A Warlock With a Gun: Re-skinning Basic D&D 4E Classes for Modern Games

As part of “Modern Assembly,” we’re tackling the idea of applying Dungeons & Dragons 4E to modern times. We’re providing you with plenty of material.

'Take a shot' by soldiersmediacenter on Flickr

'Take a shot' by soldiersmediacenter on Flickr

But can it be done more directly? Can you just re-flavor D&D 4E with a modern twist?

Let’s try.

This article will analyze at each character class that’s in the iconic first D&D 4E Player’s Handbook, and see how it can be re-flavored as a modern profession.

The Overall Approach

How do we re-skin bows and magic blasts for the real world? Basically, we replace them with modern weapons. A bow is a hand gun, and a magical blast is a shotgun.

How do we handle healing? We approach Hit Points as abstract representations of exhaustion, counting down towards a disabling blow at 0 HP. Temporary Hit Points represent the character getting amped up, dodging a blow or steeling himself against an enemy’s attacks.

How about typed damage? Much of it can be kept exactly as-is; flamethrowers and Molotov cocktails will deal fire damage and stun guns will deal lightning damage. Some damage types are less frequent–you probably won’t see much cold damage–but you can always add Gamma World damage types like laser, radiation, and sonic damage. Unfortunately, the modern world just doesn’t have much typed damage.

There. Now let’s look at each class.

Cleric

We’re starting off with the toughest concept in the modern world: a divine battle leader who heals his allies with symbols and prayers.

The cleric’s attacks tends towards ranged powers and burst effects. So, we’ll give the cleric a ranged weapon, and focus on the battle leader element. So:

The Commander is an inspiring leader, whose troops always seem a little luckier and stronger than others. A Commander’s troops always come out a little header of others, instinctively dodging attacks and finding just the right cover.

So, what would Lance of Faith look like for a Commander?

Guiding Shot Commander Attack 1
You pop off an amazing shot, at your foe, clearly marking your target for your ally’s attack.
At-Will · Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 5
Target One creature
Attack Wisdom vs. Reflex
Hit 1d8 + Wisdom modifier damage
Effect One ally you can see gains a +2 power bonus to his or her next attack roll against the target.

Fighter

The fighter provides us with an interesting challenge: melee attacks. How do we justify hand-to-hand combat in the modern world of ranged weaponry?

The fighter must specialize, and be particularly adroit at hand-to-hand combat.

Most Brutes sport fists the size of hams and physiques to shame Arnold Schwarzenegger. They know how to use guns, but are just better at hand-to-hand altercations. Brutes prefer garrotes, silent knives, and the simple pleasure of slamming a head into a wall.

As such, Brutes typically carry several “melee” weapons, from garrotes to knives, and always have them ready.

Let’s re-skin Tide of Iron:

Brute Slam Brute Attack 1
After swinging a huge fist at your target, you slam into your foe with the force of a freight train.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Standard Action   Melee weapon
Target One creature
Attack Strength vs. AC
Hit 1[W] + Strength modifier damage
Effect You push the target 1 square if it is your size, smaller than you, or one size category larger. You can shift into the space that the target occupied.

Paladin

Paladins focus their attacks on individual enemies, but favor melee powers. We’ll switch it around a bit. So, we’ll use a name already used for an existing D&D class, but it’s the best that fits.

'Feeling lucky...punk?' by udvranto_pothik on Flickr

'Feeling lucky...punk?' by udvranto_pothik on Flickr

The Assassin focuses all of his or her attention on a single quarry. The assassin must confirm the kill–it’s a matter of pride–and so prefers close-quarter combat with a single enemy. The Assassin’s powers provide ways to make these attacks more effective.

An Assassin is not necessarily evil; she may be a member of an elite fighting force, destroying corrupt governments one politician at a time.

Knowing Your Enemy Assassin Attack 1
As you bring your weapont to bear, you smile. All those enemies have merely increased the pool of your knowledge.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Standard Action   Melee weapon
Target One creature
Attack Strength + 1 per enemy adjacent to you vs. AC
Hit 1[W] + Strength modifier damage

Ranger

The Ranger can stay completely untouched. Just switch out the bows for guns and you’re fine.

Double Tap Ranger Attack 1
You squeeze off two rounds in rapid succession at your enemy.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Requirement You must be wielding two melee weapons or a ranged weapon.
Standard Action   Melee or Ranged weapon
Target One or two creatures
Attack Strength vs. AC (melee) or Dexterity vs. AC (ranged); two attacks
Hit 1[W] damage per attack

Rogue

The rogue, too can remain untouched. We barely even need to re-skin it, and I’ll leave the example for the reader.

Warlock

Okay. We’ve hand-waved away the paladin’s magic. Can’t do that with the warlock.

How do we deal with magic? By completely ignoring it.

A warlock is a guy with a gun–but a guy who’s very good at using it.

The Motherf#$&er fights with passion. He doesn’t just calmly stand there and shoot; he screams and unloads his clip at his foe, determined to take him down.

Burning Wound Warlock Attack 1
Your bullets lodge deep and painfully.
At-Will · Fire, Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 10
Target One creature
Attack Constitution vs. Reflex
Hit 1d6 + Constitution modifier fire damage.
Special If you take damage before the end of your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 + Constitution modifier fire damage.

Warlord

We must explain the Warlord’s preference for melee combat. Our Warlord is a tactician, and directs the battle from the front lines. He’s also an effective fighter, but he needs to be in the thick of things to be able to direct his allies. So, he wades into battle and fires a revolver at point-blank range.

Other than that, the warlord is unchanged.

Wizard

For wizards, we take a similar approach to the one we took with warlocks. The one twist, of course, is the wizard’s preference for bursts and blasts.

The Rageaholic wields rapid-fire and scatter-shot guns like shotguns, machine guns, and the occasional rocket-propelled grenade. So, let’s look at a re-skinned Magic Missile:

Unerring Shot Wizard Attack 1
Your attack always aims true.
At-Will · Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 20
Target One creature
Hit 2d4 + Intelligence modifier damage.
Special This power counts as a ranged basic attack.

I hope this gives you a starting point for running modern adventures in D&D 4E. How would you approach it?

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