Deadlock
 member, 4 posts
Sat 5 Jun 2021
at 06:19
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
An article pop up about how disabilities (physical and mental) are mostly temporary issues for adventurers that magic cures relatively easily (just another expense or someone in the party can take care of it). More so, mental disorders are grossly oversimplified and misrepresented (in which case it is better to not include them at all).

Would anyone feel comfortable playing a character with a permanent disability of some kind? I know blindness is popular, but it is usually circumvented with familiars acting as the character's eyes, or similar. And again, it can be cured with a low level spell.

I know players and GM can agree that a disability can persist, but how to make it make sense without saying that for some reason magic doesn't effect it? Could the character be used to it and doesn't want to change?

On mechanical side, I know that Pathfinder had some drawbacks you could take to get an extra trait, but those seemed a bit complex. Flaws from backgrounds are a nice RP hook and if you play them right you get inspiration, but why not make them more prominent by presenting them in mechanics like everything else? And with disadvantage mechanics in 5e seems to be a great opportunity to make things happen:
- Heard of hearing? Disadvantage on Perception relaying on sounds
- Easily frustrated? (that would be me) After you fail an ability check (without a disadvantage), next roll (of that type) you make is with a disadvantage
- Limping? Disadvantage on Athletics and Acrobatics
- Can't keep a secret? Disadvantage on Deception checks?
- Don't think your words through? Disadvantage on Persuasion

And anyone who has experience with any condition they want to portray will likely have ideas how to turn them into mechanics, or just start the talk with GM about it.

Final not, I completely get that we want to play capable characters, but seeing someone with a disability we can relate to succeed would be even better for everyone. Thoughts?
Jarodemo
 member, 934 posts
 My hovercraft
 is full of eels
Sat 5 Jun 2021
at 08:15
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
Physical disabilities such as a missing limb, missing eye or deafness are probably easier to incorporate, both in RP terms and game mechanics. You simply amend stats and add dice penalties as appropriate. I’m sure I’ve seen a rule somewhere for naval/pirate games about hook hands…

Mental health/mental illness is maybe a bit trickier. How would you play a character with Depression or Schizophrenia without becoming a caricature that others might find offensive? I’m sure some players can, but I wouldn’t chance it as I wouldn’t want to risk upsetting other players. Although writing this I find that I would be happy to play a PC with a missing eye or hand without risk of offending someone, even though I could still be just as crass. I suppose the issue is there is still a lack of understanding about mental health, mental illness and learning needs, as well as other hidden disabilities, and I say that as someone who is Autistic.
Zag24
 supporter, 697 posts
Sat 5 Jun 2021
at 15:47
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
I'm playing a character right now with a form of mental disability.  Aduz Agave is a Barbarian / Bard (it's a gestalt game) with wisdom as his dump stat and a specific mental block:  In addition to the effects of his low wisdom on Perception and Sense Motive abilities, he has a self-imposed penalty on Sense Motive that it will never occur to him that someone else is lying.  If an opponent in combat were to tell him that his shield is on upside-down, he'd lose an attack in order to check.  When the shopkeeper to whom he was trying to sell stuff said "That's all they are worth," his response was to stop bargaining and accept that price.

He does understand the concept of lying, theoretically, but he can never put it into practice.  Usually, when someone's words turn out to be untrue, he assumes at first that they were mistaken.  However, once cold reality forces him to comprehend that someone was intentionally lying to him, he tends to express his disappointment with a combination of rage and greatsword.
donsr
 member, 2285 posts
Sat 5 Jun 2021
at 16:00
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
I know Metagaming CO , and I think D&Dm and Gurps  had things  were you could pick  'handicaps'...  depending on what you picked you  could use the ponts  you 'got  back' to jack up your character.

 I never liked that.. make a hero, add what disadvantage and RP it..you shouldn't  buff a character  with 'legal' cheating.

 that being  said, if you do it  hoenstly, and RP  your chararcter with a disadvantage , with out  getting  rewarded for it, it  could make for a good character
Deadlock
 member, 5 posts
Sun 6 Jun 2021
at 14:44
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
Thank you all for the replies! I would love to keep the discussion going, please excuse me if I sound confrontational, I just want to dig a bit deeper into your view points.

Jarodemo:
Physical disabilities such as a missing limb, missing eye or deafness are probably easier to incorporate, both in RP terms and game mechanics. You simply amend stats and add dice penalties as appropriate. I'm sure I've seen a rule somewhere for naval/pirate games about hook hands...

True, but what I wanted to touch upon is the nature of high-magic worlds. If there is a spell available that will restore the person's limb or whatever, and PCs reach the point where it is affordable for them, why wouldn't they go for it?
I would love to see characters accepting and adapting to their situation, and I know that there are prosthetics now that make athletes outperform full-bodied competition, but that is still not accessible or affordable for the majority of the population.

Jarodemo:
Mental health/mental illness is maybe a bit trickier. How would you play a character with Depression or Schizophrenia without becoming a caricature that others might find offensive? I'm sure some players can, but I wouldn't chance it as I wouldn't want to risk upsetting other players. Although writing this I find that I would be happy to play a PC with a missing eye or hand without risk of offending someone, even though I could still be just as crass. I suppose the issue is there is still a lack of understanding about mental health, mental illness and learning needs, as well as other hidden disabilities, and I say that as someone who is Autistic.

Excellent point. As an Autistic myself, it is hard to figure out where exactly does it hinder me (until after the fact) and even more where it potentially benefits me. But this certainly comes from the fact that we don't yet fully understand the conditions. But if we don't raise awareness of it (by portraying it), how can we hope to get better? Certainly we should start with simple things, preferably that the player has experience with, but in the meantime there is also a lot of resources available for those that want to learn more, and then such a player can share what they learned through the game.

Zag24:
He does understand the concept of lying, theoretically, but he can never put it into practice.  Usually, when someone's words turn out to be untrue, he assumes at first that they were mistaken.  However, once cold reality forces him to comprehend that someone was intentionally lying to him, he tends to express his disappointment with a combination of rage and greatsword.

I love this, especially having just recently saw "Invention of Lying". And I hope that the party is watching out for him if they picked up on the behavior, as that is something I would love to see more of. Not that you people can't take care of themselves, but sometimes it is so much easier to have someone with a clearer view of the situation clarify things (before it comes to barbarian diplomacy).

donsr:
I know Metagaming CO , and I think D&Dm and Gurps  had things  were you could pick  'handicaps'...  depending on what you picked you  could use the ponts  you 'got  back' to jack up your character.

 I never liked that.. make a hero, add what disadvantage and RP it..you shouldn't  buff a character  with 'legal' cheating.

 that being  said, if you do it  hoenstly, and RP  your chararcter with a disadvantage , with out  getting  rewarded for it, it  could make for a good character

Fair point, I did mention the drawbacks and traits and I see how they are taken to optimize the character rather than to round them out. Then again, if you have to deal with a disability, you will find ways to make up for it that ight not occur to typical people. But it should be related and not just be a generic point you can put wherever you want.
Tileira
 member, 529 posts
Mon 7 Jun 2021
at 15:28
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
In theory, it's a good idea and people should have opportunities to explore other experiences and perspectives.

In reality, people are generally selfish. Not everyone, but when talking about "people" as an undefined collective, it's impossible to anticipate and preemptively correct for "people" being awful.

DMs and players are often wary of the player who decides to create a character with a disability. They end up asking themselves questions like
- is this going to be a burden on the party and players?
- does this person know anything about it?
- are they going to try to make the game all about them all the time?
- how does that affect the rules? should it affect the rules, or just be flavour?

On top of which, even if the portrayal is not a grotesque charicature, someone in the group could still find it offensive.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it can be done, but WotC are not the best people to decide how to do it and they know that. Like everything else in D&D, the book isn't the game. Your table is the game. The book is just the toolkit.
donsr
 member, 2286 posts
Mon 7 Jun 2021
at 16:01
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
Unles some one is  'attacking' some one, there should be no offense taken. I have a  Main NPC in my space  game that only a few people can understand, it works for the game and i feel some players like to  work thier way through the   clues given by that NPC  , as to what it  is talking about.

 other time it  might be a conversation with one of the people who understand, that can lead  to  comic relief..which we down play a bit, as the game is  pretty dark.

 The main thing here is  ,as Tileira alluded to, if you allow  a character a Handicap, it should be  for flavor, RP, and  if the GM/DM is  crafty enough, added to the plot lines...in D&D some handicaps , would never allow a person to go  into battle  or  dungeon crawl..because they simply..can't.

of course,  GM with  a broad  focus, and players who are capable, can make alot of things  work, there is just going to be limits.

Most folks join games to escape, be heroic, and  RP....some players  create  'out there' charcters, are simply bored...I had a Player like that, that would come up with some  character  that had some form of 'out there' thing going on...he was around my game for a while, and i feel  he simply  'out grew' what was going on...he is no longer in the game.

bottom line?... for both GMs  and players.. don't  do this  for    'shock value'....don't do it  for 'let's  see how this works"...make it fit the game, and the rest of the players....or, don't do it.
Evil Empryss
 supporter, 1578 posts
 Insert witty and
 appropriate quote here
Mon 7 Jun 2021
at 21:29
Diversity in D&D - traits, drawbacks and flaws
I have two ways of playing physical limitations, both based on real-world attitudes.

One is that the condition holds some religious significance to the individual, and removing it would be (in their or their religious community's eyes) an affront to their god(s). Even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM) that mental health workers use to help diagnose mental illness makes it clear that certain conditions like hearing voices or seeing visions may not be considered a mental illness if it occurs in the presence of a strong belief system. In the case of one of my characters, she is diabetic and believes she receives holy visions while in a hypoglycemic state. So while the advanced tech of her time could cure the diabetes with a simple shot, she refuses to take it. The inconvenience (and even the potential of death) from dealing with the condition is less than her faith and her place in her community.

The other is a cultural attitude towards not considering the condition to even be a disability. In the Deaf community, for example, people may be able to get cochlear implants to provide them with the ability to hear, but they will refuse it. They do not believe that they have the need for hearing, that they are whole people able to live their lives without it. In cases of generational hearing loss, their family and friends may see "curing deafness" as a slap in their faces, a declaration that the people without hearing are somehow broken or less than whole. Even merely considering it can cause the person to be shunned by others in the community.

You could apply those attitudes to just about any condition: lost limbs, blindness, an illness, even a curse. It doesn't matter that they could be cured cheaply or easily, just that doing so would make them outcasts. Heck, it might not even be cultural, just a firmly held personal belief that adaptations and cures aren't necessary. These kinds of attitudes have prevailed throughout history and across cultures, so it would be easy to incorporate them into any genre or setting. The other players wouldn't even have to know about the attitudes beforehand: they could learn about the attitudes through contact with the affected character, much like in the real world we learn thru interacting with people in other groups.

Hope that's along the lines of what you were looking for, Deadlock.