August last year, I was lovingly packing my dice and tomes into the back of my Corolla, excited with a little trepidation as I prepared to move my entire life to the strange and magical land of San Francisco. I had said farewell to the friends and groups I had seen every Sunday for the past year, taking comfort in the fact that a place as 'colorful' as San Francisco must have gamers galore. Somewhere in the city there would be strange esoteric game stores and crowded dorm rooms full of people just waiting to roll those dice!
I arrived in my new local and began to ask around officially 'LFG'. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and still I had not found anyone who knew/admitted to playing in a consistent game. By this point I had coerced all my new friends into learning the ways of the dice, was running some games here and there, but the gamers seemed to be hiding in some place I could not find.
Growing desperate, I frantically searched the college's online list of clubs and was met with success: a board gaming group that met every friday night from 5-midnight! This was the best lead I had found in months. My delicatele explanation to my friends that I would be unable to engage in the usual friday revelry, to instead play board games with strangers was met with laughter and puzzlement. But really I was desperate for people who dreamed of dragons as often as I did.
Bearing my bag of dice (just in case) and my box of 'Dominion' cards to use as a peace offering I strode boldly into the gaming club meeting room.
There were about twenty people all standing around in cluster, my eyes immediately went to the row of glowing laptop screens which displayed running World of Warcraft avatars. It took a couple seconds for the room to realize there was an intruder. Heads turned my way and I was met with the stunned stares of nineteen or so guys. The room was quiet for a small eternity before the talk of MMRPG's resumed. Feeling like an outsider I made my one to the only other girl in the entire room. Slightly awkward getting to know you conversation was made, as I was pointedly ignored by most people in the room.
I honestly couldn't believe how prevalent the 'oh my god there's girl in the gaming store' stereotype was being enforced.
She granted me access to a couple board games, where my questions about the rules were met with heavy sighs and eye rolls.
After about an hour of this the majority of the group left for a pizza run; frustrated and disappointed by this point, I hung around pretending to text as the people left stood around talking to each other. Suddenly clear as a bell I heard the words 'yeah 4thE clerics are so rigged'. I POUNCED.
Sweeping in suddenly with my knowledge of daily spell allotments and healing surge capacity: they were stunned. When I told them I was a DM they officially accepted me as one of there own. Talk of DC's and B.A.B's flew, the conversation turned to WOrld of Warcraft where my three years of dedication and name dropping of my level 80 hunter won me further respect.
I was relieved, I still had a place in this culture. Now that I could speak the native language, I quickly learned that a group of them had a game that they ran weekly, on top of that I learned that several of them were DM's as well.
My excitement diminished however as I began to speak more to these DM's. All of them were supporters of 4th Edition and relatively new to the scene. I dropped questions about 2nd edition, AD&D, and even 3.5, but I was met with blank stares.
The final blow came when one of the DM's was talking about the combat he was planning for next session, "They're totally not going to survive this time," he said with unbridled glee.
Call me picky, but I knew in my heart that I would not be happy with a place at this table. I love the story, the interactions, the politics, and fighting the good fight alright. But a killjoy DM? Players who were in love with finding the best ways to exploit the combat system? I was in a room of next generation gamers, and though I was probably the youngest person in the room, I suddenly felt very old.
The night drew to a close, I thanked everyone for the games, and walked out. Not sure if I would ever return.
Needless to say I gained a few insights that night, some pleasant, some not so. But I'm still on the quest for that rare and wonderful perfect group of gamers. Or if not, someone who gets excited when they see my tattered 2nd edition DM screen.