This was something of a discussion that cropped up yesterday around the D&D:E table. Holly and I just got back from our European vacation, and as the place in Amsterdam that was holding D&D:E was not, in fact, holding D&D:E, we didn’t get to go. So this was our first hit of the Dark Sun Encounters season. Holly was none too pleased about not being able to build her own character for the event, and when she took a look at the pre-made characters, she went from unpleased to livid.
“There’s only one female character?” she asked. Honestly, I hadn’t taken too close a look at the pregens, so I shrugged and said something non-committal. “And the only reason she’s adventuring is TO FOLLOW HER BROTHER!?!?!”
Now, for some gaming groups, having a single female character at the table isn’t going to change anything. In a 2001 marketing survey done by Wizards of the Coast, it was found that only a small fraction (some 19%) of tabletop role-playing gamers were women, which would lead me to believe that there are probably a lot of groups that don’t have a single female player. That’s not something I’ve ever personally experienced, though. Here’s why:
This is a group of four women and two men. I’m sitting behind the Game Master’s screen, and if you can’t tell from the size of the picture, that’s the D&D: Encounters adventure book, and one of the Dark Sun maps on the table. This is from yesterday.
I’m not saying that all of my groups are predominantly women, but I’ve never experienced the gender slant of role-playing games. I’ve been gaming with women since my earliest days rolling funny-shaped dice, so I can’t say as I really understand where the bias comes from.
Three of the girls above had to re-skin their pre-made character because they didn’t want to have to cross-dress to play. That’s one half of my second flight that day. That’s one quarter of my total player count for this week. They are very unhappy that their needs as players are not better catered to, especially by a company as big as Wizards of the Coast.
The first season of D&D Encounters had two female characters in it, the monk and the cleric. It’s interesting to note that out of the three total female player characters pre-generated for us by Wizards of the Coast, two of them are healing leaders. Only one of them, the monk, is capable of dishing out damage, and as the girls at my table noted yesterday “A lot of the women gamers out there just want to beat face, they don’t want to heal anyone…”
So yeah, Wizards is coming off pretty sexist right now. They’re marginalizing female gamers, and there’s at least one group of those gamers that are pissed right off about it.
The fixes is pretty easy, too. If you’re not going to let people make their own characters, make a much broader group of characters to choose from. Keep the table limit at six, but give us some twelve or fifteen characters to choose from. Or, for every male character you provide, give us a female alternative in the same class. Or, you can provide us character stats without character details, just give each character a minor quest they want to get done by the end of the adventure.
I mean, it’s not hard to make gender-equal gaming a reality. We just need to try a little harder…