The thing about being a writer and playing D&D is that you have to learn to relinquish control. If you’re the DM, you have to let your player characters do what they want (or at least wrangle them with enough subtlety that they don’t notice), and if you’re a player, you have to embrace the narrative created for you by someone else and accept that the other players are going to do whatever the hell they feel like without regard for your character arc.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play with a lot of excellent, story-minded companions who make it fun to let go and who create really engaging characters. But sometimes, it’s fun to fantasize about building the team out of characters you already know and love from your favorite books—especially an all-female cast, since I’ve never actually gotten to play Dungeons & Dragons with just girls…
So here is my fantasy D&D party, chosen to kick ass and help make for a fun ride!
The protagonist of a trilogy of books by Ysabeau Wilce, Flora comes from a military family but longs for a different path: to follow in the footsteps of her idol, famous ranger Nini Mo. Over the course of the trilogy, she gets tricked by magical butlers and wizards, stages daring escapes, captures notorious criminals, and sleuths out decades of terrible family secrets. She’s tough, smart, can do a mean bit of magic, and comes with an awesome dog familiar. She’s also a natural leader.
Eilonwy is an enchantress who adventures across the land of Prydain in the company of everyone’s favorite Assistant Pig Keeper, as written by Lloyd Alexander. These books were pillars of my early teen years, and I feel like every female character I write owes a little something to Eilonwy and her honest, straightforward nature. She’s a practical idealist, and I think she would keep the party on track. Her magical hunches and light-bringing skills would also come in handy, she’s good in caves, and she’d keep everyone cheerful. Everyone except, perhaps…
Hester Garlan—Black Guard (Dark Paladin)
Hester is a crook who talks to ghosts in There is No Lovely End by Patty Templeton. She’s completely morally reprehensible, cursed by every dead thing within a hundred miles, and cheap as hell—but what a woman! She fights meaner than a wolverine in a burlap sack and knows how to manipulate the heck out of every soul, living or dead. She’d probably shiv me for saddling her with a bunch of teenage girls, but then she’d get down to the business of turning them into the most badass pack of adventurers to ever get shit done.
At the beginning of Ellen Kushner’s Privilege of the Sword, Katherine is an uncertain young girl of noble family and dismal prospects. By the end, she’s an expert swordswoman and a duchess—so this is a girl who can get things done. People underestimate her to their own peril, and she knows when to fight and when to talk it out. She’s the kind of girl you want to have around when things get stabby, and I feel like she’d immediately become besties with…
Arya is one of the core protagonists of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and is most certainly one of the most beloved—I know I’m not the only one who skips ahead to the Arya chapters. Arya is sneaky, good at disguising herself (and will no doubt only get better at it as the series continues), and is also good with a rapier. She’s a little psychotic, and I feel like having Katherine as a best friend would even her out a bit (without taking away her ability to do what needs to be done).
So there we have it, and my only regret is that this game isn’t actually happening right now in my living room. I’m going to have to see what I can do about that.
I feel like special mention should go to Rat Queens, a newer graphic novel that features and all-female adventure party and definitely got me fantasizing about the possibilities. Check it out!
Caitlyn Paxson is a writer and storyteller. She has pursued studies in writing, folklore, and performance in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland and France. Past jobs include being an artistic director of storytelling performances, a fiber arts consultant, a legal document and poetry transcriber, and a shepherdess. She is an editor at Goblin Fruit, can sometimes be found performing with the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours. Her hair defies gravity, and she once tricked a group of tourists into thinking she was a Scottish ghost. www.caitlynpaxson.com