Dear Pink Hair Girl,
I’ve got a game of Pathfinder going with some of my friends, and a few times I’ve asked my girlfriend to join us. She’s never played before and tells me she’d feel kind of stupid trying to ‘play pretend’ with us. At the same time though she agrees that it would be fun to try something I like so much. I just can’t seem to get her to follow through. What do I do?
Paladin in a Pickle
The good news is that she hasn’t downright refused! When you ask a girl to join a tabletop game and she turns her nose up and says “I’d rather rather eat my Jimmy Choo’s”, that’s pretty much game over. But since she seems at least interested in trying something you enjoy doing with your friends, here are a few pointers on getting her to take that fateful step into the wonderland of Tabletop RPGs, and then making sure there’s a good chance she’ll stick with it once she’s in!
First, address some of the hangups that have kept her from trying it so far. A common misconception is that games like D&D are just for smelly high school nerds whose closest romantic relationship has been with their Yoko Body Pillow. In fact, the majority of tabletop players I know are in their late twenties to mid-30s–many of them married, capable of showering, and skilled at carrying on a conversation with someone of the fairer sex. If she doesn’t believe you, point her in g33kWatch.com’s general direction.
Slightly more difficult to address will be the fact that she might feel like an idiot trying to pretend she’s a wizard going on a grand quest with a bunch of grown men sitting around a table eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew. She’s got a point there, but try to put it to her like this; it’s a chance to use your imagination. It’s sort of like writing a story, with a bunch of friends helping you make it up along the way. She doesn’t have to pretend that SHE HERSELF is the wizard (or vampire, demigod, fairy princess, etc), tell her to think of it as making a character for a story, or a book, or a movie you’re all writing together. She’ll have control of what her character does and how they react in all kinds of interesting situations, and she’ll get to interact with the other characters in the story too. She can make her character nothing like herself if it helps make things fun and interesting!
Hopefully these points will open her up to the idea a bit more, and she can agree to go to the next game with you!
Now for the hard part. Making it go smoothly, and keeping her into it. Here are some tips:
- Your friends. Girl friendly? Really, are they? How do they smell? How many times a session do they fart on each other? Do any of them think that girls aren’t worth a crap in tabletop? Think about this long and hard before you invite your girl over to play with them. I’m not saying you should ask them to change, I’m just saying that if they’re not too good with ladies being present, you may want to find a different group to bring her to.
- DO NOT take her to a game to sit and watch. At best it gives her an idea of what the pace is, but the harm might be that sitting around and watching a bunch of guys throw inside jokes at each other and roll dice all night turns out to be REAL boring, especially if she has no idea what the rules of the game are or what the story is.
- Create a character BEFORE she gets to the game. Getting there and taking forever to create the character, trying to flesh out the stats and rules (when you have no idea what you’re doing) is a total drag on the experience, especially if it kills the excitement of finally getting started. Work with her one-on-one, or invite the GM/Storyteller over to help her create a character before the day of the game.
- Help her feel invested in the character she’s created. Tell her to think about her favorite characters from Books / TV / Movies, draw inspiration from them, and figure out what about them she likes. For example, I’m a fan of Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. She’s a total hardass, is an AMAZING pilot, but still feminine enough for me to relate to her. That might translate into a D&D character like: Maxed out Warrior who has a problem with authority, and a secret crush on someone in the party or an NPC. Whatever the case may be, encourage your girl to write a solid back-story for her character that gets her excited about playing them out in-game.
- Make sure the GM knows what they’re doing. If you put your girl in a game and the GM is putzing around, still getting his or her barrings, its very likely that they won’t know how to pay enough attention to a newbie to make the game fun for them. In fact, now that you’ve got a fleshed out character sheet for your girl, make sure the GM knows what her strengths are, and (This is how the GM should treat ALL players involved, but especially newcomers) have them plan out places in the story where they can really shine. The fastest way for your girl to start having fun in the game, is to make her feel like her character is helpful and successful in the party.
- Consider the game play atmosphere. Is a lot of the time spent yelling about stats? Are there rules lawyers bringing everyone down? Does 50% of the game entail the GM trying to corral everyone back on topic? These things slow it down and make it less fun for EVERYONE, but if its happening when you’ve got a newcomer in the group who’s going out on a limb to give it a shot, these things will kill it for them.
- Shiny Dice. I know, I know… girls and shiny things. Seriously, I have a mountain of rainbow sparkly super-duper flashy limited edition glow in the dark sharp edge genuine crystal quartz dice. I love that crap. But picking out her own dice, having her own character sheet in her own folder and a little note pad and a couple pencils at the ready, really will help her feel like she’s a responsible participant in the game.
If you manage to go through all of this with her, and a few sessions haven’t got her interested in the next game, then chances are it just really isn’t her thing, and that’s ok! If Tabletop RPGs are a big part of your social life, then you can still keep her involved by talking a little bit about the story and your character after you come back from sessions, ask her advice for what skills to take or what direction to take your character in. If she doesn’t feel like talking about those things, at least offer, and make sure she knows she’s welcome in that part of your life. Unless of course you notice her starting to nibble on her Jimmy Choo’s. Then you may want to lay off the topic.
If you’ve got a snag in your social life, cramping your g33k style, feel free to ask me for some advice!
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