A player's gender does not limit his or her skills in any way, and, with minor exceptions, it does not restrict his or her abilities. In contrast, some NPCs appear to be segregated (although subtly) by gender. For example, female H.A.M. members are easier to pickpocket than males.
Player characters Edit
Players define their character's gender when creating their account; the only choices are male or female. They can change their gender at any time via the Makeover Mage near Falador for 3000 coins, or a Makeover voucher, obtained to change your gender back if you were male at the beginning of Recruitment Drive.
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 between armour when it is worn by a male player and armour when it is worn by a female player, and this can commonly been seen on body 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.
However, many players believe it to be sexist that some outfits on a female show their midriff, whereas they do not on males. Some feel this to be undue sexualisation of female avatars.
Of particular interest is Vyrewatch clothing, which completely changes depending upon the players gender. Notably, Vyrewatch shoes look like high-heels on female avatars.
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. Note that your hairstyle might not go back to normal after a gender-change. However, there is a Hairdresser who will change your hairstyle and facial hair for a fee of 1000 coins in Falador, just north-west of the White Knight's castle.
There is also a minor restriction based on gender in The Giant Dwarf, in which the player must choose a mining company to join. Female characters cannot join The Brown Engine, but correspondingly, male characters cannot join The Yellow Fortune. Characters of either gender can 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.
Non-player characters Edit
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. Very few characters completely lack a gender, such as the Homunculus.
The makeover mage has the ability to change between genders whenever he/she wants to.