becoming more accepting of nonbinary folk, our language is going to grow, and it’s going to sound weird to people who aren’t used to it at first. It will become natural with practice.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

Iammars wrote:
Besides, languages change and words change. As a former IT helpdesk, I will occasionally get confused when someone says “window” to refer to a pane of glass in a wall. Never mind the playing this game and the overuse of the word “level”. As we as a society are becoming more accepting of nonbinary folk, our language is going to grow, and it’s going to sound weird to people who aren’t used to it at first. It will become natural with practice.

I admit that eventually our language would adapt to the new use of 'they.' My point is that it would likely adapt quicker and smoother if a completely new word was used. Which, again, I would think would be something that community would benefit from.

Shadow Lodge 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka thistledown

Bill Baldwin wrote:


My problem with the use of 'they' has nothing to do with grammar. The problem with 'they' is that it already has a well defined meaning that most people will default to when they hear the word. All this does is ADD to the confusion surrounding gender identity issues. Not to mention, confusion of what is going on in a game that relies heavily of verbal descriptions. Anything that causes confusion over the issue is just going to make people more resistant to the subject. As such, I would argue it is better for all involved to come up with a new word that can have a clearly identifiable meaning.

I have a friend who uses ze & zer as pronouns instead of he/she & his/her. I know it is just one of several pronouns schemes available. I still have trouble remembering zer pronouns sometimes, but I try. My problem in Paizo products is remembering to use they instead of ze. I would have prefered Paizo use a different pronoun scheme, as it would have a)Taken away the 'they' controversy and b)Been easier on my own usage. But they didn't, so... oh well.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Quentin Coldwater

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Iammars wrote:
Quentin Coldwater wrote:
I simply meant "politics" in the sense of political correctness.
You’re not helping yourself. When you use the phrase “political correctness”, what the rest of us hear is “I find it inconvienent to give people basic respect.” I obviously don’t know how you personally feel about trans people, but I do get a sense that you’re honestly trying to learn how to navigate when trans and nonbinary characters show up in RPG. The problem is, IRL trans rights are under attack, and you keep using the language of people who are trying to attack those rights. It’s not doing you any favors.

I am very sorry if I offended you or anyone else. I really do try to be polite, but while I am trying my best, I'm only an interested amateur, not fully in the know yet. I'm sorry if I perpetuated any stereotypes or wrong ideas. I live in an open community and have several friends who identify as asexual or are trans/nonbinary (including a roommate), so I know what they're going through. And because of that I try to be as inclusive as possible, but as many people can attest to, I'm not the best with words. >_>

And yeah, I guess I use that language because those are the articles I read the most, so I guess I absorbed the wrong lingo. My apologies for that.

I'll just shut up now before I stick my foot up my mouth any further. >_> But thanks for correcting me and your honesty. I really appreciate it.

3/5

As a non-LGBT+ individual, I am always improving at using the best practices to deal with these sorts of topics. One thing which I really like about Paizo's efforts at representation is that it is never jarringly in your face. They manage to work these individuals into the world in a way that always makes sense in context.

Sovereign Court 5/5

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Douglas Edwards wrote:
Since we have the attention of Iammars and Rigby, let me ask what you would do, beyond trying to nail the pronouns (which I flub pronouns of PCs all the time, but its a thing to work on), with player characters who make the effort to point out that they are non-binary?

I wanted to make sure I responded to it before it got lost in all the other posts in this thread.

Pronouns are obviously going to be the biggest thing, as that is probably the biggest way a character’s gender manifests in the game.

The other major thing is going to be to watch for gendered responses and gendered language. One of the nice things that the PFS developers make sure of is that there’s not any real gendered responses baked in. This means that you just need to police your own language and make sure that you’re not using stuff like “man”, “dude”, etc.

A smaller thing is that oftentimes, nonbinary folks (or any other trans folks in general) can often feel like they have to be the “bad person” and correct people about their pronouns all the time. (I've also seen this be true of people who play nonbinary characters who aren't necessarily nonbinary themselves.) Obviously it’s a bit awkward as the GM to interfere on PC’s in-game discussions, but out of game if a player refers to a character by the wrong pronoun, it would be helpful to have someone other than the same person correcting that player. That makes it feel like it’s not just one person insisting that everyone refers to their character by the correct pronouns, but that everyone else is insisting.

4/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ignorant cis white dude here. When portraying non-binary character and in the position of correcting a wrong pronoun, is it better to use "I don't identify as..." over "I am not..."? Alternately, would it be better to use a more affirmative "I am nonbinary"? Is there a preferred standard around that language or should I look for clues in the character's write-up?


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Bill Baldwin wrote:
I am not saying we get to decide. I am saying that choosing something that avoids confusion behooves their cause.

But that's not how the language is working right now. I don't see nonbinary people have "choices" that everyone is comfortable with, unless you try to squeeze them into gendered "he" or "she".

If someone has decided that they want to be referred to by the pronoun "they", that's what you need to use when referring to them. Telling them that they need to make another choice is telling them that you have decided that their choice is invalid and they cannot choose "they".

If I ask you to refer to me as 'Crystal', are you going to tell me that it's confusing because the word also means a type of fine glassware, and it also means a type of mineral?

Does the fact that the word 'crystal' can refer to more than one thing mean that I have to choose a different name for you to use when you address me?

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

CrystalSeas wrote:
Bill Baldwin wrote:
I am not saying we get to decide. I am saying that choosing something that avoids confusion behooves their cause.

But that's not how the language is working right now. I don't see nonbinary people have "choices" that everyone is comfortable with, unless you try to squeeze them into gendered "he" or "she".

If someone has decided that they want to be referred to by the pronoun "they", that's what you need to use when referring to them. Telling them that they need to make another choice is telling them that you have decided that their choice is invalid and they cannot choose "they".

If I ask you to refer to me as 'Crystal', are you going to tell me that it's confusing because the word also means a type of fine glassware, and it also means a type of mineral?

Does the fact that the word 'crystal' can refer to more than one thing mean that I have to choose a different name for you to use when you address me?

1) I was not speaking in terms of individual choice, but rather a generalized group choice. Some form of standardization everyone in the community can mostly agree upon. Something that can be put in print and everyone knows what you are talking about.

2) Both the name 'Crystal' and the thing 'crystal' are well known enough that there is usually no confusion. If I say, "I am Crystal," most people will realize I am saying, "My name is Crystal," and not "I am made of crystal." On the other hand, if there are multiple people in a room, and I say "They' want you to do something for them," it is unclear if I am referring to an non-binary individual or a group of people. We are talking adding new nomenclature to the general masses, and the less confusing you make new things to the general masses the less resistant they are to it.

Yes, in the end, it is their choice. But they are asking for the masses to make changes on behalf of a minority. And while their is nothing wrong with such a request, the easier you make it for the masses, the less resistant there will be to that change. It just seems like the best way to accomplish the given goal.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

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On a side note, I do not know if Paizo has decided on what standardized nomenclature they will be using for describing non-binary characters. If they have (or when they do) I would recommend a side-bar in adventures this is relevant to explaining the nomenclature as there are plenty of individuals out there who simply do not know much about the culture.

Scarab Sages 4/5

There is support for the singular "they" from at least one commonly consulted style guide.

(Associated Press) Making a Case for a Singular They

I don't know if Paizo has an official style guide, and I imagine that would be an internal document, but in the one PFS scenario I've read with a non-binary character, "they" is the pronoun used.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Bill Baldwin wrote:

1) I was not speaking in terms of individual choice, but rather a generalized group choice. Some form of standardization everyone in the community can mostly agree upon. Something that can be put in print and everyone knows what you are talking about.

<snip>
Yes, in the end, it is their choice. But they are asking for the masses to make changes on behalf of a minority. And while their is nothing wrong with such a request, the easier you make it for the...

You seem to believe that there is some group that makes the choices. I know of no such group. But singular 'they' has hundreds of years of history behind it in the English language (see, for instance this article by the Merriam Webster folks where the usage is said to go back to the 1300s)

I don't know of any group that is able to make such a decision, but I do know individuals who have asked me to use particular pronouns when I talk about them

While we're waiting for the mythical 'group' to get together and make some decision, it's probably easier to be polite and kind to the individuals you meet, and simply use the pronouns they ask you to.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

CrystalSeas wrote:
While we're waiting for the mythical 'group' to get together and make some decision, it's probably easier to be polite and kind to the individuals you meet, and simply use the pronouns they ask you to.

Not sure why you think anyone here is suggesting otherwise.

Grand Lodge 5/5 ⦵⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Online—PbP aka Hmm

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What a great conversation. I’m glad to see it here in PFS. Let’s start out with acknowledging some things here.

Change is hard.

Even well-meaning CIS-gendered folk like myself mess up. Rigby will tell you that they had to correct me ten times as I was learning to call them by the correct pronoun. I struggled to do this with my daughter’s friends as well.

Here’s the deal, though. It’s okay to mess up. If you mess up, just correct yourself and move on. Like any other person learning a new language, you will make mistakes.

Being mis-gendered or invisible sucks.

Gender is a spectrum, and most of us have been trained to see only in black and white. That’s why this is all so very confusing, especially to those of us who are older, and still have trouble seeing the other colors that are present.

However, this isn’t just a political movement. Nor can we dismiss this as being in someone’s head. This is call to authenticity, and to realizing your true self. Have you ever had shoes that were uncomfortable to walk in, but everyone insisted they were yours? Not only that, but they didn't want to see you in anything else. Being stuffed in the wrong gender category is a bit like that only much worse. You just feel — off. Or invisible. Or like the real you doesn't matter.*

Having characters that represent your experience can be very affirming, so I think about what it would be like to have the non-binary kids that I’ve met at my table. If there’s a trans character, you bet I’m going to try to do some justice by it.

The singular ‘They’ is the easiest gender-neutral pronoun we have.

We old folks learned in school that ‘they’ is always singular, but it turns out that the singular ‘they’ has always been with us. Most of us have used it without even noticing.

Example: “Have you heard that we’ve got an exchange student coming? I wonder what they will be like.”

It is hard to portray non-binary when you yourself are not sure what the idea encompasses.

Oh, I get that. I really do. When Jen talked about looking for clues that someone is non-binary, I could hear some of you thinking, ‘What clues?’ Many non-binary people are in positions where they cannot present as themselves. Others are hard to see because we’re not used to looking for the clues. And let’s face it. Our whole culture has had some pretty androgynous fashions, and some mixing up of gender roles. Is that teenage ‘boy’ wearing eye-liner because they’re goth, a budding rock musician or trans? Is that person with short hair a trans male or just a woman who likes practical hair cuts and army boots?

So how do you know if someone is non-binary?

Often, you don’t. But I now have a button that I wear at the library with my preferred pronouns (‘She, her, hers’) and will often ask folks what their preferred pronouns if it’s a social gathering.

Okay, Hilary, how do you GM a non-binary character?

As if they are real people, with all sorts of real motivations and goals. I imagine that I met them at a social gathering, and then I ask them to tell me who they are. Then I try to portay that to my players.

  • Miss Feathers: I portrayed her a smart information broker who happened to be a prostitute. My description: “Miss Feathers is a boisterous large and muscular woman with sharp eyes and information on everyone in town. At one point, she was male, but that was a while ago.”

  • Non-binary gnome: “It’s really hard to determine this gnome’s gender. There are several subtle clues that make you think she’s a woman, and other competing cues that make you think he’s a man. They seem to be somewhere in between.”

  • Medda: I went out of my way to get players to ask about that backstory, dropping all kinds of interesting hints. I made sure to play up Anok’s pride that she is an Evening’s Daughter, and Anok’s tone of wonder got my players to bite every time. Each time I GMed it, I brought it out. Yes, we were in a time-pressured special, but it only took two minutes and I thought it worth it.

    ____
    * Also, keep in mind that all non-binary people are different. My interpretations are broad generalizations of a very diverse group of people.

  • The Exchange 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Charlotte aka eddv

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    I have to admit I portrayed the recent non-binary gnome in Down the Verdant Path as just 'depressed poet gnome' and used 'they' exclusively and no one even picked up on or commented on something being amiss, but you think I maybe should have called out the non-binariness even more than that?

    Iammars wrote:


    The other major thing is going to be to watch for gendered responses and gendered language. One of the nice things that the PFS developers make sure of is that there’s not any real gendered responses baked in. This means that you just need to police your own language and make sure that you’re not using stuff like “man”, “dude”, etc.

    A smaller thing is that oftentimes, nonbinary folks (or any other trans folks in general) can often feel like they have to be the “bad person” and correct people about their pronouns all the time. (I've also seen this be true of people who play nonbinary characters who aren't necessarily nonbinary themselves.) Obviously it’s a bit awkward as the GM to interfere on PC’s in-game discussions, but out of game if a player refers to a character by the wrong pronoun, it would be helpful to have someone other than the same person correcting that player. That makes it feel like it’s not just one person insisting that everyone refers to their character by the correct pronouns, but that everyone else is insisting.

    Thanks, this is a big help.

    Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento aka FLite

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    Bill Baldwin wrote:
    Tallow wrote:
    We don't get to decide or tell people how to identify themselves. If they wish to use gender neutral terms, then it is up to us to make that work within our own paradigm.
    I am not saying we get to decide. I am saying that choosing something that avoids confusion behooves their cause.

    It's not really as confusing as all that. People use They for gender neutral binary all the time.

    For Example, Car pulls in front of you. You cuss, your passenger who was not paying attention says "Whats wrong" and you say "They cut me off!"

    I assume you are not thinking the car was driven by multiple people.

    Other examples:
    "Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Would they please collect it?"
    "The patient should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay."
    "But a journalist should not be forced to reveal their sources."

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