First, a little background information so that I don't give the wrong impression. I was introduced to the hobby back in 1981/82 through the proverbial "older boys next door" and continued playing without serious break in a variety of "older" groups through 1988. Thinking back on it now it seems that each of those groups played a variant of the whole game that was fairly common at the time: borrowing liberally and freely from the all the available editions (Basic and Expert sets, 1ed ad&d, at least), treating the primary source books as a near seamless whole fabric. During this time we played a wide range of non-d&d RPGs as well, including some dabbling in Boot Hill, Top Secret, and even some early Rifts and Cyberpunk.
But in each of these various groups d&d was, almost as a rule, the central game and the only one we returned to time and again. And almost as a rule, these first gaming groups of mine were exclusively male.
I left the game rather abruptly in 1988 and with one or two exceptions didn't play or pick up a source book until nearly 20 years later. Like many who have recently returned from the d&d diaspora of our generation, my return to the game came via nearly two years of 3.5ed. And during this time I have grown progressively disenchanted with a number of this edition's features; problems which I have come to consider systemic.
But say what you will about the many problems of the d2o system or the "superheros" that PCs have become, it cannot be denied that during the move to 3ed a deliberate attempt was made to show examples of women PCs of a variety of classes and races as active members of an adventuring party. This may have been the result of nothing more than WotC marketing strategy, but since no edition of d&d that I am aware of has ever placed ability penalties or other restrictions on women-PCs, it is a bit odd that that so few strong women PCs are depicted in earlier editions, no?
My admittedly anecdotal sense during this period of time was that an increasing number of women had entered the hobby of role playing games, at least compared to when I had originally left it back in 1988. These new women gamers may not have all been playing d&d, but all one has to do is quickly scan the most prominent and popular RPG websites and forums and gamer podcasts and the increased presence of women in the hobby is easy to see.
Now in the last year or so I have begun avidly following the very lively (and very friendly) discussions in the "Old School" blogging and forum community. There is so much creativity and cross-fertilization currently going, especially via fanzines such as Fight On! and Knockspell, that I was quickly swept up into the fervor of this exciting "Old School Renaissance".
And yet given the easy inclusivity practiced by most OSR bloggers, it remains striking that there are remarkably few women who actively seem to participate in this growing online community.
I understand that my judgement here is also based on my admittedly anecdotal experiences. That is precisely why I wanted to throw the following questions out to the OSR community. And given the anonymous nature of the Internet, I suppose I could be mistaken. But, among other things, the widespread exclusive use of the masculine pronoun (both in singular and possessive tenses) even in retro-clone source books strongly suggests to me that I am not.
So, here are my questions:
1. Are women coming to the OSR at the same rate as women typically came to RPGs in general (and d&d in particular) over the last twenty years? Please share any experiences with your gaming group - has it been easier/more difficult/about the same difficulty getting women to play an "old school" game and system?
2. Why are women less visible as active members of the OSR online community compared to other RPG online communities? Is this just a mistaken perception?
3. Is there something about the OS format that discourages women's participation? (Speaking just for me I find this highly unlikely, but I'd love to hear from those who might disagree)
Ultimately I am most interested in these questions because, like many of you, I now have a young daughter that I would like to introduce to the hobby in the coming years. I know that many of you are at various stages of introducing your little girl to d&d, and I'd love any observations, analysis and tips.