D&D General The Art and the Artist: Discussing Problematic Issues in D&D

teitan

Legend
I was a little surprised looking at old ads for D&D to see that they frequently included women. I don't just mean the one with Gail Gygax but print ads with young women and girls as players and at least one as a DM. They seemed to stop at some point though. I think a girl showed up in one of the D&D VHS games from the 90s.
Gail wasn’t in a D&D ad, Gary’s daughter was in several though.
 

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For the most part, only a relatively few people who weren't the standard "cishet white guys" audience got brought in one way or another. From there, it slowly spread via word of mouth, through friends or college groups. Slowly as in over decades, not just years. For a very long time, maybe you'd have a woman or two in your game, or a black guy, or maybe one of your players would come out as gay. But it was very much a personal table thing, because RPGs weren't targeted or, more importantly, advertised to a wider audience for a long time.

I think it was less of a straight trajectory up, as much as it was hills and valleys along the way. When D&D first came out, my understanding is it was pretty popular. By the time I was aware of the things, the very early 80s, it was culturally relevant enough that there was a TV show, and it appeared in movies like ET. Then by the time I got into it, it had become strictly a nerd thing (for the most part at least it seemed). But the 90s you had white wolf and you had a lot of things in the culture fusing to RPGs. At that time I saw a big surge in female gamers locally. I don't know what the trend was across the country or globe, especially since I live near Salem (which ties very closely to the white wolf fandom). It is possible we had more gamers in general around here for example. But during that time I had a lot of women in my groups, and knew of groups that included a lot of women. I knew female GMs as well. And I remember a lot of the content I was reading was designed or edited by women too (Obviously Margeret Weis of Dragonlance, but also people like Lisa Smedman, Cindi Rice, Andria Hayday and Teeuwynn Woodruff; plus writers for the various Ravenloft novels I was reading: Christie Golden, Elaine Bergstrom, P.N. Elrod, Carrie Bebris (who also edited for game lines), Laurell K Hamilton (many of these people also had things like non-RPG related vampire series that were popular at the time too). It may just have been what I was purchasing at the time, and not a trend, but I noticed less female writers with D&D stuff when WOTC first took it over (again I could simply have missed the names or not bought the books), but I definitely noticed fewer female players at that time (at least with D&D specifically). I do recall people like Jackie Cassada though working on Ravenloft during the 3E period. But in more recent years, it seems there has been more and more women coming into the hobby again. I bring all this up just to point out, it doesn't always go all straight up over time. And some periods were more varied than we might remember (it isn't like I have done a data crunch of this stuff, but I do remember the 90s being a much different time when it came to gaming culture than the 2000s---and I would say different in a better way than the 2000s personally). But I also mention it so we don't lose sight of the women who worked on a lot of the lines in the past.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I was a little surprised looking at old ads for D&D to see that they frequently included women. I don't just mean the one with Gail Gygax but print ads with young women and girls as players and at least one as a DM. They seemed to stop at some point though. I think a girl showed up in one of the D&D VHS games from the 90s.
I kinda feel that might be just a tokenism thing, especially when compared to the amount of cheesecake in gaming books at the same time.
 

MGibster

Legend
I kinda feel that might be just a tokenism thing, especially when compared to the amount of cheesecake in gaming books at the same time.
Maybe. But tokenism is usually an effort to give the appearance of equality and I doubt this was an overriding concern of TSR in the early 80s. Video game ads from around the same time sometimes featured women and girls playing but those disappeared as marketers focused on boys to the exclusion of girls.
 

Maybe. But tokenism is usually an effort to give the appearance of equality and I doubt this was an overriding concern of TSR in the early 80s. Video game ads from around the same time sometimes featured women and girls playing but those disappeared as marketers focused on boys to the exclusion of girls.

FWIW, the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick featured a game group that was roughly 50/50. So, the people who hated D&D saw it as an equal threat to boys and girls.
 

MGibster

Legend
FWIW, the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick featured a game group that was roughly 50/50. So, the people who hated D&D saw it as an equal threat to boys and girls.
I remember the first time I read Dark Dungeons. "What? Okay, I can buy black magic and suicide, but I can't believe you'll ever find three whole women in the same D&D campaign!" I didn't see any significant number of girls in RPGs until Vampire was released.
 

Maybe. But tokenism is usually an effort to give the appearance of equality and I doubt this was an overriding concern of TSR in the early 80s. Video game ads from around the same time sometimes featured women and girls playing but those disappeared as marketers focused on boys to the exclusion of girls.
You can blame Nintendo for that although it wasn't their fault. After the video game crash of 1983 computer shops didn't want to try consoles again; they thought it was a fad and they'd been burned. Nintendo therefore struggled to get the NES into computer/electronics shops - but did succeed with toy shops.

Unfortunately most of the toy shops were gendered and Nintendo had to choose boys toys or girls toys (they weren't big enough to be lego at the time). Nintendo therefore put the NES in the boys toys section - and because it was sold as a boys toy it was advertised to boys. And given the NES was deservedly a smash hit everyone else followed suit.

However for D&D we can go back to the words of one E. Gary Gygax on this website:
As I have often said, I am a biological determinist, and there is no question that male and female brains are different. It is apparent to me that by and large females do not derrive the same inner satisfaction from playing games as a hobby that males do. It isn't that females can't play games well, it is just that it isn't a compelling activity to them as is the case for males.​
When that's the attitude of the person running the show the results aren't surprising.

Edit: Gygax was even clearer about his attitude to attracting female players on Dragonsfoot;
As a biological determinist, I am positive that most females do not play RPGs because of a difference in brain function. They can play as well as males, but they do not achieve the same sense of satisfaction from playing.​
In short there is no special game that will attract females--other that LARPing, which is more csocialization and theatrics and gaming--and it is a waste of time and effort to attempt such a thing.​
 
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MGibster

Legend
You can blame Nintendo for that although it wasn't their fault. After the video game crash of 1983 computer shops didn't want to try consoles again; they thought it was a fad and they'd been burned. Nintendo therefore struggled to get the NES into computer/electronics shops - but did succeed with toy shops.

I won't blame Nintendo entirely. From what I can recall, the toy section of every store was segregated by gender. When I went to K-Mart, Kaybee, or even Sears as a seven year old I knew exactly which aisles to avoid like the plague and which ones had the toys all the cool boys wanted to play with.


I am aware that Gygax said that. I'm not sure how much he was involved creating ads for D&D though.
 

Arilyn

Hero
FWIW, the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick featured a game group that was roughly 50/50. So, the people who hated D&D saw it as an equal threat to boys and girls.
Jack Chick did not think much of women. It's a woman in the Dark Dungeons tract that leads the players astray and a clean cut Christian man who "rescues" our "fallen" girl. This isn't so much males and females playing the game equally as a statement on weak willed females.
 

you’re telling people how to spend their money and what to enjoy with these arguments and implying there is something wrong with them or “othering” them for liking Rowling for example, because they allow for her views on transgender people as her views that have no bearing on their enjoyment of Harry Potter which has no statement on transgender people either way.
Except, as a matter of cold fact, I've said none of those things.

In particular I've never, not in this thread, and not in any thread, told people "how to spend their money"*. So you asserting that I have isn't just an opinion or a view, or whatever, it's simply a fiction. This is one of the major problems with the arguments you've been making here - they're reliant on things that simply are not true, and it's trivial to see they aren't true in this case. Hence the complete lack of quotes of me doing any of these things.

As for "othering" Potter fans, that's obviously laughable. I've never expressed disapproval of Potter fans generally. I dunno if you're just confusing me with someone else - I suspect so - but my disapproval is strictly with Rowling herself. I have some issues with the Harry Potter books in that I feel they're a perversely elitist, faintly sexist, "chosen one" narrative overly concerned with ancestry, but those issues long-predate Rowling deciding to be a jerk.
You don’t have the privilege to say I said one thing while I indulged in the one thing you said I was saying you can’t do.
I literally can't parse this sentence. What does it mean?
And yet I go on to have the discussion yes?
I don't know? Do you? Will you? This is some pretty confusing syntax in this context. Do you mean perhaps "And yet I went on to have a discussion"?

* = I think the closest I've got is expressing distaste for extremely expensive officially-licensed D&D merchandise/props which I feel are poor value for anything but collectors.
 

teitan

Legend
Except, as a matter of cold fact, I've said none of those things.

In particular I've never, not in this thread, and not in any thread, told people "how to spend their money"*. So you asserting that I have isn't just an opinion or a view, or whatever, it's simply a fiction. This is one of the major problems with the arguments you've been making here - they're reliant on things that simply are not true, and it's trivial to see they aren't true in this case. Hence the complete lack of quotes of me doing any of these things.

As for "othering" Potter fans, that's obviously laughable. I've never expressed disapproval of Potter fans generally. I dunno if you're just confusing me with someone else - I suspect so - but my disapproval is strictly with Rowling herself. I have some issues with the Harry Potter books in that I feel they're a perversely elitist, faintly sexist, "chosen one" narrative overly concerned with ancestry, but those issues long-predate Rowling deciding to be a jerk.

I literally can't parse this sentence. What does it mean?

I don't know? Do you? Will you? This is some pretty confusing syntax in this context. Do you mean perhaps "And yet I went on to have a discussion"?

* = I think the closest I've got is expressing distaste for extremely expensive officially-licensed D&D merchandise/props which I feel are poor value for anything but collectors.
Ah so basically you now understand how I felt when reading your own comment in response to me then huh? hands back soapbox
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
FWIW, the Dark Dungeons tract from Chick featured a game group that was roughly 50/50. So, the people who hated D&D saw it as an equal threat to boys and girls.
Having read a fair number of Chick Tracts, I have a feeling it he believed that women were more susceptible to evil magic and therefore included them in the story.
 


teitan

Legend
So you made intentionally unintelligible? Bold move Cotton, but it worked out! :)
It was perfectly intelligble, you just didn't get it just like you latched onto one sentence in my original comment. Neither here nor there though. Not all of us can knee jerk as well as you. You're like the WWE Knee Jerk Champ :p :-DD
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not all of us can knee jerk as well as you. You're like the WWE Knee Jerk Champ :p :-DD

Mod Note:
Please don't continue to make this personal, or you will be removed from the discussion. Taking jabs at your fellow posters is not okay here.
 

HammerMan

Legend
I remember the first time I read Dark Dungeons. "What? Okay, I can buy black magic and suicide, but I can't believe you'll ever find three whole women in the same D&D campaign!" I didn't see any significant number of girls in RPGs until Vampire was released.
omg I have heard people say that before...
 

AnotherGuy

Adventurer
okay then since it was my example let me (try) to bring this right down to earth.

If a jerk is going to make fun of someone and call them bad words, nothing the writers can do will stop them... after all they are the jerk.
If the writers make an excuse for the jerk he (I don't even feel bad not useing a neutral gender for this example) will feel emboldened.

the trick is not "gota make jerks into nice people" its "Don't make jerks feel like they are justified for being jerks"

edit: the WoD book I talk about above did HARM. SIGNIFICANT HARM. It didn't mean to. It wasn't some evil guy trying to do evil. It was a mistake. It was a guy trying to write a fun book that didn't do enough thought.
Now what am I counting as significant harm... it brought a pretty smart (not smartest) good guy I know right up to the edge of falling into a hateful a dangerous group. It was not easy to get him to see why "those people" were not good people. and by "those people" I include people who in the many years since have been arrested multi times. Now would he have become one of the violant and dangerous ones, I doubt it... but he would have swelled there numbers. and what was the minor push in that direction... a gaming book. an idea. because some ideas when not prefaced correctly are dangerous in and of themselves.
I hear you and it sounds messed up - as messed up as kids looking for ninja turtles in sewers, as RPGers going into dark magic due to D&D or vampirism due to VtM...etc

In those other instances though we have tended to frown on the media, parent groups and clergy for taking isolated incidents and painting the books and hobby with a broad brush.
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen
Maybe. But tokenism is usually an effort to give the appearance of equality and I doubt this was an overriding concern of TSR in the early 80s. Video game ads from around the same time sometimes featured women and girls playing but those disappeared as marketers focused on boys to the exclusion of girls.
Yes, I think there was a change over time. In the 70s Gary was shocked when he first spoke with Lee Gold over the phone and learned that the editor of Alarums & Excursions was a woman; he was used to the overwhelmingly male wargaming crowd. But she and her husband were from the sci-fi fandom crowd, which while perhaps predominantly male, had substantial numbers of women. D&D and RPGs were apparently vastly more appealing to women than wargames were.

In period materials and advertising we definitely see a lot more women involved in the 70s and a little bit into the 80s, before, as you say, marketing seemed to turn to focus more on boys. We also see those quasi-cheesecake ads from TSR (like the one with the tagline, "Where the action is") with Elise Gygax. Those are funny. I don't know if the idea is to appeal to male gamers with the prospect of playing a game that might actually have girls and women in attendance?

In the early 80s we know D&D kind of morphed from being seen as this unusual, arcane, creative fad game, described as "cultlike" in media coverage in regards to its spread on college campuses, to being seen as nerdy and somewhat juvenile in many circles. I wonder how much of this stemmed from TSR marketing to younger kids, and the aforementioned gender segregation in toy stores.
 

D&D was created from a specific place and time- 70s America.
That's not really specific enough. Yes in was in the 70s in the US, but beyond that it was created within an existing social group made up almost entirely of white middle-class men of a certain age (and typically a certain amount of facial hair). and from the same region of the country.

The small social group that created the game cannot be said to be representative of their country at the time. The range of perspectives represented was very narrow compared to society as a whole.
 

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