Why Queers Should Play Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Picture this: I’m in my twenties and I have decided to start socializing, but I dislike noise, alcohol, movement, and strangers.

My options were kinda slim, but I hit an excellent one that I’m going to tell you about.

It consists of sitting with friends and using rules and dice to develop wild, imaginary adventures.

What’s a Tabletop Roleplaying Game?

So, Tabletop Roleplaying Games. (TTRPG, that’s tee-tee-arr-pee-gee). If you’ve ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons, you’re on the right track. Picturing a group of nerds (don’t worry, we’re hot stuff now) sitting around a table listening intently to a facilitator? Then, players declare what their fantastically named and dressed characters do with their turn and roll dice to resolve it?

Correct! But that’s not the whole story.

Like board games, TTRPGs exploded in popularity in the last decade. It started when Dungeons and Dragons went mainstream, and now there are hundreds of publishers, indie outfits, and creators pumping out every kind of game under the sun. Accessibility is through the roof thanks to the wealth of free systems available, and social media has made finding groups easier than ever. And us enthusiasts? Our wallets live in fear of the incredible handmade accessories that small businesses crank out.

It’s really not just Dungeons and Dragons-style gameplay anymore. There are diceless games. There are games run through apps. There are free-form games. There are one-page rulesets. There are single player TTRPGs. They cover every theme, setting and gimmick imaginable. The only thing that binds them under one definition is that they’re games of imaginative storytelling. The rest is optional.

A Great Way To Socialize if Going Out Is Not Your Thing

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we’re not made for isolation. Many of us suffered under physical distancing and only started emerging from our cocoons this year. Even if you weren’t super locked down, there comes a point where small coffee and lunch meets aren’t enough.

TTRPGs are great for that. In the same way that board game night is a standby for quieter-but-excitable socialization. Roleplaying games hit the sweet spot between having fun in a group and staying focused on an activity. It’s a way to meet new people a few at a time, and somewhere calmer than a bar shouting, “Sorry! I can’t hear you!

For those of us who prefer to stay indoors, playing online also blew up during the pandemic (along with our lives…). There are plenty of ways to play online, and almost all rules get published in PDF these days. These used to be called pen-and-paper RPGs, but those days are waning in favor of screens. TTRPGs are an entertainment medium that thrives among people who are… anxiously adventurous. Indoorsy, even.

TTRPGs Are Inherently Queer

We queers also make up a lot of TTRPG players. It makes sense when you look into it. Many of us endured difficult childhoods, were isolated or otherwise not social. Maybe we turned to insular, nerdy subcultures to sate our interests without meeting people outside of home. Some of us craved escapist entertainment that couldn’t be provided by heteronormative mainstream media. A special call-out goes to my fellow transes for whom playing a character who matched our internal sense of gender was a joyful experience. It took me a long time to figure out why I defaulted to playing women in my games.

The landscape of TTRPG publishing has shifted to match its demographics. Many systems are written by queer folks, feature diverse characters and take a vocal stance about LGBTQ+ issues. The majority of modern systems have a chapter dedicated to etiquette, inclusivity, and fair play. Again, it makes sense in context: most TTRPGs are cooperative games. Player-versus-player activity is discouraged or very tightly managed, so even the underlying game mechanics tend to cultivate teamwork and communication.

Honestly, forget about the subheading. Unlike a lot of interactive media, you don’t have to make a queer peg fit a straight hole. The players are queer. The communities routinely welcome us. The developers don’t toe the heteronormative line. That’s a breath of fresh air.

It’s Basically Board Game Night, Just More

For the board gaymers out there, TTRPGs are a natural escalation from board game night. The basic setup of a TTRPG is just board game night, but more focused. We emphasize a single game, sometimes part of a long-running adventure. There’s more commitment to the highs and lows of character drama. The rules are a bit deeper, unless you’re accustomed to board games like Twilight Imperium .

People figure out roles and bring snacks (long-held tradition states that the facilitator or game master doesn’t have to bring snacks). Sometimes, this spirals into a long-running adventure filled with laughter and memories. Ignore the stereotype that says we have to be completely absorbed or obsessed to enjoy the game. Casual TTRPGs exist — there are even single-page systems. The point is to have fun — extraordinary emotional attachment comes later.

The Community You Can Cultivate With TTRPGs Is Special

My regular game group consists of my girlfriend (who threatens to eat the candy-coloured dice) and our gay best friend. Our RPG nights have been an on-and-off fixture for years, and none of us intend to stop. It’s difficult to elaborate on exactly what makes playing games of dice rolling, maths, and imagination fun. That’s because the real joy of TTRPGs comes from the people you’re playing with. These games center the wonderful people we meet, and the stories we tell. They’re nothing like non-interactive media, or even video games. They have to be special to have thrived into the digital age when so many other forms of entertainment fell away.

So the next time you’re bored of the same-old show and want something both imaginative and interactive, why not try a table-top roleplaying game? The virtual options are perfect for the holidays, when you might be visiting family and wanting to connect with other queers or you might be lonely and wanting to feel a part of something fun and bigger than yourself. If you play any TTRPGs online (or are looking for more players in your area) say so in the comments — maybe some games can take off with Straddlers playing together!


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Summer Tao

Summer has written 3 articles for us.

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