Converting Revenge of the Iron Lich

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.

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~ by Hunter Rose on March 1, 2015.

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