King Arthur Pendragon

Monday, March 26, 2012

Politically Incorrect

Reading carefully the AD&D rulebook (1st edition), I could not fail to notice that Gygax imposes a maximum limit to Strength for female characters. It's a quirky little rule, politically incorrect nowadays (God forbid should we decide to limit attributes based in gender), but I think it speaks well of Gygax's influences in writing the game. Mind you, this is only my interpretation and, as such, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

The only attribute where this male/female distinction is applied is Strength as reproduced in the table below:

Taking this into consideration, this means that most males will have a higher probability of hitting and do more damage than their female counterparts. Even in the case of dwarfs and half-elves, where it is only a 1-point difference, it means that, even though females will have the same bonus to hit (+1), they will do, in average, one less point of damage (+1) than males of the same species (+2). In the case of gnomes and halflings, this difference is even more pronounced, with females not having any type of bonuses. Another consideration is that, females are precluded from ever reaching the mythical range of 18 in Strength which gives access to the higher ranks of strength (18/01-50 and so on).

So far as I know, this is the only edition that limits characters based on gender. And my interpretation is that it reveals much about the genre which influenced AD&D from the get-go: Swords & Sorcery. Women were always weaker than men, a thing of beauty and frailty to be protected and coveted, and also a source of temptation and villainy in the form of evil sorceresses. Only rarely do women assume a more warlike stance (BĂȘlit, from Queen of the Black Coast, being one) and stand shoulder to shoulder with the male protagonist. Another side effect is that it may push female characters into roles other than Fighter, since not many players like to being imposed limits and current sensibilities tend toward a more balanced approach from the gender point of view. Ironically, this limit only applies to demi-humans. Human females can be as strong as human males, which contradicts the swords & sorcery view, or may be not. Perhaps someone else can provide some insight.


Hedgehobbit said...

Those charts have always had me puzzling because of the way in which they were applied. You'd roll stats then pick your race, class, and sex. So it's not like women with 18 strengths are having their stat reduced, instead they either don't become a women (wierd!) or they move their 18 to another stat. So, because stats are rolled independently, while women PCs might have a lower average strength, they will have a higher average in everything else. (even if that bonus is slight).

"I'm sorry, you've rolled too good to become a woman"

Epic Prime said...

Actually if you played a woman fighter, you could leave the 18 in Strength, but it would be maxed out at 17. Of course, you can always hope for a Girdle of Giant Stength or Gauntlets of Ogre Power...

It was a commentary of the time...I do however miss the level limits for different classes. (It really made Pikkel different when he became a druid for real!!)