Converting Revenge of the Iron Lich

•March 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s done! IT’S DONE!

I can’t tell you how over-my head I felt after I took on converting this module for 5th Edition D&D. Revenge was originally written for 4th Ed, which is very, very different. At times, the only similarity between the editions seemed to be the name. There’s an entirely different anatomy once you get down to the bones of these editions.

For that reason alone, any conversion is going to be its own thing. I tried to preserve the spirit and signature “Oh Shit!” moments of the delve without feeling beholden to re-create 4E in 5E.

Over the month, I’ll be posting specifics about converting the rooms. For now, I’m leaving you with some starting math and assumptions.

I’ve run and played some 5E, but I hadn’t scratch-built encounters yet and I hadn’t experienced high-level play. I have run Revenge several times in 4E and am very familiar with all the twist, turns, and the potential bodycount.

Turning to the DMG, I tried to hew to the recommended guidelines for encounter construction. There’s a lot of math and art involved. I found the whole process needlessly complicated, as you are about to see.

I began assuming by assuming a minimum of 4 players.

DMG 84: Adventuring Day XP
* A party of four 16th-level PCs might clear ~20,000 XP each before needing a long rest. This assumes two short rests, which are now 1-hour each.

* Without the benefit of a short rest to recover HP and recharge abilities, the true limit for the adventure is around 1/3 of the adventuring day’s XP (DMG 83).

In 4E, a lot of abilities recharged at the end of the encounter. A short rest was 5 minutes, after which the players could spend healing surges to heal up. In 5E, a short rest requires 1 hour, after which the players can spend HD to heal and those are much less effective than healing surges.

How many rests do I want to allow? I settled on 1, but not until after I sketched out the encounter XP budgets.

DMG 82: Combat Encounter Difficulty
* XP Threshold for a 16th-level character is…
1,600 for easy x4 = 6,400 XP
3,200 for medium x4 = 12,800 XP
4,800 for hard x4 = 19,200 XP
7,200 for deadly x4 = 28,800 XP

* Be aware of the Encounter Multipliers table for using multiple monsters. CR measures a single monster’s challenge against 3-5 PCs of the same level. putting more than one creature in a fight increases it’s effectiveness and eats up your XP budget for the encounter.

And the page-flipping has begun. I also frequently visited DMG 121 for guidance on traps. Hazards (DMG 105) are also traps by the text, but located somewhere else entirely. Neither sections contain advice for how this affects encounter construction. Instead, you get some vague notes on modifying encounter difficulty on DMG 84, which don’t mention hazards or traps.

53,333 XP is the daily budget. There’s also a chart for XP budgets by encounter difficulty, so we can estimate up front how that daily budget can break down per encounter.

The final encounter is Deadly. I’m not budging on that, so that’s 28,800 XP for a party of four. This leaves us 24,533 XP for all the remaining encounters.

Looking at the map layout and drawing from my previous experience running this module, parties average 2 combat encounters before (if!) they reach the end, so that remaining XP doesn’t have to be divided between all of them), just 2. So each of the remaining encounters run approximately 12,266 XP each which is medium difficulty (12,800 XP).

If the party explores more they risk more combat encounters which can seriously mess them up. Also, one bad combat could tempt them to use their single short rest to quickly and then be too worn down to face the lich.

(note to self additional short rest with a 1/2 hour penalty on the clock?)

I have stretched a few of those encounters to be harder than the math suggested they should be. The narrative demanded it. Playtesting will tell how well I’ve balanced that. REgardless, I’ believe that the conversion will be deadlier than the original. The margin for error feels vanishingly small now.

I’ll post on the specifics of converting each encounter after PAX.

LFG: I’m running Revenge of the Iron Lich at PAX East 2015

•February 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I’m looking for a group of 4-6 16th-level crusaders to stead the tomb of the Iron Lich at PAX East. The game has a strict 4-hour time limit to complete, but assume we’ll be there for 5 hours as we set up and answer questions. I’m willing to run Thursday or Friday night. The exact time depends on the availability of the first four players to commit. To sway the odds in your favor, bring friends!

This is a timed, deadly dungeon delve for experienced D&D players. Good judgment and a little bit of luck will be required to make through to the end. Unlike organised play modules, beating the Iron Lich is an accomplishment to brag about, not a foregone conclusion.

If you have any questions regarding the event or wish to reserve a spot at the table, catch me on Twitter (@StephenChast) or send e-mail to

For the past few years I’ve been running a deadly dungeon delve at PAX East for total strangers. It has been a lot of fun and very rewarding experience but, with the advent of a new edition of D&D, I was suddenly at a loss for ready-made, qualifying material.

True to form, I decided to jump into the deep end. I’m nearly done converting SVD Press‘ Revenge of the Iron Lich from 4E to 5E.

This has been a very daunting challenge to take on. Whenever I run a Fourthcore (now Iron Trident) D&D adventure at PAX, it universally impresses. I’ve done my best to preserve that quality and bring it forward for players of the new edition to experience.

Don’t Rest Your Head

•January 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Don’t Rest Your Head is an RPG that has been on my hit list for a while now. I picked up a used copy last year from an online friend and I was immediately captivated. by what I read.

I finally got to run a session and you can watch the results on YouTube. I had no idea what anyone was playing before the session so everything you saw from Go was use making it up as we went.

Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves very much and would play it again.

A few notes on how the game played for us:

  • Character generation can be accomplished quickly at the table, but the game can suffer if the players don’t have a strong sense of what kind of game this is. Steve wasn’t as prepared as the others and it left me with less to work with. If I were more adept at this style of game, I may have been able to compensate better. As it was, he was rarely the center of attention because he didn’t give me much reason to put him there.
  • I didn’t push hard enough. I totally forgot that a character failing a check allows me to force them to check a response box. I had felt that they weren’t spiralling fast enough and I thought that was because they weren’t taking enough chances. I initially took that as me not putting them in enough stressful positions, but it was much more likely because I forgot this.
  • Trajectory is really, really important. Discussing this with the players in advance is important, especialy if you are the only one to read the book (as I was). Set expectations so playing out the questionnaire goes smoothly and gives you what you need to run the session.
  • Jason’s character, Marcus, and his choice of madness talent saved the game for me. I created Harvey as an unconscious manifestation of his talent and Jason’s deadpan playing of that unconscious trust was perfect. The thought that he may be Alp came to me at the same time. The newspaper article was to cast doubt on Sampson and to provide an endgame for where we would end the session.
  • I probably over-sold the paranoia at the end as to who was Alp and asked too many leading questions. If we played this sort of game regularly or if we were playing more than one session, I probably could have left it alone. As it is, I appreciated a seeming self-contained arc and discussing how we could have proceeded made me feel a lot better about my choices.

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 10

•January 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is an #ActualPlay broadcast of Expedition to Castle #Ravenloft using the #13thAge RPG.

We’re back from our holiday break! This is the fastest that we’ve ever gotten back into the game and it made for a great, full-length session.

Our players decided to weather a night upon Lysaga Hill, but their respite was interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious cult.

Our characters are are:
Ember, the human fighter–played by Bryant (@gamercow)
Kenthis, the human sorcerer–played by John
Heinrich, the human cleric–played by Pierce (@sorcerer blob)
Raghnar, the human fighter–played by Aaron (@wolfsamurai)

Continue reading ‘Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 10′

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 9

•January 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is an #ActualPlay broadcast of Expedition to Castle #Ravenloft using the #13thAge RPG.

We’re back! It’s been 6 weeks since we played and it takes time to get up to speed.

The party searched the ruins on Lysagia Hill and dispose of a body. An important discovery is made. The group decides to camp in the ruins.

Our characters are are:
Ember, the human fighter–played by Bryant (@gamercow)
Kenthis, the human sorcerer–played by John
Heinrich, the human cleric–played by Pierce (@sorcerer blob)
Raghnar, the human fighter–played by Aaron (@wolfsamurai)

Continue reading ‘Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 9′

The Fate Deck/Deck of Fate

•October 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Every now and then, I take a break to think about other games. Shocking, I know. Tonight I’m mulling over a mechanics mash-up between Fate and TSR’s SAGA system, as presented in the Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game.

Evil Hat's Fate Accelerated and TSR's Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game

Two different RPG games, 15 years apart. I’mma mix them like chocolate and peanut butter.

Continue reading ‘The Fate Deck/Deck of Fate’

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 8

•September 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This is an #ActualPlay broadcast of Expedition to Castle #Ravenloft using the #13thAge RPG.

Beaten down by the ambush, our heroes take a night to recover before facing the thing that lairs beneath the monastery ruins.

Our characters are are:
Ember, the human fighter–played by Bryant (@gamercow)
Kenthis, the human sorcerer–played by John
Raghnar, the human fighter–played by Aaron (@wolfsamurai)

Continue reading ‘Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in the 13th Age: Session 8′


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