Can I Get a Fluffer? …Part III

If it wasn’t obvious by now, I love fluffing. I’ve altered the descriptions of powers, feats, classes, races, movement, items, and templates. Throughout my blog you can find examples of my efforts, from fluffing class powers to monsters; movement to entire encounters. If it has rules and some blob of descriptive text associated with it, chances are I’ve fluffed it.

For those of you who need a quick recap on what fluffing is, 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 it’s possible to take an entire book of rules and alter the descriptions to represent anything you want, what’s left to fluff? How about conditions applied to creatures when the condition doesn’t seem to make sense?

I’ve read many, many discussion across various D&D messageboards about DM’s that prevent powers from taking effect on certain creatures simply because the effects don’t make sense. For example, how does a halfling use a power to knock a giant prone? Or how would a wizard deafen an ooze? Some DM’s even consider the possibility of house ruling such powers so that the players can’t cause certain conditions against specific monsters. In my opinion, those sorts of revisions to the rules would be ill advised.

All a DM has to do is figure out a way to narrate the effect in a believable way.

There are many ways to justify characters placing conditions on creatures that don’t “make sense.” Maybe the halfling doesn’t knock the giant over—maybe he instead manages to cause the giant to trip over its own feet; it isn’t “prone” in the common use of the term, but still suffers the mechanical effects of the condition, including needing to spend a move action to “correct its balance.”

The moment a DM starts to question an action based on physics or believability, they’ve forgetten the entire point behind playing a fantasy roleplaying game. Instead of asking if Billy the Blacksmith or Susan the Seamstress can knock over the giant, ask if Batman can do it. How about Heracles? Or Samson? Can Doctor Doom or Captain America knock a giant prone?

Of course they can; they’re not supposed to be realistic, they’re supposed to be awesome.

Here’s a story told to me by another player:

We had this problem early on in our campaign. I’m a hammer warrior—it’s what I do. My twin hammer wielding avenger has invested in feats and powers that take advantage of my weapons.

So we’re facing this 20-foot-tall whatever; it was so early in the campaign that I don’t even remember what it was. I do an attack, hit, and announce that I knock it prone. The DM says that’s not possible—its 20 feet tall, like a two-story building. I asked if the stat block said it couldn’t be knocked prone and he said no. I then said, yes, I could. The DM replied, “Think about it—your character is 5′ 8″ and you’re bowling over a 20-foot-tall behemoth!”

Point taken.

Then I asked him to think about it this way: I’m not running up, using my human strength, lifting a 20-foot-tall monster off of the ground, and throwing it onto its back. Rather, imagine my warrior slamming his hammer into the side of the monster’s leg, and it dropping to one knee in response—with all the benefits from “prone” applying. Or maybe even the magical energy from the power I’m using is what knocks the creature prone. Either works just fine.

Remember, to a hammer warrior, everything is a nail.

When you apply a little imagination, it’s easy to see how even an ooze can be knocked prone. As long as the creature suffers the mechanical penalties, how they came to that point is up the the DM and player to decide.