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SJE

Reign of Terror - more female characters in a sexist age?

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SJE

I've started running Chaosiums Reign of Terror - I like the historical aspect of the setting- a squad of soldiers in Paris in a time of tumult and starvation, the King calling the Estates General, the drama of the Tennis Court Oath showdown, the moral quandry of Storming the Bastille as soldiers, and then the utopian Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen as perhaps the highest point of the Revolution and a great end to Part 1. My inner history nerd has been stoked by the excellent Revolutions podcast and I finally have a context for all these continent changing events.

 

But... Hugel (the only female PC) is taken and we have another player joining us who would prefer a female PC and I'm struggling to see how to fit one in. I guess she could be another woman pretending to be a man (Hugel's sister?) but is there any role for an overt woman in this scenario? The Revolution was incredibly sexist (despite the March of the Women to Versailles) as they were defined as Passive Citizens rather than Active and so couldnt become leaders, Representatives or Agents at large or get the full benefit of 'equalitie'.

 

There is always the alt-history of downplaying the sexism and making female characters fully equal, but we'd already established Hugel's reason for hiding her identity (so far we've just reached Versaille and will be going to Poissy in the next session) and it kinda takes away from everybody's motivation to revolt against the real injustices of the era, and how those different strands played out.

 

Any thoughts?

 

I did have an idea that perhaps a daughter of the progressive Duke d'Orleans might be assigned to witness events and report to Rigault?

 

Returning to the idea- Princess Adelaide may make for a great proto-feminist who is standing up to her parents, politically conscious, and sneaking off to Revolutionary dinner clubs.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Ad%C3%A9la%C3%AFde_of_Orl%C3%A9ans

 

She could certainly be an enemy of Fenalik, and Rigault may well need to humour and order Malon to take her with the PC's to Poissy to act as an unquestionable witness. In the second part, she may be concerned about the direction of events and go to her old friends to course-correct the Revolution.

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eternalchampion

During the Revolution women had a much more active role than before, check also this

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_French_Revolution

 

I have skimmed the scenario and I think you could create a female character to aid the rest of the investigators. She could be of noble blood as the princess, but she can be someone who used to work at the estate of Fenalik, or maybe a relative of a doomed servant, that she might know some parts of the estate and can lead the others. She could otherwise be a relative of another village girl who has disappeared after venturing near the damned house.

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yronimoswhateley

I know nothing about the scenario, but is there any way a character might be written in as a woman not directly connected to the squad of soldiers, perhaps with a suitably sexist profession for the established setting - a nurse, nun, cook or other servant, camp follower, etc.?  A nurse or nun, at least, might have valuable skills that could help round out the party, and "Molly Pitcher" of the American Revolution seems to have been a composite legend of various women who, theoretically, started their careers as legendary Tall-Tale characters as women who simply carried water to the male soldiers, but ended up taking up arms at key points where the going got tough, and helped turn the tides of war... I see no reason why a camp follower or common servant or even a streetwise prostitute character couldn't do much the same thing during The Terror.

 

Like eternalchampion says above, she could alternately be any civilian whose house has been occupied by the soldiers, moved to action alongside the soldiers whose presence she would have certainly resented before, as the group find themselves up against bigger problems.  There's the possibility of some heated role-playing between the outraged civilian and the occupying soldiers there, as long as everyone knows when to set aside the bickering and focus on the bigger problem... then again, there's no reason the group HAS to cooperate with each other toward any common goal but an interesting story.

 

The premise of a squad of soldiers in a troubled area and a woman involved reminds me of the film Predator, where a guerilla P.O.W. taken by the squad of elite soldiers turns out to be a woman... perhaps this new character was taken by the squad for questioning, and as the scenario progresses she becomes less of a threat and more of an ally than whatever Mythos horror the party has incidentally uncovered, and in this case might prove to have hidden talents that can help the party out.  Maybe she's a mystic, fortune-teller, or witch with a lot of the more occult, scholarly skills that a common squad of conscript soldiers might lack?  The mystic/witch angle could also explain why the soldiers might have been called on by the citizens to arrest this character, and the fact that she's not really evil and actually has skills needed to counter the real danger would explain why she becomes part of the team instead....

 

Be sure to talk it over with your players as a group, too, and think of them as part of your writing team:  together, maybe you and they can come up with cool reasons why more than one woman might be fighting beside them, and a cool backstory for the character, something the entire group can get behind and enjoy.

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maglaurus

I need to deal with this issue too. I was thinking any additional characters need to come into the scenario the same way and on the same level as the other PCs: at the graveyard w/ no prior experience of the count. They also need to have professions that are tolerable at court in Versailles, even if they have to wait in an antechamber while official statements are given. A nun (protecting the sanctity of the remains) or an apothecary (there to prevent disease) might work. Anyone have other thoughts?

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

Is there a way you could reframe the scenario premise to include more sympathetic (i.e. non-aristocratic) PCs

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andreroy

A female camp follower, be it a nurse, cook, launderess or prostitute, could more easily be integrated. Otherwise a female Revolutionaire, albeit a rare bird, would still be possible.

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yronimoswhateley

There is another stand-by of a lot of fairy-tale, fantasy, and adventure literature, in the form of girls who were dressed as boys to help protect their chastity from lawless bands of male soldiers, bandits, and such, and somehow find themselves caught up in an adventure with people who don't realize their new companion is a girl. 

 

The trope has a certain unfortunate Disney odour to it due to how often it's been used in live-action Disney movies, but certainly the chaos of The Reign of Terror, and also the Libertine excesses leading up to the Revolution as described (and hopefully exaggerated) by De Sade, sound like just the sort of environment where parents would want to hide their daughters if they could....  So, it's not just the soldiers, but perhaps any example of civilian boys from any class encountered by or attached to the party might actually be girls disguised as boys, from street urchins to stable-boys to apprentices working with printing presses to the daughters of aristocrats disguised as less privileged boys and sent to live with distant relatives or pretend to be servants, so as to protect the children from angry mobs....

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GBSteve

Just make women more prominent than history wants you to think they were. As Lisa says, it's no biggie.

 

Also, the march on Versailles and Charlotte Corday aside, there were two revolutionary women's clubs, one run by Etta Palm d'Aelders and another by Pauline Leon and Claire Lacombe. And you might also look at Theroigne de Mericourt or Olympe de Gouges. Women are there in every revolution even if their part is not very covered by male historians.

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NashTrickster

Just an aside but reading "Tennis court oath" made me chuckle, is that really the common translation in english?

In french, that event is known as "le serment du jeu de paume" which literally means "palm game oath" (palm as in "open hand")...

The racket hadn't been invented yet, so calling the room a tennis court can only lead to false interpretations IMHO.

 

Now on the subject of the thread:

 

I'll just add to Steve's suggestions that you can also choose a slightly more "pulp-ish" touch and make the female character a kind of "spy" for one of the main actors of the Revolution (because since women were seen as more passive as far as politics were concerned, they could listen in more easily).

Transposing (and adapting of course) "Milady" (from Dumas' Musketeers) to the era is an example of what I'm talking about.

 

Or you could always simply make the character the heiress of a rich bourgeois, which would give her a little bit more latitude in her actions (money talked and opened quite a few doors which would have been closed to most women) while still letting you play the sexism card in your game...

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GBSteve

Actually the racket had been invented long before, it's what's called real tennis.

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Lisa

Or you could always simply make the character the heiress of a rich bourgeois, which would give her a little bit more latitude in her actions (money talked and opened quite a few doors which would have been closed to most women) while still letting you play the sexism card in your game...

 

Or the widow, perhaps.

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Rayven

NashTrickster I love your suggestions. I'm not running the exact same story but have been having similar issues so this is gold. Also, I know next to nothing about French as a language, to hear that this has been so grossly miss interpreted is rather embarrassing to even think about. All the time we spend with people who study other cultures and we botch this stuff up and confuse people...then again the pledge of allegiance translated into Spanish and back says a lot....we aren't always going to hit the mark I guess. Back on topic however,  Your advice seems very grounded and while I have not had a chance to look over the whole scenario of this discussion I still wanted to thank you!

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NashTrickster

Actually the racket had been invented long before, it's what's called real tennis.

I meant "when jeu de paume was invented" :P

 

More seriously, I don't know the exact source for this, and it's been a little over a couple decades since I last studied the subject, but I do remember my history teacher insisting that this particular club was of the "classic" type (aka open hand or gloved only).

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