Friday, February 10, 2017

Powered by the Apocalypse Style Looks for Fantasy RPG PCs

One of the little things from many (but unfortunately not all) Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) games that I think makes character creation really shine is the "Look" options. I've actually borrowed this for non-PbtA one shots, like when I ran my Planescape "Soup" one-shot (sample PCs here). While most PbtA playbooks (class write-ups) have only three or four look "slots" with four options each, I wanted to build off that to make a table of look options that could be easily used for non-PbtA fantasy RPG games, either for players wanting to come up with character appearance descriptions or for GMs who want to provide look options for PCs for one-shot games, like I do. The list is mostly based off the look options found in the Dungeon World SRD.

Obviously not every "slot" needs to be filled, if there's not an appropriate Skin/Other option for a character then don't worry about picking one (or providing options). Likewise, while I really enjoy the Voice options, those are probably ones that will often be skipped by players who intend to roleplay their character's voice or who don't want to always be trying to speak in a "booming voice"

Two examples of how to use this chart. First, imagine a player building Matilda Boomhammer, Dwarf cleric of a Thunder God. Flummoxed at how they should describe their PCs appearance they consult the table and pick some things that fit their conception of the PC, ending up with...

  • Smoldering Eyes
  • Battered Helmet
  • Sweet Face
  • Battleworn Armor
  • Sturdy Body
  • Braided Beard
  • Calm Voice
Or perhaps a GM is creating characters for an one-shot game and while they are picking stats and powers, they want to leave choices for the players to make to encrourage what might be an otherwise disposable PC to feel like it belongs to that player. One of the PC options is a human wizard, so the GM provides these for the look options...
  • Cold eyes, Crazy Eyes, Knowing Eyes, Searing Eyes
  • Messy Hair, Pointed Hat, Strange Hair, Tattooed Scalp
  • Bony Face, Cruel Face, Plain Face, Striking Face
  • Dark Clothes, Flowing Robes, Strange Robes, Worn Robes
  • Emaciated Body, Pudgy Body, Knobby Body, Wiry Body
  • Nervous Hands, Ritual Scars, Unusual Jewelry, Waxen Skin
Then when a player chooses the human wizard, they don't have to come up with a look from scratch and their choices will get to add some personality to the PC they portray for the one shot, as a human wizard with "cold eyes, a tattooed scalp, a cruel face, dark clothes, an emaciated body and waxen skin" feels very different from a human wizard with "knowing eyes, a pointed hat, flowing robes, a knobby body and nervous hands".

Click here for a printer friendly PDF.

It goes without saying that these are just a starting point and meant as inspiration, if you're using them and find yourself drawn to a description that isn't on the list, you should go for it instead of limiting yourself.

Options with an *Asterisk were put in to help support more unusual races like Tieflings, Minotaurs and Dragonborn

Eyes Hair/Head Face Clothes/Garb Build Skin/Other Voice
Cold Eyes Bald Aristocratic Face Animal Skins Built Body Battle Scarred Skin Booming Voice
Crazy Eyes Battered Helm Blunt Face Battleworn Armor Bulky Body Braided Beard Brittle Voice
Dead Eyes Braided Hair Bony Face Camouflaged Garb Compact Body Calloused Skin Calm Voice
Eager Eyes Carved Horns* Boyish Face Cape Creepy Body Flexible Hands Crackling Voice
Fiery Eyes Cropped Hair Broken Face Ceremonial Garb Emaciated Body Flowing Beard Deep Voice
Glowing Eyes Dreadlocks Cruel Face Common Clothes Fit Body Many Piercings Flat Voice
Hard Eyes Fancy Hair Dull Face Dark Clothes Flabby Body Masked Face Grating Voice
Haunted Eyes Flowing Hair Expressive Face Fancy Clothes Graceful Body Nervous Hands Gravelly Voice
Haunting Eyes Furry Hood Flushed Face Finery Knobby Body Pale Skin Guttural Voice
Joyous Eyes Hooded Head Girlish Face Flowing Robes Lithe Body Perfect Skin Heartwarming Voice
Kind Eyes Messy Hair Gorgeous Face Habit Long Shanks Precise Hands Hoarse Voice
Knowing Eyes Mohawk Haggard Face Mismatched Armor Mighty Thews Quick Hands Lilting Voice
Laughing Eyes Plumed Helmet Handsome Face Polished Armor Pudgy Body Ritual Scars Loud Voice
Sad Eyes Pointed Hat Kind Face Poor Clothes Rangy Body Sausage Fingers Low Voice
Searing Eyes Pristine Horns* Lively Face Practical Leathers Ravaged Body Scaly Skin* Monotonous Voice
Sharp Eyes Scarred Horns* Mournful Face Ragged Clothes Scrawny Body Scarred Hands Penetrating Voice
Shifty Eyes Shaggy Hair Plain Face Scavenger’s Outfit Sharp Body Soft Skin Reedy Voice
Shrouded Eyes Shorn Hair Plump Moist Face Scraps Stocky Body Strange Brands Rich Voice
Smoldering Eyes Strange Hair Rugged Face Silk Clothes Sturdy Body Strange Tattoos Roaring Voice
Tormented Eyes Styled Hair Smooth Face Strange Robes Supple Body Tanned Skin Soft Voice
Warm Eyes Stylish Cap Stern Face Stylish Robes Thin Body Unmarred By Decoration Soothing Voice
Watchful Eyes Tattooed Scalp Striking Face Traveling Clothes Tiny Body Unusual Jewelry Stentorian Voice
Weary Eyes Tonsure Strong Face Weather Inappropriate Clothes Well-Fed Body Waxen Skin Stern Voice
Wild Eyes Top Knot Sweet Face Weathered Hides Wild Body Weathered Skin Sultry Voice
Wise Eyes Wild Hair Weathered Face Worn Robes Wiry Body Wrinkled Skin Whispering Voice

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