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I want to introduce a variant that allows for stat adjustments for males/females, but I would like something more in-depth than just a bonus and penalty to stats. Are there any existing variants or guidelines on how to implement this?

My reasoning is that most heroic adventures were written with males in mind --even if not specifically addressed-- and that women aren't always as strong as SOME men but may be smarter or more "in tune" for lack of a better term.

Any help would be great as I would like to avoid re-inventing the wheel. Thanks!

(This is for 3.5 but other sources that offer guidance would be good too if there are no 3.5 specific.)

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Thanks! Yes I meant Humanoid. I would like something more indepth that what I've listed. My reasoning is that most heroic adventures where written with males in mind even if not specifically addressed and that women aren't always as strong as SOME men but may be smarter or more "in tune" for lack of a better term. –  Gamer_Chick Feb 7 '13 at 0:36
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I would be careful about introducing this; there are classes for which wisdom is considerably more useful than strength, and being able to grab +2wis/-2str on top of an already good set of racial mods makes those classes considerably more attractive. Likewise, it penalizes players that want to play a strength-dependent female character, like some of the more realistic (i.e. not blatantly a pin-up) Red Sonja depictions (example: libertymeadows.com/covers/RedSonja1s.jpg). –  Oblivious Sage Feb 7 '13 at 0:36
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The only thing I know of that is remotely close to what you are asking is the Drow have different favored classes based on race, but I don't know of anything that adjusts stats. –  Ben-Jamin Feb 7 '13 at 0:55
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@Gamer_Chick: Having mechanically different genders 1) reinforces gender stereotypes and 2) impacts the balance of the game by making some options better and others worse. Those are the cons to doing it; the pros would (presumably) be helping you convey the setting, making things more "realistic" (to the extent that that applies to gender differences), or both. Only you can decide whether the pros outweigh the cons. Unless you roll stats and assign them in the order they were rolled, players can always just assign their female character lowers strength if they think that's important. –  Oblivious Sage Feb 7 '13 at 0:56
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In reality, there is only very slight statistical difference between men and women in measures like strength or willpower or patience or speed. The outliers are a tiny fraction and the vast majority of the area of the two bell curves overlap, but the outliers are more noticeable. Combine that with confirmation bias, and we end up believing that there are major differences when the reality is a few scant percentage points difference at the extreme top and bottom. That's to say, I wouldn't do this because it would be unrealistic, not more realistic as most people assume. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 7 '13 at 4:28
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4 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Stat jumps are really important to the game, and can easily and accidentally introduce imbalances to the system. In light of that, I suggest one of these pre-existing mechanics:

Traits (UA 86) and Flaws (UA 91)

Unearthed Arcana introduced these mechanics. Traits give a small mechanical bonus while also imposing a complementary penalty (Near-Sighted gives a bonus to Search but a penalty to Spot). Flaws give larger penalties, but grant an extra bonus feat as compensation. There are small sidebars about how to make your own traits and flaws.

These mechanics are designed to be reasonably balanced already, and can mimic individual variations of body and mind that might reflect your ideas. They do not give actual stat bonuses and penalties, however.

Point Buy (DMG 169)

If you want a actual ability score differential between genders, use point buy to simulate it manually within an existing balanced system.

Ultimately there's no way to generalize this without being offensive and unrealistic

Gender dimorphism is insignificant to player characters. In humans and most fantasy humanoids dimorphism is minor and individual variation makes any given person likely to defy it in some way; adventurers get an even bigger pass on population-based statistics due to their exceptionalism.

For this reason, I suggest that it's actually more interesting and realistic to use one of the above options to customize an adventurer to fit her own personal physical and mental traits rather than forcing her to conform to gender stereotypes in a way that will also imbalance the game mechanically.

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+1 for mentioning traits and flaws. You might also check out the Pathfinder traits if you want to go that route; they're more powerful, but there's a lot more of them: d20pfsrd.com/traits –  DuckTapeal Feb 7 '13 at 1:07
    
I'm familiar with the traits/flaws, they've always been optional for us, but I think the best way to handle it without negatively impacting mechanics is to make them take atleast one and then let them choose a skill bonus that makes sense to their gender that way there's no direct penalty and a (somewhat) minor buff for their customization. –  Gamer_Chick Feb 7 '13 at 3:29
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There is no official rule for mechanical differences in gender in D&D 3.5.

In fact, I'm not aware of any rule from any source that introduces such a rule, probably because it's so divisive.

In any case, using stat jumps is probably not the way to go, as BESW states. Another way to go that might be more appropriate is to use skills. This works especially well if you only use skill bonuses, and not penalties. Giving a +2 to a skill or two is not going to cause many balance issues, and are less likely to cause anger from your players.

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I like this and think I'll combine your answer with BESW's to get what I'm aiming for without penalizing them. –  Gamer_Chick Feb 7 '13 at 3:31
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I think enforcing gender differences in a mechanical way is a recipe for disaster and hurt feelings, and I also think that @BESW’s answer probably indicates the best way to do it if you insist.

I’m just going to note here that there are a (very small) handful of cases where sex matters in 3.5. In most cases, these favor women, as it turns out. Forgotten Realms really likes its women (almost all of these are from FR).

Drow

This is the big one: by default (i.e. in Greyhawk; also holds in Forgotten Realms), Drow society is very sharply divided along gender lines, and the women dominate the men almost utterly. Drow women are far more likely to have authority, far more likely to have great wealth, and far more likely to have education and magical power than men.

All of this stems from the Drow goddess, Lolth, who favors women basically exclusively (Drow men are forbidden from being Clerics of Lolth) and also encourages extreme amounts of infighting in the race, which causes the women to use that favoritism to their extreme advantage.

This is represented mechanically by the Favored Class of the Drow, which is Cleric for females and Wizard for males. As far as I know, this is literally the only racial statblock in3.5 that references any kind of gender differences.

In reality, Drow make pretty poor choices for either class (or much of anything else, if we’re being honest), thanks to that LA +2. The +2 Intelligence helps Drow Wizards more than the +2 Charisma helps Drow Clerics, though. It pales in comparison to the social benefits of being a woman in Drow society, however. How significant this is in your game varies massively, however, as should be obvious.

Beloved of Valarian

Basically going with the “unicorns only appear to female virgins” thing, this prestige class from Book of Exalted Deeds is kind of like a weird hybrid Druid/Paladin in ten levels. Valarian, by the way, is a unicorn deity, and his beloved have “foresworn the love of mortals to dedicate themselves entirely to the unicorn deity Valarian, thus fostering a close bond with unicorns.” Your mileage may vary on exactly how squicky that is.

Hathran and Durthan

Forgotten Realms prestige classes from Player’s Guide to Faerûn and Unapproachable East, respectively. The Hathran are a sisterhood of spellcasters from Rasheman; the Durthan are Rasheman witches somehow related to the Hathran in ways I do not understand.

The Hathran are quite powerful, with full spellcasting, Leadership and bonuses to it, and Rashemi spirit magic. Rashemi spirit magic is basically insane, it allows a prepared spellcaster to spontaneously convert a prepared spell into any other spell they know, provided they are within Rasheman. At higher levels, they even get the ability to use it a few times per day outside Rasheman. Hathrans are also required for Rashemi Circle Magic, which is powerful, and high-level ones can lead a Great Circle, which is even more so.

The Durthan requires both arcane and divine spellcasting, but only advances one, so that’s pretty weak unless you trick your way past it (Magical Training plus Alternate Source Spell is a common trick). Still, she gets Place Magic, which is roughly identical to Rashemi Spirit Magic, though I don’t see any explicit restriction to having to be within Rasheman, which is absurd if that’s the case. The rest of the class features are much weaker than the Hathran’s, though.

Incantatrix

As the name might indicate, within the Forgotten Realms setting, these spellcasters are almost only women. The prestige class does not actually require that the character be female, though. The only reason I bring it up is because Incantatrix is easily in the top-5 most-powerful classes in the game.

Scourge Maiden

Weird 3.0 prestige class from Shining South, the Scourge Maiden is basically a champion of Loviatar, the Forgotten Realms’ goddess of pain. 3/6 spellcasting means it’s pretty awful. Gets the equivalent of Stunning Fist but for scourges, which upgrades to Nauseating and then Dazing, which is pretty solid (immunity to Daze is extremely rare, so it’s a great effect to inflict). Still, it’s only up to 6/day, so hardly amazing.

Swanmay

Another prestige class from Book of Exalted Deeds requires that you be female. You can turn into a Swan (à la Wild Shape), which isn’t exactly amazing, but hey, free flight. Also gets full BAB, good Fort, 9/10 spellcasting, a bunch of Spell-like Abilities (charm person, charm monster, speak with animals, and speak with plants), Wild Empathy plus bonuses to it, and type changes to Fey at 10th level, which comes with DR 10/cold iron. Not great, not awful, but it is female-only.

Eunuch Warlock

The only male-specific prestige class I can find, from Oriental Adventures. Entry requires being born male but losing your manhood, which is harsh by any definition. Some would probably argue that it’s worse than the Blood Magus in a world where death can be reversed...

Anyway, the class is awful: it doesn’t advance spellcasting, just gives bonus spells like the Dragon Disciple, but without the melee buffs that the Dragon Disciple gets. He does get to designate three spells as being permanently Empowered with no cost, and a two to become Maximized instead. Not even close to being worth the lost spellcasting, since someone who had just stayed single-classed would have had the spell slots to use those Metamagic Feats normally.

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I agree with most of what you said, & thanks for the list of examples the game has (even the Eunuch, that I almost listed to be funny but as the new person here I didn't know how well it would be received) But I also think a group of adult players should be able to play a fantasy game without having hurt feelings over gender stereotypes. –  Gamer_Chick Feb 7 '13 at 3:35
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Short answer: You already have exactly what you're looking for! Players are free to explain their stat allocation via fluff, which has no effect on gameplay and will likely lead to much fewer hurt feelings and a more diverse cast of characters!

Let's operate under the assumption that as a rule, women are better at some things and men are better at other things (I'm personally against gender-typing, but that is beyond the scope of this discussion, so I'll leave it at that). In AD&D and OD&D, player characters were generally meant to be fairly typical members of their races, until they got a few levels under their belts. This is displayed by the extremely harsh stat generation systems utilized in those games (roll 3d6, straight down the line, to determine your stats). In those environments, one could conceivably make stat edits (let's say, +1 dex, -1 str) for female characters, or whatever you want.

However, in D&D 3.5, perspectives changed rather grossly. Adventurers are not quite the pinnacles of their race that one finds in 4.0, but PCs in 3.5 are exceptionally good at what they do. They get much better stats, along with feats, skills, traits, flaws, etc. All tools to help customize your character to be the one you want to play, doing the things you want to do. So you can pretty much create whatever type of character you want, male or female.

The thing is, applying bonuses/penalties to the genders restricts players in the long term, which, in a game where customization is as important as it is in 3.5, is a Very Bad Thing. In short, giving even small bonuses/penalties to a gender effectively changes that part of character creation from a fluff/roleplaying element toward the 'minmaxing' character creation element. In the +dex, -str example above, female characters would make for better wizards, rogues, etc, but worse fighters, barbarians, and the like, which isn't really fair to people who want to play a strong female or dexterous male, as they would never be able to be quite as quick/strong as a similarly-statted member of the opposite sex of their race. Any advantage to such stat allocation would invariably be noted in playtesting, which would lead to more powerful monsters/traps/what have you. So ultimately you aren't really giving people an advantage, you're just putting those who want to play an unusual class/sex combo at a disadvantage.

This doesn't really make sense from a roleplaying perspective, either. If the PCs are supposed to be exemplary at what they do, why should something as trivial as gender decide their core skillset? Naturally, if your players feel like their female character should be more [insert stat X]-ey and less [insert stat Y]-ey, then they are free to express such opinions through their stat allocation. If a player says "My character has a sharp women's intuition" as an explanation for her high Wisdom, great for them! But leave them free to make up other explanations, which are, in my opinion, usually a lot more engaging than the binary choice of "man strong, woman fast".

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I see my original thought process had a lot more negative reception than I thought. Yeah, adventures are better than the avg joe/jane but they're still people and I didn't think it would be too far fetched for the idea, but I hadn't thought through all the consequences (which is why I asked the question here) –  Gamer_Chick Feb 7 '13 at 3:42
    
Well it's your campaign, ultimately if you and your players want it that way, go for it, but I cannot personally recommend it for all the reasons I posted above. Good luck either way! –  Melon Feb 7 '13 at 3:44
    
I wasn't attacking you, infact I see that, aside from the stereotype avoiding issues, the mechanical effects were more than I anticipated and I'm thinking the Flaw/Trait route may be the best approach. Thanks for the input btw –  Gamer_Chick Feb 7 '13 at 3:48
    
No worries, I didn't think you were. The long and short of it is, no I don't think it's a good idea, but if that's what you guys want to do, small stat changes are probably not going to completely destroy balance. –  Melon Feb 7 '13 at 7:53
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