“Sometimes women scare the hell out of me.” – Michael Crichton

When I was growing up, there were no girls playing D&D. Nowadays, there are female gamers everywhere I look, and I think that’s fantastic. I know they’ve always been there; you’d be surprised how many of the WizOs on wizards.com were women (and how many ORCS are), and there have been big names in the RPG industry forever like Jean Rabe, Penny Williams, and Sue Weinlein Cook. But until recently, “gaming girls” weren’t as visible to the public eye.

It’s unfortunate, but there’s a certain shame to being a gamer as an adult that is heavier for a woman to bear than a man. Besides the girls in my life, I have two women in the two games I DM that love to play, love our group, but would never confess to being gamers to their friends, family, or coworkers. (Merkuri in my Dark Sun game, however, is not shy about waving her geek gamer flag.) I think a lot of it stems from misconceptions about RPGs, but regardless of the reason, gaming is a big step for a girl to take.

I met my wife my senior year of high school. We both had the same English class, and we had to give a presentation on something British that we enjoyed. (In Tennessee, senior English is world literature, with a strong emphasis on Great Britain.) I talked about Masterpiece Mystery on PBS and the
Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett; Patty was the only person in the class who also watched Masterpiece Mystery. Patty passed out Welsh biscuits but forgot to bring any butter or jam, so she was afraid they were dry and tasteless. I loved them. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” or so they say.

That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that stretched for five years before I realized it was a relationship. I dated people; she dated people. We double dated. Through all of it, we gamed; I can honestly say she played in every single D&D game I ran during those five years. I didn’t know how lucky I had it. I was an idiot (and she reminds me of it every day). I found out years later that she didn’t care one way or another about playing D&D, she just wanted to spend time with me. To this day, she will only play if I DM; she’s in it for me, not the game.

Corina (daughter #1) loves to play games...just not RPGs. When she and her husband come over on family dinner nights, we play Boggle, Quiddler, Ticket to Ride, or Michigan Rummy. She has no interest in fantasy, or storyline, or anything that involves being someone other than who she is. She plays dancing and singing video games, but nothing that involves being a character. She’s a mainstream gamer, but she is a gamer; she let her husband know that when they married, he played games with the family. She enjoys games, because she grew up playing them and sees games as a family activity.

That was my dream when we started our family – everyone playing D&D around the dinner table. While that has never happened, I’ve come close. Like her big sister, Rhiannon (daughter #2) has no interest in RPGs, but she’s addicted to Maple Story. She loves playing a part but has no patience for character creation or backstory. Thanks to her mother’s job, she’s also branched out into Magic the Gathering, and that’s the game her boyfriend enjoys as well. We’ve had several MtG sessions at the dinner table with me and Patty, Rhiannon and her boyfriend, and Faelyn (daughter #3) and her boyfriend.

Faelyn is the gamer I always wanted all my children to be. Like Rhiannon, she plays Maple Story religiously. She also plays the Pokemon and Legend of Zelda video games. She played the Pokemon TCG, graduated to Magic…and then I took her to the 2007 Worldwide D&D Game Day.

When I discovered a couple years ago that she was “playing” D&D on the bus to and from school with her friends by making up stories and giving them rules for character creation, I bought her the D&D Starter Set. She now DMs a game in which her boyfriend is a player. She’s 14! I have given the world a female Dungeon Master – I can die a happy man.

Faelyn’s character is Tara Redstag. Tara started out as a pre-generated character, but she’s now a 15
th level weaponmaster in my Age of Worms 4E D&D campaign. Faelyn uses the same miniature she got at that game day event five years ago, and she still has her dice (although she prefers to play with the dice she bought me for Christmas last year. Hmmm.) I make sure to schedule the game sessions so she can be there, because I cherish the time we spend together. As a parent, any chance you have to make a connection with your child, take it and run with it.

My youngest daughter, Zoe (#4), shows an avid interest in gaming but doesn’t quite have the patience for all the rules. Her favorite game with daddy? That would be Gamma World. The quirky races, constantly changing powers, and supremely easy character generation keep her engaged for a session of about an hour or so. We can set it aside when she gets bored or distracted and pick it back up again when she’s in the mood. It will be a few more years until she’s ready for D&D, but I think I might get my family D&D session to become a reality before Faelyn goes off to college.

Friday was my 21
st wedding anniversary. After 21 years and four daughters, I think I can claim some small experience in the female department. Not much, mind you; there are many things I do not understand, and never will fathom even on my deathbed. But above everything else, look for this sign that makes all the difference in the world – if a woman is willing to play games with you, she really, really likes you.