You might be familiar with a couple of interesting quirks that Chrono Cross characters have in their stat blocks: “build” and “handedness.” I’m not really concerned with the latter, but I’ve always been interested in the idea of character “builds” (level, race, class, theme, weapon, feat, and skill choices notwithstanding).
I’ve meddled with weight types before, using “Light, Middle, and Heavy” as a basis for determining hit point totals and so forth, but I haven’t really had a go at anything more substantial. Cookiemonger wrote a bit about Character Descriptions, and the odd priorities assigned them by authors. (She made a great visual aid to go with it.)
Have you ever heard of the terms “Somatotype” or “Constitutional Psychology?” I certainly hadn’t heard of them before today, and I think I have to agree with the larger body of psychologists calling them”quack science,” but they put forth some interesting (if inaccurate) ideas and generate some handy (if arbitrary) terminology.
Still, I am nothing if not a connoisseur of jargon.
So I started with some quack science and see if I couldn’t get something useful out of it. I made a table and categorized all of the build descriptions listed in Chrono Cross. Then I speculated about type frequency, how to fill the gaps I perceived in the table, and tried to assign numbers to things. It’s been an interesting morning.
Ideally, there is some correlation to a character’s constitution, healthiness, strength, and speed, which generally translates (in my system’s terms) to defenses, saves, and damage threshold. Somehow their general appearance will have some deeper connection to their effectiveness, but there’s a careful balance to be struck.
People who fall outside culturally-acceptable concepts of healthiness are demonized. It could because they’re short, tall, fat, skinny, broad-shouldered, blond, or green-eyed. Gamers generally don’t want their avatars to be unattractive because it doesn’t jive with their self-image, and it complicates immersion. (With exceptions of course.)
So among the various cultural stereotypes and stereotypes common to our own audience (speaking as a gamer), there are concessions to be made. There’s science that says a thing is or isn’t healthy, and other science that contradicts that, and this has all been a problem for as long as there has been medicine.
One of the things I like to do is create a broad, inclusive design and then subdivide it into archetypes for easier digestion and integration. Starting with builds that take into account basic short and tall extremes, and adding to it basic stout and slender extremes, I’m going to try and emphasize the diversity of the humanoid form.
I will probably leave out examples of “extreme extremes” as subject matter to address later in character themes, since they tend to represent exceptions. That basically means that half-giants, halflings, gnomes, and other extremely short or tall races will fall by the wayside for a time. And I’m sort of fine with that.