Ten things NOT to do around female gamers

This posting was inspired by the personal experiences of a female player in my regular Dungeons & Dragons gaming group. She shared that, in her previous group, there was a male player whose behavior made her uncomfortable enough to leave the game entirely. Fortunately, she accepted our invitation and quickly became an indispensable member of our group.

Although I was, and still am, saddened by the conduct of that male player in “the old group,” her story raised questions in my mind about how many female gamers we males drive out of the hobby through our actions and attitudes. It seems irrelevant whether these actions are intentional or not, for the result is the same: we lose a number of creative, intelligent people who would otherwise make a great contribution to our individual campaigns and the role-playing hobby as a whole.

Please understand, Gentle Reader, that the ideas set forth in the following paragraphs are presented as suggestions for making our games more comfortable for females. If male readers can find that none of the “don’ts” listed below apply to their campaigns, they may consider forwarding this post to other males who may not be as forward-thinking. The rest of the males – a group that included myself, in a couple of the ways described below – might take a moment to examine their perception of and conduct toward female gamers, for the benefit of everyone concerned. Continue reading


Is a social contract right for your D&D group?

During a recent conversation with Stupid Ranger (who, despite the moniker, is a highly intelligent person), the topic of social contracts for gaming groups emerged. Such contracts set clear expectations about how players should behave at the gaming table, and by signing them, players agree to abide by those expectations. While these contracts are not a new concept – a definitive post on the topic appeared on Treasure Tables three years ago, and the earliest online reference to the term I found was dated 2001 – I noted that no version of the Dungeon Master’s Guide had ever identified such an agreement as a dungeon master’s tool, and inexperienced DMs may consider drafting one for the purposes of improving the play experience for everyone.

Group composition is a key element in determining if a formal social contract is necessary. Many groups are composed of family members and close friends; relationships of that sort are well-established, and tend to have higher levels of personal acceptance, easier communication, and higher tolerance between players. For such groups, these close relationships can naturally address most play aspects a social contract would cover on an as-needed basis, so specifically writing out how people should behave during the game may not be necessary. Continue reading

Keeping a ‘Quote Sheet’ to chronicle in-game jokes

One of the advantages of tabletop gaming lies in the in-person interaction between the participants. It is a kind of interaction that cannot be duplicated in other types of games, including conversations held through the “chat boxes” common to online role-playing games. Even the grittiest of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns have moments of levity, and those moments become the fuel for private jokes between those present, often producing laughs years after the game session that spawned them.

One way to chronicle those jokes is by creating a “Quote Sheet,” a simple list of the one-liners that reduced the group to tear-streaked laughter, the dates on which they were spoken, the players who spoke them, and some brief notes about the game situation, if the quote isn’t completely self-explanatory. Periodically reviewing the recorded quotes with players is essentially a review of happy memories, which is helpful for bringing game participants together, especially if the relationships between them – either inside or outside the game – are strained. Continue reading

On social responsibility between players

After the near-TPK (total party kill) discussed in yesterday’s post, one of my players suggested that I “let the group off easy” by allowing people to keep their characters and for the villain to keep their heroes alive, pending a timely rescue. He reconsidered what he meant by “easy” when he learned that the first phase of a ritual intended to turn the imprisoned heroes into undead servitors was completed, that those characters were magically marked with the symbol of a dark immortal pending the second phase, and that followers of said immortal can detect those bearing the mark within a limited radius. Continue reading