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    Default What makes a character "Feminine"

    Note: This is NOT a thread to argue about sexism in the media or the like, this is a thread about me trying to improve my roleplaying.

    Lately I've been looking over a lot of my old builds, and I've realized a lot of my females characters...don't seem female. They seem more like "Men with breasts". For example the black knight Iseria, who is defined by her goal to become the greatest swordfighter in existence, who wears a full mechanus plate, and is a dark cleric of Bel. There really isn't any aspect of her personally outside of her relationship with the Prince that says "female".

    Google defines feminine as follows.

    "Having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, esp. delicacy and prettiness."

    Okay. Simple enough. I find the "delicacy" a tad sexiest as it implies girls are fragile, but it does define it. "Prettiness" we'll let slide, cause this is D&D and unless a character has a badass scar every PC is pretty or at least average looking.

    So this ultimately lead me to turn to the greatest collection of roleplaying mind in existence, this forum.

    What to you defines: "feminine".

    If I asked you to make a "feminine" Paladin, how would you do it?

    Assassin? Barbarian? Cleric? Wizard?

    Help me make it so my female characters are more than just "men who happens to have two x chromosomes"

    Disclaimer: I am not one of those perverts who plays female characters for the sexual nature of it (The Ninja assassin being the exception), I do it because no one else in my group will, and in campaigns settings with continuity, it's nice if every adventuring group isn't all male for implication purposes.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    I think Extra Credits over at Penny Arcade TV have a good video about good characterization for female characters. They're about video game design rather than tabletop, but it will still be 100x more insightful than me.

    But my 2cp? I would say that the difference in Male/Female personalities is primarily based on social factors. Earth-shattering I know.

    If you compared any random woman on the street from London today to a woman from Victorian England, a woman who was the contemporary of William the Conquerer, and a Roman woman from Londinium you would find that the modern woman had much more in common in terms of personality with a modern male Englishman than any of her fellow women throughout history.

    So basically; how did women in the time/culture your game setting is based on tend to behave? How does that interact with her goals and upbringing? Ta-da! You now have a nuanced female character.

    At least that's how I try to do it, and the women in my D&D group seem to find the female NPCs they run into fairly three dimensional. I might be off-base though; self-serving bias and all that.

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    Devil

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Ultimately, the defining characteristic of female humanoids is their ability to conceive and bear children. Make sure all of your female characters are pregnant as often as possible.

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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    You might be over complicating things.

    True, we do lack the required genitalia to know first hand, but it's not especially hard.

    We already take our own gender into account when we make characters. So the only extra step is "Ok, Im a girl *insert race* what is my society like, what is expected of me. What drove me from that towards this?"

    For the more bookish professions (Cleric, Wizard, etc.) there really isnt a lot of development that needs to be done, but for your black knight it is a little more complex.

    She could be following in the footsteps of her father, or she could come from a place where the normal social constructs (men in the field, women at home) had to be abandoned in favor of "Everyone grab a weapon and kill some orcs before they over run us!"

    In the end the motivations are the same for women. A man wants to be strong so he can protect himself (same for a woman); a man wants power so he can live comfortably and reproduce (same for a woman)

    Id stay away from 2 things. 1.) Rape. Rape in a back story is a cop out, and is kiiiiinda sexist. A woman doesn't need be raped to be a moving and complex protagonist. and 2.) Polarity. Your female character doesn't have to be a wannabe man, but she also shouldn't be a dainty princess. (Unless you have written them that way because that is what really makes the most sense to you.)

    If you are still having trouble, ask a girl. Take the character to a female friend and have them look it over. Listen to their critiques and advice.
    Last edited by Dragvandil; 2012-08-09 at 06:15 PM.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragvandil View Post
    Id stay away from 2 things. 1.) Rape. Rape in a back story is a cop out, and is kiiiiinda sexist. A woman doesn't need be raped to be a moving and complex protagonist. and 2.) Polarity. Your female character doesn't have to be a wannabe man, but she also shouldn't be a dainty princess. (Unless you have written them that way because that is what really makes the most sense to you.)
    All good suggestions.

    I tend to avoid rape as a whole, it's just an uncomfortable topic. There has been basically one instance of "Rape" in a campaign I've played in and it resulted in the guy's death due to the woman being a ninja.

    As for polarity. I find both parts have places if they're played well, but you are right, extremes and stereotypes probably should be avoided. If she's a hulking barbarian it shouldn't be cause she wants to be a man, it should be cause she likes smashing things with her club.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Well for one thing, not all females are feminine. Your black knight swordfighter chick sounds like a great example of a female character with low femininity.

    Now, in my own past playing female characters, I've done a few things such as wearing pretty clothes or insisting on comfortable accomodations at the best inn in town. Women tend to be more in touch with their emotions than men, so remember to balance what you think is best with what feels the best when making decisions. I also find that following rather than leading is a good way to avoid appearing socially dominant.

    Alternatively, you can try the Jack Nicholson approach:
    Quote Originally Posted by As Good As It Gets
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Tyger View Post
    Ultimately, the defining characteristic of female humanoids is their ability to conceive and bear children. Make sure all of your female characters are pregnant as often as possible.
    So infertile and post menopausal individuals aren't female?
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Menteith View Post
    So infertile and post menopausal individuals aren't female?
    For the sake of the one joke it is.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Menteith View Post
    So infertile and post menopausal individuals aren't female?
    Calm yourself. It's just a joke yikes.
    Always write your character sheet as if you had to give it to someone else to play, and you had to accept and use the character sheet written by a different anonymous player.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    A few years ago I played a female character in a game of WHFRP. There were a couple of female players and the only comment I got was "Oh, your such a Lady" when I turned down the advances of a male NPC. Its just my PoV, but I find RPing sex to be quite sad - its not what I play games to do, well ...

    I just played her as loyal and protective, as well as keen to demonstrate her athleticism. She died right at the end of the campaign when she went back to try and rescue the stubborn Dwarf.
    Last edited by nedz; 2012-08-09 at 07:31 PM.
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    My current character in Pathfinder is a cross-dressing bardic sorcerer. He's all kinds of feminine.

    If it bothers you, give her a sex drive. No reason why she wouldn't have one. Men, women, whatever's your fancy -- just don't break the character -- and she'll be just that much more real for you.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Kitten Champion View Post
    My current character in Pathfinder is a cross-dressing bardic sorcerer. He's all kinds of feminine.
    Wouldn't he just burn all of his spell slots on Disguise Self ?
    He'd definitely want Extend spell as well.
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    Consider a 5' radius blast: this affects 4 squares which have a circumference of 40' Ś Actually it's worse than that.


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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    Wouldn't he just burn all of his spell slots on Disguise Self ?
    He'd definitely want Extend spell as well.
    He was the son of a prostitute that ended up as a theatrical performer in a small port city's red-light district with a strong cross-gender acting convention similar to kabuki. He likes the feel and sensation of women's clothes, cosmetics, jewellery, and lacquered nails - whether people recognize his sex or not is irrelevant to him given his titanic ego.

    Recognizing femininity/masculinity as a performance, something we cast on and off for our own purposes, makes it an interesting role-playing tool. One I think, some are afraid to use.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    Wouldn't he just burn all of his spell slots on Disguise Self ?
    He'd definitely want Extend spell as well.
    Persistent Spell if at all possible.

    As for the actual topic at hand, pretty much just think of aesthetics. If you want to have that paladin seem more feminine, have her armor cup her breasts, her hair long, and wear a dress or a skirt along with the armor. A sorceress could prefer certain fabrics, like velvet or silk, and enjoy putting on makeup, because it would be a terrible insult to blow up her enemies when she's badly dressed.

    Really, all you need to do is think of something that would fit that character's personality, twist it to fit the class, and there you go.

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    Post Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    This is incredibly subjective of course, but some actions just feel overtly feminine or masculine.

    I am a woman who is currently playing a male character, and some of my ingrained habits sometimes break through while I am speaking in character. When I get nervous or scared, my voice gets higher pitched. I also tend to move my hands around a lot when I am talking, which I have noticed few males do.

    Noticing actions that you take which seem overtly masculine can go great lengths into making your character seem more masculine.

    You can also observe women who are around you (not in a creepy way ) and try to identify any habits that seem particularly feminine to you. Then remember them later and implement them into your character. I'm not talking about stereotypes mind you, just little habits that can make someone seem more masculine or feminine.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Morithias View Post
    Okay. Simple enough. I find the "delicacy" a tad sexiest as it implies girls are fragile, but it does define it.

    "Delicacy" doesn't have to be simply physical fragility. It can be delicacy of taste or manners as well.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Morithias View Post

    If I asked you to make a "feminine" Paladin, how would you do it?

    Assassin? Barbarian? Cleric? Wizard?

    Help me make it so my female characters are more than just "men who happens to have two x chromosomes"

    Disclaimer: I am not one of those perverts who plays female characters for the sexual nature of it (The Ninja assassin being the exception), I do it because no one else in my group will, and in campaigns settings with continuity, it's nice if every adventuring group isn't all male for implication purposes.
    As a quick note, you can make a female character that is "just a man with two X chromosomes" and that is fine. Some females are just that.

    If your character's defining characteristic is "is female" you may want to reconsider your character to add depth.

    But to answer your question, I would make a feminine paladin exactly like Agrias from Final Fantasy Tactics. Or, like Joan, my Knight in a PbP thread here.

    A feminine assassin would be a 'black widow' spy type that uses her good looks to insinuate herself in noble society and to eliminate her targets.

    My classic Conan definition of a barbarian is incompatible with femininity, so I would make my female barbarian masculine.

    A feminine Cleric could be like Agrias, above, if she was more of a chivalry and honor type, or people are into 'girls are healers' so you could play into that as well, if you wanted.

    Female sorceresses / wizards generally wear as little clothing as possible. lol
    Jaina Proudmoore from Warcraft is an inoffensive but feminine Wizard.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Thinking of masculine women (I may be wrong with this) but remember Joan of Arc?
    However yes, I would go with the idea of the character desireing comfort, going for more expensive inns, taking care of her armour so she didn't smell like a walking iron works and sound like a squeeling pig.
    Probably put a point or two more in Charisma and Wisdom.
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    The character you describe seems fine to me, frankly. I don't believe there needs to be some aspect of a character that says either 'female' or 'male'; it's more important that they have a personality, which you seem to be doing just fine, and I'd say that usually whether someone is female or male is a pretty small part of that.

    Still, if you want the character to come off as more traditionally/stereotypically feminine (or masculine, in the reverse), I'd look to the setting first. If there's any information as to what the average male or female citizen tends to end up doing, or how they would be brought up, you could use that. The suggestion above of observing people (or characters in movies or TV shows) that you think of as being feminine and then gleaning some character traits from that is also a good one.

    Really though, people are people. There are a lot traits that any character might end up having, and some of those are usually thought to be feminine - although that changes depending on culture and time. Not everyone who is female has them. Not everyone who is male doesn't have them.

    Also, personally speaking, I would much rather see a female character who isn't all that different from a male character of the same profession than a walking stereotype wearing ludicrously styled armour/robes. What I'm trying to say there, is that if you have to err one way or the other, I think you're better off erring on the side you're already on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Manly Man View Post
    As for the actual topic at hand, pretty much just think of aesthetics. If you want to have that paladin seem more feminine, have her armor cup her breasts, her hair long, and wear a dress or a skirt along with the armor. A sorceress could prefer certain fabrics, like velvet or silk, and enjoy putting on makeup, because it would be a terrible insult to blow up her enemies when she's badly dressed.
    For the armour thing: another option would be to have it be highly decorated, which wouldn't decrease the effectiveness of the armour but might serve a similar purpose.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Morithias View Post
    Okay. Simple enough. I find the "delicacy" a tad sexiest as it implies girls are fragile, but it does define it. "Prettiness" we'll let slide, cause this is D&D and unless a character has a badass scar every PC is pretty or at least average looking.
    This sounds a bit counter intuitive. Because "Delicate" and "pretty" ARE traditionally "feminine" attributes.

    Most people would say the only thing feminine about Xena is her beauty.

    It just seems more like a notion of "I want to find feminine that doesnt involve makeup and boobs , so im going to throw out the original notions of feminine"

    Also, "pretty" doesnt mean "attractive". Sean Connery (at least a decade ago) despite being in his 60s was seen as an attractive man, but he wasnt pretty. Thus not feminine. There is masculine beauty and feminine beauty. And its fun to have alternate notions on it, but the fact that remains is that both of these are based on their corresponding gender
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    The one big thing I've heard about girls at the table* is that they tend to be more story-oriented than goal-oriented, and that they are more focused on working as part of a well-coordinated group than they are with individual glory. Most of the people tweaking optimization to its limits have Y chromosomes. So are most of the people who fireball teammates to make sure they always do big damage to their enemies.

    *(As distinct from girl gamers. They also tend to be more team-centric when the game asks for it, but console gamer girls are notably more hardened. Probably because they have to be, but as proof female does not always equal effeminate.)

    The drawback being that if you're not already fundamentally aware of the social sphere around you, it's hard to fake it. A focus on courtesy and team-focused rather than self-focused habits is a start, but getting the exact feel right takes practice.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Menteith View Post
    So infertile and post menopausal individuals aren't female?
    That's correct. Likewise, individuals with no interest in being pregnant at any time, and those who are delaying it because it may not be practical while, say, robbing tombs.

    Edit: In the interests of equality, I should mention, I also find it best to have male characters' genders be defined by producing children- given the average adventurer's lifestyle, this should result in 1d4-1 illegitimate children tracking the male adventurer down each weak.
    Last edited by Lord Tyger; 2012-08-09 at 11:13 PM.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    "Like a man, except female" is totally fine for a female character. I mean, I've made both male and female characters, and played with both male and female characters, and honestly I couldn't tell you what makes the difference, or what would change if you swapped them. It'd be hard to stop one of them from being your typical slutty type if he was a woman... But all the rest could pretty much go either way.

    I have two suggestions that might help, though:
    1. Make "being female" a significant part of her background. Is she determined to be an anti-stereotype, and so ends up being hypermasculine because of that? Has she been told all her life that femininity is Bad, and to rebel from that she actually flaunts everything female she can? Could she be from a yonnic religion?

    2. Read books with female protagonists. I recommend Tamora Pierce's books, especially the Tortall ones, but they're all good. They all have a great variety of really good types of female characters you could draw inspiration from: There's the girl who had to disguise herself as a man; there's the girl who had to be the first female warrior, and so deliberately went out of her way to remind people she was a woman, despite being naturally quite masculine; there's the simple maid, weak and fragile, but who finds her inner strength; there's the noblewoman with delicate sensibilities but a core of stone; there's the noblewoman mother who knows the ins and outs of court life, but defies and manipulates it where she sees fit... and so on.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Tyger View Post
    That's correct. Likewise, individuals with no interest in being pregnant at any time, and those who are delaying it because it may not be practical while, say, robbing tombs.

    Edit: In the interests of equality, I should mention, I also find it best to have male characters' genders be defined by producing children- given the average adventurer's lifestyle, this should result in 1d4-1 illegitimate children tracking the male adventurer down each weak.
    Ha, I'm playing a loudmouth drunk human duskblade and have been sleeping with elven lady people at every opportunity, and really, really hoping to have the DM mention future illegitimate half-elf children tracking him down in the epilogue.*

    Anyway, I don't really know what makes a character or person feminine. Supposedly women are more inclined to be emotionally expressive, or nurturing, compassionate, more focused on relational thinking than abstract thought, et cetera ad nauseum, but Cthulhu only knows how much of that is cultural versus genetic, or hell, even how accurate it is. I can't figure out how freaking anybody really thinks, personally. So I guess it boils down to what women are like in whatever partially made up fantasy culture you're playing in, and how much you wanna go with the standard idea they have of femininity vs. go against it. Oh, and I second Agrias from Final Fantasy Tactics as a model for a female paladin. Agrias is awesome.

    *possibly for saddling them with the crappiest race in the PHB
    Last edited by Gnome Alone; 2012-08-09 at 11:38 PM.
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Just a few suggestions.

    -Dry humor, bit of sarcasm, and/or cutting remarks. Not uniquely feminine, but it helps a bit. Depends on the character type, of course.
    -Unexpected soft spots for some things. What exactly that is can vary, but giving much nicer treatment to something (whether that's feeding birds or taking the time to play with a kid) adds a little feminine touch.
    -Talking to the shopkeepers wife. Or, more generally, enquiring after NPCs lives, even if they're not important.
    -Focus on mental stats or dexterity. Str and Con are not terribly feminine. The feminine aspects of mental stats tend to be "cleverness" for Int (as opposed to ingenuity), "intuition" for Wis (rather than deep sayings), and "charm" for Cha (although force of personality is also common).
    -Practicality. This is rather dependent on the player and who else is playing, but coming up with simpler, more effective, and/or less showy solutions.

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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Morithias View Post
    For example the black knight Iseria, who is defined by her goal to become the greatest swordfighter in existence, who wears a full mechanus plate, and is a dark cleric of Bel.
    Well, if she's lurching around under a suit of Mechanus Plate all day, it doesn't really matter what's inside. All anyone's seeing is a bunch of gears and a sword.


    Here's a bit of a reversal: If male Fighters are allowed to flirt with the ever-buxom waitresses, it stands to reason she could flirt (more likely just joking/teasing) with any exceptionally-hunky men populating the bar.

    While the men are out drinking and whoring, she can drink and whore too, or stay in her room knitting socks, or go shopping for accessories like jewelry/shoes/dresses/purses (Get a Handy Haversack, and refluff it as a really nice purse ). It could be amusing to see her rifle through her purse and pull out something useful like a grappling hook or a pair of sundark goggles. She might also read a romance novel in her spare time. Even better if it's a fantasy romance, one which uses the modern world as a "fantasy" setting.
    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor Tippy View Post
    By level 20 though, you aren't capturing a wizard. A character lives to level 20 by being the most ruthless, lucky, capable, and paranoid bastard around. A wizard is throwing around a 30+ Int score and has, entirely in character, planned contingencies for his contingencies. He may well be running around with flat out total immunity to harm, he does not walk outside without an entire bevy of defensive magics around him and enough magic items to buy himself a nation.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cerlis View Post
    This sounds a bit counter intuitive. Because "Delicate" and "pretty" ARE traditionally "feminine" attributes.

    Most people would say the only thing feminine about Xena is her beauty.

    It just seems more like a notion of "I want to find feminine that doesnt involve makeup and boobs , so im going to throw out the original notions of feminine"
    First thing I got shown in my beginning anthropology classes were several Pacific island tribes where "pretty" and "delicate" were masculine traits. Basically the point was that "masculine" and "feminine" are cultural tags that we apply to things, and that change (often dramatically) over time, like pink, which has gone full 180. Look at pictures of men from the 1700s for example. Those are MASCULINE MANLY MEN for their time and the equivalent of a manly frat boy who watches Spike TV and goes to wet t-shirt contests and drives a 4-wheel drive muscle truck and catches crocodiles with his hands.

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    Pictured: A REAL MAN

    You know this outfit was pink and yellow.


    It will all depend on the culture you're trying to emulate. Western European culture? Well, that's great. Which one? What a Frenchman found manly in the 1300s the English tended to call "womanly." All shepherds used to wear smock-frocks and hose regardless of gender. Being dainty with your hands used to be a man thing. Among the Iroquois, being good at math was a feminine trait.

    Culture matters. Figure out the culture first.
    Last edited by hiryuu; 2012-08-10 at 01:45 AM.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfRogueGirl

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    North Carolina
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Quote Originally Posted by Slipperychicken View Post
    It could be amusing to see her rifle through her purse and pull out something useful like a grappling hook or a pair of sundark goggles. She might also read a romance novel in her spare time. Even better if it's a fantasy romance, one which uses the modern world as a "fantasy" setting.
    So you're saying a D&D purse is worse than a real-life one since it has to be magic before you can put a grappling hook and rope in there? Tsk. If it's magic you should be able to get a 10-ft ladder in there without breaking a sweat. (Bonus points if you get the thing enchanted so only women will ever be able to find anything in there, a man touches it and mayhem breaks loose.)

    As for making a character more feminine. Read this forum without looking at the gender tag on users, can you accurately guess everyones gender? Would you even dare to try?

    But I suppose you could add a few quirks that are often considered more female, such as blushing at crude jokes, having soft spots for small defenseless things and so on. But to be honest, as a woman, I'd laugh. (Granted I'm the kind of gal who takes comments about being manly as a compliment.)

    In the end, just play the characters the way they want to be played, gender is such a small part of someones total personality that it really doesn't matter much and some characters simply will be less feminine than others.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGirl

    Join Date
    Aug 2012

    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    I made a feminine Assassin in an oriental adventures campaign.

    She was a rouge/assassin/were-murder of crows who always acted acording to the standards of ladylike behavior (Knowing flower aranging, tea ceramony stuff like that) and thought that killing people for money was just one of her duties as a noblewoman of the scorpion clan and that it wasnt unlady like as long as the kill was quic, clean and left a lovely corpse. (She only used her swarm attack as a last resort and always avoided the face).

    On a side note isnt it awsome that noble robes are loose enough to fit leather armor underneath.
    If necromancy is wrong i dont want to be right.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Kalmageddon's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Italy
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: What makes a character "Feminine"

    Loudly announce in-character whenever you have to pee, that will make your female character 100% more convincing than anything else.
    Avatar made by Strawberries! Grazie paesÓ!

    Quote Originally Posted by Juggling Goth View Post
    The only time in my life I've used my karate training was in blocking that goose from my face. She bounced off my jodan age uke, hit the floor, got up, and came back for two more attempts.

    And it's not like she gave up at that point. I just grabbed my bike and ran.

    She was fine, and her babies got to find out that their mom was badass. I was traumatised.

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