Wednesday 14 June 2023

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

3rd Edition doesn’t really require multiple conversion examples. But The Mysterious Tower holds several distinctions that make it worth posting about. First off, it is in the original Dungeon Crawl Classics line of 3rd Edition adventures. Second, it was written by the Dark Master himself, Joseph Goodman. Third, it is one of the first adventures that I converted to DCC for my home table. As such, it may be illustrative of the types of “quick and dirty” conversions you may wish to use when publication is not an issue. For published examples of conversion from 3e, I direct you to Well of the Worm and Tower of the Black Pearl.


After running a DCC conversion of Death Frost Doom (which is the first adventure I converted to DCC!), the PCs had failed hard enough that they needed a second chance at the adventure. If you know Death Frost Doom, you are aware of the worst that can (and probably will) happen. It did. Most of the party died. I therefore ran Through the Cotillion of Hours to give them a chance to wish for that second chance at avoiding that ending. One party member, though, took the opportunity to wish for a game-breaking thousands of gold and platinum pieces. I used The Mysterious Tower to resolve that wish without actually handing over the gold, and without simply having the character cease to exist (as would otherwise happen in Through the Cotillion of Hours).

Instead of doing a full conversion document, I made a photocopy of the module, and then wrote notes in the margins.

The Dream

My original “dream” handout survived, and it read:

In your dream, you see a strange tower rising above a wooded slope, its white marble walls shimmering with a bluish flame. You can hear what sound like the howling of wolves, or the screams of eagles, in the background.

You can hear a strange and mournful voice intone:

West along the mountain road a keep in ruin lies

Therein are gold and platinum coins for which you asked, and prize

Gathered long ago by one then trapped by greed and fear

Blue fire sparked from patron's lark left him moaning here.

If you tread this path of dread where humbler men once dwelled

Here thy bones may stay enthroned and bitter soul enspelled.

Naught in this cosmos is free,· all comes with cost and measure

So it is for god and man and fabled golden treasure.

The last image you have is of a tall man in a turban, with dark skin and startling blue eyes. He wears a blue vest, white pantaloons, and ornate golden slippers, and he sits atop a pile of gold and other treasure. His face looks as though he is normally good-natured, for his laugh-lines are deep, but he is serious as he speaks now.

"Please, friends, stay away from here," the man says. "I have no wish to harm you. Wait but another three hundred and two score years and seven, and you may have this without contest."

The dream fades, and you awaken.

The Notes

Page 15, Area 28: Read-aloud text amended from “a shimmering blue force field” to “shimmering blue fire”.

Page 20, Area 31: “red-brown worms w/six feelers around mouth” next to rust monster statblock.

Page 20, Area 32: Read-aloud text amended from “the shimmering blue force field of the tower” to “the shimmering blue flames encircling the tower” and “three inches outside the force field” is amended to “three inches outside the flames”.

Page 22, Area 33: Columns 2, paragraph 3, is marked to remind me that I changed these contents. The page which showed the changes has been lost to time.

Page 22, Area 34: Force cages are changed to “cages made of blue fire”.

Page 24, Area 34: Note by quasit: “DC 12. 1d3 Str” reminding me of the poison’s effect I chose for this creature.

Page 24, Area 35: Read-aloud text again changed to make force cages into “cages of blue fire”.

Page 26, Area 36: Read-aloud text changed from “The room is literally piled high with gold – there must be thousands of gold pieces strewn about randomly. Various other glittering treasures can be seen peeking out of the piles of gold.” to “The room is literally piled high with gold and platinum – there must be thousands of gold pieces strewn about randomly. Various other glittering treasures can be seen peeking out of the piles of coin.”               

Page 27, Area 36: Next to the djinni’s tactics, I wrote “Passages of the Moon”. I no longer remember what this referred to.

I also made several amendments to treasure:

  • I added 2,000 platinum pieces to the coin total.
  • For the potions, mage armor became just armor (+2 for 1d6 turns) and cure light wounds became curative (1 HD) (and also reduced to a single potion).
  • The scroll of burning hands became flaming hands (cast at +3).
  • Ring of Force Shield became Ring of Magic Shield (+5, wearer only, 3/day, 1d5 turns).
  • I removed the +1 light crossbow, but left the daggers.

Things Not Captured In My Notes

My notes do not entirely capture my reworking of this adventure, but looking at them it is easy to see that conversions for play (as opposed to publication) do not necessarily require a lot of work. Because of my note on Page 22, Area 33, I believe that I probably also included some handwritten or printed pages that I can no longer locate. Some of the additional changes I can remember using include:

The idea of force field magic as almost a science is foreign to DCC, so I described the entire tower as writhed in blue flame. Mechanically, this changed nothing.

Instead of owlbears, I used hawkwolves. The only change in stats was to add a 30’ fly speed.

Some of the other monsters were reskinned to make them mysterious. A tall conical mass with three legs and three lashing tentacles is a lot scarier than a huge gelatinous cube, even if the statistics don’t change!


The takeaway here should be: If you are getting paid to do a conversion, pull out all of the bells and whistles. However, if you are doing a conversion for a home game, you don’t have to move mountains.


Next: D&D 4rd Edition: Keep on the Shadowfell

Saturday 3 June 2023

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

When Wizards of the Coast purchased D&D, they created an Open Gaming License allowing third-party content creators to produce and sell products for Dungeons & Dragons. This was a brilliant move which revitalized the brand, although there has been some controversy surrounding the OGL from 4th edition onward. The purpose of this post is not to discuss the OGL though, and this intro merely serves to illustrate why there is so much material created for this version of the game. All of it is, of course, convertible to Dungeon Crawl Classics. Of course, The Forge of Fury is an official WotC adventure.

There are some things to keep in mind. First off, 3e has a steeper power curve than DCC. While a 2nd level DCC character might be roughly equivalent to a 4th level character in 3e, the jump between levels in 3e means that an encounter designed for PCs even one level lower might be disinteresting, while an encounter one level higher might be deadly indeed! Combine this with an expectation that characters will gain levels during an adventure, and there is a real incentive for 3e adventure writers to control the order in which encounters occur.

Melan wrote an interesting article about the route choices available to players in various adventures, including The Forge of Fury and some we have looked at in the Conversion Crawl Classes series of posts. He amply demonstrated the more linear nature of 3e adventures compared to those which came before. I believe this is an artifact of the factors described above…but it still poses the question when converting: Do we want to modify the map? I don’t think there is a problem with some adventures being more linear than others, and I don’t see a major need to modify this map, but as the 3e era goes on, some examples of linear maps arise which I would never use without major modifications.

Most of the creatures in this adventure are already in the core rulebook. Others, such as the roper, can be found on my blog. Finally, Reddit user Quetzalcoatlsghost did a basic conversion of all of the creatures in the 3e SRD.  He then invited you to log in and create variants. Indeed, there is a plethora of riches to help with conversion here! In fact, so much groundwork has been provided that the difficulty involved in conversion is making certain that the outcome feels more like DCC, and less like generic D&D, than the original.

All The Stuff in the World

3rd Edition supplied you with statblocks for things you didn’t know you needed statblocks for. In DCC, for many of these, you can use them with small changes or ignore them altogether. Do you need a base DC for a water-swollen door, or will the DC 5/10/15/20 rule of thumb in the core rulebook cover this issue for you?

Tastes vary, but to my mind, this is more information than you need:

Iron Door: 2 1/2 in. thick; hardness 13; hp 75; AC 5; break DC 28.

For DCC something like this is probably sufficient, with the general assumption that the judge is aware that bashing through an iron door will take a lot of work, if it is even possible. In the 3e version, “hardness” means that the door ignores the first 13 hp damage from any attack, so the door is probably not going to be bashed in with weapons anyway. Nor do you really need an AC to target a stationary object like this – it is not as though you want to wade through fumbles and critical hits (which are probably not appropriate anyway) in a yawn-fest of dice rolling. 3e wanted you to realize you weren’t going to bash through the door by looking at its stats, but those stats are DM-facing anyway. You have the same result, for practical purposes, by merely writing:

Iron door (Strength DC 28).

3rd Edition era trap stats are largely usable as is, although again minor tweaking might yield better results. Consider:

Poison Gas Trap: CR 2; poison gas creates a 20-foot cone, initial Strength damage of 1d4 points, secondary Strength damage of 1d4 points; Fort save negates all (DC 13), second save negates secondary damage (DC 13); Search (DC 23); Disable Device (DC 13).

In DCC, we might strengthen the poison to 1d4 Strength plus Fort DC 13 or an additional 1d4 Strength each round until the save succeeds. Overall, though, the traps in this adventure do not require any form of major modification. It is important to remember that numbers don’t inflate in DCC the way they do in 3e, so a DC 23 Reflex save (for instance) might be reduced to DC 15. Likewise, some of the skill checks to find and disable traps can be reduced to more closely match the examples in the core rules. A good rule of thumb for easy conversion is to take any DC over 10 and halve the portion above 10. So, DC 20 becomes DC 15. If the result seems off to you, adjust up or down (as I did with the DC 23 Reflex save) until you like the result.

Treasure, Treasure, and More Treasure

The general rules discussed in earlier posts still applies. Monetary treasures can be reduced to 10%, unnecessary magic items can be removed or turned into interesting mundane items. If we are going to keep magic items, most of them can be made more interesting. We can look at four examples.

Treasure: The orcs on patrol chose to take most of their wealth with them, but a loose stone on the south wall conceals a sack of 250 sp, 40 gp, and a potion of cure light wounds. Yarrack conceals a sack of gold in area 8, since he feels certain he would be murdered by his followers if they ever learned where he kept his treasure.

In this case, we can turn this into 250 cp, 40 sp, and we might as well keep the potion. In this case, we can say that it provides 1 HD of healing, and give it some details like a translucent red color and a taste mixing cinnamon and chili peppers.

Treasure: On the floor of the stirge cave lies the desiccated corpse of a dwarven explorer who died here many years ago. A leather pouch on the corpse contains 35 gp and a wand of light with 20 charges remaining.

In this case, we can turn the gold to silver and remove the wand. 35 gp isn’t the largest payday in the world, so we could leave the coins untouched if we wished, or mix them (as in 5 gp and 30 sp).

Treasure: Snurrevin has found a little loot in his explorations of the Foundry; in the cold forge in the northwest corner of the room, he has stashed 320 gp, 1,100 sp, a gold necklace set with ruby stones worth 900 gp, and a potion of strength.

One of the things that I like about these write-ups is that we are told why the treasure is there. However, in DCC terms, this is not “a little loot”! We can change the 320 gp to silver, the sp to copper, and then reduce the value of the necklace. While 900 gp is too high, 90 gp seems to low to me – we can set the value at 120 gp.

Finally, we have the potion of strength. One-shot items like potions (and scrolls, sometimes at least) are useful to include in adventures while having no long-term effect on campaign play. I am inclined to leave the potion in, and define it as granting a +3 bonus to all Strength-based rolls (including attack and damage rolls) for 1d5 turns. Lets make it a viscous black liquid that nonetheless flows like oil and tastes like treacle.

Treasure: Another member of the expedition that perished here decades ago lies in this room. (Her companions can be found in area 15 and area 42.) This was the party’s thief; her desiccated corpse lies half-buried under wrecked furniture. A masterwork scimitar is clutched in her hand, and a pouch at her belt contains 670 sp.

As an easy fix, we can reduce the silver to 67 pieces. Bandits use scimitars in the core rulebook doing 1d8 damage, so the masterwork scimitar is treated as a long sword, but does 1d10 damage based on its quality (+1d on the dice chain). A normal longsword is worth 10 gp; we can say this masterwork version is worth 15 gp. We could go as high as 25 gp, if you want your players to face a real choice between using it and selling it!

Converting Monster Statblocks

Creatures like orcs and troglodytes in the adventure can be made mysterious, as previously discussed.  The adventure includes a dragon, and we have also discussed converting dragons to DCC. Although the system has changed, the methodology has not.

I have a soft spot for gricks. I think they are one of the better monsters created for the 3e Monster Manual, and as they appear in The Forge of Fury, they will serve as our example monster here. As a side note, one of the things I really dislike in WotC-era adventures is monster stats being grouped together at the back of the book rather than appearing where encountered in an adventure. Ironic, I know, since at least one publisher has made the same decision regarding one of my own adventures. When a monster is encountered, it is so much better to have the stats at hand rather than having to flip through an adventure to find them!

In any event, gricks appear in the adventure text as follows:

Grick: CR 3; Medium-size aberration; HD 2d8; hp 9 (average); Init +2 (Dex); Spd 30 ft., climb 20 ft.; AC 16; Atk +3 melee (1d4+2, 4 tentacles), –2 melee (bite 1d3+1); SQ Scent, damage reduction 15/+1; AL N; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +5; Str 14, Dex 14, Con 11, Int 3, Wis 14, Cha 5.

Skills and Feats: Climb +10, Hide +4 (+12 camouflage), Listen +7, Spot +7; Alertness.

I am also going to include the conversion Quetzalcoatlsghost did here, to provide a basis for comparison. I hope that what follows doesn’t lead to changes in the main source, although I would also hope that my version could be included under the variants tab (there were no variant gricks at the time of this writing). Quetzalcoatlsghost’s version is:


Size/Type            Medium Aberration

Alignment           Neutral

Hit Dice                 2d8 (9 HP)

Initiative              +1

Move                   30 ft. (6 squares), climb 20 ft.

Armor Class        16

Action Dice         4d20

Attack Bonus       +2

Attack                   4 tentacles +2 melee (1d4+2); bite -2 melee (1d3+1)

Abilities                Strength: 14 ( +1 ), Agility: 14 ( +1 ), Stamina: 11 ( +0 ), Personality: 3 ( -3 )

Saves                    Fort: +0 , Ref: +1 , Will: +0

Special Properties           

Let’s break that down using the DCC statblock formula:

Init: The original statblock grants a +2 bonus; the revised statblock grants a +1 bonus. The change is based on the values given for stat bonuses between 3e and DCC (Dexterity 14 vs. Agility 14). However, I am going to grant the thing the full +2 bonus because I am hoping it will have a chance to act before it dies. Petty of me, I know. Also, it just feels right.

Atk: The original’s tentacles +3 melee (1d4+2) or bite –2 melee (bite 1d3+1) as expressed in DCC terms are usable…but unless we want to give our monster 5 action dice, why would it ever choose to bite? Let’s increase bite damage to 1d6+1.

AC: We are now converting ascending AC to ascending AC, so we could just use AC 16. We don’t want our DCC combats to drag the way some 3e ones do, so we will be very careful about pairing high ACs with high hit points. It is often useful to make DCC creatures a little harder to hit, but reducing their Hit Dice so that hits matter. The easiest conversion is to simply use number the given but in some cases it is worth adjusting an easy conversion up or down to better meet your vision of a creature. In this case, AC 16 is fine.

HD: Both original monster and conversion use 2d8 for an average of 9 hit points. That is, again, fine and requires no change.

Hp: We are not going to include hit points in our statblock this time, because we are not converting a specific individual. However, I am going to recommend rolling hit points to get the full gamut of 2 to 16 hp. Sometimes using an average number works, especially when facing masses of humanoids, but for less gregarious monsters we can treat them as individuals. We can also consider choosing hit points rather than rolling if we know what we want, but rolling can sometimes create a surprising encounter and should be encouraged.

MV: In DCC terms, 30’ or climb 20’. There is no reason to alter the original.

Act: The original monster had five attacks (four tentacles plus a bite). By giving the judge a reason to consider using the bite instead of a tentacle, we have provided a good reason to reduce this to 4d20, as Quetzalcoatlsghost did.

SP: The grick has scent and damage reduction 15/+1 listed as special qualities. We need to keep scent in some way because gricks don’t have eyes, and can presumably be “blinded” by strong odors. Instead of damage reduction, we can just say they take half damage from non-magical weapons. This makes them slightly more vulnerable, but magical weapons are also less common in DCC.

When we look at the “Skills and Feats” section of the statblock, we also see “Hide +4 (+12 camouflage)”, so we can grant our version a +10 bonus to stealth checks.

SV: The original version has Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +5. DCC was built using the same core three-save system, which should help with conversion. Quetzalcoatlsghost reduced these to Fort +0, Ref +1, Will: +0, but I am inclined to go with the original. I am guessing that the reduction was based on the changes in ability score bonuses between editions, but I don’t find anything in the original that seems wrong to me.

A lot of conversion is really deciding what seems right or wrong to the individual doing the converting. You can have formulae which help with the base work, but even then the original monster might seem wildly different stat-wise than how you picture it from the text. This is an issue that rises regularly while converting materials, and if you own an original Fiend Folio, you can see that it came up quite often in my “Let’s Convert the Fiend Folio” series of posts.

AL: Gricks are listed as Neutral, and Quetzalcoatlsghost went along with that, but there is no way I am not going Chaotic here.

Crit: Following the table on page 385 of the core rulebook, we get a result of M/1d8. We can choose not to follow the table – or even make up a unique crit chart if a creature warrants it – but we do not need to do so here.

Put altogether, our DCC grick statblock looks like this:

Grick: Init +2; Atk tentacle +3 melee (1d4+2) or bite –2 melee (bite 1d6+1), AC 16; HD 2d8; MV 30’ or climb 20’; Act 4d20; SP +10 stealth, half damage from non-magical senses, scent-based senses effective to 300’ range; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +5; AL C; Crit M/1d8.

The important thing to note here is that, although Quetzalcoatlsghost and I have slightly different takes on the creature, our conversions both share more than a little of the same DNA. Ultimately, which conversion a judge uses – if they do not make their own! – is a matter of taste. You shouldn’t be afraid of being “wrong” in your conversions. There is no “right” way or “wrong” way, just different ways based on what you like and what you want.

I am still hoping to get some other writers to share how they do conversions, so that you can see how their processes differ from my own. So far, people are shy!

Next: 3e 3PP: The Mysterious Tower