Monster Conversion 101
This is a short post, considering the topic 2 typewritten pages would still be pretty short, on what I usually go through when I convert a monster from original D&D or D&D 3rd Edition. I can convert from 4th Ed, but I haven’t felt the need to, the 3E writeups have more useful information for my purposes going to AGE, a system where skill matters a little bit more than 4E.
The first thing I did was create an Attribute conversion. I started with what each system considered an average rating, and went from there. Since OD&D didn’t use attributes for monsters (with the exception of Intelligence), this was really only for 3e writeups. This chart is in the Mystara Core Appendix, but the basic idea is that the Attribute modifiers stand in perfectly well as attributes in AGE. It’s possible, albeit rare to see a PC with a +4 in AGE, and that range corresponds to the same range in 3E characters. I don’t do this religiously, as some monsters have astronomical attributes, like Dragons. But for the vast majority, it’s a good benchmark.
Next, I look at skills that the monster has at more than a minimal level of ranks. If the designers thought it was actually skilled at something, then perhaps it needs the closest Focus to signify the same thing in AGE. I also give Focuses even when there is no skill listed for fluff reasons. For example, if Kobolds set traps, they need a Focus to offset their low attributes (which they have because they aren’t normally individually threatening).
Lastly, aside from writing up powers that correspond to the special abilities of the D&D critter, I have to worry about favored stunts. Sometimes the favored stunt is semi-unique, or unique. Those are easy if you’ve written up a new stunt before. It’s the ones that really aren’t that special that you need to worry about. I created variant non-spellcaster gnolls, goblins, orcs and hobgoblins. For most of these, the favored stunt choices just made sense. However, sometimes you end up with two monsters that have really similar statistics and then favored stunts can add a bit of flavor. On paper owl bears aren’t much different from bears statistics wise, but their favored stunts needed to be slightly different. Favored stunts are one of my favorite features of AGE. They give the GM clues as to how to play the enemy, but don’t dictate. Enemies can still perform any stunt that makes sense, but these are the ones they prefer due to temperament, experience etc.
Think long and hard at this stage so that your Elven Highwayman and your Elven Scout don’t come off as identical in play. After all, the PCs don’t get to look at the stats for either and notice that one has a higher Dexterity and the other a higher Perception. So that’s it for today. Next time, I’ll try to go into how I changed Defense for the Mystara adversaries and why, and maybe why I created a new statistics block as well.