“No living man am I! You look upon a woman!” 5 things I experience as a female role-player

For those of you who don’t recognise it, the quote is from The Lord of the Rings, specifically Eowyn’s response to the Witch King of Angmar (just before she kills him) when he tells her that he can be hindered by no living man. I think its relevant for a couple of reasons: firstly because people are still surprised when they meet women who role-play, and secondly because she’s the kind of awesome armour-wearing, sword-wielding woman you tend to find in RPGs.

In general, role-play is still male-dominated and in any given game you’re lucky to have one woman in the group. So, with this in mind I wanted to share a few things that I’ve noticed happen to me as a female role-player that I don’t think happen to my male friends quite so much (if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me!) This won’t reflect every woman’s experience and, from talking to other women, I think my negative experiences are probably on the milder end of the spectrum.

1. The character art.

I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone, but finding art that doesn’t make my awesome female characters look like someone’s wet dream can be tough. To illustrate, one of my favourite images I ever found was a dark elf who seemed to be dressed exclusively in belts (I actually found this funny enough to use as my character art, and created a backstory to explain why she only wore belts and not, y’know, any knickers). It can be so hard to find images where women look genuinely powerful that I actually have a folder dedicated to female character art on my computer, where I save likely images whenever I come across them.

Even when you manage to find art where the woman isn’t displaying copious breast, butt or leg, its next to impossible to find images of older women, non-white women, or women who aren’t incredibly beautiful. I’ve only found one or two images ever that I think look realistically like a woman who spends weeks at a time adventuring with no time to do her hair and makeup.

2. Feeling afraid

While I imagine everyone feels nervous the first time they met a new group, what I feel is more akin to fear, as it puts me in a position of vulnerability. I usually have to go and meet a group of strangers in the evening, normally all men who are bigger and stronger than me, and sometimes this will be at someone’s home. I’m aware that I’m taking a risk just by showing up, even in public spaces, because it’s still often in an isolated games shop full of blokes where I feel like an outsider. When I turn up and see another woman, I tend to feel extremely relieved. It’d be great if groups were a bit more aware of this and tried to make times/locations a bit more female friendly or less likely to intimidate a woman on her own. We might get a lot more women into the hobby this way.

3. Other players hitting on you in and out of game

This kind of relates to the previous point, as it’s another level of risk experienced by women in a male-dominated space that men don’t worry about to the same extent. In the majority of games, I’ve played, at least one member of the group has hit on me at some point. I’m lucky not to have experienced any sexual harassment as a result of playing but I’ve heard from lots of people who have. This means that when I play with a new group I always feel the need to mention that I have a boyfriend early, which is really silly and shouldn’t feel necessary, but it stops things getting awkward as soon as possible.

4. The rules are constantly mansplained

This one is probably the most annoying and ubiquitous for me. I find that in most games I’ve played, the GM and other players will assume I don’t understand the rules and will try to hand-hold me through my turns in combat (unasked). Even though I’m willing to concede that this might be with kind intentions, it can be really irritating when I’ve role-played for a number of years and know the rules as well as everyone else. It’s led me to become quite sensitive about other players or the GM explaining the rules to me, even when necessary! I have never seen this happen to such an extent (e.g. every. single. turn.) with fellow male role players.

5. PCs treat female characters differently IC

I only noticed this when I cross-played for the first time. Up until recently, I had only ever played female characters, so I just took how people treated them as par for the course. Playing as a male character I noticed a distinct difference in my IC interactions. My female characters, even when they were awful people, generally had positive relationships with the other PCs (and got away with quite a lot of shit in retrospect). If she was injured, someone usually helped her, and if she fucked up, she was always forgiven.

Playing a male character, I quickly noticed that I didn’t get the leeway I was used to, and that I was having to work a lot harder at building relationships with the other PCs. Suddenly, I was on a level with the other party members rather than ‘the female character.’ I don’t think this applies to such an extent when a man cross-plays as a female– in my experience, they tend to get treated the same as usual, possibility because the other players subconsciously don’t relate to them as a woman.

Since that experience, I’ve become really reluctant to play female characters, because (sadly) being ‘female’ is a notable characteristic that affects how others relate to you, whereas being male is the neutral/default choice and therefore doesn’t affect the character too much. It feels to me like I have more flexibility and freedom to shape my male characters, even when I’m more comfortable playing women. This is part of the reason that I’d quite like to play in an all-female group, to see if playing female characters feels any different in that context.

 
Thanks for reading. I’d be interested to hear from role-players both male and female if this feels familiar, or if there are other ways that your gender affects your experience as a role-player 😊

 

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50 thoughts on ““No living man am I! You look upon a woman!” 5 things I experience as a female role-player

  1. Well, with regards to fear – um, no I don’t to get that but I tend to be playing with people I know, and on the rare occassion I have joined a new group I didn’t find it unwelcoming. As to the Mansplaining, hmm, I probably have had certain situatin where I was talked down to for not understanding rules. More in wargames than RPG, where I have have been drafted to fill a spot and I didn’t know the rules. I find that people patronise you only once if you get cross with them and remind them I didn’t know the rules. It does not have the same historic/social background/baggage as mansplaining, but it is the closes I can get. I can honestly say I have never been hit on at a game, and given the differing social structures am not sure it would put me off a group as it isn’t something I have to deal with constantly and in a demeaning way. Your point 5 – Again, I don’t play female characetrs but I know guys who do and I don’t think they get any different treatment. I have been part of a group where the GM had three female players and was clearly trying to gain their favour through the game. I can’t comment on how they felt, they didn’t seem to mind but that isn’t always entirely trustworthy, but I can say it was really annoying as another player watching the GM conjure more and more elaborate and bizarre situations that just happened t fit those player’s needs. It felt a bit creepy if I am honest with you. And the best for last. I can appreciate pretty things a much as the next person. However, I also appreciate logical thinks. Armour has one function and it most definitely is function overr form. I think the Amazons in the Latest Wonder Woman and Justice League films were done well as their armour wasn’t dissimilar to other armours I have seen that are functional. The female toons in Skyrim are anotehr goo example of how plate armour (or whatever) might look on the female form. The armours in that game are function over form.

    Hmm, does this mean I need to watch my rules delivery in our game?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Devil’s Advocate here:
      1 – Even though times are changing, gaming is still a male heavy activity. People who create or ask for artwork are likely to have in mind something that they like. Men, for the most part, like attractive women. As such, it’s not surprising that the majority of female character art is attractive, or even sexualised.
      2 – I have no doubt that there are women who are not afraid of the same things other women are, in that not all people fear the same things. It’s difficult to plan for every possible attendee. Perhaps it’s best to bring it up before any plans are made regarding location. This works for men and women alike.
      3 – People with poor behaviour are often disliked by those who have respect for others, and it’s likely that anyone demonstrating poor behaviour will be shut out by those with respect for others. If you are in a group where this is allowed to continue, it’s likely that no one in the group is respectful. This is unsurprising as poor behaviour will only continue in the company of poor behaviour. These groups are likely to comprise of men, due to the higher percentage of men involved in gaming.
      4 – A interesting point, however most people that state the obvious or who just repeat what others have just said usually got told about it at the time. This likely leads back to my point about 3. We will take your word for the fact that you weren’t getting the rules confused, not that rules are the be all and end all anyway.
      5 – Unfortunately, 1000’s of years of males protecting females (admittedly from other males) has led to a biological urge for males to look out for females. Also, biologically speaking, a male is urged to do so because it would make him appear to be a worthy mate, or at least give him a chance to be viewed as such. A male will likely forgive a female for the same reasons, an attempt to appear more sensitive and therefore more appealing.
      You know, ultimately, some people are just horrible, and as mentioned above, as gaming is for now dominated by men, the majority of horrible people gaming, statistically, will be male.
      Regardless, everyone deserves to enjoy a game of D&D, and I hope that everyone can find a comfortable place to do so!

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      1. Hi Damon. You replied to my comment though having read your reply I think it was more intended as a reply to Corey’s post in general. As such I can’t really answer most if your comments as you were offering counterpoint to someone else’s experience. However it wasn’t my experience so I am not really in a position to respond. I stand by my statement on armour though. I am well aware of how the male mind works. I have used one my entire life. So I can see where the “fantasy” armour comes from. But for a fantasy system to be believable it has to follow it’s own rules. And one of the rules of any game system I have played. Armour is for protection, not display. I don’t judge folk that like their artwork of a more graphic nature. However it is my observation that times are changing, people are more demanding of realism in their various media. And more female players are wanting to join in on the hobby so let’s remove obstacles. To flip it on its head, look at the He Man cartoon of the 1980s. What he wears is your fighter’s brand new A.C. 20 non magical plate armour. Can you take yourself seriously? Can your party?

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    2. I grew up playing D&D in the 80s, and we only had one female player. I did make sure to put one in my book “Operation Ragnarok” about a group of D&D players who steal a Viking longship from a museum and unleash Ragnarok

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  2. I don’t ever feel “mansplained”. That’s just because I don’t know enough about the rules, so I need them explained to me. All my D&D experiences have been positive thankfully. I haven’t felt afraid at all. I am glad you told your experience with role playing.

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  3. Most of my experiences have been positive (bar the flasher guy … who admittedly was entertaining at least.) But the one problem I had was the expectation that because I was female my characters would always be female. One of the games I played I was told I couldn’t play a guy because a girl couldn’t relate to a guy or know how to play him right.

    But then I do like playing girls so it wasn’t too much of a hardship – just something weird.

    I get the picture thing too. Its why I like looking at artists who have drawn Disney Princess’s with ‘real makeup.’ Or what it would look like after you have been adventuring 😛

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  4. there are a few pinterests, etc. around collecting realistic female armor and images,
    though i suspect you’ve come across them already.


    is one i reference often.

    as for the rest, thanks for sharing your experiences.
    hearing the experience of others is how we all level. XD

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Art has been getting better in a lot of RPGs. Are you only playing DnD? Unfortunately, DnD is a little behind the times times when it comes to the “cheesecake” art department.. As a man, I can’t say that I HATE cheesecake art, because it obviously is pandering to my interests, but I can also see why it would be detrimental to female enjoyment of the game, and I think it needs to go as well because I’d prefer to have a diverse playgroup that is comfortable for you and other women.

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    1. I’d offer that official 5th Edition D&D has been very fair about the elimination of the chainmail bikini.
      The genre as a whole has probably been shaped largely by Frank Frazzetta, who seldom left much to the imagination.

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    2. I do actually agree with you – in terms of role-play books, I definitely find that the newer editions are doing much better in including sensible female character art :p I don’t tend to use that for my characters though, I normally search online but tend to find it that bit harder to find what I want for women than for men

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  6. I find your points very good as guidance for male and female players and DMs. I will challenge one point though, that in a historical fantasy setting, women will get treated differently, and in many ways worse. A daughter will be tried to marry off whereas a boy will be taught the father’s job, women will be encouraged to be priestesses, seamstress and cooks while males are miners, carpenters and soldiers. Remember that in this age there was no contraception and death rate at birth was huge, so a fertile female was essential for the survival of society. Of course a DM can have some egalitarian or even matriarchal societies, and this is very interesting, but having a campaign with no segregation is unrealistic: drow, halflings, players with less strength, spellcasters, races, religions all get their share and this makes for a credible and interesting story. A workaroung for females to be segregated in different ways in human societies is to play another race, so a female elf or dwarf will be treated differently for more than one reason and it won’t be a gender thing so much. Of course part of the adventure is to roleplay these obstacles and play your character as you want with all the pros and cons of your choices (and dice rolls).

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    1. I think you make a lot of sense, historically women were treated very differently, however people play D&D for a fun game and for a fantastical adventure. Not everybody, especially women want their game to be set up where they automatically get treated differently because they are a different gender. But even if you wanted to make it realistic in a way and have the characters treat women differently it’s something you could easily bring up during a session 0 to make sure players are ok with it.

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      1. Agreed. At the moment, I’m playing a historical setting, where I’ve decided not to play as a woman so I don’t have to deal with the historical position of women – as I’m a bit of a history buff, I quite like things to be accurate, but not at the expense of enjoying myself . As BardoftheNorth says, settings can easily be reworked to make it a bit more fun for all the players. That’s the beauty of fantasy 🙂 But if you do want to include sexist elements as part of the game, rather than an unintended side effect, I would say discussing it beforehand is the best thing to do to make sure its handled respectfully, and that no one is unhappy with their player agency being compromised

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  7. Usually when my wife and I play in groups of strangers I feel that wall. Just a couple of days ago someone apologized to me for how they accidentally treated my wife while she was right next to me like she wasn’t even there. Keep talking about games! We need that aspect!

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  8. A few of the reasons you listed is why I decided to do an all women game, that and I was curious to see if playing with all guys was different from all gals.

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  9. Thanks for writing about your experience. I’ve only been playing D&D for about eight months, but have already had to deal with a few of these issues. Issue #2 is a major concern and one that has kept me from finding a place to physically play.
    Hitting on the only female pc in the group just completely put me off and I honestly can’t wait to play a nonfem character next.
    You know what I’d love? AN all-female group. That would be an interesting adventure.

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  10. And I pressed enter too early. What I wanted to say was that it really feels good to have a safe comfortable game and not worry about getting hit on or whatever. I do realize that it is difficult to accomplish irl (my game is online). And it doesn’t solve the problem of how some individuals in tabletop will act, I guess that won’t change until there are more women in gaming.

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  11. I ran a D&D group for some of my middle students after school. It was a group of five 8th grade girls. One of the first things they said when they were looking for character inspiration was that all the female character images online were too scantily clad.

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  12. I have a D&D group I GM (I’m a woman) that is 6 female players and 2 male players. One of the female players plays a male character, the rest are female characters. It’s definitely a different dynamic with them. For the most part they try to befriend all the evil characters, but when its time to fight they are completely ruthless. They even contemplated enslaving an ogre they defeated.

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  13. I’m a young male DM and I’m about to start a game with 3 female members and 1 male. This was a good read, and I think your perspective’s gonna help with my mindset in this next campaign. You’re 5th point seems like the biggest thing I’ll have to work on because I’ve noticed that I tend to make generic NPCs male, when I’m put on the spot. Thanks for your article, I think it’s really helping to change geek culture for the better.

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  14. so… I’m a man, so sorry for the mansplaining 😉
    I’m just gonna answer sequentially
    1: Female art: that’s indeed a real pain in the ***… I’ve created a little ready-to-play campaign. With premade characters. One of them if a black old man… try to find that…
    Another is a white female and I give the choice at the beginning to take the sexy or not sexy version (not sexy is just average, not ugly. I then give advantages & disadvantages to the sexy version… basically, people tends to react)… the non sexy version was a real bummer to find (and even for the sexy one, I tried to avoid the cleavage cliché)
    2: I just totally get that… with the world as it is right now. What I try to do is organize games in public gaming event. I organized it at my office (late hours), boardgame night, and I GMed during that time. I’d say that public gaming event would be the right place to not be unconfortable.
    3: I’d say that it relates to ANY point of tensions between the players: the GM should solve that ASAP. I’ve had a woman in my group twice (the same woman, playing 2 different characters), and I luckily never encountered that (well, hitting on a colleague might be more dangerous than on a “stranger”). But I really think the GM should solve that situation ASAP. And while I totally understand that you shouldn’t have to say anything (because you’re not the root cause), let the GM know of the situation might be nice too
    I also love the technique “I have a boy/girlfriend” early. I often use it at any party actually (because yes, sometimes, women can hit on me… :p) because I hate this kind of situation
    4: Couldn’t say anything here. I’m mainly GMing to newbies…
    5: That’s a real bummer… couldn’t think why it happens, nor how to solve it, but I can definitively imagine it does
    I’d say that ingame stuff (but totally unrelated to the player gender), a female will often be treated differently because of the universe she is evolving. middle age was not really female-friendly. Post apocalyptic is often following “strongest human” rule (which is then often a band of armed man… and sometime a mafia big boss female) and is very man driven.
    But indeed, all the relations should be done regardless of the player’s gender… unfortunately…
    as a last line, I’d like to add one thing: I’m working in IT, which is likely to roleplay in that sense: there are very few women working in that domain. I’m the kind of guy to mock everything (and himself firstly). And it’s very difficult to not being considered as a racist/mysogyn, etc, because if you do differenciate someone because he/she is a famela, black, etc by NOT joking on him/her, well, you actually make a difference because of that. Finally, I’m trying to:1: to do too much, 2: not “hitting on” women (as a joke), because I get they have already that too much, 3: always starting or ending by mocking myself

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  15. These are the kinds of issues I’m always trying to be aware of as a long time GM, and a guy that hopes to be equal across the board and generally tries not to be moron.
    It does give me hope when I see more women coming forward to not only play but voice the annoyances they feel at the RPG community, cause frankly we need to improve, A LOT. Also why I’m in the works of GM’ing for an all girls group, but I hope me being a guy doesn’t negatively affect the group or anything as we get into full swing, i’ve been told I’ve never been a problem, and I’m fairly certain they weren’t just being nice. Any who I did have a question, with all these issues being pointed out what would be steps or solutions guys could take to try and fix these problems? Honestly having some feedback or something to look at or work towards will make it better for me to explain to other’s and remind myself in the even I lose focus.
    That being said though I am super psyched more women are coming forward, which is partially why some friends and myself have been trying to help in any way, like geeky stuff tailored more for ladies. Cause they are definitely an up-and-coming demographic!

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    1. Hiya, this is great to hear, thank you! Quite a few GMs have asked me how they could make things more inclusive, which is really amazing as a response. I think I will probably write a separate blog post about it, with the caveat that what would be solutions for me/would encourage me to attend more games might not work for others

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  16. I also lament the dearth of good female character art. I’m always on the lookout for it for my online character profiles and it is hard to find non-cheesecake art for female characters. Heck, even the half-orcs have to be “sexy” most of the time.

    I can certainly understand, even if I have never experienced it, the fear you describe in going to meet a new group. I’ve had anxiety, which is different from the actual visceral fear of harm. It’s something I have the privilege not to have to worry about, generally, and its something our hobby definitely needs to address. We’ve got creepers (and worse) like both in front of and behind the screens and we have to make it clear that they are not welcome.

    As for the mansplaining–my wife has been a member of our group for nearly 20 years now. And I still catch myself doing it, though I always try to stop myself. It’s not a good thing or a helpful thing and something to be mindful of for sure.

    As for treating female characters differently–I’ve not really experienced that first-hand, but could definitely see it happening. And it isn’t right, no matter what so-called “biological” spin you want to put on it. People are fully in control of their behavior and, when made aware, can adjust.

    I don’t get the “guys can’t play girls” or “girls can’t play guys” thing. In a fantasy RPG it’s perfectly feasible to play a being of an entirely different species, even a monstrous ‘race,’ but suddenly you can’t play someone of your own just because of gender? That’s ridiculous. People need to grow up.

    I also don’t hold much truck with the “realistic” apology for bad behavior against female characters. We’re playing in worlds with dragons, demons, everyday magic, and creatures that can pretend to be chests or tables and bite you–but we draw the “realism” line at how we treat women? That’s a crock of…well, you know what.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the article–very interesting perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. The only thing I want to comment on here is #2. Male or Female, I have the same standard policy with new folks into my group.

    Using Meetup.com to organize my games weekly with people, I often get a lot of people asking to join up due to the games I run.

    Normally its someone I have not met.

    The first thing I tell them, is about the group, what we are playing and what time of game it is via message. Next since its my house and I don’t know the person, I ask to meet them in a public area first (this is more so for me, I don’t want a psycho in my house) and we can have a cup of coffee or grab lunch to chat. I’ve noticed a lot of the girls who join like this option a lot as I’ve asked afterwards. Because they are not walking into a house blind, and have someone they are familiar with.

    Normally during our conversation, I will tell them about the group and how people act. When our meeting is over and if I think the person is okay, I will extend the invite if they are want to join the group.

    When the person joins, I normally give them a 3 game try out. After the 3rd game I ask the each person in the group privately what they think.. “should this person continue with us?” type deal. I also ask the new person what they thought after each game, mostly because I don’t know the person and I want to try to accommodate my gaming style to them.

    Move on from there.

    I’ve been using this method for years and only once did I have to throw a guy out of the group after 2 games, because he was being a dickhead.

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  18. In regards to your distress of character art, you may want to look into character commissions from artists. Try even those you are not as well established giving them the chance to hone their skills. You can have art at a reasonable price with the desired look for your specific character.

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  19. Most of my fiends are gamers in one form or another. And mostly female, so in terms of community, we’re a pretty strong support group. Because of that I didn’t really have much of a “females don’t know how to play, stand aside , little girl” experience. I did have a bit of a tiff with a game store’s stall at a con this year. Everything was, “this’ll be perfect for girls to play”, or “more girls prefer this one”. They were legit interesting games, a bit boring, but after a day of con, I didn’t really want to think too much for a game. But the sales pitch immediately turned me off. I actually told the guy to work on his pitch to girls, because some might actually be interested, but the patronising attitude could prevent it, and he’d lose a sale, if that’s what he really wanted

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  20. This is a very accurate piece about gaming in general. RPGs have been tailored a lot towards straight white men and as a member of the LGBTQ community I feel it’s very hard to have a conversation with my group about my character’s love life and relationship history. They’ll either shy away if I make them anything but straight or they tell me I can’t make them straight because I don’t know what I’m talking about. Which is beyond ridiculous in my opinion. I’ve left a couple of groups because of it but I’m kind of curious if anybody else has had similar experiences with their characters?

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    1. I joined a group playing a transgendered orc and had a lot of problems with the other players thinking it was to be “funny” and not listening to the backstory of her tribe and that she wasn’t just a cross-dresser, but an actual female orc who dealt with being stuck in the wrong skin her whole life. It is hard to find gamers willing to play with characters on the LGBTQ+ spectrum without it being stereotype laden and disrespectful.

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  21. I recall the first time I joined my group. (Whom I have been with for over three years now) And although our DM (Now my best friend and soon to be man-of-honor at my wedding) was always there to help me without talking down, the rest of the party was keen to treat me as lesser. At the time I had just moved to the state and had no friends, so I went to the shop to play. I started off playing Mtg there then d&d to make friends. Being the only girl at the shop ment that *a lot* of guys hit on me. Although the one that stood out the most was one of our d&d group. Constant text messages, creepy statements, showing up at my new job, it was terrifying. Luckily I felt comfortable enough to talk to the shop owner. I showed her some of the texts he has been sending, and as she is looking through them he sends me the most horrible thing you can send to an unwilling and unaware person. I never had to see the picture, But she immediately banned him from the store. After talking to my group about it, who knew I had a huge crush on the mtg state champ, they were quick to defend me against the creep.
    These men are the best friends I have ever made in my life, and I nearly was almost to afraid to go back.
    Fast forward to about 3 months ago, a new player joined our group. Everyone else knew him from playing d&d on Friday night’s (during that time I was playing Mtg with my bf) so everyone was really cool with him. Yet right away he had a problem with me. I was playing a male character who was a noble and the guild leader of our party. Yet anytime I would try to talk he would talk over me. While my character was having a meeting with the general he would just walk into the room and try to take over the conversation. He constantly made comments about how women only like rude men, or how dumb they are, how no one gives him the attention he deserves, ext. The worst parts where how he victim blamed women in abusive relationships (a subject none of us bring up for a number of reasons). He would get mad at any choice my character made even when the rest of the party agreed to it. His comments kept getting worse, my group always told him to knock it off, but at the tipping point he finally made me break down and cry at the table. Our DM kicked him from the group, with the permission from the shop owner after finally having some proof. Even now he still blames me. But at the end of the day my group are there for me, just as I am there for them. Yes I am the only girl at my table, But I have found a group that treats me as an equal and I am so very thankful for them.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Marie – I’m glad you’ve found a group that works for you, despite past experiences with assholes! I also feel incredibly lucky to have found my current group too – they happen to be all guys, but they never make me feel unsafe or less than

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  22. I play a lot online, and can state that yes… I cross played as female often and found that I would get loads more support from players and dms for online games… though this often slacked off the moment they found out I was actually a male player. Still get more support than as a male character though.

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  23. I did not read through all of the comments, so I am hoping I’m not parroting someone else’s comment! There are a few subreddits with excellent art of female characters. The first is r/armoredwomen, which focuses on women who are wearing more realistic, although sometimes still a bit fantastical, armor. The other is r/reasonablefantasy, which is a bit heavier on the fantasy elements, but still portrays women wearing practical clothing and armor.

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  24. Hey there, another female RP fan no comment really cause… I feel you lol. But where are you from? I might be able to help you out with some groups that might suit you better.

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  25. My favorite example was a side-by-side picture of a man and woman each wearing chainmail and holding a sword. The man looked like he was ready to enter the “Viking” set and do a scene. The woman looked like she was ready to do a scene for a John in a brothel, even complete with makeup.
    For me, the worst part of the “mansplaining” happened while I was GMing our group. The one woman in our group was right and the others showed her why she was wrong. Sadly, I was too new at running a game at the time to help her assert her position and opinion. Fortunately, after their blunder, they started listening to her more and allowing her to develop as part of the group and as part of the characters’ party.
    I hadn’t thought about the safety aspect, we were a bunch of young Marines at the time. If anyone had laid a hand on someone against their will, we would have acted accordingly.

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  26. Happily I play in a mixed group, we’re almost exactly half and half. It’s great and we all work together well. The DM/GM is a guy but he treats us all equally. In my earliest years of gaming I had a couple incidents where I was the only girl and had been hit on and the like. The worse was when I was trying out Werewolf the Apocalypse, I played a were fox and of course the GM I had at that time secular her, it made me very uncomfortable, I only played like 3 games with that guy before I had enough. For most of my life I only played with a couple female friends until I joined my current group a couple years ago. I really enjoy my current group because of the equality aND the mixed genders. There are 4 girls and 3 guys and the DM who is a guy so yeah half and half XD it’seems great!

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  27. Read this days ago and am just now getting a chance to write-up a comment. I don’t play D&D but I do play Magic the Gathering and face a lot of similar things.
    Fortunately I live in a smaller city and am a known female face among many of the Magic players at this point, despite often being the only female present.
    Issues arise when I head to larger tournaments. Guys like to “break the ice” (??) by asking if I play because my boyfriend/husband plays. That’s actually how we met, so I started before that, and I think it’s very belittling.
    I won a booster pack at a new card shop in town. I had my husband pick it up since the shop is right by his work. The owner made a joking comment on how the Magic was really for him and not me. Before my husband could correct him, another local player who knows us jumped in and immediately came to my defense, saying it was most definitely for me and that I can hold my own at the table. Haha.

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  28. Thankfully I’ve been lucky enough to find a group where (so far) none of these are an issue. However I’ve dealt with almost all of the same issues in the past. I never minded all of the over sexualized artwork. It’s marketing and it apeals to me too. It never mattered much because I started playing male characters. I felt other PCs and NPCs let my female characters get away with or helped too much. There was no challenge. Most players assume you need extra help when they see you’re a girl and try to “help” by over explaining the rules. And safety has been a huge problem in the past. I once had a DM tell me the group was meeting when they really weren’t. After nearly an hour of waiting for other players he told me that he really just wanted to get me alone at his place. I know that most people would never do that but now it’s something I always worry about. And even when meeting at a public gaming space I have been hit on in the middle of combat… by another regular patron…while sitting next to my boyfriend. Again, not everyone is like this and I don’t just want to shit on the male members of the rpg community. Things would ve just as hard for a single male in an all female campaign. We just need to help some of our collegues stay mindful of how they treat others so that a few bad eggs don’t spoil the whole lot.

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  29. Hi!

    I’m also a female role-player, so in some ways, I really understand you.

    For me, the worst case is the point two. Fortunately for me, I usually convince some friend to come with me the first time. The last party I join have a very sensitive GM, and the three of four first days, we met in a public bar. And despite that, I took my friend with me. That’s really very usefull.

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  30. Unfortunately, yes, I get it. I want to find a group to play D&D, until then… So, I’m in comics. Fortunately I can find female characters dressed in normal gear (Ms. Marvel for example). But, I do get mansplained a lot, and it drives me nuts. I would never push my luck if I’m surrounded by guys I don’t know. So, it’s almost the same (minus the dresses). T_T

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  31. Very interesting read. I am a GM (mostly) and have run into related issues most recently. I was teaching my 16 year old daughter how to play and I like to use many visual aids…ie. landscapes and character concept art. The game we were playing was Rifts (post-apocalyptic for anyone who doesn’t know) and armor is essential in that world…so running around in a bikini isn’t very practical, nor did I want to introduce gaming to my daughter in such a fashion. I was able to find a lot of material, but I definitely had to dig a little deeper to find it.

    I have mixed feelings about the concept of gender and sexuality in rpgs. Part of me says that should be determined by the character and that their personality should be expressed however that character would act just like any other situation…but at the same time, I find it terribly awkward to do in game. I have avoided this awkwardness by always playing another species. The only exception was when I played a human swashbuckler type and his whole premise was an over-exaggerated (to the comical point) degree of thinking that he could solve every issue by hitting on every female NPC he came across which usually landed him in more trouble than the party started in.

    And though I have only ever played with one other female player in the past, I do remember she declared she was in a relationship early on in similar fashion and I don’t remember anyone hitting on her specifically in or out of game. I am currently playing in a group where there is a guy playing as a gal (with statistical extreme beauty) and I had to seriously stop to think about how realistic the game setting would be if the players DIDN’T show interest and hit on her in game. Luckily I am a different species and don’t have to worry about figuring that out…this time.

    I also run a group with all guys, and they are selfish/evil. So they like to go to towns, run the bars and attempt to pick up women (or prostitutes). I let it run it’s course the first time around, because they are evil and it makes sense to their characters, but then it got annoying. In retaliation, I had one of the guys shot down hard, the 2nd get involved in gang war and the third I gave the illusion of success (though he got interrupted for the gang war), then had the NPC hired as a companion on their next trip by the financier and she became the ‘stage 5 clinger’ girl who cock-blocked him at every chance she could. Needless to say, lesson was learned.

    But yeah, I find the topic a tough one to decide my stance on. I think role playing should be psychologically accurate, but it also shouldn’t spoil anyone’s fun. And maybe it should come down to the GM to keep it in control?

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