I just got back from an amazing night of Dungeons and Dragons worldbuilding, at Thirsty Dice, a board and DnD bar in my backyard in Philly.
Well, it was amazing except for one exchange, which I wish I had recorded. The first thing I knew I needed to do while this was fresh in my mind was transcribe, best I could, an experience I had with another player in the bar after the session was over.
I’m going to re-write it, best I can, with no mention of name, and then I’m going to explain why this is an absolutely perfect example of abhorrent, sexist GM behavior. This didn’t come from ‘some neckbeard’, it came from a relatively good looking well-spoken man about my age. And it wasn’t a ‘hurdur gurlz can’t play boardgumz’ mentality either.
This is why it needs to be examined, because, wow, is there a lot to unpack here.
We’d just finished a collaborative worldbuilding session, six of us at a table led by a GM, and people were paying for drinks and heading out for the night. This man, who I will call Bob for the sake of the old Bob and Alice programming names, wanted so desparately to tell me to come to his DnD group at a card shop across the city. He boasted that he’d never lost a player. Except he’d lost one. One of them did quit his game, and he wanted an explanation from her as to why.
I brought up the usual- the shop was far for me personally, when I moved to my new house I stopped frequenting it as much because it went from being 20 minutes away on public transit, to a fairly expensive 40 minute Uber. Maybe she just couldn’t make the time.
“No, she switched to another group,” Bob insisted. “An ‘easier’ one.”
“Maybe the story just didn’t click,” I replied. “You can’t take it personally.”
“Well,” I have a theory, “he insisted.”
“Yeah, but you don’t know what she’s thinking, I wouldn’t think about it.”
“Well, I want an answer why she left my game.”
“She doesn’t owe you an answer.”
“I think I know why, I have a hunch why she left.”
(By this point I’m getting very tired of this, but I can’t leave until I’ve paid my check.)
“You know, most women are socially conditioned to make as little fuss as possible,” I replied, and then repeated when he said he couldn’t hear me. “She probably didn’t want to rock the boat with something she didn’t like in game. Instead of speaking up, she left.”
“No, it wasn’t anything like that. I’ll tell you why. She came into my game, a little late, this woman, and I told her she needed to make her character. She said she’d prefer I used they. I think I scared her away because I used the wrong pronoun when she came in, and it upset her.”
And now I was full blown mad. “This entire time you’ve been describing them to me you’ve been using female pronouns. Theyasked you to use they.”
“Yeah, well in game I was referring to her character (again, using she), who was a male. I wasn’t calling her, her.”
“You just did.”
“I didn’t during the game!”
“Based on this conversation, you probably used she a lot. They gave you their pronoun, and you did not listen. I don’t have a recording of it, but it seems likely.”
“They (he was finally using they after much repeated reminding) didn’t bring it up again!”
“Doesn’t matter, you weren’t listening. You weren’t respecting their wishes. You failed them. I don’t know if that’s the reason they left, but I can tell you you completely disregarded your players and failed to listen. If you called for a Professor Smith, and a man’s voice picked up on the line, and said ‘oh I’ll go get her’, you’d never call Professor Smith a ‘he’ again.”
“Then what you did was disrespectful, regardless of what reason they did leave. If you were running a horror game, and someone told you before game start that they didn’t like body horror, and you put facehuggers in the game, you’re doing a disservice to your table.”
“I didn’t run a horror game.”
“I was using an example.”
“Well, Dungeons and Dragons is rewriting itself to be inclusive more.”
“You weren’t, by the tone of this conversation.”
“Well, I’ve never lost a player.”
“You lost one,” I said, my patience long since worn out. “You said you lost a player. So, you lost one. You made a mistake, learn from it, and don’t do it again. Listen to your players.”
Then he got mad, pounded the table.
“I just want her to tell me why she quit, goddamit!”
“No player owes you an explanation,” I said, standing up. I wasn’t even going to deal with waiting for my server to give me my check, I’d walk to the host stand if I had to.
“Yes they do.”
“No, they don’t. Ever. If a player isn’t having fun and they want to leave, they leave. They owe you nothing.”
“I haven’t lost a player.”
“You lost one,” I said, glaring at him as I picked up my stuff and walked away.
What did he do wrong?
Didn’t respect his player
The mere fact that it took five or six minutes of babbling on using the wrong pronoun just to reveal to me his player’s gender like it was some shitty ‘reveal the trans person’ daytime soap tells me he probably misgendered his player. A lot. Even if they left for other reasons, that’s a shitty thing to do.
Didn’t respect me
I was clearly trying to deflect. I wasn’t asking him questions on why he thought this player left. I answered out of politeness because he kept talking at me when I wouldn’t engage him
Forced me to engage
See above. I had to pay my check.
Assumed I’d agree with him
Got extremely upset when I didn’t.
Considered other games besides his own ‘lesser’, at least by his tone and other cues
Dude, people get different things out of group RPGs. We literally just sat through a two hour class about this.
Had to be right
Hell, his player could have left because they didn’t like the setting. But Bob just had to white knight and say ‘oh this player got so emotional about me misgendering someone once, guess its not worth to do and INCLUUUUUUSION’, no, you clearly misgendered them a million times after the fact, you probably did more during. And you got mad at me when I pointed this out how many times you still said ‘she’ after your shitty dramatic reveal.
To me or this player. I can’t imagine what their sessions are like.
It’s Not My Job As a Woman To Validate Your Feelings
Especially someone I’ve only met once, but even if we knew each other, its not the job of the women in a men’s life to validate that man’s feelings. Especially if they’re ultimately hurtful.
Bob didn’t need closure. Bob needed to be right to preserve his completely arbitrary statistic that seemed to define him. It wasn’t about what the player wanted or needed about DnD. It was about Bob needing affirmation that they were a good GM.
Newsflash- we are all shit GM’s literally hanging on to the cliff by an edge. All we can do is get a little better at holding on.
You lost one player, Bob. Make your bed and lay in it.