Gender (also called sex) is one of the character traits in Arcanum. Arcanum is unique in that the female gender receives one constitution point at the expense of a strength point, whereas for the male gender there is no such distinction. Gender also affects the outcomes of certain side quests, in addition to the player model and how others address the players themselves.
Humans, elves, half-elves, half-orcs can all be played as either female or male. The other races can be played only as males. Although both female dwarves and ogres are implied to exist, it was decided early in development to make them inaccessible for story reasons. Halflings and gnomes were originally going to have player models, but Troika did not have enough time to include them; they could only include a few simple NPC models.
The slight stat difference was not in the original game’s plans; only racial adjustments. Troika had hoped that Arcanum would already hold a lot of content that would allow anybody playing different genders to have different experiences; quests had different solutions and many dialogues observed gender too, but the designers felt that these differences were ‘superficial’ as the game progressed, bothering them. They wanted every stat to have significance.
The issue arose during their balance phase. Tim Cain pointed out that the gender stat seemed to affect little than how others addressed the player and a few optional quests. Somebody then suggested giving stat adjustments based on gender as they had done for race. Their initial reaction was ‘We can’t do that; people won’t expect to see that; no other game does that.’ As the designers thought about it more however, they realised that it suited their philosophy of making every choice matter, so somebody playing a female character or a male one ought to feel a distinction between them. Like all of their adjustments, they wanted it to be balanced. Neither gender should have been ‘better’, but they still liked the concept of them handling differently. Their first idea was a bonus based on gender: depending on which gender somebody selected, a bonus would be granted to some stat. Then somebody noticed that they lacked the female option for four of the races, thus one would always receive the males’ strength bonus, so somebody said ‘Why not have a balanced adjustment for just females? A plus and a minus, so they are not better or worse but certainly different?’ They entertained various adjustments until settling on the +1 constitution and −1 strength adjustment, which they all liked. They then added it to the game in addition to the Tomboy background any case somebody didn’t like it.
When some people heard of this addition, they hated it. Tim Cain couldn’t understand most of the objections, because they merely made the genders differ rather than unbalancing them. All of the women liked the proposal, but some of the men hesitated, if only since they were afraid of others misunderstanding the addition rather than the addition per se.