Patience with Polyhedrals

Recently, Liz over at Character Generation posted about her struggles with “geek cred.” This is, sadly, still a very real issue women face in gaming.

I have been fortunate enough to game with a diverse cast of individuals over the years. Yet I can understand the trepidation that comes when you have to admit you might not know the details of a particular rule. You see, I have my own biases, and Liz’s post made me think about them.

I taught myself how to play Dungeons & Dragons when I was nine years old. Just a year later, I had several Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition books (as it turned out that was the edition on sale in stores) and was teaching my small circle of friends how to roleplay.

That’s good, right? Well, I’ve learned that I become frustrated with players whom I feel don’t grasp the rules. After all, they’re right there in the damn book, and if you’d just sit down and read it like the rest of us—

I’m sure you see where that is going.

My perception of playing D&D (or any roleplaying game) has always been: you get interested, you buy the books, you read the books, you play. Naturally you learn as you go along. I don’t claim to be an “expert” on the rules. I’m no good at “breaking” things (nor do I care to), and have seen friends of mine do some horrible, evil rules jujitsu to make their characters pump out 400 points of damage a round at 5th level and other frightening tales.

Basically I’ve assumed that everyone learns how to play RPGs in the exact same way I did. Curiously, this doesn’t appear to be the case!

I realize, too, that many of the people I play games with haven’t actually read the rules to those games. This is particularly true of board games. For example, this week I taught both my sister and a good friend of mine how to play Miskatonic School for Girls after I read the rules. Neither of them has so much as cracked the cover of the rulebook, yet they both can run through the phases of a turn, explain the layout of the cards, and—oh yeah—play the game.

Some people are content playing RPGs this way. You know what? That’s fine. They’re having fun, and what they really need is encouragement, not scorn.

Occasionally we just draw blanks! Now and then rules fall right out of my skull and I have to look them up. Even worse, in a bit of karmic justice, moons ago I felt as if I hadn’t actually read anything about Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition because I couldn’t seem to remember how to play. It was embarrassing. However, I have the good fortune of being a man, so I just received some ribbing from my friends. Nobody seriously called into question my knowledge of roleplaying games in general, or assumed I had some built-in deficiency. Women don’t always have that luxury.

For my own part, I shall continue to strive for more patience when a player asks what I feel is an “elementary” question. Whatever their gender. No one suffers from a more welcoming environment.