Converting adventures from one system to another, or using ‘system-neutral’ adventures with your preferred system, requires a little bit of work.
If, like me, your favorite system is the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS), the trickiest part is converting the Armor Class of monsters and armor. It’s not hard, but it can be confusing if you aren’t paying attention.
Here is a handy chart for converting Armor Class, whether it is the broke ascending AC, the woke descending AC, or the bespoke ACKS AC:
A while back, there was a Kickstarter for Kit Sun Cheah’s Dungeon Samurai trilogy and I did a little interview with the author.
Now all three books have been released and I read them all. Short version is that I enjoyed them, but the point of this post is not an in-depth review.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, here is what the series is about: an evil demon summoned a bunch of humans from Earth and brought them to its world, which contains a megadungeon. The humans are trying to fight their way to the bottom floor of the dungeon, because they believe that if they kill the demon at the bottom of the dungeon, they will get to go home.
“How do they get through the dungeon?”
Glad you asked that, dear reader!
They use several tactics that you should consider adopting for your dungeoneering party. As I read, I can’t believe I have never considered some of these ideas to conquer a dungeon. So if you ever find yourself going into a megadungeon, here are some of the ideas the characters used that you may want to consider:
1. Set up a fortress near the entrance (great place to start expeditions and a safe place to flee to when things go sideways)
2. Set up a standard marching formation (with rear protection) and specific plans for dealing with traps / doors. In the Temple of Elemental Evil game that I was a player in, we had a standard door-opening procedure we used for every door. Sounds a little boring, but we mostly stayed alive!
2a. To add to point 2, give each party member or henchman a specific job. Person A holds a lantern, person B has the ten-foot pole, the elf is a sacrifice valued member of the party, person C watches the rear, person D is the shot-caller, etc
3. Traps can be neutralized, not just avoided. Pit in the middle of the floor? Fill it with the cremated remains of every elf you have ever met sand!
The Amazon links for the books are below. Don’t let the Japanese in the titles scare you. I am 99.9999% ignorant of the Japanese language and I could read it just fine. It’s written in English!
While chatting with one of my gaming groups, I noticed a disturbing trend.
What am I referring to?
Someone who hunts down and learns every bit of world-building information and lore about a particular fictional setting. For example, someone who has seen every Star Wars movie, watched every Star Wars TV show, has a bootleg copy of the “Star Wars Holiday Special”, read every Star Wars novel, Star Wars comic, interview with George Lucas, etc would be a Star Wars lore nerd.
Normally, this is fine. Just an eccentric person learning more about their favorite fictional universe.
The problem is when D&D gets involved. I have seen too much “how powerful is X in canon” or “this random book I found says Y, that’s canon right?” lately. These statements appear to be directly related to the game we are playing, as if something outside the GM determines “canon” in the game world.
Let me be clear.
THE ONLY CANON THAT MATTERS IS WHAT THE GM SAYS
It’s one thing if you are just talking about the lore of a particular published setting like the Forgotten Realms or Spelljammer or Planescape and NOT relating the discussion to an actual game-in-progress. That’s fine.
However, even if a game is being played in a published setting, the GM reigns supreme. PERIOD. If the GM decides that carnivorous space manatees are threatening ships in a Spelljammer game, they are! It doesn’t matter whether or not carnivorous space manatees appear in any Spelljammer books. The published setting is an aid to GMs, not a ball and chain.
It’s no secret that I love ACKS. On the website for the company that makes it (autarch.co), the following phrase appears: “Every campaign is a law unto itself”.
This is the attitude we need more of, not “Hey GM, this Forgotten Realms game we’re playing takes place in year 8765309. Per page 874 of this obscure Forgotten Realms novel, Jimjor the Evil is still imprisoned in the 3rd layer of the Plane of Ranch Dressing, so he can’t be here fighting us right now!”
Why is this a problem? Earlier, when I mentioned people asking about lore, I am seeing an assumption that “default-D&D-as-presented-in-the-rulebooks” has specific lore that must be adhered to. This lore is apparently an iron-clad contract binding GM and players.
To that, I say “Hell naw to the naw naw naw!”
The thing that should bind a GM are his rulings. If he makes a ruling… for example, turkey slapping a bandit does 2d4 damage… that ruling stands. If your player turkey slaps someone else, it should also do 2d4 damage (unless it is cold outside)!
Sure, there are assumptions about a game world baked into the rulebooks. For example, in D&D, there are probably dungeons full of monsters, including, but not limited to, dragons. But where the dragon came from, what the dragon is named, who built the dungeon, etc is NOT specified in the rulebooks. The GM gets to make that call. If a particular book states something lore-related, the GM chooses to accept that answer. And that is the important distinction: a GM chooses, a lore nerd obeys.
So, as a GM, I recommend that you be wary of established settings. You don’t have to fully avoid them, but be aware of what you are keeping / throwing out. And for the love of St. Cuthbert, if a brand-new piece of lore comes out that contradicts what you previously decided, ignore the hell out of it!
Even better, read the books from Appendix N and generate your own ideas!
SIDE NOTE: I know 3rd edition used the Greyhawk deities to show how deities and domains worked, but it isn’t binding lore. A 3rd edition game does NOT require the use of the Greyhawk deities or Greyhawk setting.
Ever wonder how to make human enemies (bandits, berserkers, cultists, etc) more interesting?
I got one.
What if the cultists of some necromancer dressed up as mummies or ghosts or other undead? Your party would waste time and resources with ‘turn undead’ or specific anti-undead magic, which would allow the cultists time to get some free attacks on the party.
Good idea or bad idea?
P.S. I promise not to inflict this on my current party of murderhobos kind, well-adjusted adventuring folk who are totally trustworthy.
Those of you who have had the misfortune of meeting me in real life have probably figured out that I am a pessimist. My glass is half empty and the other half is filled with urine.
But here on the blog, I am trying to be more positive. With a few exceptions, I tend to only review or talk about things that are good in tabletop RPGs or speculative fiction.
There are plenty of people pointing out the garbage, but I want to be someone pointing out the good stuff. So if it seems like I am always excited about this module or that book, it is a conscious choice to avoid the crap.
I just moved across town, so once my life is 100% back in order, I should be blogging a little more regularly.
As you may be aware, Venger As’Nas Satanis (a man who loves apostrophes more than I love mozzarella cheese sticks) will be releasing “Cha’alt” soon. He released a free preview of “Cha’alt” in the short “Beneath Kra’adumek” adventure. The majority of “Cha’alt” will be the Black Pyramid mega-dungeon, “Beneath Kra’adumek” will also appear in the same book. It’s a preview of the greatness found in the final product.
I mentioned “Beneath Kra’adumek” briefly in a previous post, but I want to take a closer look at it today.
What you need to know about Cha’alt is that “It’s gonzo, eldritch, post-apocalyptic science-fantasy, and about 174 pages geared to both the OSR and 5e D&D audience.” This hits most of my buttons and I am hoping for MOAR of the Venger creativity I have seen in his other works. People like me… we get strange ideas and have been conditioned by society to push them back down and forget them. Venger gets a strange idea and he sticks into a module!
(Yes, I am a little jealous)
– For a free pdf product, he has given a LOT of options to download (you got all of them for free in one “purchase”). Full color pdf, black & white pdf (for printing), numbered map for GM reference, and an unnumbered map to use with virtual table tops!!!*
– It’s free.
– While designed for a OSR/5E hybrid system that Venger has made (Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, found here), because he kindly includes the HD values of each monster, you can quickly and easily convert it to any OSR system of your choice. AC is ascending and starts at 10, FYI.
– The creative gonzo weirdness I love is on full display. Laser rifles? Magical glyphs? Demon Cat-Snakes? All here!
– It is brutal. The recommendation is that each player has either one 3rd level character or three 1st level characters. You’ll need it. One of the first encounters you can have is a sorcerer that will drop a 6D6 fireball on the party, unless they are extra quiet (to avoid attention) or be extra polite (when the sorcerer appears). Your party will need to tread carefully here!**
– Top notch aesthetic and design. Unlike my blog posts, free does not mean low quality!
– Because this is a teaser for a bigger product, the context of the adventure is a bit lacking. Once again, the fact that it is free more than counteracts this, but if you want to plop this into your own campaign world, it will require a bit of work.
– How am I supposed to pronounce some of these names?
* Cannot stress this enough. If a modern adventure is released via pdf, please please please include an unnumbered map for virtual table tops. Please!
** If your players want an easy low level hack’n’slash dungeon, this could be moved to the “bad” category for you.
*** Full disclosure: I backed this adventure on Kickstarter. Furthermore, I am not affiliated with the author, nor do I derive any financial benefit from this pdf, even if it is no longer free in the future.