The Woes of Conversion Between Systems

At the moment, my main group is going to be starting the Pathfinder Adventure Path Rise of the Runelords, a truly well done campaign that stretches from 1st level all the way towards end game–at least using Pathfinder’s rule system. However, my group and I decided long ago that Pathfinder–and, by extension, 3.5–was too slow and unwieldy for our purposes. The largest reason for this is that we get only four hour sessions every other week to play, and a game that runs faster means we get much more done, and, therefore, have more fun.

Of course, Pathfinder has several other reasons for not being used, not the least of which is game entry; getting into Pathfinder is difficult, especially for my group of friends. One has a child and a wife, one commutes three hours to work every day, the other is a full time student, and little old me has to keep up with work and family along with planning the campaign. Learning a complicated system like Pathfinder this late in the game would just involve too much frustration, which is the opposite of what we wanted. Pathfinder does have the advantage in that it can be run theater of the mind, but, like 3.5, it is difficult to do so, if not impossible–like Fourth Edition, it almost requires a battle mat and miniatures of one sort or another.

Disregarding minis and battlemats, Fourth Edition has the same sort of problem; it is somewhat alleviated by the fact that Fourth Edition–at least in my opinion–plays better than Pathfinder/3.5. Not any faster, of course, but at least there’s a functional character builder for Fourth Edition to ease the transition into the new game.

The group began life as a single-session Shadowrun game, of the Fourth Edition variety. It was…interesting, but then the Gamemaster at the time bugged out on us, and we were left without a game to play. Previously, before moving to that city, I had been playing in an Exalted 2nd Edition game, and offered to run one of those games. They jumped at the chance, and so we began one almost immediately. This became a very sweet spot for the group, allowing the awesomeness of roleplay and combat to come to the fore, without the players worrying too much about mechanics–of course, Exalted puts the onus of the mechanics on the Storyteller, and so that made my life hell for a little while.

After two games of Exalted, I burnt out on the game. Its just too complicated–much slower, for reference, than Fourth Edition D&D; combats usually take over an hour to complete, each. One of my players, though, suggested Fourth Edition D&D, which I’d always been interested in, but never ran. So, I tried it out, making a somewhat shoddy but mildly entertaining Dark Sun campaign (hopefully, once Psionics become a thing for D&D5e, I’ll be able to make this campaign into an adventure path, but that will most likely be something for the near to far future). The Dark Sun campaign was entertaining; I found myself, however, somewhat stagnant for ideas for the details of the campaign–in truth, I got bored, because I discovered R.A. Salvatore’s The Legend of Drizzt novels, and delved into the lore of Forgotten Realms.

That didn’t turn out so well.

The Forgotten Realms game I did ran about two sessions before I gave up, bereft of ideas. Looking around on the internet, I discovered a summary of Rise of the Runelords, and immediately wanted to run it. It was awesomely written, entertaining, and complete. This led to the discovery of the Pathfinder Adventure Paths as a whole, and the discovery that my bank account hates me, because I bought most of them on PDFs. Well worth it, though.

At this point, though, came the conundrum–we, as a group, can’t pick up Pathfinder, since none of us wanted to use such a clunky system. The same was said of Fourth Edition, although that was less of a demon than Pathfinder’s system was. Then, of course, Fifth Edition D&D came out, and one of my players purchased the Starter Set, and requested to run it, both to give me a break, and to help us all learn the rules and see if it was something that we wanted to try out for a further basis.

It turned out wonderfully, too. The Lost Mines of Phandelver was a well written adventure–unfortunately short, and left hanging in a lot of different ways, but still a stirring, enjoyable adventure to fifth level. One of my projects is to continue the plotline of the Lost Mines of Phandelver, and flesh it out all the way to level 20 or so as a full campaign. The thought came, though, while we were playing Fifth Edition: why not use Fifth Edition for Rise of the Runelords? The levels of characters are the same, after all, and the system is very easy to use.

This, on the other hand, has turned out amazing.

The conversion is difficult. Making monsters to match up requires a decent bit of work, given the amount of encounters throughout the campaign. I am eternally indebted to Surfarcher and his blog, for his Monster Analysis has given me much help in making individual monsters for use in the campaign, as will be posted below as I go along in the conversion.

I’ll be breaking up the Chapters into Parts, and posting them separately to keep it all organized, as much as possible. I will also endeavor to, eventually, put the information into a downloadable PDF for those that wish to possess one. I’ve learned that converting single adventures is, itself, an adventure, and like the idea of being someone’s guide.

Stay tuned for Chapter One of Rise of the Runelords: Burnt Offerings.

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