Most players would probably agree that they want their characters to be hearty and hale — playing a weak or sick character is “no fun.” I would say that means they haven’t considered the role playing aspects that disease can bring to the table when a character has some kind of chronic injury or disease.

One of the player characters in a former Hollow Earth Expedition game had the flaw “dying” — in this case, he had emphysema from chain smoking (which he still was doing.) The character didn’t see much limit, mechanically, until he was pushing himself physically. For the most part, it entailed the player wheezing and coughing when playing the character — little touches that may the character realistic. But once in a foot chase, or a protracted fight, he was hampered in his dice pool from the disease. As a result, the character was the master of the knockout blow; if he couldn’t finish a fight in a few moves, he knew he would get put down. It required the player to think differently about what actions he could take in an action sequence, or if he should attempt to talk his way through encounters.

There’s a character mentioned in the piece on age from the other day that addresses the idea of chronic injury — a character that has back issues from skiing and car accidents, as well as a recent broken arm. His physical activity isn’t necessarily curtailed, save where the use of the arm or things like running are concerned. It’s mostly just roleplaying the fact he’s got a bad back.

Disease can be something as innocuous as allergies.  Most environmental allergies — hayfever and the like — are uncomfortable, can make the character tired and irritable (not to mention snuffling, sneezing, and blowing your nose have a tendency to give away your position at the most disadvantageous moments.) They can make for challenges that don’t have to be immediately life threatening, but can make for obstacles that need to be addressed in a different way. It’s hard to sneak up on someone when you’re in a coughing jag from your 3 pack a day habit, or you sneeze explosively in the middle of a car chase.

Chronic injuries could be something as small as arthritis — you are still functional, but maybe that heavy trigger pull on your revolver is problematic at the best of times — to missing limbs, which have an obvious limiting factor. But I’d point out there is a motorcycle racer in Australia missing his left leg and arm. It required modifying his bike, but he wins races. Similarly, this could lead a character in a game that might be considered “unplayable” to simply have to work around his issues.