Re-Skinning D&D Creatures, Part 2
Last week I took a handful of classic D&D creatures and proposed new uses for their stat-blocks, something to lend a bit of diversity to the current roster with minimal need to create, change or modify. If your campaign has a flavour that the Monster Manual simply doesn’t cater for, there are ways and means of accommodating to your tastes. This week I’ll approach from the other side of the coin, declaring what I need for my campaign and using the tools at hand to make a solution.
Once again I’ll be using D&D 5th edition because it’s what I know best…
I Want An Eidolon
Eidolons in various forms have popped up in previous iterations of Monster Manuals in varying styles. Though they lack a unifying tactic or signature move, the lore is fairly universal, a statue imbued with sufficient belief or divine power that it has become animate and powerful, some may be direct servants of their gods or other divine force, subservient to a chosen cleric or a direct mouthpiece for the god. A handful rebel and set themselves up as gods in their own right.
In theory I could start with a construct and add cleric spells that help buff the Eidolon’s allies and worshippers, but the available constructs that would suit the bill have a few too many components in their stat-block that don’t tie in; I don’t envision an Eidolon going berserk like a golem, or having the same mortal bindings as a shield-guardian. In fact it’s easier to take the War Priest from Volo’s Guide or a simple cleric build. Ascribe the high armour to being made of stone, or perhaps reduce the armour and hit points in favour of resistance to normal weapons, then remove the need to eat or sleep. You have a pre-packaged list of spells and all the necessary divine flavour you could need.
I Want To Create A Living Spell
As we’re not likely to see the Living Spells of Eberron appear in a guidebook any time soon it’s on us to interpret how they might be represented in game. These are spells that have outlived their casters, swarms of Magic Missiles stinging the unwary to death, Ray of Frost now an icy worm, predatory illusions that draw creatures into dangerous situations. By and large you can find a creature that comes close and adjust damage types to fit, a fireball could easily be represented by a burning gelatinous cube for example, a necrotic octopus might make a great Arms of Hadar, and a Water Weird or giant constrictor snake could make a deadly version of hold person.
For something a little more obscure, you could have a portal spitting out random creatures for any Conjure spell, or a mote of light that fills corpses and animates them that can only be put down by grabbing it between hosts. Why not drop in a Doppelganger to represent a walking Disguise Self spell, or a Helmed Horror that dishes out fire damage to represent Heat Metal. It may require some outside-the-box thinking to fill some of those gaps, but if you have time and a weird obsession you can fill an entire spellbook with living spells.
I Want To Steal From…
We like other stuff, and that’s normal. I too enjoy things that aren’t Dungeons & Dragons, despite my catalogue of articles on GeekOut I have a shocking volume of interests… just not many that I can write so prolifically about. Anyway, here’s a bunch of creatures from other properties and how to bring them to the table for your next game:
Skyrim’s Ice Wraiths – Spectres with cold damage add a new twist to the serpentine terrors. Their ability to drain an opponent’s strength gives Ice Wraiths a more environmental threat that could leave an explorer of Tamriel’s frozen north cold and weak as the predator sucks the life from them.
Dishonered 2 Blood Flies – The Monster Manual is full of swarms that could suit the bill here, although fashioning the common Stirge into a swarm is easy enough. Patch in the Blood Fly tactics, distracted by corpses that burst with new swarms, and use the fungal Screamers to represent their reanimated swarm guards.
Halflife 2 Barnacles – The dangling tongues of the Barnacle really helped make the bizarrely alien world of Halflife distinct. Anyone can throw in a headcrab zombie, but the Barnacle is actually just as easy. Just divide a Roper by four! No multiattack, just one tendril at a time, and decrease the hit points. Attach to a ceiling anywhere and enjoy.
Xenomorph – A classic that often gets fan-builds each new edition, and 5th isn’t all that different, but if you can’t find one that suits your liking take a look at the rules for the Shoosuva in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Plenty of attacks, a tail sting, and an added attack in it’s death throes, maybe add a use or two of the spell Infernal Rebuke with acid damage instead of fire, and limited to melee attacks to represent the caustic blood.