Wednesday 31 October 2012

Confessions of an Ouija-Board Role-Player

In yesterday's entry Alex J left an interesting comment about Ron Edwards and ouija-board roleplaying (about 2/3 of the way through the essay: I recommend CTRL-Fing "ouija"). As he put it, poking holes in Ron Edwards' arguments, and particularly his writing style, is to engage in "cruel dead horse beating", so I'll skirt over the irritating and non-intuitive jargon, the arrogance, the pretentiousness, the mandarin insistence on using a particular terminology to describe every last piddling thing, the complete inability to communicate anything resembling a coherent argument, and the faux-familiarity. I'm interested in the notion of the Ouija-Board Role Player, because I'm pretty sure, based on Ron Edwards' description, that I am one of those:

How do Ouija boards work? People sit around a board with letters and numbers on it, all touching a legged planchette that can slide around on the board. They pretend that spectral forces are moving the planchette around to spell messages. What's happening is that, at any given moment, someone is guiding the planchette, and the point is to make sure that the planchette always appears to everyone else to be moving under its own power. 
Taking this idea to role-playing, the deluded notion is that Simulationist play will yield Story Now play without any specific attention on anyone's part to do so. The primary issue is to maintain the facade that "No one guides the planchette!" The participants must be devoted to the notion that stories don't need authors; they emerge from some ineffable confluence of Exploration per se. It's kind of a weird Illusionism perpetrated on one another, with everyone putting enormous value on maintaining the Black Curtain between them and everyone else.

That's exactly it, really, and I find that I like the description, as it captures the essence of what happens at the table, as I see it: one the one hand, although nobody says as much, what happens is purposive, and, at any given moment, somebody is controlling what happens and driving the action - sometimes the GM, but more usually a player, or all the players. They're "doing stuff", to put it bluntly. On the other hand, you get a "story" emerging from this process all the same, in a totally unpremeditated fashion, as a biproduct of that purposive behaviour, more or less by accident. And that isn't under the control of any one person at the table. It develops out of the ether of the interactions between all the participants and how they act within the game.

Of course, Ron Edwards is intending all of this as, basically, a description of bad gaming (he actually describes my view as that of "the most deluded role-player in the world"). Chiefly, this criticism seems to revolve around the failure to address "Premise", which is a concept he takes from Lajos Egri and which, even if you accept it as a useful tool in the context of dramatic writing, is not particularly suited to activities outside of that context. He also comes to the conclusion that people who experience ouija-board gaming are, basically, social retards who convince themselves they are enjoying themselves when they actually aren't, which I have to say I do not find incredibly persuasive. Then again, I am the most deluded role player in the world, after all.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Role Playing as Emergent Process

What does it mean to play a role in a role playing game? asks Brendan. This, I think, was written in response to all of this. And in turn, that reminds me of something kent wrote ages ago in the days when he used to write lengthy and interesting blog entries.

What is often missed in these discussions, it seems to me, is that almost everything that happens with your character at the table is emergent - it develops through play. This includes equipment, level, hit points, and all the other mundane system-related variables, of course. But it also applies to the 'personality' of the character too, in my experience. Generally, they begin life as ciphers - not quite blank slates, as you may have some vague ideas about the type of character they are - but almost.

Personality comes with interaction with the game world, the other PCs, and with NPCs. Characters get fleshed out by their life experience, in other words. As usual, the 2nd edition DMG has it right (albeit stated in the context of giving advice on what level new PCs should be introduced to a campaign):

If at all possible, start characters at 1st level. The lowest character levels are like the early years of childhood. What happens to a character during these first adventures will do much to determine how that character will be role-played. Did Rath the Dwarf save the day by fool-hardily charging into battle when he was a mere 1st level? If he did, the odds are good the player will try it again and will begin to play Rath as a bold and reckless fellow. 
On the other hand, if Rath was clobbered the first few times he rushed in, the player would begin to play Rath as a cautious, prudent fellow. Even the smallest events can have a great effect on low-level characters, so these events sharply etch the behavior of the character. Deny the player these beginning levels and you are stripping him of the opportunity to develop his character's personality.

It is through experience that PCs become fleshed out into real 'people', in other words, and starting off a new PC is like putting on a new pair of shoes. It takes a while to wear them in. This also means that players don't have full control over how their PC develops: the process is a pseudo-mystical mixture of design and the quasi-random emergent processes of interaction and events, with the primary emphasis on the emergent processes. This fact should be obvious to anybody who plays role playing games, I would suggest.

Sunday 28 October 2012

The Boulevard de Temple

This is the first ever photograph of a human being, taken in either 1838 or 1839 in Paris, on the Boulevard de Temple:

It was a 10-minute exposure, so although the road looks almost entirely empty it was actually a bustling scene - it's just the traffic was moving too quickly to be captured. However, in the lower left-centre of the picture are two small figures: a man getting his shoe shined. He and the shoe shiner remained in place long enough to be captured.

There is something faintly disturbing about those two figures caught in time. Alone of all the many people who were travelling along the Boulevard de Temple in those 10 minutes - hundreds, perhaps thousands - only they have travelled down to us through the 175 years or so since the picture was taken. And by pure accident. They remind me of insects trapped in amber and preserved by happenstance for all of time.

If I was currently running an Unknown Armies or Call of Cthulu game, this photograph would feature in it. Who were these men, and is their apparently coincidental capture on film actually of cosmic significance?

Saturday 27 October 2012

On Playing Roles

It's confession time: I've fallen off the wagon and have started playing Football Manager again. My free time is going to the hell where youth and laughter go - an endless series of boring looking menus, crappily animated match graphics and annoying features which is utterly loathsome and yet at the same time irresistibly compelling.

But it has me thinking about role playing in the wider sense. This is something I have talked about before in the context of wargames: the tendency for people who are engaged in any type of game to...well...role play. We all do it - doing a voice for the little top hat as you move it around the Monopoly board; uttering dark threats to our competitors and cackling like a maniacal dictator as we conquer Ukraine in Risk; imagining that our chess pieces are little warriors fighting it out on the chess board like that game Chewbacca and R2-D2 play on the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars. Our imaginations demand it.

I always do the same thing when I play the computer games I play - which are almost always strategy games, admittedly. When I'm on Football Manager, I have to admit that, childish as it might seem, I am acting as an actual real life Jose Mourinho figure in my own mind - interacting with players and scouts; having rows with journalists; watching DVDs of the Marseille v Red Star Belgrade match from 1991 at 3am to gain tactical insights while my estranged wife texts her lover in another wing of my enormous Cheshire mansion; passing brown paper envelopes stuffed with £50 notes to referees' assistants under the table in fancy London restaurants; flying off to Milan for secret meetings with Silvio Berlusconi to see if he wants to make me an offer I can't refuse; attending a bunga-bunga party. Just playing the game is not only unsatisfactory, it is literally impossible. Your brain won't allow it. (Or, mine won't.)

The acts of playing a game and playing a role are somehow connected in our brains, it seems. Oddly, the same goes for sex. I wonder if there is something about losing yourself in a fun activity that allows your personality to slide - something about lost inhibitions and freeing one's mind and vaguely hippyish-sounding nonsense like that. I once read about a psychologist who noted that when people engage in a creative activity which they enjoy they lose sense of time and bodily needs and become hooked into that activity and totally focused: he called it a "creative fugue" or words to that effect, and I wish I could remember his name.

Thursday 25 October 2012

What I Did Tonight

Tonight I jotted down notes on the following "things to go in the Yoon-Suin book":

  • Lunar observatory
  • Velvet worm breeder
  • Magical tattooist
  • Glacier spirit
  • Wishing pool
  • Silk weaver
  • Blessed hijra
  • Desert troll wiseman
  • Black powder artisan
  • Ape temple
  • Blessed carp pool
  • Butterfly breeder
  • Chrysanthemum orchard
  • Bronze dragon statue
  • Glacial waterfall
  • Elephant cult

I sometimes think I lead quite an odd life.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Taishou Cthulhu

Call of Cthulu's default time setting is the 1920s, and for good reason (it's not just that the 20s happened to be when Lovecraft was writing, although of course that's a large part of it). It's because the 1920s was the era of modernism, when rationalism was usurping tradition and old sureties, and this was what Lovecraft's horror chiefly played on. As David Barr Kirtley put it in a recent GGTTG episode, Lovecraft's stories are not about things like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other beings of legend - the existence of which is patently false and hence not very scary - but about powerful beings from space whose existence is believed in by your neighbours, and your neighbours might very well decide to kill you in those beings' name. The fear is not based on complete irrationality, but on something which could actually be true. At the same time though, of course, there is fantasy and mysticism in there too: there is a constant tension between the old ways of thinking and the new.

Lovecraft, in other words, despite his love of the past, was in his own way a quintessentially modernist writer, just as much as his contemporaries like Hemingway, Dos Passoss, Stein, Williams, Stevens, and so on. So the 1920s are the perfect fit for a RPG based on his work.

This makes me think that it would be interesting to run a Call of Cthulu game set in the Taishou period in Japan (1912-1926). During this era, Japan underwent a transition to a democracy, continued its near-wholesale adoption of Western technologies, cultural artefacts, and political philosophies, and developed apace. It was a modernist society par excellence.

At the same time, the Lovecraftian requirements of alienness and indifference would be perfectly complemented by having the PCs as Westerners in this strange land, where everybody is suspicious and odd anyway so how do you know who worships Cthulhu and who doesn't? Moreover, like the Nazis, the Japanese extreme right groups embraced weird mysticism and hocus-pocus to the hilt - one of their main factions was called the Black Ocean Society, for heaven's sake.

(I hardly think I'm the first person to notice this, of course, and I'm sure Chaosium already have a Japan supplement out there. It doesn't stop me pondering it as an idea.)

Coincidentally, and as a sort of adjunct to this post, there is a whole coterie of Japanese horror authors engaged in Cthulhu mythos fiction: there are four anthologies of their work published in English in the Lairs of the Hidden Gods series. I've yet to read them, as they're difficult to track down, but the reviews I've seen are stellar.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Early Lovecraft

On my long train journeys to and from work I've started ploughing my way through the complete H P Lovecraft on my Kindle. I read his major, established stories way back when I was a teenager, and several times since, but there are plenty of obscure pieces I have never really come across before, so I am gradually fighting my way through in chronological order.

It's fair to say it's a bit of a struggle. It's also fair to say that while Lovecraft matured into a great horror writer, in his early years his works were only a few steps away from being utter tripe: imaginative, yes; good stories, no; frightening, not in the slightest; unintentionally humorous, often. They have intriguing ideas and set-ups, but the execution is often amusingly poor. (A particular favourite in this respect is "The Statement of Randolph Carter", which manages to build up a considerable head of eerie steam before flattening you with a final sentence that has you struggling to contain snorts of laughter.) And it is absolutely staggering to imagine that nobody could see his plot twists coming from a mile away - viz. "Old Bugs" and "Memory".

I'm also not fond of the sub-Dunsany dreamscape type of stories from his earlier years: curios like "The White Ship", "The Doom that Came to Sarnath", etc. (Although I'm not a huge fan of his later works in this so-called Dream Cycle, like "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", either.) They show a writer who was brimming with ideas but who still hadn't learned yet how to formulate them into a genuine story.

That said, there is something compelling about Lovecraft's vision even in his juvenilia. All the elements are there: the ancient mysteries, the sense of a vast body of knowledge existing somewhere that humans cannot comprehend, and above all the indifference of the universe to whether we live or die. That in itself makes it worth carrying on. It also made me fork out £21.99 on the Sixth Edition of Call of Cthulu yesterday in my FLGS, when another game I want to run is the last thing on earth I needed. 

Friday 19 October 2012

Relevant to Your Interests

My friend Patrick, the "other DM" in my group, has announced the intention to publish a supplement for D&D, which he summarises as "Albino whales hunting phosphorescent shrimp in hidden oceans"; if that doesn't whet your appetite then quite frankly you ought to take a long, hard look at yourself and ask what you are doing with your life.

Also, Benoist, who is a difficult person to get along with and then some, has created a series of posts in which he builds his own megadungeon and describes the process. It is not just incredibly useful and detailed, but also - and this is very welcome after all of the idiotic controversy over rats and copper coins in recent weeks - genuinely inspirational: read it and rediscover your love for a good dungeon.

Thursday 18 October 2012

What Comes Next

My PhD is now (finally) written and submitted, and I have had the subsequent, obligatory three week period of doing fuck-all creative. My batteries are recharged. I have no other responsibilities except my day job. It's time to finish a publishable version of my Yoon-Suin campaign setting.

Don't worry - there'll be no Kickstarter.

My plan has increasingly moved towards a tool-kit rather than a fully-fleshed out campaign setting: the conceit that I am aiming for is that you, the Reader, will be able to Create and Run Your Own Yoon-Suin with the use of the tools provided (a shitload of random tables, setting fluff for inspiration, and sample maps, NPCs, and locations). Most of these tools already exist for some areas of the map - the Yellow City and surroundings, and Silaish Vo and the Mountains of the Moon. They don't exist for others, however, so I have some work to do on that front. But in its complete form, what I produce will, I hope, enable a willing DM to take an overview of the entirety of the Yoon-Suin map, pick a region he likes the look of, and create his own  version of it in which to run games - with a little bit of work and lots of dice rolling.

My thinking behind this has two strands. First, I want to steer away from the ridiculous obsession with setting canon which can overcome these sorts of endeavours. And second, I want to avoid "doing your imagining for you" while still providing inspiration, ideas, and useful things.

But there will also be ready-to-go hex maps and dungeons for those who are lazy.

So watch this space. I've been posting in this blog about Yoon-Suin for 3 years now, by my reckoning. That's altogether too long. It's time to get this thing done!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

A Short History of a University of Magic

Founded in 1088, the University of Bologna is probably the oldest university in the world; it is certainly the one from which we get the word 'university', although nobody knows the date the University of Oxford was founded, so that might be more ancient still.

Bologna University was apparently established by its students. In the city at that time there were groups of foreign students who were scholars of Roman law, and they banded together in mutual aid societies (usually by nation; this was apparently necessary because the city authorities exercised collective punishment on the basis of national origin) and hired people to teach them. Over time, these groups amalgamated into one "universitas".

Let's imagine a University of Magic. There is a city in which there is a relatively large number of magical practitioners. Students come from all over the world to study with them on an ad hoc basis, banding together in small groups and combining their funds to pay local mages to teach them. Over time, these different groups - and their mages - come to associate for mutual protection and profit, on a temporary basis at first, but eventually uniting into one organisation with a chancellor, different schools of magic (probably each founded by one of the different groups) and a huge library.

Hooks abound in such a setting for an "everything is mages" game. Obviously the PCs, as students, have field research to do. But there are also inter-school rivalries within the university itself, not to mention wider political conflict (the university of magic would be an institution of huge power, likely to come into conflict with other power bases in the local area). And, naturally, they need to find ways to fund their study...

Thursday 11 October 2012

Truth is Stranger than Random Encounters

Last Saturday around noon I was walking through the city with this gobshite and we came across this guy, obviously homeless, standing by an alcove for bins behind a restaurant. There were two other men lying stone still, as if dead, in the alcove. The guy puts his hand out and says, "Hey fellas, give us a hand?"

I think we both immediately thought: he's going to ask us to get an ambulance or something.

But he didn't. What he said instead was (to my friend) "You're a big fella. Give these two a kick in the head, will you?"

We both laughed and moved on, so we didn't get the full story. But this little vignette made me think about random encounters; for this indisputably was a random encounter, if such a thing exists, yet such an episode would never actually happen in a game. Firstly, I don't think any DM would think of such a scenario for a random encounter - he just wouldn't dream it up. And second, if he did, he'd probably immediately dismiss it because it wouldn't really make any sense, and the players would be nonplussed by it. And thirdly, if it did happen, the players would probably be nonplussed by it.

This reveals that the truth is stranger than random encounter tables. But I'm going to interpret it as a serendipitous challenge to make my random encounter tables more creative and dynamic.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

On Charisma

John has been talking about stats, and the last one in particular got me thinking about beautiful women Charisma. Let's talk about it. 

The most charismatic guy I ever knew was somebody I shared a flat with in Shonan, just along the coast from Yokohama; both of us had recently arrived in the country and were working together, and we ended up flat-sharing (with A N Other). I'll call him "N".

N was not particularly tall, fairly nondescript although with mildly boyish good looks, and kept himself moderately in shape - he certainly wasn't what you'd call drop-dead gorgeous; yet women loved him. Women like confidence, and N had that in spades - just a natural way of being himself, combined with a certain swagger, a feeling of arrogance. I like to think I do okay with girls, but N was something else; to go out on the pull in Tokyo with him was akin to stepping into a Lynx advert. He was the ultimate wingman too - he was so good with girls there wasn't even a need for him to be competitive. 

But he was a man's man as well. He was everybody's best friend in town, despite the fact he could barely speak a word of Japanese. There wasn't a party that went on that he wasn't invited to. When you walked through town with him every 50 yards or so somebody would stop to say 'hi' - people who you'd think "How the fuck does N know him?" There may - may - have been an element of Charisma Man about him (the noted phenomenon that white men in Asia, because of the exoticism, become more successful than they are "back home") but I don't think for him it made a great difference. He was just a charismatic guy, that's all there is to it.

Charisma isn't about looks. It's above all an issue of confidence, and intelligence too, of a kind: wit, sharpness, proficiency in conversation. Easy charm that lets you be familiar with others without becoming over-familiar. Self-deprecation. Teflon-like imperviousness to social mores which lets you get away with saying anything because you do it with an ironic smile. God knows where it comes from, but you either got it or you don't. 

In view of that, I'd say Charisma is probably the D&D stat which makes the most sense, especially in its modifiers (to number of hirelings, etc.). The other stats are mostly quite incoherent and vague, but charisma undoubtedly boils down to a certain personality trait which I'm sure I'm not the only one who has encountered. Interestingly, it is sometimes argued that charisma is synonymous with sociopathy - in order to be confident and possess that certain swagger, you need to not care about other people so much. I'm not sure how true that was of N, but I wonder if anyone's ever thought of correlating Charisma with alignment: the higher your CHR, the more you lean towards evil/chaotic? 

Tuesday 9 October 2012

What is the Point in Published Adventures?

Sparked by the latest Dwimmermount brouhaha makes me wonder what the purpose of buying somebody else's dungeon, adventure or campaign setting is. I can think of three main ones:

1. Less prep. Obviously, it takes less time to buy somebody else's work and use it than do your own.
2. Pilfering it for ideas and inspiration to use in your game.
3. In the case of a campaign setting, you just really like it.

What I have to confess is that I don't really understand the value in playing somebody else's module straight from the page; it seems fundamentally inauthentic in the same way that cover versions or remakes of old films usually seem fundamentally inauthentic. Assuming a DM has a few scraps of sense and creativity about him, he can likely come up with material that will be as good as the stuff you find in a published module, with added spice coming from the fact that it is his own creation which he knows and loves and feels invested in.

People in the aforementioned Dwimmermount thread seem to be of the view that modules are useful because they can act as some sort of instructive tool: you run the published module and that teaches you how to create your own. I find myself wondering whether the effect might rather be to entrench standard practices, restrain innovation, and above all waste time: is trial and error creating your own material that much less effective than running through modules when it comes to learning how to DM? 

Sunday 7 October 2012

Friday 5 October 2012

The Myth of Intrusive Worldbuilding

The view is sometimes expressed that, when a DM puts too much time and effort into creating his campaign setting, there is a danger that it will "not make for a good game" because there will be too much detail, too much change of the players doing something wrong and out of keeping with the flavour of the world, the DM will be too persnickety about how things work in his precious snowflake setting, etc.

I think this is largely a myth, provided of course that we caveat this with the proviso that you have to assume good faith on the part of the DM; he's not a dickhead. In fact, I think deep worldbuilding is often what elevates a game to the next level of interest, because it gives the players a feeling that their actions are taking place in a wider and bigger context - they can ask the DM questions about the wider world and their own place within it, and receive coherent responses. And they can feel and experience a sense of history, making the setting feel realer, more "lived in".

You only need to read The Lord of the Rings to see how that works. Tolkien doesn't beat the reader over the head with the history of Middle Earth. He's not pedantic - there are no lectures. Instead, as you read the plot hooks you in, and you come across little snippets of information (Aragorn's song about Beren and Luthien, the journey through the ancient realm of Hollin, the barrow wights and their rumours of ancient kingdoms, and so on) which give you a sense of something profoundly ancient and real - it makes you feel as if Middle Earth, and most importantly the characters, are something more than just a figment of the author's imagination. That this feeling is entirely illusory, and that you are aware of that fact, does not make it any less important.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Iconic Cyberpunk 2020 Images

Like a bride, a good cyberpunk image needs four things. First, it needs to be noirish: you have to be able to imagine whoever it depicts committing crimes. Second, it needs to be unspeakably 80s: it needs to be big hair, spandex, raybans and shoulder pads. Third, it needs to mix something conspicuously futuristic with something grimy and old; that juxtaposition is what it is all about, stylistically. And fourth, it needs to look cool. You get bonus points for big guns, cigarettes (though these can count, nowadays, as the "grimy and old"), and girls who a 12 year old boy would develop a crush on.

The fixer. Cyberpunk 2020 is one of the earlier games, I think, to contain what you might describe as "multiethnic art". I understand Paizo think they deserve plaudits for doing that with Pathfinder; maybe somebody needs to tell them Mike Pondsmith was doing it in the 80s.

All elements are present here: she's clearly up to no good; the leggings are unspeakably 80s; you have the mix of old leggings with holes in and super-duper cybernetic monocle thing; and she's cool. She also has a gun and is appealing to the adolescent male. (The adult male too actually.)  

An action piece. He has wolverine blades and he has just shot somebody through the chest with a micro-jet missile, and someday your character can do that too!

There is no mixture of the conspicuously new and scuzzy and old here. He's all brand new. But he does have a BIG FUCKING GUN.

Probably my favourite piece in the whole book: I don't think there is anything more cyberpunk than a guy in a trenchcoat sitting in a bar drinking scotch and smoking while showing off his new arm.

This one deserves a special mention, not just for the 12 year old boy inside me but also for the cyberdeck: this is what people used to think the future would look like. You'd have to carry around your modem in your handbag. One day, I'd like to see this in one of those "Complete History of the Future" type exhibitions where people examine cultural artefacts from the past which purported to predict our future.

She's cute. She's exotic looking. She is hiding her gun behind her back. She is cyberpunk.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Anthropology of Gamers Through Reading Threads About Girls

One day, I plan to write an academic paper categorising RPG nerds into separate categories based on their responses to threads about "Girls and Gaming".

We'll start with this one.

The Earnest Worrier
This topic evolved from a conversation with a woman in my gaming group, who obviously games, and with my wife, who doesn't. The gamer girl population increases every year. In many avenues, females can actually outnumber males. While this is good news, the bad news is how little this is actually changing the games themselves. At a BlizzCon panel discussion an female querist was booed for suggesting that maybe the female characters should be able to wear clothes.  
But the problem goes way deeper than that. Even within RPGs where female gamers are not only accepted but delightfully encouraged, the roles they prefer are often within healer, support, or diplomatic archetypes (again, major generalization, but largely true nonetheless). Wish fulfillment seems to be the more desired form of escapism as opposed to power fantasy or strategic simulation.
This gamer likes girls. And he's a nice guy. Look - he's even married! That proves that he likes girls and is a nice guy! Being a nice guy, he is concerned about what we, as earnest, concerned, nice guys, can do to make gaming a friendlier place for girls to be. To further boost his nice guy credentials, he describes fretting about a poor female querist being booed by horrid chauvinists - his brow, it was furrowed; his arms, they were folded; his head, it was shaken; the tuts, they were tutted. "What can we do," he asked himself, "to make female gamers more delightfully encouraged?"

[I googled "querist". Apparently it's somebody who "makes inquiries".]

No Seriously, Some of My Best Friends Are Women
Monsterhearts is another good example or a game that has evolved far outside the war-game vein; there is /violence/, but not /combat/. It also handles emotion and melodrama VERY well. And it appeals to a bunch of fringe-gamer and even non-gamer women I know. 
Typically it's methodical step-by-step combat that turns off the women gamers I know, not the violence itself. When it comes time to get dirty/bloody the female gamers I know are willing to go to levels the guys are sometimes surprised at. Honestly the step-by-step combat thing turns off a lot of new-to-the-hobby guys too; it's really the people who grew up with it that seem to like it.
"The women I know. Keep saying it, and it becomes true. I know some women."

God, My Girlfriend is One Lucky Lady Being in a Relationship With Somebody Who Does Not Assume Things
Anecdote time!
My girlfriend hates "story games bullshit" where we "talk about feelings" and would rather move her dragonborn barbarian 5 squares at a time towards the bloodiest, most granular rules-heavy combat she can find.
Non-ladies should not assume what all ladies like.
[What I know about women you could fit on the back of a postage stamp, but it includes the following: women don't think you're clever or funny if you use the phrase "Anecdote time!"]

Mr Maturity
[N]o group is homogeneous. There are big group of gamers and potential gamers out there that don't like traditional war-gamey games; this group includes both guys (me included) and gals. There is a group of female gamers that feel disfranchised by modern trad games. THESE GROUPS OVERLAP. Stereotypes can be bad, If you refuse to make ANY assumptions about groups (because we are all beautiful and unique snowflakes) you lose the ability to make any decisions about a market.
"God, I'm so mature and sensible it sometimes physically hurts," says Mr Maturity, wincing to prove it as he dispenses another gem of wisdom which nobody has ever even come close to considering before: you can't generalise, silly generaliser! A few weeks of business studies classes at college taught him more than anybody else could ever know about making decisions about markets; it also taught him to use ALL CAPS to make his points clear, succinct, and hard-hitting.

The Marxian
Can I just point out that there's a bit of irony present when hobbies (computer games and RPGs) that, 20 years ago, were viewed as bastions of sad outsider antisocial nerd culture have become socially acceptable to the point where they now represent an element of dominant culture and oppression.
"RPGs are just an outgrowth of masculine bourgeois ideologies, as Althusser would say," the Marxian begins. "Perhaps we should commence our analysis with the realisation that the species-being is only partially a biological construct?"

The Japanese Call this the "Herbivorous Male"
It also stands to reason that there are plenty of males out there that are into more emotional, non-combat oriented games. In my last game of World of Shadows, the two male players didn't fight anyone, despite constant opportunities to bust heads and shoot people. They were most interested in following their character's desires and daily lives. There was action, but no combat.
"They then removed their own testicles, because they no longer needed them."

If Only Everybody Was Norwegian
Those andogynic gender premises exists. We don't need to treat it as a hypothetical question. Lets look at the roleplaying game "markets" or game cultures that got a 50/50 gender mix. Like Larping in the Nordic countries. Hence, my example of Nordic larp. Therw ARE game markets that where the designers, and the costumer have a 50/50 gender balance. It not some hypothetical question. 
Look at the RPG cultures that already exists that have even gender balances. 

That's enough gamer anthropology through reading threads about girl gamers.