Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Exalted and Sexuality

I recently bought a copy of the fantasy role-playing game Exalted 3rd Edition. Exalted is a game in which you play demigods in a fantasy world and can do things physically, intellectually and emotionally beyond the abilities of normal men and while I plan a fuller post about it later some things about it have jumped out at me that I want write about now, namely how the game takes a very positive view of sex and sexuality, both in the setting and the rule mechanics.

First off throughout the description of Creation (Exalted's default setting) it is obvious that same sex relationships are an accepted and normal part of life. More importantly it made obvious in the descriptive text itself rather than some special side-bar box.  The RPG industry in general has been making great efforts in positively portraying same sex relationships and differing gender roles but it is usually in the form of some special section lecturing the reader.  Rather than this though Exalted just portrays it in the descriptions and bits of fiction that intersperse the rules.  This is an even healthier view, in my opinion, in that the authors feel they don't need to draw special attention to it but just treat same sex relationships merely as something that is.

Moving from sexuality to gender roles one of the cultures of Creation are the Delzahn, a desert nomad people.  Unlike most Creation's other society's the Delzahn have very strict gender roles with the men being the classic warriors/hunters/herdsmen while the women take care of the home and related activities.  But even the Delzahn have a concept called "taking the gray" where a person can decide that they aren't suited for the role of their birth gender and can choose to act in the opposite role.  The cultural description then goes on that couples wherein one or both parties have "taken the grey" often seem to be emotionally healthier than the norm.  One could argue, with some justification, that this just emphasizes the gender binary but I still think it provides a better example of simple acceptance that some people do not have to conform to the norm if they feel it is wrong for them.

All of the above however is in the end just background description fluff.  Very positive and admirable but still fluff.  Where Exalted needs be really praised is in dealing with issues of consent in role-playing games.

Exalted has very interesting rules dealing with social interaction and being able to convince characters to act in your interest.  I will go into details at a later date but I find their social rules to both simple and unique.  Part of it involves being able to create emotional connections with other characters to get them to do what you want.  I'm sure you can see how that could potentially be abused by some people and to their credit the game creators saw the implications as well.  Unlike the issues of sexuality they went out of their way to draw attention to this with a special sidebar section of the rules that states explicitly that attempts to seduce a character can only succeed if that character's player actively consents to the seduction.  If the player doesn't want the character to be seduced because they feel that it is against the character concept or that they personally as a player are uncomfortable with the attempt than it simply does not succeed! That way the would be seducer can't hide behind "the dice said I seduced you" as an excuse and the player maintains their complete control over their own characters choices and must actively consent to any sort of seduction.  This is something that is truly admirable and I would like to see more often in other games, even ones without such specific social interaction rules.