Disability as a Limitation


Read this article about the use of disability in games by FanOnyx on Writing Alchemy:

Half of my favorite games growing up committed the sin of rewarding disability with more character points—Deadlands and Champions—while half never even mention disability during character creation—D&D and Palladium.

I have two story games where players can or must choose negative traits: neither include disability* among them, and both invite players to round out their character’s definition with any identity they like. This gives players the option to create disabled characters, without rewarding or punishing that choice. On the other hand, these games fail to explicitly invite disability as a character trait, and offer no guidance how to do so respectfully. I’ll try to do better with that.

(Upon closer inspection, one includes ‘Injured’ which has a lot of overlap with disability and implies disability. Still, it is handled neutrally; there is no inherent advantage or disadvantage mechanically.)

How does your work hold up? How will you improve moving forward?


I’ll use Fate here as a positive example: With an aspect related to your disability, you might experience the limitations of that via compel, but you might also use that aspect to be better in certain situations.

I used to play a character who lost his hand in Unknown Armies, and I felt that it was pretty empowering that there was no mechanicm for something like that - we just worked it into our narrative, and while it was a detail about that character, it never was the detail about him.


Not a perfect example (also not my game), but in Burning Wheel, you have to spend character creation points to buy traits like “a limp”. This, and all traits can be leveraged advantages and for more screen time and for acquiring more artha (player level resource to do awesome stuff for your character).