Am I Pretty? Comeliness


Comeliness Being Pretty in AD&D

It comes in handy and until Unearthed Arcana being attractive was just tucked into Charisma.

Previously we looked at Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma and now it’s time to go a step further – Comeliness.

Comeliness comes from the Unearthed Arcana and was added after AD&D had been out for some time and numerous Dragon Magazine articles had circulated.

Unearthed Arcana

Before we take a closer look at the ability and its’ numbers, perhaps we should take a moment to investigate what the UA (Unearthed Arcana) is.

From Gary Gygax himself on the UA:

… You have unearthed the hidden mysteries of this work, so although they are no longer arcana, the contents are treasure. The AD&D system is dynamic. It grows and changes and expands. Our universe does all this, and so too the multiverse of this game system.

UA became, in essence, Dungeons and Dragons edition 1.5. It expanded a number of things on the game, adding Dwarven clerics as players, magic, subraces, Barbarians, non-weapon proficiencies and many other additions that would later fold into 2E.

I personally love all sorts of things that came to the game with UA, I feel that it was the additions of fans, writers and gamers who had playtested AD&D for hundreds or thousands of more hours. Some of it may have been a bit confusing, and added too much complexity. Some DMs bar it from their tables completely, insisting on purity. But I digress, we are here to talk about Comeliness.

Am I Pretty?

The need for comeliness does pop up pretty quickly in AD&D. We all know folks who are charming and personable, but got dealt the short hand on looks, or visa versa. Comeliness addresses that physical appearance and is described as follows (Page 6 UA):

Comeliness reflects physical attractiveness, social grace, and personal beauty of the character.

It goes on to refine the description… in fact, it goes on, and on, and on. The description and adjustments for comeliness fill nearly a page and a half!

Maybe, it’s complicated

Charisma Affects Comeliness, but it’s complicated. The character must be able to speak and interact. I mean, it makes sense, but there is a complex mechanic describing it. Added to this is a fascination- like spell effect that comes into play with high scores, which can be flipped in some cases to cause revulsion if one is treated poorly by the comely character. (I personally disagree with this – see below)

Comeliness Score

I like the way comeliness comes to your character. It’s luck of the dice. After rolling and assigning all your stats on your character sheet, you then roll 3d6, add it up, and this is your Comeliness score.

Simple, random, welcome to genetic chance. It also keeps CMS from becoming a ‘dump stat’ (See CHR).

Where’s the Comeliness table?

For some completely unknown reason, a system that thrives on charts and tables used NONE for Comeliness effects and adjustments. Instead, the initial adjustments are plopped in a paragraph.

Characters with a charisma of less than 3 will have an adjustment of -8 on Comeliness (CMS)., so that it will fall in a range of -5 to 10.

CMS tableAlso for some unknown reason positive numbers are preceded with a + sign, as are bonuses. If I didn’t know Kim Mohan was so good at editing and layout I would waggle my finger. I’m not sure who decided this confusing stat and all it’s variables needed no charts, but honestly, it DID.

The chart presented here reflects how Charisma affects CMS.

But wait, there’s more…

Half-orcs suffer a -3 penalty to CMS, Dwarves and gnomes a -1, Half Elves and Sylvan Elves receive a +1 bonus, Grey and high elves enjoy a +2 bonus.

All this makes sense, but Gary devoted an unusual amount of text space and writing on the topic of physical appearance and how it could have such a fascination or revulsion effect (Numerous paragraphs that follow on UA page 6 and into 7).

I have the feeling there are 2 possibilities to consider

  1. This may have been a hot topic for him and gamers at the time.
  2. This may have been a Dragon article that just got laid into the book

How we screwed it up – or did we fix it?

I don’t know if our group so much “screwed this up” as clipped it to the brevity of all the other stats. We added the 3d6 roll to the stat block. We then simply said – this is your appearance rating on a scale of 3-18 (gods and remarkable circumstance may exceed these). That was it. That’s what we used.

I took a bit of an issue with the idea that evil finds negative comeliness attractive. I think those sections of the stat block applied more to actions and CHR interactions. Yes some demons find festering boils attractive, but they may still have an attraction to the evil Clyde Caldwell sorceress. A demon queen can easily be beautiful and terrible at the same time.

So much of the extensive rules on this stat didn’t set quite right in our group. I would have preferred to see the entire “Fascination” effect and lengthy descriptions on social situations clipped out completely. This stat could have been been solid injust saying “This is physicial appearance, which is not the same as leadership and personality.”
done. With some examples.

It’s backwards!

Even the table above I take issue with. I think CMS should have affected CHR reactions, not this opposite ruling of CHR affecting CMS. I can accept that some people are terrible human beings, but are attractive to look at. Indeed sometimes that pretty face can help soften the blow of getting screwed out of a fortune! What a wonderful stat to have for a swashbuckler! A scoundrel who makes the ladies swoon! etc..

FSG CMS TableSo as a Fail Squad Games alternative, I suggest the table presented to the left here.

I would also offer that perhaps the complexities of the copious text that followed up the basic description of Comeliness in the book may be disregarded, at least partially, as we can all decide our character reactions to varying degrees of physical attractiveness or repulsiveness.

I want to love the entire thing, but I only love part of it, and liked it better when we “screwed it up” to our liking.


Have you tried gaming with Comeliness? How did it work for your group? Did the Fail Squad Games crew make it better or worse?

Comment Below. Also see the articles on Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma.

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