Dumb Muscle
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Basic Information

Dumb Muscle are characters who are big, strong, tough - and none too bright. While a common stereotype in fiction, it's also not infrequent in gaming, usually for play balance - someone who put all his points into improving his strength and toughness won't have much left over for his mental attributes. This sometimes extends to entire races, such as Dungeons & Dragons half-orcs, or the half-giants of Dark Sun. Finally, these are very common as antagonists. A typical example are ogres - they can be very dangerous foes in a melee, but their limited intelligence makes them easy to outwit.

Genetic engineering or biothaumaturgy may allow this stereotype to be produced as a specific breed of abhuman - generally a race designed for manual labour, without the necessary imagination to rebel or the wits to organise a sucessful revolt if they thought of it. Military applications of such a species would probably be limited - although they would have some potential as pre-gunpowder heavy infantry a lack of initiative and flexibility would probably doom them for more demanding roles or anything requiring technical competence.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • While there is nothing wrong with having lots of Dumb Muscle antagonists in a story - that's what they were invented for, after all - if one of them gets more screen time than a single fight, try to give them some interesting quirks to make them memorable despite their limited intellect.
    • That goes even more for player characters, of course. A character who is only defined by his muscles is boring - both to play, and for the other players to watch!
    • They are also hard to roleplay - most players will find it difficult to limit themselves to playing a moron and will tend to come up with their usual standard of play regardless.
      • Conversely, some players will run any character as a moron, no matter what their stats. Ironically these people never seem to want to play dumb muscle…
      • If you do roleplay a very low intelligence character well, the rest of the party may complain… as your PC picks up random shiny things, eats unattended food and meddles with things that catch his eye.
  • A giant moron might make a decent dragon for a more intellectual villain (or even regular NPC) - or even a mount (as, for example Hodor in A Song of Ice and Fire or Blaster in Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome).
  • There's also the "gentle giant" aspect of this - traditionally a huge retarded man with a heart of gold (or at least friendly intentions), as exemplified by Lenny (in Of Mice and Men) and John Coffey (from the Green Mile) … although come to think of it, neither of those ended all that well.
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