I’ve finally breached the final geek frontier for me. About a month ago, I started playing my very first tabletop game--Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Wendy sent out an email inviting me and a few other friends to join her game, which was being DM'd by her nephew. One of our gaming resolutions we made was to try out a tabletop game together, but we'd been a little slow to get started. This got us in gear. My cousin, who regularly plays with his girlfriend and his family, joined us. After flailing at AJ (my cousin) about character creation sheets and feeling like I was probably going to fail at everything, we spent four hours on Skype working on my first character together, a tiefling bard named Xavros Fallenheart, whose background is a charlatan (entertainer as a background was too flamboyant for what I had in mind for him). Look at that babe.
Anyhow, we have a great group, and I think I've taken to the game better than I thought I would to the point that I'd like to play with more people. I’ve been invited to join a few online games. Most of which I’ve turned down because I’m particular about the people I play with. As a woman of color, I want to be sure the I'm entering spaces where I can have fun and not deal with gross behavior. I'm confrontational by nature, but I'm at an age now where I'm tired of having to argue with people instead of being allowed common courtesy to enjoy a game because someone feels it's their civic duty to dehumanized me because of my sex and/or race. I'd rather just disengage than argue most of the time now because it doesn't benefit me at all aside from making my stress level shoot through the roof because someone pissed me off.
Unless you've been living under a rock or one of those people who just outright deny that the gaming community can be intolerant while they ironically preach they're treated as outcasts, you have to be aware that for marginalized groups (there are many great articles on this site dealing with problematic role-playing situations) hopping into certain gaming situations can be terrifying and off-putting. I am an avid gamer, and I always have been. I know firsthand what it's like to be harassed mainly because of my gender. Dungeons and Dragons, while I've always been interested in it, I felt intimidated by the idea of actually joining a group. I had a friend who tried to get me to play with his old group years ago, but I wasn't comfortable with the idea, even with him being there with me. I would've been the only woman in a sea of guys, and it felt like role-playing would put me in a far more vulnerable place than just playing Street Fighter. The most of I've done with D&D is play the PC games based on their rules such as Neverwinter Nights and watch my friend play.
I thought that I had found a possible secondary group. I explained what I was looking for and how I played with my current group of friends. And I’m not looking to replace my group at all and they’ll always take priority. I’m just wanting to gain more experience and play different classes/races and scenarios. This seemed like a great diverse group who wouldn't make fun of my newb status until the DM tells me I can’t play a guy or a trans character. I didn't ask him that. He felt obligated to supply me with that information. Remember, I play a male bard, and he doesn’t fall into any gender roles and I have enjoyed the experience playing him with my friends. To be honest, I hadn't even thought about what gender/class/race I'd play with this new group. I just wanted there to be an understanding of what I would and wouldn't tolerate.
When I asked the DM why, especially since mature themes are off-limits, as well, so it’s not like the characters would be trying to smut each other up every chance they’d get, I was told by the DM that he’s not comfortable with people role-playing characters opposite of their gender, which doesn't make much sense to me. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of role-playing if you won’t allow people to role-play whatever gender identity they want? 5e has seemed to be especially open to the idea that players don't always want their characters to stick to strict gender roles. You're playing a character. So what if you're a woman playing a man or vice versa? What is so uncomfortable about that?
That didn’t sit well with me, and that was a definite deal breaker. In all likelihood, I would’ve played a female character, but to be told that I had to play a female character because I'm female just made me not even want to play with him overseeing the game. It's his game, and he can run it how he sees fit. However, it's one thing when a group may decide that their players can't be evil, which I don't agree with either, but at least one of the people I play with gave me a plausible reason why they stopped allowing evil players and most of it had to do with player abuse. Telling someone they can only play characters the same gender as they are leaves the question open, "What other questionable rules might this game have?"
I won't let that experience deter me, though. I have a session with my regular group tonight, and I'll continue to maybe look into playing with other people (or watching other people play) to expand my horizons.