For the Bralani, I needed “this creature can turn into a living creature of fire” and, in my hour of need, D&D let me down. Being an earth elemental, a pillar of flame, a water-dolphin, a dust devil: I feel like you should be able to say these things with the aplomb with which you declare “I cast magic missile at the darkness!” but, alas, you cannot.
So, some lightweight templates:
Fly speed of 3 times walking speed.
Damage resistances lightning and thunder.
Air Form: Enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. Move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.
Slam Attack: 1d8 bludgeoning, finesse.
Whirlwind (recharge 4-6): Each creature in your space must make a Strength saving throw against a Strength-based DC. On a failure, the target takes a slam attack of bludgeoning damage and is flung twice your space away in a random direction and knocked prone. If it strikes an object, it takes falling damage. If it strikes a creature, they are entitled to a Dexterity saving throw against that Strength-based DC or they also take the damage and also fall prone. If the saving throw is successful, the target takes half slam damage and isn’t flung away or knocked prone.
Natural armor AC of 17 (as barkskin: 17 if better than what you would get, take it or leave it) .
Burrow speed of walking speed.
Damage vulnerability thunder.
Tremorsense 60 ft.
Earth glide: Burrow through nonmagical, unorked earth and stone. While doing so, you don’t disturb the material.
Siege monster: double damage to objects and structures.
Slam Attack: 1d8 bludgeoning, reach.
Damage immunity fire.
Fire form: Move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing. A creature that touches you or hits you with a melee attack while within 5 feet of you takes 5 (1d10) fire damage. In addition, you can enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. The first time you enter a creature’s space on a turn, that creature takse 5 (1d10) fire damage and catches fire; until someone takes an action to douse the fire, the creature takes 5 (1d10) fire damage at the start of each of its turns.
Illumination: You shed bright light in a radius of 10 feet for each size category larger than tiny, and dim light in that same radius again.
Water susceptibility: For every 5 feet you move in water, or for every gallon of water splashed on you, you take 1 cold damage.
Touch Attack: 1d6 fire, finesse, ignites (per fire form).
Natural armor AC of 12 + Dex
Swim speed of three times walking speed.
Damage resistances acid.
Water form: You can enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. You can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.
Freeze: If you take cold damage, you partially freeze; your speed is reduced by 20 feet until the end of your next turn.
Slam Attack: 1d8 bludgeoning damage
Whelm (Recharge 4-6): Each creature in your space must make a Strength saving throw against a strength-based DC. On a failure, a target takes damage as from a slam. If it is Large or smaller, it is also grappled (same escape DC). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained and unable to breathe unless it can breathe water. If the saving throw is successful, the target is pushed out of your space. You can grapple one creature of your size; each size smaller halves the amount of space the creature consumes. At the start of each of your turns, each target takes slam damage. A creature within 5 feet of you an pull a creature or object out by taking an action to make a Strength check against the escape DC and succeeding.
Okay! So now the Bralani can just adopt those walls-of-text when they shift, instead of using a really hacked up elemental.
I can’t escape the thought that the fire elemental (for example) doesn’t get a spit-line-of-fire attack, which is pretty rough; they’re very hands on. But that’s life, I guess.