Sex and Gender in Aes

When we designed the character sheet, one thing we included was to have two separate boxes for sex and gender. This has attracted some attention from our players, since most have never seen that in any RPG before.

We treat sex in biological terms. Sex is determined by the biological attributes an explorer has. Gender, on the other hand, is the societal identification that explorer takes with regard to those biological attributes. For humans, baihu, qinglong, and zhuque, these two tend to be both binary and in sync. Male sex will typically mean male gender and female sex will be highly correlated with female gender. Binary sex is average for them and their societies assign their gender roles based on it.

Where the differentiation adds to the depth of the world is for the kindred who don’t follow the human normal arrangement. Sex binary is not a universal. The feichong, insects, are not wholly sex binary. Some versions exist with a third sex that contributes necessary enzymes to the reproduction process. The touzulei, who can manipulate life, have created myriad ways of reproduction with dozens of niches to fill.

Gender has greater variations, even among those kindred that tend to have binary concepts. Part of the punk aspect of steampunk is allowing explorers to defy what is average for a given society. A man can present as a woman and vice versa. Such subversion of Victorian mores are part of the steampunk genre. (The Constantine Affliction plays with this as a central theme.)

Tishli, predominantly female, have complex views on gender. The aggressive nature by which their masters in Zahnrad assign them a rigid place in society (i.e. economic slaves) leads some of the free tishli to question many kinds of apparently rigid structures, including how they present their sexual identities. The male tishli are deliberately genderqueer, since by design they are meant to represent the subconscious values of their creators. These creators have a false notion of masculinity (the bull-headed machismo stereotype), so they create the male tishli in response to that false image. They are a rebuttal to an argument that is only perceived to exist.

With baihu, the hyena variants are matriarchal, with males forced into a submissive role. Touzulei have as many genders as they do sexes, since they alter their forms and presentations on a whim. The sea going qinglong have variants that play with the “typical” gender roles, such as seahorse versions with males as the child caregiver. There are feichong that differentiate the gender between females based on their place in the hierarchy, with some breeding as others are expected to be asexual workers.

And, just as in the real world, there are those whose mental identification (gender) don’t align with the physical form (sex) they were born into. (Though, in the world of Aes, such a situation is much easier to fix thanks to evo control.) while it’s possible to play a transgender character in almost any game, we felt that splitting sex and gender made it at least somewhat implicit that it’s fine to do so here. As opposed to leaving it as an undocumented feature.

Currently, there’s a transgender character in playtesting: a biologically female tishli who identifies as male, who acquired shape shifting and identity theft abilities. Now they prefer to present themselves as male in more ways than one. At GamExpo, we had a bi-gender character, as well. Both did so to explore role-playing opportunities and to create explorers they thought were interesting.

We didn’t split sex and gender to be trendy or pander. Issues regarding transgender individuals are serious and deserve earnest discussion moving forward. Our decision to split sex and gender, rather than treat them as synonyms, was not an effort to try and make the game seem more legitimate by inserting that discussion into Aes. It was done because, in the context of the game world and the game’s themes, differentiating the two allowed for greater depth of lore and expanded options for players.

The questioning of what constitutes normal is where Aes draws much of the punk side of steampunk. At the same time, we avoid sweeping generalizations condemning all aspects of normal or deeming all rebellion as foolish. If an explorer wants to dig into the issues around a gender-sex disconnect they can. If they want to go with the average and have the two synchronize, they can do that, as well. Sex and gender, especially through a Victorian lens, are fascinating topics to explore, which is why we’ve put them in our game.

Realms Con Report!

Realms Con was amazing! For the photos, check out the Facebook gallery.

We ran three games at RealmsCon: 2 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday. We were fortunate – there was another RPG there that tried to run games but couldn’t find players. We managed to get full tables of 6-9 players each time.

The first game had explorers protecting a tishli from being kidnapped by slavers from Zahnrad in the Aeneam town of Coithwaite. Unlike the first time this adventure was run, the explorers managed to avoid burning down the building.This plot was continued on Sunday in the third game, who decided to head to Luxoglen to steal a boat. They then ran into the head of one of Aeneam’s main criminal organizations – La Marabunta – and barely managed to escape with their lives. One of the cool “to be added later” items highlighted were tattoos that acted as responsive armor, their images changing in response to attacks to boost defenses.

The second game (which the WIP Podcast, USS Joan of Arc, and Steam Engine Intrepid participated in) had explorers in the Aeneam city of Kwiv. They were supposed to stop two pirate factions, lead by Jadescale and Dahlia, from fighting and destroying the place. Instead, there was a 2 hour battle over lawn gnomes and a final battle involving 3-on-1 PVP. Hilarious all the way through. One player gave a speech that I wish I had recorded, an appeal to Jadescale that successfully convinced him to allow some of the explorers on his pirate crew.

One change to come from the experience were tweaks to character creation. We had blocks of text in the kindred that we’ve separated out under new headers. This will make it easier for players to find basic info such as speed. We also typed up a clearer explanation of ideals, faculties, and mods. This will hopefully make testing at GamExpo run even smoother.

In addition to the games, we also donated several art prints and bookmarks to the con for prizes and hand outs. This earned Aes a shout out at the closing ceremony!

Kudos to the following groups who helped make Realms Con awesome for Aes: Dark Tide Comics, WIP Podcast, Steam Engine Intrepid, USS Joan of Arc, Gold Coast, Master Bones Jangle, Airship Nikolai, Ramen Pride, Art Blocked Creations, and Rod Thornton!

We’ve been invited back to Realms Con next year to help run the table-top room and coordinate games. We’ll post more info later!

GamExpo 2015

Aes: Brass Revolution is headed to GamExpo this weekend! Here’s a list of specific game times:

Friday (10/9):

8 PM – Midnight – Open Play

Saturday (10/10):

Noon – 4 PM – Zahnrad with the Wind

4:15 PM – 8:15 PM – Petticoat Mafia

10 PM – 3 AM – Open Play

Sunday (10/11):

1 – 5 PM – Open Play

Zahnrad with the Wind has the explorers escorting a group of tishli slaves to freedom out of Zahnrad while being pursued by the secret police and trackers. Petticoat Mafia has explorers faced with a choice: help women who have been disarmed by a rules crazy mayor or arrest them at the request of the town sheriff in the name of law and order. Open Play is just that: time for people to explore their own personal plot lines as defined by their character goals.

Games will be run outside of these times, too, such as Friday and Saturday. We hope you’ll join us!

RealmsCon 2015

Aes: Brass Revolution will be at RealmsCon this weekend! There’s no set schedule for games, but we’ll be in the game room (C101 & C102) all weekend running them as players come!

One event we do have planned is in partnership with the WIP Podcast. They have a Friday panel 7 – 8 PM (Dance Floor). We’ll then be recording a game session with three of their members! It’ll be posted online after the convention.

Look forward to seeing you all!