Can I Get a Fluffer? …Part I

Over the years it’s been known by several nom de plume’s: skinning, repurposing, and my personal favorite, fluffing.

Whatever you choose to call it, taking a class, race, feat, item, or power’s description and adjusting its flavor to something else is nothing new. Though I’m loath to admit this, I never even considered it an option until 4th Edition opened my eyes on how easily this was possible.

Page 55 of the Player’s Handbook discusses this concept as Flavor Text:

A power’s flavor text helps you understand what happens when you use a power and how you might describe it when you use it. You can alter this description as you like, to fit your own idea of what your power looks like. Your wizard’s magic missile spell, for example, might create phantasmal skulls that howl through the air to strike your opponent, rather than simple bolts of magical energy.

When you get right down to it, the D&D universe is mysterious and nobody is a complete expert on the endless variations of the strange and wonderful things that exist in the corners and cracks of the world. Game mechanics and flavor don’t have to be tied together; you can and should cut the two from each other as often as possible. If the game were a tactical simulator, then being able to easily identify threats time and time again would be extremely important—but it’s not.

Fluffing the familiar to induce a sense of wonder is not only desirable, but necessary. If the players always know what’s going to be thrown at them, the world becomes predictable and boring. For example, a tiefling warlord doesn’t have to simply shout encouraging words and occasionally point out his opponent’s weaknesses—he can invoke the forbidden, hell-born pacts of his ancestors and lend his companions infernal boons. The rules stay exactly the same, only the presentation changes.

For the most part, no matter how the mechanics are dressed, they don’t suddenly give unfair or broken advantages. A magic missile that looks like a swarm of bees will not poison the enemy, nor will a magic missile that looks like a flaming arrow light anything on fire.

It’s important to remember the rules are simply a loose structure that allow people to pretend they’re elves and wizards for an afternoon. No one’s trying to build a nuclear reactor, so it’s okay if things are flexible. If players occasionally get something extra in a situation due to an amazing description or excellent roleplaying, DM’s should be happy to give that. There’s a social contract between players and the DM: everyone’s there to have fun. On the other hand, no one should try to screw over someone else by overdoing the flavor on a power to eek out some extra benefit. If you look at the game as a friendly environment where everyone is there to take a part in the story, then the rules can take a backseat to everyone’s fun from time to time.

Fluffing in Action

To show how easy it is to refuff anything, I took the all of the fighter’s 1st-level exploits and changed them to describe a samurai. In two instances, I removed a power’s shield requirement. Other than that, none of the rules were changed—only the fluff.

Download my custom samurai powers here.