Tuesday 18 June 2024

Conversion Crawl Classes 22: Hawkmoon (2): The Chatillon Caverns (1)

The second scenario in the Hawkmoon boxed set is The Chatillon Caverns, which is a much larger adventure with stronger ties to the Dark Empire of Granbretan (Great Britain). The scenario is easily long enough to devote multiple posts to, each focusing on a different part of the adventure, but for our purposes two posts will suffice – one to describe conversion in general, and one to provide statblocks for some of the creatures you might find in the caves.

As with the previous post, we are going to allow magic and technology to mix as it does in Michael Moorcock’s Tragic Millennium stories. As I said in the previous conversion post, I think it is worthwhile to preserve the flavor of the original adventure when converting it. Also, if you are converting from this particular Appendix N-based resource, it is reasonable to assume that you are also trying to capture something of the original.

Getting Started

A band of Granbretanian sorcerer-scientists have dug themselves a hold in a limestone cave system near Chatillon. They are capturing peasants and combining secrets of ancient voodoo and modern science to transform their prisoners into mindless living zombies.

This is an adventure with real stakes (zombification is permanent), in which stealth is often a better choice than confrontation. Magic in DCC can be a real game-changer, but even a long-lasting sanctuary spell cannot cover the entire complex, and allows the Granbretans to call for reinforcements. The judge must allow the players to learn that caution is important. Ideally, the judge should allow for encounters with zombified peasants, although not statistics are offered. Especially as the players may lose PCs to the process, it has to be telegraphed early. Some zombified peasants patrolling around a cave entrance, or even on a raid for new victims, would be worth including.

Remember that interesting choices require some amount of information. In this case, that the PCs’ information is inadequate – and that they need more – is what you wish to convey. Imagine that the guide taking the PCs to the cave knows one of the zombified peasants, calls out his name during the fighting to no avail, and the guide can tell the PCs that “he didn’t even seem to know me”. Imagine that the PCs can detect a lingering chemical smell. Imagine that they can determine that their attackers were living, rather than un-dead. How does that affect the players’ decisions?

We will look at zombification in greater detail below, and include a zombified peasant statblock in the next post.

Travel Within the Caverns

The experience of difficult traveling in the cave system is part of the point of this adventure, and the judge will have to do some work to make this run smoothly.

First off, movement rates are given in meters, although luckily the maps are scaled to feet and do not need conversion. It takes 20 minutes to travel 150 meters own a main passage, 40 minutes to travel 150 meters down a secondary passage, and an hour to travel the same distance down a tertiary passage. 150 meters is 492.162 feet, and for the sake of convenience, we can round this up to 500 feet. Thus, it takes 2 turns to travel 500 feet down a main passage, of 250 feet per turn, or 25 feet per minute. Travel down a secondary passage allows 175 feet of movement per turn, and movement down tertiary passages is a painfully slow 50 feet per turn. Within limited parts of the passages, normal combat movement may be possible, but in other locations movement and the use of certain weapons may be restricted. PCs can move twice as fast through previously explored terrain, or if they choose to forego caution. Smaller PCs are usually slower, but in this circumstance they have an advantage in size which negates the need to take that into consideration.

Otherwise, a convenient rule of thumb is that 3 meters is approximately 10 feet, and can be treated as such for game purposes.

Passage encounters include crawlspaces, pits, caverns, remains, and animal life. This is all well and good, and with a system as large as the Chatillon Caverns it would be impractical to have this all mapped out and predetermined beforehand, but there is potentially quite a bit of die-rolling involved mid-game to determine which features are encountered. The judge must then make a note so that these features can be found again if and when the PCs return to an area.

A good solution could be to preroll 30 main passage encounters, 20 secondary passage encounters, and 10 tertiary passage encounters. These could be written out on numbered index cards whose colors indicate the type of passage involved. As the encounters occur (through die rolls or random draw), the judge simply notes the card number on the map. This method can also be used for random wilderness features and/or minor adventure sites and lairs on a wilderness hexcrawl. This also gives the judge a chance to think about what bodies, or ancient caving gear, might still be found here ahead of time and, if it is in a regularly used/patrolled area, if it is still there, and if so why? Game stats can also be noted, such as the Climb Sheer Surfaces or Agility check needed to navigate a sharp decline (which is a sharp incline in the opposite direction).

Area A

This Area is controlled by the forces of Granbreton, including barracks, labs, and storage. This shouldn’t be difficult to covert, but it is important that we consider just how much of the chemical and electrical technology available the PCs can understand. We could pull out the Mutant Crawl Classics rules and make use of artifact checks, but for what is available in the scenario the DCC skill check rules are probably robust enough – simply require a DC 15 to 20 Intelligence check, depending upon what is being attempted, and note that untrained PCs (which should be all of them) roll 1d10.

Awakening the cryogenic sleepers in Area C may change this, but that is a reward for doing something, and is entirely in keeping with the Quest For It! ethos of the game.

Some specific issues and their potential solutions:

·         Pistol crossbow: Several opponents have these. I would give then 1d4 damage, ranges 20/40/60, and a cost of 50 gp. Ammo cost is 15 gp for 20 bolts. Where these items are more common, costs are reduced to 30 gp, and 10 gp for ammunition. Recovery of these items is therefore valuable, but you can’t fit very many in a bag.

·         Section Six: Warriors automatically recognize that this is a military installation. No roll necessary. Otherwise, try to convey this with detail, rather than a roll.

·         Chemical Lab: Drinking the chemicals caused 1d3 Agility and 1d3 Intelligence damage per dose. Fort DC 5 or 1 point of each is permanent. Imbibers are highly suggestible while damage remains; Will DC 10 or follow suggestion (+1d if suggestion is against character’s nature or obviously suicidal). There are 50 doses, so expect the PCs to use these on their foes!

·         Scientists’ Quarters A: Luren Narcus’ healing fluid, if poured on a wound and a 6 is rolled, requires a DC 10 Fort save or kills the patient in 1d3 rounds.

·         Scientists’ Quarters B: The book on voodoo rituals may be a source of spell knowledge.

·         Scientists’ Quarters D: The poisoned tea does 3d6+2 damage, or 1d10-1 with a successful DC 15 Fort save.

·         Scientists’ Quarters F: Rahna Fil’s whip, although non-magical, causes 1d8 damage due to its micro-wire tips. This is an artifact from ancient times and, if destroyed, cannot be replaced.

·         Electric Prod: 1d4 damage plus stunned for 1 full round, and unable to take any action (no save). This weapon ignores AC bonus from metal armor. It is an artifact from ancient time and, if destroyed, cannot be replaced.

 Converting Statblocks

As an example of how to convert a statblock to DCC, we will look at the Hounds (Granbreton soldiers) from pages 37-38. In Hawkmoon, each creature in a group is given its own statblock, which seldom adds enough variety in DCC to make the effort worthwhile. Using individual initiatives may make combat less predictable, but having to track each individual is, again, often more effort than the results are worth.

The next post will be several other Chatillon Caverns statblocks in DCC terms.

Init: We are given 10 Hounds, with Dex 9-12 each. As DCC’s Agility in analogous to Dexterity, we can safely say they have a +0 bonus.

Atk: The adventure gives the Hounds a range of weapons, presumably to individuate members of the group. This is counter to the idea of faceless soldiers (these minions of the Dark Empire wear masks to hide their features), so I will limit them to spear, javelin, and mace. These are skilled soldiers with Strength scores ranging from 10-19, so I will give them +4 to hit and +2 to damage.

AC: Armor is listed as 1d10+2 for the awake Hounds, and “none” for those which are asleep. The text doesn’t tell us what armor the Hounds are wearing, and I am inclined to go with chainmail for AC 15 (10 unarmored).

HD: With a range of 14-20 hit points, we can say 2d8+4 and keep the existing range.

MV: 25’ (30’ unarmored) as the Hounds are human.

Act: 1d20.

SP: There are no indications of special abilities.

SV: Looking at the listed DEX and CON for these creatures can give us an idea as to how Reflex and Fortitude saves should be converted. We’ve already granted +4 to hit points, or +2 per die. And accepted +0 for initiative. As soldiers of the Dark Empire who have sacrificed their individuality for the greater cause, I think we should grant a bonus for Will. Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +4. This takes into account a +1 bonus across the board for skill and experience.

AL: Although they are evil, they are Lawful.

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

Put altogether, our statblock looks like this:

Hound of Granbreton: Init +0; Atk spear +4 melee (1d8+2) or mace +4 melee (1d6+2) or javeling +2 ranged (1d6); AC 15 (10 unarmored); HD 2d8+4; MV 25’ (30’ unarmored); Act 1d20; SV Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +4; AL L; Crit III/1d8.

Area C: Cryogenics Storage Facility

Using this area as written makes a bold assertion that your campaign milieu is Earth in some far distant era, the Tragic Millennium or otherwise. This is appropriate for some campaigns (in DCC Dying Earth, you could even be time travelling back to the Tragic Millennium), but for others this is inappropriate. Consider that the cryogenics facility was not under the auspices of NATO, but rather some space exploration charter, and you can put anyone or anything in here that you desire.

In any event, the NPCs get normal statblocks, and can easily use the normal DCC skill rules. What they are trained in is, of course, quite different to the occupations of the place and time they now find themselves in.

In any event, read “-40% from Pick Lock skill” as DC 30, and let the thief spend Luck if they want to get in. Awakening the cryonauts successfully either requires following directions, a DC 20 Intelligence check per revival attempt (failure by 5+ kills the cryonaut), or divine intervention DC 10. For my money, awakening the cryonauts, then finding a way to communicate with them, is the biggest draw to this adventure, so, while it should be difficult, it should not be quite so difficult as having recovered a specific book.

Next: Hawkmoon: The Chatillon Caverns (2): Statistics

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