Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Getting Girls To Play

  I was reading an article about how to get girls and women to play TRPGs [no, I will not link it] and I came away from it annoyed. I always find it annoying when female authors pull the hat trick of
  1) talking down to men
  2) by giving their personal preferences as universal advice
  3) while also talking down to women

  The author said some stuff I find wrong-headed, so let me give my advice on how to get more girls and women into the hobby.

  Be courteous to everyone.

  Thanks!

  Yeah, I know. You need more than that.

  In the 40 years I have been gaming the only times women were not in my gaming group was when I was on deployment in the military and there were no women present. My wife is one of the best players of front-line fighters in Fantasy RPGs I have ever met and Sue Pulsipher is flat-out the best player of D&D clerics ever.
  My oldest is running his own AD&D 1e group at it is 50% female, all first-timers he introduced to the game.

  I think I can speak on the subject.

  Here is my advice:

Don't 'dumb down' the games or the goals.
  Here is what I consider lousy advice,
  "For first times gamers systems that are very old, like D&D, might be intimidating. Start with something more familiar, like Star Wars."
  I think this advice is both silly and insulting.
  Silly because if the GM and the players thought this 'other system' was better/easier to play/etc. they'd already be playing it. Telling the GM and experienced player to switch to a system they like less and are less familiar with to teach is ridiculous.
  Insulting because it assumes women can't handle complexity and depth. I don't know the class of women you hang out with, but the sorts of women I like to hang out with are attracted to complexity and depth

Don't make the GM the sole font of knowledge.
  More of what I think is lousy advice,
  "Let the DM do all of the explaining and button your yaps unless absolutely necessary"
  sigh 
  As I explained here almost three years ago, I never, ever do this. I do the opposite. If I have more than one new player I assign an existing player to each one to help them with character generation, etc. and sit nearby. As generation goes on I make the sure (pre-coached) experienced players ask me for ruling and advice and chat with each other with questions.
  If it is just one new player I swap out different people; one experienced player will do stats and race, another class and such, another for equipment, another on how to do the basic rolls, etc. All the time, the coached players ask questions and interact with the GM and the other players.
  There are a number of reasons I do this:
  1) The new player is joining a group that knows each other. I want them to meet with and interact with their teammates.
  2) I want the new player to see that it is OK to ask questions.
  3) I want the new player to see that the experienced players don't know everything, and neither does the GM.
  4) I want the new player to see how to reference the rule books.
  5) I want to see how they interact with my existing players.

  If I tell everyone else to zip it and then hold forth like the Oracle I get none of these benefits. I also run the risk of the new player being reluctant to ask a question if I am busy.

Have an elevator pitch ready.
  If the newbie is there for AD&D I ask if they have seen or read LotR and move from there to other fantasy books. Once I have point of commonality (or if I don't!) I talk to them for a few minutes with the players present about the various races that can be played. in general terms, just to get them to understand we are about to drop into something akin to a movie.

  Short aside - ever been with a group of friends when they describe, oh, a mall they know well but you've never been to? Or an amusement park? It never sounds like a PBS documentary on Amsterdam, does it? It is more akin to
  "At the entrance is the line for the cool slide"
  "By the pretzel stand"
  "Yeah! But the best pretzels are by the ferris wheel!"
  "Which is near the back of the park, by the lemonade."
  "Yeah, but there is the roller coaster, then the log ride, then the spinner, then the haunted house, then the ferris sheel"
  "Yup. And if you turn left at the log ride there is the shooting gallery and the photo center"
  "And the bathrooms!"
Right? It is a little confusing, but there is enthusiasm, and emotion, and you get a good idea of what is where, mainly.
  So when I say 'elevator pitch' I mean a short intro to the immediate area around the campaign that you can give them while showing them a map and letting your players interact so they get emotionally drawn into the group and its enthusiasm. Just something brief so they get a sense of place.

Give them a simple backstory and a simple motivation.
  I think this is self-explanatory.

  What these four points boils down to is:
  -Assume they are as smart as you are
  -Make them a part of the party immediately
  -Keep the introductions simple and allow their game and campaign knowledge to grow organically.

  "But, Rick!" I hear, "Where is the advice for getting women to play!"
  That's it. I treat men and women the same - I assume they are as smart as I am, I make them a part of the party right away, and I ease them into the rules and the campaign.
  See, I think the idea that we need a separate set of things to do to get women to play to be, well, condescending.
  Both ways.
  Whenever I see someone talking about separate rules/procedures/etc. for women I virtually always see a lot of stuff like;
  "Male gamers are basement dwellers covered in dorito dust."
  "Females don't like/can't handle complexity in games, so make everything as simple as possible for the poor dears."
  "Male gamers can't communicate with women."
  "Women are emotionally fragile and any criticism will make them wilt, cry, run away, and never, ever play RPGs again. You beast"
  "Male gamers don't have jobs. And they are all permanent virgins. Who never bathe."
  Seriously - go look for articles on how to get more women into TRPGs and the more "mainstream" it is, the more of that malarky you'll see.
  So - go ask your friends who have never played to play.