Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trying on a New Skin

Well over a decade ago I fell in love with Dungeons and Dragons and Role Playing Games in general.  The action, the adventure, the magic.  But most especially: THE MONSTERS!  Over the years the depictions of the monsters in the Monster Manuals have become iconic to gamers. These depictions have been scattered over every gaming table around the world and represent the institution that Dungeons and Dragons has become.

While this is amazing and has created this wonderful background that every gamer can share, it also makes these monsters less unique and less gratifying to slay.  Think about the first time you played D&D and your dungeon master brought out the first goblin you ever slew.  It was frightening and exciting.  You didn't know what to expect.  Every game should be like that.

But once you have played the game a few times you know already that goblins are merely canon fodder for most adventurers, even at first level. Unless you are taking on the entire tribe, goblins don't typically prove much of a threat for very long. This is when reskinning comes in.

First off, what is reskinning?  Simply put it is when you take one creature and describe it differently.  You leave the stats the same, so you can run it them same if you wish, but with the creature looking completely different you have a completely new creature.

Take the Goblin from my campaign Verdenheim.  In the 3.5 Monster Manual the goblin is described as such:
"Goblins have flat faces, broad noses, pointed ears, wide mouths, and small sharp fangs.  Their foreheads slope back, and their eyes are usually dull and glazed, varying in color from red to yellow. They walk upright, but their arms hang down almost to their knees.  Goblins' skin color ranges from yellow through any shade of orange to a deep red; usually all members of a single tribe are about the same color. They wear clothing of dark leather, tending toward drab, soiled-looking colors" 
  While this is an interesting creature the first time, it becomes a trope and quite clichéd after a while. In Verdenheim the goblin analogue is described as 
Goblin by DavidRaporza
"These small dark creatures are from the under side of Verdenheim, made of magic and shadow. Basically humanoid, they are 3 feet tall and have oily green tinted  black skin. These creatures are not very intelligent but are very cunning. They will set traps and sneak up on unsuspecting travelers.  The creatures only make use of the simplest weapons, such as clubs and daggers, if anything at all. They will rely on their very long, strong claws.  These creatures do not have a formal language that can be discerned but have a guttural animal howl that they use to communicate with each other." 
The Goblin has no gone from being a tribe of cannibalistic pygmies that got hit with the fugly stick, to being a frightening, slavering creature with which the players are completely unfamiliar.   These creatures will be completely new and exhilarating to encounter adding that much more enjoyment to the game.  All you need is a new skin.


  1. I really like this idea, given me some food for thought definitely. I often have this problem with Call Of Cthulhu, where my players quickly learn that Deep Ones and Ghouls are small fry compared to their larger counterparts. Interestingly, I've aso had the opposite effect in CoC because so many of the enemies look the same (think amorphous balls of tentacles and teeth) that the players can be thrown off by discovering its something that they've encountered before.

  2. Glad I could give you some food for thought. Reskinning is a tool I thought of years ago, before I ever heard the term reskinning or knew other DM/GMs were already doing it.