I’m curious, if a PC wanted to represent a disabled character, such as if they were in a wheelchair, how would one go about that in terms of how it would change normal gameplay?I might just treat it as a flavor thing, rather than worry too much about mechanics. By rules, someone in a wheelchair doesn’t suffer any penalties or bonuses. Sitting isn’t something reflected in mechanics
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) December 3, 2017
One thought on “If a PC wanted to represent a disabled character how would one go about that in terms of how it would change normal gameplay?”
As a DM, I’d have a chat with the player about the desired extent of their character’s abilities and hindrances, and what they feel is appropriate for modifiers, because it could really go a lot of different ways.
For example, for a weak and sickly character bound to a wheelchair, it could make sense to reduce their movement speed, to reflect their inability to propel themselves forward very well.
But for a character who is merely paralyzed below the waist, yet is still strong and healthy with good upper body and arm strength, they could easily be allowed to keep their normal movement speed, because they can wheel themselves along at quite a decent clip.
That said, wheelchairs are highly fickle things, and they really don’t like uneven ground. That’s a big problem in a medieval setting where the vast majority of terrain is going to be at least a little bit uneven. The only place you’d normally encounter large smooth surfaces would be in cities with paved streets, and even then you’re still dealing with cobblestone, which isn’t quite truly smooth.
You also need to consider the nature of the world, and what could cause a person to be permanently disabled. In a world with magical healing, if something robs you of your ability to walk, you just seek out treatment from any ordinary temple of the gods, and then you’re back to normal. You’d have to have a pretty execeptional form of disability for a magical fix to not be feasible.
Now, one thing that causes an issue is the loss of limbs. Restoring those takes more powerful kinds of magic, which can be much harder to find or afford. If you fully lose your legs, then you might be stuck in a wheelchair for a while.
That said, other solutions exist, and might be more common than, and even preferable to, using a wheelchair.
Prosthetics are certainly a possibility – ranging from the simple and mundane, to the elaborate and magical. Trained animals are also available, and could potentially serve as mounts with the proper harnesses, or pull small vehicles like carts or wagons. Humanoid labor is also relatively cheap, and you could hire an unskilled porter to carry you around, either stapped to their back Yoda style, or in some sort of muscle-powered vehicle like a palanquin or a rickshaw.
Whatever your player chooses, the key is to impose realistic and fair conditions based upon it. For example, if they want to use a wheelchair, then they are going to have problems with stairs – there’s just no getting around that.