A player's gender does not affect their skills in any way, and, with minor exceptions, it does not restrict their abilities. In contrast, some NPCs appear to be differentiated (although subtly) by gender. For example, female H.A.M. members are easier to pickpocket than males.
Players choose their character's gender when creating their account, either male or female. They can change their gender (and skin colour) at any time via the Makeover Mage near Falador for 3000 coins. This flexibility means that the gender of an in-game character does not necessarily reflect the real-life gender or gender identity of the player. However, in a March 2008 poll, 92% of respondents said their character is the same gender as themselves.
The players of RuneScape are not evenly divided between the genders. In February 2008, Geoff Iddison (the CEO of Jagex at the time) claimed in an interview that the player base is "over 60 percent male", though the interviewer speculated that the true figure was likely to be higher than this comment would suggest. Indeed, a poll conducted just one month later showed that 90% of respondents claimed to be male.
In June 2008, Iddison admitted that Jagex's strategy favoured male players but added that "we’ve got some plans there" to redress the imbalance. Evidence of this appeared beginning in September of that year, when the RuneScape banner across the top of the homepage was changed to feature two female warriors prominently.
After Iddison's resignation from Jagex in January 2009, his successor, Mark Gerhard, played down the apparent imbalance, saying: "I'm not sure I share Geoff's view that there is a large "male" imbalance in the game. I'm aware of numerous women in our clan and I know our player base reflects the population in general, so that's adults, pensioners, children, males and females." This was eleven months after the poll.
There are a few exceptions to this; for example, the princess outfit (which only females can wear) and the prince outfit (which only male players can wear). Also, there is almost always a difference in armour between when it is worn by a male player and when it is worn by a female player. This can commonly been seen on body slot armour; for example, a male player wearing Verac's brassard has an exposed chest, but a female player will have a piece of cloth covering her chest.
Gender plays little role in enhancing or limiting any particular abilities in RuneScape with the notable exception of the Recruitment Drive quest, which requires the player to be female. Male characters will need to change their gender in order to complete the quest; however, this quest rewards the Makeover voucher, which entitles the player to a free use of the Makeover Mage to change back to male.
There is a minor restriction based on gender in The Giant Dwarf, in which the player must choose a mining company to join. Female characters may not join The Brown Engine, and male characters may not join The Yellow Fortune. Characters of either gender may still choose freely from any one of the remaining six companies, except The Red Axe, which no player may join.
During Throne of Miscellania, male characters must convince Princess Astrid to marry them, and female characters must convince Prince Brand to marry them. Players cannot choose which gender they would prefer to be with, thus both Astrid and Brand seem to be heterosexual. If you speak with Advisor Ghrim after completing Throne of Miscellania as a male and have since changed your gender to female, he will act as if you completed the quest as a female and vice versa.
Many NPCs have a well-defined gender, and these are not limited to humans. For example, Aga the troll and Zanik the goblin are female, while Doric the dwarf and Pescaling Pax the penguin are male. We can discern these from the fact that other NPCs refer to them as "she" or "he" respectively.
H.A.M. members are divided into male and female, and it is apparently easier to pick the pockets of females than males; players can pickpocket a female H.A.M. member at level 15 Thieving, but they need level 20 Thieving to pickpocket a male H.A.M. member.
Low-level NPCs, known only as "Man" and "Woman," are commonly found in Lumbridge and other places. Unlike H.A.M. members, it is equally easy to pick the pockets of either gender, each requiring only level 1 Thieving.
Most regular non-human monsters are genderless - for example, trolls and goblins that are not part of a quest will be gender-indeterminate - but humans will always have some kind of gender-defining characteristic. There are exceptions, however, such as with ice trolls. A very few characters completely lack a gender, such as the Homunculus.
Several non-human bosses have a gender revealed by lore or their examine text — for example, Cerberus is referred to as "her" when in a Boss lair display and Kree'arra said he is male during the 2014 Birthday event. Interestingly, Zulrah is referred to as "him" by the people of Zul-Andra and "her" in the Boss lair display.
The makeover mage has the ability to change between genders whenever they want to, and do so randomly every few seconds.
- Jagex. "Player-submitted poll #11". 2008-03-01. Old School RuneScape Polls.
- Sabbagh, Dan. Online games group aims for growth the Nintendo way. Times Online.*
- Jagex. "A Friend Indeed". 2008-03-01. Old School RuneScape Polls.
- French, Michael. Runescape Developer Jagex Working On New MMO. Develop magazine.*
- Gerhard, Mark. Even more answers....... RuneScape Forums, News & Announcements pp. 1. Jagex.*