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I was playing a D&D session as a female cleric of Qotal and, at some point, the party encountered some kind of wind monster. As I tried to cast spells requiring concentration, the DM argued that I couldn't because my hair kept getting in my face and made me unable to concentrate on my spells.

Later on, I told the DM that my character would ponytail her hair but he refused stating that I had nothing to tie my hair with nor have any knowledge of hair-tying, as female characters usually do not tie their hair in the D&D universe.

I am looking for an answer to:

Is there a guide/visual reference or limitations for character hairstyle so that their appearance does not break the lore of the D&D Forgotten Realms universe? Or can I trust Google about medieval tied hairs?

Could any of the following limit my character's choice of hairstyle (to the point where I cannot tie them to a ponytail in particular)?

  • Race: As you won't ever see an elf with a big bronze-decorated beard.
  • Technical limitation: Because I'm pretty sure there is no item such as hair curler/straightener.
  • Lore limitation: For obvious reasons you won't ever find a human with a Johnny Bravo or anime character hairstyle.

I am NOT looking for an answer to:

  • Was my DM right about denying concentration because of hair lashing in the character's face?
    • Could be discussed in a separate question, but not this one.
  • Can the DM decide how my character looks/should look like?
    • As long as it shouldn't break the lore, I strongly believe I decide however my character looks like.
  • How should I address the issue of what happened with my DM?
    • Did it by now, turned out fine, we agreed by rereading the rules on Concentration.
  • Should I continue playing with my DM?
    • I understand why you may comment on this, but this is not even close to what I'm asking.
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Oddrigue, were other spellcasters able to concentrate on their spells? It changes the context of my answer is why I ask. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Captain Man Nov 26 '19 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user3067860 You should include that in an answer, not as a comment. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 27 '19 at 0:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant meta: Don't signal your edits in text. Instead, you should edit your answer to read as if it were always the best version of itself; anyone interested in older versions can view the revision history. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 27 '19 at 0:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CaptainMan we had no other spellcaster so cant answer you on that one \$\endgroup\$ – Oddrigue Nov 27 '19 at 11:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like George Lucas claiming there's no Underwear in space. \$\endgroup\$ – aslum Dec 2 '19 at 20:35
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Let me try to address the Forgotten Realms specific lore question directly from officially published text.

Races and Cultures

There are many races and cultures on Faerûn, and correspondingly a wide range of styles. Most often, no single hairstyle is listed in the descriptions leaving a large amount of flexibility in generating whatever players desire for their characters. For certain cultures, there are norms, but the norms are very varied. For example, take Thay and Rashemen, two neighbouring countries: Thayans are known to shave their heads, while both male and female Rashemi keep their hair long.

Here are some examples from the 3e Races of Faerun:

  • Wild dwarves wear little except their long, woven hair, which serves as adequate clothing. They plaster their hair and skin with mud to form a crude armor when going to war. [page 23]

  • Moon elves: Hair is worn in braids or ponytails, twined with wires or beads. [page 38]

  • Mountain orcs often weave braids and tiny bones into their thick matted hair, which is usually black. [page 68]

  • Female Rashemi wear their black hair long, often in elaborate braids. [page 99]

Example Characters

You can also find many official characters who had ponytails by doing a web search with the key: ponytail hair site:forgottenrealms.fandom.com. Doing so on Google on Nov 27, 2019 yielded a long list of male characters and one female: Tarntassa. (What this tells about our real world societies would be an interesting discussion topic.)

Religions and Clerics

It is worth noting that the adventuring garb for priests are practical and with or without a helm, deities would allow their clerics to do whatever they need to be efficient in the battlefield. But even for non-adventuring priests in their ceremonial garbs, quite often the hair is not flowing freely. You can find detailed descriptions of the ceremonial garbs for the FR pantheon in the 2e Faiths and Avatars, which also includes beautiful color pictures [pages 5-13]. Garments that leave long hair to flow freely are actually in the minority.

Qotal Specific

Qotal, the Plumed One, is a Maztican deity. Maztica itself was brought to life by Douglas Niles, who based the setting on Mesoamerican cultures. According to Shannon Appelcline, Niles did extensive research to get the setting "historically accurate" (to the dismay of Ed Greenwood, who preferred a more fantastical Realms). So for the case of your cleric of Qotal, you might get some inspiration from the hairstyles of ancient Aztecs and Mayans. For example, according to Wikipedia article on Aztec clothing:

Aztec women wore hair in two braids that projected in the front like horns ... Women sometimes created a purple highlight in their hair with an herb called xiuhquílitl, and sometimes they shaved their hair completely.

Example Hairstyles by FR Barbers (5e)

Finally, there is a cute 5e adventure for characters of 4th to 6th level that is available for free on the WotC website. Called The Barber of Silverymoon, the module is indeed about a barber shop and has a list of 20 random haircuts on page 6. Some examples from that list are:

  • Braid or ponytail
  • Eighteenth-century French women’s hairstyle (giant bun shaped like flowers, sailing ships, or other objects)
  • Medieval European women’s hairstyle (pulled back in a net, snood, or balzo)
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You should be more assertive

Can my character have this hairstyle

It is your character, so ultimately it's up to you. If you say she has a ponytail, she does.

female characters usually do not tie their hair

But your character does. She is a combat cleric, she can't allow an unfortunate mistake (like hair getting into her face) to mess things up in a life-threatening situation. People can die because of such an unlucky haircut, so why take any risks?

The DM's premise is probably false

I'm not an expert, but I believe "women always had long loose hair in medieval times" is not actually true. Long hair have a respective long cultural history, and the ways people cut their hair differ widely from culture to culture. But usually having unfastened hair was bad manners, or had a religious meaning.

As a simple example, the left-most panel of Dombild Altarpiece, as painted by Stefan Lochner — a medieval artist (thanks @guildsbounty for this catch). Note all the different hair-styles. You have buns, middle-of-back braids, loose hair with a hairband, etc. All much, much more complex than a simple ponytail.

Regardless, you play in a fantasy setting, not a historical one. There are no objective factors that prevent you from having a ponytail. Why your DM is so persistent about forcing you to have a particular haircut is another question (but it's probably a bad practice anyways).

Is there a guide/reference for character hairstyle possible in D&D Forgotten Realms universe?

Kind of. Pictures from the 5e Players' Handbook show us a wide variety of hairstyles:

Illustrations from other books are even more omnifarious. Even ignoring graphic depictions, some more supporting evidence can be found in the explicit mention of ponytails in the following two characters from adventure modules (the latter is set in the Forgotten Realms): Aubreck in Ghosts of Saltmarsh "keeps his iron-gray hair pulled back in a short ponytail" and Vhaltus in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus is a character with "red hair in a ponytail" when he is first met (thanks @DavidCoffron for this catch).

Putting it in a nutshell, you can find any kind of hairstyles in Faerûn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even ignoring graphic depictions, some more supporting evidence can be found in the explicit mention of ponytails in the following two characters from adventure modules (the latter is set in the Forgotten Realms): Aubreck in Ghosts of Saltmarsh "keeps his iron-gray hair pulled back in a short ponytail" and Vhaltus in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus is a character with "red hair in a ponytail" when he is first met. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 26 '19 at 16:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will happily add that the notion that 'hair-tying' wasn't a thing in the middle ages is absolutely false. Looking at artwork, tapestries, and reading descriptions of things from that era it is plainly obvious that women in the middle ages knew how to tie up their hair, and did so with great regularity and complexity. I mean...the notion that any given peasant woman with long hair wouldn't go "This gets in my face when I bend over, here is a bit of twine or scrap of leather, I will wrap it around my hair so my hair stops catching on fire when I lean over the cookpot" is absurd. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Nov 26 '19 at 17:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a simple example, the left-most panel of Dombild Altarpiece, as painted by Stefan Lochner--a Medieval Artist. Note all the different hair-styles. You have buns, middle-of-back braids, loose hair with a hairband, etc. All much, much more complex than a simple ponytail. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/… \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Nov 26 '19 at 17:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ The DM's premise may have been fluff to explain requiring a concentration check due to environmental phenomenon, especially since they are fighting a wind monster. Assuming 5e, it is very unusual to require a concentration check to cast a spell during combat for only concentration spells. The rules only support requiring concentration checks to cast a spell for spells requiring more than a standard action to cast (PHB 202, Longer Casting Times). OP may wish to clarify with the DM what his rules are on when concentration checks are required and how they apply to non-concentration spells. \$\endgroup\$ – CertainlyNot Nov 26 '19 at 18:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I did accept Zwiq's answer because it is closer to the kind of answer I expected than yours. But you're making a good information complement nevertheless. I would "sub-accept" it too if I could. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddrigue Nov 27 '19 at 13:05
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Your DM is making things up to inhibit you as a player because "reasons".

Nowhere in any edition of D&D is "hairstyle" a part of character creation or something you need to track for any mechanical reason whatsoever. As you describe it the GM said long hair in your eyes might hurt concentration. There's nothing at all in D&D rules governing this so its totally a fabrication of the DM. Your DM has 1. given you an additional harship the other players don't 2. gone out of their way to make any logical fix to address the issue inaccessible.

Don't play your DM's game (literally)

As I see it you have two options:

  1. Try to talk to the GM over email about this issue and how it unfairly targets your character.
  2. Walk away from the game and never come back.

You can try number 1 first, but honestly I feel like this GM is toxic, petty, and sexist for this situation to even occur in the first place. Your best bet would probably be to just find another table to play at.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree players should be able to have whatever hair they want (especially something as simple as a pony tail), but I disagree slightly with "There's nothing at all in D&D rules governing this so its totally a fabrication of the DM." There's precedence for environmental factors requiring additional Constitution saving throws and it's possible that perhaps the DM just intended that all players have difficulty concentrating and just described it as "hair being in eyes" with OP's character. I talk about it more in my answer if you're curious. \$\endgroup\$ – Captain Man Nov 26 '19 at 19:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ The environmental factors given as example is a large, physically affecting phenomenon like being knocked over by a wave. Its possible that the DM meant to do a Con save throw for this, but their denial of even being able to cast concentration spells at all belies this. Likewise the refused to allow a player to take action in character to address the issue. There are too many compounding factors in the DM's behavior for me to see this simply as a rules mishandling and not an issue with a controlling DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Nov 26 '19 at 20:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith I understand your point of view but this is not an answer addressing the proper subject. Also this is a bit judgemental considering I explicitely mentionned that I'm asking my question regardless of his attitude and his rightfullness about the incident. \$\endgroup\$ – Oddrigue Nov 27 '19 at 13:14
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(Others have given good answers so I am intentionally ignoring that you specifically requested that we ignore this being about hair in your character's face breaking your concentration.)

the DM argued that I couldn't [cast spells requiring concentration] because my hairs kept getting in my face and made me unable to concentrate on my spells.

Here are the rules for concentration. A relevant portion is below.

The GM might also decide that certain environmental phenomena, such as a wave crashing over you while you’re on a storm-tossed ship, require you to succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw to maintain Concentration on a spell.

This suggests the idea that a DM could say a strong gust makes it difficult to concentrate on a spell. However, it doesn't say it makes concentration impossible, it just says to make it require a Constitution saving throw (the same way you do when you take damage). Regardless of whether they should require a saving throw or not the concept exists.

Is it possible that the "hair getting in your face" was merely the flavor the DM decided to assign to the concentration interruption? Were other characters without long hair allowed to concentrate? If so, I believe the DM just said something about the hair as flavor. If so, the DM should've just said something to the effect of "the heavy wind still makes it difficult even if you have a pony tail".

I have seen a similar thing happen as a player. My DM was using a rule that if you rolled 5 less than the DC when lock-picking then your tools broke. I later learned Mend to deal with them but my DM said that it doesn't work since it's more "jammed" than "broken". The original way he described the break made me think that it worked a certain way but really the point was that he wanted thieves' tools to be ruined in such scenarios. (I think this rule is silly and don't suggest using it, but it illustrates the point.) Once I understood thieves' tools were meant to be consumable in this game things went more smoothly. It's just that the original way the DM described it threw me off.

As such in games I DM if a player suddenly contests on specifics of what I meant to just be a fun, flavorful description of things I will immediately explain that it was just flavor, but the thing still happens. This way no one's time gets wasted and players hopefully don't feel cheated. Flavorful descriptions are still fun though and I don't suggest throwing them out.

If a player contests something that wasn't just flavor then that's fine and I'll hear them out. As an example, say your character is wearing shoes but I thought they were barefoot and I said that running across rocks slowed you down some. You remind me that you're actually wearing shoes. I didn't plan for the terrain to actually be considered difficult terrain, so I let you move the full distance you normally would. Because of this, it's still important players contest things that sound fishy to them. Yes, the DM gets the final say, but the DM can still make mistakes.


Given the narrow view from the question it's hard to say, but it's possible all this business about what kind of hair you are "allowed" to have just resulted from a back and forth disagreement about whether you should be allowed to concentrate or not and the DM never backing down about the hair being the cause and never saying the wind was the real culprit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand why you're addressing that point and appreciate it but this is not the problem I'm asking help with \$\endgroup\$ – Oddrigue Nov 27 '19 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Oddrigue Thanks for understanding. As I said, I wouldn't have posted something so directly contradictory if others had not already given good answers to the hair style question you were asking. Also, very glad to see that you and your DM were able to come to a consensus on the concentration issue. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Captain Man Nov 27 '19 at 17:34
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Female character in Forgotten Realms with ponytail:

enter image description here

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Let alone the other arguments about hairstyle being more varied than depicted in old, pin-up and romance novel influenced D&D art, and women in all cultures knowing how to get it out of the way, since their INT is over 1, if, like most clerics, you are wearing armor, you probably have a helmet on, and your hair is under the helmet and most likely under an arming cap or coif and not an issue, even if not tied up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And unless you like having your hair get tangled in chainmail--it's probably tied up tight and tucked into the arming cap \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Nov 26 '19 at 21:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does cleric basic equipment includes a kind of helmet ? Looks like my local religious group were too poor to get me one :) \$\endgroup\$ – Oddrigue Nov 27 '19 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Oddrigue Not sure about 5e, but previous editions have stated that a helmet comes included with any suit of armor—which makes some reason-world sense, since every warrior in the history of armor would prioritize a helmet before anything else. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 27 '19 at 13:54
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Braids

If you have hair, without elastics, cloth, or any other aid, hair can simply be braided to stay out of the face. Braids are common in every culture because every humanoid society has hair and hair being made of strands of hair can be braided.

Hair in real human history there is evidence of braiding from 30,000 years ago. That is thousands of years before the medieval period (5th to 15th century).

Hair Gel

Dating back to at least ancient Egypt, people used animal fats to style hair. Wax and tree resin (gum arabic) have been used throughout history and continue to the present.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To add, one of the reasons braids are such a common solution is because loose hair (aside from getting in the way) is often messy unless freshly washed and dried. It's easier to look good with unwashed hair if the hair is in a braid. \$\endgroup\$ – Rowan Nov 29 '19 at 10:53

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