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Old 02-12-2019, 05:06 PM   #1
Harbinjer
 
Join Date: Sep 2018
Default Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

I've become bothered by the one-dimensional way Appearance is handled with regards to different races having different racial appearance levels, leading to one of two problems:
1) All races have the same standards of appearance.
i.e. If Elves have the Attractive appearance level, Humans and Halflings might agree, but maybe Orcs find them Hideous.
I suppose one could create a matrix of appearance that shows how each race reacts to every other, but a) no thank you, and b) How would point costs even work?
AND
2) It means all members of a Race have the same level of Appearance.
i.e. All Elves are Attractive. To Humans, maybe they all look alike, but don't Elves have an interest in having a 50 Most Beautiful Elves List? How can you tell your Elf girlfriend that she's the most attractive if, in fact, all elves are equally attractive?

I'm not sure I stated the problem(s) very clearly, but the solution I am toying with.... and am requesting feedback on.... is this:
Every Race has an appearance level (i.e. Average for Humans, Unattractive for Orcs, etc.) that reflects how the other races react to them.
Then every Individual also has an Appearance Level to reflect how members of their own race react to them. i.e, Orcs are Unattractive, but Drusilla the Lady Orc is considered to be very Beautiful among Orcs and makes all the other lady orcs jealous.

The (only?) downside, as I see it, is that the Character Points for both of those. A Very Handsome Elf Lord has to pay double while a Hideous Orc Dude gets a double Disadvantage bonus.

Should I even try to compensate for doubled point costs? Do they possibly cancel each other out, or at least do they properly reflect the reactions that the character has coming to them? Am I overthinking this?
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:26 PM   #2
David Johnston2
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

You can in fact buy up or sell down an individual character's appearance from the racial template. It's just that being an elf with "average" appearance means they have a -5 disadvantage that counts against the disadvantage maximum if any.

The value of racial appearance is actually set according to the standard of the "reference society" for the campaign, the society which is most dominant within the sphere of the campaign. So if you are playing in the Elf Wars campaign set on a continent where rival elvish nations scheme and war against each other and occasionally abduct humans to serve as soldiers in their wars, then the Human Template will be a negative point value collection of traits that includes Unattractive, Social Stigma, Shortlived and Unmagical. But not every human will actually be Unattractive or Unmagical.

Last edited by David Johnston2; 02-12-2019 at 09:50 PM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 05:55 PM   #3
SilvercatMoonpaw
 
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

You could have Appearance apply only among one's own race/species, and cross-species attractiveness is a Enhancement (pther-species unattractiveness then being a separate Disadvantage).

Last edited by SilvercatMoonpaw; 02-12-2019 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 02-12-2019, 06:19 PM   #4
Anaraxes
 
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

If there's not a single reference society that the PCs can be expected to spend most of their time interacting with, you could borrow the Reputation modifiers. Perhaps the Elves are transcendently beautiful, and count as "all the time", while humans are normally attractive only to other humans (which is, say, a "large group"), the unfortunate orcs are Attractive to a "small group" (other orcs) while being Unattractive to a "large group" (the elves and humans), and so on.
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Old 02-13-2019, 02:48 AM   #5
Harbinjer
 
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

I think the whole idea of the Reference Society is where my problem is.

Your society says I'm ugly? Well, I'm not part of your society, and MY society thinks I look just fine.

It's as if the system had only humans in mind when it was created. Anything to do with multiple points-of-view on Beauty is pasted on (if it exists at all). I'm not even trying to account for personal taste, I just want some different perspective on racial standards.

And if I could do it without creating a lot more paperwork, that would be awesome.
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Old 02-13-2019, 04:03 AM   #6
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harbinjer View Post
I think the whole idea of the Reference Society is where my problem is.

Your society says I'm ugly? Well, I'm not part of your society, and MY society thinks I look just fine.

It's as if the system had only humans in mind when it was created. Anything to do with multiple points-of-view on Beauty is pasted on (if it exists at all). I'm not even trying to account for personal taste, I just want some different perspective on racial standards.

And if I could do it without creating a lot more paperwork, that would be awesome.
You can't. That's why the concept of a reference society exists, because the alternative is to create a list of reaction modifiers that in particularly diverse settings could run for pages. It is safe to assume that if a person possessing a given template hasn't modified their appearance then their own kind and those with the same esthetic would actually regard you as average just members of the same minority group would usually have no modifier for social stigma.

And what your society thinks of your attractiveness doesn't matter when you aren't in your society.
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Old 02-13-2019, 04:11 AM   #7
vicky_molokh
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harbinjer View Post
I'm not sure I stated the problem(s) very clearly, but the solution I am toying with.... and am requesting feedback on.... is this:
Every Race has an appearance level (i.e. Average for Humans, Unattractive for Orcs, etc.) that reflects how the other races react to them.
Then every Individual also has an Appearance Level to reflect how members of their own race react to them. i.e, Orcs are Unattractive, but Drusilla the Lady Orc is considered to be very Beautiful among Orcs and makes all the other lady orcs jealous.
It looks like you're trying to change the racial appearance rules from Fantasy, but I still don't get how that's an improvement (in the sense of what bugs it fixes relative to the RAW).
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Old 02-13-2019, 06:12 AM   #8
davidtmoore
 
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harbinjer View Post
I think the whole idea of the Reference Society is where my problem is.

Your society says I'm ugly? Well, I'm not part of your society, and MY society thinks I look just fine.

It's as if the system had only humans in mind when it was created. Anything to do with multiple points-of-view on Beauty is pasted on (if it exists at all). I'm not even trying to account for personal taste, I just want some different perspective on racial standards.

And if I could do it without creating a lot more paperwork, that would be awesome.
The idea, as I read it, is that the Reference Society is dominant. In an off-the-shelf Tolkienesque/D&Desque fantasy world, humans live more or less everywhere and have the largest, most economically and culturally impacting society; so a race's Appearance in human eyes is likely to impact them almost every day. An Attractive elf isn't startingly appealing to any other Attractive elf, because to them it's the norm, but they're more likely in any given roleplaying session to meet a human than another elf, so that's how it impacts their character point total.

So in that context, as well as allowing any nonhuman to buy their Appearance up or down from the racial default, I would assume any nonhuman would ignore the default, and tweak higher/lower levels accordingly (ie. a Beautiful/Handsome elf is Beautiful to humans, merely Attractive to other elves, and gets no Appearance modifier with other nonhumans).

In a campaign without a single dominant Reference Society, no race gets a Racial Appearance trait, and Appearance only applies to other members of the same race as standard unless they have the Universal modifier.

(As a fun thought exercise, run a campaign where the dominant Reference Society is nonhuman and humans have a negative Racial Appearance...)

EDIT: Oh, and "assimilated to human standards of beauty" could be a Quirk for a nonhuman, allowing an elf who, by dint of having been raised by humans, sees all other elves as Attractive -- or heartbreakingly, an orc raised by humans who sees himself as Ugly...)
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Old 02-13-2019, 06:25 AM   #9
SilvercatMoonpaw
 
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

Another idea for cross-species attraction/revulsion is to make it a disadvantage of the attracted/repulsed individual. So an individual of a species is attractive to their own species, but individuals of another species with the disadvantage treat that individual's Attractive stat as applying to their own.

Thus, racially, humans are attracted to elves and repulsed by orcs. A character who is broader-minded might buy off the latter.....or even switch it to being attracted to orcs!

(Note: I use "disadvantage", but these might only be worth a quirk. Still working out how balance works in this system.)
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Old 02-13-2019, 06:33 AM   #10
Anaraxes
 
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Default Re: Appearance difference among Fantasy Races

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harbinjer View Post
It's as if the system had only humans in mind when it was created.
The system has to have some value that's worth 0 points for any measurable trait. This is true of ST (10 is 0-point baseline, and also an assumed average for adventuring humans). It's true of all the other stats. It's true of reaction modifiers. It is, in fact, true of everything.

That doesn't mean "the system had only humans in mind". It just means that that's the usual place RPGs start.

The thread has several suggestions on how you might price a full 2D matrix of reaction modifiers. GURPS seems to me to handle that case just fine, as it has existing modifiers for frequency of appearance of various traits, anywhere from Reputation mods through Allies to the ultimately generic Accessibility.

If it's " lot more paperwork" to track, I can only observe that you're the one that wanted to have different reaction modifiers for every pair of races. That's a problem you created because being able to model all those differences is important to you, not one built into the rules. And I'm pretty sure there's not a way to have each this-race-vs-that-race have different reaction modifiers on a case-by-case basis, plus allowing variation for individual characters, that's not going to involve more items on a character sheet and more tracking.

(Unless, that is, you want not to record the mutual reaction modifiers to avoid the paperwork, and just determine them on the fly, which is going to give the setting a pretty random and chaotic feel. Might work for a Star Wars-esque universe, where every customer of every cantina is a different race that you've never met before -- and never meet again.)

Simplest:
  1. All reactions are the same. Appearance is a forbidden trait for this game.
  2. Reactions are solely individual. Appearance is universal, affecting every race equally. (Basic, with no modifiers applied to the appearance traits.)
  3. Reactions are solely racial. Appearance only appears on race templates; individual characters don't have individual bonuses. (Basic as well, though you might avoid listing appearance on the racial templates, and just make a separate chart to be consulted during play.)
  4. Reactions are solely individual, but vary per race. Each character needs an Appearance rating for each other race on their character sheet. Price the traits with your favorite method of limited-circumstance Limitation.
  5. Reactions are both racial and individual. Combine 3 and 4.
  6. Reactions are racial, but individuals have their own biases, and individual, as characters have their own attractiveness. Each character sheet lists two modifiers, a baseline for each race describing their own individual biases, plus their rating for attractiveness to others. This might be universal (like 2) or per-race (like 3).
  7. For completeness and insanity, attractiveness is entirely individual and up to the beholder, so each character sheet lists all possible traits along with a reaction modifier. "I like redheads". "I like smart people." "I like confident people". "I hate orcs". "I hate Joe". Certainly lots of paperwork for this one.
  8. And, individual internal biases plus inherent individual attractiveness, so reaction is a function of both the viewing individual and the viewed. Like 7, only in two dimensions (and 7 is already multi-dimensional, so we're way past making a chart on a piece of paper), plus this 2D space needs an entry for every single individual on each axis.
Most Complex

Think about what you need to tell the stories in your current game world, then choose the least complex solution that still lets you model the important differences between characters that appear in those stories. Games that are about angsting over social bias in horrible prejudiced and racist societies have different needs from "you all meet in a tavern and go kick butt in the dungeon with your awesome racial bonuses".

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
the alternative is to create a list of reaction modifiers that in particularly diverse settings could run for pages.
Except you can't do that either, in generic and universal fashion, because such standards are setting specific. These elves and orcs mutually react this way; those elves and orcs react a different way, depending on the author and their setting. It's up to the worldbuilder to supply those details when they're important. Even an entire book would find it hard to work its way through all the possible combinations.

(Wookiepedia lists over 150 major species for Star Wars, for instance. But that didn't help your Traveller game at all, which has its own set of over 400 sophonts. A list for Faerun won't be at all useful in Tekumel, so every fantasy franchise needs its own table. And so on. If each race has its own unique scale of species-based attractiveness modifiers, then many settings have quite a lot of work in store.)

Last edited by Anaraxes; 02-13-2019 at 06:44 AM.
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