Before we get into today's article about re-skinning let's talk a little bit about the various steps we have gone through, the things we have done. This started as an article about re-skinning as a tool for DMs to get the creatures they wanted from ones they already had or to get new types of creatures from existing stats. It moved forward to utilizing the chimera as an example of how to do this easily, simply changing descriptions and damage types. Quickly this article series has become a regular thing for Notes of a Wandering Alchemist. We have explored more radical changes to stats (turning dragons into plants), adding some complexity to re-skins with breath weapon shape changes and monster features, and even got a bit more complicated by creating new chimeras from a concept and adding side effects to the breath weapons of those creatures.
At this point you may be saying that this series isn't strictly about re-skinning anymore, but using existing monsters as examples for creating your own. But isn't that what re-skinning really is? The basics of re-skinning is fairly simple, an easy thing to do that is a bit of an art form and requires a bit of practice to come up with idea rather than actually enact. When you want something specific, quick and easy, that is the best way. There is no reason to stop there, as I have said, and additional steps to flesh them out can be taken. Today I want to take that final step.
You have an idea, a re-skin, and may have even tweaked an ability to flesh it out. Let's really build on this and create a fully realized monster. For this I am going to use the chimeras that have been made throughout the previous articles. The best place to start, when taking your re-skin to full fledged monster is that to which I alluded in the last article: Challenge rating. We have half a dozen different chimeras with different breaths, different habitats, different personalities. For a one-time use this is fine, but what if you want something more powerful, or less? And should we even consider all of those chimera types the same strength?
Not in the Nine Hells, if you ask me. No, I think we should have a variety of CRs for the chimera. Let's take this a step at a time. The forest chimera is a good example because of the animal heads that are a part of it. The original chimera is torn by the various desires of each head, causing it to be wild and unwilling to give up a fight. The forest chimera has the head of an elk and that of a wolf. To me, these speaks to a defensive character. An elk is not so easily frightened as smaller deer and a wolf is certainly territorial and fierce. This creates a creature that is willing to fight, with no overwhelming fear, but smart enough to run when necessary. Classically, the red dragon is strongest of chromatics, but this doesn't need to mean anything for chimera. No, to me, the forest chimera is probably the strongest chimera because of its stable instincts and behavior.
So, what I did was increase the CR of the chimera. Now this isn't the easiest thing to do. You will need the Dungeon Master's Guide to help you out and it may take a little work at first. Once you get a grasp of how they are calculating CR, you will get quicker and things will be easier. Don't worry. Personally, the best thing to do first is decide the CR you want and then tweak the ability scores as you think is needed. Is the new creature stronger, faster, smarter, etc. than the original? By how much? After these have been edited go on to attack bonuses, damage bonuses, AC, and skills. Adjust those based on the new stats and the new CR's proficiency bonus.
For the most part the only other thing to do is decide if the AC needs to change and by how much you need to adjust the HP. The AC is a bit of finesse and the HP is some mathematical trial and error. As an example when I increased the HP of the forest chimera after increasing CR, I had to try a couple options. The chimera has a lower HP for its CR and I wanted to make sure the forest chimera was similar. The last thing to do is double check the CR of what you have made. If you have created the proper CR creature, perfect. If not, figure out what you need to edit and go back to the ability scores. Maybe you increased them too much or need to increase ones you did not.
Let's not stop there! To make the forest chimera even more my own, I continued my thoughts about the other heads. I'm not positive if elk travel in actual herds, but antlered creatures do have a tendency to stick together, at least. Wolves live in packs and hunt in packs. The chimera has always been a singular enemy. A monster harassing a land or a pet to some powerful person. Why not have packs of them in deep and ancient forests? The forest chimera is just such a pack hunter, and to reflect this all I did was add pack tactics to the stat block. This doesn't really affect the CR, but creates the potential for them to be difficult for high level adventurers. Three attacks per round per creature, all with advantage if working together? Aside the possible round-robin of breath weapons? A dangerous prospect indeed.
Something else I mentioned, and wanted to do, was to take a single creature and expand its use by increasing and decreasing the CR. This resulted in the creation of the chimling, or baby/young chimera. I reduced the adult's CR by 4, size by 2, and went through the steps to adjust stats. Now we have a small chimera, dangerous for new adventurers and full of potential plot hooks for higher level adventurers. I also went ahead and increased the CR of the adult to create a more powerful version, in this case an alpha chimera. Again everything was tweaked, but this time I added one more thing: damage resistance. The original chimera never had this and my new one doesn't either, but the strongest of their kind might.
So what do we have now? I know you don't have the actual stats from this, but lets keep the conversation moving. We have a brand new chimera that is unique in look, breath type, state of mind, tactics, and strength. We have three different CRs for this creature increasing its use to a much wider range of uses and challenge. It took a bit of work to get the mechanics worked out, and some thought for ideas, but it all stems from a simple re-skin. We went from, "why not have a green dragon head on a chimera," to a forest dwelling chimera that hunts in packs, protecting their young and territory.
This is the process you can take to create more meaningful creatures to your campaign. It is the process I have begun using on all of the chimeras we have made up. In fact, I may take a step forward with the catastrophe chimeras and give them some weather adjusting abilities. If you're wondering why I didn't get into specifics (other than time) it is because a cannot release the stat blocks as they will be up on the DM's Guild next week sometime. If you have been following along you can create many of these yourself, and edit them however you see fit. But for those of you who grab the supplement there will be a number of bonuses (aside having the stats right there): chimlings for each type, special advanced versions of my own devising, and two more whole types I have thought up but did not include in the series. As for the next re-skinning article I want to get back to the creative process and look at how much we can do with what we have. The topic? Lizardfolk. Stay tuned!