This article deals very specifically with feminist thought, which I don’t intend to debate here. Questions about feminism? Check out Feminism 101. Just about any question you may have will be answered there. It is also important to note that this article assumes the majority of readers to be heterosexual, cisgendered, and male as this is the majority of the D&D community. Apologies to readers who are not represented in the article. I hope the spirit of the idea shines through.
What I am trying to discuss here is how to become a Chaotic Good Roleplayer. By being chaotic good at your rolpelaying table, you can create a safe space for every player who sits down with your group. The first step is to recognize your privilege; privilege is a term used for a set of free passes given to majority groups by society–it is simply easier to get through the world and do what you like when you have privilege. Privilege is a natural weapon that most people think they’ve worked really hard to earn, but it in fact came for free. To keep it simple, consider privilege like a law that society lives by.
For the privileged player, life is relatively easy. You can joke about pretty much anything, and the jokes your friends tell aren’t hurtful to you. The other players around you with the same privilege feel the same way and laugh at your jokes too, and the games you play are mostly aimed at you. They present awesome looking characters like you, and the sexily dressed characters in the book are exactly the gender that you are attracted to. The plots of your games only need to consider your perspective. Life is grand–until someone without these attitudes enters your game and challenges your worldview, breaking society’s privilege laws. This is where you have to make a choice.
If you are a player lacking these privileges, the D&D table is still usually an okay place. People are there to have fun, after all. But for a marginalized player, the reminders that they aren’t the “normal” player of this game creep in. Jokes about raping women, for example: as someone with straight male privilege, rape is not a concern in your daily life – though male rape does happen, and is serious. For anyone else, however, rape is something that can and does happen. In fact, it is a frighteningly likely prospect – 1 in 3 women are raped. Think about that. Of all the women you encounter in your day, a third of them have been forced into these situations you find yourself joking about. D&D is not the time that anybody wants to find out that someone finds this funny.
Comments that are sexist, homophobic, transphobic or racist, even as jokes, remind marginalized players that they aren’t the normal one around here. They are disturbing, and can be frightening, angering and disappointing. They can result in these players feeling unwelcome at your table. Enough language and scenarios like this, and marginalized players will stop coming to the table.
So, let’s go back that choice you could make about players challenging your privilege. Now’s the time to go chaotic good and buck the societal laws of privilege. Like the Leverage crew, you can take your privilege and use it to teach some lessons and make your table a safe space. In feminism, this is called being an ally – someone who recognizes the difficulties that marginalized people experience and works with them. The chaotic good player has a diplomatic advantage simply by being part of the privileged group.
Chaotic good players buck their privilege and create the type of gaming table that won’t accept hurtful comments about marginalized groups of people. A chaotic good player uses their privilege to educate the players around him about behaviours and game plotlines that are alienating marginalized groups. When a marginalized player makes a comment that something isn’t acceptable because it is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., the chaotic good player considers why, and comes to their defense. There will be a strong instinct to immediately deny it – I urge you to suppress this. Rather than immediately silencing them, consider their words .
It can be hard to understand why you should put your neck out like this and be a chaotic good player. After all, these are your friends and why would you want to alienate them?
It is hard work to be someone who lacks privilege. Lacking male privilege and having geeky interests is an uphill climb, believe me. Sharing the burden by being an ally and telling your fellow players that sexist comments won’t fly at the table doesn’t just help that one player. If the other players take it to heart, it will help countless players after her.
It comes down to a question of what’s right. Do you and your friends want to be the type of people who make women feel uncomfortable, unsafe or angry at your table? Do you want gay players to feel like they should just go home, and not come back next week? Or would you like to have a gaming table which includes all of these perspectives, and makes all of these players feel safe and appreciated?
There will be times where other people at the table will say “You know what, you’re right. That joke wasn’t really funny, and I’m sorry.” But, more likely, there will be backlash. Hurtful slurs might be used to describe the marginalized player behind their back, or be directed at you. You might get into an argument with other players at your table. Tempers could flare, and people can say really hurtful things sometimes. I was once called a hairy yeti feminazi when I asked the players in my game to stop making rape jokes. Is that phrase totally ridiculous? Damn skippy it is. But when it’s coming from someone who I thought cared about my feelings and my experience of the D&D game, it hurt – because they would rather insult me into silence than stop making rape jokes. People may do this to you, but a chaotic good roleplayer can handle breaking the social law of privilege that allows for hurtful comments and taking some heat. It’s the right thing to do.
The more chaotic good roleplayers we have, the more people we can attract to our beloved pastime. Chaotic good roleplayers make the gaming table a place where gamers from all types of backgrounds feel safe expressing themselves and thrive. If privileged players have stopped you from making the gaming table safe for women, gay players, or trans players just imagine the diverse roleplay opportunity and new character concepts your group could experience if these marginalized players did feel like they could express themselves. Making the gaming table a safe space will simply make the game better. We all know that newbies are reluctant to roleplay because they’re uncomfortable. The first time a newbie comes out of their shell and takes on a character, it can be very exciting; it means they are comfortable, and a wealth of new ideas is added to your game.
I would like to credit this post on Revenge of the Feminerd: Feminist in D&D as the inspiration for what you’ve read here today. Definitely give it a read.
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.