Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Regarding Facial Hair

No, there are no random tables incorporated with this post. You can play with the random hats I already gave you…sheesh!

As far as facial hair goes, it would be easy enough to come up with a random table or two (any piece of physical appearance can be incorporated into such…haven’t you folks ever played Chaosium’s ElfQuest RPG? Check it out!) but I don’t really think it’s necessary for B/X.

Why not, JB? Well mainly because:

a) All women in B/X are clean-shaven (unless you have bearded female dwarves), and
b) All male player characters have beards, with the following exceptions:

- Elves
- Halflings (sideburns)
- Thieves (mustaches and stubble or goatee only)

That’s just how it is. If I say, “you see three men, dressed in chainmail,” every single one of ‘em has a beard. If I say, “three elves” or “halflings,” then none of them do. And if you encounter a guy with just a mustache only, you probably ought to keep a hand on your purse.

Ridiculous? I suppose, but I think a person’s personal headgear is a more appropriate method of recognizing and distinguishing characters. First off, it’s not like there’s a straight razor (let alone a Mach3 Turbo) on the equipment list. Secondly, in a society without a white-collar work force, the beard is a status symbol, a rite of passage for men as well as a visible sign of manhood. Those who can grow them, do...and are proud of ‘em.

Thieves, on the other hand, are misfits that live outside the laws of the common society. After all, it’s against the Law to steal. Whether a character becomes a thief because he is unable to grow a beard, or perhaps fails to grow a beard because of some divine karmic law (recall that in D&D, divine intervention is a common and knowable force of the universe)…REGARDLESS of the reason, thieves do NOT grow beards. Well, no more than a "soul patch" or petite goat. Certainly not the true and full beard of a productive member of society (warriors, clerics, farmers, etc.).

Magic-Users, in contrast, are a strange lot generally living outside of normal society themselves. However, a magician’s beard is his vanity and it can be assumed that any wizard worth his salt has the ability to magic his beard to grow, long and full…even if such isn’t in his natural DNA.

Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings are, of course, alien species and as such their facial hair growth is somewhat different ("alien") from humans (and is part of the physical appearance that sets them apart). All dwarves have beards, male and female, probably from infanthood (it is easier for me to picture a bearded baby dwarf than a non-bearded one). On the other hand, neither male nor female elves have facial hair, both genders being completely bare from chin to chest. To a human woman, and elf would look exceedingly alien, fey and effeminate compared to the male of her own species. It is doubtful that a female human would ever mate with such a creature unless some sort of fairy bewitchment was involved.
; )

Halflings are more similar to humans in their facial hair, but no one would mistake a Halfling for a human anyway. What they cannot grow on their chin and upper lip, they make up for with a full head of hair on each foot (thanks Professor Tolkien!)…and as with elves and dwarves, there is no distinction between Halfling genders in THIS regard.

So, no…I find no reason whatsoever to draft up charts or random tables for beards and facial hair. Suffice is to say someone is a dwarf, or elf, or adult male human, and you should have a pretty good idea of what the NPC or PC looks like. Well…that plus a description of his or her hat.
: )


  1. I was about to say "everyone in D&D has beards", but I see we're already on the same page.

  2. @ Kelvin: Obviously great minds think alike.
    ; )

  3. I must disagree. It's hard to imagine it took so long for this outrageous shortcoming to be resolved and I only lament it took until now for me to do so: http://aeonsnaugauries.blogspot.com/2010/08/random-beards-table.html