The following Private Companion is a companion piece for Know Direction 58. Specifically, it expands upon our banter segment, in which Paizo editor-in-chief F. Wesley Schneider joined us to discuss homosexuality in Golarion.
As soon as readers picked up their copy of Dynamite’s Pathfinder #5, a tidbit about the sexuality of one of Pathfinder’s core iconics was revealed, and with it a conversation started among Pathfinder enthusiasts on sexuality. Listener Ian M. Davison pointed us towards this blog post by Pathfinder comic writer Jim Zub, recommending we use it as a topic for banter.
And I said “your idea is good”.
I presented the topic to Perram and in our planning discussions, he recommended asking Wes if he was cool with us discussing his involvement in the Queer as a Three-Sided Die GenCon panel (video: part 1, part 2), or maybe get a quote we could use. What followed was an exchange of e-mails that can be summarized as follows:
Ryan: Hey Wes, do you have any thoughts on this subject?
Wes: Do I! [includes wall of text that only scratches the surface of his thoughts on this subject].
Ryan: Whoa. That’s amazing, but it’s a wall of text.
Wes: Would it be easier if I just came on the podcast and talked about that stuff?
Ryan: Would it!
And he did. But I didn’t want what he wrote to go to waste, so I asked his permission to include that e-mail as a Private Companion, which he was more than happy to oblige. Below is Wes Schneider’s unabridged reply to my request for his thoughts on homosexuality in Golarion:
“The inclusion of gay characters in Pathfinder/Golarion goes all the way back to Pathfinder AP #1, with the article on Sandpoint which included the relationship between Cyrdak Drokkus and the paladin Jasper Korvaski. It’s not a huge deal in their write-ups, in fact it’s a pretty passing thing, as both of them have more interesting things going on than who they sleep with.
The interesting thing is that I had nothing to do with those characters. And very little with the Merisiel-Kyra thing. Actually, I was against Merisiel and Kyra at the start, my take being: “Oh. Great. We’re going to make two of the hotter female iconics make out. *Edgy*. That’s not progressive, that’s fan-service.” But since script approvals when I saw how awesomely Jim Zub handled it, and then later in the art, I’ve totally changed my opinion. The awkwardness in their fledgling relationship really sells it for me, and their portrayal as such opposites. It’s not a sex thing, it’s not an all-over-each-other thing, it’s clunky, there are total missteps and misunderstandings and accidental hurt feelings. All that makes it more than awesome, it makes it real.
But yeah, 9 out 9.5 times, queer members of the staff have had little or nothing to do with the inclusion of queer characters in the game. There’s a pretty significant GLBTQ population at Paizo, but that’s never been a thing here, it’s never been an issue, no one’s ever cared one way or the other. Obviously Paizo is a pretty liberal company, but more than that, everyone here is brilliant in one way or the other. And while GLBTQ members of the staff are sensitive to the portrayal of such characters in our works, everybody’s creativity, personality, and artistic sensibilities go far, far beyond who they happen to go to bed with. We’re here because we love RPGs, telling stories, and because it’s been a life-long dream to work on a game like Pathfinder. No one is here because they are looking for a pulpit or to press an agenda. The agenda is to make an awesome game that’s welcoming to everybody. The best representation of this are the iconic characters, our stand-ins for players. Take a look at them and you’ll see this isn’t a game just for white guys, it’s for everyone, regardless of gender, race, or sexuality–though you can’t see the latter from just looking at the characters, its been there since the beginning, leaking out in bits in pieces in backstories and with increasing blatantness as we explore their exploits even more.
But the discussion about GLBTQ characters isn’t restricted to Paizo and Pathfinder. This year at Gen Con, Green Ronin’s Joseph D. Carriker, WotC’s Jeremy Crawford, Paizo editor Judy Bauer, myself, and maybe a couple of others, will be once again be running a seminar titled “Queer as a Three-Sided Die,” where we’ll be discussing existing GLBTQ elements and portrayals in gaming and listening to attendees to find out what they’d like to see more of in the games they love.
Already this seminar has had an impact on Paizo’s offerings. During last year’s discussion we rattled off a handful of gay and lesbian characters in our company’s various works–yes, Rufus and Burnie did come up (http://gaygamer.net/2007/03/top_10_gayest_tabletop_charact_9.html)–after which someone asked the panel about transgender characters.
Awkward comments about girdles and curses and mimics.
Between Joe, Jeremy, Steve Kenson, and myself–lifetime gamers each–we had nothing. But we acknowledged that we can do better than that. Already I’m preparing for this year’s seminar and already I’m planning to bring that topic back up with at least three examples from the interim year of Paizo products that have included positive portrayals of transgender characters.
That’s not for me, that’s not for some mythical GLBTQ agenda, that’s because a gamer at a convention told me she’d like to see a character she could relate to in our games. She wanted someone like her to slay monsters, cast magic, and be a hero.
No problem. I can do that. After all, that’s what Pathfinder is all about.”
-F. Wesley Schneider 05/03/2013