Welcome to a Saturday night pondering system where I out forward the ideas, methods and principles I have for my RPG systems.
Now tonight I wanted to touch on something that I break constantly but never need to, what already exists out there in the dnd 5e ruleset. What I mean by this is, taking last night’s post as an example, you dont need to create new spells to suit a characters play style, theme or otherwise. As an example the creation of an, albeit stronger, new spell that functions like mirror image was primarily to have a bit of flavour added to the spell and make the combat feel foreign and exotic. But just changing the mirror image spell to create bodies made from insects instead of being an illusion would have easily sufficed. The same can be said for, well the original 5e players handbooks list of spells having only a very small number of cold based spells. Changing fire bolt, burning hands, shocking grasp, melfs acid arrows or even fireball to look like frost based spells (ignoring the damage element shift for now) can give the thematic shift that we care about but avoid the balancing act of creating a new suite of spells for our cryomancer.
But if the cold damage replacing the fire damage is really important then the dm (us) can make the changes if it makes sense and doesn’t break the game. From fire to cold isnt that different but from fire to force or radiant/necrotic? Yeah thats something that could have ongoing issues.
We would’ve seen moments on our favourite live play adventure videos or podcasts where the spell is different to what we know it to be, the visuals are different and cool, exciting and fresh and thematically significant for the player. Having a water genasi summoning water bolts and throwing four of them to batter and pierce their enemies as a flavoursome magic missile spell is cool. A cleric of Gond, worshipping artifice and craft could have cogs, gears or divine engines powering their spells like guiding bolt or sacred flame. To take it further that same cleric may summon a mechanical golem or a steampunk piston driven axe as their spiritual weapon. The amount of flexibility and creativity is only stopped by us saying “thats cool, I dig it, what does that look like to you?”
Monsters also come under this. The oni from a few weeks back would have been ideal for a lift and rename from the hobgoblin, and they almost were. Adding or adjusting some flavoursome abilities to suite your campaign can be a great thing, or additional effort for very little value. Instead of making the Toad-kin I could have just given the goblin statblock amphibious trait and call it a day to fit my idea of these toad-like people.
Everytime we go to make a new item, spell, creature or whatever its a balancing act between effort, balance and value. Sometimes the simplest option of a re-skin is the best and can wow your party just as much.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for the end of week write-up and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe