|Yang Huizhen in A Touch of Zen|
GENDER ROLES IN QI XIEN
The wuxia genre is a bit unusual when it comes to gender roles and equality. On the one hand this is very much a genre where women and men are pretty much treated as equals in terms of martial arts skill. The earlier wuxia movies frequently featured female protagonists, often disguised as men, who could swing a sword as good as anyone. Later films in the late 60s and early 70s like Come Drink With Me would continue this tradition. In the move A Touch of Zen, for example, the two chief characters are a male scholar named Ku and female martial hero named Yang. Ku is depicted as a meek and bumbling intellectual while Yang is a fearless and aggressive warrior. But wuxia is also a genre where gender roles are clear and at times constrictive.
Because our aim was to be true to the genre, we assume that most social conventions present in wuxia film and literature are also present in Qi Xien. This doesn’t reflect our personal views of traditional gender roles, it is merely an attempt to reflect the source material. That said, we also don’t place particular emphasis on this either.
Ultimately this is a social game. While Qi Xien is a world that contains traditions and customs found in wuxia, this is your game and you can run it the way you want. We don’t want female players to feel the oppression that characters in the setting experience. So while imperial posts are largely run by men in Qi Xien, and families are led by men, this doesn’t mean you can’t make exceptions for individual player characters. It also shouldn’t be used to make anyone uncomfortable at the table.
There are a few ways to deal with this issue at the table. One approach is to completely ignore the distinctions in social status between men and women. Just assume it isn’t a part of the setting at all. Even though this isn’t the approach we took with the rulebook, there is nothing wrong with doing this. If you don’t like it or find it too constricting, ignoring it is a perfectly acceptable option. Another method is to draw on existing tropes in the genre. The most common is women disguising themselves as men and taking male names. Whether or not the people around her know she is really a woman, this should allow you to hand wave any impediment to her holding a position normally reserved for men. Basically any female character disguised as a man, would be treated as one. Another approach is the one mentioned above, just treat PCs as the exception to the rule.