Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What If I Told You the Flavor Text Was a Lie

As far as I can tell, this is the secret to reskinning stuff in 5e D&D: as long as you keep the math the same, nothing else you change around the math will break the game.

Keep the numbers, change the flavor.

Some examples:

Art by Conceptopolis
Path of the Frozen Fist
The Path of the Sun Soul is a pretty fun D&D approximation of Street Fighter-style martial arts, but if you take it you're pretty much stuck with radiant and fire damage for your special abilities--which seems like a silly limitation when you look at the wide variety of special moves in fighting games. For example, if you're playing a monk who trained at a monastery in a frozen northern land, it might be fun to have that reflected in your character's powers.

Reskin: Instead of doing radiant or fire damage, your special abilities do cold damage instead. Nothing breaks, nothing is out of balance.

Gaira from Samurai Shodown
Strong Monk
You know how in a lot of martial arts movies there's always that one hulking monster of a man whose martial arts seem to stem from his brute strength rather than his agility? As written, the D&D monk doesn't really support that because some of the monk's abilities (Unarmored Defense, Deflect Missile) are keyed to Dexterity--so it just makes sense to focus on Dexterity as the way you deliver your martial arts attacks too, which isn't going to leave you room to make Strength a priority.

Reskin: Use Strength in place of Dexterity for the monk's abilities tied to the latter for a "strong monk." For example, you would calculate your Unarmored Defense as 10 + Str mod + Wis mod. And, of course, you'd opt to use Strength as the modifier for your unarmed attacks. This is also a sound way to use the monk class to make "pugilists" rather that kung-fu hustlers.Nothing breaks, nothing is out of balance.

Art by WanderInPixels
Okay, so we can make a Dexterity-focused class into a Strength-focused class, can we take a Strength-focused class and end up with a non-broken Dexterity-focused class? Let's play with the archetype of the dervish--a character who enters into an ecstatic state that turns them into a whirling, stabbing storm of blades. This sounds like a barbarian, so what if we...

Reskin: It turns out to make this concept work all you have to do is revise one line in the description of the barbarian's Rage ability: "When you make a melee weapon attack using Strength Dexterity, you gain a bonus to the damage roll that increases as you gain levels as a barbarian, as shown in the Rage Damage column of the Barbarian table." Nothing breaks, nothing is out of balance.

Art by GoldenDaniel
General Weapon Tomfoolery
I want something like a rapier that does slashing damage! I want something like a greatsword that does piercing damage! I want to use a spear or a pike with the Polearm Master feat!

Reskin: You can take any melee weapon, keep its properties and damage dice, and change its damage type without causing any problems. The above examples could easily be "sabers" and "greatspears," respectively. Since pikes and spears do the same amount of damage as glaives and quarterstaffs, adding them to the weapons that work with Polearm Master doesn't rock the boat either. Psst...this also works with spells! Change the damage type, but keep the damage dice the same. Nothing breaks, nothing is out of balance.

Art by DireCatepillar
The Well-Read Warlock
Perhaps your warlock bargains with otherworldly entities through the intricacies of contract law, citing arcane loopholes and navigating the labyrinthine convolutions of pacts sealed in blood...rather than nice-guying some fiend, archfey, or Great Old One out of a slice of their power.

Reskin: Swap Intelligence for Charisma in all applicable warlock abilities and invocations. Oh, and that "muscle mage" you guys all joke about? Wizard who uses Strength for Spell DCs and Spell Attack Bonus. Nothing breaks, nothing is out of balance.

Art from War Machine
Admittedly, the idea of a gunmage may not come up in your games--especially since a lot of gamers seem to get sweaty as soon as someone floats the idea of firearms in a fantasy rpg--but it comes up in mine.

Reskin: There are a lot of options here. Arcane Archer fighter, but their abilities apply to bullets fired from guns instead of arrows fired from bows. Blade warlock with the Improved Pact Weapon invocation--except you can summon a gun as your pact weapon. Paladin, but your smites apply to ranged weapons. Etc. Nothing breaks, nothing is out of balance.