Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Converted Campaign: Converting Magic Items

As I mentioned in my last post, bringing over magic and masterwork items as is, or as now described in the core rule books would HUGELY break the bounded accuracy of the game. The current campaign was based on the 8th level characters having legendary weapons which effective balance quite a bit to start, and then add in the copious amounts of magic stuff 3.5E and I allowed in the game would create a difficult to manage situation. 

I wanted to:
  • keep the story continuity - limit items just disappearing
  • avoid making the players feel like they lost out
  • have some sense of just how much of what I do allow them to keep impacts what kind of challenge I need to throw at them
  • not make a stupid mistake and need to retcon something because I broke my campaign
After only played in the Lost Mines of Phandelver up to a 3rd level character, this may have been a tall order to meet.  I read the rule books multiple times, went on line and read other peoples experiences, and relied heavily on other editions of the D&D gaming experience I have acquired since 1979.  Here is what I did.

Items Which Mostly Stayed The Same

Magic Weapons

If they had a +1 weapon in their possession, they may keep it. If they had any > +1, it is now a +1. This did not include their legendary weapon (campaign specific weapon)

Magic Armor

Magic Armor is rare and the maximum plus for anyone to own at this time is 1. If they had +2 armor, we discussed if it might have another advantage instead of the additional plus.

Bracers of Defense

This would be another rare item with a maximum of +2 AC, and it requires attunement.

Cloak of Resistance

If they had one of these in their possession the max I would allow is +1 (bonus to all saving throws), and it requires attunement

Items Which Changed

Masterwork Weapons

These are now nicely made, perhaps with fine materials, metals and gems, and worth money. They no longer have numerical advantages in combat.

Ring of protection

This would instead be a lessor item with limited uses/charges:
  • Use a bonus action to activate, the next attack roll against this character within the next 1 minute is at disadvantage.
  • Roll d6 for number of charges. No recharge.

Ability Score Plus Items

If they had one of these we converted it to a limited use item related to ability

Amulet of Natural Armor

We converted to a limited use item
  • Use reaction to gain resistance to one weapon damage type for one attack; bludgeoning, piercing, slashing. 
  • Roll 2d4 for number of charges. No recharge

MetaMagic Rods

If anyone had one of these I asked them to assume that any metamagic rods they had were items which had charges and the last time they used it was the last charge it held. These items do not really fit any more, as far as I can see reading through the spell descriptions. I don't think they are worth the time to figure out how to make them fair, easy and fit.

The Game Specific Legendary Weapons

In our campaign in 3rd edition, I build the campaign around a group of legendary weapons which once located, with the approval of the King who you were supposed to support, would become soul bound to a character for its life.  This was a sort of permanent attunement.  As part of our conversion I just ruled these weapons used up an attunement slot. 

Additionally these weapons are crazy powerful.  At 8th level characters they had unlocked +2 weapon status and a host of other abilities and damage bonuses.  Now, this really does stretch bounded accuracy.  To compensate, I have been treating them as 10th level characters for building encounters and I may need to bump that even to 11th level.  Of course I do have to manage the top level challenge rating of what they encounter and watch closely to make sure there is not an ability they cannot handle as 8th characters, especially with a max of 4th level spells.

Experience point calculations because of this bumping up of challenge are not a problem, I do not experience points for this campaign.  After what feels like the appropriate amount of time I let them level up.  The players are fine with this and it eliminates some overhead to managing/tracking the game.
So far this is all working out fine.  The limited use items are largely gone now, mostly consumed during dangerous moments as the players learned their characters in the early sessions after conversion.  It turned out to be a good safety net, and now its gone.  I can now operate in a more magic stingy environment better suited to the new 5E rules and the transition did not feel forced.

As a side note - I do not recommend creating this problem.  Knowing what I know now about 5E I would definitely done the legendary weapons differently but they were created in a different time and place.  The campaign survives and thrives, and that is what is important.

The dice never lie.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Converted Campaign: Character Conversion Retrospective

Last year a made a number of posts about converting my homebrew campaign edition on its return from hiatus from 3.5E to 5E.  I wrote about my plan for character conversion here.  If we get to play once a month we feel fortune.  So here we are, a little over a year later and fourteen games under my belt as DM and a little time to share some thoughts.

Basically I am happy with my decision to rebuild characters rather than convert.  I think I made the right choice to use the default array, even though the original characters were rolled.  As much as I grew up in the everything is random rolled first edition environment, I like that I understand the relative power the characters have, and all the characters have about the same relative power.  Although I am not saying that each class is equally powerful, or each player's character choices are equally effective.  5th edition characters really do rely heavily on their stats for their bounded accuracy power - or in other words the addition of a small number of points to a success role feels very powerful in this game.

The players initially grumbled about not being able to exactly match their previous score, but in the end they built characters which for the most part feel like their earlier edition counterparts, and more importantly play and role play close enough that no one feels in game a character is significantly different. Important note: we converted eighth level characters to eighth level characters and I have not had them level up over the course of the game yet - my focus is on them learning the new rules, and their abilities.  I expect to start letting them level up soon. Fourteen games in and everyone is enjoying the game and focused on the story and the challenges facing them.  Success!

Now, there are places where the conversion had challenges, or is still untested.

Paladin/Sorcerer multi-class character: We had some concerns how this would play out, as the original character was a bit of an optimization experiment, or in other words depended quite a bit on some specific 3.5E rules for combat tactics.  My impression is the character is still at its core what it was before, a hard to hit, hard hitting against a single opponent, fragile if you get through its AC build.  No question in my mind a full effective contributor to the game.  Now, some of the spell and attack combination tactics this player used previously do not work thanks to changes in spells and the buff limiting concentration rule, as an example the player no longer sees the enlarge spell as pragmatic use of a spell most of the time.  The net effectiveness in combat has been replaced by the smite feature.  Most of his spell slots get burned using smite, and of course the extra slots from the sorcerer often go that way too if they don't get used by a well timed shield spell.  I am open to be a little more lenient if this player wants to swap out spells.

Mounted Combat fighter: Our fighter build his character to be a mounted combat monster.  That does not translate as well to 5E, as there is only one feat and feats are harder to come by in 5E than they were in 3.5E.  Now, in practice in our game mounted combat opportunities were hit or miss.  If they ended up doing in city, in building or in dungeon adventures it certainly was not conducive to a mounted rider.  About half of our campaign is in the outdoor or wilderness, and sometimes it goes in long spurts of one or the other.  Having advantage from horseback against hordes of orcs certainly gives the feel of something special for this character, but the feat does not give advantage against large creatures (makes sense) so even out of doors the positives from the feat are limited.

House Ruled Ranger: One character had a house ruled ranger (does every game have one of those?) which was basically a woodland expertise fighter without spells.  I have not been happy with the ranger options in the Player's Handbook, or the unofficial test versions published by WoTC.  Since this player did not return after the hiatus, it has not significantly effected our game.  I used his character as an NPC, and hand waved a bunch of rolls, which was no problem.  I am hoping the player will return in the future, even for just a cameo, and I am determined I can build another house rule ranger to give him the feel he had!

Cleric Domain Conversion: This is largely untested.  Our cleric did not return after hiatus, and converting NPCs is just not the same.  Overall, I am pleased with what I see in the cleric options, but that is not the same as seeing how the conversion of a cherished character is implemented.

Magic & Masterwork Items: Bringing over items as is, or as now described in the core rule books would HUGELY break the bounded accuracy of the game.  As it was this campaign was based on the characters having legendary weapons which effective balance quite a bit to start, and then add in the copious amounts of magic stuff 3.5E and I allowed in the game would create a difficult to manage situation.  I had to cut back on the magic.  Sounds like a good topic for my next campaign conversion post!

The dice never lie.
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