The Role of Woman in D&D

Joan of Arc
Oaks Spalding, over at Save vs. All Wands has been discussing an article written by a lunatic with too many readers and a rather low opinion of women. I think that there is some validity to the subject that she is writing about, but because of her personal arrogance, she can't write about it and be taken seriously. I'm sure that professional women within the industry did get the shaft, but that may have been due to standard office politics of the era.

As far as private games go, they are all different. All players are different too, but there are risks that we take. These risks apply not just to women, but to the younger crowd as well. People can take advantage of others, and I do believe that we do a terrible job of policing ourselves. We aren't exempt from predators, and while I know that there are a lot of decent people who won't sit idle while somebody is getting worked over,  there are still too many in this hobby that will do anything to avoid confrontation and just do nothing.

The role of women in gaming goes beyond characters. They are leaders, innovators, muses, artists. Are they properly recognized? I think that they are now, however, if they were properly compensated for their efforts is a different subject altogether.

It does feel that men have an easier time getting new ideas accepted and that women either take supportive roles or are forced to stay in them. I think that the greatest influence that women have had on my game personally, is in regards to story. I've pulled back on story-based gaming, but it has been said over and over again that the players (both male & female) want to know that this is going some place. They like reoccurring characters, they like slippery villains, they like having things going on in the background. They like long-term story arcs, and being able to walk around in a storybook world which reacts to them.

This, I have found, can be accomplished without forcing the players to play a linear story. I know that many DMs have a hard time grasping these theories, they translate into terrible modules, but the idea isn't creating a scripted game, the idea is to have a script running in the background which must be written and rewritten as the game progresses. My players love to be challenged by a railroad designed into the game, and it is their job to get off the tracks.
Some can credit other sources for the interactive story, but to me personally, it was Laura Hickman. She is co-credited with her husband, Tracy, but it was this format which got me started. The modules required a lot of cooperation from the players, but the principles, once separated and broken down into their basic components, showed a very advanced approach to game design and theory. Not settling for JUST Dungeons & Dragons, but constantly redefining it, and molding it to fit a larger vision. Creating worlds where there is something going on, a meta-plot which stays in the background. Defined objects that have meaning and history.

Laura taught me the joy of background. She gave me the courage to redefine old ideas and not be afraid to put elements of myself into the mix. It has taken a long time to find a good combination of old and new, but the effect that it has on the game is amazingly satisfying for everyone. I think that it is a warmer, and more personal game than just enforcing the same rules all the time.

My wife yells at me when I stray too far from this path. She reminds me that she and the other players can go anywhere to play Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms, it is my mind that everybody enjoys crawling around in. The men who play are of the same opinion, but we don't talk to each other like that.

"Bulgar Warrior" via: Pinterest
Perhaps it wasn't Laura who started me on this path, she just gave me something solid that I could study. It was the DM who was my best friend and years later would become my wife that taught me this lesson. She would run games with no Boxed-Setting, and only the memories of the world that she had played in when she was a little girl to guide her. Her games were way more advanced and personal than the rest of the club member's were. It went beyond just exploring castles and dungeons, there was stuff going on, she would beat us up and we'd have to crawl our way back up from the agony of defeat. NOBODY was doing that at the time. The YOU WIN! Games had already taken hold. She could infuriate you, but you never felt discouraged. This came naturally to her. Me? Not so much. Adding emotional and psychological elements into the game without causing harm, that is a skill that men (or at least I) had to develop over time.

Emotion. That is the magic element right there. Tragic villains with motivations beyond just because they are evil. NPCs with nuanced emotional ranges beyond those found in the average cocktail weenie. These are elements which I learned from playing under and developing games for female players. I don't think that I would have ever gotten there by just running games for a group of guys, and the guys who do learn to play this style have a very difficult time going back.


Unknown said...

I've played with very few girls/women and never with one as a DM.
My own experience is that they focus more on the story and character and less on the rules - for better or worse.
I'm not sure why that is, but the focus I have has shifted in to the more emotional aspect of DnD, and this is without the influence of women, but rather myself growing up and becoming more emotionally mature; an area women tends to develop faster at the age where most begin DnD and roleplaying - early teens.

As an adult I feel like it's evened out. My male players put just as much effort into their personality and the story as my female players. The guys do have a stronger grasp (and focus) on the rules, but that comes down to years of experience - my female players are rookies.

I think if we focus on the dynamic and how each gender play in their teens, there are certain differences but as we become adults, it doesn't really matter much what gender the players are.(hormones also balance out, and the tables become less sexist...)

RipperX said...

Women have different thought patterns than men. Most women will find more options available to them than men will. Men, by their nature are pretty straight forward, they see less options but they pick one quickly and stick with it, women don't. They'll see things that men will overlook, and change plans as more options become available.

When the pace of the game is slow, the ladies at my table always shine, but when things start speeding up, it is the men who often take charge. As a DM it is interesting to watch this transition take place. The leadership roles rotate around the table depending on what is going on. It's fascinating.

Erryl said...

Funny this subject is brought up.I've played AD&D,3.5,and 5e. When I played AD&D in the 80's I by far had the best DM(A woman).As players we could stump the DM,to some extent.But she was ready for anything,and I don't mean we set out to baffle the DM.There are just times when our party doesn't want to do the most obvious thing.But she handled like a champ!

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