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Author Topic: Disabilities and Fantasy or SF Workarounds  (Read 1823 times)

Omega

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Disabilities and Fantasy or SF Workarounds
« on: August 23, 2020, 09:16:32 AM »
Spinning off from the other threads on the disabled and what can be applied.

Being disabled myself and having worked with a number of disabled gamers now. Some thoughts.

Note that all of this is totally dependent on how flexible and/or lenient the setting, system, other players, and especially the DM are. But it can also help when dealing with a character thats become disabled during the course of adventuring.

One of the big things that a fantasy or Sci-fi/Cyberpunk setting and system can allow for is the exploration of various workaround to being disabled. This could be done right in chargen, or something a PC is working to create, find, or otherwise gain access to. And by workaround I mean things that lessen, or totally negate being disabled. These things exist in the real world and some have been around a long long time even. But in settings with access to fantastical methods all manner of new approaches could possibly exist. Some have been discussed in the other threads.

First off is the factor of the severity of the impairment and how much it impacts an adventuring lifestyle.
The simple fact is that without some sort of effective workaround certain impairments will make adventuring impossible. Easiest example is a straight-up blind person. Without some means to perceive their surroundings with some modicum of accuracy, its not going to work. While a character that has lost just one eye might be at a slight disadvantage with ranges and be better off with melee combat. A deaf person on the other hand will be easier to sneak up on. Obviously co-ordinating with others they cant see will be dicey. And are not going to hear certain auditory cues like footsteps, a monsters roar, a cry for help. While a person only 1/2 deaf will have no auditory "depth perception". They can hear the sound but figuring out WHERE the sound is coming from will be a hassle. And a person missing a limb is going to be restricted in types of weapons can use if say missing an arm or even just a hand.

Now comes the workaround factor.
Workarounds have been around for probably as long as theres been tool use. Possibly even before that as will detail next. Workarounds as noted are things that lessen the impact of being disabled in some way. These too have some variance in effectiveness.
The most basic are natural enhancements of one or more other senses to make up a little for the loss of one. From discussion and experience talking with others theres no set pattern or surety that you will ever get any compensation sense. Or even that what you get will be actually useful. It also depends on the level of the enhancement. Some Ive seen or discussed with others are things like enhances sense of smell, sense of touch, sensitivity to vibrations, sharper hearing, etc. Then theres just how well a person can make use of that.
But the main type of workaround are tools of some sort. Everything from hook hands, peg legs, utility stump caps, wheelchairs, even crutches can lessen the impact of some disabilities. And once you get into the fantastical tools the types of problems and level of counteracting it can expand quite a bit.

Starting off with our old friend the wheelchair. This is just not normally workable in say a fantasy adventuring/dungeoneering setting without some effort. And about all of these do take effort and/or co-operation with other players and their characters to sometimes make this possible. So a bog standard rigid wheelchair is right out not going to work. But a folding one can. Meet an obstacle? Someone carries the character and someone else carries the wheelchair on their pack/back, etc. Working together to make this work.

But fantastical conveyances are often to be bought, created, or unearthed. In D&D things like Animate Object or a tailor made golem can work better. Creating a more mobile and agile conveyance. Theres also the animate dead idea presented in another thread and even things like a broom of flying or flying carpet as the conveyance. Much the same in a technological setting. Depending on what might be allowed to a character that could include things like magical legs or a prosthetic that is a plant grown and fitted to or in the character. Some of these can totally negate a disability. A good example in D&D are the various eye items that allow recovery of sight. Cybernetics can do the same things. This can also include things like a full suit that restores movement, or a helment that restores sight or hearing.

But one trick that rarely seems to get used is the concept of the "waldo" or remote body. Instead of the character going out themselves they instead adventure through some construct or even an animal/monster they control with their will or actually inhabit fully with their mind.

Thats just some basic ideas that might, or more likely, might not, prove of use to someone.

The Exploited.

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Disabilities and Fantasy or SF Workarounds
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2020, 09:35:18 AM »
With magic/tech you can fix anything.

Wheel chairs are not all that much of a problem in a hi-tech (or a supers) environment. Or in a game like Numenera, where you could easily have some kind of 'mini-disk' to fly around on, like the Mekon. Elric used potions to fix his physical weakness.

There's a bazillion workarounds... It just depends on how you want the character to be adapted. Not wanting to fix (even temporarily) a disability seems odd to me, especially in an RPG.
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Chris24601

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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2020, 10:50:18 AM »
A prime example of a workaround in a modern setting that doesn't require anything super-fancy is the Oracle/Overwatch character. They're hacking into systems; opening doors, identifying enemy forces by their heat signatures from a satellite, locating things based on sensors and schematics, etc.

As they also play the role of "heart" in the five-man band type concept, I've also built a few in superhero games with morale-boosting/counter-emotional effects abilities.

Just give one or more of the PCs body cams and comms and its like they're there with the party and able to employ their observational and hacking abilities to aid the team and it doesn't require anything beyond what we consider normal (for an action series/movie anyway) modern capabilities.

Being in a wheelchair isn't even a hindrance to such a character 99% of the time. Only the rare instance of a villain tracking the overwatch character down to their hidden location or a situation where their expertise is absolutely required in the field does it ever significantly interfere with their role on the team and in a game like Mutants & Masterminds, those fall more under the heading of "complications" than actual disadvantages.

GeekyBugle

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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2020, 11:50:36 AM »
As long as the workaround doesn't turn the disabled character into a superhero I'm fine with it in any game (in superhero games I have no problem with that of course).

Love the "waldo" idea, hadn't heard it called that before.

As for a person without legs... The spider belt, it has 4 legs and it responds to the wearer's thoughts, it needs to be connected to the wearer's body in the stumps. Magical self mending, light weight wood as fire resistant as the wearer's body is.

It gives the wearer mobility without being cumbersome and without turning the wearer into a superhero, it doesn't climb like a spider despite the name, it doesn't fly/float unless the wearer uses a spell so he/she can.

Disadvantages, it has no sense of touch therefore certain dangers/monsters (grappling vines for instance) are more likely to go unnoticed at first.

Advantages, if Spider climb is used on the wearer he/she can climb like a spider and have the hands free all the time to make attacks while climbing. Due to the legs articulations the wearer can duck lower.
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HappyDaze

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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2020, 12:06:37 PM »
Played a quadriplegic mage in Shadowrun (3e) for a very high-powered game. Physical body was never involved in runs, I did everything in Astral form with my "gang" of watcher spirits and elemental "enforcers" backing me up. Fun thing was I could still interact physically with dual natured beings, like carrying the shapeshifter through the air and over a fence or grappling with a cyber zombie and then accelerating to "astral fast travel speed" (which was crazy fast) and letting go right before the zombie hit a wall at > 1000 kph.

Shawn Driscoll

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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2020, 04:43:23 PM »
Quote from: Omega;1146117
Spinning off from the other threads on the disabled and what can be applied.

Being disabled myself and having worked with a number of disabled gamers now. Some thoughts.

Note that all of this is totally dependent on how flexible and/or lenient the setting, system, other players, and especially the DM are. But it can also help when dealing with a character thats become disabled during the course of adventuring.

One of the big things that a fantasy or Sci-fi/Cyberpunk setting and system can allow for is the exploration of various workaround to being disabled. This could be done right in chargen, or something a PC is working to create, find, or otherwise gain access to. And by workaround I mean things that lessen, or totally negate being disabled. These things exist in the real world and some have been around a long long time even. But in settings with access to fantastical methods all manner of new approaches could possibly exist. Some have been discussed in the other threads.

First off is the factor of the severity of the impairment and how much it impacts an adventuring lifestyle.
The simple fact is that without some sort of effective workaround certain impairments will make adventuring impossible. Easiest example is a straight-up blind person. Without some means to perceive their surroundings with some modicum of accuracy, its not going to work. While a character that has lost just one eye might be at a slight disadvantage with ranges and be better off with melee combat. A deaf person on the other hand will be easier to sneak up on. Obviously co-ordinating with others they cant see will be dicey. And are not going to hear certain auditory cues like footsteps, a monsters roar, a cry for help. While a person only 1/2 deaf will have no auditory "depth perception". They can hear the sound but figuring out WHERE the sound is coming from will be a hassle. And a person missing a limb is going to be restricted in types of weapons can use if say missing an arm or even just a hand.

Now comes the workaround factor.
Workarounds have been around for probably as long as theres been tool use. Possibly even before that as will detail next. Workarounds as noted are things that lessen the impact of being disabled in some way. These too have some variance in effectiveness.
The most basic are natural enhancements of one or more other senses to make up a little for the loss of one. From discussion and experience talking with others theres no set pattern or surety that you will ever get any compensation sense. Or even that what you get will be actually useful. It also depends on the level of the enhancement. Some Ive seen or discussed with others are things like enhances sense of smell, sense of touch, sensitivity to vibrations, sharper hearing, etc. Then theres just how well a person can make use of that.
But the main type of workaround are tools of some sort. Everything from hook hands, peg legs, utility stump caps, wheelchairs, even crutches can lessen the impact of some disabilities. And once you get into the fantastical tools the types of problems and level of counteracting it can expand quite a bit.

Starting off with our old friend the wheelchair. This is just not normally workable in say a fantasy adventuring/dungeoneering setting without some effort. And about all of these do take effort and/or co-operation with other players and their characters to sometimes make this possible. So a bog standard rigid wheelchair is right out not going to work. But a folding one can. Meet an obstacle? Someone carries the character and someone else carries the wheelchair on their pack/back, etc. Working together to make this work.

But fantastical conveyances are often to be bought, created, or unearthed. In D&D things like Animate Object or a tailor made golem can work better. Creating a more mobile and agile conveyance. Theres also the animate dead idea presented in another thread and even things like a broom of flying or flying carpet as the conveyance. Much the same in a technological setting. Depending on what might be allowed to a character that could include things like magical legs or a prosthetic that is a plant grown and fitted to or in the character. Some of these can totally negate a disability. A good example in D&D are the various eye items that allow recovery of sight. Cybernetics can do the same things. This can also include things like a full suit that restores movement, or a helment that restores sight or hearing.

But one trick that rarely seems to get used is the concept of the "waldo" or remote body. Instead of the character going out themselves they instead adventure through some construct or even an animal/monster they control with their will or actually inhabit fully with their mind.

Thats just some basic ideas that might, or more likely, might not, prove of use to someone.

Players at my tables with disabilities have always wanted to, and role-played, heroes in our games. I'm guessing there will be a thread on here about guys only being able to play guy characters, or some nonsense.

GeekyBugle

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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2020, 04:52:52 PM »
Quote from: Shawn Driscoll;1146165
Players at my tables with disabilities have always wanted to, and role-played, heroes in our games. I'm guessing there will be a thread on here about guys only being able to play guy characters, or some nonsense.

Wait, you mean the rules don't prohibit men from playing women!? Shocked... (Sarcasm if anyone needs the clarification)
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Omega

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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2020, 11:09:22 PM »
I didnt really touch on superhero settings as often in those there are so many different workarounds that not even magic based settings can match.

One that has come up in some magic and sci-fi settings that only just now remembered was the idea of a blind person via psi power or magic being able to see through a pet or familliar or some magic object like a robe of eyes.

Omega

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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2020, 12:43:54 AM »
Quote from: Shawn Driscoll;1146165
Players at my tables with disabilities have always wanted to, and role-played, heroes in our games. I'm guessing there will be a thread on here about guys only being able to play guy characters, or some nonsense.

Um... noooooo. That is not at all what this subject is about? How the hell you read any of that and came away with "disabled people cant play normal people" is utterly beyond me.

We are talking about CHARACTERS. Not players. C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R-S.

RollingBones

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« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2020, 04:28:58 AM »
I think, to a lesser extent, the idea of tools even extends to character's that would not be otherwise considered disabled.

A bonus from a magic item might stand in for actually having points in a skill, for instance. It also works the other way, where a magic user may be effectively hobbled by an anti-magic field.

Magical items basically exist for the purpose of making up the gap between a character's natural (or earned) abilities, and the requirements of the moment.

A great thing about this is that they can also provide opportunities to present the characters with challenges. That magical skeleteon key you've been relying on instead of actually improving your lockpicking? It doesn't work on this particular lock, what could that mean, and what other solutions could there be to this scenario?

Omega has a great example of the wheelchair and negotiating the swamp.

For me, much of the fun in a great scenario is presenting the players with unique puzzles that confront their weaknesses, that challenge them to adapt and overcome. Something more than just ever escalating CRs.

I think that's one of the reasons characters with some natural disadvantages, or straight up disabilities, can bring so much to a game.

BoxCrayonTales

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« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2020, 07:47:27 PM »
With regard to "curing" disabilities... (I'm legally disabled myself btw)

Some disabled people find the concept of curing disabilities to be offensive because of the implication that disabled lives aren't worth living. (This has been used as justification by doctors to let disabled people die of Covid, so it is a real and actively dangerous social problem. So I would rather not contribute to it in any way because I don't want some asshole doctor consigning me to death for not meeting his ableist standards.)

I've been wondering different ways of balancing this line between representing disabled characters without devaluing their lived experiences as disabled people.

One possibility I've seen is that the disabled character shares their body with someone or something else that compensates for them. A robotic chip, an alien symbiote, a suit of powered armor, etc.

What do you think?

Shasarak

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« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2020, 08:22:14 PM »
Quote from: BoxCrayonTales;1146299
With regard to "curing" disabilities... (I'm legally disabled myself btw)

What do you think?

I think, who are the illegally disabled?
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Stephen Tannhauser

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« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2020, 01:47:25 AM »
One of the most important things that should be mentioned for any and all workarounds is this: In the context of an adventuring game, they have to be temporary and conditional. In other words, the possibility of the PC losing the workaround has to be real and everpresent (if not necessarily all that high on an encounter-by-encounter basis), and even if the workaround fully alleviates the penalties that would normally come with an impairment, the workaround itself has to require a little more time, attention and effort to manage than a character who doesn't need it must spend. The drama then becomes not about how the PC overcomes the impairment, but the tension of whether he will have to in any given event/encounter.

For mundane physical prosthetics it's easy enough to throw a lost pair of glasses or a broken chair at the PC.  Magical or superscience workarounds should work their conditionality, whatever it is, into the backstory of both the workaround and the character (as with my demonic armour that lets a paralyzed warrior fight again, but won't let him enter a church, to quote myself from another thread).
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jhkim

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« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2020, 02:12:38 AM »
Quote from: Stephen Tannhauser;1146338
One of the most important things that should be mentioned for any and all workarounds is this: In the context of an adventuring game, they have to be temporary and conditional. In other words, the possibility of the PC losing the workaround has to be real and everpresent (if not necessarily all that high on an encounter-by-encounter basis), and even if the workaround fully alleviates the penalties that would normally come with an impairment, the workaround itself has to require a little more time, attention and effort to manage than a character who doesn't need it must spend. The drama then becomes not about how the PC overcomes the impairment, but the tension of whether he will have to in any given event/encounter.
Is this for game balance reasons, or for dramatic tension reasons?

When I think of fictional examples, they often don't have a significant downside. For example, in Star Trek, Geordi's visor is rarely a source of dramatic tension. It's just a special ability of his that is quite reliable. Likewise, Daredevil's blindness is rarely a weakness for him - it's more often a strength, as he isn't blinded by flashes or fooled by visual illusions.

On the one hand, I think it can be great to have drama over a workaround. When I ran a game based on the TV series Alphas, I thought the downsides of each PC were a frequent source of tensions and they made for great drama. On the other hand, I'm hesitant to say that this sort of drama should be required. I've had a lot of games that were plenty of fun without that sort of drama.

RollingBones

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« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2020, 06:32:11 AM »
Quote from: jhkim;1146339
Likewise, Daredevil's blindness is rarely a weakness for him - it's more often a strength, as he isn't blinded by flashes or fooled by visual illusions.

Daredevil generally fights in close confines: inside buildings, or more famously in churches and hallways, almost exclusively at night, preferably in darkness. In our case, in dungeons. In these scenarios his blindness can be made a strength, ie. short range blindsight. Outside, in open areas, especially well lit, it can be made a weakness. Especially against ranged opponents.

Quote from: Shasarak;1146310
I think, who are the illegally disabled?

People who 'borrow' someone else's disability permit for a better parking space!