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How to play a queer DnD character (respectfully)

Society and Dungeons and Dragons have come a long way since 1974, but LGBTQ+ roleplay is still a sticking point - here's how to do it right.

How to play queer DnD characters - Wizards of the Coast atwork showing two masc presenting characters kissing at their wedding, surrounded by guests and flowers

One of the most appealing aspects of creating DnD characters (or any tabletop RPG character) is the freedom to become whoever you want. In roleplaying games, mild-mannered Dave Miller from HR can play as the orc queen Gor’Zal the Savager, and no-one’ll bat an eye – and yet, when it comes to roleplaying queer characters, things can get a little tricky.

Anyone who’s played a few tabletop roleplaying games will recognize the familiar, fantastical DnD races, and – though they certainly have some problematic origins – people’s choice of species will rarely cause controversy at the table. When the topic of sexual orientation or gender identity comes up, however, some players might have reservations. Though we live in more inclusive times, the threat of an awkward moment still lingers.

Commonly, well-meaning players will create a queer character for backstory reasons, but fumble the execution. In weirder cases, some people build a queer character to play out their fetish – much to the party’s dismay. Anybody who’s read about real-life RPG horror stories knows how bad those “queer characters” can get.

So, here are some basic guidelines on playing queer characters in an RPG (without ending up as a controversial Reddit post):

How to play queer DnD characters - Wizards of the Coast atwork showing two male heroes in Greek style armor, looking out over a harbor

Character first, queerness second

Ask yourself why the character needs to be queer. Something that even LGBTQ+ creatives can be guilty of is overly focusing on queer identity. That’s not to say it isn’t important, of course – but queer identity is just one part of a whole person. For me, being bisexual is just as relevant as the fact that I’m a writer for a nerdy tabletop gaming site – no more or less. It’s partly why I’ve argued before that Warhammer 40k’s LGBT representation works because it’s boring.

You don’t want to be the gay best friend in an early 2000s high school comedy. Not only is it passé, but it also puts a hard ceiling on your character’s development. Just like how murder hobos don’t have much else but killing, shallow queer characters can only make jokes about being gay. Like every other choice surrounding your character’s DnD background, think of their gender and sexual identities as just single threads in a big, nuanced patchwork.

Which leads us to the next guideline:

How to play queer DnD characters - Wizards of the Coast atwork showing a Dungeons and Dragons elf mage reaching our into the air, surrounded by colorful patterns of magic

Avoid harmful stereotypes

Even if your character does have more to them than being queer, it’s still important that the queer aspect isn’t stereotypical. When a devious, dark-haired DnD Rogue goes from brooding sociopath to ravenous bisexual, it may rub some people the wrong way (quite literally, in some unfortunate campaigns I’ve seen). Bisexuals liking both men and women doesn’t mean they’re more promiscuous.

Sometimes, it’s not even meant maliciously. For example, a player may take on a lilting tone of voice and use a lot of gay lingo in normal conversation to stay immersed – a choice that, while not intentionally derogatory, still perpetuates reductive, unhelpful, generalizing ideas about how queer people look and act.

Playing a character with a minority identity starkly different from your own is hard. It’s a delicate balance between campiness and accidental bigotry – so, when in doubt, do your research, or better yet, consult a queer friend to avoid any awkward moments.

How to play queer DnD characters - Wizards of the Coast atwork showing a firebreather at a feywild carnival

Let your queer identity come out naturally

When was the last time you heard someone in real life announce their sexuality in regular conversation? Unless you directly ask someone, gender identity or sexual orientation isn’t something people bring up willy-nilly.

But in Dungeons and Dragons, where characters routinely introduce themselves by reeling off their resume – from gameplay essentials like their DnD classes right through to hair color and distinctive moles – folks regularly fall into the trap of immediately announcing their gender and sexual orientation like they’re some critical, compulsory disclosure, rather than something personal, private, and deeply ordinary.

The solution – as in so many areas of storytelling – is to show, not tell, sharing the information naturally and in a context that adds depth to the character, rather than merely applying an arbitrary rainbow-colored label. Instead of saying “I’m gay,” try: “I have a husband back home.” This immediately communicates the same point without sounding forced.

Not only that, it also establishes the character has a spouse they deeply care about, planting the seeds for future character development. Organic character development will always beat forced exposition.

How to play queer DnD characters - Wizards of the Coast atwork showing a collection of characters in a Dungeons and Dragons tavern, drinking ale, and singing

Talk it over with the DM

Finally, always notify your Dungeon Master about your queer character. After all, you don’t want your gay, male halfling DnD Sorcerer railroaded into a romance with a female elf barkeep. DMs can also help you build a queer character that doesn’t cause issues at the table. It also allows them to add encounters that acknowledge the character’s orientation in an organic and meaningful way.

On another note, it’s best to avoid encounters with homophobia or any other form of bigotry entirely. Such heavy topics might make other players uncomfortable if they didn’t expect it. If you and the DM want to add them anyway, the entire table deserves to know, especially queer players.

At the end of the day, roleplaying games should be about having fun and telling stories. Being respectful and taking the time to portray characters properly only enhances the experience for the entire party.

For some history and inspiration around making a great queer RPG hero, read my feature from earlier on in 2024’s Pride month, about why there are so many great DnD LGBTQ+ characters in the lore and games.

And, if you’re looking to roll up a new adventurer, make sure to use Wargamer’s DnD character creator and step-by-step DnD character sheet guide to ensure the whole process is a breeze.