Hey remember when I talked about scars and pointed out how almost everyone I know has a scar?
Well, allergies are another thing that are common that we forget about. Hayfever, cats, foods…I myself am mildly allergic to bees, I think. I’ve only been stung once in my life and my parents said it was swelling more than it should and they thought I was slightly allergic. I’m also allergic to sulfa, whatever the crap that is. Some medical thing I guess? My husband is allergic to peppers. Literally any kind of pepper (except for pepper, the seasoning). They destroy his digestive system. A lot of friends reported allergies too – to things like pollen sure, but also mango skin, raw vegetables, and latex (with a comment about how common latex is).
Once again, it doesn’t really have to be a big thing, although it could be. It’s just another way to remind the audience how human your characters – your villains – are. Sometimes you’re not going for that effect, but it’s still important to consider. A human being can be allergic to literally anything. No, I used “literally” correct there. There have been people allergic to water! And allergies to the freaking cold are a thing. All an allergy is, after all, is just your body reacting to something as if it’s a dangerous pathogen – as my husband says, the body going, “Oh no! Oh no!” and flipping out over nothing.
Sometimes an allergy is plot-significant. Werewolves are often fatally allergic to silver. In my current WIP, I’ve made devils and demons vulnerable to silver, so an MC who is half-demon is highly allergic to silver as well. Obviously for a big scary character like a werewolf or a half-demon, an allergy that could be used as a weapon against them is a big deal. It could be plot significant that you character is allergic to something like vaccines, maybe they catch something serious that they wouldn’t have ordinarily.
But like I said, it doesn’t have to be. Different story, different world, my overlord is highly allergic to shellfish. He is not defeated by a crab to the face, hilarious as that would be. But it does come up at a dinner briefly, and I use it to show how snooty he is.
Maybe the minion’s incessant sneezing due to spring is just background flavor. And maybe it gives away their position. Maybe you don’t know how to get a hero out of a scene, or how to make a scene more exciting and dealing with an allergy would be just the thing.
About the allergy to cold – I found out that was a thing when making a Shadowrun character. I wanted more karma, so I gave him a moderate allergy – I wanted something unusual but also a substance common enough that it would give me more karma (since an allergy to something unusual was worth way less for obvious reasons). The cold – cold is a common thing! But weird as heck to be allergic to it. I nervously asked my DM if we’d encounter the cold much and he said I didn’t need to worry about weather so I explained the allergy. He just pointed out that I could always be locked in a walk-in freezer.
Being locked in a freezer is never a great prospect. It’s slightly terrifying, even when your husband is going to play a giant freaking troll who is BFFs with your elf and would bust you out as soon as he found your location. But knowing that my elf is actually allergic to the cold makes it a lot more dramatic. And when your DM starts saying, “A freezer? You’re thinking too small,” it’s a lot more terrifying.
You can argue that less is more, but I think that considering all aspects of character creation is important. Just like it’s a little weird that animals in a forest only come up when it’s plot important, I think it’s a little weird characters only have scars and allergies when it matters to the plot. The small details like asking for soy due to lactose intolerance at a coffee shop, saying “No thanks, I’m allergic,” having the overlord pitch a fit that a minion didn’t know or forgot an allergy, that’s enough to add just a little more dimension to your world and I think it’s worth doing.