Playing D&D in the World of Avatar: The Last Airbender
I just blew though the Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix in about four days and really enjoyed this television series. If you are looking for a great TV show to binge I cannot recommend this strongly enough. To me it is clear the creator of this is a fan of Dungeons & Dragons with all the hybrid animals, which has always been a classic D&D staple originating with the owlbear. The challenge in running a D&D game in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is a heavy on unarmed martial combat. This is easily fixed with characters either taking a level in monk or taking the feat Tavern Brawler. (The name of the feat does not mean you are limited to bar fights.) We should not get attached to how things are named unless it take us down a hole we cannot escape from. So let’s get into it further.
Elemental adventurers in D&D
Recreating the themes and focus of Avatar: The Last Airbender in D&D should be a higher level game allowing characters to start out at 3rd level or higher, not only to survive the hardship of the world but to allow for more interesting characters. Any class with access to magic would be described as bending regardless of what you are trying to do. It would be a lot of work but you can simply visualize that when a water bender hits you with magic missile, it could be a water whip or a series of water jets. It is all about the power of the buy in. There is also a lot of attack blocking, which could easily be shield or counterspell and themed with whichever element you are capable of wielding.
When I look further into classes anything martial works because the characters are getting into each others faces quite a bit. Eldritch Knight offers more magic, fighting prowess and the ability to wear armor as some characters do. Battle Master allows more battlefield manipulation, something we see a lot of in the series. Adding feats like Magic Initiate work to get things to make sense and if everyone is human they could all start with a feat.
It seems obvious that the Way of the Four Elements Monastic Tradition is perfect if it was not so weak compared to other monk subclasses. If you want another take on this Monastic Tradition check out Way of the Four Elements Reborn. This reimagining of the subclass expands the breadth and depth of the flavorful subclass and draws inspiration heavily from Avatar: The Last Airbender. You can find this on the website here.
There are of course some more resources you might be inclined to check out over on the Dungeon Masters Guild, some available at Pay What You Want prices. I have not checked these out so I cannot say how good or balanced they are but feel free to and let me know.
- Incarnate: The Last of the Lacers
- An entire setting book to add elemental warriors to your world
- Airbender specific products
- Products designed with Avatar: The Last Airbender in mind
Elementals and other monsters
It takes more than players to run a D&D game. Heroes need adversaries to face. While many of the creatures in your trusty Monster Manual work you might want to flavor them in a theme more fitting to the world in which you are trying to play. I was blown away by all the amazing creatures, some whose names I love, as I sat and watched this great show. The most notable for me was the boar-q-pine. Genius! I knew exactly what it was the moment I saw it on screen and I am very tempted to stat it and use it in my games for later. I highly considered sitting down and watching it again with a screen open to write down every cool creature. It looks like someone else already beat me to the punch. It saved me the work so I will share this with you as well here.
It is easy to add a flying or climbing speed to a monster but the rich lore allows you to take these low level things and have them there. You can have the giant stuff easily be reflavored or reskinned monsters and your players will be none the wiser. You might find some inspirational stuff inside Secrets of the Vault: Lost Lore Vol. 2 also. Along with a collection of character options and new content for your 5E D&D game this book includes the Elemental Kin Creature Template so you can easily modify any creature to give it an air, earth, fire or water elemental nature. And you could add this to your collection essentially free because when you sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter you get an exclusive coupon code for $9.99. Check out Secrets of the Vault: Lost Lore Vol. 2 here.
Lastly we have the spirit world. The spirits we see are powerful and thematic so use them carefully but it would also seem as if they all have some kind of weakness as well, which is great for allowing the use of puzzles, riddles and the like — classic parts of the typical D&D game.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay nerdy!