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I'm going to start off by saying that this will be my very first time playing any sort of tabletop role-playing game. I know what I'm about to ask may be questionable due to the whole epic fantasy nature of D&D, but I'd like to know if there's any way I can have an overweight/obese character in the game.

I've done very basic research in the 5e Player's Handbook on how to make a character. I have an idea on the character I want to make, but I am not sure on how to go about doing it. The handbook doesn't mention too much about the weight of various species, just their average weight. I'd talk to the DM about this, but this is the first time I've started talking to him and he seems a bit unapproachable about character creation, especially with a character that doesn't really "fit in" with the usual character builds. I'm just saying if someone can make a gelatinous cube a character then I can be able to make my character obese. There's the feat in the Book of Vile Darkness for obesity, but does that have to apply purely for evil alignments? Surely it doesn't have to.

If push comes to shove, I will confront my DM about character creation stuff. I thought I'd ask a community of players for their advice before I do so. Thanks for your help!

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Miniman, Quentin, Erik, mxyzplk Jul 23 '15 at 13:48

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you want your obesity to mean to your character? If you just want to be fat, just say "My guy is fat" and pick the upper limit of available weight for your class +20% extra and that should be enough, right? \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jul 23 '15 at 12:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've voted to close as unclear for now - why do you think people can play as gelatinous cubes? And the Book of Vile Deeds is a 3.5 book, so I'm not sure why you're mentioning it either. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jul 23 '15 at 12:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I like the edit, it assumes he wants mechanical representation while the real question is does he want mechanics per se, or is he just looking to "be fat?" I'd like the OP to chime in and not someone on his behalf... \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 23 '15 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I took OP's mention of investigating the BoVD and the PHB weight section to mean they wanted to know about any potential mechanical effects. I agree, I'd prefer OP to chime in, but wanted to put in a model for what we mean by "clarify your specific problem". \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Jul 23 '15 at 16:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ If they don't bother to come back and clarify their question, then they're unlikely to benefit from an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 24 '15 at 2:39
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Are there any mechanical requirements for playing an obese character in D&D 5e? If so, what are they?

No, there are not. Your character is obese if you say he is. That’s it. Done.

The description of a character is entirely up to the person playing that character.1 It is desired that mechanics “back up” description, so you should think about mechanics in terms of the desired description, but this does not require special rules. It’s a simple matter of keeping the description in mind while making all the various character-creation choices you are going to make.

If not, how can I model my character's obesity within the regular mechanics?

There are a number of different ways you can do this, and which you choose depends entirely on how you imagine the character and how you imagine his or her obesity affects their life. So the way to handle this is to think about what your obese character might be like when you are choosing your various options.

All of the choices you make when creating a character can and should be viewed through the lens of “which choice here can back up the image of the character that I want to project?” Your character, though obese, is going to be adventuring: that has a lot of requirements on a person, from exploring, to traveling, to keeping safe, to killing monsters. Most adventurers are physically fit because adventuring is demanding. How does your character not get fit while adventuring? On the flip side, how do they do all the things adventuring requires without relying on physical fitness?

Note that it is possible to answer all of these questions within the normal framework of character creation. It is also possible to do so without hampering yourself: somehow or another, your character has figured out a solution to these questions that allows him or her to be an effective adventurer while neither having nor gaining physical fitness. You don’t need special penalties: just focus your character-creation resources in directions that reflect this reality.

For example, ability scores: a low Dexterity but high Constitution is a common way to model obesity. This isn’t a special bonus or penalty, since you are not supernaturally or even superhumanly obese. You are just on the high end for natural weights for your race; thus you are on the low end for typical Dexterity scores, and on the high end for typical Constitution scores (if you choose to model it this way). And Constitution is good for a lot of characters, while many characters don’t really need Dexterity. Someone who is obese isn’t likely going out for the things that rely on Dexterity, not when their life depends on them being able to do something effectively. Much better to rely on something else for safety.

For another another option, you may choose to avoid classes and feats that improve your speed. In fact, you can make choices that reward not moving very much. You may choose classes and feats that allow you to avoid significant physical activity: wizard with Heavily Armored, perhaps, so you can stand in place, protected, while casting spells.

And these are definitely not the only options. Every choice can be looked at from this perspective. Skills? Probably not Athletics. Items? Maybe something to provide good meals, or a mount to avoid the large amounts of walking that adventuring might require. Whatever.

So again, being obese is what you make of it. You don’t need special rules for it.

  1. That is, “within reason,” which is decided by the group, but clearly some people are obese so this case shouldn’t be even approaching those limits.

As for the feat in Book of Vile Darkness, that is specifically gorging yourself for the express purpose of disfiguring your body by acquiring grotesque obesity, all as an homage to some evil patron. That is why that is evil – and why it gives special bonuses. It’s ritualistic and profane. If you just are obese, either because you eat too much or because of some medical issue, that doesn’t make you evil and doesn’t require the feat (but also doesn’t come with the dark rewards that the feat does).

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    \$\begingroup\$ "How does your character not get fit while adventuring? On the flip side, how do they do all the things adventuring requires without relying on physical fitness?" This is the most vital part, in my view. Looking at the world around us, there are many people who are significantly "overweight" but also very strong and fast. For an example, look at any professional football team. You'll see among them some very powerful individuals who are nowhere near the shape of the typical fantasy hero. An overweight RPG adventurer will most likely resemble them. \$\endgroup\$ – recognizer Sep 16 '15 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess that if one really like the mechanics and feel of the feet (and was playing 3.5e?) you could see if it could be adapted that you are playing homage to a chaos deity instead, to emulate the ever wobbling form of the Slaad, or Olidammara saw how you drank 9 flaggons of wine in his honor and decided it was your lucky day. \$\endgroup\$ – gmatht Jun 5 '17 at 13:22
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First off, yes, you can have an obese character. (But you might not be able to have one at this table.)

I'd point out a term of art that @RS Conley used that I recommend to your consideration: "mechanics." We use it as shorthand for "all of the rules, rolls, modifiers, agreed-upon by the group, typically defaulting to the core rulebooks."

Do you intend an obese character for whom some rulings will go differently? (E.g. disadvantage to a climbing check, the continual propensity to be underestimated/written off by other people, &c.) This is a "mechanical difference." Or is your character's obesity purely a matter of "skinning"--it's how the character looks and may factor into your role-playing?

If it's the first--mechanical--then your DM is absolutely within his rights to disallow. Hopefully he's got an explanation, but even "I just can't keep track of that" is certainly a fair reason.

If it's the second--skin--then be sure to present it to the DM as such. I'd hope then that he's got no problem with it or that he's got a very good explanation for his resistance. This also may lead you and the DM--and other players--into a better understanding of your shared expectations on role-playing.

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Yes, you can.

(Standard Disclaimer: work with your GM for how that influences game play).

There are no mechanical requirements, but you can make it part of your character's state of being. The following provides some points of departure for your discussion with your DM on how to bring this into your campaign.

This answer addresses "overweight/obese" as asked in the question's text. The distinction between "overweight" and "obese" is worth noting, but isn't necessary for a game usable approximation. As overweight is a subjective description, this addresses "obese" more than "overweight."

Step 1: Body Mass Index (BMI)

From the heights and weights listed for the race you choose, pick the least height and the most weight from the ranges, and then add 10-20% to the weight. This gives you a starting point to make the character "obese" using body mass type that compares height and weight.

Example from the NIH is a 5'8" male weighing 210 pounds has a BMI of 31.9, with 30 being "obese" by current definition.

Note: the BMI model has received plenty of criticism among health and fitness advocates, but for your purposes as numerical model to work from for this game it should suffice.

Step 2: Adjust Ability Scores Limitation to Reflect "Obese"

With the above in mind, limit Strength to average or a bit lower than average (range 8-12).
Why?
Some short / stocky / dense / large boned people have high muscle mass which measure as "obese" via the simple tape measure tool NIH provides (they did when I was in the Navy) but they are actually in good shape! (The Navy finally hit BF% about five years after finding this to be such a problem!) A typical example is a short, heavily muscled, and very powerful weight lifter or body builder. A lower strength for your character reflects lower muscle mass / higher fat mass.

Limit Constitution score.
Why?
Obesity often brings with it health problems. (a score of 8-12 should suffice).

Step 3: Mechanics.
(This will take some work with your DM).

Being obese doesn't necessarily limit you. I've met some "fat" people who are quite agile. (Example: actor John Belushi was pretty round, but could still do back handsprings during the filming of the movie Blues Brothers).

a. Movement
Do you want to penalize your player with lower movement speeds? You can address a 5' or 10' speed reduction with your DM, or not.

b. Dexterity
Your agility based skills likely aren't influenced by being obese. But dodging or moving quickly and quietly? Per suggestion from Andras, are you better or worse at hiding ... Stealth checks? Discuss with DM.

  • From personal experience in playing golf: a few years ago my BMI was 30.2 and my body fat at 30%. (Have since dropped 30 pounds, feel much better, BF % 19-20). My play with wedges, chipping, out of the bunkers, and putting did not degrade. The full swing suffered.

  • From personal experience (regular life): a good friend years ago was overweight but had amazing manual dexterity. He had fine motor skills to die for, as witnessed by his detail work in painting 25mm lead figures for our table top campaigns. His guitar and piano playing was masterful.

c. Charisma

Some "fat" people have compelling, even powerful, personalities. You can just play it that way, or get a Charisma boost in trade for a movement penalty.
This is between you and the DM.

d. Exhaustion. (Per GMNoob's suggestion, Appendix A Basic Rules).
You can apply the effects of Exhaustion (a condition) or make the character more susceptible to it.

Exhaustion (Basic, p. 106)
Exhaustion is measured in six levels.
Level Effect
1 Disadvantage on ability checks
2 Speed halved
3 Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws
4 Hit point maximum halved
5 Speed reduced to 0
6 Death

Warning! Rolling ability checks with disadvantage is a significant penalty during play. This might be overkill.

e. Ability and Skill checks.

There isn't sufficient room to address all of these. You'll need to look at the skills you want and propose some adjustments, or not, based on whether "obese" influences this.

  • Lore check? Doubtful.
  • Athletics checks? Likely, but your ability scores probably account for that.
  • Persuasion checks?
  • Intimidation checks?
  • Stealth checks?
  • Acrobatics checks?

Work with your DM for a good fit.

Step 4: (Humorous)
Make the character a cleric. Friar Tuck would approve.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Limiting Strength makes no sense for me, if you carry that much weight around, you get pretty big frame muscles. Most of my rounder friends have enviably calves. Most strongmen have huge potbellies. Dexterity is not different, Sleight of Hand is independent from size in my opinion, but Stealth is not. Skills should be limited/penalized, not attributes. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jul 23 '15 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andras: Obese isn't just about "big people." Limiting strength is to reflect that "obese" means more fat less muscle per pound of body weight, per NIH (and other health metrics). Obesity is more about body fat % than about pure size. (This informs criticisms of the NIH model). The answer takes an imperfect model applied to an imperfect numeric stat to approximate what the querent is looking for. Per your life example, I have seen the smae, if you are that big but have that much muscle mass, you aren't obese ... you're just big!. High strength scores reflect power ~ muscle mass. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 23 '15 at 13:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Instead of all those unique mechanics, why not just use x levels of the exhaustion cobdition as being permanent? \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jul 23 '15 at 16:08
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While there is no formal mechanics for Obese characters there is a mechanics that makes implementing conditions like Obesity a little easier than other D&D edition namely advantage/disadvantage.

I for one would say that a obese character would have a disadvantage on certain rolls like Athletics. And attackers would have disadvantage if they are the same size as the character and are trying to lift or restrain him like in grappling. I would keep it simple in any case.

After playing 5e for a while I am finding that Advantage/Disadvantage works well for sweeping what would be in previous edition a range of modifier into a simple mechanic. It can be simplistic but my players and I like it better than a universal modifier like +/-5.

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In a fantasy setting, obesity would be a flaw due to the lack of athletic prowess. If your character can do their thing without the need to move fast or fit into tight spaces (a full caster) why shouldn't it work. I would however make the dex score your dump stat to help reflect this "flaw" in the character.

P.S. I don't think overweight people are bad but there is a reason the marines have a weight limit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. Take the tour. I fear that this is attracting downvotes because it makes an assumption about everyone's fantasy setting and because it equates real-world obesity with fantasy obesity. Good luck, and thank you for trying to help strangers. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 23 '15 at 12:23

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