2 thoughts on “Blinded by the Roll: The Critical Fail of Disability in D&D”

  1. Great article! This is one of the reasons I prefer the GURPS system over DND – you are able to give your player character specific disabilities, like blindness, paranoia, or varying degrees of deafness as examples, and when you take one, you get more points to create a stronger character. It encourages creating characters with disabilities who are stronger in other areas and I find it gives me a lot more room to make unique and interesting PCs – all without having to create my own rules to handle it.

  2. One thing to keep in mind when discussing D&D is that it tries to support two different types of gameplay (and more, probably, but two are relevant); first is the telling of fantasy stories, and the second is the one where players are striving to have their characters succeed in adventurous tasks.

    For a game of drama or telling stories, there is little reason to not include disabilities, and no problems for including them. Burning wheel is an example of a game that does this reasonably well, I guess; one can buy various features for one’s character, and some disabilities are there side-by-side with other traits. A trait that affects play gives meta-level currency to the player, which they can use to succeed at rolls and eventually improve their character. Dungeon world would be another game where disabilities would be easy to introduce, as many disabilities do not prevent fantasy action set pieces. I do not know if Dungeon world addresses disabilities in any way; I do not remember anything in the rules, but maybe the art contains something?

    In games where players try to have their characters succeed, as a primary goal of play, disabilities are more difficult to handle. Many disabilities make adventuring significantly more difficult. If one wants to keep a level playing field among characters, either all of them have to be disabled in equally challenging ways, or there must be some trade-off (GURPS-style points, or receiving an extra feat for a flaw, etc.).
    Some such games do not assume a level playing field among players characters, and in such games players may indeed voluntarily play a disabled character, much like someone may choose to play a beggar when a knight would also be a possible character to play (and superior in most, though not all adventures).
    Many OSR (old school revival) groups do use rules for permanent or semi-permanent wounds, should character survive the situation where they receive the wounds. Some examples: https://deathanddismemberment.blogspot.dk/2014/11/d-on-death-dismemberment-tables.html

    Unfortunately, modern D&D is among games which do assume roughly equally capable player characters, and which does try to cater to players playing to succeed. As such, introducing disabilities for it is an interesting design challenge.

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