By Liz Danforth
As part of the editing for Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, Liz continues to revisit and refine different aspects of the game. In this “Developer’s Diary,” we get a peek into her working process. The height and weight chart gets used to establish human measurements, and by analogy, also those of other playable humanoids. — Steve
I have considerable respect for Ken’s creativity, which often derives from his habit of non-linear thinking. Sometimes I find trouble arises from too much erratic chaos, and there I step into the design and development work. This is a look at how I took what Ken started with, where it led, and the route I travelled to get there.
Where We Started
The original height and weight chart in 5e isn’t particularly remarkable, and certainly not a major game mechanic. But it always bothered me a little… someone 7’2″ being 350 pounds seemed excessive. I thought someone 4’0″ being 75# was too small (although that turned out to be incorrect). I took a good long look, starting off by charting Ken’s numbers. They didn’t follow a very smooth progression of height to weight, and it did skew badly at the upper end. Something was off.
I went to a variety of web pages to look at “recommended” weights for various heights, and also looked at worldwide averages for both height and weight. I looked at male/female dimorphism too. I decided that issues with the obesity epidemic (affecting measured averages in my reference pages) could be allowed for as Trollworld’s adventurers would probably be relatively strong and muscular for their heights.
Then I straightened out the uneven spread of heights Ken had chosen, to give a smooth bell curve to the roll of 3-18, while retaining his relatively extreme ends that were still considered metabolically normal. (I did not want to invoke metabolic disorders like gigantism or achrondroplasia for the chart.) I considered, but decided not to invoke the TARO rule, which would only raise the upper end without modifying the lower range.
Bringing the Pieces Together
Here’s a look. The numbers in black are Ken’s original height and weight ranges (what he gave me in the draft manuscript for dT&T), and the revised ones in red are mine. The bold numbers are the average results (and reasonably accurate for heights of Western culture males), the regular numbers are commonly seen outliers (people you’d say are tall or short), and the italics are the more extreme outliers that would be remarked on as eye-poppingly tall or short.
The weight part of the chart was an interesting puzzle, with several variables I shoved back and forth. First, I took an average recommended weight for males (which was given as a range) and averaged it to a single number that I rounded to the nearest 5#. That’s actually the first number in the red Revised column.
To test-calibrate the results, I compared this to my experience of my own weight as a much younger female who (when fit and exercising regularly) fenced, did martial arts, played indoor soccer, biked, ran 3 miles a day for many years, and did swim competitions (not all at the same time!). I am 5’8″ and was never a jock by any means, but I could kinda hold my own. I was always somewhat heavy but usually considered comely enough back in the day — and the “recommended” male weights looked about right to me, whereas the recommended female weights seemed ridiculously sylph-like. I decided to leave the recommended weights right where they were, regardless of gender.
So now I was looking at a series of numbers that seemed okay but maybe still a bit light for the males (although technically slightly above recommended values). A fellow 5’10” and 165# might be very dashing in an Armani suit but he wouldn’t be cast as a lead in an action flick — not muscular and bulky enough to seem credible. So I dug around more, and came to the conclusion that multiplying the base number ×1.2 gave a pretty satisfactory range of weight. Definitely higher than the AMA wants us to weigh, but again, the game is (mostly) focused on the adventurous adults, not the starving orphan on the street nor the bloated vizier who never lifts a finger except to call for more honeyed sweets.
Height and Weight, Visually
When I was done, I charted the range of weights I’d come up with against the heights on this chart. It’s a simple line progression of weight to height, but built around norms grounded in our world. It made an interesting comparison to the yellow highlighter line of Ken’s original data.
You can use the range of weights as male/female suggestions, or as wimpy wizards on the low end and thuggish warriors on the upper end. Or, simply use the weights as a reasonable range for either gender or any type, and whether they’ve been eating high on the hog or scrounging in middens for their dinner. Although the Phoenix players always ran their females just as they were rolled, dropping weight by 10% and height by 5% will give you a more conventional female still able to pick up a warbow or broadsword without dislocating her shoulder. And as always, players are invited to simply decide for themselves the height and weights of their characters, or even to roll once for height and once for weight to get any crazy combination that comes up.
In the 5th edition of T&T, you determined attributes (including height and weight) of other playable kindreds according to multipliers against the human norm. In that edition, the chart for the “good” kindreds (the only options you had at the time) looked like this:
KINDRED HEIGHT WEIGHT
Dwarves 2/3 7/8
Elves 11/10 1
Hobbs 1/2 1/2
Fairies 1/10 1/200
Leprechauns 1/3 1/4
That mechanic remains the same, but some attribute multipliers for the playable kindreds will be different in Deluxe from what has gone before. I didn’t realize how frequently those multipliers have been changing all along until I compared attributes given in Fifth Edition, the French edition (derived from the 7.5 edition I don’t have), the Free RPG Day book, and in Monsters! Monsters! Elves, for example, have weighed the same as humans (×100%), or 90% or 67%. And let’s not even discuss dwarves and trolls for now….
I hope you found this small excursion diverting, and a glimpse of what goes into the work I’m doing on Ken’s original draft of the rules. My aim is to make the game mechanics strong, logical, and likely to result in believable, playable characters for you to take out exploring and adventuring. Tweaking this chart is a tiny piece of that.
IN OTHER dT&T NEWS by Steve Crompton
The Adventurers Compendium is completed and is now at the printers! This 88 page collection of nine mini-solos and three GM adventures have all been taken from the pages of the hard-to-find Sorcerer’s Apprentice magazine. The solos have been updated and enhanced with new, lost and classic art by Liz Danforth, Rob Carver, Steven S. Crompton and Stephan Peregrine.
The Adventurers Compendium also includes the Circle of Ice mini-solo which has been out of print for over 25 years. In addition, there is a full-color gallery of covers from Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a new treasure generator by Ken St. Andre, and more.
Other than the dT&T rulebook itself, this is the last book that needed to be created for the Kickstarter pledgers. It will also be available for sale online and at conventions from Flying Buffalo sometime in early April.