I’m just gonna say it: I’m a big nerd on wheels. I love Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC, video games, board games, & table-top role-playing games, & I obstinately refuse to grow up.
I started table-top gaming about 18 months ago, & I play different versions of the same character in every game I play; a medic with ranged combat skills. Given my education & work experience, I can pad out the medical parts with real medical jargon, which my friends seem to enjoy as it adds to the immersion of the experience.
I’d actually tried the latest-but-one edition of Pathfinder some time before getting into gaming properly, but found the immense ruleset overwhelming & it put me off. Finally, I managed to regain the confidence to go for something a little simpler; Warhammer 40k Wrath & Glory. It was in this campaign that I created my favourite character to date; Aethena, battle-sister hospitalier (female medic with a rifle), who used a powered wheelchair as part of her armour, with a canid (dog) companion. I loved it.
Once I was accustomed to some of the universal concepts of table-top gaming such as turn-based combat, & the fact that instead of being competitive it was cooperative, eliminating some of the more toxic elements associated with nerd culture, I was willing to explore the medium further. The next game I tried was an obscure system called FATE that worked on similar principles to Warhammer 40k W&G, but had no pre-set world, instead allowing you to create one & apply the game rules to it.
As that campaign drew to a close, I picked up the classic Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, meeting weekly at one of my favourite venues in the city after work. I chose to play a Druid almost entirely for the connections to the animal world, called Omra, & began to get really invested in the more complex ruleset (although this still doesn’t come close to Pathfinder).
Alongside this, I returned to Warhammer, this time in Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. Given the older, medieval-style setting, it would have been unrealistic to have a female medic, therefore my character simply pretended to be a man by doing cliché “manly” things to get through medical school. This is a character I will be returning to in future when I play Warhammer Age of Sigmar, as at the inevitable destruction of the world (spoiler alert), I was conveniently chosen as one of the souls worth saving & putting into another body in the future.
Currently, I am playing my favourite of all the games I have tried; Call of Cthulhu. It’s a careful balance between mysterious exploration & pure chaos, & I love it.
Each of the campaigns I have played has had it’s classic moments, from me using my healing skill to torture someone for information (who said I was the good guy?), to booting a sheep out of a window while yelling This Is Yorkshire (which only gets weirder with context). Still, I have avoided the most embarrassing of all the memorable moments, which was when our poor wizard bled from his eyes & ears, then proceeding to…defecate…in his trousers. We like to bring this up approximately fourteen times per session.
You might be wondering why I’m talking about this on a blog about disability, aside from playing a character who used a wheelchair in Warhammer 40k. Simply put, role-playing is as accessible an experience as you want it to be. You choose the venue. You choose the rule-set. You choose how to display character information. It’s highly adaptable, meaning just about any disability imaginable can be adapted to.
We have this notion that role-playing games are predominantly overrun with white guys who are so nice they can never understand why every woman they ever meet doesn’t want to sleep with them. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any toxicity in table-top gaming, but there are also more than enough people willing to include all races, genders, sexualities, & disabilities to make it worth it.
Through my role-playing games I have developed strong friendships. There is something about exploring an imaginary map together, fighting enemies alongside each other, & healing others when they’re down that brings people together. It’s not an experience to everyone’s tastes & that’s understandable, but if you’ve been thinking about trying it out, there’s sure to be a role-playing group somewhere in the local area. Just, don’t start with Pathfinder.