Funny shaped dice


Ah, the luxury of a long weekend shines forth once again. Yes, with the Jones Crew not heading in holiday this summer – what with family health, doggo worries, exam results, and that old devil COVID – the Ever Lovely Mrs J and I are using up or holiday by taking shorter weeks at work. I’m rather liking it as there’s times in booking a break that it just adds more stress to the general huff and puff of life.

That aside, I’ve been enjoying the weekly podcasts from Mermaids UK and if you’re not yet listening in, there’s a list of them here. It’s a collection of different presenters from around the Trans community and they talk about both the news – including saying we’re not going to talk about this, which made me laugh – as well as guest interviews from bloggers, activists, YouTubers, et al.

A recent episode featured Rowan Ellis (YouTube) who, A) I found her interview and YouTube videos fascinating, and B) ‘cos I’m a Dad, I’d not bumped into her channel. 🙂

The thing that really stood out for me in Rowan’s interview was around D&D and queerness (DnD as in Dungeons and Dragons, if you’re very new to all this). I’ve not role-played for years now, but before work and family commitments, I certainly did. The inclusion of queerness into the discussion really made me think and look back.

I’ve been T something or other for as long as I can remember and I would latch on to positive depictions of people like me in fiction. Not that there were many back then in the 80s, or if there was, I wasn’t looking in the right games, comics, or books.

To jump on something in the interview, part of the fun in playing a table top RPG with friends is you can be anyone or anything. I think it does let you explore different roles and I know as a teen who was struggling with my gender identity, playing a female character now and then was very liberating. As a kid in deep stealth (aka so far in the closet, I could see the street lamp in Narnia 😉), if I’m honest here, those gaming sessions kept me going when things were tough. I could not express who I was back then, but in those games and improv with friends, I could. I’ve said recently that playing a computer game as a character of my choice is validating and it can help keep the blues away when things aren’t going your way. So it was with table top gaming too.

With TTRPGs (table top role-playing games) being very much part of the time in which they’re written, some were progressive, some where not, and some have not dated well. What I also picked up on in the podcast and later video, is that queer folk have come towards these settings and changed them to work for them.

Looking back at some of the characters I played and the games I ran, I know some of my friends felt that some were a bit ‘out there’, but as most of our gaming was sci-fi or near future, I argued politely that rights would move on, more folk would be okay, etc. This was well before reading Ian M Banks and his rather good Culture novels (written on the idea of a far future where the good guys had won. Hint: liberals 😉). Conversely, I knew of gamers who’d only play a character that matched their gender, but maybe they were playing for different reasons, who can say. I think having an all male gaming group meant there was a certain dynamic and when someone played a non-male character, that challenged assumptions about behaviour and the ideas of what people – fictional or otherwise – might do. Improv and reflection on gender roles in society? No wonder I was interested in all of this 🙂

So other than feeling part of something that seems quite modern (if niche) – queer gaming – but from a few of the past, where are we going with this? I guess I would say it’s about taking chances. If – and I guess in the unlikely event younger RPGers are reading this – take the opportunity to play folk not like you… or maybe as you might be. Break the rules, change the setting, and create a world that’s as you’d like it. Oh, and all that creativity? Sharing with others it’s awesome and together we can build something cool.

L x


  1. I think RPGs were one of the first places I got to experiment with gender and presentation. Cyberpunk 2013 and it’s punk/metal fashions hit just at the time I was questioning myself and discovering the “rock chick” look in magazines and music videos!

    Amusingly I play D&D with a group in stealth that’s otherwise all guys. Both myself and another player were praised for our nuanced portrayal of female PCs in the last campaign 😀

    1. Ha ha! Yes, being in character is an interesting experience, IMO. Thinking on what they might do it say, rather than what we might. I think that really exercises certain parts of your brain.

      As to Cyberpunk 2013, I have fond memories of playing that. It felt very different compared to other games: no more ‘lawful evil’ alignment gubbins and, maybe it was how we played it, it was pushing back against corporate greed or authoritarianism. R crazy 80s fashions were fun and as a Trans person, the idea that (in game) anyone could change themselves was fascinating. Given most game writers were cis-het back then, I feel that was overlooked. Well, at least until When Gravity Fails came out.

  2. For a moment I thought you were talking about Rocket Propelled Grenades! Maybe a useful piece of pesonal protection to keep in your handbag against transphobic gang raids.

    I wasn’t much into role playing games but had a lot of friends who were, and was curious and surprised that some boys elected to play as female characters. Maybe it was just an excuse to draw characters in body-hugging combat suits and big boobs, but they seemed to feel affinity for their character’s nature and talents. My nephew has been known to select female characters for his online battling.

    I rather wish that games were not always about fighting, war, combat, killing. It’s too macho for me.

    Sue x

    1. You might be pleased to know that, like with computer games, there are roleplaying games that aren’t about fighting and being violent. Although you do have to step quite far from the mainstream to find them. I recently introduced my friends to Brindlewood Bay, which is a game where you play nosy old ladies solving murders in a sleepy New England fishing town!

      1. Thank you. Are you the Pandora who’s a cosplayer and knows Helena? If so, hi. If not, sorry for the confusion and hi anyway!
        I’ll confess that what happened in gaming after Dungeons & Dragons and Space Invaders is a mystery to me! I just get impressions from ads and people’s talk that it’s all shoot-em-up stuff so I’m glad to hear there’s other entertainments for those of us with less testosterone to burn.
        Sue x

    2. For the record YATGB does not condone the use of light ordinance, even in personal defence 😁

      A lot of games – computer and ‘pen & paper’ roleplaying ones – can be violent, or perhaps more accurately may have conflict. I tend to enjoy the games that have more interaction with in game characters or exploring the world, but we’re all different. The Fallout series of games felt like they did that really well and I think some of the best games make you take moral choices, and see the impact of those decisions.

      As to certain players making overly dexy characters, there’s that yes, I’m afraid. I think there was a spoof roleplaying game called Macho Women with Guns that sent that – and 80s pulp action films – up brilliantly.

      A personal favourite is the Call of Cthultu TTRPG. That’s more about investigation and almost ‘murder mystery’ style of play. Combat is there, but the otherworldly horrors of the Mythos are so much more powerful than the characters. It really does drive home the horror element of the game.

      1. Thanks, interesting to know what’s developing. As I mentioned in my comment to Pandora, it’s been more than a little while since I was into role-playing or ‘arcade’ games (as videogram games were once known, you know the ones recorded on wax cylinders, although we had moved from steam to lecky to run them on). Having recently read some HP Lovecraft, I think the Cthulhu game sounds interesting. Anyway, it’s Ludo night tonight so I’m off to set up the board and counters. There’s only so much excitement one can take! Sue x

        1. Don’t forget to run the counters around the board backwards and on a double six, cause the End Times 😁

          If you enjoyed the Lovecraft stories, there’s a rather good Sherlock Holmes and Cthultu crossover and also The Laundry Service books.

        2. I’m getting a shot of the whole Lovecraftian R’leyh tentacular thing at the moment in N K Jemisen’s The City We Became. It’s a novel – but one that I suspect would make a good game for a bunch of player who need to lean to work as a team. It’ll also make you start watching people for signs of any wavy white tendrils sprouting from their necks.

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