“I want to be normal!”
“It’s a game of imagination – you can be whatever you want.”
“But I can’t be myself.”
“Because my legs don’t work, and D&D doesn’t allow for that. I want what I am to be considered normal.”
Until I read this tweet and the thread within it, it had never occurred to me how ableist the most popular role-playing game is. You can play male, female or other. You can play human, dwarf, elf, elephantoid, cat-folk, humanoid raven. You can play cleric, barbarian, monk, bard, sorcerer, wizard.
But try to play someone with a disability, and there are no guidelines whatsoever, nothing in the equipment lists, no feats. Not even crutches or wooden legs which completely fit the fantasy canon. Search D&D Beyond for “disability” and there are only six hits, collapsing down to three when you eliminate the duplicates:
As Sara says on her Patreon page:
When a person opens a TTRPG book for the first time, they should be able to see themselves in its artwork and its writing. Anyone can be a hero, and disability needs to stop being portrayed in such a negative light.
I completely agree with this sentiment. I know that as a white cis male with a secure job living in Western Europe I am about as privileged (in discrimination terms) as it comes, but I strongly believe everyone should have the chance to be the best they can be, whatever that means to them. However in all my years playing D&D, I have never questioned the assumption that everyone can walk and talk normally, and that anyone who doesn’t has that disability for a story reason.
Thank you Sara for helping me challenge another hidden assumption.
The post that Sara highlighted is her combat wheelchair. She has made this available for free in both parchment and dyslexia-friendly formats, and it’s also available as an audio file for people who have trouble reading. I think she strikes the difficult balance between making it enabling without making it over-powered very well.
It’s based on the type of sturdy wheelchair they use in sports like wheelchair rugby, and it has a 25′ movement rate (similar to dwarves and halflings). It has the ability to right itself as a (PC) action, taking full movement, and it also provides the PC with a few flavourful attack options – spin (where it spins on one wheel and hits with the other), ram (where it can also push the target backwards) and crush (where it runs over a prone opponent). Since these take the PC’s action, it doesn’t give them any extra attacks, just additional options they can use in their attack.
And what about stairs? Well, the same solution as Daleks. It can hover and climb/descend up to 25′, although it needs a 5-round (30s) recharge to be able to climb/descend again. Otherwise it wouldn’t achieve the aim of allowing someone with a disability to participate just like any other PC.
The basic model costs 200gp (work out a story with the GM about how you already have it if starting from first level), and weighs 25lbs, and she has also designed a whole load of upgrades, including All-terrain tyres, Armour plating (+2AC, but +40lb and disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws, Acrobatics and Stealth checks), Floats, a crossbow built into the armrest, blades on the wheels and more.
Reading this, I’m inspired to bring it into my campaign on one or more NPCs. I’ve also joined her Patreon and I’m excited to see what other creations she will bring. It’s also got me thinking about why there might be a disabled subculture in Akorros, and specialist shops/facilities/items for them. Hmmm. There may be more to come on this topic…
Come back tomorrow for Day 11, and we’ll look at Stack