Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Average Joes #1: Joel Embiid

A somewhat random thought that struck me lately:  We, as humans in an ostensibly civilized society, sure spend a lot of time and energy trying to determine if we're normal...and if we're not, if we fall into a band of abnormality that's deemed "good" or at the very least "not bad."

Those of us who spend more time than we probably should thinking about RPG stats often encounter the question of what "normal" really means.  What are normal stats for a human?  Is normal the same as average?  Where do we want our PCs to fall on the spectrum of normality, and how do the rules support that implication?

I have become a fan of the notion that, in class-based RPGs like D&D, most regular/normal/average folks can be described without class levels.  Gaining levels in a class is something reserved for the outstanding among us...or for those who satisfy a more metaphysical measure of ability to drive the narrative of the universe.  The difference between a human with class levels and one without can become a very subjective distinction, not based on intrinsic capability but on importance to the story currently being told.

Now, this is the part of the blog post where I start the pivot into just talking about one of my toys.

Okay, so the NBA season ended just a couple of weeks ago, with the Denver Nuggets taking their first-ever title after defeating the Miami Heat at home.  Now, sports in general, and perhaps basketball in particular, lend themselves to assessments of good/better/best.  There's a lot of talk right now about how Finals MVP Nikola Jokic stacks up against the best to ever play the game.  And during the regular season, there was a lot of talk about how Jokic stacks up against the other "best" players currently in the league, specifically Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid (whose likeness is pictured above).

Jokic was the league's regular-season MVP the past two seasons.  The two years before that, it was Giannis.  And this year, it was Embiid.  Some pundits seemed to believe that Joel took the title this year just because it was his "turn," and that he wasn't necessarily better than Jokic or Giannis.  And really, it kinda seemed like it could be any of those three players, and no one could argue too much.

BUT...everyone loves to talk about how the MVP is a regular-season award, and most basketball fans look to the postseason for that extra factor that separates the great from the very good.  Jokic absolutely killed it this postseason.  And Embiid, while he had his moments, ultimately didn't demonstrate next-level greatness in the minds of most fans.  As someone who has slowly, and somewhat inadvertently, found myself becoming more and more of a Philadelphia sports fan (the 76ers especially) now that I live in Jersey, I disliked this for multiple reasons.  I wanted the Sixers to win, for one.  And Embiid has become one of my favorite players, so I especially didn't enjoy the immediate dismissal of his abilities by so many people when the team was eliminated by the Celtics.

Now...for an RPG, is Joel Embiid a normal human?  I mean...clearly he is not normal physically.  He's seven feet tall and extremely gifted athletically.  And clearly his presence and actions are more notable to the world at large than they are for most of us regular folks.  If he stepped into a D&D world, would he need class levels to highlight how awesome he is?  Or can he just be a guy with a Background, like you and me...but with some pretty impressive STR and DEX, no doubt.

Seriously, I'm getting to the toy part...

A little while back, spurred in part by my recently renewed interest in 3 3/4" action figures, I couldn't resist picking up this Joel Embiid ReAction Figure from Super7.

I had heard that these figures were intended to be properly sized for the scale they're in...and since the 3 3/4" scale typically defaults to 1:18 - but those don't really match up perfectly - I wanted to see how tall they made a seven foot dude.

First, a note...the figure unfortunately came with one leg a bit longer than the other, which I'm pretty sure isn't a reflection of Joel's actual anatomy.  I am definitely a ReAction figure apologist when it comes to folks' complaints about their limited articulation in a world where we often expect much more.  BUT...these things are at a price point where I would hope QC issues like this would be minimal.  Anyway, I'm not complaining (too much), but definitely noting it.

From the bottom of the sole of his right shoe (on the longer leg) to the point where I think the top of his head would be, he's about 4 3/16".  If I go with an even 7' for his height, that puts the scale of the figure at about 1:20.  FWIW, at this scale, a 3.75" figure would be about 6'3", which probably isn't too far off for some of the physically imposing characters that have been turned into figures at this standard scale...and in some cases may be a bit low (I'm looking at you, Roadblock).  And at the very least, it's as good as calling the scale 1:18, which would put a 3.75" guy at under 5'8"...for most characters, not ridiculous but not particularly close either.

In the end, I suppose the best case scenario may have been just to have always had this classic action figure scale at "true" 1:18, with 4"=6' and no worrying about "close enough."  Thanks to some combination of Micronauts, Adventure People, Star Wars, and maybe a few others, though, that just isn't the way history was written, and action figure scales are a bit quirkier and maybe even more fun because of it.

Oh yeah...so what about all that talk about what it means to be average...?  Well, obviously I've gotta stat Joel out for gaming, but I'm not sure if it's fair to just make him a regular guy.  I know his recent detractors would agree with that decision after his less-than-transcendent playoff run.  But...at least one former NBA MVP has gone on to superheroic adventures...and truly, Embiid is a unicorn of physical ability...so maybe it's selling him short to stop at a Background.

For now, I'm going to let Mr. Embiid be the first step in what I hope will be a number of small explorations of being average...or normal...or regular...in a D&D-statted world.  I've seen that it actually works in gaming...and would like to try rolling with regular folks in 5E-based pickup games more often.

One thing, though...if I use the Elite Athlete Background I posted on here a while back (and of course I'm going to!), I think I've gotta give him at least one extra proficiency just to make sure he's covered as far as communications go.  Apparently he's fluent in 3-5 different languages...!

Joel Embiid

Human, Elite Athlete (Basketball)

STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
18(+4)    16(+3)    15(+2)    15(+2)     12(+1)     12(+1)
HP 7 (1d8+2)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +6 melee, +5 ranged
Skills:  Athletics, Perception
Tools:  Weights, Basketball Equipment
Languages: Basaa, French, English, plus a couple more...?
Saves:  None
Weapons:  None
Armor:  None

(This is who Joel's looking at up there, btw...)

(Not gonna turn down that chance to show off my vintage Crimson Guard figure...)