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This is a Sexist Setting

Pendragon is set in the Middle Ages, when patriarchy was raw and openly practiced as the “standard of living.”

It isn’t fair. It is not a standard of two equal genders. The sexes were different in what they did, how they acted, and how much power they wielded. Politically, militarily, professionally—these masculine routes to Glory are prohibited to women. It’s not fair, it’s not just, it is just the way that most of the people in society are thinking. It is not entirely different from the way that many people live and think today.

Pendragon is not set in “how it is supposed to be.” It’s set in “How it Was” (sort of), which turns into the story of “How it Ought to Be,” or more accurately, “How the thousands of people who made this stuff thought the world would be a lot better.”

I don’t think that attitude is appropriate today. I don’t embrace or encourage its political or spiritual messages. I don’t think people should act this way (even though some do.)

I also reject the idea that Medieval women were powerless and weak. Without doubt they lacked significant numbers in those traditionally masculine positions of power, which makes the exceptions in the “prohibited” professions even more significant. For example, think of Eleanor of Aquitaine in politics, Joan of Arc militarily and Christine de Pizan among professionals.

Further, in those realms women can’t do what men do, but they can make men do things. Women are too smart to do the dangerous things, so men do all the life-threatening activities. So women don’t kill men, they just get their men folk to do it for them. Women are precious, men are expendable.

But every noble woman had power in her own spheres. Among the knightly class, the entire home and social realms are run by women. No laws determine their actions and judgments, except the Laws of Nature. Women are in charge because of common custom. “That’s just the way it is.”

Men are simple, savage things that can be controlled if women simply pay attention to them. Men obey women and try to please them because they think there may be sex later. This fantasy of theirs can be ignored most of the time. Women may choose to have sex, but smart ones are discriminate, discreet and demanding, and they wait for that rare moment, the one-in-a-million chance to find a tough knight who is tough with the men, yet is a courteous gentleman out of armor, and also the perfect lover. The One. (If he could just be found under all that dirt.)

Men can be taught. They are learning Chivalry in order to tame, yet hone, their savage killing abilities. They can also learn the practices of Romance, to prove that they also have the civilized side.

Individual women can defy and even mock social dictates. Your character does not need to toe the social line in a Pendragon game. But the game presumes the historical values of the time, and that is the social standard, unless the GM says otherwise.

Finally, this Arthurian society is pliable to your player characters. If your character doesn’t like the way things are, she can not only be different, but also change the ways things are. The game setting is not the game. The players and GM cooperatively make the game, and a theme in Pendragon is the long-term social change.

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