9 thoughts on “Reimagining Disability in Role-Playing Games”

  1. An interesting and enlightening post. I feel like there is a distinction to be made between the mechanics of a game and the way players use those mechanisms to portray differently abled characters. For some players, their characters starting “flaws” or “disadvantages” are seen as temporary hurdles to overcome, while others use them as the basis of their characters’ personalities.

    I’d be very interested to hear how games could include disability in a way that encourages accurate portrayals without being insulting to disabled players.

  2. An interesting and enlightening post. As someone who is working to become a game designer, and as someone who is currently constructing their own tabletop system, this means a lot and makes a lot of interesting points. But I’m still having some trouble, on the ground level, incorporating the ideas into practice–as said above, many of the activities in RPGs do seem to tend towards certain subsets of (abled) people, and I’m not sure how to fix that. But it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind.

  3. @aquitaninus

    The way to fix that is to tell your stories differently. When I tell my story in terms of Strength, Dexterity, Charisma, Climbing, Diplomacy and Acrobatics … I am telling a power fantasy. A story of measured power to overcome obstacles.

    There’s nothing wrong with this, on it’s own, and there are ways to tell fantasies on a similar wavelength that are more inclusive, but the most straightforward thing to do is simply not tell stories about these sorts of powers. You can tell stories about combat power and social power that are more inclusive, but telling stories that aren’t necessarily about pursuing power in the first place is a rather interesting objective from where I’m sitting.

    A lot of my favorite stories in other mediums aren’t about power; they’re about survival or relationships or struggle or exploration. There might also be fighting and swashbuckling and derring-do, but they are incidental rather than focal.

    Microscope, Fiasco, A Quiet Year, The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, Ghost/Echo … there are a lot of games that, to me at least, aren’t about your character’s power–they’re about your character’s circumstance. They’re about getting into trouble, telling stories about people getting into trouble, creating a sense of place … they’re not about being stronger, harder, faster. Your agency as a player over the fiction in these games does not hinge on your character’s physical or mental strength according to society’s standard metrics.

    I think the article above is also interested in making more traditional RPG setups work in more inclusive ways, but I think that sort of thing is a clear example of an alternative mode, here, too.

  4. I am glad to have found this article, and hope games will grow into a space that’s more welcoming for people with disabilities. Me and the rest of my D&D group are all abled, and trying to include more characters with disabilities in our game mostly made me realize how limited my understanding is and how much we got wrong. Meaning we’re probably getting even more wrong without knowing it. From oversimplifying the mechanics of pain management for a character with chronic pain, to seeing someone else design a house with a lot of stairs for a character who uses a mobility device.

    If there is a book on this topic written by a disabled DM I would buy it and read the heck out of it. Even though a lot of games are not designed to be inclusive, I want to do more with the games we already have.

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