Increasing Female Participation


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Grand Lodge

I listened to Paizo's GEN CON 2014 Diversity panel on the way home from work today, and it got me thinking about what's going on in RPGs.

I have played RPGs off and on since the 80s, and while I see my gaming books becoming more and more politically correct, I'm not seeing an increase in female gamers at conventions or at organized play events such as Pathfinder Society.

However, in other geek related activities, I'm seeing more of a 50/50 split. For example, I see a pretty good split at anime conventions, Doctor Who conventions, and large comicons such as San Diego and Phoenix.

What do you think can be done to make roleplaying games more appealing to women (teenage and older)?


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Absolutely nothing. Nothing turns me away from a hobby faster than feeling pandered to or put on a pedestal, which is an almost inevitable result of campaigning to get women into this or that. Women do not need special rules or marketing. Yes, in the past the stereotype of an rpg was sweaty barbarian beefcakes saving weak damsels in flimsy silken skirts. But it has not been the case for a while, and marketing has been inclusive in showing all genders and races participating on equal grounds.

In my opinion, only time will shift any remaining opinions that table top rpgs are a 'no girls allowed' type of scene. The other geeky activities you mention are more transient, quick to gain and lose hype and customers. Tabletop is more stable, moving along slowly. No wonder the general opinions about it are slower to change.

Liberty's Edge

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Gabriele, I do no believe in special rules. However, I think that GMs and players can be respectful of others and welcoming. This has worked well in my local PFS group, I believe. We have several women gamers in our group.

There was a good discussion two years ago in the Save vs. Sexism: Interview with Jessica Price thread (I was busy at the time and wished that I had participated more.)

Perhaps the most important thing that we can do at the gaming table is to welcome others as we try to have fun.


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William Ronald wrote:

Gabriele, I do no believe in special rules. However, I think that GMs and players can be respectful of others and welcoming. This has worked well in my local PFS group, I believe. We have several women gamers in our group.

This is a general rule. If you're an a@!%!#* at the table, you'll only have a mess or similarly unbearable people playing along, regardless of their physical characteristics or gender.


Simply Gabriele wrote:
William Ronald wrote:

Gabriele, I do no believe in special rules. However, I think that GMs and players can be respectful of others and welcoming. This has worked well in my local PFS group, I believe. We have several women gamers in our group.

This is a general rule. If you're an a$!~#~& at the table, you'll only have a mess or similarly unbearable people playing along, regardless of their physical characteristics or gender.

A general rule, but if you're only an a@**#+* to women, it might well go overlooked in an all male group.

Or even overlooked when women do try to participate. It's fairly common for some types of sexist behavior to be unnoticed or excused by other men. If it's not too blatant, at least.


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Not exclusively for the sake of women, I feel like a lot of RP gamer guys could work on their attitudes a bit.

Some of the *$#@ they say rankles me, and I know it's the type that many women also find off-putting.


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I think a lot of gaming groups are getting more lady friendly (and I can't remember ever actually RPing in an environment with only guys), but big events are still off putting. You still have the sweaty man beasts snorting and yelling at any women who so much as flashes a belly button, let alone actually cosplays. Even the best events have them. I worked as head of security for a small con, no more than a thousand people, and we still had a couple of creepy dudes trying to peek into a ladies changing area and commenting on 'attribute scores' of barely pre-teen girls. As head of security it was sad duty to kick them the hell out of the building, but it can't all be fun and games...

Honestly, big events need to be arranged so people who pull this kinda thing, at all, are thrown out. Yes, they won't come back next year. You don't want them too anyway. And it has to be a big, real effort - I've heard of some events, such as PAX, banning booth babes but still making some very...iffy decisions in other areas. I haven't attended those events myself, however.

But yeah. Cons need to crack down on unacceptable behaviour. Shops, too, for that matter. I know most of the ladies I RP with either use my books or order them off Amazon because walking into a store with one wall of hentai and some dude at counter staring at your chest tends to be off putting.

If people want more female gamers in public we need to make it so those spaces treat women no differently than they would male gamers, and at least from personal experience that doesn't always happen. Even those events that do get it right, it'll take time for word to spread. Partially because promises have been made by other cons that weren't kept, so it's gonna be a word of mouth thing.


I'd say it has a lot to do with the popular culture that most generations of girls and boys have been exposed to. If you look at boys shows you have stories about aliens, monsters, superheroes, robots and all manner of fantastic things. Girl culture has been historically more mundane, featuring things like going shopping, going on dates, raising babies, taking care of animals and dealing with feelings.

This has been changing slowly over the last few decades, but the culture still pushes boys in the fantastic and girls in the mundane.


The group I was with for a long time (granted this was Rifts and not Pathfinder) was usually pretty evenly men and women. LARP groups I've seen tend to have a lot of women.

D&D groups and Pathfinder groups though, in particular from what I've seen, tend to be predominately men. I'm a female DM, but, I've had almost all male players.

So, my experience has been, with the exception of PF/D&D there are in fact, a pretty solid percentage of gamers whom are women. Not 50% sure, but, not far off.

Why PF/D&D has so fewer than the other games I've had experience with, I don't know.


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thejeff wrote:

A general rule, but if you're only an a&$~+#! to women, it might well go overlooked in an all male group.

Or even overlooked when women do try to participate. It's fairly common for some types of sexist behavior to be unnoticed or excused by other men. If it's not too blatant, at least.

And now you're being "benevolently" sexist. We women are not gentle beings just so much more susceptible to someone being rude or childish. And what I've personally encountered is just the opposite - people being hypersensitive because a woman is at the table. Oh, no, that evil sorceress cannot try to make the naive brute back stab the party by batting her high cha eyelashes at him! No, that might somehow make me uncomfortable. Or worse yet, if there's a disagreement at the table over anything at all, there are suggestions I should be pandered to, cause isn't it great to have a female player? We wouldn't want to turn her away by resolving the problem or a rule interpretation in the usual manner.

Now if you have a player or players, or, gods forbid, the gm, who specifically picks on a player because she is a woman or because the character is female, that's horrible. But not more horrible than another player being singled out for some other arbitrary characteristic. We can only hope to spot these people in public events and deal with them accordingly.

I agree with the consensus that that it is always good to strive to keep the prejudiced, mean spirited or plain rude players at bay, but this is simply for the general health of the community and for the sake of gameplay. This might help with the female percentage or it might not, but that's quite irrelevant, it needs to be done anyway.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Couple of thoughts. As always with these threads, it's complicated.

One is that this may not be one of those things where parity is ever going to happen. I simply don't know, but I do think that there are hobbies, careers, and interests that - on average - are more appealing to one sex or the other. There'll be inevitable arguments about nature vs nurture, but I'd rather avoid rewinding the causality chain back to early childhood since frankly it gets into questioning if equality means uniformity. So I'll just point out that tabletop RPG playing may be a hobby that appeals most to males - as we know them today.

The more important point though - I think - is that we shouldn't treat anyone different. What I mean is that when I have a female player at my table, which is a rarity but not unheard-of, I try to make a point of not treating her any differently from my male players except that she is new. All I mean is that my male players are my regulars, and we're very comfortable with one another, and fart, and burp and swear, and make lewd jokes at one another. When anyone new, male or female, is at my table, that gets toned down until the person becomes a regular and we figure out what their sense of humour is like. Other than that newbie consideration, I don't go out of my way to girl-ify my game any more than I tailor it to any other player.

That said, I don't tolerate abuse at the table of any sort.

Anyway, some things are couples activities and some aren't. My wife and I watch Doctor Who together (though she's bailed since we lost our Doctor), but we don't RPG together. She has no interest. And she parties with her friends (boozy girls' nights), which I have no interest in. So we have together activities and apart activities. Nothing wrong with that... it's worked for 14 years so far. She'd be welcome at my gaming table and I'd be welcome at her drunken outings, but it's safe to predict neither will ever happen.


Agreed with Anguish. New players are new players, that's it. Show them the ropes, figure out what interests them in the game - maybe it's exploring fantasy worlds, maybe it's combat, maybe it's roleplay interactions. If you throw things at them that do not appeal in the slightest or if you cryptic in explaining and enforcing the rules, that will turn anyone away. Integrate and cooperate, so that everyone is having fun. That will get you players and make them stay, female or not.


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According to my wife, and I have to agree heartily with her, it would go a long way to getting women gamers to show up if gamers regularly showered before and wore deodorant to games.

It's a stereotypical thing to address, yes, but I have found it to be annoyingly true, and honestly, it's almost gotten me to leave, too.

Smelly stereotypical jerks bringing the rest of us down via association.


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Simply Gabriele wrote:
thejeff wrote:

A general rule, but if you're only an a&$~+#! to women, it might well go overlooked in an all male group.

Or even overlooked when women do try to participate. It's fairly common for some types of sexist behavior to be unnoticed or excused by other men. If it's not too blatant, at least.

And now you're being "benevolently" sexist. We women are not gentle beings just so much more susceptible to someone being rude or childish. And what I've personally encountered is just the opposite - people being hypersensitive because a woman is at the table. Oh, no, that evil sorceress cannot try to make the naive brute back stab the party by batting her high cha eyelashes at him! No, that might somehow make me uncomfortable. Or worse yet, if there's a disagreement at the table over anything at all, there are suggestions I should be pandered to, cause isn't it great to have a female player? We wouldn't want to turn her away by resolving the problem or a rule interpretation in the usual manner.

Now if you have a player or players, or, gods forbid, the gm, who specifically picks on a player because she is a woman or because the character is female, that's horrible. But not more horrible than another player being singled out for some other arbitrary characteristic. We can only hope to spot these people in public events and deal with them accordingly.

I agree with the consensus that that it is always good to strive to keep the prejudiced, mean spirited or plain rude players at bay, but this is simply for the general health of the community and for the sake of gameplay. This might help with the female percentage or it might not, but that's quite irrelevant, it needs to be done anyway.

Not at all what I meant. Not "We have to treat the girl all special or she might go away". That's not at all what I'm saying. In fact that might well fall into the subtly sexist category I'm talking about.

Or being specially helpful in that "Nice Guy" way. Nothing rude or offensive there, just being nice, right?
The guys who have no clue about body language or personal space, but are practically drooling on her anyway.

More simply, though I don't think it's as bad as the old stereotypes, there's still a contingent of gamers who aren't well socialized to behave around women. They may be fine when it's just the guys hanging out, but they behave badly around women. Sometimes blatantly, sometimes more subtly. It's not that I think guy gamers should behave differently when a woman is playing, but that they often do and it's something to watch out for. I've seen it, and sometimes not seen it and had it pointed out to me afterwards and wondered how I missed it.

Mind you, I'd say this is mostly a public space thing. In home games, among friends, I haven't seen it. Of course, I don't play with idiots and I've had women in most of the long term groups I've played with over the last 25 years.


Anguish wrote:
My wife and I watch Doctor Who together (though she's bailed since we lost our Doctor), but we don't RPG together. She has no interest. And she parties with her friends (boozy girls' nights), which I have no interest in. So we have together activities and apart activities. Nothing wrong with that... it's worked for 14 years so far. She'd be welcome at my gaming table and I'd be welcome at her drunken outings, but it's safe to predict neither will ever happen.

I agree with these sentiments. My personal experience is that many women are just not interested in pen and paper RPGs and some even seem to think it a childish and nerdy pursuit. In other words, it is uncool and boring. Even my wife jokingly says to her girlfriends that I'm off playing "dollies" with my friends in reference to the miniatures we use when they ask about me.

I would love to see more females playing our hobby but I have no idea how the interest could be generated.


Thinking on it...the best to get ladies into gaming is to see ladies into gaming, perhaps? This relates to my above comment on the issue with a lot of ladies being put off by more public roleplaying arenas, such as cons and shops, partially because in a group of strange guys you don't know how many are gonna be decent human beings and how many will be a Sexist Asshat, Pretend Nice Guy or Friend Zoner.

If there are already women present, at least some women will feel more comfortable joining a group of strangers to pretend to be elves. Of course, there's no guarantee that any female gamers will be decent people either, but they're less likely to hang around a Sexist Jerk who pretended to be a Nice Guy so she'd go out with her only to bemoan his position in the Friend Zone, like being Pretend Nice entitles him to a ladies time.

It's one part of that creating a more friendly environment thing.


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thegreenteagamer wrote:

According to my wife, and I have to agree heartily with her, it would go a long way to getting women gamers to show up if gamers regularly showered before and wore deodorant to games.

It's a stereotypical thing to address, yes, but I have found it to be annoyingly true, and honestly, it's almost gotten me to leave, too.

Smelly stereotypical jerks bringing the rest of us down via association.

It would go a long way to getting me to show up in public gaming venues if this were so.

That's to everyone's benefit, really.


Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
thegreenteagamer wrote:

According to my wife, and I have to agree heartily with her, it would go a long way to getting women gamers to show up if gamers regularly showered before and wore deodorant to games.

It's a stereotypical thing to address, yes, but I have found it to be annoyingly true, and honestly, it's almost gotten me to leave, too.

Smelly stereotypical jerks bringing the rest of us down via association.

It would go a long way to getting me to show up in public gaming venues if this were so.

That's to everyone's benefit, really.

Oh me too... this is why I host games at my own place, otherwise my experience with public venues has been that they tend to fill up with a lot of people whom smell horribly and generally have no real respect for the venue, so they make a big mess of it.

Liberty's Edge

Farastu wrote:
Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
thegreenteagamer wrote:

According to my wife, and I have to agree heartily with her, it would go a long way to getting women gamers to show up if gamers regularly showered before and wore deodorant to games.

It's a stereotypical thing to address, yes, but I have found it to be annoyingly true, and honestly, it's almost gotten me to leave, too.

Smelly stereotypical jerks bringing the rest of us down via association.

It would go a long way to getting me to show up in public gaming venues if this were so.

That's to everyone's benefit, really.

Oh me too... this is why I host games at my own place, otherwise my experience with public venues has been that they tend to fill up with a lot of people whom smell horribly and generally have no real respect for the venue, so they make a big mess of it.

The shop which I play PFS at in Northwest Indiana, Lightspeed Hobbies, reserves the right to ask people to leave over hygiene issues. I have not seen it, but I have a rule - try to be a class act.


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Now I am beginning to think everyone else on these boards can smell my posts...


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Yeah...about that whole "the smell adds to the immersion" thing in the goblin's lair Terquem...I've been meaning to discuss that..

;-D


William Ronald wrote:
Farastu wrote:
Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
thegreenteagamer wrote:

According to my wife, and I have to agree heartily with her, it would go a long way to getting women gamers to show up if gamers regularly showered before and wore deodorant to games.

It's a stereotypical thing to address, yes, but I have found it to be annoyingly true, and honestly, it's almost gotten me to leave, too.

Smelly stereotypical jerks bringing the rest of us down via association.

It would go a long way to getting me to show up in public gaming venues if this were so.

That's to everyone's benefit, really.

Oh me too... this is why I host games at my own place, otherwise my experience with public venues has been that they tend to fill up with a lot of people whom smell horribly and generally have no real respect for the venue, so they make a big mess of it.
The shop which I play PFS at in Northwest Indiana, Lightspeed Hobbies, reserves the right to ask people to leave over hygiene issues. I have not seen it, but I have a rule - try to be a class act.

I've never seen it for RPG groups here (but I tend to not play at conventions), but I've definitely seen it for TCG groups, particularly the YuGiOh players. Magic players here aren't so bad, except for when the really reclusive ones come out of the woodwork for pre-release and qualifier tournaments, which is part of the reason I now avoid those.

I actually met someone with a smell so mind-numbingly awful at an EB games the other day that it caused an involuntary physical reaction, i.e. I actually threw up. Thankfully I had time to race out of the store and make it to the restroom (store is on the edge of the food court so it was at least nearby). I've never smelt anything so bad in my life, and I've worked in a place where I had to clear out a pile of rotten food (vegetables and meat) after the cool room malfunctioned during shutdown. The only way I can describe it is that it was like finding the real life inspiration for Discworld's Foul Ole Ron character.If I ever walk into a gaming shop or convention and smell anything like that, I will leave and never return.

EDIT: What's actually been putting my friends and I off going to the FLGS lately is the fact that they're allowing those vaporizer cigarette alternatives in the store. Not as bad a smell as cigarettes, but people also seem to have less courtesy about using them, and there's been multiple times where I've sat across from someone using one and just had them continously blow the vapor in my face.

As for the initial topic. Since I've left school there's been very few occasions where I haven't had at least one female, usually two players in my games. I think it's just due to the group of friends I fell in with when I first started gaming after moving here. So it's not something that we've ever had to really think about, though I guess the whole "don't be a jerk" idea is probably the most important one.


The other issue with public venues is you have 0 control over who shows up, and sometimes some people with very serious issues show whom are incredibly hard to deal with. If they are problematic enough, they might get kicked out of the venue, but, otherwise, they are there and hard to avoid. That as well is a major reason why I seriously limit my gaming at any sort of public venue/business or the like.
However, a lot of people for a variety of reasons have no where else they can game, so have to use such a venue. I really doubt it is gender specific, but, I am sure it's a serious turn off.

Yeah... in fact, I'm sure it isn't gender specific, because, lots of women at LARPs and I've encountered a lot of the same sorts of people there too.

Reminds me, in my PF game the player characters found a bunch of funky potions (funky and generally horrible) one of them was indeed a potion of horrible B.O. Just waiting to see if they somehow actually make use of it (yes, they did make a point of keeping it).


I think Jon Garrett makes a really good point—a big barrier to joining a group is feeling out of place, and being the only girl in a gaming group causes that. Being the minority is intimidating. You feel like you're in the wrong hobby. That's how gender norms keep themselves alive. :P


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Anytime I see 'Female' in the subject line I immediately start thinking that the thread has got off on the wrong foot right from the get-go, and we are trying to deal with a different species or something. After dating a fair few gamer girls, marrying one, and being the parent of a gamer girl...I've been at this a while and find the conversations generally veer off into strange territory.

From my 14 year old daughter, her concerns were that lengthy rules debates are boring as dirt, watching someone take ten minutes to make a decision and resolve a turn is boring as dirt, and being pandered to 'as a female' is not the go either. Shes more into the actual game and the flow of it, and when that grinds to a halt as people argue detail and interpretations she'd prefer to play Five Nights at Freddys or Candy Crush.

So more 'Dungeons' and more 'Dragons', and less Lawyer&Audit.

Scarab Sages

Shifty wrote:

Anytime I see 'Female' in the subject line I immediately start thinking that the thread has got off on the wrong foot right from the get-go, and we are trying to deal with a different species or something. After dating a fair few gamer girls, marrying one, and being the parent of a gamer girl...I've been at this a while and find the conversations generally veer off into strange territory.

From my 14 year old daughter, her concerns were that lengthy rules debates are boring as dirt, watching someone take ten minutes to make a decision and resolve a turn is boring as dirt, and being pandered to 'as a female' is not the go either. Shes more into the actual game and the flow of it, and when that grinds to a halt as people argue detail and interpretations she'd prefer to play Five Nights at Freddys or Candy Crush.

So more 'Dungeons' and more 'Dragons', and less Lawyer&Audit.

Unfortunately for your daughter that'll never happen. The pandering because she's a teenage girl may get better but there will always be Lawyer & Audit.


My entire group I game with is women (currently). Most do NOT go to game stores and I think only ONE has ever gone to a convention.

Their problems with the normal gamers out there, there is a culture which appears to be very sexist. They don't feel comfortable when there's a huge life size cardboard cutout of women in bikinis and other stuff. They don't feel comfortable with some of the people there that hang out there. Since they don't feel comfortable, they opt not to go and hang out with the "normal" gamers as you would.

One married lady states she has never been able to go into a game shop and not have someone flirt with her. She doesn't go shopping to get hit on.

Another on the otherhand, prefers not to go to many of the gamestores, but we have found a few that she will go to (for example, one is run by a husband and wife team and we'll go to that one, as that one is normally pretty friendly).

The second item, which has been brought up, is that there is a rather sexist culture in RPG's in general. Paizo, acclaimed to be the most welcoming to all sorts, has published what most women outside of gaming probably would consider a very sexist adventure part early on (meaning, they've improved from what we can see overall since then). Point it out, even on these forums, and you get all sorts of male machoisms and other things, including accusations against your character.

This is okay, as I am all for freedom of speech, but it is ironic that such stuff still exists in the community. Occasionally it appears PAIZO steps in, but that such items and accusations still fly in the community and these boards, is probably the reason I'm the ONLY ONE in my group (that I know of) that actually goes to these boards (or any RPG boards for that matter). These ladies DO go to other forums (for example, one is quite active in a Jane Austen forum of some sort), and absolutely LOOOVE their facebook accounts, but stay away from RPG forums, including this one.

As such:

I'm not certain how you would get female participation up in normal groups. I can only tell you what has happened with ours.

I DO have a sister, none of this stuff bothers her. She's one of those that would go out in a chainmail bikini, or flirt back with the guys at the game store (even if she has no interest in them at all). She's unusual however, and isn't really the normal type that would hang out with the women in my group or, to tell the truth, most others that I see. However, someone like her, you'd probably not have to do much to recruit her into a group as long as she had time. She'd probably prefer you to wear deodorant or at least not smell, not try to grope her (yes, there are guys out there that do this...it's absolutely disgusting), and actually want to play an RPG. Oh yes...and probably no powergamers trying to show off. She's more into the Roleplaying aspect than the power gamer aspect.

AS for my group, originally we did boardgames. Boardgaming, where there is still somewhat of a culture of sexism there, it's not as prominent, and there are a far greater number of women in boardgaming from what we've experienced. (The entire family of my spouse's seem to be boardgamers to a degree, including 5 women). I picked up the PF beginner box on a whim, and from there we went onto playing PF. The people were overall recruited by my spouse and daughter (who also plays). Originally, as I said, it was for boardgaming though, and not Roleplaying games.

For a group like ours, it's WOMEN themselves that recruit others. It needs to be into an environment THEY feel comfortable in. That's something up to each individual. I can't predict what one will feel comfortable in, and what another won't. However, the best predictor is to ask...would a family with small kids feel comfortable in this environment.

If they wouldn't, IN MY OPINION, a majority of your everyday ladies (and noted, even a majority of everyday MEN don't play roleplaying games, and many wouldn't be caught dead playing them) won't want to participate in a roleplaying game.

That's the biggest thing I think. Do they or do they not feel comfortable playing. IF they do, they'll probably play in the game. If they don't...you'll never see them again.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

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Speaking as a wimmenfolk, I think one of the biggest problems with the idea of "getting girls into gaming" is the fact that you're inherently speaking about 51% of the population as a homogenous cultural bloc, kinda sorta.

Playing a hypothetical flip-job here: Man, I should write a folio on how to get men into liking clothes shopping! Because clearly, there's some plain guidelines that can be followed that will get All Men to like a Traditionally Feminine Activity!

I know I'm simplifying a bit with that analogy, and it was said with my tongue planted firmly in cheek, but the core of what I'm getting at applies... you really want to narrow down the sort of women you are hoping to help bring into gaming, because there are plenty of women who just plain won't be interested, just as there is a large percentile of men who would never really enjoy clothes shopping. (Mind, I pretty much loathe clothes-shopping myself. It was just the most stereotypically gendered activity I could think of.)

Rather than worry about bringing girls as a whole into gaming, you need to be thinking about how to bring a particular girl into gaming, one at a time, the same way you would try to get any friend into a hobby you like, regardless of their gender. You work from a position of knowing what they already like and trying to explain to them why RPG would appeal to them, because they like [this other thing].

C87 upthread said that his wife sort of mocks his playing gaming, and regards it as childish/playing with dollies, or that women in general find it boring and uncool. Well, there are probably lots of men who also think that sitting around to roll dice is 'boring and uncool' too, which is more an artifact of D&D's cultural baggage than anything else, but the simplest way to combat this is to "gateway drug" someone in with something related to something they already like.

If a friend likes, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer-- you might try starting her on the Buffy RPG, rather than Pathfinder. If a friend really digs The Hunger Games, maybe run a campaign for her and her friends that is modeled around a dystopia and a competition like that. Start with an aspect of geekdom you KNOW she likes, and expand from there.

If she's entirely and unabashedly not interested in geeky things at all, well.... sometimes that's just personal taste, yanno? You can't force someone to like it, and RPGs are, I think, a bad introduction to "geekdom", since they're high-investment and require a lot of specialized knowledge, as opposed to watching a TV show or reading a book.

Most of what I've said is just common sense for how to get ANYONE into a new hobby, and is not gender-specific. Here's the gender specific stuff:

1) As mentioned, harassment is an issue for female gamers. I game regularly at what I would consider a very safe, woman-friendly place (it's owned by a woman, and she makes it quite clear that douchery will get you kicked out). Even so, in the course of the three years I've been gaming there, I've had a (married!) man ask me out multiple times and be way too into my personal space (sticking fingers inside my clothing, etc); and at least three other guys I can think of asking me out in less offensive/more polite ways.

There's nothing wrong with asking a girl out, but when I show up to game, I want to game. I don't want to deal with jokes about playing footsie under the table with me, or invitations, however teasing, for me to touch you. I get it-- you're gaming, you see someone of the gender you're attracted to who shares your hobby, they seem really neat and smart and fun and cute.... you want to express your interest. And I think that's fine, up to a point. But I think a good rule of thumb is to express your interest, politely, ONCE. At that point, she knows you're interested, and if she's interested back, she can follow up on that with you at a time of her choosing. But let it drop there. If she says no, take that as your hint to not keep asking. You do not want to be the guy who makes a girl decide she doesn't want to keep coming back to the game store, because she doesn't want to have to deal with phrasing yet another rejection.

I doubt most of the men reading this thread are harasser-types, but... if you see someone doing it... you can speak up. You can say, "Hey, this isn't speed dating, flirt later and get your mind back on the dice, dude," in a joking/friendly fashion. And I know there are guys who are worried that by doing this they'll be seen as 'white knighting'. There are even women who might feel annoyed at a man stepping in to 'white knight'. And I don't mean to invalidate those, but I think the number of girls/women who uncomfortably stop coming to a public gaming area due to unwanted attention that they don't want to have to keep refusing, over, and over, and over, is bigger than the number of those who would get annoyed at you for saying something.

2) Making welcoming gaming spaces: some people have mentioned the stereotypical shop with the wall of hentai or the huge cardboard cutout of the bikini babe, etc. You can also say things about these, if you've noticed them and realized they are potentially a major turnoff. I understand how that can be a big hurdle-- nobody wants to be seen as a lecturing, self-righteous, PC-obsessed killjoy saying "THAT'S OFFENSIVE"-- but it doesn't need to be expressed like that, either. There is a line to walk where you can express that a fap-fantasy hanging on the wall in glorious 3-D color is a little.... high-school mentality, etc, or tacky, without busting out the strident "WIMMEN WON'T LIKE THAT"... the latter of which will make a certain stripe of guy just hunker down defensively over his right to hang whatever he wants in his shop, dammit! Ultimately, though, you can't force a shop to be a welcoming space if the staff and owners are not on board with it. Pick your battles.

3) Making welcoming gaming worlds: This one's for the GM. Paizo has made huge strides in the area of including a diverse group of NPCs, but if you're running older stuff, or homebrew, or whatever... be aware of your female (and other minority) characters. There was definitely an era where the only three women you were likely to run into in the course of an adventure were 1) the Obligatory Tavern Wench; 2) the Obligatory Evil Sorceress/Witch/Succubus; and 3) the Obligatory Princess/Hostage/Mayor's Daughter, etc.

You can still have all those! There's a lot of fun to be had with campy old traditions. But make sure those aren't ALL your ladies, y'know? Give someone in the story for a female player to go "Oh. Oh, there's a woman in this story who seems cool and smart and tough, and at no point is she described as 'beautiful' or 'ugly', she's just there independent of how she looks. Well, that's refreshing..."

Include female NPCs who are NOT THERE to flirt with/romance male PCs, and who don't do it, and who are indifferent to male PCs trying it. It's a small, but simple, change that reflects a setting where women are more than just set dressing for male fantasies. And really, that right there is half the battle, I think-- women gamers want to know they're not jerk-off fantasies for the guy they're sitting across the table from, after all, and what happens in-universe can help shape what happens out of it.

/my thoughts


After a traumatic experience as a young 'un with male chauvinists and not being allowed to play "Star Wars D&D," I brought Principessa Francesca to my friends' house to play "We Be Goblins."

Afterwards when I introduced her to Freehold DM in Manhattan's The Compleat Strategist and he asked her how she liked it she responded:

[Points at me] "He ditched the party to go have sex with his goblin girlfriend for three hours and, later, he licked my face. Then he kept trying to use his goblin voice in bed and referred to the physical act of lovemaking as putting his 'hobgoblin' in my 'cave.'"

I don't think she's going to play again.


Well, at least she hadn't fled from you... Let's call that a partial success.


Drejk wrote:
Well, at least she hadn't fled from you...

...Yet.


Question. Are these gaming shops with walls of hentai actually a thing? I've never seen one (I've never seen the mentioned bikini girl cutout either, but I figure stores could get away with that pretty easily so it doesn't seem so strange to me).

Any store apart from an adult store trying to stock hentai here (and actually even then I'm not sure of the status, I don't recall any hentai on the shelves from my hazy memory of the occasional trips to the adult shops we used to take as part of the traditional "holy crap we're adults and can go to these places now" phase everyone seems to go through here between age 18 and 18 & 3 months) they'd be running into a whole mess of legal troubles. X rated pornography is restricted to specifically being sold at adult entertainment shops, and even the tamer R18 rated stuff is only rarely if ever seen at other stores (I believe just one of the JB Hi Fi stores in the city used to have some tiny range of softcore porn on DVD).

It just seems like a really unbelievable thing. Is it just exaggeration or is this actually a thing that happens?

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

Tinkergoth:

I can't say I've ever been in a dedicated 'gaming store' and saw a Wall Full of Hentai, but I have been in more than one 'all purpose nerd store' that was like, mostly comic books but with a strong side of gaming, and while Wall of Hentai may still be an exaggeration, there is often an awful lot of boobs and boob-centric art hitting you when moseying into such stores.

This of course gets into a tangent on comic books and sexism in comic books, which is a whooooole 'nother thing, but, speaking only for myself: I think Wall of Hentai is an exaggeration, or an extreme rarity... but is still a useful short hand for "large or prevalent images of very objectifying game/geek artwork". /shrug


dien wrote:

Tinkergoth:

I can't say I've ever been in a dedicated 'gaming store' and saw a Wall Full of Hentai, but I have been in more than one 'all purpose nerd store' that was like, mostly comic books but with a strong side of gaming, and while Wall of Hentai may still be an exaggeration, there is often an awful lot of boobs and boob-centric art hitting you when moseying into such stores.

This of course gets into a tangent on comic books and sexism in comic books, which is a whooooole 'nother thing, but, speaking only for myself: I think Wall of Hentai is an exaggeration, or an extreme rarity... but is still a useful short hand for "large or prevalent images of very objectifying game/geek artwork". /shrug

Yeah, actual hard-core porn like Hentai is rare to non-existent, but soft-core/T&A/bikini stuff is not.

I think stores have gotten better, but there are still exceptions. There's still a strong tendency for them to be very teenage man-cave like.


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Saying "female" makes us sound like a biological specimen, studied from afar like a David Attenborough special. As Simply Gabriele and dien have pointed out, I don't want special treatment—I want to be a part of the group. Being added to a group requires a certain amount of civility and discussing of personal boundaries, no matter your gender or background.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Interestingly enough, in our local PFS tables, I'm seeing an upswing of older women entering the game, in their 50's and 60's.


As an individual who is married to a woman who is 52, who before did not show interest in gaming and now does (she kills at Hanabi!) I can confirm, to a small degree, this observation


Lilith wrote:
Saying "female" makes us sound like a biological specimen, studied from afar like a David Attenborough special. As Simply Gabriele and dien have pointed out, I don't want special treatment—I want to be a part of the group. Being added to a group requires a certain amount of civility and discussing of personal boundaries, no matter your gender or background.

As I suggested above, not wanting special treatment isn't the same thing as "don't need to do anything".

There's a fraction of gamers in the hobby who will treat women gamers special and not in a good way. More so I suspect in public games, though I'm sure some private games are that way too.
That's the kind of thing established gamers, male and female, can watch out for.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

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Well, there are a number of things to be said on this front, but here's something we could all work on:

I sometimes see the question of "How do we increase the participation of traditionally excluded or absent people in our games?" framed as a question of how to incorporate new or inexperienced players. And sure, it's great to try to introduce the game to your friends who you know have never played. But there is a tendency to assume that women are unfamiliar with the game, or with games in general.

Example: my partner and I went to our FLGS, and split up; I went to go look at minis, while she went to go look at board games. No one approached me (the apparently male person) while I browsed the figures and PF books, but she was approached by men who worked at the store and those who didn't with offers of help and advice. Even though we own over a dozen modern board games, and she's more into them than I am. The assumption seems to be that women know less about games, which as my partner tells me, is annoying at the least.

Another example: I was browsing some board games at a local book store, and there was this older woman looking through the games as well. I felt--and luckily suppressed!--the urge to offer her unsolicited advice on board game choices. I realized that I thought she might not know much about board games because she was an older woman (and it was just before the holidays--but again, this thought assumes, as I briefly assumed/considered, that she was browsing games for gifts instead of just for herself), but I stopped myself because 1) for all I knew, she had been playing board games since before I was born, and 2) she didn't ask me or anyone else for help.
Moral of this second example: while it is sometimes useful to talk about "people who are sexist and terrible," sexism is a pervasive and systemic force that can drive even those of us who consider ourselves feminists (e.g. me) to think sexist things and have impulses toward sexist actions, and it's important to recognize and curtail those.


mechaPoet wrote:

Well, there are a number of things to be said on this front, but here's something we could all work on:

I sometimes see the question of "How do we increase the participation of traditionally excluded or absent people in our games?" framed as a question of how to incorporate new or inexperienced players. And sure, it's great to try to introduce the game to your friends who you know have never played. But there is a tendency to assume that women are unfamiliar with the game, or with games in general.

Example: my partner and I went to our FLGS, and split up; I went to go look at minis, while she went to go look at board games. No one approached me (the apparently male person) while I browsed the figures and PF books, but she was approached by men who worked at the store and those who didn't with offers of help and advice. Even though we own over a dozen modern board games, and she's more into them than I am. The assumption seems to be that women know less about games, which as my partner tells me, is annoying at the least.

Another example: I was browsing some board games at a local book store, and there was this older woman looking through the games as well. I felt--and luckily suppressed!--the urge to offer her unsolicited advice on board game choices. I realized that I thought she might not know much about board games because she was an older woman (and it was just before the holidays--but again, this thought assumes, as I briefly assumed/considered, that she was browsing games for gifts instead of just for herself), but I stopped myself because 1) for all I knew, she had been playing board games since before I was born, and 2) she didn't ask me or anyone else for help.
Moral of this second example: while it is sometimes useful to talk about "people who are sexist and terrible," sexism is a pervasive and systemic force that can drive even those of us who consider ourselves feminists (e.g. me) to think sexist things and have impulses toward sexist actions, and it's important to recognize and...

Very much. It's pervasive and something to watch for in ourselves as much as anyone else. And we can screw up, even with the best of intentions - special treatment because we want more women in the hobby can be one of those.

That said, it's framed as incorporating new or inexperienced players, not because all female players are new or inexperienced, but because that's how you bring more in. The old, experienced female gamers are already here.
Though there's also a matter of keeping them and not driving them out of the public fora into just isolated home games, so some of the same approaches apply. "Don't drool down her chest", for example.


thejeff wrote:
dien wrote:

Tinkergoth:

I can't say I've ever been in a dedicated 'gaming store' and saw a Wall Full of Hentai, but I have been in more than one 'all purpose nerd store' that was like, mostly comic books but with a strong side of gaming, and while Wall of Hentai may still be an exaggeration, there is often an awful lot of boobs and boob-centric art hitting you when moseying into such stores.

This of course gets into a tangent on comic books and sexism in comic books, which is a whooooole 'nother thing, but, speaking only for myself: I think Wall of Hentai is an exaggeration, or an extreme rarity... but is still a useful short hand for "large or prevalent images of very objectifying game/geek artwork". /shrug

Yeah, actual hard-core porn like Hentai is rare to non-existent, but soft-core/T&A/bikini stuff is not.

I think stores have gotten better, but there are still exceptions. There's still a strong tendency for them to be very teenage man-cave like.

Fair enough. I've never really even seen that issue with the comic book stores here either. They do stock the T&A stuff like the Zenoscope comics,because honestly if people want to buy it then they may as well at least make some money off it, but they don't have it in a prominent location, there's no posters or anythng of it up on the wall and no cutouts of supersexy comic book women (though again if you deliberately go looking for those posters you can probably find them buried somewhere in the back of the stock). Same deal for the collectibles, they might sell sexily posed statues (but not the nude or pornographic ones) but the ones they keep out on display tend to be more just the really awesome general nerd stuff like busts of various characters and props.

Can't speak for every store here in Australia of course,but that's what my experience has always been with the two comic shops in Canberra and the few I frequent in other cities when I'm travelling. If I end up travelling for work later this year I'll be keen to check out some of the shops overseas, see how they compare?

Project Manager

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I'm leery of even bothering to participate in these threads anymore, but two things:

1) No, women aren't delicate snowflakes, we're not a monolith, we want different things, and so on. In general, gaming spaces could be made more welcoming to women if people just observed basic courtesy and care in playing with anyone they don't know well.

--Target groups' gore levels, explicit sexual content, etc. to the level of the least comfortable person in the group. (E.g. if someone appears uncomfortable with gory descriptions of injuries, either stop describing injuries in detail, or don't play with them; don't assume you can force them to "get over it.")

--Ask before explaining. Instead of assuming that a stranger you're playing with doesn't know how to do a combat maneuver and coming across as a condescending jerk when you start explaining how to do it, either don't say anything unless they ask for help, or ask if they'd like an explanation. Also saves you from looking like an idiot if it turns out they know more about it than you do. (See: Paizocon attendee at the hotel bar who started explaining Pathfinder to me before asking if I knew what it was, and only thought to ask where I worked after he finished describing tabletop RPGs.)

--On the flip-side, be patient with newbies. If someone doesn't understand something, don't be condescending, don't treat them like an idiot, don't act annoyed or impatient, don't act superior. You were a noob once, too. If you're asked to explain, explain respectfully.

--Don't try to make people prove their "cred," or get into fandom-measuring contests with them at the gaming table. If you want to prove you know more than someone else, or make them feel inferior, that's why we have trivia contests.

--Assume that people are there to play the game, and nothing else. If you want to ask someone out, try to convince people to attend your event, sell them Amway, or whatever, wait until the session ends to do it. And if they tell you they're not interested, that's it. Done. Leave them alone.

--For the love of all that's holy, don't touch people you don't know unless it's a handshake or you're explicitly invited to do so. Don't feel their hair, don't put your arm around them, don't squeeze their knee. Keep your hands to yourself with strangers.

2) However, while women aren't delicate snowflakes who need to be handled with kid gloves, be aware that there are a lot of ingrained cultural assumptions and habits that might be causing you to treat us differently when you think you're treating us equally.

For example, men tend to interrupt women more than they interrupt other men. Men tend to assume that women are talking more than we actually do (turns out, that despite the stereotype about women talking a lot we actually get the floor far less than men do -- for example, men in one study complained that they had not gotten their fair share of talking time in conversations with women when they'd actually been talking 75% of the time).

And, while again, women aren't a monolith, in most studies women who are interrupted yield the floor, while men tend to treat interruptions and talking over one another as normal parts of conversation.

That's the norm. Now consider how much more pronounced that's likely to be in male-dominated spaces where female participants may already feel like outsiders/interlopers, and therefore be even less comfortable protesting or attempting to regain the floor if they're interrupted or talked over.

None of this is to say that most men are intentionally trying to silence women at their gaming tables. These are ingrained assumptions/habits that most people aren't even aware of (and for the record, *women* in the study I mentioned above assumed they'd had sufficient talking time when they'd been talking for as little as 8% of the conversation; *women* in studies *also* perceive other women as talking "too much" -- this isn't men being bad guys, this is our cultural assumptions being completely distorted).

But that doesn't mean we can't become more aware of them, and work on fixing them.

There are also similar assumptions that go on with questions of women's expertise/background knowledge. Spoilers: even when people are dealing with women with PhDs, female doctors, lawyers, and other experts, they often assume those women know less than they do.

So, I'd say that if you're genuinely concerned about making gaming more welcoming to women, focus on being polite to everyone, not assuming things about people, respecting everyone's comfort level and boundaries, and so on.

But double-check yourself with women at the table. Pay a little more attention to not interrupting or talking over them. Before you start explaining something, double-check with yourself whether they asked for an explanation, and if they haven't, ask if they would like one.

As thejeff noted, "treating everyone equally" is a great goal, but with the way that male-dominated spaces work, actually accomplishing that isn't a passive thing. It takes active attempts to analyze your own behavior and overcome habits and biases. If we were in an ideal world where everyone accurately perceived how other people were being treated, where there weren't a lot of people who were consciously biased against women's equal participation and almost universal subconscious bias, and so on, we could all be hand-wave "Just treat everyone equally!" and have it not be a cop-out. But that's not the world we live in. So don't assume you can blithely resolve to treat everyone equally and actually accomplish that without some self-examination.

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Jessica Price wrote:
(See: Paizocon attendee at the hotel bar who started explaining Pathfinder to me before asking if I knew what it was, and only thought to ask where I worked after he finished describing tabletop RPGs.)

You have no idea how bad I want to see a video of this. For that matter, it would be amazing if you Paizo ladies (and gents, for comparison) brought hidden cameras to situations like these. The company can spring for that, right? ;)


thegreenteagamer wrote:

According to my wife, and I have to agree heartily with her, it would go a long way to getting women gamers to show up if gamers regularly showered before and wore deodorant to games.

It's a stereotypical thing to address, yes, but I have found it to be annoyingly true, and honestly, it's almost gotten me to leave, too.

Smelly stereotypical jerks bringing the rest of us down via association.

For the past few years, I dm and my players are mostly female. I don't want to be the smelly guy, so I have an ironclad rule of showering before a game, or shower before a shift if the game is straight after (if not straight after, eat, then shower, then go). It really helps to take this away as an issue.

The all male games I have joined didn't have a problem with one or more of them stinking up the house. I suspect they were doing the same thing as I prior to the game. Maybe Australian roleplayers have learned hygiene.

Grand Lodge

Lots of great points in this thread. However, I'm still struggling with what can actually be done.

I have seen RPG books make huge strides in being more politically correct across both gender as well as ethnicity. I have seen game stores and gamers become mature socially. But I'm not seeing an increase in women coming into game stores to play RPGs or attend tabletop RPG games at convention. I see better ratios at board games and at LARPs.

What's not appealing about RPGs?

Are we failing to make the activity appealing?

For example, do you think more guys would read romance novels by just removing the hot guy off the cover?

What else needs to happen to increase interest in the first place? How do you get women to even set foot in a game store or buy a RPG? What fundamentally has to change?


bdub wrote:
... I have played RPGs off and on since the 80s, and while I see my gaming books becoming more and more politically correct, I'm not seeing an increase in female gamers at conventions or at organized play events such as Pathfinder Society. ...

From my experience:

I would disagree with this. When I played RPG's in the 80's, female participation was essentially zero. In the moderately large Midwestern town where I grew up. There were supposedly exactly 2 females in the whole city that admittedly played D&D. Since there were only the 2 it was constantly discussed topic. There might have been a few more that hid the fact they were playing, but it certainly wasn't very many.

Still not anywhere near 50/50. But my daughter played for a while. My friend's wife was a member of our group until her work schedule changed.
Our local PFS is probably somewhere between 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 of the regulars are female.
I've never counted heads at a convention. But I would guess around 1 in 10 to be in the ballpark. I'd say probably half the tables I played at GenCon had at least 1 female.

Again from my experience only:
While RPG's is much more socially acceptable and mainstream it still attracts better than its fair share of ... shall we say socially inept people.
You mix socially inept with nervous around women and you tend to get a lot of unintentionally offensive behavior.

I have a friend that occasionally manages to insult virtually anyone around him completely by accident. People get upset, someone explains why their upset, and he is honestly confused because that wasn't what he meant. After he spends a while explaining what he meant the other person will say why didn't you say that instead. Again he will be baffled and say I did. Etc...
Every once in a while he start on some rambling subject and his wife realizes where he is heading and will just say, "You need to stop talking now." He is finally starting to realize he is upsetting people, but he really doesn't understand why.

It certainly isn't all of them, but there are more people like that in RPG's than any other large group of people that I have ever experienced.

Grand Lodge

Let me clarify. I'm not counting wives, girlfriends, or daughters of existing gamers.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

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bdub wrote:

Lots of great points in this thread. However, I'm still struggling with what can actually be done.

I have seen RPG books make huge strides in being more politically correct across both gender as well as ethnicity. I have seen game stores and gamers become mature socially. But I'm not seeing an increase in women coming into game stores to play RPGs or attend tabletop RPG games at convention. I see better ratios at board games and at LARPs.

What's not appealing about RPGs?

Are we failing to make the activity appealing?

For example, do you think more guys would read romance novels by just removing the hot guy off the cover?

What else needs to happen to increase interest in the first place? How do you get women to even set foot in a game store or buy a RPG? What fundamentally has to change?

To work from your romance novel analogy: it's not quite that simple. To change the cover of supermarket romance novel doesn't alter its content, and thus the same people who would want to read those books would remain largely unchanged. You might get someone who bought it accidentally because the cover didn't adequately reflect the hunky contents I suppose?

The difference with RPG books is that, even though they present a more inclusive world, they are fundamentally different media. As media they may be inclusive, but because they are a game meant to be played by people, the actual experience is determined by those who are playing it. I think it's great that the iconic Pathfinder paladin is a WoC, but that doesn't stop the players at my local Pathfinder Society games from saying some effed up sexist stuff.

Anyway, for what specifically can be done: see any of Jessica's suggestions.

EDIT: Also! Many of the books make strides toward being more inclusive, but there are definitely some questionable aspects of Adventure Paths and modules that undermine that mission! I have a couple of published adventures that make me say, "Hmm, yes, this is neat, but how can I rewrite some of these NPC's so that the majority of them aren't men whose back stories are based on violence against women, and how can I rewrite this section of the plot such that a key element of this story isn't based on a (cis)sexist trope?" So that's something that could always be better.


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Some things are difficult to change, or even acknowledge the need for such change

In 1913, H.G Wells Published Little Wars, the full title on the cover (I own the copy with the introduction penned by Gygax) is

Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books

*sigh* last post on the page, will never be seen...

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