The walls between the worlds grow thinner. Horrors beyond our reckoning seep through. Our heroines have been delayed. Judging by those fiendish appendages, Team Bounty Hunter +1 have a pretty good excuse for not rushing directly to Antipaladin’s aid. I just wish for Patches’s sake that one of them had made their save.

It’s been a little while since we talked about reflavoring. The term is a catch-all for the practice of using the same mechanic to represent multiple different concepts. The advantage/disadvantage system from 5e may be the poster child here, with the same “roll two dice and take the better result” standing in for everything from divine road flares to helpful fruit bats. But rather than the game-design side of things, I find myself interested in the player’s side. And particularly in magic users.

In today’s comic, a bunch of fiendish arms reaching through micro-portals is represented mechanically by the black tentacles spell. In practice, that’s a GM creating an encounter with some ready-made rules. But if you happen to have your own spell list, there’s no reason you couldn’t pull the same trick. Describing your own black tentacles as Ghost Rider style chains, animated seaweed, or grabby origami can all work.

The same principle works for nearly any spell in the game. Magic missile can just as easily be miniature meteors falling out the sky (I’m sure Melf would be proud). That spiritual weapon can become a giant spiked lollipop (Jester would be proud). You could even transform booming blade into the five point palm exploding heart technique (Pai Mei would destroy you for stealing his technique). The possibilities are endless! But just as importantly, they aren’t unlimited.

When you reflavor your magic so hard that it begins to behave differently in the game world, you begin to run into problems. For example, would those aforementioned miniature meteor magic missiles still function underground? Could you use that giant lollipop to supplement your provisions on a wilderness trek? Is that weirdly kung-fu version of booming blade something your monk pal can learn? These are the questions that come up when creativity runs amok, and they can quickly turn “cool flavor idea” into “unfair advantage.”

So for today’s discussion, why don’t we talk about the aesthetic modifications we slap onto our spells? What’s the best example from your own game? And have you ever seen one that went too far? Tell us all about your acid splash blood spurts, alcohol-infused dragon’s breaths, and Google-based legend lore searches down in the comments!


ADD SOME NSFW TO YOUR FANTASY! If you’ve ever been curious about that Handbook of Erotic Fantasy banner down at the bottom of the page, then you should check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Thrice a month you’ll get to see what the Handbook cast get up to when the lights go out. Adults only, 18+ years of age, etc. etc.