Greetings and felicitations, children of the void! I have a story I’m going to shout at you now. I promise it involves a video game, though the story is more about tabletop games and gaming culture in general.
Our adventure begins with a random encounter. I– here the protagonist in my own personal game of life– walk into a GameStop somewhere on the north side of Chicago. My mission: acquire Detroit: Become Human. Behind the counter stands a young woman, ready to exchange my money for Quantic Dream’s android extravaganza.
So far, so good. A simple interaction between strangers, both of us NPCs in each other’s lives.
But then the girl initiates a conversation beyond the barebones customer service transaction I expect. “That’s a cool ring,” she says, noticing the black and silver band around my index finger.
She’s right. I am wearing a cool ring– one of my personal favorites, a gift from my parents. Plus it’s not just a ring. “Oh, thanks. It’s a functional d20,” I say. The ring makes a satisfying spinning sound as I demonstrate how to roll the die.
It stops on twenty. I think nothing of it.
“So you play tabletop games?” she asks. I nod, inserting my card into the chip reader. “Which ones?”
I shrug. “Mostly Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve tried Pathfinder too, and some World of Darkness games. Pretty much your standard RPGs.”
She frowns at this list, which confuses me. I can’t fathom why my unadventurous taste in tabletop roleplaying games would upset her. This is, of course, a tiny moment of narcissism on my part, as her frown has nothing to do with me. “I wish I could play those kind of games,” she says. The words are twinged with sorrow, more confession than statement.
“If you want to play, it’s not hard to find a group,” I say, not sure how to proceed. Of course, were I a less scrupulous person I could have left her alone with her sorrow, as the game is in my hands and paid for. But some spirit compels me to press on. “I play on Discord every week, and we’ve got players spread across continents.”
This is the wrong answer. “No, I know plenty of people who are in groups and I’ve tried joining a couple it’s just…” She looks away as she trails off. I assume she questions if this is a conversation she ought to have with a stranger on a Friday afternoon. In this moment, though, I cannot say with any certainty what she thinks.
I give my die ring another spin. A 9. Which means whatever check I am making is probably a failure, though success is not completely impossible.
She makes her choice. “I can’t do dice—I have dyscalculia, and it means the numbers —well, they’re too much for me.”
A tiny tragedy plays out in the theatre of my mind. I know three things about this young woman. She works at GameStop. She wants to play tabletop games. She can’t play tabletop games because a disability makes the dice too difficult. Well, I suppose I know four things about her if you count that she likes my ring. Despite it being the physical manifestation of what’s keeping her from playing what she wants to play. I don’t even know her name—I still don’t. I never asked.
“That’s a shame,” I say, as if she doesn’t already know that. Not my most eloquent moment, I admit.
“Yeah,” she replies.
Revelation strikes like lightning in the death throes of this dying moment. There’s something I have to share with her.
“Hey,” I say. “I actually know a guy who’s designing a game system for people with similar disabilities—no complex dice rolling or fancy math.”
“Really?” She asks. Hope ignites like a match in her eyes.
“Yeah! The system’s still a work in progress but they stream it every month on Twitch—it’s called Stellar Age. It’s a homebrew science fantasy universe with elves, spaceships, and a whole lot of d6s. I don’t know if that’s your jam but the system sounds like what you’re looking for.”
She laughs. “Sounds like fun.”
“Yeah, Devil’s Luck Gaming hosts the stream—”
The name earns a dubious look. “Devil’s Luck?”
Here I would like to lie to you, internet, and tell you that I was clever and quick-witted enough in this moment to say “Well, devils have to look out for the people angels let slip through the cracks,” but I didn’t think of that until I shared the story with the Devil’s Luck crew later in the evening. In the GameStop I say something along the lines of “Yeah, they’re dark and edgy but they’re great people.”
“Stellar Age, huh? I’ll have to check it out,” she says with a smile. I can tell this is not a repeat of the fake customer service smile she had plastered on her face when I walked in. This is a genuine smile, born of appreciation and understanding.
I leave the store, my day brighter for having share something I love with someone who needed to know about it. Plus I now own Detroit: Become Human!
I share this anecdote as a public thank you letter to Conri, the GM and designer of the Stellar Age ablegame, and the rest of the Devil’s Luck Crew for enabling me to have this heartwarming interaction with a complete stranger. While I make no claims to know the inner workings of Conri’s mind, I consider Stellar Age the product of compassion. Creating an entire game system that enables people with disabilities to play tabletop games involves an inspiring level of empathy and understanding. I consider it a privilege to be able to act as an agent of inclusivity, evangelizing the stream to anyone who will listen, especially since I know that there are people out there like this GameStop employee who need to know that it exists.
So thank you, Devil’s Luck, for giving me that privilege. Stellar Age is a gift worth sharing.
If anything in this article piques your interest, I recommend you follow and subscribe to Devil’s Luck on Twitch. While Stellar Age is the focus of this particular piece, they stream a myriad of other games. They’re good company, and they’re definitely worth your time and money. And Amazon’s money, if you have a free prime sub you’re not using! Come hang with me in chat—Look for ThoroughlyAverageGatsby, because I’m not great, more aggressively mediocre—and enjoy some excellent content made by excellent people.