Saturday 25 March 2023

Conversion Crawl Classes 3: Basic D&D: The Keep on the Borderlands (3)

Joseph Goodman once said that great adventures start with great stories, or words to that effect. As we examined and converted the Keep and the wilderness, we began to see themes emerge. Our story so far is of a conflict between Sintar the Knower and the Hidden Lord, what can be known versus the Great Unknown, and even sites like The Caves of the Unknown can fit into this rivalry.

The base line of The Keep on the Borderland is also a story about civilization holding fast against the forces which lurk beyond – monsters, humanoids, and lawless men. We have seen this story both in the Keep itself, and in the wilderness encounters. The bandit camp in the wilderness thus becomes an important thematic component of the adventure, and we might even consider replacing the various humanoids in the Caves of Chaos with groups of tribal barbarians – possibly going so far as to recast the Keep as an occupying force, and the barbarians the land’s original inhabitants! Players in this case are suddenly faced with an interesting choice: Are we on the side of the Keep, or on the side of the indigenous people? Certainly, this change would answer the “monster hotel” criticism that is sometimes levied against the module.

(Please note that “barbarians” is being used here in a Howardian sense, and is certainly not a pejorative! Consider, for instance, the Gaels resisting Roman occupation, or Scotland opposing the British. A judge who wanted a more Hyborean setting could even make the Keep an Aquilonian intrusion into Cimmeria!)

I am going to assume in what follows that we are keeping the humanoids in the Caves of Chaos as their diverse humanoid groups. That doesn’t mean that we cannot raise the specter of colonialism in our conversion – there is no reason whatsoever that humans cannot be the invaders in lands which were historically the dwelling places of orcs, goblins, and the like. The diversity of creatures makes a better example for conversion. Moreover, I think the adventure already has a pretty strong answer to the “monster hotel” criticism built into it.

The Caves of Chaos

Like the wilderness map before it, the map to the Caves of Chaos is a cartographic masterpiece with a great sense of place. Not only that, but the representation of the Caves of Chaos matches up very will with the ravine appearing on the wilderness map. Excellent stuff!

The Caves themselves are divided into eleven main areas, using letter codes. These are A. Kobold Lair, B. Orc Lair, C. Orc Lair, D. Goblin Lair, E. Ogre Cave, F. Hobgoblin Lair, G. Shunned Cavern, H. Bugbear Lair, I. Cave of the Minotaur, J. Gnoll Lair, and K. Shrine of Evil Chaos. Luckily, the core rulebook offers us statistics for kobolds, orcs, goblins, orgres, hobgoblins, bugbears, minotaurs, and gnolls. A large portion of our conversion work is already done for us! Of course, not all of these creatures are chaotic, so what do we do about that?

I have always run this module under the assumption that the disparate monsters were drawn here by the evil clerics in Area K, and I continue to go by that assumption. Intelligent monsters are here because the clerics offer help and advice for overthrowing the Keep. Unintelligent monsters are drawn by the evil power of the altars in Area 58. The humanoids are uneasy allies, as Gary Gygax lets us know on page 14 (Tribal Alliances and Warfare) and by the Bugbear’s offer of “shelter” to all humanoids!

Obviously, I am not going to go through each room of the Caves of Chaos here. We can, however, look at the basic steps we want to take, and then look at some more specific examples. One of the first things we want to do is go through the listed treasure and reduce it to roughly 10% on average. In this way, 40 gp may become either 4 gp or 40 sp. We need to remember when doing this that platinum and electrum are different in DCC to any version of D&D. In Basic D&D, 5 gp = 1 pp and 1 ep = 5 sp. Keep this in mind, or your treasure conversions can get out of hand. 50 pp in Basic D&D reduces to 25 gp in DCC; reducing it to 5 pp instead nets your players 500 gp value, as a DCC pp is worth 100 gp! Likewise, 1 ep in DCC is worth 10 gp, so you should keep in mind the silver or gold value instead.

Magic items are rarer in DCC than in Basic D&D, and DCC assumes non-standard magic items. As you go through the Caves of Chaos, cut uninteresting magic items aggressively. Some might be made fine examples of mundane craftsmanship – a weapon that does +1d damage, for instance, or armor with a reduced Fumble Die. When you do decide to keep a magic item, give it a full DCC write-up. In terms of potions, decide what the exact effects are. If you own a copy of the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, pages 221-222 offer considerable help in describing what magical substances look, smell, and taste like.

Scrolls in many games – including Basic D&D – are of the “one use” variety, but that does not need to be true in DCC. I have written or converted a number of adventures (both for Goodman Games and for third party publishers) where scrolls followed different rules. For an easy example of this, imagine that the PCs find a scroll of chill touch. The first time it is used, it gives an automatic spell check result of 18-19. When used again, it gives a result of 12-13. Should the PCs dare to use it a third time, it gives a result of 1 before bursting into cold flames and being consumed. Don’t forget that scrolls can also have unique manifestations, mercurial effects, or anything else the judge can imagine.

Another obvious thing to do is to Make Monsters Mysterious. As we discussed in part 2, the DCC core rulebook provides tables to help differentiate various humanoids from each other. It isn’t necessary to use every table for every humanoid group, but it is nice to provide some variety. This is especially true for the two orc tribes in the cave system – one group is a chalky white color, while the other has bull-like horns…does this second group revere the minotaur?

In order to do a conversion, you will also have to decide the DCs of various locks (to pick), traps (to locate and to disable), secret doors (to find) and saving throws (to make). In the case of saving throws, you may have to determine effects both for a success and a failure (see Appendix P in the core rulebook for example poisons). Here is a post discussing saving throw DCs in DCC. This post may also help. For skill-type checks, the thief skill descriptions on pages 34-36 of the core rulebook and the basic DC 5/10/15/20 baseline on page 66 is also worth reviewing.

You will also have to decide whether or not humans and elves, for instance, wear different sizes of armor in your campaign world. There are two suits of elf-sized chainmail in Area 27, for instance. Can these just be added to number of human-sized suits? Should they be ignored? Are they made of mithral, or does an elf just have to suffer if they wear them? Ultimately, the answers should be based on how you see your milieu working. A suit of mithral chainmail – let alone two – is a tremendous boon to an elf PC, who might not have the Intelligence needed for successful spellcasting.

There are 64 keyed locations in the Caves of Chaos, and looking at them all is beyond the scope of this exercise. For those of you puissant enough to have joined my Patreon, I offered a chance to both indicate what systems/adventures you were interested in exploring (and we shall get to them all!) in the Conversion Crawl Classes series of posts, and which areas of the Caves of Chaos you were particularly interested in looking at. There were no replies to this second query, so I will choose three to look at myself. All of these are in Area K, because that strikes me as the most interesting and/or difficult area to convert.

58. TEMPLE OF EVIL CHAOS: This huge area has an arched ceiling some 30’ or more in height. The floor is of polished black stone which has swirling patterns of red veins through it. The walls behind the draperies, and the ceiling as well, are of dull black rock, while the west wall is of translucent red stone which is seemingly one piece, polished to mirror-like smoothness. A great bell of black iron stands near the entrance point, with a pair of mallets beside its supports. To the south are several long benches or pews. There are three stone altars to the west, the northernmost of pure black, the middle one of streaked red and black, the last of red with black flecks. At the western end of the temple area is a dais of black stone, with four lesser chairs on its lower tier and a great throne above. The chairs are of bone; the ivory throne is set with gold and adorned with gems of red and black (10 black stones each worth 100 gold pieces, 10 red stones each worth 500 gold pieces, and one large red stone worth 1,000 g.p.). The signs and sigils upon these seats are of pure chaos and evil. The other walls are covered by draperies of deep purple with embroidered symbols and evil sayings, done in scarlet and gold and black thread. As soon as the party enters the place, black candles in eight great candelabras on either side of the place will come alight magically, shooting forth a disgusting red radiance. Shapeless forms of purple, yellow and green will dance and sway on the western wall, and if anyone looks at them for more than a moment, they must save versus Spells or be mesmerized into chanting a hymn to chaotic evil. Should three or more voices be so raised, the iron bell will sound automatically by magic, but even one such chant will alert the guards of the head cleric (see below). Zombie guards will enter here in 3 rounds after entry, even if the party is quiet.

First things first, let’s reduce the gem values to 10 black stones with 10 gp each, 10 red stones with 50 gp each, and one large red stone worth 200 gp. This last stone is worth twice as much as our general recommendation (10%), but we can afford to be generous.

All of the strange effects are caused by the three altars, which may or may not relate to the Hidden Lord. Each altar takes 50 hp damage to destroy, and the damage must come from a single attack or it is ineffective. If all three altars are destroyed, the hold of Chaos and Evil upon the caves comes to an end, and unintelligent monsters are no longer drawn here. We could even go so far as to say that all of the un-dead in Area K are immediately destroyed when the last altar is shattered. All lawful characters participating in the events reroll their Luck, and, if the new roll is higher, that becomes their new Luck score.

Let’s say that the saving to avoid being mesmerized into chanting is DC 15, as we want at least one PC to fail the save if we are even halfway lucky. And let’s give a duration for chanting – 1d7 rounds – during which the PC can do nothing else save attack anyone interfering with them using deadly force (as determined by the judge). And, at the end, why not require another save (DC 10 + rounds chanted) to recover. Failure means that the PC is secretly bound (as per patron bond, cast on other, spell result 1d8+10) to a fell patron. The judge can quietly let the player(s) of bonded characters know what has happened when it seems best.

62. THE CRYPT: The door to this room is bolted shut. This long hall is of roughly hewn stone, with a low ceiling. In it are many coffins and large sarcophagi with the remains of servants of the Temple of Chaos. The sixth tomb opened will contain a wight: (AC 5, HD 3*, hp 13, #AT I, D drain one level, MV (30’), Save F 2, ML 12). There is no treasure buried with any of the remains, but there is a secret compartment in the wight’s tomb; this contains a sword +2, a scroll of protection from undead, a helm of alignment change, and a silver dagger worth 800 gold pieces because of the gems set into its pommel.

Page 381 of the core rulebook has two tables to help make un-dead mysterious, and to offer some variety. We already know what evil power our wight has – level drain in Basic D&D – and we are going to select rather than roll for its appearance: perfectly preserved but ice-cold to the touch. And let’s make that silver dagger (reduced to 80 gp value) clutched in its hands rather than in a secret compartment. In DCC terms, our wight might be statted up like this:

Wight: Init +0; Atk cold touch +2 melee (XP drain), AC 15; HD 3d12; hp 19; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead, XP drain (Will DC 20 or lose 1d5 XP); SV Fort +5, Ref +0, Will +4; AL C; Crit U/1d8.

XP drain does not result in loss of levels, although any lost XP must be made up before new levels can be gained. If XP is reduced below 0, the victim dies and rises as a wight after 1d5 hours.

Of the magic items in the wight’s tomb, the only one I find interesting is the sword +2, which could be completely rolled up using the tables in the core rulebook or the Purple Sorcerer app. I would then add that anyone who dies while possessing this sword rises 1d5 nights later as a wight, and seeks out the current owner of the sword to slay them. This gives the clerics a motive to bury the sword with the most recent user. Oh, and whatever may otherwise be determined, the sword is obviously +2 and Chaotic.

In fact, with a little help from Purple Sorcerer, we come up with the terrifying Blightbane:

Blightbane, +2 Chaotic Long sword

Intelligence: 9

Communication: Speech

Bane 1: Wizards (Ability score drain; sword inflicts normal damage plus 1d4 points of Intelligence drain per hit.

Bane 2: Dragons (Shattering blow; on a critical hit, sword inflicts an additional 1d10 damage).

Bane 3: Lawful Dragons

  1. Extended critical threat range; attacker scores criticals against bane at 1 more result on the die (e.g., if normally score criticals on 19-20, now score on 18-20).
  2. Unreasoning hatred; sword urges wielder to attack bane at every opportunity (ego check).
  3. Neutralization; after a direct hit, sword prevents bane from using its breath weapon for one full day.

Special Purpose 1: Slay lawful dragons

Special Purpose 2: Destroy the world’s kingdoms, one by one

Special Purpose 3: Reward the ambitious at all costs

Power 1: Eviscerator. When rolling damage, the wielder rolls an additional damage die every time he rolls an 8.

Power 2: Regenerator. When wielding this blade, the wielder’s natural rate of healing is doubled. In addition, the wielder recovers twice as many hit points as usual whenever a cleric lays hands upon him.

Power 3: Spell magnifier. The wielder casts all spells at +1 caster level.

Power 4: Un-dead Curse. Anyone who dies while possessing this sword rises 1d5 nights later as a wight, and seeks out the current owner of the sword to slay them.

Given the power and nature of this weapon, we can say that it is hidden well. A DC 20 Intelligence check locates the secret compartment (remember that an elf has an automatic Intelligence check with a +4 bonus to notice such things).

Note that the door is bolted from the outside. Characters can easily unbolt the door (no roll required!) but incautious PCs who leave living foes behind them and who have no one guarding the door may easily find themselves locked within.

64. CELL: The door is of iron, locked and barred, but a window is set in the door. This is the place where prisoners are kept until tortured to death or sacrificed in the area above. There are several skeletons still chained to the wall, and one scantily clad female – a fair maiden obviously in need of rescuing! As she is partly around a corner, at first only her shapely legs and body up to the shoulders can be seen. Those who enter and approach closer are in for a rude shock! This is actually a medusa recently taken by the evil priest’s zombie guards. (AC 8, HD 4**, hp 20, #AT 1, D l-6 plus poison, MV (30’), Save F 4, ML 8.) An opponent hit by the medusa’s attack has been bitten by the asp-hair and must save vs. Poison or die. Persons looking at the creature – including those fighting her from the front – must save versus being Turned to Stone by the medusa.

Not being above such things, the cleric had plans for removing its snakes, blinding it, and then eventually sacrificing it at a special rite to a demon. The medusa will spare one or two of the adventurers from her gaze, promising them she has magic which will turn their companions back to flesh again, if they will free her from her chains. She does, in fact, have a special elixir, a potion of stone to flesh in a small vial, enough liquid to turn six persons, who have been turned to stone, back to normal, but she does not intend to give it away. If freed she will attempt to “stone” her rescuers.

First off, the “elixir” is probably an oil, as the medusa’s petrified victims won’t be drinking anything! We can give the locked door a basic DC 10 for picking the lock, but should probably note where the key can be found.

This encounter is designed as a “caution should win the day” challenge. First, incautious adventurers may be petrified or slain outright by the medusa. Second, trusting adventurers may discover that she has no intention of honoring her bargains. My conversion for the medusa would look like this:

Medusa: Init +2; Atk biting serpents +6 melee (1d6 plus venom), AC 12; HD 4d8; hp 20; MV 30’; Act 1d16; SP infravision 60’, half damage from non-magical weapons, venom (1d3 Stamina plus Fort DC 15 or die), petrifying gaze (Reflex DC 15 averts; otherwise 1d3 Agility and Will DC 12 or turned to stone, petrified at 0 Agility); SV Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +0; AL C; Crit n/a.

You will note that I gave the medusa 1d16 for her action die, and gave her a high attack bonus to compensate. This is because I just could not see her snaky “hair” causing the kind of critical hits M/1d10 would have provided. I also liked the idea of slow petrifaction if you meet the medusa’s gaze, even if you do save. Note that characters can fight without having to worry about her petrifying gaze by not looking at her (-1d penalty to attack rolls) or by using a reflective surface (-2 penalty to hit).

If you want a closer look at the statblock breakdown for Basic D&D, see Part 2.

I mentioned my Patreon earlier, and members of that august group who let me know what systems and/or adventures they wish to see addressed are welcome to let me know. If you are finding this series of value, and feel like tipping, here is a way to do so. Even the smallest contribution is appreciated.

Next: Holmes Dungeons & Dragons: Zenopus’ Tower

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)

Conversion Crawl Classes 3: Basic D&D: The Keep on the Borderlands (3)

Conversion Crawl Classes 4: Holmes Blue Box: Zenopus’ Tower

Conversion Crawl Classes 5: Basic D&D: Palace of the Silver Princess (1)

Conversion Crawl Classes 6: Basic D&D: Palace of the Silver Princess (2): Monster Conversions

Conversion Crawl Classes 7: AD&D: White Plume Mountain (1): Wilderness Map

Conversion Crawl Classes 8: AD&D: White Plume Mountain (2): The Adventure

Conversion Crawl Classes 9: AD&D: White Plume Mountain (3): Whelm, Wave, and Blackrazor

Conversion Crawl Classes 10: AD&D 2e: Swamplight

Conversion Crawl Classes 11: 3rd Edition D&D: The Forge of Fury

Conversion Crawl Classes 12: 3e 3PP: The Mysterious Tower

Conversion Crawl Classes 13: D&D 4th Edition: Keep on the Shadowfell (1)

Conversion Crawl Classes 14: D&D 4th Edition: Keep on the Shadowfell (2): Winterhaven

Conversion Crawl Classes 15: D&D 4th Edition: Keep on the Shadowfell (3): Skill Challenges

Conversion Crawl Classes 16: D&D 4th Edition: Keep on the Shadowfell (4): The Keep Itself

Conversion Crawl Classes 17: MERP: Bree and the Barrow Downs

Conversion Crawl Classes 18: MERP: Moria

Conversion Crawl Classes 19: The One Ring: Tales From Wilderland (1): Don’t Leave the Path

Conversion Crawl Classes 20: The One Ring: Tales From Wilderland (2): Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit

Conversion Crawl Classes 21: Hawkmoon (1): The Twisted Village