Monday, February 25, 2019

Answers for JB

In my previous post, I mentioned that I'm wavering in my idea of converting my West Marches campaign to Classic D&D/BX/BECMI rules because not every player is on board with the idea. JB of the BX Blackrazor blog posted a few questions to clarify my feelings on this.

Here are his questions (in bold) and my answers.

1) You say you might lose one, and possibly three players over a conversion. Have your players actually expressed disdain for the conversion and a desire to "not play?"

I started the campaign with the original West Marches idea of not having a solid play group, but just running for whoever showed up to game. Of course, over time, the core coalesced, especially since my son was one player and two other players bring their daughters. Now it's become the "family" game.

Of the current regular players, my son and one father/daughter combo are cool with the changes. The father has some trouble keeping up with all the mechanics, and his daughter is just there to have fun, meaning he has to keep up with the mechanics for two very different characters to help his daughter (who is only 8 going on 9). I think Denis (Gnome Rogue) and Renee (Fairy Princess [reskinned Tiefling Warlock]) won't mind simpler characters. Both tend to prefer narrative interaction over mechanical interaction anyway.

A regular who recently stepped away due to starting grad school says she's also fine with old school gaming when she comes back. Another guy who played early on may be enticed to come back since he prefers old school games anyway.

One player, Greg, has always been upfront about preferring new school games to old school games. We first gamed together in a Pathfinder game, and I remember him saying "Why would I want to play in another game when I have Pathfinder?" Of course, then 5E came out, and it still has enough of what he likes (character building mechanical options, the optimization metagame) to keep him happy. Most likely nothing I do will keep him around, which is too bad, because he also is one of the strongest players for getting into character and making his characters interesting. He could still do that, but seems to feel (my speculation here) that he needs mechanical effects to back up the characterization. Greg currently plays a Tiefling Sorcerer.

The other player in question is Paddy, who is the other father. He doesn't have much experience with old school gaming, if I remember right. He started at the tail end of 2nd edition AD&D and was big into 3E. He says he's not so much against playing an old school game, it's just that (his words) he's playing in two other 5E games right now, and doesn't want to have to learn a new system. But he's enjoying this game and his daughter is also enjoying it, so he is willing to give it a try, just with massive reservations. Paddy plays the Human Cleric (war domain) while his daughter Ahra plays the Elf Fighter (battlemaster archer).

So one is disdainful of old school play, one thinks it's a hassle to convert, and the third depends on the second for access to the game and I'm not sure how she'll take to losing her cool character powers.

2) Assuming they have is it based solely on their inability to continue playing the race-class combo they desire?
I guess I answered this above. For Greg, yes, but not only. It's the lack of defined skills/abilities/mechanics, the inability to craft the character mechanically to taste.

For Paddy, no, it's just the perceived unfamiliarity of the rules.

I'm not sure if Paddy has asked Ahra about it (I'll message him) but I suspect that in her case, if she is unhappy with the change, losing her "superpowers" will be why.

3) If not, is the desire to convert these strange classes ("battle archers," tieflings, etc.) simply YOU wanting to keep a certain continuity to your campaign, or are you just trying to head off anticipated problems before they arise.
Both to be honest. We've had a few character deaths, a few players deciding to try a new character concept, etc. in the campaign. Most players are attached to their PCs but willing to try something new. So while I could just tell everyone to roll up a new character using the new rules, that would probably kill the campaign, even if we started at higher levels. Maybe not, but I'm afraid it would.

Also, as you say, I have a desire to keep as much continuity in the campaign as I can. I think the transition will go more smoothly if they can keep the personalities they're playing and as close as possible the roles/skill sets they bring to the party.

Part of it, though, is that I also enjoy character customization. I've been working on a Classic D&D set of house rules that is basically BECMI but with separate race and class, and simplified versions of most of the popular AD&D and 3E/5E classes not in BECMI.

The big reason to convert, from my perspective, is to make prepping the game faster and easier, as well as running the game. I've spent I don't know how many hours converting classic modules to 5E to use in the campaign. I could save a lot of time by converting. During play, since I'm still not an expert on 5E and most encounters are based off of random encounter charts, I spend a lot of time leafing through the Monster Manual at the table. Converting to Classic would allow me to more easily keep track of monster stats, and fewer fiddly special abilities for monsters. Converting will allow me to speed up prep and play.

Using my house rules to allow the 5E races to remain, and to still have Rangers and Bards and stuff, shouldn't be a problem, since I've already done the work to streamline the classes/races for Classic play.

4) Finally, what is the current experience level of the player characters in your 5E game? That makes a difference for any conversion attempt!
All the characters are currently 5th level, I think. One may still be 4th level. My son's Half-Orc Paladin is only 150xp away from 6th level (he's the most regular attendee, obviously) -- but he's also in America for the next six months so everyone else has a chance to catch up.

I've already got a rule in place that when characters die, or if the player wants to roll up a new PC to replace the old one, they keep their level but start at the minimum for the level. I'll keep that for the conversion, so we'll need to adjust some XP totals to fit. I'll probably figure the percentage of advancement they've made to the next level and give them an equal percentage towards their new level once everyone's decided on what to play.

Regardless of the answers to these questions (and any possible follow-up on my part), one thing to consider is this: if your have experienced players...i.e. players who have experience playing early edition D& may be that they WANT to play 5E, for its extra bells and whistles. They might not want to convert at all! I know DMs who prefer LL/BX but who run 5E play who simply prune the extra "dross" from their campaigns, and that might actually be an easier way to get to the simpler game you least, if your players are unwilling to budge.
Again, in Greg's case, that's true. He's "moved on" from old school play and doesn't want to go back. For Paddy, it seems like he's willing to give it a shot if it's not too much of a hassle.

I've already kept this campaign fairly simple. The players are limited to the PHB only for races, classes, archetypes, and spells. And on my side, I already use a few tricks from BECMI (2d6 reaction/morale rolls for example). I could limit future PCs to the downloadable Basic Rules pdf options, but then I'd still have to deal with 5E mechanics for prep time and while running the game.

I'm not adverse to stealing some good ideas, though, like advantage/disadvantage, and I'm not adverse to grandfathering in SOME of the 5E abilities for existing characters. But for new players or replacement characters I'll make them stick to my house-rules or by the book Classic D&D/LL characters.


  1. I’ve played them all, from 0e to 5e and champions and GURPS and so forth.

    5e is not so complicated that you can’t manage it I don’t think, even though I prefer B/X era the best too.

    It would be hard to simplify 5e back to B/X though.

    1. Agreed. 5E isn't so bad, but BX or BECMI is just so much easier. And simplifying 5E is probably more trouble than it's worth. It's easier for me to add small doses of complexity to Classic.

  2. I don't know the ins and outs of 5th, but isn't it simple to keep the classes? If the game have something like attack of opportunity, and some class feture gives a bonus to this somehow, this need to be modified, but there cant be that many of such. Then just let them play the carecters.

    If it's prep time that is the main issue, then ignore all the adventure design and encounter building that might be irritating, and do your DM thing. Teach them to run.

    But I'm commenting blind, here.

    If you only gamed with adults then I'd just say convert and let the scoffers get the hell out out. It's YOUR world and game THEY play in. Kids are the complication. But you should run a game you enjoy. If not, it will fail in the end anyway.

    1. The classes are actually a big source of complication in the game, although that doesn't affect my slow prep time. It does slow things down at the table, especially when someone gains a new level, with new abilities/spells, and we have to remember to use them or occasionally figure out how they interact with other powers.

      I do ignore the adventure design advice in the books. I'm not crafting balanced encounters, and I telegraph that to the players in the game. The slow down with prep time is usually related to me trying to convert old school modules to fit the setting (White Plume Mountain, Caves of Chaos, Quasqueton, the Moathouse, and Xak Tsaroth so far) which is slow going. If I convert to Classic D&D with some house rules, I can just run the modules straight.

      Also, when making the random encounter tables now, I just put a note on what page of the MM the creature is on because the stat blocks are too large. With Classic, I can list basic stats on the line of the encounter. Since most encounters in the game are random wilderness encounters, that will save time at the table.

    2. I have seen that the monsters have PC stats now, and if that's just the tip of the iceberg then I do see it possible being a bit much. I need to leaf through the downloadable basics. I always get bored when I start, though. I don't know if that is telling.

      JB's blog entry seems reasonable. And again, it's your game. You must appreciate running. Nothing in the good book mandate suffering as a DM ;)
      But if you chose to suffer for other people that is a noble thing. Just realise it's i voluntary act.

      Battle on!

  3. Play GLOG. It's got some but manageable character customization. It's got all of the wizards if your sorcerer person wants that, but it is as simple to run as BX.

    1. Ah, but that's a brand new system for everyone, even if it is very similar to BX. It'd be easier for me to do what I'm doing than to track down a new game, read through it, then try to teach it to everyone else.

    2. Fair enough. I just feel the GLOG strikes a really good balance of customization characters and classic DND principles. If you get interested check the index at Coins and Scrolls for Skerple's version and some sample classes. Here's an example, entire class fits between the two pictures:
      The cool part is you can mix and match whatever you want.

  4. Thanks for following up. I've got my "helpful advice column" posted to my blog now. Be warned: it's a little looooooong:

    Hopefully there's something useful for you in its meandering ramblings!
    : )