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I'm wondering if there's any official published material on different body types such as overweight/underweight (as well as short and tall characters) in the history of Dungeons and Dragons.

Specifically, the most likely thing I can think of would be an alternative 'official' (not third-party) weight/height generation method, either in a sourcebook or in the Dungeon/Dragon magazine?

Note, this is not a duplicate of the related question - How can I make an overweight character? - as I'm after official published material. In contrast to the linked question, I'm interested in underweight/overweight characters as well as short/tall characters.

I'm defining 'different body sizes' as anything outside the minimum and maximum heights and weights possible.

My initial interest was that I'm planning on playing an overweight dwarf, and noted the limits of the height/weight tables in the 5e PhB. Following on from that I have been trying to figure out what makes more sense:

  • scaling up the character's height to compare the equivalent weight to humans of the same height, or
  • scaling down the height of existing overweight real-world individuals to dwarf heights

And would give the right dwarvish body type more 'accurately' that just adding on an arbitrary number of pounds.

After that I considered this might have been featured in official published material somewhere in one edition or another, which would help me figure out the above for this character and future characters of different races.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Right. OK, I do have a question: wouldn’t overweight imply that your character is out of proportion? Like, increase the weight without increasing the height. If you increase both, but maintain proportionality, you have an oversized character, it seems to me. Is “oversized” what you mean? Also, I take it as given that you want this to be specifically outside the normal range, so this isn’t “normal” overweight or obese, but something that basically implies an unusual medical condition. (If not, just use the high end of the table.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 19 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan my assumption is that different fantasy 'races' would put on weight/lose weight differently. Maybe an extra 5 lbs above the 'norm' from a table is a lot for an elf, but 15 is not much for a halfling? So that is what I mean by 'in proportion'. The weight/height ranges in the PhB don't really cover anything outside of normal weights (BMI 18-26, which is close to normal weight), so it can still be 'normal' overweight/underweight without being based on an unusual medical condition. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don’t believe that you are correct in what the normal tables are intended to cover. Then again, in my experience, those tables are very close to utter nonsense... \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Aug 19 at 13:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you think they are intended to cover? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19 at 13:53
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No, just attempts at representing standard heights and weights

Dragon Magazine covering OD&D to D&D1

Looking over the Dragon Magazine Master Index there are a small number of articles that cover height and weight:

Article Title Author Issue Page Edition
"Weights & Measures" P.M. Crabaugh 10 19 OD&D
"How Heavy Is My Giant?" "Shlump da Orc" 13 5 OD&D
"Realistic Vital Statistics" Stephen Inniss 91 10 D&D1

Having reviewed these articles via the magazine archive these are all to do with either the heights and weights of (at the time) non-standard races, or attempts at more realistic generation methods that still don't deliberately account for non-standard body types.

Advanced 2e D&D

Although not an alternative system, I have found the generation method for previous editions:

I've been able to confirm that the height and weight tables here are faithful to the original books, and are in pounds and inches:

Race Height Base* Height Modifier Weight Base* Weight Modifier
Dwarf 43/41 1d10 130/105 4d10
Elf 55/50 1d10 90/70 3d10
Gnome 38/36 1d6 72/68 5d4
Half-Elf 60/58 2d6 110/85 3d12
Halfling 32/30 2d8 52/48 5d4
Human 60/59 2d10 140/100 6d10

And it comes with this note:

*Females tend to be lighter and shorter than males. Thus, the base numbers for height and weight are divided into male/female values. Note that the modifier still allows for a broad range in each category.

For humans, as an example this covers a BMI* of ~16 to ~36, which is a wider range than the 5e PhB covers, but from what I know this doesn't go into any details about actual body types. For instance, it doesn't cover the difference between a low-fat percentage/muscular character at BMI 36 vs. a character with higher fat-percentage. It doesn't distinguish between short and tall characters of different weights either, etc.

Tying it back to your example of an overweight dwarf, the same AD&D 2e tables produce a maximum BMI* between ~35 and ~65, but again there's no commentary I can find that these aren't just correlated to standard dwarven body types, or if the upper and lower bounds would constitute 'different body types'.


* I'm only using BMI a comparisons between editions/races, and not as a good measure of body types, as evidenced in the paragraphs this footnote is for

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer is sort of incomplete, now I think about it, but I'm going to leave it here as an example/answer for me to update when I'm able to later on. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 30 at 14:02
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The question is if there is any official published material "in the history of the game". Well, I was a child and played when the whole D&D thing started (i.e. "Basic") to the 90's. So my wheelhouse is about the history and I can't answer anything about the rules and editions of the last 2 decades because I don't care for them.

I purchased and still own the originals of every single book/module ever made, and had a subscription to the Dragon Magazine (thanks Mom). Read all the books/modules so many times... to the point of memorizing all of them and could quote things by page #. No joke.

And admittedly my memory is not what it used to be (I'm a doddering old mage after all) but I cannot recall any official source material (excluding any articles in the magazine) about different body sizes. The various rulebooks barely covered encumbrance, let alone body types.

I think you'll have to define your own rules about how your character's physical stature affects things, and be sure to adjust any stats to be appropriate. That's what the original game and versions did and it's OK to follow suit (and doesn't the newest edition allow you that flexibility anyway?)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello and Welcome to RPG.SE. We want answers to be focused and complete, so Imma remove this as not an answer. Showing a negative to a question like this is a lot of work, and we'd rather leave it unanswered waiting for someone who can (or knows of any positives). You're welcome to contribute on other questions of course, by you may wish to take the tour as an introduction, and see the help center including How to Answer for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Aug 22 at 18:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ On reflection, this does seem to be an answer, so I've undeleted it. I think there's a lot of noise to it, but am not sure which bits can cleanly be cut. I also suspect it may draw a number of downvotes, part as it seems to only cover material up to '90, missing out some two decades and three editions (but maybe that's a misunderstanding on my part). We are open to discussions and taking other viewpoints on that, but maybe the site isn't very good at teaching those (ie. flags and meta). Apologies for any confusion or frustration. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Aug 28 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you may be missing some of the history. The original version of Dungeons & Dragons was published in 1974 and that was an outgrowth and refinement of Chainmail which was published in 1971. In other words it goes back a bit further than the 90's. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28 at 23:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wasn't there an "heavy" character flaw in 3.5? or am I channeling gurps. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Oct 2 at 0:52

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