Genre, Gender, Race and Inclusiveness (in Tianxia)

March 4, 2014 — 1 Comment

I am browsing the book for Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade, and found a page I really like. This is always the case, because the game takes place in the imagination, but it is nice to hear it be presented up front.

Genre, Gender, Race and Inclusiveness

By default, Tianxia’s setting is more inclusive
than Imperial-era China but it still presumes a
fair amount of similarity with that period. Thus
gender roles are less defined and non-heterosexual
orientation is less polarizing, but there are still
certain vague expectations. However, this need
not be the case.

GMs can tailor gender roles, attitudes towards
sexual orientation, and social expectations based
around these factors as much as they like. Women
warriors are hardly uncommon in Tianxia as is, but
they can be made even more common if you like.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered characters
already exist and are generally accepted by many,
but their level of acceptance can match or even
exceed what we see in modern society, if desired.
Do whatever is most fun and enables play. In fact, a
fairly famous wuxia movies series, the Swordsman
Trilogy, revolves around a skilled warrior who learns
incredibly powerful martial arts, resulting in the
character switching genders from male to female as
their internal energies transform their body. So, not
only are these ideas totally fine on their own, they
are supported by the media that inspires Tianxia.

Likewise, the default Tianxia setting presumes
the vast majority of people are of East Asian
ethnicities roughly matching those of China. This
is reflected in the art, names, and other setting
elements. That does not mean you cannot populate
the Shénzhōu setting with people of all ethnic
backgrounds; in fact, it will not break anything to
make characters white, black, or even reframe the
whole setting as nothing but anthropomorphic
animals. Such changes might alter the feel of the
setting somewhat, but not necessarily for the
worse. You can find support for such ideas in the
inspirational media, with movies like Man with
the Iron Fists presenting characters of various
ethnicities. There is even another role-playing game,
Jadeclaw, where the PCs are all anthropomorphic
animals in a setting similar to Tianxia’s.

One response to Genre, Gender, Race and Inclusiveness (in Tianxia)

  1. I’m glad you liked that section! Being inclusive is very important to me as a gamer and as a publisher. We wanted to make sure we weren’t just trying to teach people who might not be familiar with Wuxia as a genre how to play, but we wanted to give players permission to play whatever, whoever, they wanted in that setting.

    It’s one of the first things playtesters called out in a positive way, and I’ve been very proud of that section ever since.

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