Playing the Dream

I’ve been hanging around gamers since high school. I was exposed to Dungeons & Dragons several times as well as a bastardized version of Traveller on the bus we took to marching band competitions. I kept running into more and more people who were into LARPs (which sound really fun, although I haven’t tried one yet) and other RPGs. Still, I never seemed to meet any other women who played and got the definite impression that gaming was a boys’ club. I was curious, but not quite enough to try getting past the implied "No Gurls Alowed" sign on the clubhouse. Besides, everybody else seems to get into gaming as a teenager—I was a little old to start, right?

Back in 1998, though, an acquaintance from the music committee in our UU congregation introduced me to an old friend of hers, Sam, who was a game designer and a wonderful gamemaster. They played Werewolf on weekends at the acquaintance’s place and I was invited to join. Everyone in the group was very patient with me as a newbie. Yes, all of them had been playing since their teen years—but they were always willing to welcome new gamers to the fold, no matter how old or young (we had a 10-year-old playing with us and holding his own).

As much as I wanted to try playing an RPG, I didn’t find the whole idea of playing a werewolf very appealing. That came out in my character, who was experiencing a fair amount of angst about it herself. I quickly found, though, that it can be very fun to lose yourself in a character who can be very different from yourself, or very much like yourself but doing things you’d never dare do in your mundane life! And you can learn quite a lot about people pretty quickly by gaming with them—more so than in most social situations I encounter, anyway.

For a variety of reasons, the Werewolf game ended more quickly than normal. We moved on to playing a variation on another White Wolf game, Mage, that Sam changed a fair amount (we played in the "World of Mostly Dimness" rather than the World of Darkness™). He called it Threshold Mage and I loved it. My character was completely different from me in almost every way. We ended up with eight players in that game, which I’m told is close to the maximum who can easily participate in a non-LARP game. I would have very happily continued that campaign indefinitely, but Sam started with a definite end in mind.

We played third edition D&D right after it was released. That game eventually included 13 players, I think, which was way too many. Over time a few of us moved on to a diceless, not-quite-D&D game, which was great fun. Over the next few years, I was introduced to multiple indie games like Prime Time Adventures and Spirit of the Century. We also played Amber Diceless for a bit. Sam and I were part of a live-play broadcast of Serenity: Out in the Black.

In the last few years, I’ve gotten to play several Fate-based games including The Secrets of Cats and The Dresden Files. I played in Dungeon World, Apocalypse World and Savage Worlds games a couple of years back.

Fifth edition D&D has been what most people seem to want to play recently, and I’ve been part of two weekly campaigns. One played via Roll20, the other using Discord. In 2016 I finally got the opportunity to play Shadowrun at Nuke Con in Omaha. Now Rick and I play in a local Shadowrun game every couple of weeks. We started playing the Firefly RPG with some friends, but the GM moved out of state so we lost our game. We’ve also been to a few of the local RPG meetups and enjoyed playing swashbucklers in 7th Sea at one of them.

I’m thrilled that my daughter, Katie, grew up gaming, as I think it’s a wonderful way to socialize. Sam played D&D with our kids (as well as whatever other kids ended up here) almost every weekend. They played the old Star Wars RPG after we all went to see Phantom Menace together and the girls played the Sailor Moon RPG with a friend of theirs. They also had a Vampire game going for a while.

Gaming As a Parent

Or actually, with your kids around. I didn’t initially realize it was an issue since I had only gamed with kids around, never without! It seems some people think that you can’t game with children present, or something like that. I’ve encountered several people who said they stopped gaming when they had kids. Well, Sam’s kids were around gaming throughout their lives, and Katie was around it from age 8 to adulthood. We didn’t ever have any problems gaming or letting the kids play. We did make sure we gamed in our home or at another house that was already set up for kids, and we made sure we had things set up to keep the kids busy—videos, Playstation or PC games, board games, Nerf guns, boffer swords, etc. Our kids loved gaming nights because we had more junk food around than usual and didn’t enforce their normal bedtimes. They frequently wanted to sit in and listen to our game as much as possible. (They were shooed away for some parts of the game, such as when the plot got nasty/dangerous for our characters, etc.) It was necessary for me to explain the nature of roleplaying to Katie in the beginning—otherwise, if my character got upset or hurt, she got upset because she thought I was upset. She understood that much better after that she started playing, too.

Fortunately, the folks we played with understood that occasionally kids are going to interrupt a game with requests or minor crises or just the need for some attention, and the kids understood that we were busy and kept those to a minimum while we were playing. Since we played with several other parents, too, we used round-robin or tribal parenting—if there was either suspicious silence from the kids’ part of the house or suspicious amounts of noise, whoever wasn’t immediately involved in the current play went to investigate and deal with the cause.


These are a few links I’ve bookmarked while learning more about RPGs.

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