Updated: Jul 30, 2019
When I made the decision to produce the Mother of Monsters adventure, I wanted to make sure I was writing an adventure that would appeal to everyone. I’m an old-timer who has been playing fantasy role-playing games since I was fourteen. I’ve seen the hobby go through many different iterations, but I’ve never seen as popular or with such a diverse community as it has today. That’s a good thing, but I knew I would need to take care to ensure I’m writing to today’s gamer as well as the gamers of my generation. For that, I hired Simone of Wildwood Editing to be my editor and requested that she help my product appeal to a wide audience.
The adventure I’m making is inspired by ancient Greek mythology, and that era was ripe with slavery, misogyny and human sacrifice; of course, to an old school gamer like me that just meant there was loads of content to write about. I was excited! I was going to have pillaging bandits, slave wives, children being sacrificed to dark gods and beautiful trophy wives manipulating their men. Then I sent it to Simone, and she raised some flags for us to discuss and reconsider.
Our first conversation was about the Amazon-inspired backstory. My Amazons were women who were kidnapped and forced to serve a horde of male bandits. The story had them rebelling against the men and taking over with the help of Hera and Ares analogs. I also added that Ares despised helping the women but did it because he was commanded to by Hera. Simone had several concerns about the choices in this myth and recommended against themes of kidnapping and slavery. I asked “Why not, the women have to be oppressed” and Simone simply replied “Why?” So we are compromising (I say this in the present tense because I'm not sure our discussions are over yet). Currently, we’re working other reasons these women chose to form a band of warriors, and we’ve explained that Ares’s disposition is because he hates mortals, not women specifically. These thoughts never crossed my mind. Thank you Simone!
The next discussion was around a doppelganger disguised as a much younger trophy wife of a merchant antagonist. In her NPC description I wanted her to be a stunning beauty, so I described her as having beautiful honey blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, whose every move was a seduction. Once again, HALT, do not pass go! This was dangerously perpetuating a theme that women were only valued for their beauty and youth, especially when male NPCs were handled much differently. I argued that she’s a trophy wife, so of course I have to describe her beauty in detail—not so surprisingly, this wasn’t a compelling enough argument. In the end, we came to the following compromise:
“Khara is a stunning beauty. She has honey blond hair with sparkling blue eyes with a beautifully shaped body. Her every move is a seduction.”
“The doppelganger is currently taking the form of a young woman with honey blonde hair and blue eyes of uncommon beauty. People find her fascinating due to her ability to read thoughts and be what they desire.”
Lastly, there was a scene where a child was taken hostage, and when the characters finally reach the antagonist holding the child they are given three rounds to rescue him before he is killed. It was meant to bring a significant threat to the scene, forcing the characters to think of other actions that might be needed other than just barreling in and killing everyone. Simone hasn’t seen this one yet, but I asked one of my other writers, Ron Lundeen of Run Amok Games, to proofread my portion of the adventure and was advised that violence to children was a hard no. I had to really think about this because I wanted to understand it. It's a fantasy game after all. The conclusion I came to was that this game is no longer just for the older audience. We have a lot of younger players nowadays. Also, it was explained to me that it might bring up some bad memories for some of the players. Following the advice of experienced writers, I changed the scene to say that the antagonist disregards the child when he realizes the heroes aren’t buying his bluff.
The moral of this story is that if you are publishing an adventure, you are not writing for yourself alone. You must think about your audience and take action to ensure you are writing for them too. Also, if you are an old fogey like me, make sure you ask questions and try to understand the motivations of the younger players. They are the future of our hobby and the ones whose interest is vital if you are to survive in the industry today.