Woman in Deathwatch

or rather the lack of.

Let me first make this clear, this is not some kind of rant about Space Marines and how its sexist that they’re all male in the 40k Universe. (At least I really hope it doesn’t come across that way.)  Its not something I get my knickers in a twist about, because I enjoy the  Warhammer 40k setting. This is more a post about about an oddity in the Deathwatch rule book.

The tagline for the setting is: “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.”

Its a terribly over blow satirical setting, a black comedy based on heavy metal album covers (to quote my husband.)  Its very silly, and whenever we have played Dark Heresy (where you play Inquisitorial acolytes) we tend to ham it up quite a bit, rolling around with shotguns, flame-throwers and as many grenades as you can carry. You shot first and ask questions later, everyone’s a hieratic. (Its a nasty setting, your essentially playing catholic space nazi’s, it’s not pleasant, you have to be over the top with it.)

So getting back to the point at hand, Deathwatch, the RPG in which you play Space Marines. They are all male, there never has been there never will be a female Space Marine.

In the setting this is explained thus: The Emperor, when he walked the Earth, before he ascended the golden throne, was male. He ‘functionally’ cloned himself making Primarchs. Who because they have his DNA are also male. Space Marines are based of Primarch DNA, whis is male DNA. Which is why they are all male. This may be a bit of a silly explanation, its does make it somewhat sexist, but Space Marines are based of Medieval Monastic and Knightly Orders, which funnily enough they were male and this is the feel the 40k universe is going for.  Here are some pictures:

Black Templar/Knight Templar – note the Maltese cross

  

(Black Templare from here, Knight Templar from here)

Dark Angels/A Monk (Cadfael – which is an awesome series) -look at those robes.

 

(Dark Angel from here)

Yes ok the Dark Angel is looking a little more aggressive…

There is however a female equivalent.  Sister’s of Battle. While they are human, as opposed to genetically engineered super soldiers, they are the pinnicle of what a human can be.  The stomp around in power armour (like a Space Marine) and wield bolt guns (like a space marine) and flame throws (like certain chapters of Space Marines, in fact they use them even more, its all about the purging!!) So they don’t live as long a Space Marine, they aren’t as physically strong, they don’t heal as fast, nor do they spit acid, eat peoples brains to get their memories, hibernate (Space Marines aren’t quite human). However they have the same level of equipment, they have the same security clearance, the same rank. Oh and they get the incredibly powerful faith powers, they are literally shielded from everything by their faith. Powerful Battle Sisters can banish demons.  They are in fact based on Nuns (surprise, surprise – can you feel the medieval vibe going on here).

Sister of Battle/A Nun

 

Saint Scholastica, who lived from 480 to 547 A.D., is the patron saint of nuns. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Look thats metal armour coated in leather,so that it can be embroidered, is that not way cooler than a Space Marines? Ok so those two pictures don’t compare quite as well (like the Dark Angel and Cadfael) Nun’s didn’t walk around in heavy armour. But Sisters of Battle kick some serious ass.

Anyway finally onto the point of this blog post. (I just needed to explain some of the background stuff first.)

Hubby has been reading through Deathwatch (he’s good like reading the RPG books, I just buy them and look at them), and he noticed something a bit strange.

Deathwatch, in the 40k setting, is a Space Marine Chapter that was set up primarily to protect the Imperium from the Alien menace. Deathwatch the RPG is therefore based on this chapter, and so your expected to play a Space Marine because its a Space Marine game.

However, I personally prefer to play female characters, as I’m sure a lot of women tend to do. This therefore presents something of a problem. If you have a female player in your group and they want to play a female character in the game, how do you handle it in Deathwatch?  There are several suggestions for how to do this, for example you could play an Assassin, an Inquisitor, a Sister of Battle or some kind of Chapter Lieutenant (because there aren’t that many Space Marines, so you’d probably be a pilot or a heavy weapons specialist – however you have the potential to be more powerful and operating at the same level with the other three, as you can perform functions that Space Marines can’t – you really think a man in power armour can stealth?).

What is odd however, is that this is not mentioned in the book. It is implied occasionally,that you could a play a non-Space Marine. The game is about the Brotherhood between the Space Marines, and it does mention that playing a non-Space Marine will mean you’re not part of this brotherhood. But it never really brings up the fact that anyone who wants to play a female character could play a non-Space Marine.

Now you could argue that maybe in this day and age they didn’t feel the need to mention it. That maybe everyone can be all ‘grown up’ about this sort of thing. However it is something that could have been placed as a sidebar in the GM section, just noting that if someone would like a non-male character there are options, as opposed to kind of hinting at that. (For example most of the example inquisitors given in the NPC section are female.)

Perhaps we’re (me and hubby) are too used to White Wolf games, which do their best to be inclusive, for all genders, sexuality and races, they are filled with sidebars. And I know Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and Deathwatch aren’t the same kind of game as say Shadowrun, which uses different fantasy races (orks, elves etc) to represent human races and thus deal with social issues, like racism in game. Which is fine, as I don’t expect that from the 40k ‘verse. I expect horrible situations where generally the only solution is lots of grenades, and flame throwers.

However this kind of thing, is generally what a side bar is for. To point something out that doesn’t fit with the main body of text, to make people aware of something they might wish to consider.

Which is not done here.  Was this forgotten? Did they think they didn’t need to address it because it was ‘obvious’ to those that were writing it and so it should be ‘obvious’ to everyone else? (Sure some people will consider this as an option, but there are people out there, who if something if something isn’t explicitly stated, will never consider it as an option.) Or did they simply neglect to even think about it?

I don’t know. I’d like to think that they simply thought it wasn’t necessary because we live in progressive times, but who can say.

So, moving on from that little oddity, what are the options to run Deathwatch if someone wants to play a female character?

  • Ignore the canon and allow female Space Marines, they’re functionally the same just female – careful about mentioning this online, people will jump down your throat about breaking the canon.
  • Be a dick and say ‘Deathwatch is a Space Marine game, they are male, and I don’t like people playing characters who are a different sex, so no female players.’
  • Think outside the box and allow the player to play a female Assassin/Inquisitor/Sister of Battle as mentioned above.
  • Or one idea my husband has had is to run the game where everyone is a Sister of Battle. But they’re just ‘fanatical nuns with flame-throwers’ I hear you cry. That’s because they haven’t had as much written about them as Space Marines and so don’t have have as much characterisation.
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4 Comments

Filed under 40k, Gaming, Roleplaying, Warhammer

4 responses to “Woman in Deathwatch

  1. Marc Popplewell

    Nice post I like it and have to fully agree, it does seem to be rather an omission and would as you say like to think they just did it as an oversight.

    “if something isn’t explicitly stated, will never consider it as an option”
    With this I’m not sure one thing you tend to need when rping is an Imagination and I would of thought in this case the culture of stating everything isn’t needed so much.

    This has made me think though but I’m not sure about it as like you I’m more in the Buy the rp book catogory than read them but there are certan rp’s like WoD that subsitute every time something like “Him” with “Her” and so forth, and while I think its the right way to go about it genraly and opens up new ideas I don’t think some books actualy mention male char’s at all because of this subsitution or at least very rairly. and cue’s like this though pictures rather than words.

    Sorry I’m rambled on a bit, but to finish off I fully agree and can only supose they eather are aiming it to there main demographic (certanly as far as the minitures are concerned) or are asumeing you’ve got and read the books before this.

    Thanks again for an intresting read

    Marc o/

    • kaitharshayr

      Oh I know what you mean about imagination. In a way I don’t think it needs to be stated, but at the same time if you read what some people say online, then they can tend to take things as written and if some options aren’t mentioned, like different angles to take on things or something then they might not go for it. Or you get issues with people who are just sexist.

      And yes it may well be to do with the fact that their core demographic is the male half of the species, as most of the people who play the wargames are male. Still not really a good reason they can’t try and be more inclusive, and in their defense I think they are quite good when it comes to npcs.

  2. rob

    women cannot help but interfere, meddle and whine. I’m sure at one point 40k will have limp-wristed, as well as female, space marines too; dancing about on the battlefield firing dildo shaped bullets and chemical weapons that turn all warriors homosexual – see the ‘big dave’ story arc that was featured in 2000ad in the 90s.

    I jest! I’m only on the website as I’m currently listening to ‘The Talisman’, which you narrated. It was a pleasant surprise to discover you like 40k too! It was just to say thank you for taking the time out to do this.

    Apologies if I came across as too crass; I’m on my second coffee and thoughts end up splurging out onto the page with nae self control.

    Cheers

    Rob

    • kaitharshayr

      I must say that I was a bit taken aback by the start of your post. Although I did look up the ‘Big dave’ it sounds really odd!

      Hope you’re enjoying The Talisman I really liked it. 🙂

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