Hello again! Michael back with our weekly developer’s blog. As usual, I didn’t have a specific topic in mind when I sat down to write this. We’ve been busy wrapping up the content for the Empty Thrones Kickstarter campaign, but you’ve heard quite a lot about those products from us recently so I wanted to cover something different on this go around.
I was looking through various RPG news stories and stumbled upon some homebrewed rules for a different system (don’t tell Andi I was reading non-Earthdawn content). The rules were for a “combat wheelchair”. While the content on its own is interesting, it also addresses an issue we here at FASA Games wholeheartedly believe in: diversity.
Gaming is for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you choose to play as, everyone who wants to play an RPG should be able to. There are many game systems out there with various mechanics, themes, and complexity levels. Not everyone will like everything that is created and not everything created is worthy of critical praise. But the heart of an RPG experience is the connection between the player and the character they are pretending to be.
Some people want to be themselves, while others wish to be someone else. Some want to take on a completely different look, while others impart their physical features onto their characters. In an environment that’s almost entirely made up in the minds of the people who experience it, the only true limits should be one’s imagination.
This presents an interesting problem from a game developer’s perspective, as you want to give players as much freedom you can while staying in the confines of obstacles like deadlines and page-count limits. This means that certain aspects of diversity–such as physical disabilities–are pushed off into supplemental products or never addressed from a mechanical perspective. It’s an unfortunate reality of the situation.
I can’t speak to other development teams, but one thing that holds us back from addressing certain topics is our lack of experience/knowledge with particular diversity areas. We’re a small team and, though I wouldn’t want to hear what a psychologist has to say about our mental states, none of us have spent significant time in a wheelchair. We don’t want to make assumptions in regards to the challenges that would present to characters in our game setting and instead leave it to individual gamemasters to decide. There are a variety of other topics in this category as well.
Are there physically disabled Namegivers in the world of Earthdawn? Certainly. Are there magical items built to make their lives easier? My answer would be yes. Have we specifically defined how those things work in our setting? Not yet. I encourage anyone interested in the topic to go search for the homebrew content that is out there for different systems, which the author (@mustangsart on Twitter) has put a significant amount of care and effort into. It presents several in game solutions (for those systems) to real world issues and is available for free. This is by no means an official endorsement of the content, just some cool gamer stuff I found and thought could be useful to someone in the community.
I’ve rambled on enough for today, hopefully this post at least made you think about diversity and inclusion in your gaming groups. The “combat wheelchair” was something I stumbled across while looking for blog ideas and it made me think about how such a thing would function in Barsaive. I hope to address this further in a future product, but if nothing else this’ll give me something to tinker with when I need another blog post idea. Until next time, thanks for reading.