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Thread: Weighty Musings

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    Default Weighty Musings

    How do I talk about this without sounding like a freak?

    I've always thought about the ideals of beauty and/or masculinity in D&D, and in RPG's in general. Am I the only one who's actually tired of anorexic wizards, buxom warrior women in chainmail bikini's and muscle-bound Conan clones?

    Honestly, it seems like almost all RPG characters, regardless of class, race, or any of that stuff, don't have an ounce of fat in their bodies. I know that the activities most PC's engage in is physically strenous, yes, but that can't account for 100% of PC's out there, can it? I mean, Tolkien flat out said in his descriptions of hobbits that they're inclined to be fat, and enjoy good food, and they're the greatest heroes in Middle-Earth. And yet they had to get liposuction to be considered an attractive race in D&D.

    I know that all RPG's have an element of escapism in them as well. An overweight person might play a skinny person for this reason, but if that's true all across the board, then there must be a whole lot of overweight gamers out there.

    Me, I've wondered about this often. Part of it is because I have an...appreciation, I suppose you could say, for the overweight female form. As such, the amazons we see on the covers and between the pages of our books doesn't stimulate me in any way. This is part of why I like dwarf women better, since they're always depicted in a much more curvy fashion. A friend of mine is the exact opposite, preferring women who...for lack of a better term, are flat-chested. He actually hates the busty characters we see in most modern fantasies. In fact, all his characters to date have been flat-chested women.

    What are your thoughts? I know I'm probably skirting close to some sensitive issues here, but I've always wondered why all RPG characters, PC or NPC, have to have perfect bodies in order to be considered worthwhile. Yes, physical strenuousness does guarantee a certain amount of fat-burning, and yes, I can understand a character working themself into a Heracles-like physique (Note that not many "strong" women have bodies like that. I've seen pictures of female body builders, and I don't think they're ugly.) but I can't believe that RPGland is a world where physical perfection is the norm.

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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    It's marketing. Pretty people will generally be more accepted than normal, scarred, strange, fat, or ugly people. And most importantly, those pictures will have a greater chance to draw in new players who're just thumbing through the book out of curiosity/boredom/etc. If our society held different standards of beauty, those would be the most reflected in the artwork.

    And remember, the various pictures are generally assumed to be of PCs which aren't the norm, but the distilled awesome the race has to offer (unless you're a Samurai, then you're the object lesson of life paths not to take )
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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    I guess that makes sense. Perhaps I'm misassociating marketing with actual player characters. But so far the only person I've known to do something different has been myself.

    It all seems so...shallow.

    Which isn't to say that I'm not shallow myself. The latest backstory I've written was kind of fanservicey for me.
    Last edited by Archpaladin Zousha; 2009-02-23 at 05:18 PM.

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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    People like to look at fit and good-looking members of their species of whatever sex. That's pretty much a given. Unfortunately there's a stark orthodoxy in fantasy art over what the ideals of fit and good-looking are, this being largely determined largely by contemporary cultural mores and by the personal fetishes of popular fantasy artists (I'm looking at you Elmore, Vallejo, Bell, and Frazetta ). These images get popularised through imitation and, like it or not, the oiled-posing-pouch and/or chainmail bikini look have become iconic of our genre.

    In recent artwork (*cough* Wayne England wall of action *cough*) this hegemonic ideal has come to mean ripped and mesomorphic - often to the point of absurdity - for males, and either yoga trim or downright scrawny for females (see the 3E and Pathfinder female iconic characters).

    The female dwarves in the 4E D&D go some way to catering for the tastes of the woefully under-represented "I like my women like I like my fireplugs" demographic ( ), but the hegemony of absurd sexual dimorphism, now with the added fashionable weeaboo taint of big-eyed bishie and moemoe tastes, endures.

    Then again, hey it is fantasy art: who said the people have to look at all realistic? Certainly not Erol Otus.
    Last edited by bosssmiley; 2009-02-23 at 05:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    Quote Originally Posted by Zousha Omenohu View Post
    but if that's true all across the board, then there must be a whole lot of overweight gamers out there.
    This. Lots of this. Seriously, ever been to a D&D Convention? *shudder*

    And yea, I'll admit, a lot of it is kinda fanservicy (what? Mialee is HAWT! lulz). Its just kinda the norm. You don't find many Boris Vallejo illustrations that depict unsightly people, because that is not what people pay for. Granted, the artwork is a small part of why one would buy a D&D rule manual (except Complete Scoundrel....Krusk in a pimp cloak 4tw) but its still there, and a part of the game and fantasy in general.
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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    Quote Originally Posted by Zousha Omenohu View Post
    I've always thought about the ideals of beauty and/or masculinity in D&D, and in RPG's in general. Am I the only one who's actually tired of anorexic wizards, buxom warrior women in chainmail bikini's and muscle-bound Conan clones?
    No. No you're not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zousha Omenohu View Post
    Me, I've wondered about this often. Part of it is because I have an...appreciation, I suppose you could say, for the overweight female form. As such, the amazons we see on the covers and between the pages of our books doesn't stimulate me in any way. This is part of why I like dwarf women better, since they're always depicted in a much more curvy fashion. A friend of mine is the exact opposite, preferring women who...for lack of a better term, are flat-chested. He actually hates the busty characters we see in most modern fantasies. In fact, all his characters to date have been flat-chested women.
    Not for this reason, though. It isn't a matter of the popular tastes and ideals go against mine, it's just that the sexualization of characters as a marketing technique is something that irritates me. Adolescent fantasies are not something I've ever had much patience for, even when I was an adolescent, and I tend to feel they break verisimilitude without really adding anything.

    Then again, maybe it is a matter of taste. I, admittedly, find equal amounts of beauty in most people, and I find actual skill, talent, and functionality to be a much better test of worth. I dislike things which are purely decorative, so I guess based on this I'd like to see women who actually look like their adventurers and warriors and not just eye candy. Which isn't to say they can't be pretty, but they should be non-made up, their clothing and hairstyle should be practical, and all that good stuff. Body type and such are, to me, far less important than this.


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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    You're wondering why commercial products in western society cater to the screwed-up western body-image and beauty ideals?

    I'll let Jean Kilbourne field that.

    As for the male characters, they aren't actually sexualized. Big muscles represent power and physical strength - both of which are sexualized, though, but there's a huge and obvious difference there.

    Also, "adolescent fantasies" ? Yeah, right.

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    I agree with the posters who say it's mostly advertising, for the same reason models go for slim: People who like thin people are the largest demographic. On that subject, while I wouldn't say I have a favoritism towards weighty women, I do think people look better with a little bit of weight to them. If I can see your bones, or you're nothing but muscle wrapped in skin, that looks unnatural to me.

    Anyway, when it comes to characters I can say I honestly don't know what any of my party members in any campaign have looked like. Or even my own characters for that matter. For the most part it's irrelevant what your character looks like outside of a few details (Race being a big one, as well as any unique stuff like tattoos). I think for a lot of players, how they look in the game is open to interpretation, if they even care at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Urthdigger View Post
    If I can see your bones...that looks unnatural to me.
    Myself and my Gahndi clones are highly, highly offended

    :p
    Last edited by Lappy9000; 2009-02-23 at 06:12 PM.

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    Humorously enough, my group has subverted this a little. When one of my players was making his Warlock for my campaign, he asked if he could roll for height and weight. When we did so, the dice determined that he was about six feet tall and weighed about 240 pounds. However, he had put a 10 into his Strength score, so he decided that the Warlock was a little on the portly side.
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 2009-02-23 at 06:16 PM.
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    Yeah, I have a plan for a warlock similarly. Backstory's kinda creepy though.

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    You know what else really bugs me? The fact that metabolisms in D&D seem to be ridiculous depending on the race you are. I think the only races where it's okay to be pudgy are dwarves, and maybe humans. Halflings can't be plump anymore, lest the Tolkien estate sues them, I can understand that. But elves? Eladrin? Tieflings? Heck probably even dragonborn too!

    While I know the elves and eladrin are based on Tolkien's work, and they were "perfect" (if you've read The Silmarillion, you know they're anything but perfect, at least emotionally and psychologically), this is D&D. Elves and eladrin aren't meant to be the favored race out of all of them. They aren't meant to be perfect. But then it seems that every eladrin and elf out there has the metabolism of a Blissenbach (the Blissenbachs are friends of mine back home, and almost all of them manage to be thin as a rail without even trying.)

    The only real reason you don't see bigger tieflings out there is that they're supposed to be the "sexy" race.

    And the dragonborn? I really, really don't know what to make of them, to tell you the truth. I think they're a great addition (unlike my brother, who thinks they're a blight on D&D and should never have existed), but I'm not sure where I stand on them in terms of attractiveness.

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    Dwarf male: I like my women like I like my beer, stout and bitter!

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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    Quote Originally Posted by Zousha Omenohu View Post
    How do I talk about this without sounding like a freak?
    Just put one word in front of another without putting a foot in your mouth usually works for me.
    What are your thoughts? I know I'm probably skirting close to some sensitive issues here, but I've always wondered why all RPG characters, PC or NPC, have to have perfect bodies in order to be considered worthwhile. Yes, physical strenuousness does guarantee a certain amount of fat-burning, and yes, I can understand a character working themself into a Heracles-like physique (Note that not many "strong" women have bodies like that. I've seen pictures of female body builders, and I don't think they're ugly.) but I can't believe that RPGland is a world where physical perfection is the norm.
    I never make perfect bodies meself usually go for the ratio for weight/height I am (5'11 at 190 pounds) for humans and scale appropriately (unless DM makes me roll).

    I do find female body builders kinda ugly: not all, but some go too far (same for men).
    Now the heavy lifters at the Olympics weren't ugly. But I've seen some people who do too much body building and they look like very much a Cha of -5.

    I do appreciate curves, but there are limits. I'm not big on flat chested. I like something there. But then that is due to being raised partly by older brother.

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    I know what you mean there. If someone looks like the only way they could have gotten a body like that was through steroids it looks kind of disturbing.

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    I find generally that when I try to play old or ugly characters I get complaints from several of the females in the group. Many of my players are even less inclined when I try to put any parameters on them (I once tried to assert that elves weren't in my campaign setting! Oh the folly!) Sometimes it's not always top-down, but also bottom-up.

    Generally speaking, the only people in medieval times that were obese or noticeably overweight were those that didn't work and ate plentifully. The only adventurer that would include was one that was a noblemen or one that was a wizard with an instance on being lazy. Not every adventurer, certainly, but you'd imagine that someone who wanted to play either of those characters would most likely be obese to show it.

    Marketing has a lot to do with why they don't show overweight characters, but not everything. Heroes are supposed to be ideal representations of human beings, and while I don't think anorexia is appropriate, certainly any degree of overweightness would be a serious excursion into mediocrity. Only when you have the "everyday hero" like Parson from Erfworld do these kinds of traits become a compliment of sorts.
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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    Quote Originally Posted by Urthdigger View Post
    People who like thin people are the largest demographic.


    Yes, people develop these "preferences" in a complete vacuum, not at all influenced by advertisement and the (heavily Photoshopped or cleverly shot) images of impossibly thin-yet-curvy models they're bombarded with for their entire lives.

    Sure.

    And the moon is cheese.


    Also, "heavy women are beautiful too!" is no less objectifying. That's not the point! Women don't exist to be attractive and sexual objects. It shouldn't matter if they're thin or fat or neither, ugly or pretty or neither, and there's no real RPG art shouldn't depict real people of both genders (and "conventions of the genre" are no excuse; I'm looking at you, superhero comics and superhero comics games). Holy hell, people.

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    Do you know how much weight you would lose if you traveled all around the world by foot? How much muscle you'd gain by swinging around a weapon or carrying even more then 40 pounds around all the time?

    I'm not saying this as an excuse, but think about what is really going on when your adventuring. Its exercise, alot of it.
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    This is true.

    And apparently I'm a male chauvanist pig.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zousha Omenohu View Post
    This is true.

    And apparently I'm a male chauvanist pig.
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    Frankly, I think it's impossible for someone to not objectify a member of the opposite gender (or the same, as the case may be). I certainly don't objectify the women I know personally, like my mother, or my female professors and the like, but that's because I know and respect them as people. I don't know if you can call a fantasy a person. And that's what comic-book art and RPG art really are, are fantasies. I mean, would Wonder Woman really have the same readership if she looked real instead of some artist's fantasy?

    More to the topic of RPG's I find it odd that while there are fat people of certain races (dwarves, mostly, with the occasional human NPC), the other races seem to have ungodly metabolisms. The most obvious culprits are elves, and the newly created eladrin. Either their metabolisms are so powerful that they don't need to exercise to stay slim, or their traditional diet consists of a celery stick and a glass of water at each meal. Seriously, I know Tolkien's elves, who were the inspiration for D&D's elves and eladrin, had the bodies of gods, but the elves and eladrin of D&D aren't semi-angelic beings (I know that's more of a description of people like Gandalf and Tom Bombadil, but elves were still Tolkien's favorites.)

    Tieflings seem to succumb to this too. Aside from a few exceptions I've heard of (all of them individual characters and not representative of the race as a whole) tieflings are mant to be trim too. I think, but I'm not sure, it has to do with them being the "kinky" race. They're meant to be the alluring, exotic people you're told not to like, but you do nonetheless. Though honestly that description applies more to female tieflings, since male tieflings get bony ridges on their face (which I think is actually pretty cool).

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    What I find highly amusing is when someone creates a character that doesn't look particularly attractive (or downright ugly, depending on who you ask), but has Charisma out the wazoo. It's always interesting when a far-from-pretty character can win over allies with sheer force of personality.

    I personally like flawed characters, or just ones that stick out from the norm. If I ever play a female character, she'll likely be modest-looking and actually wear armor if she's martial. That's why so many women get killed in fantasy. Chainmail Bikinis are not appropiate battle gear.

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    Damn straight it's not appropriate battle gear. I'm planning on adding an interesting little note to a duchess NPC I've created. She's the Commander in Chief of her city-state's army, but she's a politician and not a fighter. She has a chainmail bikini...that she wears when she wants to liven up things in the bedroom with her soon-to-be fiancee.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheThan View Post
    Dwarf male: I like my women like I like my beer, stout and bitter!

    Dwarf female: I like my men like I like my beer, dark, and rich!
    Dragon: I like my dwarves like I like my beer, IN MAH BELLEH!


    Back on topic: Yeah, I always find the hypersexualized females in the books somewhat annoying. As much fun as fanservice is, I would prefer that it stay out of my D&D books.

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    Yeah, but if fanservice were not in the books, what sweaty hormone-driven new players would even look at them?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsotha-lanti View Post
    It shouldn't matter if they're thin or fat or neither, ugly or pretty or neither, and there's no real RPG art shouldn't depict real people of both genders (and "conventions of the genre" are no excuse; I'm looking at you, superhero comics and superhero comics games). Holy hell, people.
    See, I agree that depictions of people in fiction could certainly stand to be diversified, and the association of conventionally ugly people with evil traits is particularly disgusting, but on the other hand I don't think we should disallow the depiction of conventionally attractive people. I mean, sure, body image has been massively warped by the media, but conventional standards of beauty wouldn't have become conventional in the first place without being desirable in some way, and role-playing games, fantasy RPGs in particular, are an escapist pastime, and PCs are generally supposed to be paragons of... heroicness. It doesn't bother me that they're more fit than the standard population, they should be. As Innis Cabal pointed out, the only people who really have an excuse to be out of shape are ones that use magical flight a significant portion of the time, because otherwise the adventurer's life is a highly strenuous one, physically speaking.

    Enforcing fatness for adventurers would be just as unrealistic as enforcing anorexic slimness. Just do your best to describe a diverse blend of NPCs and don't worry too much about what sorts of body types your players choose for their characters. Don't read them the riot act if they, horror of horrors, decide to be "beautiful." As long as you ensure the rest of the world is realistic, you've done your job, and hey, maybe eventually they'll catch on and start making more logical characters. Or maybe not, and the PCs will continue being irrationally attractive. Either way they represent only a tiny segment of the campaign setting's population, and a tiny sample defying greater statistical trends is acceptable. Let it slide. Calling out your players as tools of a market-driven society in order to give yourself a smug sense of superiority would just be kind of tacky.
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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    I don't know if that's what Tsotha-lanti was saying. I think he was saying that objectifying women regardless of body shape was a stupid idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zousha Omenohu View Post
    Yeah, but if fanservice were not in the books, what sweaty hormone-driven new players would even look at them?
    Drugs? Rock'n'Roll?

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    How would those attract new players to D&D though? You can't really put drugs in a D&D book, and the only rock'n'roll in the D&Dverse isn't due for another month or two, if memory serves.

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    Default Re: Weighty Musings

    Quote Originally Posted by Zousha Omenohu View Post
    I don't know if that's what Tsotha-lanti was saying. I think he was saying that objectifying women regardless of body shape was a stupid idea.
    Well, I quickly got off track in my response, yes, but it does seem to me that "no real RPG art shouldn't depict real people of both genders" is pretty much saying there's no room for pretty boys/girls.
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