I’m Tarren (they/them), and I’m an agender singer/songwriter and voice actor who’s been an avid gamer in various ways for more years than I can remember. I am working on developing my Soundcloud page which at this point has the “pocket songs” I’ve written so far. You can find the games I’ve played in here, and for info on things coming up that I can’t talk about yet, follow me on Twitter as @LandrasGembar.
Tarren, what were your first experiences playing D&D like? What has kept you interested in the game?
My experience with D&D goes back far before I ever played the game. I grew up in a D&D-playing household, and on occasion would sit listening to my brothers and their friends playing at the dining room table. I was intrigued, but I was also way younger than anyone in the group, and accessible materials for D&D didn’t exist. That was in the 80’s.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, when an intrepid blind GM got his hands on the *ONE* Braille copy of the original D&D rulebook and some way he could read his dice rolls and started a game on one of the various audio chat services that existed way before Discord or Zoom were even envisioned. I was hooked in…until that group ended up disbanding for whatever reason. I’d be without a D&D outlet until the late ’00s, when a job teaching assistive technology landed me right across the street from Bosco’s, a gaming store that turned out to be running D&D encounters. In those days, ebook versions of the rules were just starting to be a thing, and I would use magnification, as taxing as it was, to read the tables and get the information I needed to build my character.
I knew, once I had that character built, I had the chance to be more than I ever could be normally. I could face down any foe, I could conquer any obstacle, and it didn’t matter that in reality pretty much any physical stat was a dump stat for me. And I’ve kept on playing for those reasons, along with the excitement of visiting fascinating places not possible in reality.
As a queer person, have roleplaying games helped you explore or express your queer identity?
Definitely! D&D was a safe space where I could leave my assigned gender at the door. The fact that most of the characters I played were men aided my decision to transition from female to male, opening the door for me to eventually embrace my genderlessness.
You have participated in charity events for Everyone Games, an organization that promotes accessibility in nerdy spaces. What do you think are the biggest obstacles that disabled people experience in traditionally nerdy spaces?
As to the biggest obstacle we face, I think there’s a bit of an assumption out there that a disabled person coming to a nerdy space probably has all their accomodations figured out, that their tools/adaptations/etc. will take care of everything, or the opposite end, trying to compensate for disabilities without conferring with the person in question. It’s a good idea, even if you think you know what a person might or might not need, to check in with them on what accommodations might or might not be needed.
What are some examples of issues that disabled people find themselves working around that other people take for granted?
I’ve read, over the years, of people in wheelchairs having trouble in public gaming events because things were spaced too close together. An average person may well be able to slip into narrower spaces, but a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid might not be able to. Another thing we sometimes struggle with is not knowing when our energy might suddenly deplete, and we have to discard plans at the last second.
What is one thing that you wish sighted players would do when playing with partially sighted or blind gamers?
If you’re going to use an image, map, or other visual aid, describe it. This will keep us on the same page as the rest of the table. For those who do audio podcasting, if your podcast listeners would be left out, so would we. In chat spaces, if you share a GIF or meme, please add a description so that those who can’t see it well, if at all, know what people are talking about. Also know that not all text can be read by screen readers, and when it can, it’s sometimes skewed because of OCR flukes and/or typographical quirks. So if you’re sharing text, please share it outside of images where screen readers can find it accurately.
Do you have any examples of people or organizations that are doing accessibility well in nerdy circles? What are they doing right?
Knights of the Braille is one of the hosting organizations of the Everyone Games event mentioned above, and they are actively working to promote accessible gaming opportunities and adapting gaming materials as needed. Possum Creek Games, creators of Wanderhome have done an amazing job making sure that their PDF is easy to read and has excellent descriptions for the various illustrations throughout the book.
Do you have any recommendations of queer nerdy content that you would like people to know about?
Multiclass Theater is an amazing actual play podcast with a stellar GM and a talented cast of characters. Diana and her crew weave a gripping tale of magical adventure and companionship, with a good measure of humor in the mix. And along the way they nerd out about everything from Tolkien to music, oh yeah and lots of science. They can be found at @mctpod on Twitter.
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