Monday, 4 January 2016

Guide to LARP accessibility - Part 3

This guide is lengthy and is split into a few parts. Part three looks at plot and rules - the things that really make the game. 
Part one starts at the very beginning of organising your game and part two dealt with venue logistics. 

The plot

Whilst a lot of accessibility is down to the venue itself, how you run the game is equally important. Considering your players' needs and integrating that into your plot and mechanics makes everything far more seamless and means that those with additional needs can enjoy the game equally with their fellow players.

  • Consider multiple methods of solving a puzzle or dealing with an encounter or that there is variation in how encounters are solved. A game that relies solely on combat or physical prowess to get through excludes physically limited players and a game that relies on only cryptic logic puzzles excludes those with cognitive or learning disabilities.*
  • Think about your pacing carefully. Having opportunities to rest in between action is important, though you don't want too-long periods of inaction.
  • People with physical disabilities may wish to play combat characters. Work with them to see how they fit into the setting and how you can bring combat to them by considering plot (pitched battles are different to snipers and traps), setting and terrain.
  • In an ongoing campaign, vary the times that regular events occur so that they are available to more players – players with disabilities often have to stick to an OC schedule even during games.
  • Are there ways of giving advance notice of action and events to players with disabilities so they can prepare or time their medication – this could be an OC message from a ref or the delivery of a vision or omen.
  • Think about where events happen, can you bring the plot to the players in some instances?
  • If you have players with vision impairment, cognitive disabilities or learning difficulties, find out what methods of communication work best for them and include them in your plot.
    • This may mean putting messages in writing or clear type, having a ref or NPC verbally deliver a message to a player and so on.
  • Props and plot items should be safe to handle anyway but think about items that can be carried one handed if you have a player who walks with a cane, items which are light weight if they have muscle weakness and so on.
  • Don't put anything plot critical in areas that can not be accessed by all players. All players should have the opportunity to reach plot (that's players, not characters, characters may differ).
  • Have back-up plan and alternative plots in case a player is unavailable or unable to do certain actions at a particular time due to their disability.

Morgan is partially sighted and worries that ze won't be able to find key items. The organisers tell zer at the start of each “session” (i.e. morning, afternoon and evening) specific areas he can focus his search on for example, in the shrubbery, they also make sure that IC hidden items are marked with a bright ribbon - players know that only people with the “search” skill can find these items.

Clara's medication has to be taken at the same time every night and she usually falls asleep at 11pm. The Organisers make sure that no Big NPC meetings that affect her character take place after 10pm.

* Not all games are for everybody and that's ok. If you are running a specifically 100% combat event then make this clear in your advertising so that people can make a choice of whether to attend. However, if somebody with a disability does enquire about your 100% combat event, then you should still consider any reasonable accommodations.

Rules and Mechanics

Rules and mechanics are how stuff happens in your game world – it's how we make the unreal, real. They can affect and be affected by people's disabilities. Your rules and mechanics are about how people do things, so you should make sure that they let all people do things.

  • Consider implementing a non-com rule – a rule that means people who can not be involved in combat can avoid it safely OC. These rules should still involve the player IC. Be aware that some players who start off combat safe may have to become non-com later in the game due to health reasons. Know how this should work.
  • Hard skills are popular and common – hard skills are things you can actually do OOC that are used IC. You may need to find a way of balancing this for disabled players so that areas of the game aren't shut off.
  • It is helpful to have printouts of core rules available for players to check mid game, especially for those with cognitive or learning disabilities. Post them on the back of toilet doors or in bunk rooms.
  • Lammies, cards or sheets with explanations of specific skills that players with those skills can carry on them are helpful.
  • Keeping mechanics and rules simple benefits everybody especially players with disabilities.
  • Make it clear to all players that OC mobility aids are not to be moved, hidden or tampered with at any point. You may need to find some way to distinguish between IC costume items and OC mobility aids.
  • Allow some flexibility in rules that require specific actions so as not to exclude people with mobility issues.
  • Think about your Time in and Time Out times. Do they give people a chance to recover and prepare for the event without too much rush?
  • Are your OC Man Down calls sufficiently different to your IC calls for a medic.

Chris has EDS, he is finding it difficult and painful to bend over patients who are lying down in order to use his medic skill. The organisers make an allowance so that the patient can be seated instead of lying down. This allows Chris the option of sitting next to his patient to apply the medic skill.

Rima is partially deaf and is worried she will not hear spell vocals properly. The Organisers decide that all spells will be accompanied by throwing a coloured beanbag at the target – the colour relating to a specific effect. Rima is satisfied she will now know when she has been hit by a spell.

In this guide I've tried to cover as many different bases as I can but I am just one person and I can't cover every possible combination of event and disability. This isn't a comprehensive list but should give you an idea of how to handle most situations. I particularly didn't go in to much detail regarding hard of hearing accessibility as it is something I have yet find good solutions to in LARP. I also only skimmed over mental health issues as I feel that mental health accessibility is a topic which would be best suited to its own post.

Additionally, this isn't a list of things that you absolutely must do every time. There are some things it can be handy to just do automatically that can help all players, but there are other things that are more tailored to an individual. Nobody would blame you for not providing a gluten free catering option when none of your players need gluten free. However, you should be prepared and know how to provide those accommodations if necessary.

At the end of the day, making a game accessible opens your game up to more players and helps you players have a more enjoyable event. Having more players and players who are happy with our event is really what we, as event organisers, are aiming for and good accessibility can help us achieve that. 

NB: I'm not an expert and I may miss things out but I've tried to cover as much as I can. I have tried to give examples where I can and I hope I have not misrepresented anybody. We are all different and that means I can't cover every possible accommodation.

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