D&D Is For Women

D&D Is For Women

The release of Dungeons and Dragons 5e has ushered in a renaissance in tabletop gaming, resulting in an explosion of diverse new players rushing to the hobby for an immersive storytelling experience. Once geared towards men, female D&D players are now flooding gaming stores across the country. It’s important to recognize this and reflect on how the D&D experience is evolving and how we can work together to shape its future. As they say, the future is female. Women who play games are in for a treat for what’s to come for D&D. 

Behind the Curtain: Women Developing D&D

This may come as a shock, but the TTRPG D&D was originally designed for a male audience. Created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, the design staff of the game’s early edition skewed predominantly male. The focus was on creating a fantasy version of classically popular wargames. Women had no input or consideration in D&D at that time. Unfortunately, by writing for an assumed predominantly male audience, published materials oozed with sexist rules and features. AD&D included a “Harlot Table” and character-generation rules that capped female PCs’ Strength in exchange for “Beauty” points. Eventually, female D&D players were fed up.

The Backlash

D&D faced public backlash within the community during the mid-’70s, with women in the D&D and writing industries becoming more visible and demanding an end to chauvinism in the game they had come to love. Women who play games were tired of being treated like second-class citizens in their favorite game, particularly as the game is meant to be high fantasy. Any limitations on women were put in place by the creators, not the game itself. There was no logical reason women shouldn’t have the same opportunities in the game that men did.

Female cosplayers

From the Very Beginning

D&D may historically be seen as a boys’ club, but women have been crucial to D&D since its inception. When first developing D&D, Gygax playtested the game with his two children, Ernie and Elise. In fact, Elise is said to have chosen the name “Dungeons and Dragons.” There were plenty of other female D&D team members as well, including writers, editors, and artists such as Jean Wells, Kim Mohan**, Darlene, Penny Williams, Rose Estes, and many more. They helped develop the early versions of the game into what we know and love. Iconic features, such as the original Greyhawk map and the Sage Advice column, were created or staffed by women. Who knows how the game would’ve turned out without them. 

Often Overlooked

In the history of D&D, women’s roles have often been forgotten. But they were there every step of the way. They designed and developed the game we put hundreds of hours into, because we all love it so much. By breaking down barriers and proving the worth of women who play games as artists and game designers, their work has given us all a seat at the D&D gaming table. The next time you gear up for a campaign and get ready to roll your favorite dice, remember that female D&D developers were a huge part of making that happen.

Industry Role Models

D&D, particularly for women, experienced a huge renaissance with the premiere of the 5th edition by focusing on collective storytelling rather than mechanics and rules. A lot of this boom is due to streaming, particularly with groups like Critical Role and Dice, Camera, Action! These groups feature talented actors and role models broadcasting games weekly. Because of it, D&D content is more accessible than ever. The success of it led to the involvement of TTRPG creators donating dice, dice sets, dice boxes, miniatures, and plenty of other materials to these streams.

Feminism messages on post-it notes

A More Diverse Community Than Ever

Beyond the broad successes of streaming, many local groups and schools are now starting their own D&D clubs. On top of that, there’s an influx of new gamers connected by the internet. The community has been transformed and ushered in a new generation of diversity in D&D, including women, minorities, and LGBTQIA+ players. Female D&D players are no longer alone in their attempts to break into the community.

Better Representation

As the community accommodates gamers formerly considered “non-conventional,” more and more community leaders and creators have stepped up to represent women in the D&D industry. There are now all-female streams like Sirens of the Realms and Fate and the Fablemaidens which have increased female D&D visibility and served as role models for other women who play games. D&D Adventurer’s League now has female administrators such as Lysa Chen, who also serves as the Community Manager for the DMs Guild. There are also much more female writers and streamers, like Kate Welch, who have emerged as figureheads for diversity in the community. With their involvement, we can ensure that there’s a place at the table and content for everyone.

Female Twitch streamer

The Importance of Visibility

The visibility of women in the D&D community is incredibly important so women everywhere can have role models and aspire to be writers, artists, DMs, and players. Thanks to the prominent female figures, perspective players can see how D&D is open to anyone.

Female (N)PCs: More than Just a Pretty Face

As players, DMs, or any other members of the community, we can all contribute to inclusivity. There are plenty of ways to do this, whether it be women or LGBTQIA+ only game night, promoting female D&D content, or simply by letting all players feel welcome during each session. Creating safe spaces in D&D where women and minorities are empowered to play the game reassures those who don’t fit into the typical gamer-guy mold that they can break out of their comfort zone and enjoy the game as it was meant to. Once these players get more comfortable, they can be ambassadors to others like them and let them know they’re welcome in the community. This contributes to a more diverse player-base with room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Women using laptops

Promoting Inclusivity

One way to promote inclusivity in D&D for women and minorities is to create and roleplay fully-fledged characters outside typical molds. Create an uproarious female half-orc Drunken Master, a bisexual pirate captain Barbarian, or a sardonic non-binary Vengeance Paladin. Instead of letting a character’s gender decide their personality, stats, or class, create a vibrant, 3-dimensional character where gender is only one of many facets of their personality.

As a DM, you can create a wide array of female NPCs with the same positions and ranks as their male counterparts. You have the power to ensure women are equally represented in your fantasy world and embody a wide range of personalities, flaws, and motivations. And make sure each female D&D player, PC, and NPC, has control over their lives and choices. Don’t rid them of their agency.

It Takes a Village

We all need to work together as players, DMs, writers, and creators to forge an inclusive path forward in D&D for women and minorities. Together, we can make gatekeeping and sexism a thing of the past. Looking ahead, we have to develop a community where inclusion is our top priority. In an immersive fantasy experience like D&D, everyone belongs.

Emily Smith is a D&D Writer, TTRPG Blogger, and DMs Guild Content Creator based in Los Angeles, CA. She is a regular DM and player for Adventurer's League, the official organized play system for D&D 5e. In her free time, she enjoys playing League of Legends, cooking, and cat herding.

** Editor's Note: We were graciously informed by a reader of our mistake in listing Kim Mohan as a female editor. We did not do our due diligence and will work harder to be better in the future!

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1 comment


Just FYI, Kim Mohan, whose name is mentioned in the section entitled “From the Very Beginning” and who was Editor of “Dragon” magazine for many years, was a man, not a woman. Seriously. He passed away in 2022. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Mohan

Matt Tyler

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