From Dr Jeckyl & Mr Hyde to The Incredible Hulk, having the mild-mannered nerd transform into a hulking beast is a common trope. But who says that the same thing can’t work in reverse?
This idea stemmed from a conversation with a friend about using Open Legend’s ‘Alternate Form’ feat to represent a Dragonball Z style power-up. And while it doesn’t really offer a way to boost your strength to game-breaking levels, it could allow a character to have a social/exploring form and a combat form.
However, after poking around at the rules for a while, I realised it could actually be both fun and mechanically efficient to do it the other way around from what I initially planned. Rather than the pasty nerd launching into a rage once combat breaks out, the hulking brute could tap into his more thoughtful side in order to tackle the problems that can’t be solved with his fists.
Zarn, The Twin-Souled
- Might 5
- Fortitude 5
- Dexterity 3
- Presence 2
- Alternate form
- Learning 4
- Logic 4
- Lightning Reflexes I)
- Adventurer’s’ Pack
The backstory for a character like Zarn is always going to be a little bit complicated. Bumping up your physical prowess at the cost of mental faculties is easy to explain away, but it’s harder when we’re talking about shifting into a form that is both smarter and much better informed.
This is clearly much more than a mere physical transformation – a fresh psyche is taking hold of Zarn’s body. While this is an obvious invitation to a b-movie interpretation of schizophrenia or other dissociative mental illnesses, I don’t like that for reasons ranging from inaccuracy to taste.
Instead, I interpret this as a symbiotic relationship formed between two souls that inhabit a single body. Maybe Zarn was an adventurer who rescued the spirit of an ancient Elven scholar from the tormenting grasp of a demon, or a warrior who performed a profane ritual to save his sickly brother’s soul from a terrible disease.
In any case, the two forms have their own particular specialisations. Zarn’s standard attributes make him a combat monster with huge damage potential, great defences and a deep health pool. The unarmored defence bonus from the Berserker feat means that he doesn’t have to switch his armor when he changes form, and plays nicely into his character.
When he switches over to his secondary form, Zarn switches gears entirely. With no physical or supernatural attributes whatsoever he is entirely unsuited for combat, but he excels at mental challenges and can at least have a stab at other tasks thanks to Well-Rounded.
Lightning Reflexes – which gives him advantage on initiative rolls – may seem like an odd choice for a character who should ideally never see combat, but it should help him out in the event that a battle breaks out before he gets the chance to change back.
One potential modification for this build is to ditch Berserker and give Zarn both tiers of Alternate Form right at the start. This will limit his combat potential slightly, but will allow the other form to branch out its skills slightly, rather than focussing so intently on just a couple of areas.
In the wrong hands this character could feel rather min-maxey and cheesy, but it’s such a fun concept I can’t see anybody objecting.