Several months back, I wrote a rather scathing polemic about violence against women in RPGs, and the BFRPG module Morgansfort was the unfortunate target of my fey mood.
I won’t say that I don’t have problems with Morgansfort as I read it, because there are some personal lines that it crosses for me with how it was originally written. The original post, however, unfairly hammers Chris Gonnerman’s work when there are far more egregious offenders out there, but my frustration reached a boiling point while I happened to be reading Morgansfort.
I like BFRPG, and enjoy the several modules I’ve read, and I even enjoyed reading Morgansfort. The modules are VERY well written and super easy to pick up and run. But what happened for me was what I’d consider an “Awww, man!” moment. Finding really good gaming material out there that is free from sexist tropes seems harder than it should be, and finding it in something that I REALLY LIKED kinda made me snap. I really think that if I hadn’t had every intention of running Morgansfort at some point, I wouldn’t have said anything.
Violence against women and victimization of females is commonplace in fictive fantasy of any media because it elicits such a visceral response, and it’s an easy way to shine a glaring bright spotlight on something or someone to say “HERE BE GREAT INJUSTICE!” (Insert essay on Women in Refridgerators phenomenon here.) And I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past, because it’s such an EASY way to show just how evil and bad someone is. When I revisited my decade old notes on from Cirsova as a 3e campaign, one of the first ‘episodes’ ends with the kidnapped women & children dead at a bandit camp, because “aww, man, those guys are seriously bad dudes!” I’m glad now, that I never ran it, because it was using victimization as a cheap plot device to elicit a reaction from players.
Anyway, Chris found my post, but rather than flip out and start an internet fight, he came over, addressed and acknowledged points while making some of his own. In no way do I think that Chris Gonnerman is a gross sexist or racist dude; at worst, he slipped into an easy and commonplace (so much so that most people won’t even realize it unless it’s pointed out) narrative trap. And I think that if I didn’t enjoy his stuff, I wouldn’t have got all butthurt about it. One point he made was that I should’ve contacted him personally with any grievance I had so he could’ve dealt with it quicker. Having been an indie publisher myself, it should’ve occurred to me that, as an indie publisher, Chris would’ve loved to hear feedback. At the time, though, I didn’t make the mental connection.
In reality, there are only a few things that would have to be done to ‘fix’ the problems that I had with Morgansfort. Drop one word that makes the Orcs seem to be itching for a fight, not have the ‘wink’ in the DMs notes regarding surrendered Orc women, and maybe give some sort option to save the poor zombie girl… I know that wouldn’t be enough for people who are hard-set against inherent sexism of the ‘damsel’ trope, but those people are way harder to please than me.
I’d like to thank Chris for his feedback, and offer the above as apologia. To everyone else, please check these things out for yourself and reach your own conclusions. I’m a B/X person, but as far a system with lots of materials that are both free and easily adaptable, BFRPG is one of the best and one of my favorites.