Dungeons & Dragons has had a reputation for being overcrowded with cisgender men since its inception. More recently, however, on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram and in J&D real game shows, play J&D has become increasingly popular among the queer community. This change in the demographics of the J&D The community has really gotten bigger over the past few years, and with it has also come a shift in the type of content seen in tabletop roleplaying games.
Such a change not only reflects the content of these games, but also the way they are played. So what aspects of TTRPGs led to the creation of a subculture of queer people passionate about fantasy role-playing games?
One of the great things about tabletop role-playing games that largely exists in the imagination is that players can be anything they want. It’s a beautiful thing for queer people, especially those who are in the process of recreating themselves. In the real world, queer people are always subject to description as people see them. Gendered terms and pronouns can be erroneously attributed to them due to their appearance. Creating a character in a TTRPG allows players to fully describe who they will be playing, including what the character looks like and how they identify. This can be a fun opportunity for those wondering about their gender or pronouns to test out what it feels like to be mentioned differently. The ability to do this in TTRPGs when most video games, TV series, and other media don’t offer the same representation can be an incredible thrill.
Playing TTRPGs can foster a sense of community that many queer people leave when they begin to live their lives the way they want. Spending hours together playing games, making up stories and enjoying each other’s company creates a sense of reunited family both in and out of the game. A group of rogue characters fleeing from something in their old life to find a group of friends to go on an adventure with mirrors the lived experiences of many queer people. The TTRPG community also accepts and loves queer people and creates opportunities for them to be centered in representation through things like J&D real parts such as Rating 20.
TTRPGs are also heavily consent-driven and produce an equally enjoyable experience for everyone around the table. Especially in campaigns and games where characters fall in love, are betrayed, lose loved ones, and die, consent between players and game masters is very important. This consent-based style of play also extends to the rules of TTRPGs, as many of them are very flexible. Having the freedom to explore different emotions, relationships, and identities surrounded by others who understand and respect boundaries is a wonderful thing for queer people. In same-sex relationships and with self-identification—both of which allow people to create their own rules—consent and understanding each other’s desires are very important. This commonality between the TTRPGs and the queer community has brought a natural layering between the two communities.
Outside of the actual plays, the TTRPG scene is filled with queer content. The ease of creating TTRPG rules and systems has led to a whole host of systems and stories created by and for queer people. games like Sword Thirsty Lesbians Use the Powered by Apocalypse set of rules to lead players into Sapphic tales, turning enemies into lovers and lovers into enemies. The themes and adventures that TTRPG players use are entirely up to them, no matter what system they are using. Players can use any number of 5th edition supplements that contain queer content or are free to create their own.
World-building in TTRPGs can also give players the power to create societal norms different from our own. The culture around TTRPG writing has slowly moved away from racial prejudice where fantasy races and bloodlines are able to choose their own destiny and be members of a society that does not view their race as inherently “evil” . Gamemasters and players can create worlds where the social tension that stems from differences in race, gender, and sexuality does not exist. Players can come to these worlds and focus on adventures while being and loving whoever they would like. Unfortunately, for many people, living an authentically queer life in the real world is as much a fantasy as magic, goblins, and dragons.