Awkward RPG Sessions - Should This Girl Gamer Find Another Group?
October 18, 2012 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I joined a gaming group about 6 months ago - and, well, things are awkward. I am wondering if I should keep going or if I should just chalk this up to experience (no pun intended)?

I have been tabletop RPGing since the mid-1990s but had to give up regular sessions when I moved to a new city a couple of years ago. It took me a long time to find a replacement group thanks to my erratic work schedule, so I was really happy when I finally found a group in April.

However, I feel really awkward at our gaming sessions.

I am a female in my late 30s and I have always been used to playing in mixed-gender groups. This group is all-male and I am the first female gamer they've ever had on board. I game with five guys all in their late 30s and early 40s - two are married, the rest are divorced. I am in a very happy long-term relationship.

It started out okay. In our first campaign I took over a male fighter someone had left behind and I enjoyed myself. I felt at home - I finally had somewhere to be geeky.

Then the new campaign started about a month later - the new GM set the campaign in a setting meant to evoke my family background and I was asked to play a female cleric ("because, well, it won't be difficult for you to play a smart girl with high Charisma"). Alarm bells went off and they have not stopped ringing, really.

As I am sitting here and trying to write this succinctly, I get even more uneasy. The GM frequently brushes his arm against mine, he's using in-game characters to flirt with my character, and he's made my character the central figure in the big plot we are unravelling. I get a lot of subtle compliments too - I am clever, I am a good leader, I played that instance really well .. I am uncomfortable and I have tried every trick in the book: talking about my boyfriend incessantly, not going along with the in-game flirting and generally shying away from interaction. I have even begun taking a different train to our gaming sessions as the GM usually takes the same train as me.

The other guys have also changed their behaviour around me - they are simultaneously more reverent towards anything I say and more innuendo-laden, if that makes sense. The two married guys are the only ones who have not changed their behaviours, thank heavens.

And it is spilling over into non-gaming life. When I joined the group, I also joined their FB page and friended everyone. The GM leaves remarks on posts and pictures calling me "a minx" in one instance. He's also befriended people (girls) from my old RPG group. Tellingly, he's not befriended my boyfriend. Likewise, the group has suggested I join them on cinema outings but when I say that my boyfriend might want to see the film too, it's made clear it's not a good idea.

I've spoken about all this with my non-gaming boyfriend who thinks the group just needs to get used to having a girl there. I have not mentioned the extra dollop of flirting though, because I want to handle this on my own. I am pretty miserable because I love tabletop gaming and I never asked for any extra attention - I just needed a place to get away from my busy work life.

So, should I keep going to these gaming sessions, rebuffing awkward advances and keep killing those orcs.. or do I need to find another gaming group (which will probably take me ages)?

(I realise I must have been lucky with my old RPG group because this sort of thing never came up.. is it usually difficult to be a girl gamer and not be treated weirdly?)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (61 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Creepy guys. Find a new group.
posted by empath at 7:15 AM on October 18, 2012 [57 favorites]

I know finding a gaming group is hard -- and, yes, tabletop gaming is something of a boys' club (worse, it is a lonely and awkward boys' club) and women will often get treated differently -- but this is really, really gross behavior and you're feeling uncomfortable because you have a sense of boundaries and self worth, and neither is being respected by the people you're playing with. Hell, I'm a guy and I wouldn't play with a bunch of people who treated anyone else this way.
posted by griphus at 7:19 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

I can't see a way to fix this. The guys are inherently awkward (and I am being generous with that description, because frankly they sound like creeps) and I don't see a way that you could fix their behavior. You've tried subtlety already, and out-and-out confrontation is only going to create a different kind of awkwardness. Move on.
posted by something something at 7:19 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The GM frequently brushes his arm against mine

Unwanted and needless frequent physical content. Once or twice, accidentally maybe. Frequently = deliberate.

Bail on this. Now. No more games sessions with these people, and it's no personal loss to you. Unfriend them on social media. If anyone asks you why, then you can honestly say "The behavior of some of the group made me uncomfortable, so I wasn't enjoying it any more."

Find a new group.
posted by Wordshore at 7:19 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

They are not going to get the more subtle hinting you're doing. You've got two options:

Tell the group that some of the things they've been saying and doing are starting to make you uncomfortable. Be specific, tell them that you hold no ill feelings toward them, but it needs to stop if they want you to keep playing with them.

Stop gaming with them.

If it were me? I'd dump them because just reading your question is making me uncomfortable.

You could also, somehow, blame your boyfriend. "Look, this has got to stop, I told my boyfriend and he doesn't want me to play anymore."
posted by royalsong at 7:20 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Agree completely with empath.

Additionally, have you tried talking to the married guys? They are presumably closer friends with the divorced guys than you just from longer association, and if they haven't changed their behaviour they might be willing to intervene. Not that that's ideal, it's shitty that you'd need to get them to help...but it took you a while to find a group, and if they can help it might be worthwhile?

Maybe the sketchy guys will give up / stop being idiots if they're given a talking-to/ultimatum by their friends, who they know are on their side. I know that my close friends are able to talk me out of being a tool faster than anyone else.

If that doesn't work, yeah find somewhere else.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:21 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have even begun taking a different train to our gaming sessions as the GM usually takes the same train as me.

I think there's a chance that this is just awkward guys being awkward and could be fixed, but if you're feeling uncomfortable enough to make different, presumably less convenient travel arrangements, then don't bother. It's a gaming group; it's not worth it if you're not enjoying it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:22 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Invoking your boyfriend is exactly what won't make this stop. But yeah leave
posted by MangyCarface at 7:23 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Likewise, the group has suggested I join them on cinema outings but when I say that my boyfriend might want to see the film too, it's made clear it's not a good idea.

If you are going to continue in the group, just say "Great! Fred and I will love to join you." I mean, jesus, "made clear it's not a good idea"?! There's no way that's not disrespect to you, your boyfriend, and your relationship.

ALL this behavior you're describing is disrespectful. You can either 1) call it out and stop letting them exclude your boyfriend from non-RPG activities, or 2) bail.

"1" is unlikely to succeed. Do you really like these people at all? If they didn't play the same game as you, would you still want to spend time in their company? Consider in your answer that you can't even bear to take public transportation with the GM.

Personally, I'd have been at "2" by the time I was taking a DIFFERENT TRAIN to avoid the GM's unwanted advances. Not. Okay.
posted by endless_forms at 7:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Bail. This is a broken group, and beyond fixing.
posted by ellF at 7:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, these guys are not likely to treat you like a normal person whatever you say. Get out of there.

Since it's hard to find a new group, maybe you can start a new group, drawn from people who haven't tried tabletop gaming before but are familiar with video games or card games?
posted by ignignokt at 7:25 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

By the way, the GM is thinking that if you liked your boyfriend so much, why aren't you gaming with HIM? You have different interests from your boyfriend! The GM has the same interests as you! Clearly if he just keeps putting niceness quarters in you, you'll see the light and break up with your boyfriend and date the GM.
posted by endless_forms at 7:26 AM on October 18, 2012 [47 favorites]

This is who they are. They're in their 30s and 40s now--if I were you, I wouldn't be holding my breath for a change.

For what it's worth, I've been creeped out by multiple all-dude-except-me tabletop gaming groups, and have never played past the second or third session of a campaign for that reason. I think sometimes the reason they ARE all-dude groups is because of this kind of behaviour... any girl who tries to join them doesn't last long. I hope you are able to find a better group!
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:27 AM on October 18, 2012 [10 favorites]

It sounds like this is causing you more anxiety than enjoyment, at this point. I wouldn't just quit, I'd quit and tell this guy exactly why I was quitting.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:28 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yuck. I think you should bail. Doesn't sound like you are getting much out of these sessions.

(For what it's worth, if it were me, I would tell them exactly why I was leaving. I don't see why any effort should be taken to spare their feelings when they have disrespected your relationship, invaded your personal space and made you feel uncomfortable.)
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:30 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since it's hard to find a new group, maybe you can start a new group...

This suggestion was pretty good. You've got the experience, and can set a few ground rules e.g. no creepy stuff, mixed gender group, partners welcome at social events.
posted by Wordshore at 7:31 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

It may be a gross unfairness to say this, but sometimes divorced people are divorced for very good reasons. Yeah, if it is causing as much anxiety as you say it is I'd bail. Perhaps (and this is a faint perhaps) maintain minimal ties to the members who are acting decent and try and build a different, mixed gender, group yourself?
posted by edgeways at 7:31 AM on October 18, 2012

You could take the cheap excuse path out of this, but please consider telling them that there is a big problem here, and it's not yours. Tell them that their behavior is unacceptable, that you're not leaving because of a schedule conflict, or because of your boyfriend's sensibilities, or because you're not so into the campaign, or because of some trivial reason/excuse. Tell them that they will never have a platonic female friend again if they can't see what it is that they're doing, and make an effort to stop it.
posted by aimedwander at 7:31 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Likewise, the group has suggested I join them on cinema outings but when I say that my boyfriend might want to see the film too, it's made clear it's not a good idea.

Jesus. Leave. I don't care how much fun it is to pretend to be an elf, it's not worth this bullshit. Find another group. It may take ages but it'll be better than this.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:33 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Find a new group, but (you already know this), do not blame it on your boyfriend. Blaming it on your boyfriend reinforces the notion that you have no sexual agency and that your availability is determined by the men in your life. These creeps do not need another datapoint reinforcing the notion that any woman in the room is there as an object, there for the purposes of sexual titillation or tension, and bound to the desires of the men around them.

Either give them a reason for your bailing on them or don't. But if you give them a reason, make sure they damn well know that the real reason. That how they have chosen to act is unacceptable in adults and that they have made a really poor decision treating you like less than a person because you're the only woman in the room.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:35 AM on October 18, 2012 [62 favorites]

In my opinion, there are two kinds of people who game: those who need a creative outlet and are willing to do it despite the social stigma, and those who do it because they are poorly socialized and this is the only way they can make friends. (My group refers to this latter type as "catpiss people" because they frequently live in their parent's basement and smell like cat urine.) The thing about catpiss people is that they don't have friends for a reason, and it's generally a valid one.

Never settle for catpiss people - you can do better. My current group used to have a GM who was one of them and it was a difficult and awkward experience. We all eventually ended up forming our own group without him, and now we have strict restrictions on who can join and who can't - every new person must play through one adventure with us as a "trial period" and at the end of that time, the group privately votes on whether they will be invited back. (Approximately half the time, we reject people - better to err on the side of caution.)

My proposed solution for you is simply poaching the quality people away from other groups. Join a couple of short-term games (one-shots and the like) or games that have just started, get the contact information of the one or two fun people at each one, then tell them that you're planning on running your own game that will be just a couple of sessions and you'd love if they could come. At the end of that adventure, say that the group has a really good dynamic and that you'd love to see it becaome more permanent, if somebody else is willing to GM. It's not that hard to steal the quality people away - they're often frustrated by the catpiss people they game with also, and if you provide them with a quality alternative they'll leap at the opportunity.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:35 AM on October 18, 2012 [13 favorites]

I agree with the consensus - find a new group or start your own. My wife and I have played in several RPG groups over the last few years and never seen this sort of behavior, so it's not universal.

Feel free to mention to the group that the DM's actions are the reason you are moving on. Calling out creepy behavior isn't a bad thing.
posted by tdismukes at 7:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh man, I'm so grateful right now that all my "GM is awkwardly hitting on me" has been in online RPG groups, where it's much easier to avoid.

I would find another gaming group if I were you. These guys aren't going to change, and it's only going to get worse, potentially very quickly.
posted by Xany at 7:41 AM on October 18, 2012

As an outside observer only (of my husband's various groups over the years), who would overhear the dynamics when they played at my house, it's worth a shot to talk to one of the married men about it. But I also have noticed that the tone of the game and the range of acceptable topics and behavior is different when single (heterosexual) men are the socially dominant group in the gaming group, versus when it's married men or others. This mix of players may not be worth the effort to change the tone.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:42 AM on October 18, 2012

I have tried every trick in the book: talking about my boyfriend incessantly, not going along with the in-game flirting and generally shying away from interaction. I have even begun taking a different train to our gaming sessions as the GM usually takes the same train as me.

Yeah, no. You've tried every girl-socialised "avoiding conflict" tool in your tooldbox. Less tricks: more words. "DUDE, physical space! WTF with the arm problem?" "Are you flirting with my make-believe character, you sad, sad basement dweller?"

Men generally have a much higher tolerance for this kind of mocking confrontation than women do because, again, socialisation. I would play it that way before having an actual Come to Jesus conversation and then bailing.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:44 AM on October 18, 2012 [21 favorites]

Tell them that their behavior is unacceptable, that you're not leaving because of . . . your boyfriend's sensibilities.

Quoted and redacted for truth and emphasis. Their disrespect for your boyfriend is a major issue, but you are leaving (or you would be leaving) because YOU want to leave, because their behavior is disrespectful to YOU. Telling them your boyfriend doesn't like it (a common excuse) will only reinforce the idea that you and your boyfriend are a bad fit, that you were enjoying their company to the utmost, and they should continue to try to separate gamer girls from their non-gamer partners.
posted by endless_forms at 7:49 AM on October 18, 2012 [11 favorites]

It's gaming. Gaming should be fun. You're being awkwardly and ineptly harassed.

I think you need to call out the behavior as it happens. Tell them that it makes you feel uncomfortable. Be clear what you mean. Don't mince words. You have a right to not feel as awkward as their advances are.

If you don't want to do that, then get out. They're dicks already for harassing you.
posted by inturnaround at 7:54 AM on October 18, 2012

Not only are the creeper guys creepin, but the non-creeper guys are, via silence, enabling and even supporting this behavior. Walk away and don't look back.

Also, definitely do NOT blame your departure on your boyfriend's discomfort with the situation, as this will just reinforce their beliefs that women have no agency of their own.
posted by elizardbits at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

Sadly, I think you're going to have to leave. Have you tried to look for groups? It might also be easier to find another group if you look into games like Pathfinders that allow for more casual play (you can take your character from one group to another really easily).

Before you leave though, I can see why you'd want to try and fix things. I'd have two private chats: one with the GM, where you don't mince words about what's making you uncomfortable, and one with one of the married dudes. It's up to you which order you want to have those in.

Based on the outcome that you get from those meetings (if the GM is a total dick about it, things might be doomed), try one more session, if things get better then consider staying.

Whatever you do, don't blame your discomfort or your leaving on your boyfriend. This is about you making a decision for you, and if these knuckleheads are going to learn anything from it, they need to realize that their behaviour was unacceptable to you, a female human person, not that they messed with the wrong dude's binder-woman.

I'm sorry this sucks for you. If your "new city" is the Twin Cities, you should memail me. I am a female who knows gamers who do not suck.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:58 AM on October 18, 2012

As I am sitting here and trying to write this succinctly, I get even more uneasy.

Not a good sign. DTMFGM. He's hoping you are one of those flirty female RPers who at least pretends to enjoy misogyny in her male geek friends. You're not, and I think trying to talk some maturity into him is most likely to result in a backlash, possibly involving epic-level opponents who inexplicably target your character.
posted by AugieAugustus at 8:03 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just thought. There's another exit option. You're FB "friends" with the group members? Send them a link to this MeFi thread, say that you've sent the link to all the group members, then unfriend them. Your involvement ends there.

There's absolutely zero ambiguity with anyone then as to why you quit. They will all see several dozen responses from independent observers on the situation (which all head in one direction). You do not need to get involved with any confrontations, discussions or arguments with any of them.

They will have to unavoidably sort it out amongst themselves. All the group members know, and know that the others know, so it can't be an unspoken thing any more. Maybe the group will survive, maybe not, but that is absolutely not your problem.
posted by Wordshore at 8:04 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

is it usually difficult to be a girl gamer and not be treated weirdly?

It completely depends, to be honest. Partly of how you present yourself and partly how pigheaded the ones treating you weirdly are.

I noticed a distinct difference in how my gamer buddies treated me when I was dressed in a skirt then when I was rocking jeans and a hoodie. The skirt suddenly made them all big dumb idiots.

Male gamers sometimes just don't know how to interact with female gamers. We ride this edge of being "just like the guys" and "hey, this human has the correct parts with which I can make babies." The fact that it was an all male group, prior to you, suggests that despite their age, they don't know the appropriate ways to socialize with you.

and just anecdotal note: I've used my boyfriend as a scapegoat on more then one occasion. I am not diminished by it, I am not ashamed of it. It's not my job to fix them or to make them be respectful. If it makes you more comfortable to use your boyfriend then to get confrontational with them, then go for it. Do what you have to do to extract yourself out of this situation. You do not have to prove yourself to these guys.
posted by royalsong at 8:13 AM on October 18, 2012 [9 favorites]

I loved the good old days when I could play online games without giving away my gender. With Skype/Teamspeak/Mumble/Ventrilo being so ubiquitous it's almost impossible to hide my girlieness. I can't even imagine tabletop gaming--I couldn't deal with the BS female MtG players put up with.

I wouldn't even bother trying to address their behavior or blame or boyfriend or anything.

"Sorry, guys--my schedule no longer permits me to play. Have fun with the campaign!"
posted by xyzzy at 8:18 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing what everyone else has said the guys a creeper. You do not need to be the peacemaker here the guy is crossing the line. If you are the non confrontational type I'd suggest leaving the group, this is probably what I would do because creepers are just not worth the energy.

If you like the group or the idea of starting your own doesn't work for you, then you are going to have to call him on it every time he does it, no need to be rude but a polite, firm and clear, subtle boyfriend comments don't work, clear comments like "Please stop touching me it makes me uncomfortable." or "my character will not flirt with your character" should be sufficient.

Right now I am willing to bet he thinks he is being Mr super subtle and thinks you have no idea what he is doing and he is getting all sorts of cheap thrills at your expense. If you want to stay in the game, call him on it, give him a chance to stop being a creeper, then if he doesn't leave.
posted by wwax at 8:21 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to stay in the game, call him on it, give him a chance to stop being a creeper, then if he doesn't leave.

I was just coming in to say exactly this. You need to absolutely crystal-clear draw your line in the sand first, though - he "accidentally" nudges you, and you stand up and tell them that okay, he's been doing that shit a lot lately and it is not okay, and he needs to cut it out. If they deny it all, maybe leave for the night to "give things a chance to calm down".

Then reach out to one of the married guys to see what happened after you left. If after you left it was a whole chorus of "man, she must have been on the rag" or "what was she talking about," then fuck 'em. But if there was any kind of discussion in the group of "wait, WAS I being creepy?" Then give them one more chance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 AM on October 18, 2012 [13 favorites]

Bail, and consider whether anyone here might know of a better group that'd like another player. Life is too short, find a new crew.
posted by aramaic at 8:32 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, there be creeps.

I've been in several large co-ed gaming groups. Hell the one I've been in for the last several years has an unspoken no sexual content rule. Just to be extra safe. Because we're all adults and we can flirt and have sex when not at gaming. Gaming is for slaying dragons and evil ponies etc.

I'd don't think there is a comfortable way to stay. Because any way to stay is going to be shitty and awkward and this is your leisure time, not defending your rights to a comfortable work environment. I don't think there is a road where you get a net positive of fun with these guys.

*I know a lot of gamer groups around the country, Including some all female ones, MeMail me if you want some suggestions. I might know some people where you are. *
posted by French Fry at 8:33 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's really really hard to quit a gaming group (I know, I've been trying to leave one for months). And it is hard to find another.

But: it is not usually like this!! You just have to play with good people. These guys are not good people.

Are you having fun in the game regardless? It sounds like you're expending so much mental energy on the dbag GM that you can't really enjoy the game. And if you're not having fun you're just wasting time.

So, here are some options!

If you ARE having fun, bring it up with the marrieds first. "hey dudes, I'm having a hard time because GM is treating me like a sexual object first and a player second. I'm going to try and stick up for myself on this one, but can you have my back?" Nothing is worse than calling out a guy on his sexist attitudes and having the whole room go silent. Then, go with DarlingBri's suggested script. It should clear up pretty fast.

If you are having fun but want to be less real-life aggressive
about it: go in-game aggressive! Try to kill off your character. The GM will do everything in his power not to let this happen, but think of ow fun this could be! Your lady is just so depressed that everyone in this particular city can only see her for her beauty and her perceived value to the quest that she becomes an entirely different person. She can't interact properly -- I know changing your CHA will probably affect your attacks depending on system but I would be even more amused if you did that. Maybe she goes crazy and kills one of the flirty NPCs? Denounces her god and turns to evil? Decides she will not be used as a plot device and throws herself off a cliff?

They will buy a resurrect spell. Don't let it work. Every game I've ever played has allowed the spirit of the deceased to decide to stay dead -- perhaps your character has found her way back to her god and is totally loving the afterlife.

Roll up a new character. Roll up a male character, maybe, or a female character with super-low cha who refuses to put up with his bullshit.

Finally -- don't sit next to him. And every time he touches you, even if it's accidental, respond with an in-character freak-out. The whole table will probably start to think yo're a bit odd, but it's not like you're friends with them away from the table, so.

This GM is too old to change (if he were 19, I wouldn't suggest any of this -- it's a bit disrespectful both to your character and the other players). So have some fun, maybe! This is probably not a long-term solution, but if you can't give up the game it might work.

Basically: having a boyfriend is not a deterrent for this guy. But you being disrespectful to him as GM and to his stupid railroad plot probably is.

If you are NOT having fun, just leave. Really. I know it's hard. Do you live in a city? (if you live in Toronto, by any chance, message me -- I know of a brilliant woman who runs really really open games in which this sort of harassment would not be tolerated). There should be some place in every city where there's an open gaming group. But lots of people up thread have given good advice on that, so I'll leave it to them.
posted by AmandaA at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh damn -- the Empress' suggestion is really good. Like, really good. Try that.
posted by AmandaA at 8:41 AM on October 18, 2012

I'm going to go with DarlingBri and the Empress on this one. If you have it in to be more confrontational you should call the problem guys out. Make it clear that you are not OK with the behaviour. Doing this in a mocking fashion is good. Take up your space, be more assertive and don't let them get away with any BS, even in the game. There's a reasonable chance this will shame the problem players into stopping if they really are just socially awkward and/or clueless. If they are truly asshats they will continue, or they will go passive aggressive and call you names, and then you should leave. Either way you are teaching them an important lesson and they should thank you.

It stinks that you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do this but there's a reasonably good chance that you'll see immediate changes when you stake out your zone in a more assertive manner. Credentials: I've never done this in a gaming situation, but I was a barmaid for many years.
posted by Cuke at 8:50 AM on October 18, 2012

I'm also with EmpressCalliope here. You will have to speak up in a non subtle way to effectively challenge this behaviour.

You can choose to do it one on one with the creepy GM or publicly, as Empress describes. Personally, I'd try for privately (but not via email), so that the GM can save face, but you may feel more comfortable doing it in front out an audience.

He/they might not get it, and then you can leave, but given that it was difficult to find a group that works for you, AND assholes shouldn't be given a free ride, I think it's worth a confrontation / difficult conversation.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:51 AM on October 18, 2012

The Empress's suggestion is great if you want to make a struggle out of this... but this whole group dynamic really sounds like it's not okay. My read on this is that the GM's behavior is not gonna get any better. He's old enough to know better by now. They all are.

I realize how hard it is to find a good gaming group. My girlfriend just finished two years of school in Boston (we live in Seattle), and the lack of a gaming group really punctuated her sense of loneliness. I do not discount the value of a good game. But I have a hard time understanding how this level of creepy clueless behavior outweighs that.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2012

Sounds like this GM is more aggressive than awkward.

I think people are going a bit too far on the creepy-calling and catpiss arrogance stuff, but yeah this guy is casting a wide aggressive net, making it so you can't be part of the group without being part of that nonsense. Leave, and if you're feeling generous tell them why on the way out.

You haven't said anything about what positive thing this particular group offers, just the negative of having to find a new group. That's not enough to stay and fight to try to make it a group you want to be in. It's probably too late to approach this from the "they need to change or else" standpoint anyway.

The bottom line is that it's not a fit, it's not worth making it a fit, so you move on.
posted by fleacircus at 9:14 AM on October 18, 2012

I think the key for me was the changing-trains thing. If you're that uncomfortable, you're suffering more than you're gaining. Definitely find a different place to be.

Maybe use MeFi as a tool to find or start another gaming group?
posted by Citrus at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2012

Yeah, I think you might have to leave the group. The non-married guys are being creeps -- especially the GM -- and the married guys are letting it happen even if they're not actually participating in it. Trying some of the suggestions above may be worthwhile, if you want to try and hold onto this group, but I think you're better off trying to find a new, non-creepy group of gamers (ideally a group that is already of mixed gender).
posted by asnider at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2012

Boy howdy do I know this type. I'm so sorry. None of this is your fault.

If you feel like it's worth having a confrontation over, you can call the guy out on it. It might help, per DarlingBri's suggestions.

But if I'm honest? My guess is it won't. The flirty-harrassment will simply give way to straight-up hostility. Instead of a "minx" you'll be "frigid," etc. It's total bullshit, of course. And you'll probably just have to get out anyway.
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:22 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ugh. Made it clear your boyfriend was not welcome??!! (What happened to the geek social fallacy of including everyone all the time?)

I suspect that the GM thinks he's flirting with you and the others think you are ok with it because you haven't shut it down in some way. It doesn't matter, though, because if you are at the point of taking a different train to avoid the guy, the negatives outweigh the positives of participating in this group.

You could call him out on his behavior, but I doubt that will get you the result you want. Just quit and find another group, de-friend the arm-brusher on FB etc, and if the others ask why, tell them. But seriously, just move on, no game is worth this amount of angst.
posted by stowaway at 10:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

This group is not OK. If I were you, I'd leave. Anecdote: While GMing a game, I've been asked by one of the women in the group to talk to a guy displaying similar behavior, though he was a player, not the GM. His response? He "thought he was just being a nice guy", and "that's just the way he is". Had to ask him to leave the group.

Not only should this guy not be making you uncomfortable, as the GM, it's his responsibility to make sure no one else is. GMing is about more than writing plot and adjudicating dice rolls, it's also about making sure everyone is having fun, and that includes curtailing this kind of thing at the table.

I say find, or try to start, another group. I'm often surprised at the number of non-gamers who express at least some interest in trying it out.
posted by mrgoat at 10:26 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

This GM is too old to change

I disagree. Intentional change at any age is difficult, but just because he's in his 30s or 40s doesn't make it impossible. However: that does not mean you are under any obligation to stick around and see if it happens. Nor do you have to listen to protestations, relent after promises, take on being his catalyst, educate him, or anything else.

If you really want to continue, you could try doing some clear, dispassionate boundary-setting as outlined by many of the previous commenters. I'd give yourself an internal deadline of the number of sessions or incidents you'll go through to see if there's any improvement. If things do improve and you decide to keep participating, you will have to maintain those boundaries and be willing to quit if things backslide. It might be quite a slog. To me, it sounds like you're getting more angst than fun out of this group, so it may not be worth it.
posted by expialidocious at 10:40 AM on October 18, 2012

What darlingbri said. Make deal out of it, set a clear boundary. Guys and sublety doesn't work so well sometimes.

If I were in your position I'd go that route and also talk to the married guys on the side now and then so if you do end up having to have a full on stop being a creeper conversation you have some people who have heard it before and had time to think about it/observe it.

Gaming groups are hard to find, if it is otherwise awesome I'd stick it out and see if you can't bring them a little enlightenment. As an alternative, over at mefightclub we play D&D via a cool program called fantasy grounds 2 and voip. It isn't a perfect replacement for the sitting around the table setting, but it is fun and you're welcome to come check things out.
posted by Feantari at 11:01 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, I had to go back up to the question, and was sorry to see that you were anonymous, because I could swear I know this exact gaming group, and I joined it and left it for just the reasons you are describing here! Right down to the GM making me feel really uncomfortable with unwanted attention.

These guys play the same night every week, without fail, and I think their entire raison d'etre for gaming is it gives them an escape to skip out for the night from their failed or failing relationships. That's why they don't want you bringing your boyfriend to the game, or even to the movies if they go there, because then the married ones would have to bring their spouses along, too.

I had originally joined my group because a friend of mine was in it, so I assumed it was "female friendly". But my friend had her own issues, and she basically accepted casual misogyny as her due. Not only did she not have my back when the GM started getting creepy, I found myself frequently taking on her boyfriend for not treating her respectfully, while she basically shrugged her shoulders*.

There was that same imbalance or sexual innuendoes and deference being paid (very well put, OP!), that creeped me right out. I felt there was a tacit approval to him flirting with me.

I tried arriving late to the host's home, but the GM would save a seat by him at the table for me (!). So I showed up early to sit somewhere else, but that was no good, either--he started arriving even earlier. And then the others would show up, and there'd be these looks, like, Oh, the two of you were here together?!

I'd call my husband, make pointed remarks about our relationship and how happy it was. I friggin' had tea with the GM's wife, just to reinforce that I wasn't in any way interested in him, even though honestly I couldn't stand her. The consensus at the game was that he was "whipped" and should dump her, anyway--after I met with her, they just saw it as me staking a claim or something, I don't even know. It was like I was being groomed to be his kept woman. It occurred to me that he had them convinced I already was. The whole dynamic was creepy and dysfunctional.

I went a couple weeks without attending a game, leaving them in the lurch and feeling bad about that, but still only came back when there was a new campaign, with the former host taking over the GM role. I sat by him, at the end of the table, and ignored the old GM pointedly. He had way too much to drink, and tried to corner me after the game, with some sob story about how the bullies picked on him as a kid and now his wife didn't understand his pain--at which point I just pushed past him and left, disgusted.

I quit the group entirely without a single regret. They all had such dysfunctional relationships with the women in their own lives that I don't think anything I could have done would have changed the dynamic. Maybe it is different in your group, OP, but I doubt you'll make any headway either.

I am thinking about joining a gaming group that takes place at the comics store here on Thursdays, as it seems like a nice, safe space--maybe you can find something similar? A public meeting space lends itself to less abuse, I think. People are much more likely to be called out on inappropriate behavior.

*There's a complex back story, involving past abuse, the BDSM community and her boyfriend being a swinger; I didn't piece it all together until she and her boyfriend propositioned me.
posted by misha at 11:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

A couple of articles about creepers that have been posted to Metafilter recently might help you get context on this issue in the larger geek community:
Captain Awkward on "My friend group has a creepy dude"
Scalzi on not being a creeper
Both articles talk about how it's the responsibility of men in a friend group to call out dudes who are creeping, and that it's not going to work if women are non-confrontational to this kind of behavior.

My personal opinion: Leave the group, but make sure everyone knows why.
posted by matildaben at 11:52 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Bail on the group, or maybe just bow out for the rest of this GM's campaign. The GM sets the tone at the table.

Until you find a new group, check out G+ gaming. Pen and paper gaming in G+ hangouts is about 90% as good as face-to-face, and it's a low pressure way to try new groups. With a few hundred people in my old-school D&D circle, I find players for a pick-up game at pretty much any time of day or night. If somebody is an ass, just boot them from your circle.

Take heart; there are non-creepy gamers out there.
posted by paulg at 12:27 PM on October 18, 2012

Nthing that you should be direct with them first. Pull the GM aside and say, "Look. You need to stop doing the following things [list them out] because if you don't, I'm going to leave the group. It's disrespectful to me and you're creeping me out. Do you understand what I'm telling you? No more."

Once you give him the clear, direct communication that states his behavior is unwanted, give him the opportunity to make it right. His social awkwardness and lack of experience with women (and, possibly, the fact that in general, women are more likely to just disappear vs telling him exactly what he's doing that's making them uncomfortable) he might just be clueless to what he's actually doing and if he knew, he could be mortified and want to do better. So call him on it. People can change behavior that they didn't even realize was an issue.

The other guys in the group? Have a similar talk with them, too. IF the behavior does not change, then leave and let them know - again - why.
posted by vivzan at 1:42 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely tell the married men. Obviously the creepers are clueless, and I bet they can be policed until they mature or quit. Also, I think they're all seeing you're not enjoying yourself and trying to help, but failing at it.

I can't think of a more irritating gift economy bribe than being the star of the new campaign. I would troll his campaign to make him stop, but that's just me.
posted by michaelh at 1:54 PM on October 18, 2012

From the OP:
Thanks for the many thoughtful responses. I am very glad that none of them had an undertone of "you're a girl, suck it up" because that *had* been going through my head a lot. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

I have decided to leave the group. Being woefully non-confrontational, I won't be stirring up any trouble before doing so. In my day job I spend a lot of time challenging 'behaviours' and I don't really want to spend any of my precious spare time doing the same.

Furthermore, I have shown my boyfriend this thread and we had a very cool discussion about boundaries and healthy interpersonal relationships. Thankfully my boyfriend did not budge one bit when he realised who the OP was - he was in line with all of your responses - particularly the ones pointing out that using "the boyfriend" as an excuse would reinforce stereotypes in an unfortunate way.

So here I am. I will be looking into running a couple of one shots - probably via Skype with some old buddies - and then I'll take it from there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:36 PM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Just wanted to say, don't feel bad about not confronting them. Being a woman does not make you responsible for re-educating sexist creepers. Good on you for looking out for yourself in this sucky situation!
posted by snorkmaiden at 3:57 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Odds are, there will be no magical solution. Calling the GM on it may likely result in them taking umbrage even if they are able to change their behaviour for the better in the short term. The gaming experience for most involved is going to suffer due to a perceived rebuff.

Blame work and not being able to make games regularly. It would be unfair to them to have an uncontrolled PC like, 2 out of 3 games. Even when work gets more regular, it wouldn't be the same character and would spoil role play.

We're here about role playing, right? Building personas - maybe <shock> personas different than our owns even - and exploring what they would do in an alternate world.

Look for another group that meets at a different time in the meantime. Hope no-one from your current group also plays with the other group that you join.

Have you talked about this with the married members of the group?
posted by porpoise at 7:34 PM on October 18, 2012

Yeah, I don't really get why it always becomes the woman's responsibility to play mother to a bunch of guys who are old enough to know better. If they gave a shit, they wouldn't behave poorly in the first place. Your responsibility is to look after yourself - so it's good that you're leaving.
posted by heyjude at 8:38 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Good for you!


Since it's hard to find a new group, maybe you can start a new group...

This suggestion was pretty good. You've got the experience, and can set a few ground rules e.g. no creepy stuff, mixed gender group, partners welcome at social events.

You sound like a cool lady who could easily start a group something like Wordshore recommends. I'll bet there's other gals and guys looking to be geeky in a group without weirdos.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:10 PM on October 18, 2012

Came in here to say QUIT QUIT QUIT because I've been in groups with these guys and it goes nowhere good. Good on you for quitting, and please remember you don't owe them an explanation! And don't forget to cut online contacts through Facebook and the like. You don't owe them access to you either.
posted by immlass at 10:15 PM on October 18, 2012

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