Sunday, July 31, 2011

"...I'm so bored I'm drinking bleach..."

No, not really. What? Doesn't anyone still listen to The Dead Milkmen?

However, you wouldn't necessarily know I'm kidding from the last hour or so, when I've been working out a conversion of my players' B/X characters to 3rd edition.

Oh, yeah...I CAN play D20.

But actually, it was more of an interesting exercise than anything else. I've kept notes of all the sessions of our current campaign, more for "accounting" purposes than anything else (in case I or someone else lost a character sheet or wanted to bring back a dead character). Because of that, I have a record of all the encounters/monsters fought and defeated by the PCs, as well as the characters that fought those encounters and survived.

Not that the latter matters in's "how many goes in" that matters, when dividing up XP, kind of the opposite philosophy of Old School D&D. The idea here is that it's not "only the strong survive," but "have mercy on us Father for we have died...please bring us back to life so we can advance in level."


Of course, no one's come back to life in my campaign, re-calcing XP the 3E way means leaving a lot of points on the "cutting room floor," so to speak.

Anyway , just for shits & giggles:

The current campaign consists of eight player characters:

Ellephino (2nd level elf warrior-seer; Elf)
The Myrtle Magician (4th level magician; Magic-User)
Neckbeard (4th level dwarf hero; Dwarf)
Orestes (2nd level seer; Magic-User)
Pendle (4th level vicar; Cleric)
Spunk (4th level escort; Scout)
Stanley (5th level cutpurse; Thief)
Zeebd (3rd level halfling swordmaster; Halfling)

(also Derrick, now "Garrett" the Normal Man who Andrew took over playing last week...don't know if Garrett will become a regular PC or not, but he hasn't yet chosen a class)

After figuring XP back to session #1 (including the XP each PC started at: 2500 for some, 3360 or 3200 for others), the XP total and level of the characters are as follows:

Ellephino - 6,689 XP (4th level)
The Myrtle Magician - 8,825 XP (4th level)
Neckbeard - 9,820 XP (4th level)
Orestes 4,578 XP (3rd level)
Pendle 7,964 XP (4th level)
Spunk 6,811 XP (4th level)
Stanley 11,532 XP (5th level)
Zeebd 5,671 XP (3rd level)

So, um, yeah...everyone's the same level (except the new wizard, Orestes...who's actually only 241XP away from 3rd level in the B/X game). That's pretty weird. What's even more bizarre is that Stanley the Thief has the exact same XP total in both editions of the game: 11,532. And that's without adding "entertainment bonuses" or "prime requisite bonuses" or any such thing. Just XP for traps and monsters.


Even though the elf would be 4th level, I'd assume the character would be an even split between wizard and fighter (right? to make it as close to B/X as possible?), so we're talking 2/2...which makes him the same power level as the 2nd level elf he is in B/X. Serendipity, huh?

Good ol' D20.

I'm tempted to do a complete conversion and run next week's game as "straight D20." Just for the heck of it. Just to change it up and see what it's like. Of course, players would have to choose feats and skills and update their ability scores and re-calc their AC and BAB and saves and, blah, blah, blah. Just so I can wipe 'em out anyway with D20 tactics and attacks of opportunity and "spell-like abilities" as opposed to "spells" and...

Ugh. So exhausting.

Interesting that...if I remember correctly eight 4th level PCs should find a CR 6 encounter (I guess it would be called EL 6 or "Encounter Level 6") to be the right size for 'em. And the last encounter of the game was (calculating): EL 6. How fortuitous! I somehow managed to balance my adventure for the hard math of 3rd edition D&D just using the B/X encounter tables and "eyeballing it."

Huh. Maybe I should convert it. I mean, we're already using a battlemap and miniatures due to the heated disagreements over "positioning." I remember all that 5' step and "full melee attack" stuff. I could probably do it for one evening.

But, man...what a learning curve for the players that don't already know 3rd edition.

As I said, it's an interesting mental exercise. If I can "get it together" by next Thursday (I'll just do "pre-gens" and choose an appropriate selection of skills and feats and such for the PCs), I'll give the players the option. You know...just to see how the other half lives.

; )

[and, oh yeah, there IS a "scout class" in D20, too...see The Complete Adventurer hardcover; I've got that one. Bring on the skirmishers!]


  1. I did this in the past...and it worked quite well. If you have the option...I would suggest using 3e (not 3.5) since:
    - it's lots less anal about tactical positioning;
    - you can dispense with skill points by using the sample starting characters, so you can automatically advance only the skills they selected at first level;
    - has many fewer feats (so few, actually, that apart from fighters, all the other classes are mostly interested in a handful of them;)
    - there is a sort of "niche protection" in that some skills can be accessed only by some classes;
    - monsters do not follow the same rules as PCs;
    - paladins don't have pokemon-like mounts.

    These are just a few things which IMO make 3e superior to 3.5.


  2. Oh, I forgot; somewhere on the internet there is a conversion booklet from (A)D&D to D&D, written by WotC itself; it's quite handy.

  3. ...I keep forgetting stuff. The apprentice character rules in the 3e DMG allows easy creation of elves which are fighters/wizards at 1st level.

  4. I love the rules-wonk aspect of 3.x games, but I do prefer the freedom of the old rules. As I was designing monsters for my Pathfinder campaign I realized the mental gymnastics I was doing just to get that done and I jumped over to Swords & Wizardry for my "returning to top GM form" campaign that I'll be running very soon. I'm going to need a warm-up before Pathfinder.

  5. @ Ohio: I'm glad you intend to try S&W *before* Pathfinder...for your sake! You may just find you don't need 600 pages of rules to run an entertaining game.

    @ Antonio: It's easy for me to stay 3E since I never bothered to acquire the 3.5 books. Pathfinder is even crazier...for some reason (presumably one of copyright) they went from a 300xp base system to 400...and then added a bunch of complicated weirdness.

    However, I generally keep the revamped gnome and ranger from 3.5 (available on the old SRD)...not that any of the PCs in our game have gnomes or rangers.
    ; )

  6. The effective deadliness (permanent death)of my campaign is something I give a lot of thought to, and JB, the fact you touch on it here is among the reasons I swing by. It gives me more to contemplate as i find myself well between the antipodes of OSR street cred means swatting characters like flies, and New School's the dear preciousess must be preserved so the railroad can go on...

    I was reading the massive Kuntz interview somewhere and found his comments about character death in old school campaigning quite interesting. I guess death was frequent and at very low lvls the guys rerolled; however pretty relatively early on it was by no means permanent. My take is that it wasn't desirable to muck around the first three lvls of advancement. There was plenty of treasure and magic early on so that a decent player could progress rapidly to a point where restoration from death was a setback, not an impossibility.

    Speaking to their Castle Greyhawk campaign, he indicated only one or two characters suffered permanent death during the entire campaign. Yeah, they got whacked at the drop of a hat, but it was more an inconvenience than anything. This feels as if it contradicts the notion that allure of Old School is its inherent mercilessness and deadly nature. Doesn't sound to me as if the founders played it that way at all.

    The middle ground is pretty much how I always rolled in a 15+ year campaign with my brothers (and most campaigns I've played cleaved to a middle course). Characters died often enough, but they always possessed the means to resurrect the ones they cared about. In that department, i don't think Old School and 3.0 are far apart. it's all sematics and perception.

  7. @ imago: I don't have any problem with raising folks from the dead. My old campaigns are similar to what you describe of Mr. Kuntz's old days: lots of regular character death but plenty of Resurrection spells and Wishes being thrown around to bring people back. The TSR modules are full of this kind of me, that IS "Old School."

    My current batch o players haven't yet tried to bring anyone back; and they often leave bodies behind!

  8. Ditto. Nah, I'm just ruminating aloud. It's such a fine line between not presenting sufficient challenge and overwhelming players.

    My guys always have a small (no delving mercs)army from about 4-5th lvl on--mercs, retainers, specialists, war dogs, linkboys, etc. etc. It's a blast and adds a major tactical element to the game--lots of scouting, spying, counterspying, assassination attempts, bribery, you name it, amid traditional dungeon spelunking. I was gratified to read that this was an integral component of Gygax/Kuntz, et al gameplay from early lvls onward.

  9. if we had been playing 3e, wouldn't we all have been running Half-Dragon Drow Berserker-Mages or some shit, like proper little munchkins? I skipped that era, but that's what I gather from scouring old issues of Dungeon.

  10. @ IG: You're thinking 3.5.
    ; )

  11. @JB

    Just stick to the the 3.0 core books...and see PCs die like flies ;)

  12. I just appreciate that Spunk is an Escort.

  13. There are a lot of things to like about 3rd edition such as the largely unambiguous combat rules. A game doesn't need to commit to one edition or another either. Paired with the simpler character and monster templates from earlier editions, 3rd edition combat rules can add a lot of value to a home campaign if everybody's onboard with the houserules.