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There was quite a bit of discussion about this after I posted this question, so I thought I would do as advised and re-ask the question in a new topic.

I will be playing D&D 5th edition soon with a group of all male players. This will be my first time playing D&D (or anything even remotely similar) and as the only female player this group has ever had, I'm quite worried about how to deal with integrating into the group. I'm interested in playing with this group because I'm very close to the DM, and I don't really know any other groups in the area. (The ones that I do are a bit too eager for a female player. I would rather deal with hostility.)

My main concern are two of the players that I know are difficult to deal with, as a girl.

One, from all my experiences with him, is extremely sexist and loves to put girls 'back into their place' and to let them 'know where they belong'.

He makes a point of it by calling me 'it' in real life, as, according to him, my unusual name isn't really a name and as such it isn't worth addressing me by.

The other I don't know well, but from what I've heard from the DM, is a sadist and likely to target and attempt to kill or seriously injure my character.

I'm extremely shy and I don't tend to speak up for myself, but I don't want to be put of from trying more RP games because of a bad first experience.

What's the best way to deal with difficult players, as a female that's new to the game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do not answer in comments. Comments here are for clarifying the question only. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 5 '14 at 6:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey folks, I’d appreciate it if answers and comments stayed away from calling the people involved here “mentally ill” and “sociopathic” and the like. That’s just as dehumanizing as calling somebody “it,” and it furthers stigmatization of mental illness, which is already bad enough in society. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Dec 5 '14 at 22:27

21 Answers 21

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The players you have described sound horrific. D&D can be a great game, but any game could be spoiled by players like these. Avoiding the game entirely, as Rylee Fowler suggests, is the safest solution.

Still, if you definitely want to play this game anyway, proceed with caution. Start by speaking to the DM about your concerns. You know your DM well, so he'll probably be sympathetic to your concerns. (If he's not, it goes without saying that you should avoid this game.)

Hopefully, your DM will already have some plan in place to mitigate the toxicity of these players. He may have spoken to the sexist player, for instance, telling him to leave his guff away from the table. Or he might be hoping that your joining the campaign will drive one or more of the toxic players away, or give him an excuse to ask them to leave. He might have something else in mind, like a formal or informal process of resolving disputes as they arise.

Whatever his intentions are, try and find out what they are; Knowing how he intends to deal with problems will help you know how to deal with them when they arise. (And of course, if you don't feel assured that your DM's plans to keep the game fun will work, consider backing out of the game.)

If you do end up playing... Well, maybe things won't be too bad. Maybe the sexist player will be willing to leave his prejudices at the door for the sake of a relaxing game, and the sadistic one will find a more entertaining target to distract himself with. But if you find the good time you were hoping to have is being spoiled, leave.

Seriously. Don't keep coming to sessions in the hopes that things will get better unless you've got a good reason to think that they will. Don't waste energy trying to solve conflicts at the table if the rest of the table isn't willing to cooperate. And whatever you do, don't hang around because you feel like you're obligated to do so; You're not - The only reason you joined the game was because you and your DM thought you would have a good time, and if that's not happening, you should go.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. As a reasonably confident male experienced in RPGs, I would have no desire to play with these people as described. \$\endgroup\$ – Calvin Scherle Dec 5 '14 at 8:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a man, I don't think it's my place to advise a woman on how to deal sexism. I'm hardly qualified. But if you find the DM is not willing to eject openly sexist players, does he deserve your friendship? \$\endgroup\$ – mikeagg Dec 5 '14 at 11:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I ended up playing the game, and it all went smoothly. As suggested by yourself and many other people kind enough to respond, I spoke to the DM first and set up a couple of boundaries. I ended up leaving mid game, but thanks to having spoken to the DM first I've been happily set up with another group. We'll be playing our first game on Saturday! The reason I've chosen your answer is because it contains the most information on how to deal with the group, like I asked in the question, instead of simply warning me away. Thanks again! \$\endgroup\$ – Asteria Jan 28 '15 at 10:29
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These people are toxic. You don't need to resist them in-game, you need to leave.

He makes a point of it by calling me 'it' in real life, as, according to him, my unusual name isn't really a name and as such it isn't worth addressing me by.

This is just proof that you're not going to be respected at all.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I down-voted because based on the additional info given by the question's asker, it is clear that despite the challenges this group represents, simply finding a different group is apparently not an option and so therefore simply not playing with them is an insufficient answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Dec 5 '14 at 4:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I can follow your line of thought, I feel that "Play or find a different group to play with" is a false dichotomy, as the answer of "just don't play for now" is left out. \$\endgroup\$ – Rylee Fowler Dec 5 '14 at 4:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin Is it really worth playing a game so you can be belittled and berated just for being a human being on a regular basis? I struggle to see that. I think the OP should take her chances with the "eager" groups, honestly. They may be less creepy than she thinks they are (and they hopefully can't all be creepers). \$\endgroup\$ – Lucas Leblanc Dec 5 '14 at 15:34
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You have more power than you think. Set boundaries in advance, and establish the consequences for violation. Don't be afraid to walk out if harm is occurring. Discuss your concerns before game play, and test them in a limited fashion with collaborative character creation.

You assert: "I'm interested in playing with this group because I'm very close to the DM, and I don't really know any other groups in the area. "

Groups are not single organisms. First, it's important to set boundaries (for any of the below possibilities), and be resolute to yourself about the consequences of breaking them. Take a look at Tuckman's group formation theories (in summary, norming follows the consequences of storming, as the group members figure out what they can and cannot get away with and desire from the group.)

The first option is to find some of your friends, who may or may not be interested in these role playing games, invite your friend, the DM, and explore the game with your friends instead of with the established group. Not only will this allow most of the group's established system mastery to be at a similar level, but the environment may be more comforting.

The second option is to play an online game with your friend, the DM, and people on the internet. There are many options here, but with today's technology, finding and running games on the internet has never been easier.

The third option is to establish boundaries in the toxic group, as I stated above. Ask for a discussion, before game starts, about these boundaries, as well as the expectations of the game. By setting your own boundaries and by choosing to listen to the group's expectations of game, you can introduce your own norms into the group and hopefully explore the group's expectations of play. Here, however, think through your escalation options. Work through the expected responses and your responses to them, either by yourself or with a trusted friend. Then ask yourself if you're comfortable with these consequences. With prior planning on your side, you can have the discussion and then decide if you want to play with the group or not. There are other opportunities to interact with the DM and a toxic environment where you feel powerless is not a good place to interact with anyone, let alone friends.

Whatever you do, set up post-game debriefs with a trusted friend. Engage in active self reflection as to how you feel about the events during the game. Engage in precommittment so that you can make decisions while you aren't feeling the bad feelings that inevitably form from a toxic environment.

I've consulted a friend who went through a similar trying period, and she suggested setting up a "explore the game" session before your first session. Here, you can explore what dice to roll when, discuss aspects of your character with whomever chooses to join the session, and get a feel for the environment without the (assumed) commitment to an evening of gaming. While you are completely within your rights to walk out on the evening of gaming, being more assured with your character will give you less vectors of stress to deal with on the night. You may want to combine this session with a collaborative character creation session where mechanics are played with and explored, and perhaps even with your boundary setting session.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for inviting the DM to another session with friends. Having two groups with vastly different gaming expectations make it really hard to run a campaign. I would rather run two separate campaigns than have disrespectful players at my table who want to play different games. \$\endgroup\$ – Calvin Scherle Dec 5 '14 at 8:55
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Don't play with people who make you uncomfortable.

The fundamental issue is that the group has a couple meanie-face jerkheads (feel free to insert a much more vitriolic phrase of your choosing) who everyone else is tolerating. These players are engaging in abusive, toxic behavior. This is bad in any context. Games are supposed to be fun, and playing with that kind of person isn't fun.

General advice: if you're trying to have fun in a group of people which tolerates behaviour that makes you uncomfortable, and you have the ability to walk away, walk away. Tell them that you won't be back while the behaviour is tolerated. If these are your friends, they should respect your not wanting to join an uncomfortable situation in order to "have fun." Play styles vary widely, and if a group is to function, it has to be able to accommodate each player's preferences. However, if someone demands that you tolerate behavior you wouldn't anywhere else simply because it's an RPG, this is not okay. Playing RPGs does not mean sacrificing your right to feel comfortable.

Don't try to just "deal with" this kind of jerk, especially not in an environment where the other people in the group think warning you about the behaviour is an appropriate substitute for telling the jerks it's not cool to act like that. That attempts to re-frame the scenario so it's your responsibility to mitigate their misbehaviour instead of their responsibility to behave right in the first place.You’re not responsible for anyone’s behavior but your own. If others in the group recognize problem players, they should be calling those people out and expecting them to behave better toward you.

If you attempt to play with this group, make this very clear: if the group can’t rein in the problem players (or, better yet, replace them), you walk. Remember, you can always walk.

But this isn’t just about being mean -- it’s about sexism, too.

You’re right, sexism is an important factor. The first player is not only misgendering you, he’s dehumanizing you. The second has demonstrated a pattern of in-character play disruption motivated by out-of-character hostility. This is decidedly poor behavior. Even in less extreme cases, I have seen blurring of the IC-OOC line suck the fun right out of games.

But this is an extreme case. Speaking as a female player (and as a woman in general), this has two probable outcomes: bad or worse. You’re unlikely to affect a change in these players because they’ve clearly demonstrated that they don’t respect you. It doesn’t actually matter that you’re shy and soft-spoken, either; the way you’re being treated is not your fault. Standing up for yourself is great if you’re able, but you shouldn’t have to. Sexist men do not listen to women. Period. They might listen to the DM, whom they may consider an authority figure (and who is also male), or to other male players, but this is uncertain.

Games don’t have to be like this!

There are better ways to find RPG groups than trying to work with people who go out of their way to make you miserable, surrounded by people who expect YOU to change in order to deal with it.

Remember that there are untold numbers of people in this hobby. You can and will find players who respect you among them. It may take time, but seeking out the game you want to play will be more fulfilling than forcing yourself to play a “game” that isn’t any fun at all. This isn’t a matter of compromising your own comfort and fair treatment or not getting to play.

Take it from a female player with over 10 years of mostly-happy RP experience under her belt: you can do better. You can do much, much better.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a very well written response. More eloquent than my own at addressing my reservations about the subject. A sexist player that dehumanizes others will not listen to the subject of his dehumanization. He will, at best, laugh it off, consider the OP weaker than he previously did, and likely treat her worse, as she looks even more like a victim. It's horrible. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Dec 12 '14 at 15:55
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...One of them calls you 'it'? This isn't a question of how to deal with difficult people, this is a warning of a potentially dangerous antisocial person, and a big tip off that they are a miserable human being. Any observed tendency to attempt to dehumanize a person for no good reason like this - and refusing a person their rightful name is a massive, 50-foot waving red flag here, especially when using 'it' - is one of the most horrible signs any person can do to show that they have a serious functional defect. And I mean the kind of problems psychiatrists and trained clinical psychologists often fail to deal with very well.

I've met people who've behaved this way (including using "it" instead of proper names or pronouns - again, I can't tell you how unique a behavior this is to the seriously deranged adult), and I assure you I've never encountered one that was not a toxic cloud of pestilence who harmed anyone who hung around long enough to get a whiff. If you aren't running an institution designed to handle such people - I'm not exaggerating - don't even try.

Honestly, had they stole from you and called you names, that would be a milder sign! Don't walk - get the hell out of there. The fact that there is more than one who even potentially has problems...pretend I'm waving my arms frantically while saying this, because words fail to do justice to just how terrible this sounds. Not just no - hell no!

And the fact that maybe there's a second one in the group that you feel comfortable calling a "sadist"? I'm normally a "let's all just get along" type, but there are limits - and this passes all of them. Whirling sirens, waving red flags, drop what you are doing and leave now - do anything other than be around such people. I can't even bare to try to give alternate advice - it feels like suggesting what personal belongings someone should save first before leaving a burning building, if they really think they should grab something. Personal safety and your mental health must come first.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianDHall Someone may think they are joking/being funny when no-one else does. We aren't saying that what he is doing is right, just that he may not realize that it is wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Dec 8 '14 at 11:25
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I'm going to give you the best advice I wish I had when I first got into roleplaying - I use it to this day.

Play games you like, with people you like.

Vice versa - do not play games you do not like, or play with people you do not like.

You may not be able to find a game right now. If you have access to Skype or Google Plus Hangouts or any kind of online voice chat system, I guarantee you can find non-toxic game groups to play with. You should do that.

Do not start with this group. You already know two people are hostile and messed up, and it is the collective responsibility of the group to already have sorted their people out into the most basic level of human decency with how they treat each other. Since they have not, you will not be walking into a fixable situation.

(Yes, people can change. That said, it usually takes years for people to get their heads right when they are that toxic. You don't have to be the punching bag as they try to learn how not to be terrible people.)

If you do not have access to online options, you should wait until you do. D&D has been here over 30 years, it will still be here in a few months, or even a few years if it takes you that long to get access to better options. You might even be best off forming your OWN gaming group of complete new folks.

There is no reason to put up with dehumanizing disrespect in your fun. The more fun you have, the more those guys will try to stomp you down. Do not play with these people.

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I think a lot of good thoughts have been articulated here. However I do have one thing to add. Be less weary of groups who "want a female player". I am desperate for a woman or two in my group, I have had the pleasure of gaming with women in the past and the added view point and play style is much desired by me. Especially as a GM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is all I would add to this question as well. I've been lucky enough to have female players in my groups for the vast majority of my time in RPG's, and they've always enriched the table immensely. \$\endgroup\$ – Neil B Dec 5 '14 at 15:10
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Virtually all the groups I know of are (or would be) eager for female players.

But that isn't a bad thing per se.

Whether they are eager because they hope to "get a date", or because they realize female players add so much to the game experience, is subject of the group (rather, player) in question.

But personally, I'd rather risk the former in an attempt to find the latter, than joining a group where I know other players to be unpleasant.

Roleplaying is, above all else, a social event, time you spend with friends, or at least friendly acquaintances. I wouldn't give someone calling you "it" the time of day, let alone join a RPG group with him -- especially when I'm a shy person and might not be able to call "time-out" when events start getting bothersome. It is your time to enjoy, and I honestly don't see how you could, even if you like the GM, given that particular group.


Elaborating on the "eagerness" part... in my experience, much of the "eagerness" towards female players is an attempt to make you feel welcome.

This is probably made even worse by your shyness. They will simply try harder. ;-)

In our local bunch, we are lucky to be about 50-50 to begin with. This doesn't change the "eagerness" part, actually, but it's probably much less disturbing to see female players trying to be as invitive as possible...

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    \$\begingroup\$ If it's just eagerness going overboard, playing a male character for a time can help tremendously to reduce unwanted ingame dating offers and the like. When the male players have gotten used to interacting normally with a male character played by a woman, they're ready to play with a female character played by a woman. But I don't think this is going to solve the OPs problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Sumyrda Dec 5 '14 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sumyrda: The basic message here was, "those other groups might be a hell of a lot friendlier than you think, while this group has only a very slim chance of not being toxic", i.e. "try the others". \$\endgroup\$ – DevSolar Dec 6 '14 at 11:28
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I may be late to the party, but I have had some experience on player and DM side of similar situations so I figure I could chime in.

FIRST: As far as the sexist guy who calls you "it", that is unacceptable. Tell him straight: "You will address me in a way of my choosing and I will not accept anything less." (Or at least something along those lines. I know you said you were shy). He might think he's being funny and if so needs to be told he isn't. Also, don't be afraid to utilize your resources. You're close with the DM. If you aren't being treated with the respect you want and deserve, tell him. Make it an issue. If he values your relationship then he'll do something about it. I have kicked people out of my games for pulling crap like that. If he doesn't do anything about it, it's kind of telling of what he thinks of you honestly. In that case you just leave. That's the biggest priority.

SECOND: For the sadist, as long as he doesn't bring that attitude outside of the game, you're going to have to deal with in game. That's basically the only language those people understand. If it starts becoming toxic to your experience, there are a few different options. Design a character to kill him, then do it. Refuse to help him when the time comes. Trip him up in any way you can. Or to the other end of the spectrum, make your character difficult for him to kill. This could be by just being buff, befriending him in game, minimizing your interactions with him, etc. If that doesn't work, then it is time for a DM sit down.

tl;dr: IRL idiots: deal with them IRL by confronting them or talking to the DM. In game idiots: deal with them in game, unless it starts ruining your gaming experience. Then have and IRL sit down.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Err... I kind of agree with "First" (although being that blunt is certainly difficult for a shy person), but I certainly disagree with "Second". Plotting to be disruptive to some other player -- as in, "designing a character to kill him" -- is being disruptive, no matter the motives. You just descended to his level. \$\endgroup\$ – DevSolar Dec 11 '14 at 16:10
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I think you are absolutely right to be concerned about integrating with this group, particularly given what you know about the backgrounds of the two players you mention.

Before I go into specifics, and would like to talk in general terms about one thing that I feel is absolutely essential at the table for any game to run smoothly with everyone enjoying themselves.

It is the responsibility of everybody at the table to ensure everybody else at the table is having fun, not just the GM

This is really, really important. Depending on the social contract in place at the table, the GM might have a varying level of control/responsibility in terms of enforcing behaviours within the group. However, every single player can and should be aware of how their behaviour enhances or worsens the enjoyment of others at the table.

This means that if the two players you mention are told that their behaviour is specifically making you or anyone else feel upset/uncomfortable and they do not change, then it is entirely their fault and you should feel no sense of being part of the problem.

Although I can kind of see where some of the other answers are coming from when they talk about the possibility that they are just 'having a laugh' or that they 'might not know any better' from experience, 99% of the time these justifications are excuses designed to shift the blame for the situation away from them onto the person feeling bad.

The player you have experienced being sexist

The behaviour you describe is openly hostile and antagonistic, particularly if he knows that calling you 'it' offends you. Assuming that he already been made aware that others consider his behaviour sexist and he has chosen not to change, it is going to be very difficult to do anything that will alter the way he acts towards you.

The player who is a 'sadist'

You do not give details of whether they behave this way towards other PCs, or if your GM thinks their behaviour is only going to target you. In either case though, I refer you back to the point I made at the start of my answer. If they are knowingly behaving in a way that upsets or offends another player at the table then this is completely unacceptable. If they defend their behaviour with 'but that's how my character would act' then there are a number of other questions on this site that deal with that particular issue.

If this behaviour is common at the table (and in some groups it should be noted that this kind of play is actively encouraged), then the only way of working out how comfortable you are with it is to play in the game and see. After this, if you decide you are not, then you can ask them to stop, and if they refuse then you have every reason to walk away.

If this behaviour is specific to you then it is more serious as the player would be using in game behaviour to punish/bully you as a player, and if they are unwilling to stop then there is little you can do except either accept it or walk away.

Other groups keen on getting a female player

I run 3 games face to face, and each of them now has at least 1 female player. This was not the case when I started the groups, and I have worked deliberately towards attracting them. There are a couple of reasons for this - I feel that the increased diversity at the table is positive to the atmosphere whilst playing, and the male-dominated nature of the hobby frustrates me as there is no reason for it and I view it as important that this is challenged wherever possible.

I would certainly not assume that eagerness for the participation of female players is creepy (although it could be), and I would strongly encourage you to explore the other groups a little more to get a better feel for them. Remember that you can walk away at any point.

So what would I do in your circumstances?

  • It is not your responsibility to 'fix' the situation or the other players, and you are not part of the problem
  • Talk to the GM, outlining your concerns and get a sense of their willingness to get involved. This will be much easier with the GM backing you up if issues come up at the table
  • Decide how much of your own enjoyment you are willing to sacrifice in order to play in the game. It is extremely likely based on your description of the players that you are going to be put in situations that are horribly unpleasant for you. Remember that you are supposed to be doing this thing as a hobby and to have fun and ask your self whether it is really worth it
  • Your shyness will make this difficult, but the best thing you can do is to communicate clearly and calmly when behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable. If you can't do this then your options once playing the game are limited to communicating through your GM, putting up with the behaviour, or walking away
  • Be prepared to walk away. You mention how close you are to your GM as a friend. Be aware that the situation you describe and the possible unpleasantness at the table should you join could well affect your relationship with them. At some point you may have to walk away if its being detrimental to your friendship
  • Investigate the other groups you mention, trying not to jump to the conclusion that their eagerness for your participation comes from creepy or unpleasant motivations
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I will list a few points that might help you, or somewhat alleviate your concerns. I'll have a brief example of situations I experienced that might be relevant. There is no 100% surefire way to ensure things go well, but knowing what you can do to make it go better helps.

If a different player is trouble, ask them to be removed: I had a unpleasant experience with another girl in the party abusing the fact that the DM had a crush on her. Together with some fellow players I asked the DM if we can have our game separate from her. I heard she was mad for a short while after our DM told her about separating the game into two separate ones, but got over it eventually and the game really got better.

If you can, bring an additional friend with you; If you are afraid of being the only girl, you can see if any of your female friends have any interest, or are willing to give it a go to keep you feeling safe. Otherwise, an additional friend of any kind would be helpful, especially in addition to the DM, whom you say is already your friend. They will be able to pick your side when a difficult player is.. Difficult.

Make sure the DM is aware of your concerns (as a friend he should be on your side); This is for the same reason as above, if he knows you are uncomfortable, he can use his DM authority to put a halt to bullying.

Gender doesn't matter except when dealing with sexists (Which occur in both genders); People might seem eager to have girls in their group, but this is not cause they want to leer at them (OK, maybe some do), but because they bring something new to the group. Some of my most interesting Games were those played with very non-typical gamers. Being a bit too "oversexed" might even help creativity. When my character was trapped in a cell with the weird guy, and he asked if my character wore a bra, he might seem questionable, but when he then picks the lock with the bra wire, he becomes a genius!

Try to find a group that already has another female in it They exist, I was in one where 5/7 players were female! I find that there are a lot of women who are interested, but have similar concerns such as you, or are afraid of being judged by their non-nerdy peers. Generally they get scared when in the first session there are indeed overwhelming or unpleasant players.

Ask the DM to run a introductionary session for you and one or two people you trust Or even just for you. This is a good way to get introduced to the system, without the risk of a bad experience. It also allows you to have a person join who doesn't really want to be in the full game afterwards, but is willing to help you as I mentioned before.

All in all, I do suggest you give it a chance, all the players might turn out nicer then you expected, otherwise I hope the advice gives you a bit of help in handling them.

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My suggestion does not relate to playing with this group. It is that you ask your DM friend to accompany you to one of the other groups that you are aware of for a few games. The people you describe sound rather opressive, and that is never a good environment to try and have fun in to begin with.

The people there may be very eager to have female gamers due to the fact that to be honest and blunt you are somewhat rare, and getting the chance to game with a lady is a rare oportunity. Most guys I know do indeed jump at the oportunity to game with women, if a bit too eagerly.

I do not know your curcumstances, or the people in the groups you mean, so I can not give much more advice, just my personal experience.

You might check out the website Meetup to look for a local gaming group to find another group in your area that you don't know about. Again, ask your DM friend to accompany you, and that way you have someone you know that can help you with any rules you don't understand, and will help you feel a bit more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. I know for me, that it always helps having someone there that I know.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Female gamers aren't all that rare. I'm in two groups at the moment, one is 3/8 female players, the other is 3/4 female players. It probably varies by location & social group, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Dec 8 '14 at 0:27
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One, from all my experiences with him, is extremely sexist and loves to put girls 'back into their place' and to let them 'know where they belong'.

He makes a point of it by calling me 'it' in real life, as, according to him, my unusual name isn't really a name and as such it isn't worth addressing me by.

The other I don't know well, but from what I've heard from the DM, is a sadist and likely to target and attempt to kill or seriously injure my character.

This is enough to tell me you don't want to join this group. I wouldn't put up with either of those attitudes, regardless of the player's gender.

I'm extremely shy and I don't tend to speak up for myself, but I don't want to be put of from trying more RP games because of a bad first experience.

Shy new players that don't tend to speak up for themselves are the easiest to victimize. Being victimized by your first RP group is going to make you hesitant to continue playing, so again I have to reiterate my opinion that based on your question's text, I would strongly suggest finding a different group to introduce you to the game. The best way to deal with difficult players is to filter them out like weeds.

However if finding another group is not an option for whatever reason (as appears to be the case here based on the new information you have provided), there is always the diplomatic route. This involves finding the courage to appeal to the rest of the group and let everyone know that their behavior is uncool and completely inappropriate. If the diplomatic route fails, the last and most effective way (although also the most adversarial way) to deal with problem players are by responding to them in kind.

Players who tend to be bullies especially are most effectively dealt with by giving their characters a bloody nose, so to speak. The psychology of bullies is such that they tend to pick their targets based on who they think won't fight back. Once you show that you are willing to do so, the problem tends to go away. Since you have stated in your question that you are shy and not used to speaking up for yourself, I believe that it might be easier for you to resolve the conflict in-game via combat. Actions tend to speak louder than words, so if it is at all possible for you to earn even a tiny bit of respect with these guys, this is the way to go. Look for tactical advantages and fight smart. If you think the party will side with the bully, get his character alone before engaging him in battle.

Bare in mind that the fight need not be a fully-fledged duel, to the death or otherwise. If your character is equipped to do so, you may try to use 'the social skills' against an opponent. Try using Intimidate or Deception. If they truly intend to follow the spirit of the game, intimidating their characters could be as effective as intimidating the players themselves. Perhaps you could convince one that the other is plotting to kill him. If they lose an opposed roll and don't roleplay the consequences, call them out to the DM as meta-gaming cheaters.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the bullying countermeasures. Sometimes you don’t even need to fight back, but simply speak up and clearly state that what’s going on is uncool. That’s harder to do for a new person, and a shy one, and a female, but it can be surprisingly effective. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Dec 5 '14 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was nodding along right up to the bit about retaliating in kind. Speak up, call them on their misbehaviour (and call the others on tolerating it), but stooping to using their tactics against them isn't really a great idea. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Dec 5 '14 at 3:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Retaliation in kind is productive for a certain type of young bully. My personal experience has been that it can lead to friendship, and they don’t always stay bullies. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Dec 5 '14 at 3:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a role-playing game. There is literally no better opportunity to safely "bully" someone, stand up to a bully (in-game or not), or otherwise act differently than you might in real life. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Hale Dec 5 '14 at 4:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ We routinely downvote answers that suggest solving real-life problems with roleplaying. Why shouldn't we do it here? \$\endgroup\$ – Adriano Varoli Piazza Dec 5 '14 at 12:23
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Okay, I posted a few comments on here urging the OP not to play in this game at all. And I still think that she shouldn't. However, I was talking to my friend about this problem (we're both very seasoned players) and he offhandedly mentioned that she should roll a gnome and kill the chauvinist fellow's character every time he mouths off. Which gave me an idea.

If you absolutely have to play with this group, play a mechanically strong character.

This way, you'll most likely have at least some fun (because you have a lot of power in the game) and you won't have to deal with the other players screwing with you. I don't know how experienced the other players you mentioned are, but look around online for strong D&D 5th edition builds; there's tons of them. If you are ever in doubt, just roll an illusionist or enchanter Wizard. Illusionists and enchanters are very good at getting others to do what they want, or preventing them from doing anything at all; this means you'll be strong in combat and you'll be very hard to kill, assuming that your assailant is intelligent (which all of your party members will be).

This way, hopefully you'll be able to derive a substantial amount of enjoyment from the game.

You've described yourself as shy. Don't be afraid to do some mischievous things in-character, though; remember, this is just a game. Don't be too afraid of annoying the problem players you mentioned, either. After all, it's just a game, right? If they really get upset over it, maybe they're just not as good as you are at it. I'm not saying "go crazy and kill your party members," but I am saying "cast Charm Person on them when they annoy you in-character and have their characters give you some of their hard-earned money." Get creative; express yourself. That's what roleplaying is all about. Divorce yourself entirely from your own feelings and just imagine what your character would do, and you'll do fine.

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Without knowing the people involved I can't go into and specific details of how to deal with them. He may think he's being funny/ironic with the "it" and "putting in their place" thing without realizing how he actually comes across. (I don't want to get your hopes up too much though, it's entirely possible he's just a gigantic ass).

However there is one thing you can do to help your standing which is that I strongly recommend you sit down with the DM before the first game. Build an optimized character together and go through a few typical scenarios, both combat and social.

If you come to the table knowing the game mechanics and with a solid understanding of the basic rules then that will help you be more confident in your actions in game and also remove one possible way they have to look down on you.

In theory everyone should understand that new players will need a bit of time to get used to the game. However if these two toxic players are looking for ways to put you down then it's worth not giving them ammunition where you don't need to.

I'd also like to echo the excellent advice some of the others gave which is to make sure you discuss your worries with the DM ahead of time and that he's ready to step in if needed.

If I was DMing this game I'd give them warnings, suspensions and even remove them from the game should they act up (fortunately I've never needed to do any of those things as I avoid gaming with jerks but I would be prepared to do so if needed). I can't promise that your DM will do the same but if he's a close friend then hopefully he will support you and that's the main redeeming feature in your description of the situation.

Just please remember even if this group turns out to be wrong for you there are lots of other groups where you would get on just fine. If you aren't having a good time then don't be afraid to walk away, there are a huge range of different games and gaming groups out there.

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Violently Sexist

Someone who refers to people as 'it' is not safe to game with, especially if you are the target of their hatred (in this case due to gender). For them to dehumanize others in this strong a way shows that they will not show respect to you in any form without a lot of professional help. I wouldn't try to actually diagnose them because I'm not a professional, but nor would I be anywhere near someone that is that toxic toward others.

Sadist

So long as the sadist is only such in-game, you should take the time to decide if you can enjoy an environment that includes the possibility of player versus player conflict. From your post, it seems you would not be, but that's a decision for you to make. It can make for interesting sessions, but it can be intimidating for newer players and that has to be considered before making a decision, so think about how you would take it if your character dies due to another player.

If the sadist is such out of game as well, the important thing to consider is as follows:

warning, mildly adult topic below

If he merely talks about sadism in the privacy of his own bedroom it in no way says that he will be violent to you. He is likely either lying, or enjoys role-playing a dominant role in those specific circumstances, and is thus not likely dangerous to you. On the other hand if he is sadistic in real life, openly in public or semi-private settings, then he isn't much safer to be around than the person who would belittle you by calling you 'it'.

Overeager Gamers

These are actually the safest bet for you due to, at the very least, the extremely sexist man in the group you are already looking at.

Most gamers are genuinely happy to have new players regardless of gender. That said, a lot of male gamers enjoy spreading their hobby to females because there are not a lot of female gamers, relatively speaking. This has been getting better over time, but any chance to spread the hobby, in particular to new types of people, are highly encouraged in the gaming community.

At the same time, many male gamers also enjoy seeing female gamers because of romantic fantasies about the possibility of finding a woman that can truly understand their love of games. This does not mean they will be drooling on your character sheet, but that they entertain the idea of finding a female gamer as an ideal. Even if you aren't interested, introducing you into their social network gives them the possibility of meeting a tolerant friend of yours.

Some, however, will possibly be creepy, and these people should be avoided. Just don't base that judgement on their initial enthusiasm unless they are acting especially strange.

Dungeon Master If this DM knows about the conflict with the sexist player, then he should support you in any decision you make. To be honest, if I found out that someone acted like that toward people in general I would tell them flat out that they aren't welcome at my tables. I have kicked people from my tables and home for speaking out of turn about people close to the people we gamed with at the time.

I am not suggesting that he is completely wrong for not choosing to do this, but he should consider (with your help) how best to facilitate you being able to play with him, while avoiding dangerous players.

If you want play a game that avoids player versus player fighting and death, this should be brought up to the DM as well. If he wants you to play, he will likely work toward that end and find some way to accommodate you and make your gaming experience as entertaining and safe as possible. Just let him know what you are looking for in the best way you can express yourself about it. You won't know everything you are looking for at first, and your decisions could (and likely will) change over time, but the things you're sure of for at least your first time playing should be established.

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This problem isn't directly related to RPGs, thus some of the advice here can apply equally to many social situations.


Person 1:

One, from all my experiences with him, is extremely sexist and loves to put girls 'back into their place' and to let them 'know where they belong'.

You haven't listed specifically whether he is serious about this stuff, or whether he's simply having a laugh (from his perspective), but at the very least he's being deliberately antagonistic for some reason.

What you should do:

  • Discuss this with your DM friend, and have the DM privately discuss this with him. If this is a problem that both you and the DM are aware of, it's likely that more people are aware of it as well.
    • The DM doesn't even have to mention that you put him up to it, just a general but firm chat, asking him to 'tone down' his sexist rants, as they make everyone uncomfortable.

He makes a point of it by calling me 'it' in real life, as, according to him, my unusual name isn't really a name and as such it isn't worth addressing me by.

I hate to admit it, I was similar to this in my teen years, until the subject pulled me aside and asked me to stop. From my perspective, I was just joking around, everyone in my group had a silly/stupid nickname except this person so I thought I'd come up with one for them. I didn't want them left out. It was a complete shock to think all that time they thought I was doing it to be mean.

What you need to do:

  • You mention you know him, or at least, he's in your greater social circle. You need to pull him aside one social gathering, by yourself, and explain calmly but clearly that you feel uncomfortable with being called 'it' and that you want it to stop.
    • Your DM can't do this for you! This is a personal issue that you must deal with yourself.
    • Be direct "Hey <name>, can I talk to you for a sec? <Enter quiet room> I hate to have to do this but I really don't like being referred to as 'it'. Can you please call me by my real name, or <acceptable nickname> instead?"

If he doesn't tone it down, or refuses to stop calling you 'it' then I would break off contact as much as possible. Explain to the DM that you have a problem with this person and until they wise up you cannot join them in RPing.


Person 2

The other I don't know well, but from what I've heard from the DM, is a sadist and likely to target and attempt to kill or seriously injure my character.

This sounds more like a DM'ing/Game problem than a personal one. I doubt he'd invite you to join only to have you die by the hand of a supposed 'ally' first game (and first 5 minutes), without knowing the mechanics of how to play. All the DM has to really do here is work around whatever the Sadist is trying to do:

For example:

Sadist: <in character> "New around these parts are ye? Ye best know how to defend yeself! Draw your sword!"
DM: Ok, so you're attacking Asteria?
Sadist: Yup, I'm gonna charge right at her!
DM: Well, unlucky for you, she deftly springs out of the way. As you fly past, she sticks out her foot. Roll to save.
Sadist: Ok. <rolls> 6
DM: You trip and fall to the ground, taking one hitpoint of damage.

If the in-game result wasn't good enough to satiate the Sadist, the DM can just say straight up: OK, that's enough <person>, lets move on.

If it's truly because on an out-of-game reason, it's the DM and other player's responsibility to outright bring it up and figure out what the problem is. (and if it's an out-of-game reason that can't be resolved by the group then he might have to be excluded from future adventures).

Which brings me to:


You

I'm extremely shy and I don't tend to speak up for myself, but I don't want to be put of from trying more RP games because of a bad first experience.

Your shyness shouldn't factor in too much - for your first game you'll be too focused on learning about the mechanics, e.g. which dice to roll or where to look on your character sheet for certain stats. Believe me, I'm a relative noob myself, I've had 4 sessions and I still struggle to find stuff on my character sheet :).

As you get the hang of the game and familiar with the people you play with you'll find you'll be more at ease and can get more into the actual role-playing side of things.

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You could ask the DM to run a game with a social contract to respect all players and not be sexist. Perhaps it could be set in an in-game social context that is not sexist, where the players and/or society don't tolerate sexism. Players who break the rules will be ejected, and players who have been abusive in the past have already used up any warnings another player might receive before being ejected. Characters who are abusive in-game will be dealt with by non-abusive characters and the non-abusive in-game society. It might be easiest for him to start a new group with only female players or known respectful people, and not even try to allow the misogynist scumbags.

If the DM isn't willing to at least set house rules to be respectful, and you choose to join anyway, then you're voluntarily entering the company of disrespectful, possibly abusive people, which I wouldn't recommend unless you want to and feel up to it. Seems to me like a bad way to introduce yourself to roleplaying. There are respectful groups out there. You could try posting a request for "New female RPG player seeks local female GM".

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Any one of the things you mention in not just a deal killer on joining the game, it's even on sharing the same space as them. There is no solution, the deal is void. Someone refers to me as "it" let alone refuse to refer to me by my name they need to know that's fighting talk. That is a disrespect I know they would not tolerate against themselves so they shouldn't dish it out.

I don't know what GM means by sadism, any pathfinder game where combat is considered a high point is technically sadistic, but what you describe sounds like blatant team killing.

Team Killing Is a Deal Breaker.

Once there's a suggestion of that, you walk away from the table and don't waste any more time on that. Pathfinder, DnD and similar d20 games are not a Player vs Player games. Team killing and general team-griefing (like stealing, sabotage, generally being a bully) is a no-no, whatever the reason.

I cannot fathom why these people are so defective, do they just not care? Do they think it is somehow justified by some imagined slight? Do they think this is some warped hazing process to encourage the right sort of play from you? Don't bother, you don't need to solve their problems nor make their problems yours.

I wouldn't tolerate that, I don't think anyone should.

I think my answer would be to approach tabletop role-play from a different direction, rather than what your DM friend wants, bring tabletop role-play to your friends or find like minded people who already play the game you're interested in.

I wonder how much this is a female issue and how much this is a human issue, they aren't even treating you as a human being. I wouldn't ever refer to a prisoner as "it". My answer is to set your scope much wider, you don't have to play in the first tabletop game you find, this group seems to be a gang of anti-social miscreants and they are best left to their own devices. Maybe the DM you are very close to can deal with them having the absolute power that DM has, but I wouldn't touch that table with a 20ft pole.

Get out of there, that WILL be a bad first experience.

What you describe are not normal tabletop RPG players, you seem to have had the misfortune of coming across the most dysfunctional table I could imagine.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right that avoiding the game is probably the best choice, and that there are other games out there that it would be better to join, but there's already multiple answers that say that. What part of your answer is unique? \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 29 '16 at 0:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ My distinct answer is to approach it from a different direction, not trying to make things work with terrible people but instead introduce the game to your friends that you do get along with. Specifically with things like how team-killing is a non-negotiable deal-killer. \$\endgroup\$ – TREB Feb 29 '16 at 1:03
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I'd look to the GM and ask them to play policeman. They should be able to provide fun and non-toxic environment for all players

  • Get the GM to talk to the problem players beforehand and explain that if they can't treat you with respect that they won't be welcome to play at all.
  • If they cross boundaries the GM should tell them to take a session off to think about whether harassing you is really worth being booted out of the game.

If the GM can't or won't do that then they're complicit in the harassment on the grounds that "the standard you walk past is the standard you accept" <-- (you may want to point them at this video).

If the GM can't or won't help police the problem players then I'd suggest you don't play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Singling out the GM as responsible for the social welfare of the group is perhaps putting too little pressure on the other participants and misrepresenting the role of the GM at the table. Just as it's not the sole responsibility of the dealer to enforce good behaviour at a poker table, nor the bank in a game of Monopoly, the GM's game-specific authority (in systems which grant it) doesn't translate to a social leadership role unless the specific group of participants grants him that role. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Dec 12 '14 at 7:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Totally depends on local social contract. There's no universal truth to the GM's role within a social contract. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 12 '14 at 18:03
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Social Contract Time!

A group of roleplayers is a team, and everyone on that team should be working towards the same goals. The most efficient way to do this is get everyone on the same page about what they want from the game and each other, what they don't want from the game and each other, what would enjoy seeing from the game and each other, and so forth.

In this case, you've got a pretty good reason to be nervous, based on what you've heard. So when you meet up with your group, tell them that if you're going to be working together, you want everyone to set what they expect, want, wish for from the game and the group, and what they vehemently don't. One such rule could be, "Everyone have to call me and my character by their name, or the appropriate pronoun."

If there are people in the group that can't agree to work together as a team for the best game for all players, then it's abundantly (and unfortunately) clear that not playing with thoes people might be best. If the DM is your friend, they do have some authority here, so you can talk to them ahead of time about setting a social contract.

tl;dr - Roleplaying groups are a team, and teams need straightforward and sufficient communication. Bring your worries up with everyone, and let everyone express how they want the team to work together.

And, as a final note, when it comes to people treating you poorly, in a game or in real life -- be loud about it. If someone says, "Look at that girly roll," you are well within your right (and it's good for all of us if you do) to look them in the face and say, "I roll dice just as well as anyone and you'd do well to remember it." If you're silent, they may not get that what they just did was 100% wrong and needs to stop.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Okay. What I am getting at here is you need to back this up, as per our Good Subjective guidelines (which contains guidelines for answers, if you ctrl+f 'back it up') and provide some evidence that engaging in a social contract has actual value in this context. There may be a reason nobody else is suggesting use of a social contract, as it may not be useful. I can understand not wanting to answer with something others have said, but there's no obligation on you to answer, but if you do it needs to be useful or backed up \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 26 '14 at 8:15

protected by mxyzplk Dec 6 '14 at 14:54

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