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.

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