Converting 3e to 4e in a million complex steps, using Whispers of the Vampires Blade
First, I wanted to read the adventure front to back. I got halfway and decided to convert as I went. Couldn’t wait. I knew my party was level 7 so that meant a standard encounter budget was 1200 xp. I had the monster builder loaded up, I’ve got both Monster Manuals and both Eberron books, I have DDI compendium and the encounter builder, so it should be straightforward. The first thing I noticed was that all these tools still don’t actually allow a DM to pull together an adventure easily (yet). The statblocks don’t copy/paste perfectly into my word processor and I still can’t add in skill challenges. Also, the compendium is superb for finding relevelled beasties, but they’re not allin the monster builder. So I had to manipulate a few things in the builder to make them right. I know that’s exactly the point of the builder but really it became a distraction (for a while I couldn’t figure out how to copy a monster I’d been working on). Eventually I got something working to my satisfaction and had a level 11 vampire lord rogue as my main villain, Lucan Stellos, rogue agent of the Kings Dark Lanterns.
I was busily statting up the other encounters with their closest analogue between editions. In Whispers, the very first combat is with a dire ape. I entered it into the compendium and hit search. Nothing. I tried various combinations of ape, dire and giant, still nothing. That can’t be right I thought, but it was. They just don’t exist in 4e. Weird. Still, with a monster builder that shouldn’t be an issue. Then I realised I didn’t have a mini for a big ape anyway so the point was moot. What I did have was an owlbear mini, and the compendium had a feyborn one ready to rock. Done.
One of the big differences between the editions is the presumption that in 4e you’ll be fighting groups, whereas in 3e the combats are often against a single foe. In 4e that situation is resolved by using a solo, a creature worth approx 5 normal creatures on it’s own. The vampire lord is actually statted as an elite, which is only worth 2 creatures. I was cool with that, he’s already 4 levels higher than the party and he’d have his sister nearby too. She’s called Grilsha and is presented as a sorcerer in the adventure. I went simple and did her as a human mage, 5th level. I figured this felt about right. You could drive yourself mad getting these encounters perfectly balanced, I deliberately wanted to keep it loose and just go with gut feel.
The other encounters were pretty simple to pull together. I had fun with the Aundair agents, there’s a perfect level 7 one waiting in the builder. The adventure is very humanocentric, most of the foes are human or half elf at a push. That’s a shame as Eberron has a broad spectrum of races available to play with and against. I wish humanoidwas a viable search term, I’d have liked to mix it up a bit. Warforged fell right on the level for me, though halflings were too weak by the book. Take a look at the picture in this post, the glidewing is level 7, the rider level 4 at a push. Still, that’s what the builder is for.
The most problematic piece was the final encounters in the ziggurat. This is really a mini dungeon at the end of the adventure. There are about 6 discreet chambers to traverse with either a trap or a monster in each. Taking the advice from 4e I wanted to blend that together. I squished all the chambers together and made one big encounter out of it. I pulled the poster map from Seekers of the Ashen Crown and put the entire fight on that. I though that would make for a decent finale.
I made sure to print off all the art from the scenario too, I always find visual references invaluable at the table. They’re still available from the WotC art galleries and actually there’s more images on there than are present in the physical copy. I was left with about 10 encounters, 4 absolute musts and the rest I could stretch or lose as appropriate. I didn’t have time to stat up the potential skill challenges, so I went with single rolls against the DCs in the book. All in all, the encounters were good fun to put together, but I didn’t really leave myself enough time to make the best of them. Still, not a bad job for a couple of hours.
Next time: The session itself.