Fate Accessibility Toolkit
Nothing About Us Without Us
In this book, we talk about all sorts of disabilities, from visible to invisible, from mental illness to people who use wheelchairs. We talk about the mechanics of how adaptive devices work in game, and how they work on a practical level. Basically, we get into as many specifics as possible.
We can’t go over every disability on the planet; that would be futile. When you look at the text in The Nitty Gritty of Specific Disabilities (page XX), it’s important to know a couple of things. Every disability has been addressed by someone who knows the topic because they live it. Lillian has schizophrenia and synesthesia; Elsa is blind, deaf, and has PTSD (yup, it’s a fun diagnostic party). This is deliberate; personal experience gives you better insight into how to play a character than a medical text can. It also means our advice might be flawed.
Gaming With Disabilities (page XX) gives you more information about how to do the research and learn from other people without hurting anyone, and it’ll help you bring people who already have disabilities to your table.
Some of what’s said here may feel like you’re being told what not to do, which isn’t necessarily the most Fate-y thing ever. The goal here is to help you (the player and the GM) come to a better place where disability inclusion looks more like it should—a way to experience new stories without the burden of harmful tropes. Sometimes the only way to do that is to stop doing the things you’ve always done before.
Sidebar: On Saying “No”
Brian is one of the system and mechanics developers for this book! He pops in and out with ways to flesh out your mechanics from a Fate-y perspective.
As Elsa said, some of the text in this book likely feels like we’re telling you what not to do, and that might feel contrary to the ethos of Fate. You’re supposed to say “yes,” aren’t you?
Here’s the thing: Fate is a respectful game. We don’t tackle topics if we can’t tackle them in a respectful way, and when we do tackle topics—especially sensitive, difficult topics—we do it with the goal of not causing harm. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
This book aims to help your table do this for a specific set of topics. We want everyone to have fun, but in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone or make anyone feel like they are less important.
So try this trick: if you write an aspect or a stunt or whatever and someone else at the table says, “Hey, that aspect kind of hurts me. Do you mind changing it?” don’t approach that as them saying “no” to you. Approach it as an opportunity for you to learn, to come up with a better, more respectful way to express what you’re trying to express, or to realize that sometimes a trope is just plain harmful and shouldn’t be used at the table.
Remember that everyone at the table is there to have fun, and if something you do is causing someone pain or discomfort, you’re getting in the way of their fun. It’s okay for the table to say “no” to that kind of behavior. Because Fate is a respectful game.
A Short List of Things You May Not Have Considered
- Disabled people don’t always want to be cured.
- Not all disabilities have a cure.
- The Disability Binary is a lie. Most disabilities exist on a sliding scale. Not all blind people are totally blind, not all D/deaf people are totally D/deaf, a person in a wheelchair may be able to stand and walk short distances.
- An adaptive device is a tool, sometimes an extension of or replacement for a body part. It is not a toy or a prop or a thing to be mocked.
- Disability can be part of your identity, but it isn’t all of you either. Disabled people are Jewish, PoC, gay, straight, trans… Disabled people are just that. Complex people.
- Pain is relative. Some kinds of pain don’t even rate for someone who has it all the time.
- Disability is not one size fits all; it looks different on everyone, and everyone who has a disability handles their own differently. Even people with the same disability don’t all handle it in the exact same way.
- Not all disabilities are visible. You might play a character with an invisible disability—their experience is still a disabled one.
Language and Identity
There are a few different ways that people with disabilities talk about ourselves. Some prefer person first language. What does that mean? It’s very simple: It means the word “person” goes before the disability, such as “a man with depression.” Some people feel that it helps them maintain their identity as a “person first, disability second.” Other people, including myself (Elsa), prefer to be called a blind woman or a disabled woman. It’s a matter of preference and practice. In my case, because I have never known a body other than a disabled one to be mine, I choose the language of disabled first. However, gaining a disability later in life does not mean that you would prefer person first language. When you’re creating a character with a disability, consider what language they might prefer or, for that matter, the language preferred for the world you’re playing in.
A Note on Aspects
A cornerstone of Fate is that you can choose the aspects that interest you as a player, and choose language that suits your thinking. Since good aspects can be compelled as well as invoked, phrase aspects in a useful, flexible way. A character might be Strong, but they might also be Built Like a Tank or Tiny but Mighty. The actual wording of the aspect is just the anchor point to hang your understanding of the character on. Consider jotting down a description of how the aspect is supposed to work, both when invoked and when compelled. After all, even aspects like Amazon Princess or World’s Greatest Detective can use a little description to nail down what they cover.
We hope this book helps you apply the same richness of thought to tweaking straightforward aspects like Blind Swordsman (like Zatoichi) or Depressed Green Monster (like Shrek) or Anxious Blue Thought (like Sadness from Inside Out). While this book provides more colorful aspects that might be used in lieu of those, more importantly, it provides tools to allow you to have a richer understanding of the idea you’re expressing. We’re not looking to police “good” and “bad” aspects, only to suggest that the more you understand, the better the experience will be for you and for everyone you play with.
GMs, never compel an aspect in such a way that it takes a player character out of the flow of the story. For example, do not compel an Agoraphobic to force a player to hide in a corner while the action is unfolding in a vast train station. Instead, provide ideas of choices that will lead to more possibilities for the character. For example, you can hold up a fate point and suggest: “Do you think your agoraphobia would drive you to seek a safe spot somewhere? The station master ran out of the office when the second alarm rang, and the ‘Employees only’ door is slightly ajar…”
Heroism and Overcoming
We encourage you to use the Fate Accessibility Toolkit to explore playing characters with disabilities in heroic situations. Rewrite the overcoming narrative—the narrative that as a disabled person you’re heroic because you manage to get out your front door. This is one of the narratives we’re trying to encourage players to leave behind, telling new stories. Always push to have your characters with disabilities be part of the story as people first—not because they’re disabled, but because they’re heroes.