Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Character Skinning: From Lounge Lizards to Sith Lords, and everything in between.

Some people, when they finish laughing at the absurdity of my custom character cards, ask why I bother.  That is a fair question but I want to respond with a side story.

In an Eberron game I am playing in, we recently added a player who will be playing a previously prominent NPC leading us on an adventure. A wealthy Lord, the DM made the character as a bard as he thought that captured the feel he was looking for. The player of this character had something to say about that, though...

"Song of Rest? No. I'm renaming that.  I call it '...the Sooner You'll Get Paid.'"

So, after a single session, the iconic image of a bard singing melodies of healing suddenly became an impatient nobleman prodding his hirelings to expedite the mission.  As he continued crossing out other power and feature  names only to replace them with more appropriate alternatives, the very nature of the character changed. He was no longer a bard. He did not sing or have an instrument. He was a cunning leader who knew the power of proper motivation.

And it's awesome.

That is the type of re-characterization that D&D4E can lead to. I think this is important to the game as it lets you take the mechanical trappings that the rules give you and make it the character you want.  With a little thought, any variety of ridiculous character can be created.
Now I understand tactical history!
  • Armchair tactician with a giant history book that he uses to defend himself? Lazy Warlord with a Warhammer & Shield (conceptualized as a single item).
  • Street Fighter's Dhalsim, a yoga master who shoots fire from his mouth? Pyromancer Mage.
  • Red Alert 2's Yuri, a mysterious psychic master with the ability to crush people with a thought? A psion.
I stopped playing AD&D back in the 1990s because I found the class system especially limiting. I felt you were pigeon-holed into what they thought you should be. A fighter fights and does little else. That never seemed fun.  I moved on to systems like GURPS, where I could make the character I wanted (and have to live with the consequences).  Now that I'm older, I realized that the D&D system can be flexible as you want it to be. You just have to be a little creative.

So, that is a good explanation for why I do this. Granted, the original motivation was to provide a series of alternative characters for D&D Encounters since Wizards of the Coast stopped providing new ones. However, it has become more of an expression of what the system really is capable of with the right thought process.

So, for those playing at a D&D Encounters game, I hope you use the novelty characters I have provided and enjoy the experience.  The sinister Sabrak dwarves of the Sunset Mountains, the vile Feywild hag Soryth, or the Lost Heir of Neverwinter will never expect Dhalsim, Link, and Leisure Suit Larry to stop them.

As an addendum, the art on this page was taken from the DeviantArt site for njay, njay.deviantart.com.  It has been used without permission but consistent with 17 U.S.C. 107 (Fair use).


  1. I never once asked myself why you were bothering to do these. They are way cool and lots of fun. When I printed these and presented them in card format to the guys at my table yesterday, they spent half an hour trading them back and forth and loving every second of it. It'll be great to have some Level 2 pre-mades available during the summer, too, for the seasonal players who walk into a campaign and we've all leveled up. My son didn't want to give up Dhalism and asked to play the card instead of his hand-made executioner!

  2. I appreciate that! Hopefully, I can keep making characters that are interesting and that get people into playing.

    Funny how I'm taking efforts to build more D&D 4E support *AFTER* it's demise has already been presaged.