Designer and disability consultant Sara Thompson, creator of the combat wheelchair rules for D&D 5E, has released a set of resources for introducing disabilities to characters and campaigns in the Witcher Tabletop RPG system. The scenarios, characters and rules included are free to access and cover topics such as prosthetic use, NPC interactions and Witchers with disabilities.
That last point is a salient one since Thompson was partially inspired by a Twitter thread of theirs that went viral on Monday. They discussed what they believe to be Geralt of Rivia’s canonical disability in the books by Andrzej Sapkowski and how the injury, rehabilitation and life afterward affects his character.
Geralt of Rivia & the Importance of Disabled Protagonists— the dislocating GM Making DnD Better (@mustangsart) November 9, 2020
Geralt of Rivia is disabled.
That statement always surprises people, even fans of the series. But it's true. It's just that people only remember how Geralt is shown in- 1/20 pic.twitter.com/7RlFtiK0ol
“Why is it important that Geralt is disabled? It adds a lot to Geralt as a character and a protagonist,” Thompson said on Twitter. “That isn't something you see very often in fantasy novels or the genre as a whole and as someone whose disabilities include osteoarthritis and nerve damage, it meant the world to see someone like me be a famed and powerful monster hunter.
“It was Geralt's journey after Time of Contempt and his navigating to accepting his disability in Baptism of Fire that helped me understand and come to terms with my own disability.”
Thompson’s resources allow players to embrace that important representation with care and empathy. An NPC they designed includes sections on how the character became disabled, but more importantly covers how she prefers to to talk about it, how her mobility is affected and the ways she has learned to live with this as part of who she is.
As Thompson mentions in the character sheet, roleplaying disability is not a topic often covered, so seeing GM-minded rules approach the subject from a number of angles helps prevent insensitivity or outright harmful portrayals. Physical attributes of the NPC’s prosthetic are included, such as dimensions and weight, but so too are topics like phantom limb sensations, treating chronic pain and mobility preferences for a number of situations - many of the things a real person living with a disability has to consider.
Thompson continues to work with R. Talsorian Games on official products and is intimately familiar with the Witcher setting. This is reflected in the depth of detail with which they explore how various disabilities would be accommodated by both Witchers and mages. Sign language, altered magic signs, sensory changes to spell components and even upgrades to particle prosthetics are laid out in detail. It wouldn’t be a Witcher experience if you couldn’t upgrade your gear, after all.
Thompson is currently working on an upcoming Witcher TTRPG magical sourcebook, Tome of Chaos, as well as an adventure in the setting. While they couldn’t say much, they mentioned discussion around the canonically blind mage Fringilla Vigo.
“I can't say for certain what will or won't be appearing in this book, but my hope is that we can use this as an opportunity for representation - especially as the resources I posted today account for blind Witchers and blind mages!” Thompson told Dicebreaker.
My FREE DISABILITY RESOURCES for the #Witcher #ttrpg by @RTalsorianGames!#disability— the dislocating GM Making DnD Better @mustangsart) November 10, 2020
Drive link: https://t.co/3rLKy6Mdwx
You get PDFs:
- Disability & Witchers
- Prosthetics for Witchers
- Disability & Mages
- Prosthetics for Mages
- A Short Witcher Adventure
- A Disabled NPC
Fans have historically picked up designers’ slack when it comes to representation in RPG settings. While Thompson loves the vibrant work to shore up those weaknesses in the public, they believe official sources hold a responsibility to their players.
“A lot of people play TTRPGs and a lot of us exist in the general population worldwide - it's time our games and our stories truly reflect this. It should be acknowledged in official books,” Thompson said. “It'll take time, but I believe normalising disability, chronic and mental illness, and neurodivergency can and will happen. It has to. We exist and we want to exist in our fantasy settings; we have and always will belong here.”
They went on to express the importance in hiring consultants and sensitivity readers when subject matter deals with such issues, or hiring these folks into permanent positions in order to enact more lasting positive representation.
Thompson’s Witcher TRPG resources can be found on Twitter, where they will remain free to access.