Sunday, 30 May 2010

Arguments: The gender gap.

No matter how much we strive for equality between the sexes we have to acknowledge that men and women are not the same. It’s true! But if you don’t believe me try a few of the following simple tests:

Ask people at random if they would be happy to walk along a crowded beach topless. Record the number of people who say yes and the number of people who say no and also record the gender of each respondent.

Break into student residences and people’s houses and rate each room for cleanliness. Leave a questionnaire behind which asks respondents to rate the how clean they think their room is as well as their gender. Compare their answers to you own ratings¹. 

Randomly select one hundred people and open up the tops of their heads and stick a chemical measuring probe into the middle (where it’s most squishy²).  Then get the people to have arguments with each other. You’ll notice that when arguing the brain, on getting signals from the body (fluster, heart palpitations, sweaty palms³), produces chemicals which make the subject feel angry. However you’ll notice that once the argument is concluded these levels of chemical imbalance do not disappear equally fast in all people. Testing across gender it will be clear that, on average, it takes longer for the chemicals to re-balance in women⁴.

So…. Now we know for sure there are chemical differences – how does that help us? Well, if you’re a guy and you’re playing an NPC which is a girl this can be useful information to use to get that authentic female style of argument tactic.

Well, how?

Well – like this:

You NPC and a hero have an argument. There’s a lot of finger pointing:

“Well, who set fire to the King? Hmm?”

“I wasn’t even there!”

“It was you wasn’t it?”


“ Don’t lie to me!”

“Ok – maybe just a little bit”

“You can’t go setting fire to royalty on a whim you know!”

“Oh – I’m sorry”

“So you should be”

“I am – truly sorry; can we move on now and do something productive with this session before my mother comes to pick me up?”

And… in the normal course of events that would be that. We’d all roll a handful of d6 in celebration and get on with important stuff like killing hobgoblins with pointy bits of metal.

However, we know that even though the argument is over, there are still chemicals rushing around in the brain of our argumentative NPC. She knows the argument is over on a logical level and so she’s not going to try to continue it. Yet, even having won, she’s still inexplicably angry on a biological level. Her subconscious skims about looking for clues to why she might be angry and it finds... well…. all sorts of things. You as a GM are responsible for generating reasons and details… but let’s assume for the purposes of this ramble that Lady Sarah has known Sir Gumblehole for a while and there are a number of things, other than setting fire to monarchs that irritate her about him. Now is the time to bring all these up…

“You’re always doing inappropriate things…”


“I mean, what about that time you dropped all those monks down the well?”

“What’s that got to do with…”

“… and there was that incident with the Chaste Lady of Belsaratt…”

“She was nineteen!”

“She was a prophet of Lettasera!”

“So? Are you keeping a list or something?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a list right here – The time you took the ribbons off my stirrups and the time you tried to become an abattoir worker as an XP scam…”


The beauty of this technique is two-fold. Firstly, it adds realism to Lady Sarah. These sidewinder guided missile argument structures that jink just when Sir Gumblehole thinks the confrontation is over are just the kinds of things that happen in real world arguments. Try it next time you’re having an argument. It’s very liberating. Secondly, of course, is the ability to bring out much more serious issues that Lady Sarah might have in her bonnet. You can use a relatively trivial trigger (such as setting fire to the King) and use it as a lunch pad to get into a fierce argument about Sir Gumbhole’s sexist and chauvinistic outlook on life⁵.

So. In closing:

Arguments are things that women win. Enjoy them.

¹        Now, if you get any responses from that, then you should be worried, because it means they know where you live.

²        Don’t worry – there are no nerve endings in the brain so they wont feel any pain while you rummage about with the probe and get it in the right position

³        Basically the same symptoms as when you’re on the toilet.

⁴        You can tell which ones are the women, because they will have won the argument

⁵       Don’t try this on me… I’m on to you… missy.


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