“a frog with breasts should look very curious!”

I just signed a lovely artist named Luca Mastrantonio to serve as Art Director for the reboot of the Neiyar campaign setting. We’ve been going back and forth for the last few days regarding art requirements. In particular, a set of six images will feature male and female members of each of the races that live on the island for illustration purposes. She asked specifically about the Amphikin (which are a humanoid frog-like race) insofar as how to portray females of the race because “a frog with breasts should look very curious!”

Curious, indeed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this issue come up. When I was working with the artist for the Races of Neiyar: The Krakodons supplement, the preliminary sketches of female krakodons came back with breasts. I remember asking him “How many reptilian species do you know that have mammary glands?” To his credit, he understood completely my point and came back with some wonderful revised images.

But the whole thing gets me thinking about how we portray female fantasy characters in general. Flip through almost any monster manual for an RPG. Look at the Yuan-ti, for example. This is a humanoid snake race. They shed their skin as they grow and are covered in scales. Females give live birth to litters of three to six at a time and are self-sufficient at birth. What evolutionary reason is there for her to have breasts? Sure, the official racial right-up says purebloods “appear” human in order to infiltrate human society. How in the blue hell does she “appear human?”

Yeah, I can totally see how she would be mistaken for a human.

I don’t want to read too much into it. Maybe it just boils down to laziness. It is easier to draw a pair of breasts on something to indicate a female than it is to actually think about how something would really look. Maybe it is a reflection of our hardwired need to impose human qualities on everything. Like in science fiction movies where every intelligent race looks human except for maybe having a different skin color or pointy ears or some other cosmetic change. Maybe it’s marketing and male gamers are still easily distracted by boobs in books. (Though in all honesty I can’t image a frog with boobs being all that much of a turn-on).

3 thoughts on ““a frog with breasts should look very curious!”

  1. There is a damned if you do/damned if you don’t issue with representing females of non-human species. Put simply, we humans can’t really tell the gender of other species unless they exhibit a huge flashing indicator that says (Look, I’m a boy!) (peacocks, for instance, do this). RPG games often require a ‘male + female’ shot for the ‘race’ picture, and it’s hard to come up with a way to indicate which is which without resorting to boobage (interestingly, humans are one of the few species where it’s the females who seem to have the big ‘peacock tail’ display). Many of the alternative ways that spring to mind might be even more sexist, because they would probably revolve around indicators of ‘traditional’ gender roles.

    I observe in the picture you post that she has hair too, this is surely also an unlikely feature for a reptillian species. Interestingly, the artist seems to have felt a need to keep the female more human-looking. I’ve noticed there’s a tendency in race-pics for the female to be exotic, and the male to be ugly as all get-out.

    I agree that it’s worth going the extra mile to get a degree of realism, I’m just saying I feel for artist who have to find some way to exhibit gender on non-human species, it’s not easy to do.

    Of course, this means that in an alternative universe where peacocks rule the sinister ‘hairless ape-people’ in their rpg games and fantasy novel covers would feature males with some kind of huge, showy tail with eye-spots, because that would be the only way that the reader/gamer would know ‘Oh, that’s a male’.

    # (Though in all honesty I can’t image a frog with boobs being
    # all that much of a turn-on).

    Depends on the frog!


  2. >(Though in all honesty I can’t image a frog with boobs being all that much of a turn-on).<

    You've obviously not spent enough time on the internet, then. If it is unfathomable to the human mind, if it makes your skin crawl, and forces you to repress the urge to vomit, someone on the internet wants to have sex with it, and has likely written bad fanfiction and posted deviantart pictures to that effect.

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