Saturday 20 May 2023

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

During the late era of 1st edition AD&D, the Dragonlance adventures (and, to a lesser degree, adventures like Ravenloft) set the scene for a different kind of large-scale storytelling. Adventures prior to Dragons of Despair had back stories, of course, but Dragonlance brought the PCs along for a ride where large-scale events were going to happen regardless of what the players decided to do. Dragonlance provided the thrill of a larger narrative, where both the DM and the players were discovering “the story” as it was revealed with each module released, and I think that there will always be a place for adventures set up in this manner…but it did lead the next edition away from “Here is the situation; let’s find out what happens” far too deeply toward “Here is the situation, and here is what is supposed to happen.”

At the same time, Dragonlance taught TSR that there was a lot of money to be made in selling setting materials as well as adventures. The World of Greyhawk was, of course, the baseline setting for 1st edition, but there was an expectation that most DMs were going to create their own worlds. Modules tended to be more modular, in that they could be placed in any world with only minimal changes. By the time the new edition rolled out, adventures became more tied into setting lore – even when the setting didn’t tie directly to the adventure itself. Forging these ties sold more products, in the same way as comic cross-over events sell more comics.

Finally, the human-centric world of earlier D&D was giving way to a fantasy game where PCs might be not just humans and demi-humans, but a great many types of humanoids. One might argue that the minotaurs of Dragonlance were influential here as well, but having drow and duergar PCs in the original Unearthed Arcana opened that door for others to follow. While 2nd edition did not go as far down this road as subsequent editions, some of the weird fantasy vibe of the earlier game was lost to treating monsters as simply part of the fantasy milieu – subjects for natural histories and anthropological studies rather than creatures inimical to human (and demi-human) civilizations.

Consequently, while 2nd edition adventures are statically as easy to convert as 1st edition modules, the structure of the adventures themselves require more work. It is not that there is anything wrong with lizardmen being set up by other monsters, or with an adventure where lizardmen are relatively peaceful if left alone. An adventure where said lizardmen are set up by rakshasas, which punishes players failing to take the “correct” course of leaving the lizardmen alone, is a bit of a challenge once you step away from 2nd Edition assumptions.   

This era of the game is also, shall we say, a bit railroad-y. To wit:

It is up to the PCs whether they agree to aid Chala. If they appear indecisive, Vant suggests that Chala is only the beginning – other cities in the area will be visited by disaster as Tefnut’s rage grows. He says even adventurers such as themselves will not be safe. It is better to right the situation now.

Chalans come forth and plead with the PCs to help their cause, promising the player characters what wealth they have stored away in their homes.

Eventually, the PCs should agree. In the event they do not, the rakshasas may disguise themselves as lizard men and attack or kidnap the PCs.

It is up to the PCs. But, if they don't decide the way you want, decide for them. It is this sort of thing which led certain individuals to argue that even including a module perforce meant you would railroad your players.

Fixing the Story

There is great potential here, but first we have to fix the story. There is a mystery; we must make sure that the players have the chance to realize that things are not as they seem. Instead of trying to drive the narrative into “Heroic adventurers save the Chala and the lizardmen!” we can bring the adventure right back to the game’s Sword & Sorcery roots by making the idol of Tefnut the prize and being relatively indifferent to the fate of human city, lizardman village, and rakshasa encampment alike.

The first step might be to replace the lizardmen with more technologically primitive humans. Suddenly, the PCs have a motive to talk to them. More, if they are captured, the PCs will not be eaten in a lizardman feast, and might even get a chance to learn something before they escape. The idol becomes the prize – whether it remains in the “lizardman” village, is returned the Chala, or is taken by the PCs to melt down or sell as treasure becomes the players’ decision (if they can recover it). Stealth, magic, diplomacy, or brute force might be used.

The idea that a god pays attention to what occurs around their idol is great, and is certainly in keeping with Sword & Sorcery fiction, but let’s not be subtle about it. Instead of slowly debilitating characters, let’s go with something dramatic. Rains and flooding come directly to mind considering the god involved. There might be some loss of Luck involved because this is, after all, DCC.

Speaking of thematic appropriateness, let’s fix the inclusion of an Egyptian god, Indian demons, and generic lizardmen. You can go any way you want with this, but I think that the Egyptian theme fits in well with a great swamp. The “lizardmen” can then be human worshipers of Sobek (the Egyptian crocodile god), which both accept Tefnut (after the miraculous appearance of his idol) and Sobek. Captured PCs are to be ritualistically fed to the sacred crocodiles at the new moon (to give them time to escape in Tarzan- or Conanesque fashion). We’ll make the rakshasa demons of Set, which is a lot stronger thematically to my mind. That this means we can use a Lawful, a Neutral, and a Chaotic god our divine wrangling is icing on the cake!

Dealing With Treasure

As with earlier editions, we want to remove unnecessary and/or bland magic items. Some magic items appear only to make certain parts of the story possible – the rakshasa might need boots of varied tracks to leave misleading footprints; we can just give that ability to our demons of Set. Monetary rewards should be reduced to 10%. Gold becomes silver, silver becomes copper, and so on. We could choose to halve the value of Tefnut’s idol and it is still an amazingly rich prize!

Let’s go back to story considerations for a minute, because Chala should not be showing off this valuable chunk of metal to all and sundry. Nor should the Chalans be encouraging every ne’er-do-well with a sword to go after that idol. After all, there is no reason to believe they will return with it. Instead, let us create a few rival parties of Chalans to be seeking the idol. Let’s have the Chalans discourage the PCs from pursuing the idol as a local matter (although the judge makes sure the players know the idol’s value).


There are a number of hazards in the blackwater swamp which can be converted. It should be noted that a judge doesn’t need to use the same mechanics for quicksand or bogs in all adventures. Sometimes, a mechanic can be specific to the unique conditions of an adventure location. Lightning sand in the fire swamp does not have to follow the same rules as quicksand in blackwater swamp.

I mention this because there might be an impulse to scour DCC adventures, looking for the “correct” way to stat out a hazard. The goal here, unless you are being paid for your work, should be to convert without undue work. For instance, take this hazard from Swamplight:

Bogs in the swamp range from 4 to nine 9 feet deep (1d6+3). Characters who fall in a bog might or might not be submerged based on the depth of the bog. They must roll an Intelligence check at -3 on 1d20 (rangers pass this check automatically). Failure means the character has panicked and must be rescued. Characters who are successful with the saving throw can attempt to swim to safety at a -3 proficiency penalty because of the weeds and roots. Characters can be rescued with the methods suggested under “quicksand.” Characters who are submerged or who cannot swim can hold their breaths for one-half their Constitution score rounded up before they are considered drowned. Characters in heavy armor or who are heavily loaded down cannot swim in a bog.

In DCC terms, this might look like:

Bogs are 1d6+3’ deep. PCs who fall into a bog must attempt a DC 10 Intelligence check (characters without appropriate “outdoorsy” occupations roll on 1d10). Success allows a DC 10 Strength check to swim to safety (armor check penalty applies), but failure means the character must be rescued. If the bog is deep enough to submerge trapped characters, they suffer 1d3 temporary Stamina damage each round until rescued or they drown. This temporary damage is fully healed with 10 minutes of rest and unobstructed breathing.  


Most of the monsters in this adventure are already converted in the DCC core rulebook, which will make things easier when converting the adventure. The judge may wish to replace some creatures with more thematically appropriate (Egyptian) ones, or reskin existing monsters to make them fit better. Some of these monsters originated in the Fiend Folio. You can find conversions of the algoid and fog giant in this blog.  

Converting monsters from 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons is very similar to converting monsters from 1st edition. The biggest change is that 2nd edition monsters now include THAC0 in their statblock. THAC0 means “To Hit Armor Class 0”, which is equivalent to 20 in DCC. So, one can use 20 minus THAC0 to determine a monster’s base attack bonus.

For this module, the obvious monsters to convert are the rakshasas, which we are going to make into demons of Set. In Swamplight, they are given these stats:

Rakshasa (3): AL LE; AC -4; MV 15; HD 7; hp 35,38,42; THAC0 13; #AT 3; Dmg 1-3/1-3/2-5; SA Illusions, spells; SD +1 or better weapon to hit; ML 15; XP 4,000 each.

Rakshasa #1 wizard spells: enlarge, grease, protection from good, spider climb

Priest Spells: cure light wounds, entangle, faerie fire

Rakshasa #2 wizard spells: dancing lights, protection from good, spook, ventriloquism, detect invisibility, invisibility, whispering wind, fly

Priest spells: cure light wounds x2, invisibility to animals

Rakshasa #3 wizard spells: burning hands, color spray, detect magic, magic missile, blur, fog cloud, web, hold person, suggestion

Priest spells: entangle, pass without trace, protection from good

Before breaking this creature down into a DCC statblock, let’s jump over to the Purple Sorcerer Demon Generator and create 10 Type II demons. We are creating 10 because we want a 7 HD demon for a baseline (to match the rakshasa’s Hit Dice). What I came up with is:

Lion, Horse, Clay Demon (Type 2)

Init +2; Atk Constriction +7 melee (1d6+2) ; AC 14; HD 7d12 (37hp); MV 30'; Act 2d20; SP Drain ability score +6; Drain blood +6, Drain blood +6 Target Save 18, demon traits; SV Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +8, AL C.

Traits: Horns, Antennae

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

I cannot overstate the value of using free tools like this. Even though we are looking for a very specific thing, it is incredibly useful to have a baseline creature to look at…especially when converting demons, dragons, and the like.

Now that we have some idea where we are coming from, we can look at the statblock in DCC terms:

Init: No Init bonuses are supplied in our original monster, so we will use the +2 from the sample demon.

Atk: Our rakshasas attack with two claws and a bite. From their THAC0, we know that the base attack bonus should be +7 (20 minus a THAC0 of 13). This is right in line with our sample demon, so we are good to say “claw +7 melee (1d3) or bite +7 melee (1d4+1) or spell.”

AC: 2nd edition D&D still uses descending AC, and the easiest conversion is still 20 subtract the given AC. In this case, we would get AC 24, and our sample demon is AC 14. I think it would be fair to use an average AC of 19.

HD: The listed HD is 7, which is indicated 7d8 in AD&D 2e. In DCC, this becomes 7d12.

Hp: 7d12 yields 7 to 84 hp, with an average of 42 hp. The original creatures have 35, 38, and 42 hp. 7d8 would have yielded an average of 28 hp, so our rakshasas were above average as originally presented. I am going to give each one +6 hp, so they are 41, 44, and 48 hp.

MV: The 15 MV in AD&D 2e is faster than a human’s speed of 12, so I will give our demons of Set a MV of 40’.

Act: The original had three attacks, so 3d20 seems appropriate.

SP: In addition to our standard demon traits, our demons can take on the appearance of other humanoid creatures (including individuals). Let’s say that they can shift appearance using an action die. They can also cast spells, so we need to think about that. The three original creatures had different spellcasting abilities, so we might as well make our demons of Set have variable spellcasting as well. Do we need to cast wizard and cleric spells? That seems like overkill to me, so we can just say “Casts spells as a level 1d4+1 wizard with an additional +2 bonus to the spell check”.

SV: The original creature doesn’t really help us here, but the sample demon has Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +8. We can swap Fort and Ref because our demons are a bit snake-like themselves.

AL: Rakshasas are Lawful Evil. In nine-alignment systems, it is easy to peg Lawful Good and Lawful Neutral as Lawful. It is easy to peg Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Evil as Chaotic. Neutral is, of course, Neutral. All other alignments have some wiggle room, and I am going to make our demons Chaotic. First off, that matches demons normally in the core rules. More importantly, it follows the Tefnut = Lawful, Sobek = Neutral, Set = Chaotic that I had pointed out before.

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

Put altogether, our DCC statblock looks like this:

Demons of Set (3): Init +2; Atk claw +7 melee (1d3) or bite +7 melee (1d4+1) or spell, AC 19; HD 7d12; hp 41, 44, 48; MV 40’; Act 3d20; SP demon traits (converse with ESP; infravision 90’; cast darkness with +8 spell check; immune to non-magical weapons or natural attacks from creatures of 3 HD or less; half-damage from fire, acid, cold, electricity, gas; can teleport back to native plane or any point on same plane unless bound or otherwise summoned; crit range 19-20), illusions (can use action die to appear as any humanoid, including individuals), spellcasting (as level 1d4+1 wizard with additional +2 bonus to spell check); SV Fort +5, Ref +6, Will +8; AL C; Crit DN/1d8.

Demon 1 (CL 3, +5 spell check): charm person, chill touch, mending, spider climb, patron bond/invoke patron (Set), and shatter.

Demon 2 (CL 2, +4 spell check): animal summoning, flaming hands, read magic, ropework, spider climb, and patron bond/invoke patron (Set).

Demon 3 (CL 2, +4 spell check): comprehend languages, Ekim's mystical mask, magic missile, sleep, and patron bond/invoke patron (Set).

I would use Set-Utekh the Destroyer from Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between as a reasonable stand-in for Set.


This is a 16-page adventure in 34 pages (including maps). This is not the fault of the author; like wearing an onion in your belt, it was the style of the time. Although it may seem that I am looking down on the adventure, I am not. This would be a great adventure converted well to DCC. The rallying cry of 3rd Edition (“Back to the dungeon!”) came about at least partly in response to the criticisms I have made here about 2nd Edition, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t strip any 2nd Edition module back to its core elements. It just takes a little more work.

Next: D&D 3rd Edition: The Forge of Fury

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