• Story Weavers

    by  • April 13, 2012 • Essays • 5 Comments

    I sometimes have a funny reaction to the culture of women in gaming. I feel as though I’m an outsider in a very odd way. I’ve been spoiled (or maybe just lucky) to have always had strong women role-models in gaming.

    My very first experience as a player was when I was 10. It was 1981 and my aunt was running a D&D adventure that she designed. I was the only child at the table. The other player were my parents, my aunt’s boyfriend, David, and their friends, Susan and John. Even then, the women outnumbered the men at our table.

    The dungeon my aunt designed was full of goofy things along with the requisite killing of monsters. My aunt didn’t run the game for very long and she stopped playing rpgs after that dungeon. Looking back, I realize it was a reason for her to get her friends together to tell silly stories and drink. But it was an experience that lingered in my memories.

    When I was 20, I worked with a woman who played rpgs all the time. She became a very close friend, and over our lunch breaks would tell war stories from tabletop games and live-action role-playing games. I still didn’t join any games, although LARPs sounded really cool. I guess I was feeling a bit shy then. Eventually, she coaxed me out to a series of parlor LARPs that a girlfriend of hers was running. I’ve always been a sucker for a murder mystery. Again, I found myself in a game with a woman GM and lot of strong women players.

    Although many of my friends were gamers, I didn’t start playing tabletop rpgs regularly until I was in my mid-20s. That was when my boyfriend at the time and I moved in together. He was an active GM, and having games in my home made them easy to join. Through him I met even more women gamers. I was never the only woman at the table.

    This pattern has continued. Today, my regular Wednesday game group consists of 3 woman and 1 man. All three of the women will very happily GM games.

    And there’s my little sister. She started playing RPGs in her teens, after I had moved out of the house. I remember her happily telling me about a World of Darkness game she and a girlfriend had joined. Currently, she plays in a regular gaming group that has at least three other women players.

    Is the Philadelphia area very different when it comes to inclusion of women in the table-top gaming community? Or am I just lucky to have found a great community within it? One thing of which I’m certain, is that my being raised by loving and strong nerdy women had a hand in my being the same and finding the same.

    The summer after my sister and I got our mom to play in a LARP, mom took a poetry writing class. One of her poems was about my and my sister’s gaming.

    Story Weavers

    Who are these wondrous children,
    Who hold the strands of gold
    And silver so lightly in their hands?

    Story weavers ~
    Playing on the edge of night.
    Spinning out their glinting webs
    Of reality and dreams.

    The air shimmers with crystal laughter
    As their words entwine,
    Building a towering tapestry,
    Thread by slender thread.

    (ral, 6/17/00)




    A gamer for decades, a nerd for longer, and a woman forever.

    5 Responses to Story Weavers

    1. avatar
      April 13, 2012 at 16:15

      Hey! I grew up in the Philadelphia area as well, and had similar experiences always gaming with women (although I didn’t have a cool Aunt. Jealous). I think it might have to do with that area, actually! At least a little bit. I’m in Ohio now, and the experience seems to be slightly different. Although, I still game with women here. So maybe it’s more perception vs. reality.

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    2. avatar
      April 13, 2012 at 23:58

      That is SO very strange.

      I’m actually a Philadelphia native myself. While I was the only girl in my first table top experience, our group was very story game-ish even though we had no idea what that was. We played DnD like World of Darkness and World of Darkness like a soap opera simulator. (I wonder if the mood had a lot to do with our most regular GM being young, creative, and gay.) When I got into LARP in highschool, it was all theater girls and a dude or seven from various other groups, but the stories were highly dramatic and very stylized. While I never got her to play, my mother was highly supportive of my gaming, would casually ask me about my characters the way some parents ask ‘how was school today’ and teasing say ‘well, I hope you win today’ whenever I headed out, though she knew gaming wasn’t about winning for me or at our tables.

      Maybe it’s something in the water.

      I actually think that’s why my reaction is so strong. My early gaming ‘upbringing’ was so idyllic and free of a lot of nonsense I get cold-hard shocked hearing other people’s stories and seeing their attitudes online. The internet. The internet.

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    3. avatar
      April 14, 2012 at 19:36

      I’ve only really started with table top gaming in an all-male group. We’ve tried to get some of our girl friends involved, but other than me none of them are really interested. After spending so much time on gaming forums on line, I never guessed that my group would be so kind and welcoming. We’re currently playing a Hunter: The Vigil campaign and I will be soon GMing a Geist: The Sin-Eaters (we’re big New World of Darkness fans) and I hope I can get some girls involved. I have never felt unwelcome at the table and the lads are some of my best mates, but I still feel like something of an outsider since they can sometimes make rather off colour remarks.
      Despite that, nWoD is now a big part of my life and I hope I can find some female gaming role models when i go to uni this autumn

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      • avatar
        April 16, 2012 at 14:18

        And don’t be afraid to be the female gaming role-model!

    4. avatar
      April 16, 2012 at 14:20

      How funny, and awesome, that three of us have Philadelphia roots.

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