Rants and Raves

“Honey, Let the Real Gamers Play”

‘Shh. Breathe.’

I exhaled a breath of stale air into the crowded lobby of the local hotel. My partner sensed my hesitation beside me and squeezed my hand encouragingly. With a small tug, he urged me onwards. “Let’s go, I don’t want to be around these neckbeards any longer than I have to,” he teased. I know, not a very kind way to refer to a wonderful community of tabletop gamers, especially when his partner is one of them, but I knew he was just trying to ease my nerves.

Walking into the entrance, I was immediately greeted by an older woman at the entrance booth. My partner paid our entrance fees, we got small, golden tokens that we could use to preregister for one game each.

Ignoring the hair standing on the back of my neck, the fear creeping up my arms, the imaginary breath and whispers of a strange man in my ear, I crept over to the table with lists of the games being run we could preregister for. After scanning the papers, I immediately noted my LGS Head DM’s name. I immediately pre-registered for it, not releasing upon seeing his name that I released my death grip on my partner’s hand. He was thankful for it though he was looking incredibly uncomfortable already by the thriving social environment.

“Is there – is there any Pathfinder’s Society games running right now?” I asked, not realising how much my voice would tremble when I spoke.

The man I was handing my preregistered token over to nodded, “Just about to start now, there’s spots left in Table 7,” he explained. I hurried over there, my partner following, and as soon as I laid eyes on the all-male table, I felt relieved. I recognised one face, a man from the LGS, and he immediately invited me to sit beside him.

“Are you okay?” my partner whispered in my ear.

“Eh, yeah, yeah, I think I’m good. Thank you. I think I can do it,” I assured him and myself simultaneously then gave him a fleeting kiss.

With hesitation – despite his dislike for crowds – he left me to the devices of my first convention in six years. Six years – had it really been so long?

The game the table was running was Tier 2. I only had a level three rogue/wizard multiclass (hoping to prestige by sixth or seventh level). That’s okay, the GM tossed me a stack of pre-generated higher leveled characters to choose from. After rifling through, I decided on the gunslinger. Not a class I often favoured.

We all settled in, I took out my dice box and rolled a few before deciding which set I would be using for the session. We were ready to play.

The session started off as most do for Pathfinder’s Society. The Society is enlisting your assistance for some sort of task central to a city or port area. (Side Note: one of the many reasons I prefer Adventurer’s League to Pathfinder’s Society is the content. I’ve never been a fan of the PS content, it all seems too drab and repetitive).

One of the older men, mid-to-late 40s, at the table introduced his character. Freya. His description of her left little to the imagination, “She’s tall, slim, with incredibly voluptuous curves. Her breasts are almost fully seen underneath her clothes – she isn’t wearing much more than a thin robe, hardly tied on. Her legs are really long and she is barefoot, as many in the courting profession are, and she’s wearing red lipstick and her long hair runs down her large cleavage.” I was a tad taken back, though not surprised, at how focused the description was around her breasts.

Either way, we continued our character introductions and the session moved onwards. It wasn’t until we were in the depths of the sewer and actually adventuring that the descriptions of Freya began to get old…fast. “Freya is going to jog ahead to scope out the next corner. As she runs towards it, her tits bounce sloppily, almost flopping out of her robe.” Was that…was that really necessary? I shrugged it off. If this was truly the visual he wanted to conceive as a player, it didn’t quite bother me, just unnerved me a bit with the terminology.

We reached a point where my Gunslinger passed a search check nobody else did. I had found a letter. My character was quiet, stoic, and kept to herself – she likely would only divulge the necessary information. When the GM took the letter out, he handed it to the man playing Freya instead of myself. Okay…that’s fine, not a big deal, as long as I get to read it in the end (being partially deaf at a convention, I truly needed to read it with my own eyes to understand all of it).

That didn’t quite happen. Freya’s player read it, passed it along to the older man beside him, and then the note went no further. “Oh, so we need to find the South Gate?” Freya inquired.

The player beside him responded, “Seems like it,” and handed the note back to the GM.

“May I see the note?” I asked.

Without hesitation, the player playing Freya responded, “No need, we know what it meant, sweetie,” he said with a smile.

Ugh. Sweetie. There it was. Subtle, harmless, yes? Not quite. If you can’t see this as undermining my ability as a player, then you’re not looking at it right.

I let it go and continued on with the game. Not much further in, we were in combat. I was mid-initiative order. I wanted to spend a grit point to use Pistol-Whip. I stated this, was about to roll as I recorded that I had spent the grit point, to which the player beside Freya – let’s call him George – said, “Honey, why don’t you just attack normally? It’s far less confusing than using all of that extra special stuff.”

“No, I think I’m good. Nobody is bloodied yet, I’d like to use what I can. Try this deed out, as well, since I’ve never used it,” I was literally about to roll, my dice about to hit the table, when the GM put up his hand.

“We don’t want to have to explain it to you,” he said sternly, rolled a d20 in plain view, and said “She attacks and misses. Freya, it’s your turn.”

I was furious. Absolutely furious. I swear my ears must have been steaming. But I let it go. Because, as I looked around the room, it was men for as far as the eye could see. Not just men, but primarily older men. What was I supposed to do? Stand my 90lb self up at a table surrounded by older, condescending men and tell them to piss off and stop being so sexist?

Like a punch to the chest, I began to feel winded. That breath in my ear came back, that whisper at my neck, those large, rough hands twisting my wrists…I shuddered and quickly grabbed my phone. I needed a safety net to calm down. Texting my partner with ferocious speed – Freya’s turn had still barely begun – I told him I was angry.

“Hey, Mysty, do you want a timbit?” the player beside me that I knew from the LGS distracted me from the texts with a whisper. I don’t know if he could tell how furious and scared I was or if it was just a coincidence, but his simple kindness of sharing a treat helped soothe me enough to continue with the game.

My turn came around…and went just as fast as the last one. I wasn’t even given a moment to state what I was going to do. Instead, the GM stated it for me, simply asked me to roll “before I roll for you,” as he threatened. I was fuming. But I said nothing. Because I was frozen. I did as I was told to do and continued to roll to hit and rolled my damage.

Out of sheer annoyance and boredom, I began to time our turns. Mine was on average below ten seconds per turn. Even before the GM began dictating what I was supposed to do with my turn (according to him) it was less than half a minute – I’ve always ensured to have quick turns and be ready before my order in the initiative came about. Freya’s player’s turn was on average three minutes per turn. Three minutes! He would always include in-depth descriptions of what his character was doing, too, which don’t get me wrong I love and enjoy a lot as a player and a DM, but not when 99% of it is centered around her breasts.

The entirety of this game continued on like this, myself barely hanging on for dear life on the edge of a full-blown panic attack. Each second felt like an hour and each voice sounded like him and each drop of the die felt like my body bruising beneath his grasp. That controlling grasp that resembled the one the GM had over me for the duration of this game.

We were at the end now, I finally spoke up for the first time in two hours, and said, “I’d like to Inve-” the GM quickly threw his hand up directly in front of my face.

“Let the real gamers play,” he simply muttered. The men around the table chuckled, and yet none of them would make eye contact with me.

The game was over, at last, and I had never stood up faster in my life. I quickly ran into the hotel bathroom nearby and into a stall, down on the floor, my knees pulled up towards my chest. My breath was coming in rigid, short gasps. Thankfully with the convention at the hotel this weekend, the female washroom was essentially empty so I had time to collect myself.

Then came the immediate blaming. Maybe they didn’t like my voice? Maybe they didn’t like the Gunslinger class? Was it a bad choice for a pre-gen? Was it what I wore? It had to be what I wore. Perhaps because I appeared much younger than I was and therefore they assumed I was inexperienced?

With all the strength and bravery I could muster, I returned to the convention room. I sought out the GM who was setting up for his next session. “Hey, I was just at your table and I wanted to let you know…I’ve been playing 3.5 for thirteen years now, and running it, too. I really enjoy tabletop RPGs. You seem like a decent GM, so I was wondering if I could join you at your next table and be allowed a bit more input into my character’s actions?”

Without even looking up at me, without the slight acknowledgment of a glance, he quickly blew me off. “No, table’s full.”

I sighed, went over to the registration desk. Thankfully, no tables were full yet for the next games, not even his. I took his name down, wanting to file a complaint with the Pathfinder’s Society as this was official play. As soon as I looked him up, however, I found out he was the Lieutenant of Pathfinder’s Society in our area. So my report would go straight to him.

Fan-bloody-tastic.

Giving up, I distracted myself with browsing the stalls. My LGS had the largest stall there and it was soon to open. When it did, the owner immediately greeted me. “Hey, Mysty, roll a d20 to see if you win a free dice set?” he challenged with a smile.

It was okay. It slowly turned back into a normal convention. I skipped the next game, though, to shop around the stalls and grab a bite to eat. I even won a free book! Things were looking up and I was able to let go of my insecurities and fears a bit more.

Then came my evening game with my LGS’s Head DM, Geoff. I was super excited for it, especially since he was running Tomb of Annihilation! I hadn’t gotten the chance to play yet and I had this fantastic Tabaxi Monk character all prepped who was incredibly neurotic!

When I sat at the table, I felt immediately relaxed. Geoff was a great DM, and he was so inclusive. Nobody ever felt left out during his games – which were all run with brilliant theatre of the mind. Once the table was full, it was with all players from my Tuesday night’s Adventurer’s League friends, except for one, who was another male. Once again, I sat at a fully male table but this time – I was actually able to play! I could make my own decisions, we laughed, we created fantastic memories, and just everything about the game was fantastic!

This. This is what playing at conventions was supposed to feel like.

After that weekend, I returned to my LGS games I played weekly. Adventurer’s League on Tuesday evenings and Pathfinder’s Society on Wednesday’s. But when I returned to Pathfinder, I looked around at the primarily male players and began to feel uncomfortable. Especially when the man who kindly offered his timbit was there. His face – to no fault of his own – immediately reminded me of what had happened at the convention. Which then reminded me of the past. I began to sweat, wring my hands together, and feel altogether afraid and uncomfortable.

Despite having a kind, good GM for the Pathfinder’s Society play at the LGS, the experience itself was tainted for me and difficult to swallow, I guess. Even though he made me feel welcome, we hit it off as good acquaintances weeks ago, I could not find it in me to enjoy the game anymore as much as was worth four hours of my Wednesday evenings. So I retired from Pathfinder’s Society entirely and focused my attention on the amazing group of individuals that partook in Adventurer’s League every week.

The Head DM at my LGS as well as many of the other players I’ve come to be friends with have made me feel so much more comfortable with official play over the past few months that I will now be running a game at the next convention – the exact same convention I felt run out of. But I know when that same fear creeps up over me, threatening to take hold of my sensibilities, I can look out across the convention floor and catch a glimpse of some of the most supportive and inclusive individuals I have ever met in the amazing community of tabletop gaming and I can feel at ease.

So to them, I say thank you. Thank you a million times for giving me the confidence to publicly enjoy a large part of my life again after many years of living in fear to do so.

And to those I don’t know…

Please take a moment to realise that when things like this happen, the person it is being directed at may be too frozen, too afraid, or in too much shock to respond to it. To stop it. If you are able to stand up and say something – please do so. It will always be greatly appreciated.

During a discussion on this topic on Twitter back in October of 2017, a user expressed that “maybe he only wanted men at his table because men are generally better at RPGs”. This was something a young male in 2017 said to me to defend this GM’s actions.

Growing up, I was a huge nerd. Always have been. So I, like you, was quickly rejected from societies norms and standards. We weren’t allowed to be seen with the “popular” kids and were constantly made fun of because we were hiding a Dragonlance novel in our backpacks or behind girly magazines which I was supposed to be more interested in reading. When the girls in my grade were brushing up on their makeup skills, I was attempting to teach myself Elvish. So I understand what it’s like to feel cast out from society and what is expected of you…

…now imagine finding a group of like-minded people who love the lore you do, who play the games you do, only to discover that many of them still cast you out simply because of your gender. To be an outcast among outcasts is not fun.

Now, I can’t wait for the next convention and I hope the same man is running Pathfinder’s Society games at the same time as I run mine. Simply so I can look across the room from my table to his and I can show him that “sweetie’s” like me can game just as well as old grognards.


 

Anybody who reads this and says to themselves “it doesn’t happen” or “it happens so rarely” or “gatekeeping towards females in tabletop is bullshit”…I beg you to stop for a moment. Just because you have never experienced it nor witnessed it does not mean it does not happen enough for it to be a problem. The incident which has resulted in my fears of conventions occurred in Toronto, Canada in 2011, and no, I won’t fully indulge the incident for my own privacy but it only occurred because I am a woman and he was a man. Simple as. This should never occur in any tabletop community. Don’t let it happen in yours.

 


 

Edited to add: Paizo has been very helpful since this article in resolving this issue and we will be solving it privately going forward. As well, Phantasm, the convention in question this occured at in 2017, has also been incredibly helpful and are working at new strategies to make it so in the future things like this can be put to a quick stop and be dealt with in a timely and conclusive manner. Thank you everyone for your ongoing support and I apologise for every person who has every experienced anything similar in their gaming lives. I’ve received so many messages and emails stating “This happened to me, too” and it makes me so sad but also so proud that these women are feeling brave enough to come forward now. So thank you all for allowing a platform for that to happen.

Edited to add again: I have no idea where Paizo stands with handling this situation. It has been awhile since they’ve been in contact. It appears they have done so in a way that has caused some resignations from other Pathfinder GMs that were not involved with the incident. As well, the convention in questions is seemingly doing everything in their power to silence my voice as well as any voice of a reasonable ally. Please see here for further details.

146 thoughts on ““Honey, Let the Real Gamers Play””

  1. That sounds like a horrible experience. I’m shocked that *any* GM would roll for someone unless the player asked the GM to roll for them. I’m glad you found a much more supportive group than those PS jerks.

    Gaming should always be inclusive. Period. Full stop.

    Please don’t let those scummy men stop you from enjoying conventions. I can’t speak to your area, but there are some very inclusive cons in the Seattle area. I can only hope that you have the same opportunities where you are.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s not entirely related to the point you’re making, but I generally tend to roll for my players whenever I want to avoid meta-contamination (example: instead of calling for a perception roll to see if a party notices an upcoming ambush, I’ll roll each of their perceptions in secret; I won’t even ask players to roll, because then they’ll have to divorce out-of-character knowledge from in-game knowledge, and it kills the mystery a bit).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this Mysty. It is hard for many people to accept that this kind of behavior happens, in all types of environments. I’m sorry that you went through this – hopefully next year your experience will be better. I remember seeing you that afternoon as you were looking for an open spot at our table with Geoff, little did I know what a morning you had had. I hope that your story is shared and people become aware that this happens, and that it encourages people to stand up for others and not keep quiet when they see it happening. I have only play at Tuesday night’s Adventures League a couple times (sadly Tuesday’s are the same night as my favourite CCG gathering) and I agree that the group of people who meet at our LGS are very welcoming and inclusive – I hope your experiences are mostly positive from here on in.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Egads! I’m afraid that if I’d have been at that table with you I would have ruined your experience the other way by tellng those jerkwads what kind of A-holes they were. As an older dude it just confounds me how these people who, let’s face it, tend toward social ineptitude have so little empathy for someone else whom they should be welcoming to a session.

    Some of them may simply have been dipshits but an entire table (with the exception of your friend who was unwilling to stick his neck out perhaps) without a single person of character just depresses me. My gaming group has a small rotation of equal quantities of men and women and any GM who tried that kind of condescensing BS would have his parts delivered to him in a sack.

    Sorry to hear about your experience. Perhaps you could also have gone dirctly to the Con manager because many/most of them don’t want to hear about that kind of nonsense and would hastily uninvite that kind of GM from their floor.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. For future reference, bailing as soon as you saw the toxic environment would have caused less psychic damage. Just sayin!

        You need to store up a few quips for the likes of Mr. Boobs. ‘Wow, I never thought I’d see the dictionary definition of Arrested Development in person!’

        ‘When my partner warned me to watch out for a table full of Neckbeards I didn’t think it would be the very first table!’

        Sympathies!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Pretty shocking story but sadly one that’s still far too common in this day and age. I’m glad that Paizo has reached out to you. I’d still reach out to the people who ran the con and let them know about the experience and that you’re strongly considering not attending in the future because of how you were treated.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear yah. Mea Culpa.

        Think of the advice as freely given if not well considered for all it permutations for your specific circumstance. I’ve been at a couple of tables that have had players just dance along the edge of being ‘too’ obnoxious. I don’t know if it ends up being just a coincidence or unconscious body language or the table dynamic or some other factor but every time I’ve mentally braced myself to tell those players where they can stick that attitude (if it persists) it sort of just stops. It could also be that I have mental powers I’m not aware of.

        Your candor in telling your story certainly seems to have started a good, and boisterous, conversation.

        Hopefully it will lead to a way you don’t have to put up with BS like this in the future.Best of luck.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s an excellent point that the primary target of the obnoxious behavior is often in the worst position to try to fight back, because no matter how eloquent or accurate her remarks, the obnoxious wanks at the table will use it to justify their own behavior.

        What frustrates me even more, is how it seems that no one else at the table wanted to “make waves” and oppose “Freya” and the GM for their own obnoxiousness. It would have been much easier for one of them (not being the primary victims) to push back, which would also have had the side benefit of there being two of you, and might have emboldened others at the table to push back and demand more fair treatment, which might have made a better play experience for everyone.

        I suspect other players at the table walked away feeling frustrated (not anywhere as much as you), but they made choices to ride out the crappy experience, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Not likely, Patric. Remember: the rest of the table laughed at her when the GM put her down. Apparently while simultaneously being afraid to look at her. So not only did they not do anything, apparently they were fine with the behavior.

        Like

  4. I’m so sad to read this. Come play D&D (Becmi) with me at the next Phantasm. James K is a great DM and he has a loyal group of really kind and really, *really* funny players. (And if anyone dares to say something as condescending and sexist as “let the real players play”, James would HAVE WORDS)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much appreciated and thank you for the invite ! I’ll be hopefully running several games in April at Phantasm instead and playing in the D&D slots from the DMs from the FLGS. If not I will definitely try to budge in on your table! 🙂

      Like

  5. Not knowing PFS that well, is there anyone else in the GM heirarchy to whom his actions can be reported?

    I know you noted in the article that he has some high rank in PFS, but this behavior needs to be reported all the way up to Paizo if possible.

    The hobby has no room for these guys. Make a stink and I hope you have better con experiences going forward.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed, that was extremely poor behavior by the GM. I can potentially understand, in the sense that it sounds like “Freya” was quite the dominating personality at the table, but that means the GM simply needs to stand up and take control back for the good of all players at the table.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Stumbled across this; it was posted to Facebook via one of the 5E D&D groups. The treatment you received was horrific to say the least. In the game I run (D&D 5e), half my players are female and include an adult woman and younger girls. I also have two daughters who’ve played from the young age of 5 (though life and college have prevented them from doing much lately). This is the kind of c.r.a.p. I would *never* tolerate. So far, none of the women in my life (wife or kids) have told me about receiving this type of treatment. The more I hear about this kind of thing, the more I realize just how lucky they’ve been. It really frustrates me because I don’t understand the mindset that makes some men this way (I’m not denying it happens!). It’s disgusting, maddening and reflects poorly (rightly or wrongly) on all men. I hope your future gaming continues to be improved.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your support. I’m curious in which group you found it? I’m simply trying to keep track of where this is getting to, simply to thank everyone for the support. Support in numbers and everyone’s voices being heard is what will stop these attitudes.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I saw this because it was shared by Jim Groves and Monica Marlowe (2 former Paizo RPG Superstar winners).
        As somebody who used to be PFS coordinator for Ontario, and used to run games at Phantasm and other local conventions, I’m very sorry this happened. And I appreciate your sharing it, and I hope it can help change behaviours. Sadly, it’s unlikely to reach the primary offenders, but it may influence those who don’t speak up. I admit that I’ve been guilty of staying silent myself, in the past, and this pushes me to be better.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I live in Seattle (US), and a buddy of mine in England posted this blog post to his FB page. I’ve re-posted on FB and G+.

        I think your eloquent description of your experience remains all too common, and this post will get a lot of well-deserved bandwidth 🙂

        Like

      3. I was offended just reading this. I never stand for any of this at tables Im at. I’m very sorry you had to go through this.

        I saw this post on Matthew Mercer’s twiter.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Last weekend, I worked for a con, running AL games. My rage at reading this is based on years of walking into stores and having whispers of “It’s a girl! What do we do?” Neither my DMs nor my players are like that.

    I promise: you are welcome to come to GhengisCon or Tacticon (in Denver, CO) and play without this BS. We have female DMs, female players, and everyone bathes. (As far as I can tell, I don’t go sniffing that closely…)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have a now-female friend, who was male when I knew her in college, describe the stark contrast of her experiences before (male) and after (female) at stores and conventions. It’s really, sadly, painfully insane. She told a story once of having a guy mansplain something like WH40K to her, and how she wanted to reply “Kid, I was playing WH40K when you were in diapers.” (IIRC, she just rolled her eyes, and kicked his ass on the table, instead.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. We have a Games Workshop store in town. I dropped in one evening with my then 4 y.o. daughter, just because I wanted to window shop. The only woman in the store was the staff person, and she must have been early 20s. She was absolutely wonderful letting my daughter play with anything she wanted, including some WH40K figs that must have taken ages to paint (the staffer hovered protectively, but not intrusively; absolutely brilliant).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Not only am I disgusted with the behavior of these individuals at your table, I am appalled at the lack of self awareness they show. This is completely unacceptable. I would also encourage anyone witnessing this kind of behavior to step up and interrupt it. I am glad to hear Paizo has gotten back to you directly, but you absolutely SHOULD report this to the Convention organizers as well. They can, and should, take action also.

    I have always felt that RPGs are one of the great games that are absolutely inclusive of anyone. This goes against that grain so badly.

    I am so sorry you had to deal with this.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. OK first I don’t know what “LGS” is. Coukd someone illuminate me? Second I’m in my mid to late 40’s and male and I am embarrassed by the behavior of the men you encountered.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I am mortified that you had this experience and I’m glad that Paizo has contacted you. Thank you for sharing your story, even though it was painful. We need to be able to show everyone just how hurtful gatekeeping and misogyny in gaming can be.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Reading this made me feel quite angry. I’ve been playing D&D in one form or another (pathfinder included) every week for 33 years. No one I’ve ever played with would’ve put up with that crap. It gives the whole scene a bad name. I’m glad you found a fun, safe place to play afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Mysty, thanks for sharing your experience. I run a small online D&D community and we try really hard to clamp down on this rubbish. We often have the problem of dudes just shrugging this issue off and acting as if it doesn’t happen, 5 minutes before they then go and exhibit this behavior.

    It’s really important that these experiences are talked about and that DM’s are aware of these issues. It doesn’t matter how good of a DM you think you are, if you’re like the first DM in this story then you’ll always be a 1/10.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hey there. I don’t know you, you don’t know me, I don’t know the convention you were at, but I just wanted to chime in with my sympathies (and sympathetic rage). The way you were treated was horrible, and everyone at the table who let it slide should be ashamed of themselves. It’s the DMs job to make everyone feel welcome, and it’s the players’ jobs to work with their fellow players to have a good time. And, you know, just as HUMAN BEINGS, there’s simply no excuse for their behavior.

    I think you handled it about as well as can be expected. It’s easy for people to say you should have said something or you should have walked away or whatever. But in heat of the moment, when you’re surrounded by people who don’t seem to have a problem with the behavior, it’s hard not to feel like maybe you’re making too big a deal of it, or maybe you’re just missing something, or maybe they’re right to act that way for some reason. None of which is true, but it’s so hard to see it for what it is and to act out when you’re in the middle of it like you were. Given all that, I think you showed amazing strength for having stuck it out amidst the abuse. And I think you’re a strong person for sharing your story now.

    I hope one day you end up at the table of a game I’m running. I can’t promise your CHARACTER will have a great time — ha! — but I can promise YOU will. You’re a fellow gamer, and you deserve it.

    Stay strong, keep gaming!

    Like

  14. As a regional organizer for Pathfinder Society for almost 10 years, I am appalled by the behavior of this GM, even more so when you said he was a fellow Venture Officer. You should definitely have reported him, taking it past him in the chain of command. As a veteran GM, I try to be as respectful and inclusive as possible. I’ve banned GMs and players from our local events for activities similar; I’d rather have a safe community than a large one any day. Bravo for you though for not letting it stop you from attending other game days. Sometimes all it takes is one toxic experience to drive away a player.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reporting this guy up the chain is critical.

    Venture officers are just people. They’re granted those positions because Paizo is trusting them to make people included in their game. There’s always a bigger fish, and Paizo will happily find another person to do their job.

    It sounds like Paizo is in contact with you. Good. Frankly, if any of the people involved at the venture level on the west coast when I was podcasting about pathfinder were in that room, the guy wouldn’t have made it out of the day as a Venture Officer. There are pretty strict requirements, and he doesn’t meet them.

    I’m so sorry that you experienced this.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t need his name. I’ve shared your story .. shaking with outrage .. on my feed. I used to work in the industry. I’ve friends who work at Pazio. I may or may not have friends that *own* Pazio. This type of behavior should be actively discouraged. Not by you, you shouldn’t *HAVE* to.

    Me? I don’t care if I make waves. This is simply unacceptable.

    Let me apologize. Situations like this should have been stamped out long ago. In most conventions today .. it gets stamped out quickly.

    In this instance, I’m perfectly willing to use my connections, and the connections of my friends to do the stamping.

    I’m sorry you had to deal with this. Especially if you’ve had to deal with more.
    Gaming is supposed to be an escape, not another source of stress.

    Like

  17. Wow! What a prick. You really need to learn to take control of idiots like that GM and I will tell you how. First of all when a guy is overwhelmingly perverted then cut him down. If I were at his table and the breast descriptions got too much, I would ask him right in front of everyone, “So you have never seen a pair in real life?” Or things like “Calm down now!” Or anything else to embarrass an idiot like that. Make a comment of some sort when someone is being a weird pervert like that everytime. You don’t have to be nice to people who don’t deserve it. You could also just get up from the table and say ” too many boob descriptions for me. Let me know when you go through puberty and grow the F up”. It’s okay to embarrass and insult people who disgrace our hobby. Life has taught me that not everyone deserves your kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate the support but no, nothing I need to learn in these circumstances. I dealt with it as I could *handle* dealing with it. No victim should force themselves to feel comfortable with things that they simply don’t.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m going to chime in here and say that when something like this is happening to you, you don’t always have the perfect comeback, hindsight is 20/20 and Mysty was outnumbered. I’ve been in this situation before and it is the pits. Nor may it be in that person’s nature to feel like they have to “put someone in their place.” So while the support is great, the tactic may not work for everyone.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I hope I didn’t sound too forceful. Your story sounds like so many of my life experiences when I was young.I was terribly bullied when I was younger. I was the short weird kid for so many years and so gentle and kind that even as people beat on me I didn’t want to hit back because I might hurt the person punching on me. I always gave people a chance and was kind and generous to many an evil abuser and user. As I have traveled through this life I learned to stop letting people smash me by the use of wit. I have learned that some people don’t deserve your kindness or charity. Some people are poison. I have also seen that when you put people in their place sometimes they will act right. You have more control that you know. You are goddess! I thank you for sharing your story and do promise you this. No female or person will ever be treated like you were at any table or con I am at.

        Like

    2. ” You really need to learn to take control”

      I recognize your desire to help. I even see how someone could see that as helpful. This is not a rant, but an attempt to explain something so that you are in a better position to help.

      With that statement, you put part of the responsibility for the situation on the shoulders of the injured party. That has the effect of letting the aggressor “off the hook”. While it wasn’t intended to do so, your comment is an example of “blaming the victim” in action. At first glance, especially to someone who has not been in that position, that sounds exaggerated, but if you take a moment to step back, you will be able to see it.

      More directly, this is a situation was multifaceted: Someone was showing a mentality that indicated a lack of equality, or more more directly, a sense of superiority to the author. This mentality was being accepted as normal by the others in the situation. More importantly, the person in a position of authority was actively subjugating the author. In this kind of environment, challenging that superiority or authority would be taken as someone inferior “not knowing their place”. At best, their response would be to ignore the challenge, and the passive-aggressive quality of your suggested responses would be taken as a challenge. At worst, it could escalate into something truly dangerous. In this kind of situation, what is needed is for the subjected person to assess the situation and and determine if it is time to challenge or time to stay safe.

      The author was also acknowledging a certain amount of social anxiety. I am pretty sure directly challenging a stranger in a hostile, or at least unfriendly, environment was not their best option. We all have our own personal skill set, and I believe this blog article is a much better way to stand up to that subjugation than the more direct challenge you suggested.

      Ultimately, it is not the job of the victim to do anything. It is the job of the organizers and those with positions of authority to make sure that things like this don’t happen, or at least are dealt with when they do. It is all the more traumatizing when it is one of those leaders doing the damage.

      Like I said earlier, I recognize your desire to help. Since we were not present when it happened, there are only 3 things we can do that have the chance of helping this situation. The first is to make sure that the people in positions of power are aware of the problem, so those in positions to make changes can do so. That has already been done. The second is to offer the offended person our sympathy and let them know that there are safe places out there. This doesn’t really do a whole lot, but it really is the best we can do in this situation. The third thing is to be aware that these problems exist, and stand up with those who are being wronged, or stand up for them if they can’t stand on their own.

      Like

  18. So sorry this happened to you. I found this post shared on Facebook and reading it made me quite angry. The players and GM you had should all be ashamed of themselves. There was only one hero at that table that day, and that was you. Posting only to help you reinforce that your voice on this is not questioned and fully supported.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I remember reading a piece once about toxic masculinity in gaming group, and how nerds are really just displaying the same elitism and valuing the same things as aristocratic nobles once did: knowledge of various topic, disdain for menial tasks and, of course, misogyny.

    I’m not going to say “things like these never happen at my table”, because I can’t remember the last non-all-male table top I had (although I wish I could an all female once, because I’m aware and tired of the toxic masculinity at work).

    Instead, I want to thank you for taking the time to share this story. I’m a male gamer, and my self-esteem is not blind enough to make me think I have never been biased toward female gamers. Stories such as yours, however, helps us look back on how we act and ask ourselves “Am I THAT guy, the one that makes the girl(s) at the table want to cry out or leave?”

    So thank you for your courage, and for the perspective it gives us all.

    Like

  20. Thank you so much for sharing this story! I hope that you are able to look back and feel pride in yourself, going up to the DM afterwards to give it another shot was really brave. I would like to start going to conventions again and one thing holding me back is knowing what to do if a woman (or anyone) receives such treatment at a table that I’m at. What would you suggest to men who witness this kind of abhorrent behavior? I am afraid of doing/saying something that would make that person feel worse, or drawning more attention than they want. Thank you again!

    Like

    1. That really depends on the person(s) it is being directed at. Myself, I would be more than grateful if somebody stepped in for me. As I often can’t speak on it as it happens. It’s honestly super dependent on the person and situation though.

      Like

      1. Great point- every person and situation is going to be different. I guess the best thing to do is read the situation and make sure to engage the player. Thanks for the response!

        Like

      2. Hi. I may have been at Phantasm that year as I was living in Toronto at that time. Sorry I wasn’t at your table, or I would have said something.
        I saw your post in the Facebook Pathfinder Society group, so your message IS being spread to the right people.
        Patrick Lyons

        Like

    2. In this particular instance, because I’m less-than-cuddly in situations like this, I would have asked the DM if I could read the letter, then *deliberately* handed it to Mysty. Maintaining eye contact with the DM or ‘Freya’ the entire time; depending on which of them irritated me more 😉

      I’m not a huge RPG player (my son is though), but I worked the convention circuit for years for a major game manufacturer. I would *ALWAYS* ‘take orders’ from the quiet people at my demo tables first. The more someone shouted ‘do this do this’ the more I would lean into the quieter/shy folks and ask them their opinion on the next move.

      Usually one of two things happened : The loud jerks caught on, and stopped trying to steamroller people and started trying to work with them; or they left.

      Either worked for me.

      My son makes it a point to do the same thing at GenCon when he plays with almost always strangers. Even if he has to skip his ‘turn’ to make it happen. The first time a DM told me he did that (after I picked him up from a table) I couldn’t have been prouder.

      Like

  21. Eeeuww. #fakegeekboys posing as gamers so they can indulge their fetishes. And WTF is the GM’s problem? If Player X found the clue, you tell the clue to Player X. I’d be snapping my fingers and saying, “I’ll take that note, thank you, since my character found it.” She definitely should have complained about that GM, and pushed it as far as the chain of command as she needed to in order to in order for it to get the attention it deserved

    Also, I’m not sure which makes me sadder: that “one of the older men” is the creepy villain of this piece, or that he’s younger than I am. (I’m not OLD, damn it.)

    Like

  22. Eeeuww. #fakegeekboys posing as gamers so they can indulge their fetishes. And WTF is the GM’s problem? If Player X found the clue, you tell the clue to Player X. I’d be snapping my fingers and saying, “I’ll take that note, thank you, since my character found it.” She definitely should have complained about that GM, and pushed it as far up the chain of command as she needed to in order for it to get the attention it deserved

    Also, I’m not sure which makes me sadder: that “one of the older men” is the creepy villain of this piece, or that he’s younger than I am. (I’m not OLD, damn it.)

    Like

  23. This sounds like a horrifying experience. I’m sure I’ve missed some subtle forms of things like this (though maybe not because my game group is really good and I haven’t gone to many conventions), but something that blatant, I don’t know how it could have been ignored other than by a bunch of men who all feel the same way.

    Which is pathetic.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Really? Telling a player what they may do with their turn or you’ll “roll for them”? That GM isn’t worthy of the title. Those are the actions of a raging asshat, nothing more and nothing less. And as for the boobie-obsessed middleaged neckbeard I say (as a middleaged beardy guy myself), maybe it’s a good idea to leave your porny fantasies at home and refrain from describing them in detail in public amongst strangers like a person with a bare minimum of social intelligence?

    Not showing the handout to the character who bloody found it, but just about everyone else? At that point somebody needed to tell these people to most sincerely pull their heads out of their arses!

    Dear lord, those people sound like absolute useless wankers of the highest order.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I saw your story shared in our Roleplaying group on FB and wanted to stop by to show some support. I am a female gamer who loves going to conventions. I’ve been traveling alone for several years and while I am more outgoing now than I used to be, I still get that odd feeling in the pit of my stomach if I walk up to a table of only male old school gamers. I think it is the uncertainty of not knowing who the people are.
    The oddest thing that strikes players that I game with are the characters I choose. I like playing tank and and being a heavy armored character. I’m not wearing flowy robes and I’m not usually a thin shapely elf. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t fit my style and it is jarring to what people expect. When handed a cleric, bard or archer position at a table when we have no fighters, I ask for a sword. Good luck with sharpening yours and may your dice always roll 20’s.

    Like

  26. not sure what i could say other that i wish i was there to let these guys know what they were doing would never have been acceptable to any game i play in or where i run a game, i would have demanded a refund

    Like

  27. It’s been a long time since I played tabletop or Pen & Paper RPGs, but something like this would never have flown in any of my groups.
    We always tried to be especially welcoming if any female friends joined the groups,as we really wanted to have them in it, as sadly we were insofar stereo-type that we were mostly a male band of nerds.

    I hate that this was so obviously based on gender. It would have been bad in any case if fe. someone was a bit slow playing or was really inexperienced, but like this?

    You really don’t want to believe people act like this.

    I’ve had bad GMs and good ones, but thankfully I never played with such a prick.
    I’m really sorry you had to experience this.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Oh wow. I don’t know if I can put into words how angry this makes me. I was a VO with PFS for years before I enlisted and never have I seen or heard of anything this bad at a table. I am incredibly sorry this happened. I wish I could just say that not all PFS players are bad, because they’re not – I’ve made lifelong friends and had unforgettable moments with them – but that doesn’t change the reality that there are bad players and we need to do something about them. For what it’s worth, you’re always welcome at my table, and people like “Freya” most certainly are not.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. As a gaming con organizer, your experience is my worst nightmare. I strive to have my gaming floor be as inclusive as possible, but I can only act upon the information I’m given, and my con is large enough that I can’t see everything happening at once.

    There are a couple of avenues that can be taken to stop this from happening in the future. First, let the con staff know about your experience. They can’t put in safeguards or amend a code of conduct if they don’t have information. Secondly, escalate to the Venture Captain for the area, as they would have more pull to correct the behaviour overall.

    Every time I hear of this kind of gatekeeping, it breaks my heart, but it makes me work even harder to make sure it doesn’t happen at my con.

    Like

    1. Might I suggest that this could be used by ALL GCO’s as a good opportunity to review the “Rules Of The Con” and (if it isn’t there already) provide a posted method to report/discuss any issues? It’s one thing to say “X and Y are not allowed”, but to make someone have to *ask how* to report an issue can be enough to keep them from doing so. Better to clearly give them the contacts ahead of time.

      Like

  30. I feel you! When I was a teenager I wanted to play D&D but it was made very clear to me that the people I knew who played it didn’t want any women in their game. You could maybe hang out if you were arm candy and didn’t talk too much…

    I never have played D&D. I have played other RPG and LARP games with mixed results. I have a good tabletop gaming group now but, to this day, I’m too shy to walk into a gaming room by myself – even at conventions that are more diverse. Nowadays I am using vending in the merchants room at events. I’m an introvert so by the time the room closes for the day I’m pretty drained so am generally not up for gaming afterwards…

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Hey, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. I wanted to ask for a little bit of clarity. Now with out asking for the details of what made you scared to go to conventions, this incident is different than the one you mention happening in 2011, correct? I am dyslexic and sometimes don’t have the best reading comprehension.

    Like

  32. Misty, it’s hard to read about your experience, but thank you for sharing it with us. You should feel welcome the moment you sit down (really, the moment you entered the Con). I cringed at so many parts of it, especially at how you felt it had anything to do with you or your choices. Given pre-rolled chars by the DM, any of them should have been playable in the campaign.

    It’s not your fault for any of this (although being the victim makes people think that way) and anyone telling you what you should have done is missing that point. I may have been a hormone-challenged idiot as a teenager, but I changed as I grew up. For them not to have grown up is their fault, not yours.

    Let’s stop using the non-descriptive “toxic” and call it what it was, *abusive*. And that crap has got to stop.

    P.S. Wondering if the person playing Freya should have to sit through a 5 minute dissertation on how the barbarian’s junk swings and bounces under their loincloth on each round? Had I been at that Con, I would have spent my time walking up to him IRL every 6 seconds and giving him a vivid description. Or a slap to the back of his head. Or both.

    Don’t let the bad, smelly neck-beards keep you down.

    Like

  33. BTW… So, a bunch of boobs and a Gun Slinger walk down a hallway… Nobody lets you roll because… they are a bunch of boobs. I think that’s an insult to boobs everywhere. 😉

    Like

  34. So sorry to hear about your experiences. I am so glad that you have inclusive groups to play in and DM. I see the culture changing, and when I hear of or experience overt sexism I think of the Emily Dickinson poem, “the Wounded Deer Leaps Highest”, and I truly hope that these incidents are the death-throes of toxic masculinity. For us, and the next generation of female gun-slingers.

    Like

  35. As a venture lieutenant for PFS this horrified me. I’m sorry you had to experience this. I’m feeling very lucky to be in my area for PFS right now. We have many women that play and lead here. We also have a strict policy to be inclusive to all. I know it’s very different in other areas. If you’re ever in Minneapolis/St paul and want to try again we would be happy to have you at a con or game day. Proceeds from SkålCon in September go to Tubman a women and families crisis center.

    I’m glad to read in the comments that Paizo has taken action.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. As I read this my blood boiled. How fucking dare they.

    Furthermore, I am appalled that nobody stood up for you. I see you’ve reported it to Paizo, or at least somebody did… I’ve also reported it. This is unacceptable.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I just saw a link to this on Twitter. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to see a 2011 date on something like this… not because it wouldn’t happen, but because part of me is ever hopeful that our society, especially one of my beloved subgroups, would have evolved past this. Unfortunately, the realistic side of me knows better. I am sorry that this happened to you, but glad to see that you are not letting it destroy your spirit. We all need to stand up when we see this kind of thing happen, whether it is happening to us or someone else, regardless of where our gender places us.

    To any who think women shouldn’t play, I will say this. If you think females are inferior players, don’t bother sitting down. My wife and my daughter are likely to already be sitting there, and they are very intelligent, very creative gamers who don’t deserve to have to deal with your hangups.

    and to @MystyVander – you have a new follower. If circumstances ever allow, not only can you take an open chair at my table, but you will be welcome, and I will appreciate having the privilege of experiencing a new perspective. Unless my beautiful beard that happens to extend to my neck is too glorious to be comprehended.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. This is a wonderful post, and I expect it to (unfortunately) remain relevant and poignant for years to come.

    As a man, I’ve seen that first table you describe happen way too many times. Perhaps it’s because I was raised by my mother and her friends, that I’m more aware of it. I’ve gotten in a few male faces for shutting down female players, and sometimes I’ve wrenched a game sideways to shutdown asshats like “Freya.” I simply can’t abide dickwads like those guys, even if only because they tend to dominate the table and ruin the experience for *everyone*, especially female players. (Seriously, handing the letter to Freya’s player, and no one else at the table said anything at all? /headdesk/)

    Especially since I’ve also found most female players to be smarter, better, and more interested in making a good game for everyone. It’s as you said – this is supposed to be a shared and positive experience, and making sure every player gets a moment is important.

    Like

  39. I’m so sorry. I’m a woman and I write professionally for the game I play, and this still happens to me. Any pick-up game where no one tries to explain which dice are which because I’m a girl, feels like a victory. It’s sad that the bar should be so low.

    A friend suggested that when another player tries to take my turn for me, I should do the same on his turn and say, sweetly, “oh, I thought that’s how we were playing, since you did that on my turn.” But when the boys have closed ranks, you can’t talk over them. Or through them. You’re just not there.

    I’m so sorry. You are welcome at my PFS games anytime.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Hi Mysty,

    I shared your blog post on my FB wall yesterday. It generated a lot of comments and concerns for how you were treated. I’m a creator of Pathfinder APs and scenarios. My post got some attention from fellow freelancers and we were unanimous in our agreement that we don’t write material so that players like yourself can be abused, be it by GMs or by Players. We write stuff for people like you (and if we stumble we try to learn and change).

    Your blog also got the attention of some Con organizers in Michigan. They’re using it as an example of what is harassment and what is outside the bounds of acceptable behavior.

    I wish you the very best, and I regret that this ever happened to you. I admire your strength.

    Jim Groves

    (I wrote yesterday but I think my post got eaten)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Jim,

      The support is very much appreciated and I’m glad it’s reaching the ears of those in our community who can really make a difference. Really, that’s how change will come about going forward. Thank you for being such an inclusive contributor to the community.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. I am saddened and angry by this. I hate how you were treated. But I may have reacted in the same way. I have never been someone who speaks up. I am shy and timid by nature.

    I am so glad that everyone I’ve had the opportunity to game with has been more than accepting. I game with all genders. Sometimes the ladies actually outnumber the guys. I don’t care who you are, as long as you are not an a**hole. Be kind. Be respectful. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. You are in charge of your turn, others can suggest moves and actions, but you get the final decision ALWAYS.

    I helped form a tabletop media group (Punchboard Media) and our core value is *inclusion*. Respect for others is of the utmost importance.

    Like

  42. I’m a guy in my mid 20’s now. I’ve always wanted to get into tabletop but my dad used to take me as a teenager once in awhile and I could never find anyone that was willing to bear with the new guy who made mistakes and pissed people off on accident. I’ve always felt like it’s been super unapproachable ever since. Sorry this happened to you though.

    Like

  43. This story is familiar to a lot of geeks, I think. There is a segment of the community (I call them “assholes”) who have such disagreeable temperaments, and are so used to being socially excluded as a result, that they turn inward and become highly tribal as a defense mechanism.

    They’re classic gatekeepers, and everything they do is a test for you to prove whether you’re in their tribe or not before they deem you worthy of joining them. Which Star Wars movies do you prefer? Which edition did you play first? These types of people with these types of behaviors are all over these kinds of communities.

    The whole thing is a test. When they challenge you, you’re supposed to act in a disagreeable manner to prove that you’re part of their club of disagreeable people. It sounds like you’re a naturally agreeable person since you didn’t rise to that bait (and because you cared about their opinion at all!). So, naturally, you failed their test. I would have failed it too.

    Fortunately, these guys are just assholes. Those sorts of people want to stick to their tribe and exclude everyone who isn’t the same as them. You proved that, not just by being female, but by failing the disagreeability test. If you had lashed out as soon as they slighted you, they probably would have respected you more. But who cares about the respect of assholes?

    In the end, sometimes you have a bad con experience. It’s happened to me before as well. Fortunately the hobby is hugely popular right now, and there are plenty of tables that aren’t populated by assholes, and I’m happy about that.

    Like

  44. Its a shame that you had such a bad experience playing PFS, Mysty – and a double shame that a bunch of experienced RPG’ers would be such narrow-minded assholes, or (almost as bad) sit idly by and do nothing while you were being harrassed.

    There are lessons that we learn in RPSs that we can take back with us to the real world, and this is one of those. When we see evil (or in this case sexist asshats – same thing) we all need rise to the occasion and fight the good fight.

    To paraphrase Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

    Like

  45. I’ll reiterate what others have said, thank you for sharing this very difficult situation. It boggles my mind that this sort of exclusive, reprehensible behavior still exists today.
    My first experiences with gaming over 30 years ago included two women, who were two of my best friends in the world. So from the start, for me at least, there was no gender gap in gaming. I learned later that this sort of behavior was a thing and it made me very angry.
    Thankfully it happens much less frequently than it used to, but that it happens at all is saddening.
    For the record, this sort of stuff can happen to anyone, and it shouldn’t be tolerated no matter who the target is. Just last year, at Gencon no less, I was told by a grognard at a PFS table that I shouldn’t bother asking the NPC any questions because this player already understood what was going on, knew what we needed to do, and I was just wasting time. This happened after a few hours of this player’s condescending behavior towards me and others at the table and I finally snapped. I got rather testy with him but in hindsight I wasn’t as clear or constructive as I could have been because of the knot in my stomach. No one else spoke up and it ruined the day for me. Thankfully at least it was on Sunday and my last game, so the rest of the weekend wasn’t tainted.
    All we can do is to stand up for what’s right in our little corner of the world, whether it’s somerhing as small as gaming or on a larger stage.

    Liked by 1 person

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