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D&D General Flip or Twist A D&D Cliche


Most of us have been playing D&D in one form or another for a very long time. Many D&Disms are really cool, but others just get old.

Let's take some D&D cliches and flip them on their head or twist them until they are hardly recognizable. This can be an idea off the top of your head right now, something you have done in campaigns past, or something you read or saw in a game or book.

One Note: let's please not jump instantly to the controversial. I don't mind if we talk about alignment or evil races, but maybe we can do so without instigating thread locking arguments?

So, here is an example:
The Cliche: Elves are aloof, noble creatures whose ethereal beauty and magical nature entrances other races (except for dwarves).
The Twist: I once decided that Elves and Dwarves were the same species, and the elves were the "feminine" expression of the species while the Dwarves were the "masculine" expression. Not that all elves were female and all dwarves were male, mind you. They were both androgynous creatures. You usually had a Gimli and a Legolas because they were a bonded pair whose bickering wasmore like a sitcom marriage.

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Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I once had a worldbuilding idea in which Druids were not defenders of the natural world. They instead were cunning industrialist using magic to bind, exploit and tame nature for the benefits of the humanoid races.

I generally make dwarfs the best archers, because its easier to have a clear shot with a ranged attack in a windless corridor than in a damp, windy and dense forest. Elves are best with the axe since, even if you have huge respect for nature, you'll have to fell trees to make some space and build stuff.

Kobolds I bring them back to their vague old-skool description of dog-like, maybe scaled/armored, tiny dwellers. So....I made them croc-toothed bipedal armadillos!

Othyugh and Beholders are plants instead of eldritch thingies. Closer to the Ochu and Malboros of Final Fantasy. In fact, most aberrations are plant-like, even Mind Flayers, that are closer to Las Plagas of Resident Evil rather than squid-headed.


Manticores are a noble race with a strong sense of duty. Their sense is so strong that they are drawn to various communities, establishing themselves as law officers and keepers of the peace. They often work hand in hand with sphinxes, acting as an arm of the law to the sphinxes judicial duties. In some areas, they travel from community to community as enforcers, seeking out troublemakers, occasionally working as bounty hunters or sometimes taking the duty of a guardian of a community or other place. They are generally highly regarded, truthful and possessive of an eidetic memory. Their oaths are legendary, and few doubt the word of a manticore.


The princess who is to be rescued is actually a villain, luring heroes to die to keep her Obsidian Soultower fueled.

Three times over the years, I've run the "princess paid to have herself kidnapped" bit - one was just a merchant's daughter trying to blackmail her old man for a fortune, one was a duke's daughter who was a political radical working with an extremist movement, and the third was a willing pawn of demons...

I have a gnome illusionist character named Magnus Magnussen.
And he is definitely not that kind of gnome illusionist...
(Technically, he's an illusionist/fiend-pact tomelock.)
He's a grumpy old bastard that calls everyone "kid" and his first response to any situation that can't be resolved by a concealed knife in the back or a vicious ambush is to rain down hellfire on it in a wide radius... "Sarge", as he generally likes to be called, is an adventurer because he was forced into retirement after a long career with the infamous legendary gnomish mercenary company known as the Hell Badgers.
Although it's been decades since he was forcibly retired, Sarge still wears the shapeless, battered leather sapper's cap and much-patched leather armor of his unit and carries his old shortsword. His cloak is made from the hide and trimmed with the fur of Whiskers, his former giant badger fighting companion.
Sarge will tell you that he survived so long because he's meaner, tougher and drinks more whiskey than any other man he's faced, but the truth is that, once, long ago, Sarge found himself cut off from his unit and surrounded, about to die.
Which is when the fiend that had long considered himself the secret patron of the Badgers (he thoroughly enjoyed watching them burn things) came to Sarge in the midst of his last stand and offered him a deal...


Alignment is a scam invented by unscrupulous clerics. You come in for a basic Cure Wounds, they offer to throw in a free alignment check, and then they tell you that you're dangerously morally imbalanced and offer a realignment at five times the cost of the service you went in for.


Follower of the Way
The cliche: Dragons are evil creatures that hoard vast wealth and demand sacrifices, especially of noble blood.
The twist: The dragon is actually good, and the "sacrifices" it demands have always been its effort to rehabilitate members of a community with rather twisted values; the dragon does not kill its sacrifices, it trains them, gives them new skills, and sets them up with a job and a place to live. The beautiful princess is actually an evil sorceress exploiting the dragon with magic, the party must rescued it from her evil clutches.

The cliche: You fight sewer rats at level 1 and planar beings at level 20.
The twist: You play spellcasters just starting off at magic college. Initially, you fight imps (planar beings) that have broken loose in the college undercroft. By the end, you're dealing with mutant creatures released by your former classmates who got expelled for their unwise experiments, including gigantic, Tarrasque-sized rats.

The cliche: Fighters are "easy" and weak. Wizards are "hard" and powerful.
The twist: Tweaks to casting make Wizards easier to play but much weaker than normal. Conversely, improved features and, especially, a major improvement to the equipment rules means that Fighters have far more depth and are much more powerful now.

The cliche: Parties have their first meeting in a tavern, where the characters have never met one another before that moment.
The twist: The original goal of the group was to have their first drink all together. Wacky hijinks ensued. It is only after they have saved the universe and become practically demigods that they can finally, finally get to the damned tavern and have that first drink together.


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
The world was already destroyed, long ago. A group of heroes failed to stop the Generic Evil Wizard, and millions of people died in a major geological catastrophe that rearranged the surface of the planet.

A thousand years passed. People adapted, and new nations rose from the ashes.

Now the "villain" is a survivor of that cataclysm, who is trying to put the world back the way it was. If he succeeds, a second geological catastrophe will rearrange the surface of the planet again, killing millions.

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