D&D: A Safe Space
Anthony Zeppetella

Anthony Zeppetella

Jul 10, 2023

D&D: A Safe Space

Tumultuous. That’s a fair word to describe our world as it stands, right? Chaotic, perhaps? Though, that’s probably also true of our D&D tables. Somehow both accepting and understanding while at the same time being violent and closed-minded. While society grows, so too, does our understanding of ourselves - while there, unfortunately, remains marginalized communities who seek and deserve solace from the trials and tribulations of life. What better way to find that space of comfort and happiness than in a world we construct on our own? We did it as kids, right? Played outside, and pretended to be things we wished we could be, or always were, but in the confines of a world that would not berate us for being anything but who we are. But now the world is bigger, our responsibilities are larger, and our understanding of the nuances and challenges of who we are versus who society thinks we should behave all set in.

Finding a safe space in the world of Dungeons & Dragons, thankfully, is not all that hard as I have personally found this community to be one of the most inclusive communities out there with the ability to have full fluid controls of the world and those inhabit it as a DM/GM, or even taking your character and giving them the attributes you wish you could inhabit in the real world or that speak true to you at heart. With a lot of communities online, such as the subreddit ‘r/LFG’, a popular community to find local or online tables to play, with countless DMs and players, alike, seeking games and teammates that are LGBTQIA+ friendly. I, personally, put it as a point in my post some time ago when finding my current group of players because it was important to me, as a bisexual man, to ensure that prospective players felt comfortable and knew that their gender, sexuality, race, etc. would be respected and protected. 

Also, it should be noted and remembered that inclusion expands beyond that of LGBTQIA+communities, and also should have a focus on minority communities of various cultures as well as remembering, too, that women can be and are still marginalized in the world. That being said, our fantasy worlds should have places for all members of these communities and cultures, as decided by the given DM; while respecting the cultures therein.

There have been so many instances of these accepting tables and characters out there and in the public eye such as Beverly Toegold V, a gay halfling PC played by Caldwell Tanner, Pete Conlan, a trans man played by Ally Beardsley, as well as a personal favorite ‘Sirens of the

Realm’, an actual play podcast consisting of solely women. While there are countless others in popular media, it is clear that much of the community on the grand scale has been open to the inclusion of others and their desire to live through their PCs - and by extension, their lives outside the table. So, what can you do to ensure your table is safe and inclusive for everyone and not alienate someone by design?

The first easy step is to build your world as a fluid environment of communities that have different perspectives and values, and are not whitewashed or apathetic to the realities and nuances of fluid gender and sexual identity. Take people of color and those of varying cultures and genders and place them throughout the world in varying levels of power and social status. Understand that not every NPC that is interacted with will need an entire backstory and their given sexual identity may never come up, but if for some reason it does we should do what all good DMs do and improvise - this time with the idea that not everyone will share the same heteronormative identities.

 However, readers and players beware of the pitfalls of stereotypes in the world of inclusion.

While our worlds should mirror the world we live in, full of flaws, challenges, and inclusion we should still remember this is a game meant for escapism. Stereotypes can be OK to bring up in that, again, our society is flawed and there very well could be NPCs that do not share the values of inclusion, but that does not mean that those stereotypes are really true. Not all dwarves are miners, perhaps not all dragons horde, and not every gnome could be mechanically inclined.

It’s important, too, to remember that the voices that we give to our NPCs that they are not stereotypical, as well. Less intelligent NPCs don’t have to sound “slow”, rather, it could be argued that it would be funnier (if that’s the tone of your table) to have a character sound very eloquent and well-read while being an utter buffoon. I am also a big advocate of having a BBEG sound like myself, but a version of myself that is far more narcissistic and rude, rather than assigning them an arbitrary accent like that of a high-class English person who seems to believe that they are more sophisticated than my players.

Now, of course, these are generalities and there very well could be, for the sake of the campaign or the ever-present shenanigan at the D&D table, a group of gnomes that a troublesome prankster gnome, a sect of High Elves that believe that they are the most important thing to grace the material plans. These are fine if it’s understood what tone the table is trying to achieve for the given campaign and that it is hyperbole for the sake of itself.

Inclusion at our table is not only important, but is it absolutely necessary to the existence of a world that is built to be flawed, fluid, and unique - as is the one we inhabit in real life. With inclusion comes understanding the struggles of others, with exclusion comes apathy of the plight of our fellow man. Taking these nuances and tribulations of the human condition brings our make believe worlds to life and gives our players the ability to explore their own sexuality, gender identities, and interations therein in a place that they will have no judgements or worries of feeling like their exploration of the world or their character are misplaced or without purpose.

Anthony Zeppetella

Anthony Zeppetella

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