Wizards of the Coast have broken some of their former habits. No longer does their release schedule include Monster Manual after Monster Manual, catalogues and folios, instead they’ve turned their focus to stories, campaigns that spark the imagination and drive creative thought, each coming with a range of monsters, player options, magic items and ideas for Dungeon Masters and players alike. And it seems to be going rather well.
But if you’ve grown tired of recycling the same old classics and staples from the Monster Manual, and even grown sick of the additions from various extra sources like Volo’s Guide and the campaigns, here’s a few ideas on re-skinning a few of those monsters you’ve done to death.
A stalagmite with teeth, the Roper has been one of the oft-forgotten staples since 1975, never missing from an edition since. The tactics are simple enough, give the blundering adventurer long enough to get close enough to start wondering if that rock just moved then unleash tentacles. It’s a strategy more common to the man’o’war than to anything one might find underground, so giving a Roper a swim speed, you now have a hardy jellyfish, a man-eating nautilus, and a little change in damage type gives you a giant anemone.
With a change in tone, a roper would make an excellent predatory plant deep in a tropical jungle. A cactus sat in the middle of the desert might make a beguiling source of water, only to reveal itself as a deadly predator. A hangman’s tree might reveal human-shaped tendrils that grab up new victims for the toothy trunk, sewing the bones into its roots and taking the faces for the dangling “corpses”.
The floating eyeball is steeped in lore, an iconic symbol of the game. The beholders are driven mad with the perfection of their own form, and often construct cults that worship them, or seek to destroy the pale imitations that dare to call themselves the true form of “beholder”. Mostly their big floating bundles of lasers, so anything that you can imagine casting out dozens of energy beams can use the rules for beholders. Hovering crystals of raw magical energy, adrift amongst the planar voids, or wandering the material world leaving unintentional destruction in their wake.
As most of the beholders’ abilities are spell-like effects, they could be the abilities of immensely potent mages, such as the many-armed spell weavers that have appeared and reappeared across D&D history, but as yet not printed in 5th edition. Chaos sorcerers are uncontrolled bundles of power, and a villainous sorcerer whose power has spiralled out of control may start randomly spitting out random spells.
Ok, not exactly a Dungeons & Dragons original, but a monstrous creature whose power escalates with damage taken should be easy enough to re-skin. It needn’t be extra heads, it could be as simple as a Dragon Ball Z style power-level increases, more attacks, greater speed, escalations with blood loss. Giants with multiple limbs like another Greek legend, the Hekatonkheires, just replace the bites with bludgeoning fists or carving swords. A beast born of a volcano, a thick outer shell of stone and obsidian, but every injury loosens the fast flowing lava inside.
Alternatively, shift the location of the beast. A many headed moray eel waiting in a submerged cave or sunken wreck, a toothy worm that splits when severed, a bloated leach that has gorged itself on bigger and bigger beasts the more mouths it grows. Anything with a long enough neck has the potential to become something hydra-like, I leave it to you how threatening a many-headed giraffe or emu might be.
Any creatures you’ve re-skinned? Any other creatures you’d like to see re-skinned? Share with us your tales of diversity, your design and inspired moments in the comments or over on our Facebook page.
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