Last week I began working on the last of my personal stats tables, charisma, something that I've put off doing for a year or so. It is intended to be a background generator, my philosophy being that there are certain things an individual doesn't get to determine about themselves - build, health, family, social class and biology ... the latter including, of course, the color of one's eyes, hair and skin.
My first thought was to put together something simple, a table that would be rolled upon at random, but quickly my sense for the real got in the way. You cannot simple create a universal table for an individual's hair color, since the likelihood of that hair being blonde or black varies considerably with whether that person is, say, Egyptian or Icelandic.
This is not something D&D remotely touches upon - not in any book I've read, though the Dragon Magazine might years ago have had something on it (that I missed). Human racial characteristics are taboo. In most 'worlds,' the Polars might be Vikings and the Equatorials might be Bantu, but specific distinctions for populations are not designated. When you talk about 'race' in D&D, you are talking about elves, dwarves and halflings, NOT Samoyads, Berbers and Polynesians.
But unfortunately for me, I run the Earth and I cannot simply ignore said designations, if I want to retain the world's cultural and political identity. If you get off the boat in Vietnam, you will not be met by a group of blue-eyed, red-haired villagers. It would not be Vietnam, and if not, what is the point?
These days, it is practically racist to even use the terms Caucasoid, Mongoloid or Negroid ... the evidence to show that melanin levels are a product of environment has destroyed the 'scientific racism' that was a subject for discussion in schools even in my lifetime. And I take no issue with that; the less divided we are, the better. My concerns only reach as far as producing a random table that has any chance of telling a player what his or her color statistics are (eyes, hair, skin) at the moment of birth.
I have a table, based on data gathered for my trade tables, that indicates randomly where a character is born, this table being dependent upon where a character starts in my campaign world. If the character joins the game when the party is in India, he or she is very likely to be Asian; if the character joins when the party is in Gibraltar, he or she would probably be Spanish or Moroccan.
But unless I want to create a table for every point on earth, I'm stumped. How easy it would be to assign characteristics according to geography ... but it isn't just a question of saying that people from Switzerland all have this hair color and this eye color. Most people may not travel more than seven miles from their place of birth, but genetically we're not that homogenous. After all, people from the exact same parents might have differing hair and eye color, my sister and I for example.
The obvious answer - one that many a gentle reader is thinking right now - would be to ditch the table and let players simply choose their own characteristics. Same old saw, it's a game, it's fantasy, blah blah blah. I think I have to call that the most tired argument in the D&D community. I swear, 'personal fantasy' is a euphemism for players wanting to prop up their own withered egos, bewailing that in real life they are such social lepers that they need this game to be fantasy if only that they can feel like real men or desirable women - something they just can't have otherwise. As if my world needs to be a fictional therapy for losers who can't bear being Mr. Pink in this scenario. I'm not your enabler, I'm your DM.
Fact is, I'd like a series of tables that make it clear to the player that when they put the little 8 under their charisma, the ultimate throwaway stat, that they KNOW they have an 8 charisma, complete with mottled, sickly looking skin, buck-teeth, stuttering and body odor. I don't give a crap that its also a description of the actual player sitting at the table - if you want to be a stud or a babe, sacrifice that 17 dexterity and put it under charisma instead. You might stumble when you walk, but you'll look super-hot doing it.
So yes, I'm adamant about having the dice pick out your hair color. And since I don't want to make up a thousand tables, I'm somewhat stuck with some very racist generalizations - racist because now it's racist to say that there are 'races.' I feel I will probably produce very simple tables, with very few possible results for each region, to compensate for the many regions that I could draw up tables for. As a guideline for how many, I'll throw up the table below, a German map from the 19th century. Try not to be offended.
Naturally there's the matter of non-human races. Because the origins for elves, dwarves and halflings are fairly homogenous, for those races I could create one single table. But I'll probably think of reasons to goof that, too.
I should have included that this is the table I'm upgrading.
I've made up this map for the general distribution of humanoids in my world. It only includes those areas that I have designed: