I've been thinking of making a role-playing game, computer or otherwise. Normally this following issue is circumvented by making male and female characters differ only or mostly cosmetically. However, as I want the game to be fairly "realistic" it would seem remiss to take that path.

The game might be a horror-themed one, the party trying to get from one place to another while desperately trying to survive, the odds stacked against them with very dangerous encounters, and enemies and violent or shocking events inflicting psychological trauma on characters.

I should have stated originally in the case of a video-game, that, although the player may be able to distribute abilities more or less freely, the vast majority of the characters will be randomly generated and have semi-random stats.

Obviously, male characters would be superior in physical attributes.

  • Let's say 10 strength would be average, in females perhaps 6.
  • Toughness also 10, females again: 6? 7?
  • Game/movie staple would have it that females would be more graceful and agile, but, as I understand that does not necessarily seem to be the actual real life case.

I have pondered and attempted to balance the game so as to make female characters viable.

My proposal was to give females higher charisma:
F: 12, M: 10. Or F: 10, M: 8.
Owing to generally higher social skills, and empathic abilities.
And to also giving them higher "psyche" making them more resistant to psychological trauma
(which might be a bit of a stretch, since women would tend to panic more readily in situations of severe mental stress)?

Of course good-looking female characters could more easily manipulate males, but that would not only be somewhat sexist, but would also be difficult to use repeatedly
as a mechanic in many kinds of games.

Women are supposed to be more resistant to certain diseases, but I do not know if it warrants actual increases stat-wise, how true it is, or how useful it would be in-game.

What would be the different physical/psychological strengths of men and women?

Any thoughts, ideas, advice?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Really, don't. The current climate is quite hysteric about gender discrimination. When you publish this, you will soon find yourself targeted for promoting sexism, no matter how much you try to justify it with realism. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Oct 4 '15 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Statistically, women's physical capabilities are very different than men's, and in many ways indeed "inferior". But that does in no way mean you have to use any mechanic in this sense. What else do you want to model - that north italians have somewhat higher IQs than south italians? That stronger people are also more likely to develop type II diabetes? Or wouldn't you rather leave all of this up to the actual character generation, and assume that people will rarely create women with extreme strength anyways, but still allow them to easily play one o the physically strong women if they want to? $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Oct 4 '15 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ The question is just flame bait for the site. Game stats and game play in RPGs is so unrealistic in any case, I am not sure what kind of "realism" you expect to gain by trying to model sexual dimorphism with any degree of accuracy. The "realism" of RPG games is from sci-fi and fantasy blockbusters in any case - so males and females can have different stats based on those fantasies, with very little grounding in reality. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 '15 at 17:31
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Also, aren't you forgetting superior female endurance? Less muscle mass to carry around means you can do it longer. Fat reserves, etc. Running away/avoiding fights is a superior strategy in real-life, whereas drama/games put a premium on fighting. $\endgroup$
    – user3082
    Oct 4 '15 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sad this question got put on hold, because it is either opinion-based or off-topic, but I am sad I didn't get a chance to add an answer beforehand. Basically, the OP is overplaying the differences. Human stats aren't linear - they're bell-curved. So if you're randomly generating women and men and want to reflect differences, just set the mid-point of your bellcurve differently for each. So if you generate 10,000 sets of stats, the average female value for some stats would be lower than the average male value (or vice versa), but any given character could be anywhere on the range. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Oct 4 '15 at 21:36

Males, on average, are stronger than females.

The "strongest" person is a male.

However, there are some females that are stronger than some males.

Likewise, there are highly charismatic males, non-tough males, and extremely tough females.

Leaving as many options open to your players may be more desirable than setting arbitrary values for "realism". A player may wish to play a River Tam, or a Coach Beiste.

The upper edges of physical norms may normally be filled by males, but the remaining spectrum could have significant female representation.

  • $\begingroup$ Actually, the strongest American was female (and still may be). Individual variation can swamp averages. $\endgroup$
    – user3082
    Oct 4 '15 at 19:09
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ What source? I google "Strongest person in the world" and "strongest person in the world" and only get males in all the lists I checked there. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 '15 at 22:45

This question quite opens the field for feminist type upsets.
That aside I think you have some leeway to decide on attribute ranges. Your protagonists are likely fairly exceptional individuals. The males should be resistant to female whiles and the females should have compensating strengths in order to make them equally interesting to play.

Being the same is very different from being equal.
Cultural habits may have males jump to shield females from harm. This can compensate for lower muscular strength in females. Females can have better protection from cold and better resistance to pain and better detection of environmental dangers.
In the past armies consisted of men. Only in the field of archery women could really compete. In espionage, we all know the Bond stereotype. And he always has several woman roles around him.

Find a balance
I think you can find some attractive male and female role examples and build two different, realistic AND interesting profiles from there. If those balance strengths and weaknesses, you facilitate quite nice team-building.

Will you share results? Have fun!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Archery is way more muscle-bound than swordplay. Your references are a bit off... $\endgroup$
    – T.Sar
    Oct 4 '15 at 23:09

So this answer may come across as tremendously sexist. It's actually just a philosophy work-in-progress that I'm playing with, but it could be sufficiently applicable to your problem to help.

Consider any task at hand. Go ahead and name it. Perhaps the task is as simple as lifting a heavy box to move it to the bedroom. Excellent. We've named the task. We can even make metrics to measure how well it was done, say "time taken from start of task until box is at a specified location in the bedroom." Perfect.

Now what else?

The box is not isolated. It's in a huge world with all sorts of interconnections. You can move the box very successfully, throw your back out, and ruin yourself for the larger task, perhaps "moving into a new house." Likewise, you can cajole 3 of your friends to come help move the box, and, in fact, successfully move the box without ever actually lifting a finger. They can move it for you. Which is the right approach?

One solution is to define the larger problem of "move into the new house." However, we start to run into a problem. Defining these large problems often involves unknowns. As we find out in many large contract tasks, the world doesn't always agree. If you write down the task as "move the bed to the south side of the room," and find out halfway through the process that there's not enough linear space for the bed to fit, your entire plan is suspect and has to be re-jiggered. Accordingly, we leave some of the details out of the plan... we want just enough plan to make sure it gets accomplished, but not so much plan that it gets in the way. But how do we do that? That sounds like a really tough balance to get right (and it is... it's called life!)

I would argue one solution we have come up with is to break up every task into two sets of side effects: the intended effect and the residual effect. The intended effect is the narrow goal, such as "move this box to the bedroom." The residual effect is everything that got influenced in a way that wasn't captured by the narrow goal, such as "Steve threw his back out, so he can't help move the fridge." This seems like a reasonable tautology: we can always divide "everything" into "something" and "everything that wasn't part of something."

I believe this provides an excellent place to poke and prod at the concepts of masculine and feminine. Mind you these are the genders, not the sexes. As we have seen in countless examples, a female can be very masculine, and a male can be very feminine, but as a general rule there's a good correlation between sex and gender. Masculine and feminine deal more with how we approach the world, and less with what is or is not dangling between our legs. It's also not a binary thing. One can be masculine in many ways, and then have a "feminine side" which can show through.

I would posit that the division of tasks into an intended effect and a residual effect captures this gender difference very well. The masculine side is taught, from a very young age, how to identify a task, name it, bound it, and then accomplish it. If someone forgot to include "keep your back operational" in the box moving task, it was unimportant and may be sacrificed for the cause. The feminine side is taught something quite a lot harder to pin down in words. That side is taught how to pay attention to the residuals, making sure you don't win the battle but lose the war. Someone who is balanced with more feminine traits will not lift as heavy of boxes, but when they do lift them, it will come with a grace that not only protects their body but inspires the nearby workers by showing just how beautifully one can accomplish the goal. And of course, by these particular lines I've drawn, it's the feminine side that shifts the bookcase a few feet to the right long before the masculine side hauls the bed into the bedroom and realizes that, because the bookcase is no longer interfering, there is now space to put the bed on the south side of the bedroom ("How did she do that? She didn't even measure the room. She just... knew?")

So, you are free to take this argument or leave it. It would be fair to say that I am piling on a very hard-edged line over the top of a beautifully fluid concept of gender underneath. However, if it feels like this has a grain of truth to it, it lets us explore the genders in your game with a mindset that doesn't necessarily have to start with "gender X seems weaker than gender Y." For one thing, it points out a meaningful way to talk about a single individual having both masculine and feminine sides. Indeed I do believe it is impossible to have just one. A pure masculine character burns himself out because he has no words to describe "himself" in a task, so he eventually just consumes himself in an attempt to accomplish his goals (crazy mad scientists sometimes err down this path). A pure feminine character simply can't do anything she wants to do. She can make the world a brighter place, but she has to convince everyone to do everything for her (the prisoner-princess is a classic image of this). If you look at the realistic hyper-feminine characters in non-fiction, they are always tremendously feminine, until you get to see them when they drop their guard, and they have a terribly hard "grit" in the center of them which fuels everything they do. Likewise, if you look at the realistic hyper-masculine characters, they always have some goal which cannot be put down in formal wordings. It's always an elusive flitting idea that drives them forward.

So, drawing this towards your game, if you want the feminine characters to have lower stats, that is not unreasonable. The tradeoff would need to be that, when the feminine characters use those stats, the result has a stronger tendency to simply "do what they actually wanted," rather than merely doing what they did. Just to brainstorm a concept, perhaps the more feminine abilities have a tendency to have an "unexplained" effect of making things easier... perhaps by revealing a weakness you might not have detected otherwise. Due to the way one moves in a masculine or feminine way, the feminine activities are better for observing the opponent while acting.

Another approach might be to take advantage of the fact that, the more feminine a character is, the more they can account for the health and well-being of their own body. If you've ever seen a mother move around, it's extraordinary. Mind you what they do is, objectively, nothing quite as obviously impressive as her husband's work in construction. But the husband has to come home and rest. He depletes himself every day, every week, and if not given a chance to rest, will soon consume himself. The mothers... my god... they run 24/7 for literally years on end without a break. It's awe-inspiring, once you look at it right.

How do women do this? They have a ruthless efficiency that the masculine side simply cannot comprehend. While many female characters appear weak on the outside, watch them for long enough, and it becomes apparent that they are simply acting with tremendous efficiency. Consider the archetype of the queen who appears weaker than the king, but any in-depth study will note that, when all the cards are on the table, she gets her way far more often than the king does. These women are just as tough as the men (one might even argue tougher), they are just approaching the problem efficiently.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, it does come across a bit that way... or overly idealistic ("when they do lift them, it will come with a grace that not only protects their body, but inspires the nearby workers by showing just how beautifully one can accomplish the goal..." really? Maybe I don't have enough experience watching women lifting boxes, because I'd imagine it would look about the same as when men do it.) $\endgroup$
    – zeta
    Oct 4 '15 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ @sumelic That may have been a bit over the top ;-) I was driving towards the absolute extremes of the spectrum. However, if you look at the extreme cases in real life, you do see some of it. Consider the life of a Geisha. Or, if you prefer to look at actual labor, look at the women who carry huge containers of water on their heads. They make it look effortless, not just because they have developed the muscles for it, but because they maintain poise the entire time (important when you have a bunch of heavy slosh-happy water on your head). $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Oct 5 '15 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure the reason this isn't downvoted more is that it's too long and confusing to read. I tried reading it and the whole "it's the 19th century, Nietzsche hasn't developed Schizophrenia yet, my name is Stirner" vibe stopped me halfway (= 23 paragraphs in) through. $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Oct 5 '15 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @jona fair enough. It has never been easy to capture the value of the feminine side in a way which can be processed by one who has come to a viewpoint that the masculine side is simply better than the feminine side (as the OP suggests is something he has arrived at logically, but is not intuitively content with where the logic lead so is looking for something he might have missed). Because gender is so deeply rooted in our society, it is remarkably hard to discuss it without digging deeply into philosophy. We make so many assumptions along the way that aren't obvious until we poke at them. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Oct 5 '15 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ "We make so many assumptions" Such as that there is a feminine essence and a male essence. Some feel there aren't. $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Oct 5 '15 at 15:59

"And to also giving them higher "psyche" making them more resistant to psychological trauma "

ROFL,seriously bro? you're essentially saying that women are tougher psychologically? you gotta be kididng me, this is by far their weakest point (well most of women, not all of them, just majority). you can easily break em down.

However i disagree that females are THAT much weaker than males physically, id say that if male got strength of 10, female should have ~ 8. However when it comes to that "psyche" guys should have 8-12 while females could have 1-12 (very person dependant)

So in short are females generally inferior? In reality no. however in game characters require attributes which are in the male superioroty zone, so feminists -


My suggestion: there can be tough males and females, strong males and females, charismatic males and females. Just make some attribute allocation system where both genders are given equal amount of points to allocate and everybody can decide how much they want to focus on every attribute.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, about the psyche thing, i forgot to justify this by saying that females may be more in touch with certain emotions and more experienced in analyzing and dealing with emotions than men, although i also did state quite clearly that this "might be a stretch" or simply erroneous and i suppose it might indeed not be justified to give them higher psychological resistance, fair enough. $\endgroup$
    – user14211
    Oct 4 '15 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ and this is why we dont have gender related characteristics in video games $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Oct 28 '20 at 16:30