International Day of People with Disabilities

Friday, December 3, 2021

Hi, Pathfinders and Starfinders! We’re lucky to have a community full of awesome people with so many different identities and experiences. Today, we want to give the spotlight to members of our community with disabilities. These folks are game designers, content creators, players and GMs, business owners, writers, and artists. Please take a few moments to learn more about them in their own words.

Two separate illustrations of the pathfinder and starfinder iconics with 'community blog' in white text overlayed over the top

Zigvigix, Illustration by Sebastien Rodriguez, from the Starfinder Society Organized Play Program
Zigivix, Illustration by Sebastien Rodriguez: An insect-like, bipedal alien in a silverly space suit, sitting in an automated wheelchair with a data pad popped up

GM Numbat (they/she)

I started playing RPGs in the mid-late ‘70s, enjoying the original D&D with its flimsy booklets and fun dice. Within a year, I was running games at my all-girls high school. I’ve played many systems over the years, though usually only briefly and with long breaks between. Partly this was because of a complex interaction of several chronic mental and physical conditions which can limit my abilities. I am grateful for the Paizo Organized Play community, where I found an accepting and welcoming home.

None of my health concerns are obvious by looking at me. The major advantage to this is that when I have a good day, no one prejudges me simply based on appearance. The major disadvantage is that when I am having a bad day, it is difficult for some to understand, as I look “normal.” Over time, I have become better at learning my limits and predicting some of those times that I need to cut back on commitments. Still, I can be caught out with an unexpected flare and have to pull out of playing, or worse, running a game. I always feel terrible when I do, even though most of our community has been wonderfully supportive. Dietary restrictions are a challenge, especially when traveling or wanting to socialize. I catch myself annoyed by someone’s fidgeting or apparent distraction at the table and remind myself that this may be their coping mechanism, just as I have mine. We are each so individual, with our own needs and concerns, often not obvious to others. Let us celebrate those differences and the unique perspective they bring.

Ivis K. Flanagan (she/her)

Disabilities come in many forms. There are disabilities that the world can observe and recognize. There are others, though, that people fight in the dark, because the social stigma of them can be a silence spell, where the anxiety of the possible response is more encompassing than the darkness of suffering alone. PTSD is one of those.

PTSD is the demon that I fight. While many often associate this fight with former soldiers or others who have been in warzones, those are not the only demons at hand. Any traumatic event can be a catalyst. This is my fight—utilizing weapons of words, medications, and therapy in the ongoing battle. I now add to these this transparency in the hopes that someone else will see that they aren’t alone. You have allies who know these battlefields well.

Another weapon against it is finding safe spaces and friends who care. I have been able to do that through this community—the players, volunteers, freelancers, and staff who I am lucky to call colleagues and friends. This community is ever growing, and its values of inclusion, diversity, and honesty are why it is a safe space, a space I am grateful to help create, and a place where no one has to fight alone.

Tassada Kor Full, “Illustration by Milos Rocenovic from SFS #4-06: Combatants’ Concerto: Prelude to Revolution
Tassada Kor, Illustration by Milos Rocenovic: A vesk in a white uniform with gold trim, sitting in a high backed automated wheelchair

Avi Kool (they/them)

Hi all! I’m senior editor at Paizo (on Twitter at @legalizegoblins) and multiply disabled, both physically and mentally. Due to hypermobility and congenital muscle issues, I have numerous joint conditions and when walking for more than a few minutes, I have to wear braces on my knees to reduce pain. This can lead to awkward questions, uncomfortable assumptions, and a sense of self-consciousness. Sticking out in public is challenging, whether it’s the braces themselves or the need to use the elevator when all my friends automatically go for the stairs. Additionally, I have a whole cocktail of mental and learning disabilities. This isn’t uncommon; comorbidity is the norm for mental illness and learning disabilities, which is why you often see people listing out a number of disorders. Here’s my list: bipolar disorder, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, and dyscalculia. I struggle with feeling self-conscious about the number of health problems I face, but there’s no need to be ashamed. Disability is actually extremely common, though we don’t talk about it like it is, and many people with disabilities have more than one.

It’s been a huge pleasure to see disability become more prominent in our games. I feel so lucky to have worked on books like Grand Bazaar, where I gave my NPC, Arhan Benimaya, a service dog. Disability *is* normal, and we should treat it as such.

Dave Nelson (he/they)

Hey everybody! I'm Dave Nelson and I live with a handful of disabilities, mainly autism, dyslexia/dysgraphia, and anxiety. Often these "invisible" disabilities get either swept under the rug or have their legitimacy questioned. It makes it quite the uphill battle to get recognized and taken seriously. I feel very strongly that more exposure to what folks with these disabilities are actually like and what they go through will help combat these issues. So from the very start of my writing career I have tried to champion neurodiverse causes and representation as best I can. You can find examples of my neurodiverse characters both in Lost Omens Grand Bazaar in the form of Erikanesh, or the upcoming Absalom, City of Lost Omens with Chun Hye-Seung. You can find me on Twitter @davicthegrey, talking about my experiences, games, and all other manner of things.

Chun Hae Seung, Illustration by Alex Stone, from Pathfinder Absalom, City of Lost Omens
Chun Hae Seung, Illustration by Alex Stone: a warrior in a green tunic with a sword at their hip and a glaive in their hand, looks into the distnace

Stefan “Waffles” Timmons (he/him)

Hello, I am Stefan, better known in the TTRPG sphere as Waffles from WafflesMapleSyrup LLC. I am a disabled US Navy veteran with major depressive disorder, tinnitus, as well as other depressive contributing factors such as insomnia and chronic pain. I have battled with suicide in my life and strive to have nobody need to fight that battle alone.

I am one of the two CEOs of WafflesMapleSyrup, who run two separate streams and podcasts. I am the GM of our Starfinder show Journeys Adrift, and I play an android magus (Arc II) in our Strength of Thousands show, Outcast & Outclassed. TTRPGs have given me a close-knit group of friends and a significant other that keep my head up and let me strive to do better in life.

WafflesMapleSyrup strives to reduce the stigma against mental health with our platform in TTRPGs, and because of their similar standards, love to do so with Paizo. We've participated in PaizoCon streams, Jasper's Game Day, and Paizo events, among other events with various creators since we began.

We aim to build our platform into something large enough to have the reach necessary to reduce the stigma against mental health and show that it is okay to be different, it's okay to be disabled, and there should always be a place for everyone at the table.

Esther Wallace (she/her, zhe/zher)

Hi y’all, I’m Esther Wallace. I GM Chromythica, a Pathfinder 2E actual play, and I’m multiply disabled. I have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), two types of OI (osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare bone disease, and orthostatic intolerance, which mostly means I get really dizzy when I stand up), and other as-yet-undiagnosed chronic illnesses.

My disabilities come with frequent symptoms of brain fog, intense pain, and exhaustion. I’m still learning how to navigate as a disabled person in the tabletop community. Gaming spaces are so often not constructed with disabled people in mind; for me, it makes all the difference in the world if a GM and fellow players ask me about my access needs and work with me to implement accessibility practices. As a player, this can take the shape of GMs building in time for me to move my body or encouraging me to play online games from bed or a couch. As a GM, this frequently takes the form of my players helping me recall rules on particularly bad brain fog days!

I created the hashtags #tabletopaccess and #ttrpgaccess as a way for disabled people to discuss our experiences in tabletop, and I host periodic Twitter chats about disability and tabletop RPGs using these hashtags. Disabled people are welcome to respond to any of the prompts I’ve posted, and nondisabled people are welcome to follow along and learn!

You can find me on Twitter @dungeonminister and catch me GMing @Chromythica on Twitter and YouTube!

Illustration by Lucas Villalva Machado, from Pathfinder Lost Omens Grand Bazaar
Wheelchair Adventurer, Illustration by Lucas Villalva Machado: an adventurer, wearing blue and white robes with their hair pulled back, sitting in a wooden wheelchair and brandishing a wand

Owen K.C. Stephens (he/him)

Hi, I’m Owen K.C. Stephens. I’ve been playing and homebrewing for TTRPGs for 39 years, been a professional game writer for 25 years, a developer for 21, and a publisher and consultant for 9. My involvement with Paizo goes back to the early days of the company putting out DragonMagazine. I wrote the original Guide to Absalom as a freelancer, was a Paizo developer on-staff from 2014 to 2019, am a co-creator of Starfinder, and have done regular freelance work for Paizo since I left. I am also the publisher and co-owner for Rogue Genius Games, and the Fantasy AGE developer for Green Ronin.

Content Warning: Trauma, abuse, and suicidal thoughts discussed in the rest of this bio.

I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have Civilian Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (also known as Non-Combat PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder. I must be medicated and undergo psychotherapy in order to remain functional. This is much like having a broken leg and needing crutches—the crutches don’t let you act normally, but they do make it possible to get more done than you possibly could without them.

Gaming, both game-writing and game-playing, have been a major source of therapy and the ability to build a social safety net for myself. Before I was diagnosed, without RPGs, I would not have survived high school. I know games are important—they saved my life—and believe representation is a crucial part of that.

You can find me and links to my social media at

For content designed by disabled authors and game designers for playing characters with disabilities, check out Pathfinder Grand Bazaar and Starfinder Tech Revolution! For some great fiction, read “Wheels Aflame” by Sara Thompson.

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Themetricsystem wrote:

I am happy to know that the company is placing an emphasis of understanding and accommodation for the disabled but I do just want to take a moment to express that I am very much deeply unsettled whenever I see people talking about how one is or should "celebrate" the disabilities and "how they make us different" wherever I see it. I'm not going to harp on it but it's extremely tone deaf to SOME of us to see people, even other disabled persons, speak about embracing these things that actively and in some cases catastrophically impact our daily lives.

Well let's be honest here disabilities is a fact of life and because society is such a dam monster you are basically made to think you're a freak of nature because you're not "normal". And I can't really think of many people who haven't had some form of disability in my social circles making me wonder if its just an issue with society as constructed. And I get it its not fun to deal with something with the catastrophic impact of it is being dead. But its probably more common than you would imagine.

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Heather F wrote:
I chose to not participate in this blog because I do not see my chronic, incurable disease as something to be celebrated. At best it has been an inconvenience, and at its worst it has been crippling. However, as has been stated in the comments, I do agree that there should be more awareness around the fact that there are many people suffering, not just from what we can see, but from things we cannot.

Thank you for saying this. I get really upset when people talk about my Tourette's, ADHD, and OCD and call them "neurodivergence" or "neurodiversity". I'm not "diverse", I have a crippling, incurable anxiety disorder that measurably hampers my ability to function and has left me here, today, with an 8 page paper due tomorrow that I haven't started on and can't bring myself to start because I am overcome with anxiety and perfectionism whenever I try. Every medication I've ever been on has either been ineffective, has treated one issue while worsening others, or in the cases of risperidone, Concerta, and Abilify has actively hurt me (Concerta gave me a black-box reaction that made me a violent monster, risperidone left me unable to think and sick with a cold for two months, and Abilify probably gave me tardive dyskinesia).

I really avoid modern disability rights activism as a result, both because I feel out of place as someone with a normal-appearing body and because I'm uncomfortable with the quasi-nationalistic identity focus that permeates the discourse, which I find hurtful and not representative of my daily misery. So it means a lot when somebody comes out and admits something like this, especially the first sentence I quoted.

3 people marked this as a favorite.
keftiu wrote:
I celebrate parts of my disability - my neurodivergence (autism, ADHD) are key parts of who I am, and I love them for that.

As an autistic person, same. When it comes to disability I think it really needs to be taken on a case by case basis. For some disabilities, the effects are mostly/entirely negative...but for others, like autism, there are also positive aspects that aren't acknowledged and much of the problems come from a lack of accommodation from society. If by some magic, PTSD could be "cured" that would presumably be a good thing, but in the case of autism it would be awful to attempt to do so. Since that would just be changing how their/our minds work to be like the majority instead of addressing their issues in a way that still preserves their/our uniqueness.

I think debating whether disabilities overall should or shouldn't be celebrated is oversimplifying the issue. For some groups it's needed and helpful, for some it isn't. And as others have pointed out celebrating can also involve highlighting the difficulties people face due to lacking the needed support, problems from their disability, or both. Or just recognizing a marginalized group and working to counteract discrimination against them.

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