Steve Kenson’s: The Needless Queers
Steve Kenson is no stranger to Tabletop RPG design, he’s a prolific designer, and an all-round champion of inclusion, diversity, and more. Steve is one of the more prominent queer voices in the industry, and has contributed to RPGs as well as designing one of our favourites: Mutants & Masterminds Superhero RPG. A full bio can be found here from Steve’s site.
Steve has also been involved in the upcoming Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos book for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
You may remember that we took a look at Strixhaven recently, and this setting and adventure book has been on our minds in the wake of the Potter controversy. A place for us to finally live out our wizard school dreams, without any of the previous trappings of that other IP.
Steve wrote a really good post recently on his site, one that I wanted to share here with you all at Exiled News and I’ll leave a link to the whole thing down below.
“I use the word “queer” to mean “non heterosexual and/or non-cisgender” and have done so for well over 25 years now. I find it simpler and more inclusive than the LGBTQIAA+ or “QUILTBAG” abbreviation. I understand some people find “queer” a slur, or have experienced it as such (as I have), and I respect if they prefer not to claim it, but I feel it is a term we have reclaimed and made our own and use it as such.”
Steve talks about Schrodinger’s Queer as an allegory to the famous cat in the box, and applies it at some length to Strixhaven’s setting. It’s good advice, and having a huge cast of NPCs at a magical school runs the risk of a GM putting those characters sexuality into a bracket, and that one is usually straight.
“To limit the decision about which Strixhaven NPCs are queer solely to the player characters’ romantic interests is to fall back on that tired notion that LGBTQ+ characters need a “reason” for their sexual and romantic orientation or gender identity, something that “furthers the plot,” when no such demand is ever made of straight, cisgender characters. Like all of the various other qualities that describe us as individuals, gender and sexuality are not “plot” but character development and fictional queer people do not need a “reason to exist” any more than real queer people do. We simply are.”
My plan for Strixhaven, like Steve, is to make the NPCs that follow this bit of advice.
“NPCs are of indeterminate romantic and sexual orientation until a player character expresses an interest in them, at which point their orientation at least includes that player character. They are designed as “blank slates” the players can project their interests onto, as is often the case for “romanceable” characters in video games. While I don’t think straight and queer characters are necessarily interchangeable (we have different life experiences—although that’s a whole different essay) I do think this is a reasonable and efficient approach when having only limited space to describe potential supporting characters—short of having to detail Strixhaven’s entire diverse student body.”
Steve’s writeup is an interesting one, and it makes a lot of good points that resonate with me and everyone at my gaming table. I’ve written a few things about this in the past, but I wanted to really draw the eye onto Steve’s words because I feel, as I said upthread, the advice here is worth putting into a lot of settings – homebrew or otherwise to create interesting, diverse, and accepting worlds for your PCs and their players.
The whole article can be found here