Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Comeliness

For this week’s throwback I thought we would examine a now defunct character stat known as comeliness. It was just one of many new concepts released in the 1985 Unearthed Arcana by TSR. The former alone could be the subject of constant throwback material. Comeliness was the seventh D&D primary stat which fizzled away in later editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

Comeliness reflects physical attractiveness, social grace, and personal beauty of the character. It is used to determine initial reactions to the character and characters with a high comeliness may affect the wills and actions of others. While charisma deals specifically with leadership and interactions between characters, comeliness deals with attractiveness and first impressions.

This was an interesting concept and it came with that new car smell so many gamers tried it. Overall in the end I think most groups decided it served no real mechanical purpose in the game. It inherently was very subjective as an attribute since beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. For example I may be an elven wizard with 18 comeliness and according to the Unearthed Arcana the beauty of the character will cause heads to turn and hearts to race.

But to half-orcs or even a dwarf maybe the ugliness of the character will cause stomachs to turn and hearts to stop? Obviously every culture or species has its own standards of beauty and a way to measure them. I think this is where comeliness really fell short in terms of its game use. To be fair the tables in Unearthed Arcana did come with the following caveat:

Comeliness will have the following effects on creatures of human sort. (This category includes, but is

not necessarily limited to, humans, demi-humans, humanoids. giant-class, and bipedal creatures of human-like form and motivation.)

I have used the comeliness tables as a reference tool for monsters that have Charm and Fascinate powers. Since they are using magic every race sees whatever they find the most attractive in that instance. I prefer to let players decide if their character is model material or battle scarred and ugly (which may be attractive to some). I then make notes and use it during role playing interactions with NPCs they encounter.

According to statistics released by the Society of Plastic Wizards, 14.6 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures, including both minimally-invasive and surgical, were performed in the United States in 2012. People are still looking into that magic mirror and really concerned about their comeliness score.

Has comeliness survived your campaign worlds or like others have you brushed it under the rug? In a world so obsessed with outward appearance I could see vanity leaking back into the tabletop environment. Rumor has it there is a dwarven wizard offering Flesh to Stone chiseling with a guaranteed reversal for a few thousand gold in a city near you!



“Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Fairest of Them All?”

4 comments:

  1. I remember a friend and I discussing, in character, the attributes of an NPC. The GM, looking bewildered, said, 'but he's covered in scars!' We replied, 'we're barbarians, that means he's a proven warrior and rawr, that strength score says he's built!'

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  2. I've played Empire of the Petal Throne for decades. It uses an early offshoot of D&D with six stats -- the usual Str, Dex, Con, Int, plus Psychic Ability and Comeliness. Usually only the extremes came into play, except when woo was pitched. In EPT at least, I think the concept of the stats in the game was that they were in-born qualities and basically unlearnable. I guess thinking Wisdom and Charisma could be learned or improved.

    I don't mind whatever system the game uses.

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  3. Ah, comeliness. Truly an attribute for deities and movie stars.

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  4. Darcy, well said and how so very true!

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