Monday, August 26, 2013

Wrath of the Righteous: Being Inclusive, or Pushing an Agenda?

((Warning: This blog contains some spoilers for the first installment in the Wrath of the Righteous adventure path.))

Recently, Paizo released the first installment to their newest adventure path, Wrath of the Righteous. For those of you who don't follow Paizo's adventure path series, Wrath of the Righteous is set in the Worldwound region of Golarion (basically its a wasteland ravaged by demonic hordes flooding forth from a tear in reality). For decades, numerous crusaders and heroes have managed to keep the demons at bay through constant vigilance, war, and the creation of magical "wardstones". In the first installment, The Worldwound Incursion, one of the wardstones has mysteriously failed and the city of Kenabres has been devastated by the demonic forces. The PCs must hold off the forces of chaos and evil until help arrives and aid the handful of survivors hiding underneath the ruined city.

After downloading a PDF copy of the adventure, I've been casually reading it along with the supplements connected to the adventure path (particularly Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Worldwound). So far, I've liked what I've read and think it would be really fun to either run or play this adventure sometime in the future.

However, apparently there is a "controversy" surrounding two of the NPCs in the adventure due to their backstories and the relationship between the two characters. One of the characters is a half-orc paladin (who is depicted on the cover of the adventure) named Irabeth who happens to be the result of a loving relationship between an orc and human instead of the usual situation. The other character is a human rogue named Anevia who is a Male-to-Female transgender character who fell in love with Irabeth and is now married to her.

The "controversy" was created when a group of people decided the inclusion of the two characters in the adventure was a sign that Paizo is trying to push a pro-LGBT agenda onto its customers. They talk about how the relationship between the two NPCs and the transgender nature of Anevia have no bearing on the over-all plot of the adventure and have no real affect on it beyond being a part of the characters' back stories. So, they conclude the two characters were included in the adventure to push an agenda.

Its not hard to see the problem with this train of logic. Yes, the characters' sexuality and relationship has nothing to do with the story of the adventure. However, the same would be true for a heterosexual relationship. The story of the adventure is about a group of characters fighting demonic hordes in a devastated city, not their sexuality and relationships. So, one might be inclined to ask, "Why include information about the two characters' sexuality and relationship at all?"

The answer is rather simple: to give the GM some insight about the characters. A person's sexuality and gender identity are major elements of the character and will affect them in certain ways. Since Anevia's transformation from male to female was a major event for the character, it should be mentioned in her back story because it affected her in different ways and mentioning it gives the GM something to play off of. The relationship between her and Irabeth does the exact same thing, giving the GM an idea about how the two characters will interact with each other and how they get along.

When I was reading the adventure and looked over the back stories of Anevia and Irabeth, my reaction was, "That's pretty cool." As a bisexual man, I have always loved that Paizo includes LGBT characters in their material. However, I hate that by including such character, some people will cry foul and yell at them for pushing an agenda because you apparently can't have an LGBT character in a form of entertainment without pushing some kind of agenda. Having them be just another character inhabiting the world would be ridiculous (don't chat just love sarcasm?).

Personally, I applaud Paizo for being as inclusive as they are. They could have easily omitted those elements from the characters' backgrounds or keep Anevia as a man and have him be a "reverse damsel in distress", but they kept the information because that was how the characters were written and they didn't want to change it just because a group of people would be offended by it. They kept the characters the way they are because they found them interesting and they add an interesting element to the background of the adventure, not because they are trying to force an agenda onto their unsuspecting audience. If they do have an agenda, it seems to be "LGBT people exist, and due to their existence, LGBT characters will show up in our material," which I think is a rather harmless agenda if I had to be perfectly honest.