When you play role playing games you enter a world of make believe where you can be anything the game allows, a space pirate, an elf, and unknown alien race.
But, with each character played there is bits and pieces of the player who rolls the dice and makes the decisions.
So what if you are in a wheelchair, and you want to play a character closer to who you are?
Well thanks to Sara Thompson in a fantasy setting you can take your wheelchair into the realm with you.
"The rule-set came first," offered Thompson. "I first uploaded it in early August 2020 and Strata then reached out to put their support behind it. They really helped me get the word out there."
So, what was the inspiration for the rules which clearly fill a niche I had not seen addressed before?
"It all started with an offhand comment I made to some of my disabled friends when we were playing D&D (Dungeons & Dragons)," she said. "I said 'Wouldn't it be cool to be able to adventure in a wheelchair that can be used to the same effect that a murderball (wheelchair rugby) sport chair can?' and they were all very supportive of it. I wanted to make my friends and I feel represented and be able to have fun playing characters like us - I wanted to share that with everyone in the TTRPG (Tabletop Role Playing Game) community."
Thompson had a rather straight forward objective when she started creating rules. "To have an item that would represent wheelchair users and help disabled people feel more included in a game that has often overlooked them in the past," she said.
"I wanted to make my friends and other disabled players feel that they had the option to play and bring a character like them to the table.
"I wanted a dialogue about disability and fantasy gaming to be opened and addressed."
That wasn't an easy list of objectives to achieve.
Thompson said the hardest part was "making sure I had as many bases covered as I could. New rulings for classes and spells are coming into D&D 5e at a pretty quick rate, so I wanted to be certain the chair could handle as many possibilities as it could.
"Even now, the PDF goes through updates whenever things change or feedback points out something I may have missed."
The rules took Thompson roughly a year to make and get out.
"It was difficult as I was juggling it and my last year at university for my Bachelors, but it was something I always enjoyed making and looked forward to working on after hours of lectures and study," she said.
The most difficult aspect of designing the rules was getting it right for the players.
"The hardest part was ensuring the basic chair rules encapsulated and was representative of people's experiences," said Thompson. "I wanted wheelchair users to feel included and there are many different wheelchair users out there - everyone's experience is unique to them. But I wanted to make sure that at its core the chair had a solid frame of base rules that folks could tailor to match their experience."
Lee Oakley, owner of Strata Miniatures,said coming on-side was a natural.
"The rule-set was 100 per cent the inspiration for the miniatures," he said. "There were a series of tweets that sparked some debate around the Combat Wheelchair rules. The very second we saw the post -- and responses, we decided immediately we wanted to show or support for Sara and her rules, so reached out.
"One of our sculptors, Russ, was a childhood wheelchair user due to a bone condition, so the project really resonated with us."
So for Oakley what is the best element of the rules?
"As a group of miniature designers, we work every day making physical miniatures from concepts. The fact that our miniatures pull their influence so heavily from the rule-set, is a real credit to Sara as a writer," he offered.
Oakley added the rules were very much inspiration for the miniatures.
"We wanted the miniatures to reflect the rules," he said. "When we were researching how to create the Dungeons and Diversity range, we soon found that there was very little (in terms of existing miniatures) to use as a baseline. We relied heavily on Sara’s expertise to make sure we made the best miniatures we possibly could."
So were there special challenges to designing the minis?
"Where to start with this one," said Oakley. "The basic answer is there were plenty of challenges. When you create a miniature, you rely on the expertise of the chain of specialists: art, 3D designers, 3D printing, caster.
"Each layer in the process gives input both creatively and mechanically, so that you end up with a product that can be manufactured efficiently and to the highest possible standard. Experience is key reducing the number of technical issues along the way. As there aren’t many/any miniature wheelchairs on the market to help the design process along, we had to experiment a lot to refine the design and production process.
"This has continued from Wave 1, in to Wave 2, where we are continuing to improve our designs to make the miniatures easier to put together for use on the tabletop.
"We have been really fortunate to work with some very experienced miniatures designers, courtesy of Steamforged Games, who supported the project and happily encouraged their team to contribute. Russ Charles and Tom Lishman were the duo behind the miniatures, and now we have other talented sculptors keen to get involved."
Oakley likes what they have created.
"We absolutely love them," he said, "not just as miniatures, but what they mean to the community."
Thompson too loves the minis.
"I adored them - I fell in love at first sight, truly! I certainly had a good emotional cry after seeing the sculptures for the first time," she said.
Wheelchair using RPGers have liked the rules and the minis.
"So many wheelchair users reached out to tell me how much the rules and resulting miniatures mean to them - how they could finally play a hero who is just like them for once," said Thompson. "Some very touching responses included people reaching out to say how their wheelchair using friend was finally trying D&D as they could play a wheelchair using character for once. I'm glad the chair rule-set and these minis have brought so much joy to the people Strata and I made them for: anyone can be a hero, after all."
Minis are available from:www.strataminiatures.com
The rules are completely free at: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Qwz92BW6-sFT8g_iN6XKVuEJuK_5400L