by Mike Shea on 5 November 2012
Of all the best D&D 4e tips you might pick up, few are as powerful as reskinning monsters. Many previous articles discuss the technique and this article will serve as a hub for the idea, a reference document for the concept and a warehouse of articles related to the subject.
The concept of reskinning is simple. Take an existing monster stat block from a good 4e monster book and wrap it in the flavor and description of a monster completely different. Using this technique, you can turn a Catoblepas into a high-level priest of Orcus or turn a white dragon into a cyborg assassin.
When reskinning a monster, choose a monster of the appropriate level range and look for the type of powers and roles that fit the monster you want to run. Make a few changes if you want, such as changing environmental effects from fire to ice or by giving them a known racial trait such as a drow's cloud of darkness or a kobold's shifty tactics. Most of these tweaks you can just make up on the fly. You shouldn't need anything more than the monster book when you want to reskin for your game.
Sometimes you have a good monster stat block but the level isn't right. Chris Perkins's Instant Monster, the best article written on the subject of reskinning and releveling monsters, contains the best and simplest advice for changing a monster's level.
For each extra level, add 1 to AC, defenses, attack scores, and damage. Then add 10 hit points per level, rounding down to make the math easy.
To subtract a level, do the opposite. Subtract 1 from AC, defenses, attack scores, and damage. Then subtract 10 hit points, rounding up, for each level.
By far, your best sources for monster mechanics from which to reskin include the following four texts:
These books contain the most refined and polished stat blocks for D&D 4th edition monsters. They will run far smoother, faster, and more consistently challenging than monsters from books published previously to these four. These four books contain over a thousand monsters from which to re-skin