Sunday, July 31, 2011

D20 Conversion Update

Last night (or rather, early this morning) I wrote that I was thinking of converting my B/X campaign to D20, just for this next week...partly as an interesting mental exercise, partly to show I could do it, partly because I haven't killed anyone using the D20 system in awhile and tactics and minutia are generally "my cup o tea." Or at least they were.

So here's the update:


D20 is soooo Goddamn boring. Ugh. I got as far as picking feats for the characters and just got sooo bored. Even limiting myself to only the feats in the 3.0 PHB I just could feel my eyes glazing over...I don't know what people would want! Nothing would really model the game we currently have going anyway.

It's funny...I used to really relish the chargen aspect of D20, planning out character's career advancement all the way to level 20 and beyond. Hell, the character crafting was generally more fun than the actual playing! But now...shit. I still enjoy "crafting" characters, but I so prefer the B/X system which allows my imagination to do the work rather than the rules system.

Ah, well.

At this point, I seriously doubt I'm going to run a D20 session this week. There are too many reasons why it would be a Bad Idea:

1) D20 is very precise about the amount of gear/equipment characters should have at any given level. B/X is not. As a result, some characters possess magic items in excess of their character level...for example, the magic-user just acquired a crystal ball, an item valued too high in D20 for any character under 10th level. Meanwhile other characters, like Stanley the 5th level thief, have the proper amount of treasure, but not in the form of useable equipment (magic gear and whatnot). And in doing the conversion, I don't feel like ret-conning characters' equipment lists.

2) If I'M responsible for picking characters skills and feats and whatnot, and then their characters get killed or suck or whatever, I'll be the one to take the heat for it. And I don't want the hassle.

3) At the same time, I don't want to blow two hours of game time helping players to pick their own skills and feats and whatnot for a single one-off event. Screw that!

4) As I said, it's kind of boring. Creating "optimum" characters just because that's the name of the game seems like such a waste of time, especially when they're just going to get stomped anyway.

So I might continue tinkering with the conversion in my "free time" (yeah, sure, what's that again?) but it's definitely low priority. Fact is, I need to read up on my DCC Beta rules, since it looks like we'll be playing that on the following Thursday and I want to make sure my candlestick maker is sufficiently badass to rock the joint.

: )


  1. Relief. While intellectual curiosity is acceptable, I thought you were heading down the dark side. B/X Blackrazor to d20 ....
    You fill in the blank.

  2. for the record, I have no interest in playing D20. I'd rather you converted it to WFRP or something. Hell, Gamma World!

  3. That candlestick maker should fit right in with the overabundance of goat/sheep herders we had in the last funnel round. I've never seen so much animal husbandry in one game before :)

  4. @ Jovial: Sorry to scare...I sometimes dabble.

    @ Heron: How about a conversion to Ron Edwards' "Sorcerer (& Sword)?"

    Actually, I DID finish kitting out the characters with feats and skills and such (sometimes I just have a hard time letting go of these mini-tangents)...but I am more than happy to scrap it for B/X.
    : )

    @ Java (Matt): Yeah. I was reading through DCC last night and it was causing me even more "glazing over." But I'm still willing to give it a shot (so long as I don't have to run the game). Heck, I love trying out different games...and playing a "normal dude" (or two or three) appeals to my sense of weirdness.

    It's just tough to imagine handling 24 player characters...

  5. I think d20 is probably the best game system designed, in terms of a lot of the mechanics and so on, especially for a balance between completeness and flexibility.

    However, I have no desire to referee it again. Ever. Or play in it. It does not do what I want it to do, even if it is a good system for other people.

    I'm with the Iron Goat. Warhammer is SWEET. I haven't checked out anything after the Green Ronin version, and my heart will always have a special place for the Hogshead version, but still. SWEET.

  6. @JB: It seemed like the combat was actually a lot more streamlined, even with tons of characters, largely because it is pretty simplified. I look forward to seeing it with a "full" party though. In B/X fashion, it's simple enough to leave things open to imagination and creativity -- "I should be able to accurately throw a pitchfork, because I've been farming hay for 20 years!"

    If nothing else, testing the new system gives a different spin on combat with less preconceived notions. I feel like it helped improve my weekly B/X session approach a bit.

  7. @ Greg: Really?! Is this the thing to which you owe your PC's continued survival?

  8. @JB: I'd say it helped. Having the first character die almost immediately, and instantly, being a frail peasant set us off at a more cautious and careful pace, requiring more inventiveness. I think it may do a better job of setting expectations and tone, plus it softens the blow by giving you a stable of characters to pull from.

    D&D sets you up for a bit of failure in that department, I think -- you're almost certainly above average in most regards, as a character, including equipment, but end up pretty much being thrown to the lions (in some cases, quite literally) like a rag doll.

    I recall the Mad Hermit's cat -- the average hiker can and should be able to at least beat the living crap out of a catamount and possibly live, but the same encounter, in armor with weapons, puts you at a pretty severe disadvantage in B/X. DCC throws you into the mix with the expectation of pain, but is built around that.

    'Course, that's just my perspective. But, hey, whatever helps, right? I'm not saying one is better than the other, of course. I enjoy both!

  9. JB

    1) D20 might have guidelines about how much wealth or magic items a character should have at a given level but they are only that, guidelines. Rule:0 (The DM can alter the rules as he sees fit) is still in effect. Will it break your game if you give your 1st level wizard a staff of power? It might, but then that 1st level wizard still only gets 1d4+con buns for hit points. A crossbow would take him out.

    2) & 3) Why are you picking all of the character's skills/feats? Just show them this link:

    And tell them to have their own character ready by game day. Are they too lazy? Well you still have their B/X characters written up right?

    4) It's not always about creating "optimum" characters. The later versions of D&D gave players more options so you could have different types of fighters, thieves, mages and priests. Just in case people get tired of "cookie-cutter" characters.

    The rules for combat in 3.x were concise and covered just about anything that might happens, and what they did not cover could easily be ad-libbed. The complexity of the rules were actually created to defeat players who exploited ambiguous rules in earlier editions. As the years wore on, 3rd edition suffered the fate of 1st and 2nd editions with the power creep and gonzo races and classes that were released in new rules books (I am talking truly crazy sh*t like half-illithid/half dragon ninja/warblade/dread-pirates). But if you just use the Player's Handbook for creating characters, you have a pretty standard D&D game with maybe a few options open to the players. 3.5 edition even alleviates the taking of 1 level of a class to gain a whole butt-load of special abilities (like ranger/paladin/sorcerer mixes with all the special abilities thereof).

    One thing you pointed out in the post above was how BORING it was to pick skills and feats for every character. Back when 3.x was alive and well most DM's got caught up counting skill points and feats for every goblin and dire-wobat and giving themselves brain-tumors so that everything would be "legal". Screw that crap! Just give a beastie what YOU the DM need it to have, need a two-weapon fighter goblin? Just give it the ability to fight with two weapons. Don't waste your valuable time bean-counting skill points when you only need this critter to be alive for five rounds. Hell don't even worry about what armor it is wearing Just give your monsters the attacks, armor class, hit points and abilities you need them you have to challenge your players. What goes on behind the screen is none of the player's business.

  10. Agreed with By The Sword.

    I would also add that, at least with 3.0 core, there is not much space to "optimise" a character at all. The feats are so specialised and compartmentalised that there are only a few real choices to be made.
    After all, feats were originally introduced to "itemise" the special abilities that characters got in previous versions of the game. So for example, for a fighter choosing Weapon Proficiency and then Weapon Specialisation is a no-brainer. If he wants to be a mounted warrior then he can choose Mounted Combat. If he wants to be a frontline fighter he will choose Cleave or Power attack etc.
    For Wizards it's even easier than that: just choose which kind of magic items you want to be able to create.
    For all other characters, there is only a handful of general purpose feats which interface with well-defined parts of the game: Alertness, Improved initiative, the triad of saving throws feats, Skill Focus.

  11. You could always try a game of Beacon, light d20 mechanics without all that skill crap. Plus I'd love the playtest feedback.

  12. @ Antonio & By The Sword: While I appreciate your advice on how to "streamline" D20, the fact is I'm not big on over-hauling games...I prefer to play them Rules As Written, and add an extra bit here or there as I see fit. One of the main reasons I prefer B/X is that I don't have to throw out half the rules on monsters to make the game playable (for example).

    As for making my players "build their own;" um...this is MY little exercise/waste of time. I wouldn't subject them to THAT.
    ; )

  13. Well, my "streamlining" is only of the character creation pipeline; it follows the Rules as Written. Or, put it another way, it streamlines the metagaming aspect of selection of character abilities, but the characters are perfectly "legal."

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  15. @ BTS: Oh, I am sure..."add to" is the operative phrase.
    ; )