Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thin ain't in: Being plus-sized in a D&D world

*NOTE: This post features a large number of images of women. Many of them are cheesecake in nature (Though I don't believe they're exploitative or derogatory in any way). To any of my female or gay male readers who don't approve, please say so in comments. Your feedback is always appreciated. That said, the following post is NSFW (nudity, sexualization, naughty bits, etc).

So anyway, just read Zak S's addition to his input on Type V D&D and seriously wish I'd had the foresight to say something similar first. It's something I genuinely believe in and wish would be more accepted with most major game publishers (be they RPG books, video games, series, etc).

Most of D&D's art in the past two editions has been quite normative and standard. It's colourful, reasonably evocative, and generally can be described as "perfectly fitting into a PG-13 rating". It features typical medieval fantasy creatures and peoples doing typical medieval fantasy things.

I will give credit to the art directors and creative types at Wizards of the Coast for at least keeping a fairly even balance of female to male characters (wearing realistic armor, no less), as well as a number of Black and Asian looking characters amid the sea of Caucasian folk. Any progress is still progress, and should be commended.

That said, there are no plus-sized women anywhere in these books.

And no, dwarves don't count.

One could argue that being an adventurer isn't conducive to a plumper frame, and that it isn't realistic. I find that arguing about realism in a game where people shoot magic missiles out of their fingertips, can climb walls like spiders, and can appreciate vistas of impossible geometry amid an astral sea is kind of dumb.

And that a person making such an argument is therefore dumb as well.

Most of the women I know in real life are not a size 0, and certainly don't conform to most standard 'ideals' of Western beauty, nor should they. Many of them have bellies, thunder thighs, big butts, some are over 200lbs, some even aspire to be even bigger (Scandalous!). All of them are beautiful and desire to feel confidant and secure about themselves and their bodies.

A lot of them also love to play Dungeons & Dragons.

So rather than provide "beautiful" examples of possible characters to play, arguing that it's a form of escapism, the better thing to do would be to provide numerous examples of plus-sized women in positive, heroic roles. By illustrating the empowerment of such characters, would it not make it more acceptable to play them? By extension, wouldn't that also lead many women to have fewer issues with their own body images given that they can emulate characters who are closer to their body type?

But don't let my feeble word mouth talkings convince you alone. Many artists have illustrated this point several times over. Here are some awesome examples:

So it's certainly not out of the question to play a plus-sized character in D&D, but I imagine there will always be a number of geeks and nerds who will want to point out that, realistically, playing a character who's over, say 200lbs, should incur some kind of weight penalty or something to her/his stats. I guess that's reasonable...

So what kind of bonuses/penalties might a plumper frame provide a D&D character in Type IV D&D?

Well, being heavier/larger might certainly make a rubenesque gal or guy easier to hit. Yeah, that does make sense. So maybe a -1 penalty to AC and/or Reflex defenses.

On the flip side of that, a hardier build might mean amount of fortitude, or perhaps a reliance on the strength of the mind and spirit. Might as well balance it out with a +1 bonus to Fortitude and Will defenses as well.

Speed might certainly take a penalty, just like it would when donning heavy armor. Though a larger character might gain a bonus to certain saving throws as well (poison, cold damage, certain types of spells).

Plus, larger warriors and amazons will have certainly trained to compensate for their size, and even use it to their advantage. A number of feats could certainly accommodate this.

Magic could also do the trick. When in doubt, magic can pretty much solve most problems. Is this a bit of a cheat? Yeah, but its one people have relied upon since this game was first introduced.

Bottom line, if/when the new iteration of D&D is introduced, I sincerely hope that the art directors and other people in charge of the art in the rule-books will take the time to broaden the body types of the women presented (and no that isn't a pun).

Beauty, strength, and appeal come in a variety of forms, and to only include a small number of them in the art that represents such a diverse and broadly appealing game is to do a disservice to both men and women everywhere. I'm glad that the people at Wizards of the Coast recognize that not everyone that plays the game is male and Caucasian, but they should also remember that not everyone who plays is a size 0 either. Nor do they want to play as such.

*NOTE: To any men offended or upset by the prospect of plus-sized female characters in D&D, need I remind you that a great deal of male D&D players are...ah, 'differently girthed' themselves. Let's try not to be hypocritical here.


  1. Replies
    1. trolololol

      Also, I'd have to agree with this post for the most part. While a fat adventurer wouldn't make much sense on eglance, any person thrust into the life could definately start as a rather portly individual. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings spring immediately to mind. Of course, staying heavyset would greatly depend on life style WHILE adventuring, but I know a few people who stay big regardless.

  2. Where did you find the calendar with the first two pictures?

  3. Might I just mention there are plenty of girthy male characters known for their bearlike good looks, yet I can only ever remember there being one plus-sized "mammy" character in any supplements I ever read. I certainly wish plus-sized females were more accepted.