1980 D&D ad asserts that RPGs are woman-friendly




Cool. I wonder how many guys got into this game hoping it would make them more of a ladies’ man like that smooth playa in the tinted glasses and periwinkle undershirt.


I was at a game store in Pasadena this weekend for a game tournament (Marvel Dice Masters) and the only woman in the room of at least 60 people was at the Advanced D&D 5th edition table.

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I moved 11 posts to a new topic: Using history as a time reference

Games Empire? It’s a great store and really friendly, but yeah, I hardly ever saw another woman in there.

As to the advertisement, I can’t say I remember anyone using miniatures and a fancy board like that in 1980. Maybe I just played with broke people.

But this post it is very specifically about the inclusion of women in gaming, and how it has changed since then (think “GMRGT”). A date says nothing about society. A gaggle of conservative leaders who worked hard to roll things back says a more. In 4 words. Without being preachy.


Mod note: Stay on topic

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Yes, you do. That’s why I moved some stuff.


Yes. I don’t know anyone who used physical props like that in RPGs either. Sure, later on people who were into Warhammer Fantasy Battles (or 40K) had lots of figures and sometimes built battlefields using model railroad scenery, as did the older folks who were into simulating realistic Napoleonic or WWII battles, but not the roleplayers as such.


I still have my little inch-tall painted pewter druid from when I played in 1981 with my older cousin. He didn’t have walls, but he had made whole tabletop maps and a great set of paints.

I was young. I always died quickly and his friends always kept playing.


From an article on why Gygax lost control of TSR

During TSR’s boom years of 1981 and 1982, it thrived under this ambiguous management structure, rapidly adding to staff and making prominent acquisitions. In the gaming space, TSR acquired the assets of wargames publisher Simulation Publications, Inc. (SPI) following a loan default, after a brief period where Kevin Blume served as President of that company. TSR also had a strong periodicals business by this time—circulation of its house organ The Dragon exceeded 100,000 by 1983—so it was unsurprising to see them purchase Amazing Stories, a seminal popular fiction magazine. A more curious acquisition was the Greenfield Needlewomen company, a craft firm that produced needleworking products. Gygax at the time justified the purchase internally by explaining that “we had been seeking likely acquisitions outside of gaming,” and that “crafts is a larger field than hobbies.” TSR predicted that the needlework company would contribute about a fifth of its gross income moving forward.

I wonder if this failed acquisition did anything to change the perception of women gamers–of course we’ll never know, because Gygax was forced out, so any minor cultural changes at TSR would have been swamped out by more major changes in management style.


The only reason I know about D&D is because of the chilean coup d’etat.

Otherwise I would have lived in a communist dystopia.

Get your facts straight privileged white boys.

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I’m really surprised by this, actually, having read about the attitudes at TSR in those early years. When the game first started in '74, it was all male pronouns and the expectation of male-only players. Gygax said something to the effect that he’d consider changing it if any female ever bought the game (with the implication being that he thought that very unlikely). There absolutely were female players though, and perhaps in recognition of that they used more inclusive pronouns in the new game of AD&D that came out in '78. But having an ad that’s actually focusing on female players two years later is quite a turn-around - the game was hardly known for its inclusiveness.


D&D started off as a wargame, using a map with miniatures. (It actually took a while for the term “RPG” to get used.) All those weird monsters in the game are based on the cheap plastic toys Gygax used to supplement the straight Mediaeval figures to turn it into a fantasy game.


TSR employees picked up the game pretty universally, and Gygax was always a bit of a racist and misogynist. It’s not a surprise they would target demographics despite Gary’s opinion.

A lot of the history of D&D is intertwined with propaganda claiming it is evil or old employees that a bit rosy about the old days, so it’s hard to come back and put a good history together from the 80s and before.

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Steve Jackson Games at one point released a product set called Cardboard Heroes which included some dungeon floors and walls.

Here is the story of the photo: http://www.sarahdarkmagic.com/content/how-picture-girls-playing-dd-went-cool-awesome From the photographer: If I remember correctly, the male in the picture is my Nephew David, Now 50 who was showing his girlfriend and her friend how the game is played. Whether they continued playing, I do not know, but my nephew played D and D with his step brother and other friends.
Thanks for the memory,


I used to follow a message board where Ed Greenwood, creator of the “Forgotten Realms” setting for D&D, would reply to questions from fans. Questions and answers were relayed through a proxy, a woman who was one of the players from his “home” campaign – the group had formed shortly after D&D was invented, and had been together for decades, and there were both women and men participating. Greenwood is a friendly old hippy librarian, with a very open attitude towards sexuality; from the anecdotes they related, there was a lot of sexual banter in their gaming sessions.

Some of the details of the setting as Greenwood wrote it kept getting edited out or bowdlerized, thanks to the surprisingly socially conservative editors, at TSR and its successors. The published game materials would keep referring to “festhalls” as a prominent feature of most towns and villages, without ever explaining what they were – which were public sex clubs, basically. More significantly, Greenwood complained that he’d spent years trying to get it acknowledged in print that same-sex relationships, in his setting, were generally accepted, but even oblique references to it kept getting eliminated. Finally, sometime in the 00s, he got it mentioned in a footnote that one leader of a town, a woman, lived with her spouse, also a woman; he wasn’t sure it didn’t get through just because the editors didn’t notice.