Dungeons and Dragons and Dames

When people think of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), they probably don’t think of four 30-something females as the players.  In fact, most probably don’t think of women as playing the game at all. Following this line of thought, some people might be surprised to learn that three of my girl friends and I have been deeply engaged in a D&D campaign for the last few months. To our dismay and my regret, when last we met, I unintentionally freed a banshee… but more on that later.

My friends and I are all in our thirties; our Dungeon Master (DM) is in his thirties as well. Some people might judge us and think things like: Don’t we have anything better to do with our lives? Shouldn’t we grow up? But, why is meeting once a week to play D&D any different than meeting once a week to play, say, poker, softball, or participate in a craft circle? Who’s to say that one type of “game” is appropriate for adults and one is not – who also, says women don’t play or don’t enjoy games like D&D? Maybe those people are watching too much of The Big Bang Theory.

In the episode “The Love Spell Potion” several of the main male and female characters end up playing D&D together; but this is only after the women return from a failed trip to Las Vegas. Forgetting the fact that D&D campaigns, as far as I know, are planned ahead and that it would be difficult (impossible?) to write in 3 new characters for people who never even played before ….the episode still bothered me. Rather than using the game as a way to bring equality or understanding between the genders on the show, the episode instead ends up using D&D as a way to introduce a bit of physical romance into two of the characters’ relationship. I could go on a bit of a rant here – but I’ll stop myself. For my friends and I, having a weekly meeting for our D&D campaign is a way to socialize. Plus, there’s something to be said for holding on to and using one’s imagination. We all work stressful, high-demand jobs, a couple of us are also pursuing graduate degrees; playing D&D has given us a reason to meet every week, no matter what we have going on in our lives.

Since we are new to playing D&D, we are still learning what it means to play and our strategic abilities need a lot more work (as does our ability to accurately read a hand drawn map). Anyone who thinks D&D is only about make believe has no idea how D&D actually works. Skills and abilities such as being able to problem solve, critically assess and react to any situation, and being willing to take calculated risks are essential to the game. Since the game involves dice, having lady luck on your side doesn’t hurt either. One thing I learned pretty early on –you can make any move you want but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a wise move or that it’s going to work. In fact, the more excited you might be about a move, the more you might not want to try it. For example, if there’s a magical sword floating in the middle of the room – no matter how much the sword beckons – no matter how much you want to touch it – whatever you do, do not touch it – because doing so might free a banshee from her magical prison. However, sometimes though, even the most ridiculous play can end up working.

My character is a 4 foot four 80 pound squishy enchantress elf named Heledhil. I began the campaign with no money and the only weapon I still have (besides a handful of spells) is my staff. I’ve gotten into the habit of using it to thwack skeletons and other monsters, and somehow, thanks to my (knock on wood) (sometimes) spectacular rolling skills – I’ve caused a decent amount of damage. I even single-handedly saved the day when my three teammates, all much stronger and/or better equipped than I, (a ranger, a thief, and a druid) were each gravely injured.

When I started playing, all I knew was that I wanted to be an elf and probably a wizard of some sort. I didn’t realize how much “homework” would be involved or how much time I should devote to the game if I really want to learn how to play. I still don’t have a player handbook of my own yet and this puts me at a serious disadvantage.  All I thought I needed to do was create an awesome character (she would, of course, automatically have extraordinary magical skills and be able to easily defeat every baddie in her way.) I didn’t know that so much of my character’s physique, personality, and fate would not be based on my imagination but determined by dice rolls and the will of the DM.  I also didn’t realize I would only get to use 2 spells every 24-hours or that I wouldn’t get to learn any new spells until I “leveled up.” There’s a lot I didn’t know it seems – and that’s okay by me because I’m learning as I play. Who knows – maybe after a few more campaigns (and once I actually get the book!) I’ll be able to lead a D&D campaign myself. A female Dungeon Master – now there’s a thought!