Dragon #394 article: Reflavoring Powers

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
Dragon #394 has a really nice article on reflavoring powers (you will need to be a D&D Insider subscriber to read the article). I've already been doing exactly this kind of thing for a while and I can't recommend the practice highly enough to players who are looking to play a character with unique flavor without reinventing the game.

My personal example: In the past I had a Warlord being slowly corrupted by a sword containing magically trapped vampire. Between story arcs, with my DM's approval, I changed my class to Paladin and reflavored my powers so they sounded entirely different. Lay On Hands became Gift Of My Blood. When I used that power, I'd describe my character as giving himself a small cut and then rubbing the blood into my ally's wounds. "Heal a surge's worth a healing points, but don't spend a healing surge." With all my other powers similarly renamed to something that sounded sinister, the other players actually started freaking out a bit. They even started plotting how to steal my sword away from me before I "became a complete vampire." It took them some time before they understood that I was actually using standard game mechanics. Great fun.

The article I linked to above not only gives some great ideas for reflavoring powers, but also talks about reflavoring races. It additionally gives some advice, and words of caution, regarding the practice of retyping damage. I recommend this article quite highly.
It is a very nice article, yes.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I've been doing it since my very first game, but it's nice to see the idea published.  

Particularly after some of the arguments in general awhile back.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
DUDE, they should change the CB so that you can mod the fluff!!!
The essential theme song- Get a little bit a fluff da' fluff, get a little bit a fluff da' fluff! (ooh yeah) Repeat Unless noted otherwise every thing I post is my opinion, and probably should be taken as tongue in cheek any way.
I've been doing it since my very first game, but it's nice to see the idea published.  

Particularly after some of the arguments in general awhile back.



In line with Pashalik's comments I've been adding "color/flavor" to character abilities/races/classes since AD&D.  I didn't need a Dragon article to tell me it's doable and fun.  However, it is nice to have an "official" source sanction it for those who were uncertain or timid about making the attempt.

What 4E has done though is make it easier by cleanly "denoting" the color text on the entry (Something Wizards started with color text on MtG cards actually).  I also agree with Marcotic that having the Character Builder allowing entry of player altered color for their character would be quite cool.  I don't expect to see that feature anytime soon though.

I hope this helps.

I am definitely using this for my Brawler fighter now.  I had thought about doing so before, but I never really got the idea to stick.  Now, though, I think it'll work out great! 

You see, my Brawler fighter is a Dragonborn, but he's a Dhampyr.  He has been since he hatched.  It's a long story.

Anyway, I'm going to start reflavoring his attacks to make them sound more like what a vampire would be doing (Grappling Strike will be Neck Grab, Forceful Drag will be Let's Find Someplace Private, etc.)  Actually, I guess Forceful Drag is already decent for a vampire.  ;)
Can't say I read the article, since I was going to subscribe to DDI if the new CB would turn out okay. Needless to say, nah.

Reflavoring powers is something that I and a lot of my friends do as well. It works great to fit powers to your background and fluff completely For example, if I would play my assassin I'd reflavor Ghost on the Rooftops to be using a grappling wire. 

Only caveat is whether a DM should consider the reflavored power or the original power when it comes up. There are certain situations when the reflavoring would be beneficial or perhaps even detrimental to the situation. 
Heroic Dungeon Master


Personally, I loved the article. I've been working on reflavoring some powers. I was ecstatic when I saw this go up, which is surprising, as I tend to favor articles with rules, feats, powers, and the like over the fluffy stuff.

I've always been a stickler for rules (except for when I'm the one DM'ing), so it's nice to have something in writing that says "it's okay to change things". Granted, it's all subject to the DM's discretion, but at least it gives me a little bit of bargaining power, as long as I'm only changing the way something looks. Plus, it gave me a better idea of how some people go about it, which really helped.

Since the person above me mentioned it, I have to ask- how exactly do you seem reflavoring being detrimental? I don't remember anything like that being mentioned in the article. It seems like any roleplaying decision is going to have its benfits and drawbacks. I don't suppose someone has some examples?



Personally, I loved the article. I've been working on reflavoring some powers. I was ecstatic when I saw this go up, which is surprising, as I tend to favor articles with rules, feats, powers, and the like over the fluffy stuff.

I've always been a stickler for rules (except for when I'm the one DM'ing), so it's nice to have something in writing that says "it's okay to change things". Granted, it's all subject to the DM's discretion, but at least it gives me a little bit of bargaining power, as long as I'm only changing the way something looks. Plus, it gave me a better idea of how some people go about it, which really helped.

Since the person above me mentioned it, I have to ask- how exactly do you seem reflavoring being detrimental? I don't remember anything like that being mentioned in the article. It seems like any roleplaying decision is going to have its benfits and drawbacks. I don't suppose someone has some examples?



They are refering to changing damage types on powers which is technically a mechanical change and not a flavor change.  Some types for example fire, lightning, etc. are commonly the subject of resistance abilities, while other like shadow, radiant, etc. often have less beings prone to resist them.  A mechanical advantage can technically be gained by changing "Fire" damage to "Radient" damage in many cases.

I hope this helps.

Yes- thank you very much for clearing that up.
 Personally, I loved the article. I've been working on reflavoring some powers. I was ecstatic when I saw this go up, which is surprising, as I tend to favor articles with rules, feats, powers, and the like over the fluffy stuff.

I've always been a stickler for rules (except for when I'm the one DM'ing), so it's nice to have something in writing that says "it's okay to change things". Granted, it's all subject to the DM's discretion, but at least it gives me a little bit of bargaining power, as long as I'm only changing the way something looks. Plus, it gave me a better idea of how some people go about it, which really helped.

Since the person above me mentioned it, I have to ask- how exactly do you seem reflavoring being detrimental? I don't remember anything like that being mentioned in the article. It seems like any roleplaying decision is going to have its benfits and drawbacks. I don't suppose someone has some examples?

 They are refering to changing damage types on powers which is technically a mechanical change and not a flavor change.  Some types for example fire, lightning, etc. are commonly the subject of resistance abilities, while other like shadow, radiant, etc. often have less beings prone to resist them.  A mechanical advantage can technically be gained by changing "Fire" damage to "Radient" damage in many cases.

I hope this helps.

Zmortis, you make a very good point. As a DM, I would only allow changing damage types to either their 'opposite' (such as radiant to necrotic) or elements to stay within the 'Resistance variable' choices that many monsters have. However, I actually never reflavor mechanically.

Revisit my Assassin 'Ghost on the Rooftops' power which would be reflavored to using a slender grappling hook. The original power basically has the character become an amazing climbing monkey, using footholds, every piece of handhold he can find and perhaps the odd bystander's head to manage awesome climbing.
Now consider my reflavor. Basically he uses a wire. This means that he gets a running jump and pulls himself up. Still awesome and a good reflavor. Now what happens when he enters a royal court where the guards aren't sitting on their hands waiting to be garotted, but he actually gets searched properly. They find the grappling wire and take it away for safekeeping. Under the original flavor, this wouldn't mean anything. The character is a friggin' monkey. Now however, his main method of managing an amazing climbing feat has been taken away from him.

What should the DM do? Still grant him his amazing monkey'ness? Or tell him to suck it up and take a mere +2 to climbing skills because he does know some climbing tricks but not a whole lot of them?
Heroic Dungeon Master
I do this with almost every character I lay.


My most recent PC was an eladrin wizard who had a fey theme.

I refluffed cloud of daggers as a swarm of butterflies with razor-edged wings (stolen from Fringe, of course).

Thunderblast involved the little figurehead carved into the hilt of my ancestral longsword opening its mouth and screaming. 

Light summoned a tiny, glowing fairy who flew around as I instructed. 

I made my force orb a floating perfect sphere of glass (like the ones Jareth uses in Labyrinth) that shatter into razor-sharp shards after being thrown.

Best of all was acid arrow. The DM let me change it to disease damage, and I fluffed it as planting a parasitic, thorny vine that grows inside of the target´s body, tearing through flesh and reaching out of the skin. When I cast the spell, green shoots fly out of my staff, most of them coiling around and burrowing into the main target while a few of them grab the people standing nearby.

When I multiclassed warlord, I refluffed his healing ability as summoning an imp with a bottle of healing potion.


Second most recent was mechanically a goliath warden, but I played him as a primal mountain spirit who had taken on human form. I don´t remember the names of most of his abilities, but I refluffed everything to be about the earth.

One of his at-wills let him turn his skin into stone for a moment, increasing his AC. The other had him assimilate dust and soil from underfoot to heal his wounds.

He had a teleportation-based encounter power that I sometimes described as him sinking into the ground and popping up elsewhere, and sometimes as him turning into a human-sized avalanche and rolling accross the ground.

His grasping vines was described as the earth grabbing his enemies´ feet and pulling them closer.

Since the campaign started at sixth level, everyone got a certain number of magic items. One of mine was a basket of bounty or whatever its called that I refluffed as a magic watering can. He would pour its water on the ground, do a weird chant and dance over it, and a vegetable garden would spring up.
I do this with almost every character I lay.


My most recent PC was an eladrin wizard who had a fey theme.

I refluffed cloud of daggers as a swarm of butterflies with razor-edged wings (stolen from Fringe, of course).

Thunderblast involved the little figurehead carved into the hilt of my ancestral longsword opening its mouth and screaming. 

Light summoned a tiny, glowing fairy who flew around as I instructed. 

I made my force orb a floating perfect sphere of glass (like the ones Jareth uses in Labyrinth) that shatter into razor-sharp shards after being thrown.

Best of all was acid arrow. The DM let me change it to disease damage, and I fluffed it as planting a parasitic, thorny vine that grows inside of the target´s body, tearing through flesh and reaching out of the skin. When I cast the spell, green shoots fly out of my staff, most of them coiling around and burrowing into the main target while a few of them grab the people standing nearby.

When I multiclassed warlord, I refluffed his healing ability as summoning an imp with a bottle of healing potion.


Second most recent was mechanically a goliath warden, but I played him as a primal mountain spirit who had taken on human form. I don´t remember the names of most of his abilities, but I refluffed everything to be about the earth.

One of his at-wills let him turn his skin into stone for a moment, increasing his AC. The other had him assimilate dust and soil from underfoot to heal his wounds.

He had a teleportation-based encounter power that I sometimes described as him sinking into the ground and popping up elsewhere, and sometimes as him turning into a human-sized avalanche and rolling accross the ground.

His grasping vines was described as the earth grabbing his enemies´ feet and pulling them closer.

Since the campaign started at sixth level, everyone got a certain number of magic items. One of mine was a basket of bounty or whatever its called that I refluffed as a magic watering can. He would pour its water on the ground, do a weird chant and dance over it, and a vegetable garden would spring up.



All of these are excellent exmaples of ways to do a color refluff without impacting the mechanics of the ability.  I really do hope that more players and DMs in the future look to create a unique characterization for the PCs using this approach.  I'd much rather see this than Legolas D'Urden the XXIV again.

I hope this helps.
DUDE, they should change the CB so that you can mod the fluff!!!



They could and its been asked for - for a very long time. It was likely more doable when you had a fully on your machine version of character builder rather than cloud based.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I've been working on re-fluffing my StarLock into a STAR'Lock - astronomy themed instead of the Far Realms.  I don't like the Far Realm because insanity makes my head hurt.  Here is the easy power:

Starfire (was Witchfire)
Everybody knows the stars are burning coals.  But you can prove it - you bring a bit of the flaming outer part of a star up against your enemy.  He has to stop what he's doing and put the fire out.

Some powers - such as Crown of Stars - didn't require any new text.
I've been going through a thesaurus and looking for a good re-name for Eldritch BlastOuranos is the old Greek word for 'heavens' and also a root for 'universe'; I might play with that.

Best complements I have yet received:

Show

Making it up as I go along:

{BRJN} If I was writing the Tome of Lore, I would let Auppenser sleep. But I also would have him dream. In his dreaming he re-activates the innate powers of (some) mortal minds. Or his dreaming changes the nature of reality - currently very malleable thanks to Spellplague &c. Or whatever really cool flavor text and pseudo-science explanation people react positively to.

{Lord_Karsus} You know, I like that better than the explanations for the Spellplague.

 

{BRJN} If Bhaal approves of The Joker, does he approve of Jack Nicholson's portrayal or Heath Ledger's protrayal more?

{stigger} That question is utterly classic, and completely on target.

 

Prepped ahead of time:

I started the thread "1001 Failed Interrogation Results" (which seems to have faded into that great electronic goodnight, alas)

{ADHadh} These are all good and make sense! I just can't come up with something that's not covered here and is not completely ridiculous.

 

My 4e characters:

Show

Active:

LFR Half-elf StarLock8 Gondolin Nightstar

AoA Dwarf Guardian Druid8 Narvik from House Wavir

Character Ready-to-go:

Neverwinter Dwarven Invoker / Heir of Delzoun, worships Silvanus (!) "Truenamer" - speaks Words of Creation

Concepts I'm kicking around:

"Buggy" Wizard - insect flavor on everything.  His DMPC version is going to become a Lamia.  Becauae lichdom is so cliche.

Halfling Tempest Fighter - just because nobody else is doing it

Shifter Beast-o-phile Druid - for Nentir Vale campaign

Show
 Personally, I loved the article. I've been working on reflavoring some powers. I was ecstatic when I saw this go up, which is surprising, as I tend to favor articles with rules, feats, powers, and the like over the fluffy stuff.

I've always been a stickler for rules (except for when I'm the one DM'ing), so it's nice to have something in writing that says "it's okay to change things". Granted, it's all subject to the DM's discretion, but at least it gives me a little bit of bargaining power, as long as I'm only changing the way something looks. Plus, it gave me a better idea of how some people go about it, which really helped.

Since the person above me mentioned it, I have to ask- how exactly do you seem reflavoring being detrimental? I don't remember anything like that being mentioned in the article. It seems like any roleplaying decision is going to have its benfits and drawbacks. I don't suppose someone has some examples?

 They are refering to changing damage types on powers which is technically a mechanical change and not a flavor change.  Some types for example fire, lightning, etc. are commonly the subject of resistance abilities, while other like shadow, radiant, etc. often have less beings prone to resist them.  A mechanical advantage can technically be gained by changing "Fire" damage to "Radient" damage in many cases.

I hope this helps.

Zmortis, you make a very good point. As a DM, I would only allow changing damage types to either their 'opposite' (such as radiant to necrotic) or elements to stay within the 'Resistance variable' choices that many monsters have. However, I actually never reflavor mechanically.

Revisit my Assassin 'Ghost on the Rooftops' power which would be reflavored to using a slender grappling hook. The original power basically has the character become an amazing climbing monkey, using footholds, every piece of handhold he can find and perhaps the odd bystander's head to manage awesome climbing.
Now consider my reflavor. Basically he uses a wire. This means that he gets a running jump and pulls himself up. Still awesome and a good reflavor. Now what happens when he enters a royal court where the guards aren't sitting on their hands waiting to be garotted, but he actually gets searched properly. They find the grappling wire and take it away for safekeeping. Under the original flavor, this wouldn't mean anything. The character is a friggin' monkey. Now however, his main method of managing an amazing climbing feat has been taken away from him.

What should the DM do? Still grant him his amazing monkey'ness? Or tell him to suck it up and take a mere +2 to climbing skills because he does know some climbing tricks but not a whole lot of them?



Slightly shameless bump, but I'm rather interested in how people would handle the above situation of non-mechanical reflavoring impacting gameplay.

Heroic Dungeon Master
If I were the DM, I'd be reluctant to penalize the player for choosing to associate their flavor with a physical object. So I'd probably say the wire in question was missed by the guards while they successfully found other objects of interest. Alternatively, if the object had other applications (like strangling) I'd say it was found by the guards but that the player could use improvised objects to act as a useful replacement, like a length of cloth or rope.