Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Conversion Crawl Classes 2: Basic D&D: The Keep on the Borderlands (2)

Adventures Outside the Keep

In the first part of this series, we looked at the Keep itself. In this part, we look at the wilderness around the Keep. If you own a copy of this adventure, you should probably take a moment to examine the wilderness map. Although drawn using a square (as opposed to hexagonal) grid, this map has an incredible sense of actual geography and place. It is, in my opinion, one of the best scale outdoor maps produced for the game.

The outdoor area includes four encounter areas, the “Caves of the Unknown”, and a potentially friendly talking magpie to help guide the PCs. Because this is such a well-beloved and iconic module, there are already materials you can use which pay homage to these encounters. Although they are now hard to find, Brave Halfling put out The Treacherous Cobtraps which maps to the spider encounter, The Vile Worm which maps to the hermit, and The Ruins of Ramat which kind-of sort-of maps to the mound of the lizard men. The DCC version of Into the Demon Idol and the Anaconda-Man mound in Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride (part of Dread Orchid, starting on page 92) may also help flesh out the lizard men if you do not want to do the work yourself. As far as I know, no DCC adventure currently maps directly to the bandit camp.

If you wanted to use prewritten DCC stats, there are stats for lizardmen in the core rulebook, and the DCC Annual Vol 1 can help you create giant spider statistics. Giant spiders of various types have also appeared in many DCC adventures, so there is a real range you could choose from. Bandits appear in the core rulebook as well, so statting the bandit camp in DCC terms should be simple enough.

The DCC core rulebook does offer tables for variety in humanoids (on p. 380), and using these offers a simple way to make “normal” lizardmen seem strange and unpredictable. For instance, I rolled a 7 on Table 9-1, making these lizardmen navy blue. Table 9-2 yields an 8, arming these lizardmen with two-handed swords and battleaxes. Since they are primitive, I will assume wooden swords set with teeth and stone axes. Table 9-3 comes up 10, indicating that these lizardmen have three eyes. Table 9-4 is again a 10, so they are scared of the dark (or light). Their coloration indicates nocturnal camouflage, so I will make them afraid to venture out during daylight hours.

It is hardly necessary to roll on each of these tables, and the judge should feel very much encouraged to come up with their own unique traits, but one can hopefully see how much additional flavor can be added in this way.

I rather like the idea of the friendly magpie, which has a sort of fairy tale quality to it. In the original module, the magpie existed to provide context for players trying to locate the Caves of Chaos, and to keep PCs in the frame of the original work. The Keep on the Borderlands was intended to start new DMs with a mini-sandbox setting, and the magpie (or similar) served to warn players when they were crossing the boundaries of that sandbox. Of course, as the DM was expected to add to the world as their experience grew, so too is the DCC judge advised that expanding the borders – rather than forcing players to stay within the lines – is the better option.

In our case, we will ignore the border-warning function of the friendly magpie and concentrate on the direction-giving aspect. It is advisable to make patrons active in the campaign setting, so perhaps our magpie is an agent of some power which opposes the evil temple in the Caves of Chaos. Going with the fairy tale theme, we again turn to Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between Vol 2: Elfland Edition and make the magpie an agent of Sintar, the Knower. This ties very well with the advisor in part 1, to whom we can now add eventual knowledge of any interactions the party has with the friendly magpies of the forest.

The Cave of the Unknown was intended for the DM to expand, and there is nothing there to convert. The judge may place a pre-written adventure there if desired, or create something new. The first OAR book from Goodman Games places module B1: In Search of the Unknown in this location. This is a conversion to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, though it may be a useful reference for a judge comfortable with converting material from that system.

For a closer look at conversion, I am going to focus on the encounter with the mad hermit. First off, while the mound of the lizard men might be inspired by the horibs in Edgar Rice BurroughsPellucidar, and the spiders might be inspired by the spiders of Mirkwood in The Hobbit, I am not aware of any potential literary source for the mad hermit (although there may be one).

The treasure possessed by the hermit is also worth looking at when considering conversion. In the module, he has 31 gp, 164 sp, a potion of invisibility, a dagger +1, and a ring of protection +1. All in all, I am inclined to leave most of this intact. The ring of protection I would remove, and the dagger +1 would get a full DCC write-up. Rather than determine the statistics for the dagger randomly, I would give it a special purpose of “drink the blood of the innocent”, and a power to grant an animal companion of up to 4 Hit Dice. The needs of the dagger to drink blood forced the hermit away from human society, when he initially sought to contest the weapon’s will, and possession of the frustrated dagger subsequently drove him mad. This creates an interesting choice for the players if their characters defeat the hermit – use the dagger or not? And, if not, what do they do with it?

Mad Hermit: Init +2; Atk +1 dagger +4 melee (1d4+3) or backstab +8 melee (1d10+3 plus automatic crit); AC 12; HD 3d6; hp 15; MV 30'; Act 1d20; SP +6 sneak silently, +4 hide in shadows, backstab; SV Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +4, AL C; Crit III/1d8.

The hermit’s animal companion is a mountain lion. This gives a good opportunity to look at conversion from Basic D&D to DCC. This post talks about statblocks for DCC and gives us some reference for conversion. The mountain lion is described in the module thus:

Mountain Lion: AC 6, HD 3 + 2, hp 15, #AT 3, D I-3 / 1-3 / 1-6, MV (50’) Save F 2, ML 8. (This creature will always attack first in each round. If it leaps down upon an opponent, it gains +2 to hit on each of its attacks that combat round. Usually it will first attack by jumping, and then it will stay on the ground and fight normally. If it is not engaged in combat during any round, however, it will take the opportunity to leap into a tree and then spring down on the next round.)

Breaking down the creature into a DCC statblock:

Init: The mountain lion is probably faster than a normal human, so I would tend to consider a +3 or +4 bonus here. Let’s say +4.

Atk: The mountain lion attacks with claws and bite. Claws do less damage, but are more likely to hit. Damage is already reasonable, so let’s say +2 to hit with the bite and +3 to hit with the claws.

AC: Basic D&D uses descending AC, and DCC uses ascending. The easiest conversion is 20 subtract the given AC, which grants an AC of 14. This seems fine to me, but in some cases it is worth adjusting an easy conversion up or down to better meet your vision of a creature.

HD: The listed HD is 3 + 2, which is indicated 3d8+2 in Basic D&D. This seems a little low to me, so I am going to give it two bonus hit points per die, or 3d8+6 hp. Our mountain lion will have slightly more hit points than its Basic D&D counterpart, but by not increasing its Hit Dice we keep its crit range to 1d8 on Table M rather than 1d10.

Hp: The original creature had 15 hp. We increased that by +4 (due to the Hit Die change), so our converted mountain lion has 19 hp.

MV: The original 50’ is fine, but if this thing is going to climb trees, we might as well add a 20’ climb speed.

Act: The original had three attacks, so 3d20 seems appropriate. However, we could choose to give the creature 2d20 and add a special ability to grant a third attack. This gives the judge an interesting choice: Use the higher-damage bite attack, or hope to hit with both claws and gain a free attack? That both the players and judge may have different tactics round-to-round helps bring combats alive, so I will choose the second option.

SP: Special abilities for our mountain lion include +10 stealth (to grant it a surprise round when first encountered, but to take into account that PCs will be watching for it if it and/or the hermit survive the encounter), +2 to attack rolls when leaping from above, and a free bite attack if both claws hit.

SV: A 2nd-level warrior has +1 to Fort and Ref, but this seems a bit low for our creature. The +0 to Will seems about right, though, given that the Basic D&D version has a Morale of 8 (in Basic D&D, a Morale check is made by rolling 2d6, and if the number is greater than the creature’s Morale score, it either flees or surrenders; in DCC this is a DC 10 Will save). Our mountain lion is also thrall to the +1 dagger, and so probably doesn’t have the highest Will save in the world anyway. Putting this together we will say Fort +3 (+1, with an additional +2 for Stamina, following our decision on Hit Dice), Ref +5 (+1, with an additional +4 for Agility, following our decision on Initiative), Will +0.

AL: As a normal animal without any strong pack tendencies, the mountain lion is N.

Crit: Following the table on page 385 of the core rulebook, we get a result of M/1d8.

Put altogether, our DCC mountain lion statblock looks like this:

Mountain Lion: Init +4; Atk claw +3 melee (1d3) or bite +2 melee (1d6), AC 14; HD 3d8+6; hp 19; MV 50’ or climb 20’; Act 2d20; SP +10 stealth, +2 to attack rolls when leaping from above, free bite attack if both claws hit; SV Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +0; AL N; Crit M/1d8.

Next: The Keep on the Borderlands (3): The Caves of Chaos

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Conversion Crawl Classes 1: Basic D&D: The Keep on the Borderlands (1)

Probably the most played adventure of all time, B2: The Keep on the Borderlands by Gary Gygax, is a fine place to begin talking about conversions. On top of some phenomenal advice for first-time judges, this adventure consists of a detailed settlement, a small wilderness area, and a fairly extensive (and expandable) dungeon in the Caves of Chaos. To my mind, the Caves of Chaos are still one of the best, and most inspirational, adventure maps ever produced.

Perhaps not coincidentally, The Keep on the Borderlands is the first module I owned, so it seems appropriate to begin with here.

Areas of the Keep

Pages 432-434 of the core rulebook come in handy when populating the Keep. Another thing to keep in mind is that we already know what the average inhabitant of the Keep area looks like – 0-level characters are easily generated. In this case, we choose the occupation to match the description, and we are only concerned about significant statistics. We want to know if someone has a Strength of 15 or an Intelligence of 7, but otherwise we are using base peasant stats: AC 10, 2 hp, no bonus to attacks or saves.

The Keep has a number of magic items described within it. Are any of these truly memorable? If not, feel free to make them mundane gear. If so, give them the full DCC treatment. A good example of this is the snake staff possessed by the curate in Area 17. In DCC terms we might word it thusly:

Staff of the Serpent: Strikes as a +1 weapon. On command, a Lawful cleric (or similar) may command it to turn into a snake, which immediately attempts to wrap around a target within 30’ and hold it in place (Reflex DC 15 negates). A held target is completely helpless and unable to take any action that requires free movement. While in serpent form, the staff is AC 15 and has 30 hp. All damage is healed when it is restored to staff form (requiring contact from the user), but if the snake staff is reduced to 0 hp in serpent form it is destroyed, turning instantly back to a broken piece of wood.

Using the tools in the core rulebook, we can make the priest and acolytes in Area 7 (b) statistically into a friar and acolytes of chaotic alignment. We can also use friar stats for the curate in Area 17, but bump him up to 4 Hit Dice and grant him the ability to heal 4/day instead of 2.

The chaotic priest can have his harmful spells take on the appearance of cause light wounds without any mechanical changes. His scroll can be of paralysis, and we can use the tables on pages 373-374 of the core rulebook to make it fit better with the DCC aesthetic. A roll of 35 on Table 8-11 lets us know that the caster must use their own spell check, and a roll of 8 on Table 8-12 tells us that it is sealed with wax, and stamped with the sigil of a powerful demon. We can actually create a demon that is automatically summoned if a lawful character breaks the seal, using the tables on pages 401-404 of the core rulebook, or use the random demon generator on the Purple Sorcerer website to create one for us. To demonstrate, I am going to use the Purple Sorcerer generator, and then create a final statblock from it. The generator supplied this:

Hyena, Lizard Demon (Type 2)

Init +3; Atk Sting +9 melee (1d6+2) or Kick +9 melee (1d6+4) ; AC 17; HD 8d12 (45hp); MV 40' or fly 20'; Act 2d20; SP Spells (Mind Purge, Gust of Wind | spell check mod: 8) +8; Drain blood +8, Drain blood +8 Target Save 17, demon traits; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +7, AL C.

Traits: Plant-like, Wings, Armored

Standard Type 2 Demon Features

Communication: Speech, ESP (read minds but not converse)

Abilities: Infravision, darkness (+8 check)

Immunities: Immune to non-magical weapons or natural attacks from creatures of 3 HD or less; half-damage from fire, acid, cold, electricity, gas

Projection: Can teleport back to native plane or any point on same plane, as long as not bound or otherwise summoned

Crit Threat Range: 19-20

A more standard statblock/write-up might look like:

Hyenasaur (type II demon): Init +3; Atk sting +9 melee (1d6+2 plus blood drain) or kick +9 melee (1d6+4); AC 17; HD 8d12; hp 45; MV 40’ or fly 20’; Act 2d20; SP spells (+8 to spell check: darkness, gust of wind, mind purge), blood drain (Fort DC 17 or 1d8 damage), immune to non-magical weapons, half damage (fire, electricity, cold, gas) demon traits, crit 19-20; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +7; AL C.

This demon looks like an upright lizard crossed with a hyena, its body covered with bark-like plates and its fur having the texture of grass. Instead of biting, it stings with its tongue, which also drains blood unless a DC 17 Fort save is successful. Its powerful hind legs can deliver savage, eviscerating kicks. Leaf-like wings grow from its back, allowing it slow and limited flight.

The hyenasaur has 60’ infravision and communicates by speech. It can read minds, but is not able to converse telepathically. Unless otherwise bound, it can teleport back to its native plane or any point on same plane using an action die.

We will also have to decide on the main worship in the Keep. Justicia is often a good choice, but given the nature of the place, Gorhan might be more appropriate. The chaotic priest and acolytes in Area 7 (b) may worship the Hidden Lord, which makes their use of secret infiltration more appropriate.

We should also rewrite some of the values of jewelry and available coinage. Area 7 (a)’s jewel merchant, for example, can have his 200 pp reduced to 200 gp, and his 100 gp reduced to 100 sp without too much of a problem. The value of his necklace, bracelet, and earrings can be reduced to 10% of their list value, but we can leave the hidden gems in his belt as they are.

Looking at the Loan Bank (Area 11), I don’t have any problem with the values of various items, but the man-at-arms can be bumped up to the statistics on page 434 of the core rulebook. The 2nd-level magic-user can either be treated as a magician (pages 433-434 of the core rulebook) or we could roll him up (and, again Purple Sorcerer makes this easy). If using the Purple Sorcerer generator, under “Style” select “Upper Level Text” so that you can cut and paste your information easily. Pasting in Notepad removes formatting, so I usually drop material in a Notepad before recopying to Word. You will still have to put the results into a standard DCC statblock if you want one.

For Areas 26-27, I would make the scribe into a friar, the advisor into a 2nd-level elf, and the castellan into a 4th-level warrior. The elf needs an appropriate patron, possibly Sintar (the Knower) from Angels, Daemons, & Being Between Volume 2: Elfland Edition. These characters have some magic items listed which might be worth keeping. In particular, I would consider rolling up a magic sword for the castellan. And, yet again, Purple Sorcerer provides a tool for that.

The Keep itself is written to easily slot into any campaign world, so at the very least major characters need to be given names and some form of identity. While we have not covered every area of the Keep, we have hopefully covered enough to make conversion of this part of the module easier.

If you want more information on using NPCs in DCC, you could go here and here.

Next: The Keep on the Borderlands (2): Adventures Outside the Keep.

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Conversion Crawl Classes 0: What It Is & What It Is Not

Dungeon Crawl Classics is a fantastic game. If you are anything like me, though, you have a ton of RPG material from earlier games, and you keep buying stuff for other games because it looks cool. Well, if you are like me, you’re in luck. This series of blog posts will be teaching my method of converting materials. If I get lucky, I might even be able to wrangle a few guest posts from folks in the community!

What It Is: The series of posts will provide examples of conversion using specific products. This will include various incarnations of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Labyrinth Lord, and so on – the games you would expect to convert. It will also include games like MERP and Hawkmoon, because games built off of Appendix N materials are of obvious interest to Dungeon Crawl Classics judges.

Going a bit further afield, we will discuss converting materials from Gamma World, Mutant Future, Twilight 2000, and even Traveller. Basically, this series of posts doesn’t have an expiry date, so I will be looking at additional products as the mood and available time allow.

What It Is Not: No product is going to be fully converted here. I will be looking at overall procedures, things to consider, and selected areas of a product. If you are hoping for a full conversion, the best thing I can suggest is to contact the publisher and ask them to hire someone to do it. That could be me; it could be someone else. Unless there is an overwhelming demand, though, I imagine that you will be doing your own conversion.

Hopefully, this series of posts will help.

Final Note: I have made this post into a magnetic post (see the box on upper right of this blog), and I will try to keep it updated with links to every Conversion Crawl Classes post I do.

Conversion Crawl Classes Posts:

Conversion Crawl Classes 1: Basic D&D: The Keep on the Borderlands (1)

Conversion Crawl Classes 2: Basic D&D: The Keep on the Borderlands (2)




Saturday, 11 February 2023

Another Post About Sandboxing - This One in Space!

Cross-posted from this thread:

Ultimately, the goal is to provide enough context so that the players can make meaningful choices, and then resolve the consequences of those choices. This, in turn, creates new context for another set of choices.

Not acting is also a choice. In my experience, when players are having a hard time deciding what to pursue, it is because they lack the context to make meaningful choices. There is absolutely nothing wrong with devoting a session to providing context. NPCs have their own motivations, and can certainly urge the PCs in one direction or another, dropping context along the way. You have three hooks? Three NPCs/NPC groups are trying to direct the PCs. Still their choice, but not they have more to go on. Say one of those locations is site-based. One of the NPC groups could simply be a rival expedition to that location. adding a contextual time limit. Or not, if the rivals are wiped out. There may also be a time consideration to making a choice, because previous actions have made enemies, and sitting too long in one place allows those enemies to take action.

It is also useful to have a tentpole in a sandbox - something obvious that the PCs can do while they mull over their options. In the old days, with fantasy games, this was usually a megadungeon. The megadungeon provided a site-based location with a pair of intertwined obvious goals - explore and carry back as much treasure as you can, There is no reason why a huge Mandate base carved out of an asteroid couldn't serve the same function.

You will see comments in this thread where most players say they want a sandbox. My experience is very much in agreement - the vast majority of players want to drive the campaign. They do, however, require context as a form of road map to decide where to drive to, and context can be both toward a goal and away from a previous consequence.

These players also want a story. Stories occur in the sandiest of sandboxes and the choo-chooiest of railroads. The question is: how much agency do the players have in choosing what that story is? The sandbox allows the players greater agency, but requires that they use that agency. Provide enough context as both carrot (opportunities to be had) and cattle prod (those who wish the PCs harm due to previous choices) and, IME, the vast majority of players will start making plans of their own.

(Related to this, when the players start talking about what they would like to do/find, even if it is not one of your hooks, take advantage of that. Use what they want as part of your adventure design; include some hint of that in your hooks. But consider offering multiple things they want at the same time, so that they have to prioritize, and thus are still choosing what to follow rather than having it be handed to them. In the long run, having more things to pursue than you could ever follow up on is better than having too few options.)

EDIT: I forgot to suggest: When you are creating your adventures, be sure to include hooks to potential future adventures you may wish to run. If it seems that A hints at B, C, and D, then C hints at B, D, and E, then B hints at C, D, and E (allowing them some insight into C, which they have experienced), most players will begin looking for these bits of context, and use them when deciding what their PCs should do next.

IOW, consider what threads link your sector together as a whole, and don't be stingy giving clues about those threads when designing adventures.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Should We Convert: Deities & Demigods

Okay, bear with me. The conversion of the Fiend Folio was well received. The Deities & Demigods cyclopedia contains some interesting creatures which might be useful to Dungeon Crawl Classics judges. If I just did the monsters, ignoring gods, heroes, and beings of that nature, there are still quite a few creatures that could be converted. 

In some cases, especially with the Cthulhu Mythos and Nehwon Mythos, all that would be required is letting the judge know where to find official conversions (or, in some cases, unofficial ones). In other cases, though, significant research might apply, and the result might differ wildly from the presentation in the original work.

The real question is: Would this be worth doing?

The Divinities & Cults series, by OSRDAN Games, will at least get you started if you are interested in using most of the pantheons described in Deities & Demigods. A fuller conversion would include canticles and unique spells, which is a lot more work than I currently feel like doing, Some of these gods would also definitely be patrons, and deserve full patron write-ups for campaign play. If I undertook this project, it would be just the monsters!

By my reckoning that would mean:

Indigenous American Mythos

  • Thunder Bird

Babylonian Mythos

  • Dahak

Celtic Mythos

  • The Wild Hunt
    • The Master of the Hunt
    • The Pack of the Wild Hunt

Chinese Mythos

  • Ma Yuan
  • Spirits of the Air

Cthulhu Mythos

  • Byakhee
  • Cthuga's Flame Creature
  • Deep Ones
  • Great Race
  • Mi-Go
  • Primordial One
  • Shoggoth

Egyptian Mythos

  • Apep
  • Flame Snake
  • Phoenix
  • Minions of Set

Finnish Mythos

  • Air Maiden

Greek Mythos

  • The White Eagle of Zeus
  • Antaeus
  • Atlas
  • Cerberus
  • Coeus
  • Crius
  • Cyclops, Greater
  • Cyclops, Lesser
  • Enceladus
  • Epimetheus
  • Furies
  • Hecatoncheire
  • Kronos
  • Oceanus
  • Prometheus

Indian Mythos

  • Indra's Elephant
  • Peacock of Karttikeya
  • Marut
  • Garuda
  • Yama's Water Buffalo

Melnibonéan Mythos

  • Assassinator of the Gods
  • Clakar
  • Dharzi Hunting Dog
  • Dragons of Melnibone
  • Elenoin
  • Grahluk
  • Kelmain
  • Mist Giant
  • Mordagz
  • Myyrrhn
  • Nihrain Horse
  • Oonai
  • Quaolnargn
  • Vampire Trees
  • Vulture Lion

Nehwon Mythos

  • Astral Wolf
  • Behemoth
  • Bird of Tyaa
  • Cold Woman
  • Devourer
  • Ghoul, Nehwon
  • Leviathan
  • Snow Serpent
  • Spider, Salt
  • Water Cobra

Norse Mythos

  • Hugin and Munin
  • Sleipner
  • Freke and Gere
  • Fenris Wolf
  • Fossergrim
  • Blodug-Hofi
  • Gullin-Bursti
  • Garm
  • Jormungandr
  • Norns
  • Tanngrisner and Tanngjost
  • Valkyries

All in all, this could probably be completed in around 20 posts, although each of those posts would require considerably more work than the Fiend Folio ones.

When you look at that list, above, is there anything on it that you would actually use in your campaign? Or, I should say, anything that hasn't already been converted? Most, if not all, of the Cthulhu creatures can be found in the Goodman Games yearbook for 2017, and multiple alternate write-ups exist, most notably in Weird Frontiers. The creatures given statistics in DCC Lankhmar are extremely comprehensive. I am sure that there would be some demand for the Melnibonéan creatures at least, but (as with the Nehwon creatures I converted for Goodman Games and the Cthulhu creatures I converted for Stiff Whiskers), I would want to go back to the original source material to ensure that I did a good conversion.

Alternatively, I can lay off conversions for a while. 

What do you think?

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Yellow Musk Creeper and Yellow Musk Zombie

The last two entries in the Fiend Folio are the Yellow Musk Creeper and the Yellow Musk Zombie, which means that we are ending these conversions on a high note. These creatures were used to great effect in Dwellers of the Forbidden City, also published in 1981, and credited with first introducing these monsters. Dwellers is a superlative adventure, and it introduced several other creatures which were later included in the Monster Manual II, including the Aboleth. The city map almost demands expansion, and while later lore gave it a name and some lore, the original was wide-open for the aspiring Game Master to shape to their own ends. I really don’t know why I haven’t converted these monsters to Dungeon Crawl Classics before now. In fact, the entire module is worthy of conversion.

Now, I could be completely wrong, but I think that these entries are a combination between Clark Ashton’s Smith’s The Seed from the Sepulchre and The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis. I have paid homage to the first story twice: Once in May Flowers, and once in Dread Orchid (in the expanded DCC conversion of Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride).

I am not 100% sure that the Yellow Musk Creeper didn’t deserve a full monster write-up, but if I was including it in an adventure, I would be more likely to choose the hazard route that I do here. These plants are not ambulatory, and they are not really making attack rolls. I tend to think we should minimize tediousness in our designs, and having to chop down an orchid with your sword seems rather tedious to me. Better by far to describe the hazards associated with the thing, and the time it takes to uproot and kill it while facing those hazards.

The Yellow Musk Zombie, on the other hand, is going to engage in combat. The trick here is that the Yellow Musk Zombie you are facing may well be your friend, and you might prefer saving them to slaying them. Yellow Musk Zombies are very much like “templates” in 3rd Edition, in that they modify an existing creature rather than being new creatures themselves. For that reason, I have included both generic Yellow Musk Zombie stats and a method of quickly transforming a PC into one.

I started this project on Saturday, 9 July 2022. Here we are 76 conversion posts, 176 entries, 203 statblocks, 9 entries without statblocks, and 3 invoke patron write-ups later. And this is it. The Fiend Folio is fully converted for your gaming pleasure. To those of you who have joined me along the way, thank you. To those of you who have commented, on the blog or elsewhere, an even bigger THANK YOU. It helps to know that I am not just chucking this stuff into the Void!

I hope you get a chance to use some of these creatures in your own games, and I hope that they can stand as examples for how to do conversion work (at least from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons). Maybe at some point I will tackle some of the unconverted creatures from the Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and Deities & Demigods, but not immediately!

If there is something that you would like to see converted, please let me know. If you feel like tipping, here is a way to do so.


Yellow Musk Creeper

The yellow musk creeper is a large light green climbing plant with round leaves like ivy, dark green buds, and flowers like those of a bright yellow orchid with splashes of purple. Typically, the plant is found in deep tropical forests or richly soiled areas on the liminal edge of underground areas. The plant grows in areas of up to 20 square feet, and can climb up trees and rock faces with equal facility. It is sometimes planted deliberately in locations where it will guard against intruders.

When a creature approaches the plant within 20 feet, it puffs musky pollen into the victim’s face (Reflex DC 15 avoids). The victim must then succeed in a DC 20 Will save or be entranced and walk into immobile the mass of the plant. Such a victim violently resists any attempt at restraint.

Once an unresisting creature enters the main mass of the plant, aerial roots attach to its skull and begin devouring the victim’s brain. The victim takes 1d4 Intelligence damage each round, and there are too many aerial rootlets involved to prevent this Intelligence damage without also killing the plant. If the victim’s Intelligence is reduced to 0, it becomes a yellow musk zombie (see below). Otherwise, this Intelligence damage heals normally.

A growth of yellow musk creeper has a bulbous root, buried 1d3 feet below the earth. It requires 1 round per foot to reach it with proper tools (shovel, pick, etc.), but 1d3 rounds per foot with makeshift or less suitable tools. Once it is exposed, stabbing the root destroys the plant in 1d5 rounds. Of course, anyone digging up the root is subject to the hazards of the yellow musk creeper each round. This includes dealing with any yellow musk zombies that may be protecting the plant.

Certain herbalists, apothecaries, and other unsavory sorts make a powerful narcotic from the flowers and buds of the yellow musk creeper. Harvesting these is considerably dangerous while the plant is alive – only one bud or flower can be harvested each round, and the harvester must make a successful Handle Poison check (with a -4 penalty when collecting flowers) or they automatically have pollen blown into their face. A yellow musk creeper typically has 2d6 flowers and 1d4 buds. Once its flowers are gone, a creeper cannot blow pollen until it has grown new ones.

Depending upon varying quality, herbalists will pay 1d30 gp per flower and 1d20 gp per bud. Rumors persist of certain cultists, devotees of the King in Yellow, who will pay even greater fees. In addition, various personal belongings of previous victims may be found in or near a yellow musk creeper outgrowth. The creeper sometimes has yellow musk zombies move or bury these items, however.



Yellow Musk Zombie

Yellow Musk Zombie: Init -2; Atk By weapon -2 melee (by weapon); AC 8; HD 2d4; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP Immune to mind-affecting; SV Fort +4, Ref -2, Will +0; AL N.

Yellow musk zombies are creatures that have been reduced to 0 Intelligence by a yellow musk creeper. Yellow musk zombies defend their controlling plant, seek (or create) carrion to fertilize the plant, and occasionally remove and/or bury items to conceal the nature of the yellow musk creeper’s threat. The example yellow musk zombie is from a normal human, but other creatures can be affected, and they do not need to be humanoid.

Yellow musk zombies serve their parent plant for 1d4 months before wandering off to drop lifeless in some quiet corner, unless they are killed beforehand. In either case, implanted seedling sprouts from the decaying corpse, growing quickly into a new yellow musk creeper. Although it only takes 1d4+2 turns for the new growth to become obvious, it takes a matter of 3d7 days before it grows flowers. If the parent plant is killed while a yellow musk zombie is serving it, the zombie becomes inert, taking no actions and dying in 2d6 hours unless cured first.

Yellow musk zombies are not un-dead, and until they finish serving their parent plant (or are killed while doing so) there is some slight chance that a yellow musk zombie can be cured of its affliction. First, its master plant must be destroyed. Second, either a neutralize poison or disease spell or a successful laying on of hands to neutralize poison must be administered to the creature. Finally, the creature must receive a clerical laying on hands with a spell check of 20+. Even then, although the victim will thus be restored to their former self in time, they will need to recover their lost Intelligence, regaining 1 point for each full day of bed rest. A creature can choose to forgo complete recovery by bed rest, but if they do so any unrestored points of Intelligence are permanently lost.

Transformation to a Yellow Musk Zombie

If you wish to transform a PC or another living creature into a yellow musk zombie, employ the following steps:

  • The creature takes a -2 penalty to Initiative, attack rolls, Armor Class, and Reflex saves.
  • The creature takes a -10’ penalty to its move speed (this may render some yellow musk zombies immobile).
  • The creature gains +1 Hit Die.
  • The creature becomes immune to all mind-affecting spells and effects, and gains a +5 bonus to Fortitude saves.
  • The creature is no longer intelligent enough to use spells or special abilities requiring thought.
  • The creature’s alignment becomes Neutral.

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Xill and Xvart

The Fiend Folio loves creatures which can lay their eggs in you, and here is yet another. The Xill really does seem like a Sword & Sorcery creature, though, and its ability to snatch a victim and escape makes it extremely dangerous. The original entry doesn’t talk about what the creatures eat, so I made them a sort of perpetual motion machine. They are, after all, Lawful Evil in the original text, and this means that they fight the forces of entropy while doing harm to those they encounter.

I know. I know. I know. Even back in the day we knew that the illustration for the Xvart was (shall we say) problematic, and it hasn’t become any less so. Honestly, I feel that the Make Monsters Mysterious tables for Variety in Humanoids would have fully covered the Xvart in any case. This is another example of how, in early gaming, each slightly different version of a monster required its own individual write-up. Nonetheless, there are some good adventures which use Xvarts, so this modest conversion may help the harried judge in converting them. 

We can talk about whether or not this hobby is inherently racist. I know that this claim has been made, but I don't believe it is true. Just, Crom on his mountain, that picture! Product of its time or not, I think I am just going to omit it in this case. Like I said, we knew it was problematic when it came out.

And this is so close to the end I can taste it. One post (Yellow Musk Creeper and Yellow Musk Zombie) remains, and the Fiend Folio is done. I really hope you find some way to use this material in your home campaign, and if you feel like tipping, here is a way to do so.



Xill: Init +6; Atk By weapon +3 melee (by weapon) or claw +1 melee (1d4 non-lethal plus grab) or or bite +0 melee (1 plus paralysis) or by weapon +5 ranged (by weapon); AC 20; HD 5d6; MV 40’; Act 4d20; SP Aetherial travel, grab, paralysis, inject eggs; SV Fort +4, Ref +8, Will +5; AL L.

These strange creatures hail from the near Aether, close to the Lands We Know. Xill are four-armed humanoids, with short, powerful flame-red bodies, and the extraordinary dexterity to wield four weapons at once. Although humanoid, xill do not form societies. They seem to exist only to reproduce, and all xill are able to produce eggs asexually. Unfortunately, these eggs are only viable if deposited in the abdomen of a living humanoid host, so that xill seek to capture potential hosts alive. No adult Xill has ever been seen consuming food, and some sages speculate that consuming their host upon hatching is the only sustenance the creatures ever partake in. It can bite, and its jaws carry a paralyzing toxin (Fort DC 12 or paralyzed 1d5 turns).

A xill can transfer from the near-Aether (where they are effectively invisible and intangible) to the Lands We Know at will, using only one of their Action Dice. When hunting in this way, those able to see invisible creatures can do half damage with magical weapons or spells only. When a xill appears, it is most often with surprise (+10 vs. opposed Luck). It seeks to use two claws to grab a victim, and may make an additional attack to cover its escape. Grabbed victims may break free with an opposed Strength check vs. +2 per claw holding them (thus up to +8 if the xill uses all four claws for this purpose).

Returning to the near-Aether, with or without a victim, takes the creature 1d3 rounds, during which it can take no other action. If it succeeds in bringing a victim into the Aether, it disappears completely, even from those who can see the invisible, taking the victim to its extra-planar lair to inject eggs.

Injecting eggs requires a full turn, so a xill will attempt to paralyze or subdue its victim before doing so. Once the eggs are injected, victims are paralyzed until the young emerge or the eggs are neutralize. The eggs hatch in 1d4 days, and the larvae inflict 2d10 damage each day for 2d4 days thereafter as they grow. Once this period ends, 2d8 young emerge, killing the victim instantly. Within 1d4 hours, these young become full-sized adults, and seek hosts for their own eggs. While the eggs or larvae are gestating, they may be removed as a disease, either by a cleric laying on hands or by a neutralize poison or disease spell.



Xvart: Init +0; Atk By weapon -1 melee (by weapon -1); AC 13; HD 1d4; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SV Fort +0, Ref +1, Will -4; AL C.

These small humanoids are roughly the size of a halfling, with bright blue skin and orange eyes. They usually wear loose cloth doublets. They make use of whatever weapons they can get, delighting in nets so that they can capture victims to torture. Xvarts fear humans, and only attack them if the humans are outnumbered by at least 3 to 1.

About 1% of xvarts are leaders, with an extra Hit Die. 5% are tribal shamans, who are able to cast spells as a level 1d3-1 (minimum 1) wizard or cleric. They get along well with giant rats, and frequently use them as guardians and hunting beasts.


Saturday, 28 January 2023

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Whipweed, Witherstench, and Witherweed

Here are the three creatures that the Fiend Folio offers for the letter “W”. Although these creatures have not seen much use in TSR-era modules (or beyond) – I am not actually aware of any adventure they appear in off the top of my head – all three fit easily into any flavor of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Classic fantasy? Check. Sword & Sorcery? Check. Post-Apocalyptic? Check. Sword & Planet? Sci-Fi? Weird western? Check, check, and check.

These are all pretty simple monsters. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons had a number of creatures where the actual anatomy of the beast was an important consideration when tackling it – different parts might have different ACs, separate hit point pools, and/or unique effects when they were hit. The Whipweed follows this model, and that is something I have preserved in my conversion. Making them actually hate sunlight, though, might limit their use to a hanging judge running a Weird Frontiers game, so I modified that somewhat.

The Witherstench is a fairly solid creature whose best use is simply the gross-out factor of their appearance and stench. And while, yes, you can use them anywhere – I certainly have back in the day! – it is hard not to imagine the difficulty in moving cattle when a group of Witherstenches considers them a meal. Once again, my mind wanders into Weird Frontiers territory!

Finally, the Witherweed is more of a hazard than a creature, so I have decided to omit the traditional statblock and simply describe the effects of a Witherweed infestation. This is, again, an adventure element that can be used almost anywhere.

There are now only two more posts to go before the Fiend Folio is fully converted. I have mentioned possibly doing some Fiend Factory conversions as well, and asked if there were any monsters people particularly wanted to see, but there hasn’t been any response. That’s okay; this conversion work has been a long road, and I may wish to do something else for a bit before I jump back into it.

If you feel like tipping, here is a way to do so.



Whipweed: Init +2; Atk Whipping stalk +2 melee (1d6); AC 14 or 16; HD 2d6 plus 1d8; MV 10’; Act 2d20; SP Plant, base separate from stalks, frenzy; SV Fort +4, Ref -4, Will +0; AL N.

The whipweed is a plant which has mutated a form of primitive brain in its base, and which can use its roots to pull itself slowly from place to place. It has two thin, whip-like stalks up to 15 feet long (1d6+9 feet), and a spheroid base, which is often partially submerged in soil when the plant is at rest. Its stalks are leafy, and it can gain some sustenance from photosynthesis, but it supplements its diet with nutrients from carrion, which it absorbs through its roots.

Both as a means to defend itself from herbivores, and as a means to supply carrion, the plant aggressively attacks any creature coming within range of its stalks. Each stalk is AC 14, and has 2d6 hit points, while the base is AC 16 with 1d8 hit points. Destroying a stalk does no harm to the base, but destroying the base will cause the stalks to attack in a frenzy (one additional attack each, +2 to attack rolls and damage) for 1d10 rounds before the plant expires. If one or both stalks are destroyed, but the base remains, the plant uses any Action Dice that cannot be used for attacks to attempt to escape.

Some sages claim that whipweeds avoid sunlight, and there are certainly specimens which have been found underground or deep in the heart of a gloomy forest. These plants can apparently survive in rocky regions with virtually no soil, and a small crevice in a rock appears to be quite sufficient to sustain a whipweed for months. Still, if one is crossing a sun-swept prairie and comes across a plant which looks suspiciously like a whipweed, it is best to take caution as your watchword.



Witherstench: Init +1; Atk Claw +1 melee (1d6); AC 13; HD 2d6+2; MV 20’; Act 2d20; SP Stench; SV Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +2; AL N.

This creature is sometimes called a “skunk beast”, and it is indeed an almost man-sized relative of the skunk, whose scant fur sprawls in dirty patches over its blotchy yellow skin. Although primarily a carrion-feeder, witherstenches are large enough to attack livestock, including chickens, sheep, and goats. Even large pigs and cattle may be predated on if the creatures work together, which they sometimes do.

Witherstenches are named for their nauseating odor, which forces all within 30 feet to succeed in a DC 12 Fort save or become nauseated, retching uncontrollably, and being unable to take any action apart from moving at half speed in a random direction. This effect wears off 1d3 rounds after the victim or the skunk beast moves out of the 30-foot range, but a new save must be made each time the creature and victim are again within 30 feet of each other. It should go without saying that the stink of a witherstench is detectable from a very great distance, and lingers in the areas they frequent.

Clever players will come up with many stratagems to reduce the effects of the witherstench’s terrible odor. The judge should consider their potential efficacy, and then give the characters using these methods bonus on the dice chain to their saving throws if the judge deems them reasonable. At the same time, plans which make matters worse – the gongfarmer shoving night soil up their nostrils – may force a penalty to the save!



Patches of witherweed can sometimes be found amongst ruined masonry, growing across doors, or smothering a long-forgotten treasure chest in the underworld. The weed is dry and is easily burned, but this produces an extremely toxic smoke – and anyone inhaling this must succeed in a DC 15 Fort save each round they are in the smoke cloud or die. The smoke spreads at a rate of 30 feet per round, filling an area up to 90 square feet per 10 feet of growth. Without a strong wind to dissipate it sooner, the smoke cloud takes 1d3+3 hours to clear enough to breathe. Obviously, this may also damage items caught in the burning area.

Anyone coming into contact with the weed takes 1d4 points of Agility damage from its strong poison (Fort DC 12 for half), and if a victim takes 4 points of Agility damage from a single contact, 1 point is permanent. Otherwise, half of the Agility damage can be recovered naturally, but the other half can only be recovered after the poison is removed from the victim’s system (by a cleric’s lay on hands, a neutralize poison or disease spell, or the passage of an additional 1d3 days per point of Agility damage taken). Once the toxin is negated, non-permanent Agility loss can be regained normally.

Should a victim coming into contact with witherweed roll a “1” on their Fort save, they suffer a nervous seizure – collapsing for 1d3 rounds (and unable to take any action), followed by 1d10 rounds at which they have a -1d penalty on the dice chain to all die rolls and take a -10’ reduction in move speed.

Witherweed patches can be quite small – enough to make entering a doorway challenging, or to cover a chest – but patches of up to 20 square feet or more have been reported.

Judges should be advised, when placing this hazard, that players may take the opportunity of lighting the weed and running. While this is dangerous unless spells, fire arrows, or the like are used, the resultant smoke cloud may clear out a large area of a dungeon. Be sure that intelligent creatures will know about the potential danger to themselves, whereas creatures immune to poison will simply not care. Defeating large and perilous monsters by using the hazards of the adventure against them, though, is certainly fair play, and, to some extent at least, should be encouraged!

Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio: Volt and Vortex

I have never been a big fan of the Vortex, but the Volt is one of my favorite creatures from the Fiend Folio. Maybe it is just the cool illustrations. Maybe it was that I could picture them haunting deserted subway lines in a post-Apocalyptic landscape. I honestly don’ know, but I do know that I love the ornery little critters.

Either Volt or Vortex would work quite well in Umerica or Mutant Crawl Classics – although the Vortex might be rewritten as a robot originally designed to entertain children.

There are now only three more posts to go before the Fiend Folio is fully converted. If you feel like tipping, here is a way to do so.



Volt: Init +0; Atk Bite +0 melee (1d4 plus attach, blood drain, and shock); AC 17; HD 2d4; MV fly 20’; Act 1d20; SP Attach, blood drain, shock; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will -2; AL N.

This bad-tempered creature is a near-spherical bundle of bristly grey hair with two bulbous eyes, two small curved horns, and a three-foot-long tail. The creatures are able to fly naturally, as if by levitation, and can use their tails to move though the air with a swimming motion. The horns have no offensive or defensive purpose, and are used purely for mating displays.

When encountered, volts almost always attack. If a volt succeeds with its bite attack, it remains attached to its victim, until either volt or victim perish. It can automatically drain blood for 1d4 hp each round, and can make an attack with its tail (+4 melee, delivering a powerful shock for 2d6 damage).

Volts have an organ which can be used as a power component when casting electricity-based spells, such as lightning bolt, allowing a +2 bonus to the spell check per organ used, to a maximum of +8. This usage consumes the organs. Removing the organ successfully requires a DC 10 Intelligence check and a DC 10 Agility check. The same character does not have to make both checks – two characters can split the task of identifying the proper organ to remove, and then removing it.




Vortex: Init +5; Atk Capture +1 melee (spin); AC 20; HD 2d6; MV fly 40; Act 1d20; SP Capture, spin; SV Fort +0, Ref +8, Will +1; AL C.

This elemental being is a small sphere, about six inches in diameter, whose motion creates a whirlwind up to 40 feet high, with a 10-foot base diameteAC 20; HD r and a 30-foot diameter at the top. A target which has been hit by the vortex is captured by it. Captured targets are pulled within the whirling cone of air. Each round after being captured, the spinning victim suffers 1d3 damage from the spinning and must succeed in a Luck check or the damage increases in the next (and subsequent) rounds by +1d on the dice chain.

Worse, those caught within the vortex may only make attacks with a -2d penalty on the dice chain to both attack roll and damage. Casting spells or performing skill checks is normally impossible (although an attempt may be made with a -4d penalty). Victims cannot normally extract themselves, as they have nothing to exert physical prowess against, but a successful Mighty Deed of 4+ may extract a victim, as might a thrown rope in conjunction with a DC 15 Strength check from both the victim and an ally holding the rope from outside the vortex.  

Normal vortexes are only large enough to accommodate one victim of human size, though it could contain two smaller creatures simultaneously, but larger creatures of this type are thought to exist. Although elemental creatures, vortexes can be harmed by mundane weapons.