Hello everyone! I wonder, did you miss me? I know, I know, I wrote that custom spell a few weeks ago, and I have had those articles about my history posting, but it’s been a couple weeks since I have done anything really new.
Today, I want to talk about two methods you can use to enhance your Tabletop RPG experience. One method is mostly for players (but GMs can use it too) and the second is pretty much only for GMs or players starting at a higher level than first.
Firstly, lets discuss the concept of Reskinning. One of the things that can enhance your experience as a player, and as a GM, is to reskin your characters powers and abilities to better fit a theme. This can be either purely from a roleplaying standpoint, such as changing how a spell looks visually to changing it mechanically to better fit your character.
For example, you are playing a Raven Queen Warlock. By default, Eldritch Blast is considered a beam of dark energy that flies out and strikes your target. But what if instead, it was a blast of Ravens, flying out to peak and assault your target? The spell, mechanically, does nothing different. But the visual effect, the way you describe it, fits the theme of the character a lot better. This is one I saw on twitter and sadly I forgot the user, but it’s a great way to theme a character!
One of my own examples was with my Dragonborn Cleric Vranick. Every spell he cast was themed to look draconic. His Scorching Ray (he had sorcerer levels at one point) would fire out 3 Red Chinese Styled Dragons at the target to attack them. His Spirit Guardians was a literal swarm of red and gold Chinese styled dragons, that would actually sit on his head or his parties shoulders, give em little kisses, and then swarm and assault any enemy that entered the field.
In both cases, the spells functioned mechanically the same. But visually were distinct. Even Caleb on Critical Role has done this, where his Fire Bolt spell cases his hand to char and blacken before firing off, his skin burning magically before fixing itself as part of the spell.
You can also theme spells and effects mechanically to fit your theme as well, with your GMs permission of course. Let’s say you are building a Storm Sorcerer, and want everything to feel like a storm, so lots of thunder and lightning powers. Sadly, there are no combat cantrips that do lightning damage at range, so unless you want to use Shocking Grasp, getting in close, you will have an issue.
But why not just see if you can change Firebolts damage to Thunder, or Lighting. Then change its name to Storm Bolt! The cantrips damage and effectiveness doesn’t change, just the KIND of damage it deals. Generally, these sort of changes need to be permanent. You shouldn’t be able to switch your damage on the fly, as that would not be fair (maybe a feat that lets you do it could be good though). You can add this sort of flair to non-magical abilities too. Our Modron Barbarian, when he rages, mentions how the gears in his body start spinning at high speed, sparking and whirring. He calls it “Overclocking”. There are a myriad of ways to do this sort of thing, giving your character a more personal touch.
The second thing you can do to liven up your games, as a GM more than anything, is to give Magic Items some Flair.
To give an example, let’s put this in perspective as a player. Which would you find more interesting? A +1 Longsword? Or “Foecleaver, a Longsword created by the dwarven smith Halfax to destroy the enemies of his clan?”. In most cases, the second one is much more interesting. It’s still just a +1 Longsword, but now its got a bit of history, a bit of flair to it. And could even spawn an adventure! Who was Halfax? Who were his enemies? Why is the sword here instead of with him and his clan?!
This is especially useful given how rare magical items are supposed to be in 5th Edition DND in fact. In high magic games, where magical items are super common, only the big stuff should have this sort of history, but in a normal 5th Ed game, perhaps more of your items could have a bit of history attached. The magical items had to come from somewhere, someone had to make them. They didn’t just appear out of the ether. In my games, I intend to attach a sort of mystical imprint of the items history and creation when a player either attunes to the item, or identifies it, so that way they can learn about its history.
And players, if you start at a level higher than 1 and begin play with some magical gear, ask your GM if you can flair it up! My Divine Soul has an Instant Fortress, for example, that is decked out as a portable home for him (he is a noble) that he found in a dragons horde. He has a reason for having it, a specific use for it, and its customized to suit him and his needs.
With these simple options you can take a boring old spell, a boring old ability, a boring old magic item, and spice them up and give them more flavor and theme to fit your game, your character, and most importantly, your world!
Thanks for reading, and remember: Get those Crits, Take those Hits, Keep Pushing Through and STAY NERDY!