As a female Dungeon Master, I am a bit of a rarity. Although Dungeons and Dragons has recently seen a massive revival and opening to the main-stream culture, it is still very much considered a male-dominated game; especially when it comes to being a DM.
I think this sigma is slowing going away as the game becomes more and more accessible to those who have never played it before, but, although there are many more women playing D&D, there still isn’t a large number leading the game.
Are there barriers to entry for women? What are the strengths and weaknesses of female DMs?
I asked myself, as well as my good friend, Lydia, who is also a female DM, these questions. It is our hope that we can dispel some concerns for other women and help get more ladies behind the DM screen.
Isn’t Dungeon & Dragons A Boy’s Game?
What is it like to be a DM in a game mostly dominated by men?
First of all, this game is not a “boy’s game.” This incredible game is uniquely human. It is about connections, relationships, and adventure; those are for everyone!
Next, we have been extremely fortunate to have been accepted without question by our groups. Neither of our groups has ever rejected or ridiculed us for being women DMs. The only negative comments we have ever heard are from the sexists online. But they don’t matter.
If you are afraid of becoming a Dungeon Master because you think others will mock or bully you, you should know that is rare. We have found D&D to be a very accepting and kind community. Players are far more interested in a good story than our gender.
Yes, there are nasty comments online, but the loud minority is often what gets recorded. The silent majority is open and welcoming and eager for new players to join, male or female!
If you are a woman, you shouldn’t avoid Dungeons and Dragons just because it is perceived as a boy’s world. Our experience has been nothing but positive and affirming. If you are with a group that is putting you down for wanting to DM because you are female…get better friends.
What are the Strengths of a Female DM?
- Emphasis on Characters and Descriptions
One of the greatest strengths of being a female DM is that women tend to be more story-driven. Male DMs, most often (these, of course, are generalized, there are exceptions in each gender) focus more on combat, puzzles or problems. Things that can be killed or solved.
Women tend to be more interested in storylines, character development, and NPCs. This can lead to more interesting interactions and more role-play opportunities and creative options for solving problems that are usually ignored by male DMs.
This makes the world feel more real. It makes players feel like their characters are real and their actions matter. Women have an eye for these details that can really take the game to the next level.
2. More Options Outside of Combat
Women DMs also tend to spend more time creating side quests, NPC stories, and other out-of-combat options. While male DMs tend to focus solely on progressing the main story plot or moving on to the next battle, female DMs see the campaign as a journey in which the characters learn, grow and become heroes.
This may seem like a small difference, but it can lead to a completely different feel to the campaign. Suddenly the emphasis is not on getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, it is about the story on the way.
What are the Weaknesses of Female DM?
- Downplaying the Importance of Rules and Structure
One weakness I have noticed within myself as female DM is that I tend to not focus on the rules. I prefer to make on-the-fly rulings that make sense and seem fair as opposed to looking up the actual ruling. Now, this may just be a personality trait of mine, but I have noticed the same tendency in several other female DMs. We don’t like to break the story or pause a scene to look up a rule. While this isn’t a big deal, it can drive certain types of gamers crazy!
2. Rabbit Trails
Another weakness I recognize in myself is that I am easily distracted and just as willing to go down rabbit trails as my players are. This can lead to some cool stories, but, just as often, it is pointless and, ultimately, frustrating for everyone. I need to get better about keeping everyone on track. Including myself.
3. Range of Voice
The last weakness is pretty universal for all female DMs: our range of voice. While most men can go into deep bass and get fairly high, women just can’t do a gravely bass without, as my friend Lydia says, “sounding like a sick dog.” We also have a hard time speaking loudly without sounding shrill. Being heard above the music of an epic moment is sometimes difficult for female DMs.
This is our greatest weakness and frustration. I can do accents. I can do vocal tremors and cracks, but I cannot, no matter how I try, sound like a big, intimidating man.
Do you know what I can do though? I can sound like a sexy woman. I can sound like a terrified child. I can sound like a crazy old woman. No. We can’t do the voices men can do, but men can’t do the voices we can do either, and that is ok.
Your voices for certain characters won’t be perfect and that is ok. You will have weaknesses unique to you, but you will have strengths unique to you too!
Dungeon & Dragons is an amazing game because it allows for multiple perspectives and voices at the table. It’s time we started lending our perspective and voice to the DMs role in this game.
If you need help getting started with DMing, check out my article on The Complete Guide for New DMs! If you need more helpful tips and tricks to continue to give your game advantage, make sure to see the recent posts below!
Until next time, ladies,
May your game have advantage!
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