We usually avoid discussing in-progress Kickstarter projects here at PCU for several reasons. Most often, it’s because we simply don’t have a finished product from which to form an opinion.
Every so often, however, we come across something that piques our interest. The project resonates with us, and we think it’s doing something important.
After previously discussing the importance of roleplaying game aids, including FATE’s Accessibility Toolkit, we discovered such a project. This Kickstarter focuses on a game about disabilities created by people with disabilities (PWD).
Enter the horror RPG, Survival of the Able.
Survival of the Able is an RPG set amidst the infamous 14th century plague known as the Black Death. It’s an alternate history where the plague is supernatural, and its victims rise from the dead as zombies.
What makes this game stand even further apart from other zombie-themed games is that each of the player characters have a disability.
Players portray ordinary people during the late Middle Ages – a time when when people with disabilities (PWD) had very little support. 14th Century Europe was even more discriminatory than today, and PWD were barely seen as capable adults. Many modern aids (e.g. wheelchairs, braille writing, and sign language) weren’t invented yet.
Relegated to the care of the church, the characters must face the challenges of everyday life. That is, until the horrors of the plague arrive, and the players must survive a new threat.
Survival of the Able is a FUDGE-based system, meaning it uses the familiar “+” and “-” dice, traits rated -3 to +3, and target numbers for tasks. Simplified and freeform, the game also uses description tags, which anyone can activate for bonuses (or penalties).
The core traits focus on Senses, Qualities, and Skills. These traits denote how well a character can navigate the world, their general behavior, and any expertise they might have. Characters also have Stress and Wounds, the former of which is affected by Anxieties and Assurances.
Supernatural elements exist in the form of Patron Saints and Blessed Dice. Players can spend Fate Points and pray, earning a pool that allows them to re-roll dice in specific situations.
Although a bit “crunchier” than some FUDGE (and most FATE) systems, Survival of the Able remains a relatively simple system that allows for more story-based gaming. It may not be for everyone, but what sells it for us is the focus on PWD.
In previous panels, we’ve talked about the problems with how disabilities are used or portrayed in tabletop gaming. All too often, they’re boiled down to generic (and ignorant) stereotypes. Sometimes, disabilities are even used as nothing more than bonus points.
Survival of the Able makes disability a full-fledged aspect of the character (and game) while entirely normal for everyone at the table. Traits focus on behavior and senses, rather than physical or mental capability, and skills are independent of disability.
Character creation doesn’t list specific disabilities but instead allows players to craft their traits around their general concept. Deafness, blindness, mobility disabilities, neurological differences, or psychological disorders are part of your idea, but you choose how to represent them within your Senses, Qualities, and Skills.
The setting also puts players on the same level, facing the prejudices of Middle Age society and the challenges of being a PWD. All of these obstacles form the background of a game of survival horror, where plague and zombies are a threat for everyone.
Survival of the Able tries to provide an accurate portrayal of disabilities, especially in a historical setting. For PWD, this provides representation; but for non-disabled people, this hopefully provides some insight and empathy.
No less should be expected from the creator of the game, Jacob Wood. An ENnie-nominated, game designer with visual impairment and founder of Accessible Games, he has spent much of his career advocating for accessibility and representation.
He’s joined by other PWD and allies, creating unique games that challenge the ignorance of society. Survival of the Able is the latest to bring the perspectives of the disabled community to the table.
As both myself and Doug T. are PWD, we cannot emphasize how vital games like these are to us. That Survival of the Able incorporates disabilities into its mechanics in a respectful way, while providing us with a fascinating setting, only makes us more excited for this project.
For those unsure about the game, feel free to download the rough Beta draft (at no cost). It provides everything you’ll need to try the game, as the Kickstarter is primarily for a complete (and printable) book with full artwork.
Whether you are a PWD yourself, or an ally like so many others, you can support Accessible Games and Mr. Woods by backing the project. Tabletop RPGs have come a long way, but accessibility and representation are still significant concerns for the disabled community.
Either way, let’s keep on making tabletop gaming an inclusive and accessible hobby.