Crossdressing For Success
I play a character of a different gender than myself about 25% of the time judging from a review of my recent past characters. I think it's a great roleplaying challenge and is a lot of fun. Of course when I GM I run female characters all the time as a routine part of any game session, too.
Though I've seen occasional forum trolls say that cross-gender RP is "weird," I have yet to meet anyone like that IRL and I've been gaming for 25 years. The majority of folks in the groups I've gamed with generally stick to characters of their own gender, but it's never been an issue for anyone when someone doesn't.
Since GMs have to play characters of another gender routinely, this tends to be an unsupportable premise anyway.
Let's look at the reasons that someone might be uncomfortable with someone else performing crossgender RP.
- Those who are so uncomfortable with gender and sexual identity in general that something so minor would cause them to flip out. I think it's fear that your character will make advances to theirs, and that if that happened it "would be really gay."
- Those who believe the other sex is weak/corrupt and shouldn't be a character in their group. Needless to say this is even more immature than #1.
- Those who complain that it's hard to keep it straight. "He's a guy, I can't think of a woman!" Of course most players don't resemble their characters in any way; they're all robots and bugbears and stuff. So that really makes no sense.
- I can't think of a single other reason.
All you can do is feel out your group. I'm not sure how to mitigate any of these concerns without being completely condescending. "Don't worry Joe, this isn't all a dodge to get into your pants?" Frankly I'd just tell them to take a drama class and/or grow up if they're "uncomfortable" with the general idea.
"You're doing it wrong"
What I see a lot more commonly is complaints that "you are playing a man/woman wrong." As in, playing to a stereotype or otherwise in a way the complainant doesn't like.
Of course, the kind of game in which people criticize someone else's character - "you're not playing a dwarf right!" "You're not playing Lawful right!" tend to be reasonably immature, having not moved past a very simplistic view of the world. In my current group, I don't think anyone would have the ill grace to tell someone they aren't "playing their character right."
But perhaps you are doing it so bad as to break their immersion. That's pretty unlikely, as the challenges of RPing authentically are unlikely to hinge on so fine a detail, but reading the As a man, how can I roleplay a woman better? and As a girl, how can I roleplay a male character better? should help you to avoid anything too egregious.
Often times, complaints about authentic portrayals are specious - I know I'd get them a lot, even when I was specifically modeling my character's behavior on a specific incident from one of my female friends' lives! "A woman would never do X!" "Well, my friend Laura did that exact thing, so zip it."
Related are claims about how "sexist" you are playing the character. Frankly, you can do anything and it be interpreted as sexist (including not doing cross-gender RP) so as long as you're not clearly trying to be a punk you may as well ignore this.
This is hard to do well, and requires a lot of practice. Some things to think about that I've learned...
- Switch between the two groups often. Don't spend long periods of time
with one of the groups. For longer encounters have both groups
running concurrently and switch between them as rapidly as makes sense and you can keep track of.
- When you do switch, leave them on a cliff hanger and/or with
something to discuss and think about on their own. This will help
keep them interested and focused on what is going on, and stop them
- Design encounters so that what is going on in one group matters to the other. This will help when one group has genuine downtime, as they are more likely to want to know what is going on in the other group.
- Allow communication between the character groups in
game where you can. This means that even if characters aren't there
'in person' they can still offer advice and ideas to whatever
predicament the other group are in.
As a side issue, you will need to decide how much out of character chat you are happy to have between the groups when they are split. Partly this will come down to the system you choose, but you should also make sure that you come to an agreement with your players that everyone is comfortable with.
First, ask if it is really a problem. Are the rest of the players bored watching a one-man show, or are they amused and having fun watching this part?
If it really is a problem....
Call for a Roll
Shopping shouldn't take all session, and if the player has had a bit of the spotlight already that session, then there is no problem with saying,
Don't always go this route, but sometimes you just have to move on.
While X, what are you doing?
Purposefully shift attention to the other players. It allows him to have his moment, but not loose
You'll see Matt Mercer of Geek and Sundry's Critical Roll use this a lot when the party is shopping
NPC Shift Spotlight
Or even have the NPC make the shift.
Or if you have a player with high passive perception, pass that player a note while they're talking about something they notice, while the Warlock tries his thing.
They can then choose what to do with the information. Maybe they let the warlock keep going to see what happens, but now they get to enjoy an aspect of it the Warlock doesn't know about. Maybe they will interrupt the Warlock, and try to get the party out of there. Maybe they will try to confront the shopkeep in the middle of the Warlock's corruption/manipulation/persuasion tactics. How fun for all involved if it played out like: