I made almost all of my friends in college while playing Dungeons and Dragons on the weekends. And unlike most D&D experiences which are male dominated (male Dungeon Masters who dictate the story, male players who may or may not tone down their sexist jokes if there’s a girl in the room, an adventuring party that’s exclusively male characters, etc), I attended a women’s college so ALL of my Dungeon Masters were women and nearly all the players were women or non cis men. I never had to reconcile my feminism with my D&D practice, but that’s not the case for everyone.
If you’re interested in getting started as a D&D player, or are an experienced player looking for a new adventuring group to join, here are a few tips on keeping feminism with your adventuring spirit.
Look for an all female D&D group. Or at least a group led by a female dungeon master (female Dungeon Masters tend to focus more on characters and character development rather than continuous HULK-SMASH battles). If you don’t know anyone in person to play with, check out the Dungeon and Dragons Meetup group, look for a Facebook group, put out a call on Facebook or ask around on Tumblr. You can always play online. Roll20 is a particularly great site, especially because you do all of your dice rolling online so you don’t even have to worry about purchasing dice.
Create a female character. Even if you are playing in a mixed-gender group, create a female character. The first two characters I created were male (a Elven Cleric and a Human Monk) and though I still love these characters even five years after I’ve role-played them, I know that I created male characters in order to keep feminism out of my role-playing. Creating a female character to role play will show your adventuring team that women can be adventurers too. Women can be any of the D&D classes (fighter, rogue, wizard, druid, etc) and be any personality, have any backstory and any motivation. Play as a woman and you create a more female-friendly game-space.
Create a feminist character. Your character does not need to be female in order to be a feminist. Have a male muscle-bound fighter who listens to and respects the women on his team and in his life? Great! Have a character who chews out their team member on coercing that bar maid (or bar man) into having sex at the last in you were at? Even better! Maybe your character had been a sex worker and now advocates for sex worker rights. The possibilities are endless on how to bring feminism into your game play. Your character’s actions and words can create a culture change within the world your Dungeon Master has established.
Check everyone’s pronouns. Both for players and characters, be sure to use correct pronouns. It’s a matter of respect.
Be inclusive of all races, genders and sexualities. D&D is not only mostly male, but it’s also mostly white and straight and cisgender. While I don’t advocate playing a character of color unless you are a person of color, don’t assume everyone you are playing with is white. Or, at least research (please research) about the culture you emulating if you do decide to play as a character of color. The same goes for playing characters of a different gender of sexuality than your own.
Talk to your Dungeon Master and fellow players to root out sexism. Whether intentional or not, no D&D group can be a perfect feminist utopia all the time always. We’re people. We make mistakes. We say stupid and offensive things in and out-of-character (though please respect and recognize the difference!). But that’s why we need to talk about it. If no one stands up and says they were offended no on in your group will know that you are uncomfortable. When it comes down to it, D&D is all about communication, so please communicate with your team in and out-of–character to voice your opinion.
D&D is storytelling. It’s a way to step out of your own shoes, pick up a long-bow, or axe or spell book and let your imagination fly. But you don’t have to sacrifice your feminism to in order to join this creative community. If anything, your feminism (and everyone has their own feminism, trust me) will enhance the game-play and the experience for all involved.