Re-skinning one thing to make it completely different generally takes one part need for something and one part cleverness. We have gone over some examples of doing things the easy way by just changing the appearance of the creature and a a key word here and there. With the chimeras we made a variety that fit better in different habitats. With the dragons we went with something stranger and made them all plants. Today we’re going to look at these and address some of the reasons you may want to put a little more effort in and how that should be handled.
First off, why should you put more effort in if this whole time I have been telling you re-skinning is easy? Repeat uses and questioning players. If you are going to use a creature more than once, or if you are looking to make it a staple of your world you may want stats fleshed out and rounded off for it. Players are also going to ask questions. Are plant dragons vulnerable to fire? What about the fire-breathing ones, how does that work? You may get lucky and the first encounter won’t include anything too thought-provoking, but with repeated encounters players will try and should come to understand the creature more. With that, you need to know more about the creature too.
So, let’s start with the simpler of the two re-skin sets we did: the chimeras. How can we tweak these creatures? I think the first thing that needs to be done is to properly shape the breath weapons. Is it necessary? Probably not, but different energy breath weapons have tendencies in D&D that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to maintain. First we need to compare the original chimera breath to the red dragon’s. The large red dragon has a 30 foot cone of fire while the chimera has a 15 foot cone of fire. So let’s take the breath type of the large version of the dragon head the chimera has and use a half size of that breath.
Blue – 60 foot line (5 feet wide) of lightning becomes 30 foot line (5 feet wide)
Black – 30 foot line (5 feet wide) of acid becomes 15 foot line (5 feet wide)
Green – 30 foot cone of poison becomes 15 foot cone
Is there anything else that might make the different chimera unique? That comes down to looking at the dragon stats and determining the core features of that type. The key things of note here are the damage immunities that the dragons have. The chimera has no such immunity, or even resistance, so we will not add those in. However, the green dragon is additionally immune to poisons and the poisoned condition. I think it would be fair to grant the green-headed chimera that immunity to add to its flavor.
The other thing of not is that green and black dragons have the amphibious feature. Let’s consider the green chimera. Both other heads are terrestrial in nature. It makes little sense to add the amphibious feature to that chimera. Besides, we already granted it immunity to poisons. For the black chimera, the other heads are associated with water. The hog generally enjoys mud and crocodiles, while not amphibious, spend much of their time in water. Granting the amphibious feature to the black chimera seems fair to me. So let’s recap the additions:
Blue – no adjustment
Black – Amphibious
Green – Condition Immunities: poison
Now that we have done some straight forward re-skin advancement, let’s move on to the plant dragons. If you remember the previous article, there were a number of breath weapon possibilities and options that we disregarded for ease. Some of you have even mentioned to me the improved ways in which we could re-skin. We are going to check those out now.
The concern we had in that article was that some of the pepper dragons, given their base dragons, could have had additional breath attacks. This included gold’s weakening effect and brass’s sleeping effect. Before we get into how to re-skin these, we need to consider something. The strongest of the pepper dragons is based off the red dragon, which does not have any additional breath options. Personally, if we are creating a line of related pepper dragons, they need to have some consistency. That means we cannot leave the most powerful of their kind without a second breath option. So, what we are going to do is grant the ghost pepper dragon a second option as well.
In order to do this we need to decide what numbers to use for the ghost pepper (red) dragon’s optional breath. I suggest using the same DC as the fire breath, as that seems to be what happens with the metallic dragons. The next thing is to decide what conditions to use to replace the given ones. I think we should use the ones suggested by LongStrider in the comment left on the plant dragon post:
The question becomes which dragon gets which one. There are two ways to do this. First we can consider which is the strongest effect of peppers in real life. This is pretty subjective but I think blindness would be the most debilitating and weakness the least. Of course in terms of mechanical conditions, blindness would probably cause the incapacitated condition as well as blind for most people. If you ever got hot sauce in your eye, you know what I mean. The other way, and more mechanically sound, is to take the strongest condition for the strongest dragon. This is what we will do here:
Jalapeno – weaken
Habanero – blind
Ghost Pepper – incapacited (via itching and scratching)
All of these should be Constitution saves to avoid. How long do these things last though? I suggest following the gold dragon’s optional breath as a template. Each one should last up to 1 minute and the affected creatures should get a save at the end of each turn to overcome the debilitating effect.
The last thing I want to consider for these creatures is the complication that comes with some re-skins. Here we have taken fire-breathing dragons and made them into plants. All of the base creatures have fire immunity. Plant’s are often vulnerable to fire though. How do we reconcile this? Well we could easily wave off that fact due to the magical, draconic nature of these creatures. However, it may be better to reconcile it. Personally I would judge that the plant dragons have vulnerability to fire, except for the pepper dragons. These should have their immunity reduced to a resistance to show that they are not as fire-proof as red or gold dragons would be. Of course if you disagree, keep the immunity.
Now we have taken another step in making re-skinning more complicated. Or have we? While they aren’t as last minute applicable, the steps we have taken are somewhat intuitive. We are simply following through with questions of abilities and discrepancies that become apparent in re-skinning. The more you play with monsters and re-skinning things, the easier these further adjustments become. The line between re-skinning a creature and creating a new one may begin to blur the deeper you go. But that’s ok. If you use an existing creature as a baseline, you’re using a good and tested foundation. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, but it is generally a good idea. Use the tools you are given!
Next time we head into re-skinning I am going to do a more complex re-skin. Instead of going with something basic (even if weird) and fleshing it out, I am going to take up a concept that we are going to have to pull from other editions and games for advice. That means we may have to make some things from the ground up. We may even have to adjust CR. Keep watch for that in two weeks!