Quote Originally Posted by inexorabletruth View Post
So again... to clarify:

I'm talking about method acting in an traditional RP settings in regards to playing races, gender identities, and sexual orientations.
Playing Races (Ethnicities): You play the same character except they look different and potentially have a different name. The character's experience with prejudice and discrimination is often based around directly being treated worse in situ or living in a poorer area. Ask people of actual minority ethnic groups for anything more specific than that.

Playing Races (Cultures): Character may have traditions which seem strange to others (since forum rules dictate that we should be trying to avoid real-world politics as much as we can, I'll use Brom from the Inheritance cycle as an example: he was considered weird because he had a cultural habit of knocking three times on any doorway he passed through which was common where he was from but not where he went to). This may require some inventiveness - what kind of things do Muldhorandis do that would be considered weird in Neverwinter? The character's experience with prejudice and discrimination is often based on cultural erasure and misappropriation, for example using the religious or traditional symbols of the culture as throwaway fashion statements.

Playing Races (Species): Character may be subjected to prejudices in the form of exaggeration of real traits (for example, orcs have a -2 to intelligence, which means that orcs tend to be slightly less intelligent than humans on average, but that the top 50% of orcs are at least as intelligent than 37.5% of humans and more intelligent than 25.93% of humans. They're generally portrayed as being a lot dumber than that, though). This is analogous to some of the ridiculous exaggerations around sexism.

A lot of the differences in cultures may be accounted for in terms of physiology; in terms of jewellery, for example, elves may think that humans and orcs are weird for putting sharp pieces of metal through their ears, noses and even tongues in the name of fashion (piercings, basically) because elven ears are a little more delicate. Orcs, on the other hand, may think that human piercings are unimpressive. Where physiology doesn't come into it, it makes sense to have a lot of the same traditions pop up between species some elves have tea ceremonies and some of them play tribal drums much like different cultures among humans. Just because someone is a non-human species doesn't mean that they're going to play into a species-wide culture, after all.

Playing Genders (Absolute Genders Such As Male and Female): Characters are influenced by gender stereotypes and norms. Female characters may feel a need to be a home-maker or feel a need to defy this gender role or feel the need to have a freedom to choose between them. Prejudice and discrimination takes the form of assuming lesser ability, exaggeration of real but negligible differences (usually looking like a more extreme version of the orc example above in terms of assumptions about physical capabilities), sexualisation, and a disregard for women's choices, as well as enforced gender roles. Your character will have been impacted by all of this if she's a woman (or indeed if he or they are AFAB), but also men have to conform to gender roles or make a big point of breaking out of them, and suffer from a level of boys-don't-cry emotional suppression. These gender roles may be different in different societies.

Drow are weird and I'm not familiar with them beyond the female-dominant aspect. Elves have a more androgynous culture and fewer gender roles. IIRC orc culture expects everyone to be combat-capable and has a more masculine set of gender expressions for everyone. Of course, this will be different between different settings.

Playing Genders (Relative Genders such as Transgender and Cisgender): Trans people will have had a period, sometimes more than the entirety of their childhood, where people tried to socialise them into the wrong gender, but they experienced it as their own gender. A trans girl who hears the "other boys" shouting sexually explicit things at girls experiences that from the perspective of a female onlooker, rather than a male one, even if no-one realises that yet. This generally leads to trans people either deliberately playing into stereotypes in order to pass as their gender, or eliding them entirely. Prejudice and discrimination are often via physical and sexual violence, denial (legal or social) of trans people's gender, and making gendered spaces inaccessable. In extreme cases people treat trans people as though they have a contagious disease. The number of barriers to basic social acceptance can make trans people very world-weary very quickly. Many don't bother arguing back when harassed because they'd never get anything done.

Playing a nonbinary character would basically rely on the amplification of a lot of the above problems. Playing a genderfluid character would essentially be the same only even more so - in fact, some people who are nonbinary or genderfluid don't express their gender identity in its entirety immediately (case study: I was assigned male, identified as that up to 15, realised I was genderfluid, lived as male in meatspace and female online for a while, then female in meatspace and nonbinary online, and am now trying to live openly as genderfluid in both). Trying to play a genderfluid character without being one is going to provide a lot of problems - even I haven't yet tried to play another genderfluid character because how individual genderfluid people react to gender.

Playing Sexual Identities (Orientations Such as Gay and Straight): Your character's relationships may be treated with scorn; they may feel ashamed or believe their preferences make them a pervert. I played a lesbian character on these forums and honestly, her struggles with her own sexuality provide a good example of how someone's sexuality can become an important trait, so I'll leave this explanation at that as far as lesbian and gay are concerned. Also note that bisexual characters may feel pressure to "Choose one or the other", and characters - even straight ones - may question or be unsure of their sexualities.

I have no idea whether to fit asexual in this category or the next one, but the idea that asexual people are "Broken" runs rampant in some cultures at some times.

Playing Sexual Identities (Intensities Such as Demisexual): These nuanced concepts don't tend to be well-developed at the level of societal advancement D&D is - indeed, most games are - implied to take place at. Plus, there tend not to be people saying that demisexuals are terrible in the same way as there are for homosexuals, though there are enough saying that they don't even exist to be getting on with. Someone who is demisexual or even someone who is asexual may be unable to express themselves because the terminology doesn't exist for them to do so yet (oh, and this can be a problem for trans people too, while we're at it).

Playing Sexual Identities (Polyamoury and Other Things I've Missed): The idea that monoamoury should be the norm or that there even should be a norm is somewhat manufactured, but sometimes polyamoury is shamed much as promiscuity is, especially among women. Characters who are polyamourous may have difficulties explaining this to potential lovers and other people.

There are a few other ways in which someone's sexual preferences can come into play. If you want to go hard-mode, try a different chronophilia on for size.* I'm sure there are a bunch of other things because sexuality is complicated.

*Please don't try this unless you know what you're doing.

Playing Neuroatypicalities: You can also have a go at playing someone whose mind just works slightly differently from normal, or indeed a lot differently from normal. Remember that people's reactions to them will also inform how their neuroatypicality affects them. An autistic person will get along a lot better in a society full of people who are very literal-minded than a society full of abstraction and metaphor. A person with dissociative identity disorder will get on a lot better in a society which doesn't paint them in a negative light. People with social anxiety often do better when invited to speak rather than in societies where conversations are very informal. Also remember that neuroatypicalities are the subject of a lot of stereotypes - be clear on what each one does and how it can vary between people. For example, the idea of people with dissociative identity disorder having dangerous splinter personalities is mostly a myth - they just have multiple personalities who can sometimes get along and sometimes not, and all of whom have the same continuity of existence from the original personality.

Intersectionality: This is a slightly complicated fact of being any combination of oppressed groups. Intersectionality is entirely Googlable, but the ultimate point is that it's to do with the problems which arise specifically because of the conjunction, or indeed intersection, of minorities (or oppressed majorities, in cases where that is the case). This can take some turns in fantasy that it can't in reality. For example, a human woman can escape to elven lands to avoid sexism, but a drow man can't, because the elves hate drow. Of course, he can always take his luck with the humans and try to enjoy his newfound status on the top of the gender heap, but he won't be well-treated in human lands either. Non-fantastical examples include racism in LGBT communities and homophobia in black communities causing LGBT people of colour to be excluded from conversations about LGBT issues and also from conversations about black issues. Transgender lesbians can find themselves the subject of backlash from cisgender lesbians who, having spent a lot of their time convincing people that no, they are fine dating women thanks, reject them on the basis that they think that trans people are trying to trick lesbians into having straight sex.

In a world with fantasy "races" (species), this problem can turn up a lot of extra questions which a setting would need to answer for someone to be played faithfully. How are trans people treated in orc culture, where everyone acts somewhat masculine anyway? How about orcs living in human societies? How about drow culture - is it even possible for someone assigned male to be treated as a woman in drow culture, and would a trans man keep in the closet to keep the benefits of being a woman in drow society? Goblins have a variety of different skin tones: is there racism within goblin societies?

Stuck in the Middle (Bisexuality, Mixed Heratige and so Forth. Also, Half-Elves): If you're playing a character who has a trait that can be construed as being between two "Sides", expect them to be rejected by members of both "Sides", as the oppressed group lumps them in as an oppressor and the oppressing group lumps them in as undesirable.

Turning Prejudice on its Head (Noughts and Crosses, the Drow, et al): Honestly, this is mainly useful as a how-would-you-like-it talking point - if you want to represent oppression in a way analogous to the real world, it's better not to do it. But it's kinda interesting to build a setting, or part of the setting, around it. Notably, sometimes this does actually happen, but it's so spectacularly microcosmic by comparison to standard prejudice[Dubious - Discuss] that it's probably not worth exploring if you're only just dipping your toe into the "Playing nonstandard things with respect" waters.

Taking Out the Prejudice: In one of the D&D computer games, one of the characters...

Spoiler: Genuinely a spoiler
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The Valsharess in Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark


...tries to seduce the main character, and you can tell her you're not interested in women. The interesting thing is that the conversation goes, as far as I recall, the exact same way irrespective of your character's gender - she tries to seduce you if you're a woman and there's no option to be horrible about her preferences; you can tell her you're not interested in women if you're a man and she'll give you the same response as if you were a woman. It's not like the game didn't have the capacity to alter the conversation based on your gender, either. They just chose to have sexuality be no big deal.

Removing the prejudice means that you have diversity but not proper representation. Diversity is good in its own right: it gives people a chance to identify with characters and feel like their existence hasn't just been completely glossed over...

Spoiler: Genuinely another spoiler
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Although the female seductress villain being bisexual is probably a little overplayed


...but it doesn't actually represent a lot of the struggles of their lives. If you do this, then people of minority ethnicities will have no real problems or functional differences from people of majoritiy ones, LGB people will work like straight people except with different genders involved, trans people will still suffer from dysphoria but that gets a lot better if you coat the world in universal acceptance, and neuroatypicalities will still suck but people handling them better will make them a lot easier to deal with. Essentially, it allows you to emphasise that these subgroups of humanity (I'll get to orcs in a moment) are pretty similar apart from the random crap they're put through just for being who they are.

It may be a good idea to do this in regard to different species. The greatest strength of playing with the prejudices against orcs - that it has no real consequences if you mess it up - is also its greatest weakness: it has no real consequences if you get it right, either. Certainly, exploring the prejudices surrounding different fantasy species is good practice, but once the training wheels are off, it's potentially better not to do it because it isn't really analogous to actual prejudices and is just distracting from any real point you might have had.

Oh, on that note, avoid superherophobia (for lack of a better word) like a plague. Oppression isn't so bad when you can react to it by turning the offending person into a newt. Part of why being trans sucks is because you're vulnerable. Part of why being black sucks is that there are systems of oppression that are bigger than you. Hatred of people with magical powers that can topple nations rings hollow as an analogy to any real-world prejudice. Yes, it may be realistic that people would resent their magical nature: do not spend screen time elaborating on this. It's a tired plot device which honestly lacks any power as a social commentary and is often used as one (or inferred as being one) anyway.

Putting it all Together - Building Legion: So, suppose I want a character whose primary character feature is a neuroatypicality, Dissociative Identity Disorder, which means that they actually have multiple personalities. This is a request that loads of people ask for help with: how do I build someone with multiple personalities?

First, Google. Put "Multiple personality disorder" or "Dissociative Identity Disorder" into Google and you'll get the Wikipedia page up pretty quickly. Read through the information. People with DID usually have one name that they're holistically known by and often take a nickname: because it's a nickname, we can use a name like Legion. Hey, we're overplaying the DID thing, right? Next, people with DID often have multiple genders, so we can slap on genderfluidity (we're still in the "Work out what essential born-with traits this person has" stage, so we don't have to worry yet about how any of this affects Legion's life). People with DID tend to have anxiety, trans people tend to be autistic, and members of minority groups tend to suffer from depression, so you can build up some interesting neuroatypicalities. If you're feeling adventurous, fit in a pansexual/demisexual sexuality on them, with demisexual being only for some genders and not others, oh and let's have one of the personalities be asexual too.

Oh, we need to make sure we're fitting the setting: if it's a real-world setting you're gonna be a human. If the story's set in, say, the UK, then they're likely to be white, but let's throw in something minor there... pick a minority ethnic group, let's say the Parsis, and have it be in that group. It looks outwardly white, but because Parsis are patrilinear rather than percentage-based, it can have as much connection to India as a tiefling does to the hells and still be a Parsi.

We've had a look-in on a lot of different protected characteristics, now, let's build Legion's actual personality. We've noted that it has DID, so they're actually going to have four different personalities for four different, well, personalities (or rather, identities). One of them can be outgoing and aggressive, one kind and passive, one dark and brooding, and one innovative and obsessive. We can build these personalities a bit more, but let's look at how the minority groups fit in here: being outgoing and aggressive is something that a man who had people questioning his masculinity (say, because his alter-ego was a woman) might have developed, so we can give those to the male personality and have them be things that he's developed from a reaction to other people's view of him. You can have a woman who's afraid to open her mouth because of her voice sounding male, but kind because she's seen first-hand the kind of harm that being unkind can do. And so on and so forth.

Not everything has to be relevant. What does Legion being a Parsi have to do with the dark and brooding personality of one of its alters? Not a bloody clue, to be honest. But that trait probably comes from the erasure of nonbinary people and therefore the internal existential crisis that a quarter-person with people trying to convince it that it doesn't exist suffers from. Being a Parsi doesn't have to do more than give Legion a funny surname (if this is a modern setting, it won't just be able to go by a nickname for anything that's remotely official).

Their backstory can feature these qualities - remember, being part of an oppressed group or having neuroatypicalities can affect many of your interactions. For example, Legion may have had trouble with teachers at school because its different style of learning (autistic, remember) didn't mesh with the way things were taught at school. It's probably going to have had a fairly nasty backstory in places - trans people don't tend to get to have happy childhoods or adolescences or honestly lives - it's going to have prejudices play into everything, from trying to hide who they are, to trying to work out who they are, to trying to live as themselves and getting backlash from other people. If you're going to write LGBT characters commonly, be prepared to write a lot of backstories involving bullying and sexual harassment at best.

So this character's personality, backstory, and how it goes through its day-to-day life (even filling out a form can require several extra stages if you're trans) are all affected by the subgroups it's in. In an ideal world, Legion would be able to live without having to think about how persecution, oppression and honest ignorance will affect it today. In the real world, however, it has to spend a lot of time explaining how it's affected by these things. Rather than having the argument each individual time, though, it prefers to organise these thoughts on a page...

...and post them on forums under the username "Jormengand."

(Okay okay I know that most of you saw that plot twist coming, but shoosh. Point is, our lives get hella complicated, hella fast, because of these characteristics - and it's not just a thought experiment: it's like that in real life too. Props for asking how to portray these things faithfully rather than just rushing in.)