Fleshing Out Your Character

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by Bill Logan

The Alpha Dawn book has all kinds of details on how a character looks... each race has a “Physical Structure” section that describes basic coloration and appearance, pictures give examples, and the “Characteristics” blocks under the main pictures give everything necessary – including body temperature. But there are aspects of a character that require additional detail, and that’s what this article attempts to provide.


Height and Weight

Each race shows an average height and weight, but what are the minimums and maximums? This system breaks down character size into two tables. You can record your height and weight numerically on your character sheet, or for simplicity you might wish to simply write a descriptor.

Descriptor. You can simply use the verbal category to designate your height and weight on your character sheet. For example, you might be a short, husky Yazirian, or a tall, thin Human. This provides enough role-playing depth.

Numbers. Those of you that prefer numbers can list the numeric values from the tables. When you roll your height, you’ll see a column called “Wgt.” Modify your rolled weight numerically by adding this offset, in kilograms.

For example, a Tall Lean Vrusk would be 1.6 meters tall and would weigh 80 kilograms (75kg for being “Lean” and an added 5kg for being Tall).

On the tables below, all heights are in meters, and all weights are in kilograms.

Roll Descriptor Wgt Dral* Hmn** Vrsk*** Yaz
01-05 Tiny -10kg 1.10 1.50 1.25 1.80
06-15 Short -5kg 1.20 1.60 1.40 1.90
16-35 Below Avg +0kg 1.25 1.80 1.45 2.00
36-65 Average +0kg 1.30 1.90 1.50 2.10
66-85 Above Avg +0kg 1.35 2.00 1.55 2.20
86-95 Tall +5kg 1.40 2.20 1.60 2.30
96-00 Towering +10kg 1.50 2.30 1.75 2.40
* Dralasites are 80% as wide as they are tall.
** Human females are 0.15 meters shorter.
***Vrusk are symmetrical: as long as they are tall.
Roll Descriptor Dral Hmn* Vrsk Yaz**
01-05 Skinny 50 50 55 35
06-15 Thin 55 60 65 40
16-35 Lean 60 70 75 45
36-65 Average 65 80 85 50
66-85 Husky 70 90 95 55
86-95 Overweight 80 100 115 60
96-00 Obese 90+ 115+ 130+ 75+
* Human females weigh 25% less than males.
** Yazirian females weigh 20% more than males.


Character maximum age is shown on the tables in the race description, but at what point are they considered mature? Old? Ancient? This information was printed in a similar form in the April issue Dragon Magazine in 1986, and is modified and provided here for help flesh out your character:

Race Starting Age*
Dralasite 24 + 1d10 years
Human 19 + 1d10 years
Vrusk 17 + 1d10 years
Yazirian 13 + 1d10 years
* At the Referee’s discretion, this roll can be made openended: when a 10 is rolled, add 10 to your character’s age and roll again. If you roll another 10, do the same. Continue rolling and adding until a non 10 is rolled.
Race MatureMiddle Aged Old Ancient up to...*
Dralasite 25-75 76-115 116-175 ...195+10d10
Human 20-60 61-90 91-140 ...156+8d10
Vrusk 18-50 51-80 81-125 ...136+7d10
Yazirian 14-40 41-60 61-100 ...107+6d10
* a character is Ancient if he’s older than the “Old” category, up to his maximum age (rolled).


Is your character a blond or a brunette? And just what color options exist for a Yazirian anyway? What color are the wings? How about a Vrusk’s antennae? It’s hard to assess possible colors to all the races, but general coloration can be found in the main book and also in character descriptions from various published sources. The tables below can be used to generate basic coloration. Basic coloration means skin for a Dralasite or Human, but for a Yazirian or Vrusk it refers to the dominant overall coloration. Vrusks have different colored joings (typically orangish) and Yazirians have a slightly darker coloration to their manes and hair tufts at the shoulder and elsewhere.

Roll Dralasite Human Vrusk Yazirian
01-15 Near White Black Aquamarine Brown
16-30 Light Gray Pink Light Green Blond
31-45 Med Gray Tan Dark Green Tan
46-60 Deep Gray Olive Gray-Green Gold
61-75 Dark Gray Dark Tan Yellow-Green Copper
76-90 Near Black Brown Gray Reddish
91-00 Black Porcelain Pale Lime Black

Effects on Characteristics

This section is optional. It provides a little bit more complexity to the rules, so some Referees may wish to ignore the effects provided here.

Now that you know your general size and age, how do these things affect your character? Certainly being ancient makes someone move about slower, and probably lowers some physical ability scores. Being Tiny should help you with your general dexterity but might make you a little less mighty. But how exactly does all this work together?

The Characteristic Effects Table summarizes all of this. Apply the modifiers for your character’s Height, Weight, and Age. Note that STA generally refers to durability and ability to take damage more than overall health and fitness where this table is concerned. When making STA checks relating to general fitness, the modifier may not apply.

Tiny -10/-10 +10/+10 --/-- --/-- -10%
Short -5/-5 +5/+5 --/-- --/-- -5%
Below Avg --/-- --/-- --/-- --/-- --
Average --/-- --/-- --/-- --/-- --
Above Avg --/-- --/-- --/-- --/-- --
Tall +5/+5 -5/-5 --/-- --/-- +5%
Towering +10/+10 -10/-10 --/-- --/-- +10%
Skinny -10/-10 +10/+10 --/-- --/-- --
Thin -5/-5 +5/+5 --/-- --/-- --
Lean --/-- --/-- --/-- --/-- --
Average --/-- --/-- --/-- --/-- --
Husky --/-- --/-- --/-- --/-- --
Overweight +5/+5 -5/-5 --/-- --/-- -5%
Obese +10/+10 -10/-10 --/-- --/-- -10%
Youth -5/-5 +5/+5 -5/-5 --/-5 --
Mature --/-- --/-- --/-- --/-- --
Middle-Aged -5/-5 --/-- +5/+5 --/+5 --
Old -10/-10 -5/-5 +10/+10 --/+10 -25%
Ancient -15/-15 -10/-10 +15/+15 --/-- -50%

These effects are categorically cumulative. An Old, Tiny, Obese person would have a total of -10 to STR and STA, for example: -10 for being Tiny, +10 for being Obese, and -10 for being Old. That same person’s movement rate would be -10% (for height) + -10% (for weight) + -25% (for age)... poor old little fat guy doesn’t get around as well as he used to: -45% to his movement rates!

Age Descriptions

Height and weight carry with them their own explanation, just by looking at their descriptors. Age, on the other hand, may require some explanation:

Youth: Characters who are below the age shown for “Mature” are considered Youth. Youth have a penalty of at least 5 applied to STR, STA, INT, LOG, and LDR, but often a bonus of at least 5 applied to DEX and RS.

Mature: these characters are the assumed ages of the characters at the start of the game, no attribute modifiers.

Middle-Aged: Subtract 5 from STR and STA to represent the reduced fitness of the slightly aged. Add 5 to INT and LOG scores to represent acquired wisdom and insight. Hair becomes grayed if Human or Yazirian, metabolism slower. Middle aged Yazirians can only glide 75% as far as they used to. In most cultures of most races, add 5 to LDR but not to PER to represent the respect given to the middleaged.

Old: Subtract 5 more from STR and STA, 5 from DEX, and RS to represent the continued degrading of physical fitness. Add 5 more to INT and LOG to represent the knowledge and forethought that comes with age, and the patience that is required to apply it. Characters at this age often have white or silver hair (if Human or Yazirian) or have dull or muted external colors (if Vrusk or Dralasite). Old Yazirians cut their gliding distances in half. Movement rates for all Old characters are reduced by 25%. In most cultures of most races, add 5 more to LDR to represent added respect.

Ancient: Characters this old subtract another 5 from STR, STA, DEX, and RS and add 5 to INT and LOG scores. They probably have little hair remaining (if Human or Yazirian). If Vrusk or Dralasite, their skin coloration loses all hue, dulling to a neutral gray. Ancient Yazirians can glide only in theory... if they must try, they can manage to land without being hurt but cannot glide much more than that. Movement rates for Ancient characters are cut in half.

Other Races

When considering playing races other than the core ones from Alpha Dawn, you may adapt these tables quite easily. Here’s a basic guideline (of course, individual races vary dramatically from these percentages):

HeightPercent of “Average Size”
Tiny 75%
Short 85%
Below Average 95%
Average 100%
Above Average 105%
Tall 115%
Towering 120%
WeightPercent of “Average Mass”
Skinny 65%
Thin 75%
Lean 90%
Average 100%
Husky 110%
Overweight 125%
Obese 150%
AgePercent of “Average Lifespan”
Youth ...10%
Mature ...30%
Middle-Aged ...45%
Old ...70%
Ancient ...80%+8d10


Additional Details=

As an option, characters may roll twice on the following table. This helps determine random information about your character that might help fill in blanks in his background, morals, general appearance, or demeanor.

If you roll 99 or 00, you will be instructed to roll additional times. If you continue to roll 99 or 00 you can end up with a large list of traits.

If you roll two or more traits that seem contradictive, either try to come up with a rationale behind it, or simply ignore one of them (whichever one you’d rather not use). Rolls that would make absolutely no sense, such as “Very long hair/antennae” for a Dralasite, are re-rolled or ignored, at the player’s option.

Remember, the idea behind this table is to get your imagination flowing, and to make characters have an appearance and personality that will be fun and playable. Don’t be a slave to this table and end up with a characteristic you really wouldn’t like your character to have.

For example, if you roll a 25 and a 98 then your character smells of exotic spices, perhaps from the food of his homeland or from some favored cologne or perfume, and is world-weary, perhaps because he’s traveled a great deal or hates layovers. He sighs and rolls his eyes at the prospect of long trips. This helps build an image of a character who’s exotic and has been everywhere, perhaps has friends or enemies on some worlds.

Random Trait Table (Roll twice)
01 Allergic to something 34 Hand shakes 67 Romantic
02 Always listens to music35 Hard of hearing68 Scar(s)
03 Always serious/severe36 Has a criminal record69 Serves a master
04 Believed dead37 Has a secret70 Sexy as hell
05 Birthmark38 Has a twin71 Shallow
06 Bully/Aggressive39 Heavy drinker72 Short-tempered
07 Can’t be serious40 High voice73 Sings/Whistles
08 Clean Cut41 Honest74 Skilled entertainer
09 Cocky/smart-ass42 Honorable75 Skilled farmer
10 Collector43 Hooded76 Slurs words/talks lazy
11 Composed, collected44 Illegitimate77 Smart, or convinced he is
12 Corny45 Likes to eat78 Slouches, Bad posture
13 Cut & dried, matter-of-fact46 Likes to run79 Stressed
14 Cynical47 Likes to wear some color80 Stutters
15 Dead stare, look of a killer48 Limp81 Superior
16 Debonair49 Lisp82 Superstitious
17 Deceitful50 Loud83 Suspicious
18 Dignified51 Low voice84 Sweaty
19 Dirt poor family52 Member of a Cult85 Tattoo(s)
20 Distinctive equipment53 Missing eye (wears patch)86 Total jerk
21 Distinctive facial feature54 Near-sighted87 Trembles/ combat shakes
22 Dorky hobbies55 Nervous eye twitch88 Unattractive
23 Dusty/dirty56 Oblivious89 Uncommon walk
24 Enunciates clearly57 Outcast90 Unkempt
25 Exotic scent58 Outgoing91 Unremarkable
26 Fashionable59 Overconfident92 Unusual blood type
27 Fiddles & fidgets60 Paranoid93 Very long hair/antennae
28 Flamboyant dress61 Polite94 Vigilante
29 Flips a coin/believes in fate62 Prejudiced against a race95 Wealthy
30 Foppish63 Professional96 Wears hats
31 Friendly64 Quiet97 Weirdness magnet
32 Gambles65 Religious98 World-weary
33 Gentle66 Reserved99 Roll Two More Times
00 Roll Three More Times