A Not-So-Bad GF List

I don’t have time to get into it full on, but this list by Bill Ward called 15 simple rules for getting your girlfriend to play D&D actually isn’t as bad as it sounds. Partially because some of it seems like common sense for including a person new to your party, but also because it actually has a reason for being a list targeted towards women and not just first-time gamers.


All too often, male players tend to think that any female player at the table is a joke, or worse, as someone to drive off. Here’s a clue: if you want your SO to play, then treat her with respect, and don’t allow the other players to treat her poorly. It doesn’t matter if the DM does give you a special crystal. BTW, in a game at GenCon back in 1999, my wife, a veteran Battletech player who preferred lighter mechs, was picked on as the only girl playing in a tournament game. While three guys were picking on her (“She obviously can’t play if she chose a light mech!”) tried to remove “the girl” from the “man’s game”, she quietly fumed… and when the time came, she self destructed her mech, taking them with her (she might have beaten any of them in a 1-on-1 battle; she’s good, AND lucky). They were, to use her phrase, “Losers in every sense of the word.” After reading this, she wanted it known that she ejected safely and saved her pilot. The other players, not so much….

Wow, dismantaling stereotypes rather than reinforcing them? Confronting sexism head on instead of playing off of it and pretending that you created satire? Could this be the fabled perfect list?

Well, I’m not ready to take that step quite yet. The capitalizing off of a “girlfriend” image when it’s a combination of advice for including new players and some specific points geared towards not driving off potential new specifically female players gets a “so-so” from me. I’m willing to give it a pass because Ward actually addresses sexism and doesn’t rely on stereotypes of women to make his point (even when the point would have made it very easy to do so). On the occassion that a stereotype does pop up there is at very least an acknowledgement of it as such, although there is one occassoin where he uses his wife’s agreement to backup his use of a stereotype (“heaven help me for the stereotype, but this is Rebecca’s thoughts, too”).

But! I digress. Overall the article strikes me as well written. In the end, I’m not sure if I’m giving it too much of a pass because of the kind of drek I see regularly (some links of which are waiting for me to look at in my inbox, submitted by a sadistic reader) or if it actually did pretty much get things right. Either way, I’d recommend this as a pattern for people who can’t be pursuaded out of writing a Girlfriend List (or some equivalent).

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3 thoughts on “A Not-So-Bad GF List

  1. What really confuses me about this one, is that most table top campaigners I’ve met wouldn’t pull that shit anyway. (any)Con is sexist. Con is so sexist that surely someone out there should write a damned book about it. But, home gaming? Not so much. Maybe these girlfriends don’t want to game because the “Lame Dork” Stigma? It’s funny he refers to his girlfriend as a Geek, because even 90% of Standard Issue Geeks look down on your average over-involved table-topper. You can be a geek and stilll think that old-fashioned die tossing is weak for anyone over the age of 15. Or, because it looks really, really boring? Or, because they ran into mid-90’s Public VLARPers and decided that, based solely on the Power of Suck generated by dorks in black dark lipstick hissing “I am obfuscating!” in otherwise normal public places, they’d never, ever want to do anything related to character sheets?

    Have I outed myself as a former humongous nerd I was, yet?

  2. You’re right, this is much better than what we usually see. I agree with you that the focus on girlfriends/wives was unnecessary – even the author points out that a lot of the rules apply to female friends, or just new players of any gender. If that’s the case, if it’s true that female SOs don’t need “special” instructions, then why not say so? Otherwise it perpetuates the idea that women/female SOs need to be treated as separate (i.e., not normal). That isn’t really sexist on the author’s part, but it does prevent me from giving him my wholehearted endorsement.

    To be fair, he does a good job of explaining what special advice SOs do honestly merit – such as using character creation as romantic quality time (#4) and not extending real-life romance into the game (#13). I think the best approach would have been something along the lines of, “You want your girlfriend to play D&D with you? Here, treat her like a human being by using the same rules you would for all new players. By the way, your particular romantic relationship might give you other opportunities and risks, so here’s some advice for that too.”

    The stereotyping about classes really irked me, too. Personally, I would suggest giving everyone a fighter their first time out, because it’s the easiest one to get the hang of when you’re new to D&D. (It’s what I, and other newbies I know, started out with.) Running up and hitting things is pretty intuitive, whereas choosing spells and summoning creatures is not as much. Ideally, you could, you know … ask. When I was creating my own character for the first time, my partner gave me a quick overview of what each class does, and how hard it was to learn. That’s all I needed. (By the way, I picked a rogue – so take that, stereotypes.)

  3. These are good suggestions for incorporating new players, period. I do think the sterotypical aspects of “women want to be X type of character” are dangerous, given the vast variation in individual personalities. The worst thing for a beginning female character is to feel pushed into a character type (or away from one that might be interesting) because of our sex! When my partner was introducing me to D&D, she gave me an overview of the types of character classes and then let me read her books to get a feel for things. I was still overwhelmed breaking into a group that had been gaming together for 10 years, but no one told me I’d feel uncomfortable as a fighter, and I felt my choice to play a druid was my own. It’s also important to understand your fellow player’s classes, and the broad introduction was very good from that angle as well.

    On the books and dice, my partner bought me a new set of dice just for me. I think it’s symbolic that the new person is her own player to get a new set if you can afford it, rather than simply handing off “some extras”. If we hadn’t been practically living together already, I would have also wanted my own copies of the books. That’s covered in the article, but then he sugests if she doesn’t stay with the game, you can have them back. This is NOT the case. If she gives them back, bully for you, but it is not anyone’s place to ask (or beg or hint strongly) for a gift to be returned to them.

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