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Unfamiliar Heroes

This is a picture of a large, old book that is lying open. Coming out of the book is a fairy-sized white woman with black hair. She is sitting on a field of grass underneath some large umbrella-shape mushrooms reading a small book. An owl is perched on the stack of books beside her and a red fox is hiding in the mushrooms behind her. This image is intended to invoke the magic and excitement of storytelling.

This is a picture of a large, old book that is lying open. Coming out of the book is a fairy-sized white woman with black hair. She is sitting on a field of grass underneath some large umbrella-shape mushrooms reading a small book. An owl is perched on the stack of books beside her and a red fox is hiding in the mushrooms behind her. This image is intended to invoke the magic and excitement of storytelling.

 

Overview

Unfamiliar Heroes is a podcast series in which three disabled and/or chronically ill players and a game master will play story-focused tabletop role-playing games where all of the player characters have disabilities and/or chronic illnesses. Each game will be a one shot that will be recorded in one to four sessions and then broken into multiple podcast episodes. For the moment, Unfamiliar Heroes will be released as episodes of my Writing Alchemy podcast.

 

Goals

One important goal of this project is to make space for disabled, chronically ill, and neurodiverse heroes in speculative fiction and gaming. By having all of the characters be disabled or chronically ill, I intend to challenge myself and the other players to move beyond the narrow set of roles that currently exist for disabled characters in speculative fiction to. In doing this we will be calling into question assumptions and structures inherent in role-playing games, such as the assumption that heroes have to leave their homes in order to participate in the adventure.

By doing a series of one shots with a range of guests, I hope to include a greater diversity of experience and creativity than I ever could create on my own. Centering people living at the intersections of different forms of oppression is a priority for me and it will be a priority in guest selection, as will be giving guests a lot of power over how they are represented and how the project unfolds.

Another key goal of this project is to increase the number of positive and real-feeling portrayals of characters with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and neurodiverse brains (I won’t say that they will be realistic portrayals, because speculative fiction is by its very nature goes beyond ordinary reality, but they should feel true to the experience of living with a disability). Currently there is a big lack of representation of many oppressed groups within both speculative fiction and role-playing games and this project is aimed at filling that gap (working alongside many other amazing people and groups who are also working toward this goal).

 

Timeline

The players for the first game have been recruited. I am currently in the process of recruiting a game master. Once that is done, sessions will be schedule. It is my hope to have the first game recorded by early summer.

 

Game Ground Rules

These rules are open to input and change through discussion with the players and game masters participating in this project. I expect them to grow and change over the course of the series. You can read the full ground rules description here.

  1. Use respectful and inclusive language
  2. Avoid stereotypical characters
  3. For games with sexual content, characters will be eighteen or older
  4. Focus on positive representation

 

Want to Participate?

I am excited to bring in a range of guests with different experiences and approaches to game play. At this point all players are required to have a physical disability, a chronic illness, or a diverse brain/mental illness. This is not required for game masters, but it is preferred. If you are interested in being a player or a game master, please fill out the participation survey.

 

Further Reading

If you want to know more about the reasons why I feel that Unfamiliar Heroes is so important, you can read my short article, “We Need More Room for Disability Representation.”

You can find a work in progress list of those things I want game masters to avoid, include, and be aware of as they craft their games in the Guidelines for Game Masters. I expect this list to significantly grow and change over time.

 

This is a photograph of three twenty sided dice, two purple and one pink, on top of a black and white Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. The photo was taken at a dramatic tilted angle to invoke the excitement of playing a tabletop role-playing game.

This is a photograph of three twenty sided dice, two purple and one pink, on top of a black and white Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. The photo was taken at a dramatic tilted angle to invoke the excitement of playing a tabletop role-playing game.

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