I was about 11, and my mom was concerned about my impending Ophelia years. She was thinking ahead, trying to figure out how she was going to help me get through pubescence without losing my sense of self. She read an article in the newspaper about Dungeons & Dragons and went out immediately to buy me the 1981 basic box set. She thought playing the game would help me build character, and had no idea what a great pun that was. The cover illustration of a woman getting ready to lob a ball of green fire at a dragon in a watery cavern still thrills me to this day. I dedicated hour upon hour to poring over the rule book, drawing elaborate maps of dungeons, and talking my grandmother through the complicated rules of fantasy combat.
The first time I ever rolled a character, I read through the six attributes: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, charisma. Obviously, wisdom is the most important, I thought, and kept rolling until I got a wise character. And then to choose class. Oh, if I’m wise I should be a cleric. Ok. And so it began. I started to know who I was going to become – a lover of wisdom.
I hadn’t played in at least 15 years when some friends asked if I wanted to get into a game. We were all political radicals and interested in genderqueer issues. We were going to use the context of the game to practice using gender neutral pronouns: ze and hir. We were starting from our primitivist-anarchist utopian elven village, where we lived in harmony with the forest and respected our genderless elders. The woods was under threat from foul, corrupted miners! I was Scarlet Spiderling, known as “Scar” to her comrades, an elven druid herbalist. I’d use the healing powers of nature to support my friends and combat any forces that threatened the web of life. Just as my mom thought it would work for me all those years ago, the game gave me the opportunity to get used to an identity in a safe context, try on the new me and get confident being her.