Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

Fourth Edition gets a bad rap from a lot of gamers, especially old-school gamers.  Which is really a pity to be honest.  There is a fun game there. There is even a fun D&D game there.  But alas it is also a game I am not likely to ever play again despite my investment of time and money in on it.

What I did like the most about 4e though were the HPE modules.  These were a series of three adventures for each "tier" of play; H for Heroic (1st to 10th level), P for Paragon (11th to 20th level) and finally E for Epic or 21st to 30th level of play.  Now while most D&D games stick to 20 levels, 4th edition went to 30. Well...1st had an assumed cut off at 20 and D&D BECMI went to 36th and beyond.  But I'll get to that.

The Epic level adventures were truly epics.  The adventure plot was discovering that Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead (and the cover boy on Prince of Death), desires to be a god and he sets out to kill the new Goddess of Death, the Raven Queen.  The E series had you confront Orcus in a reality-spanning quest to stop a mad demon with the powers of an ancient evil artifact.  It was a plot that appealed to me.  The series featured three modules.
Now back in the 1st ed days we battled Orcus back in the Bloodstone Series (H1-4), which I'll also cover on "H" day.  So this was not really all that original.  Indeed even today in the 5e world we have the Rage of Demons adventure series which includes Orcus.   Orcus is a very easy target. He hates everythng, wants everything destroyed and is a rampaging beast.  Which is also the biggest issue I have with these modules.  Orcus is portrayed as a schemer. He isn't. He is a beast. In my own games he is classified as a Rage Demon.  So I thought someone else pulling the strings behind him would make more sense.  Someone clever, someone evil, and someone that will use Orcus getting godhood just as a mask to his own plans.  So now I think you can see how my "Come Endless Darkness" was born.

Over the last couple of years I have come up with some fairly rough algorithms for 4e conversion.  So here are my current thoughts.

Plan 1.  Use bits of this plus bits of H4 Throne of Bloodstone to fold into my Come Endless Darkness campaign.  This is the most likely really.

Though I would still LOVE to use ALL these adventures someday.  Play all nine, ten or eleven if you count the ones that came with the 4th ed basic set and Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens.   I doubt I will ever run it under 4e, but stranger things have happened.
But I could convert it.

Plan 2. Convert for use for another game. There is some good stuff here really and I would still love to play all of them out.  Conversion could solve my issues, but how do I convert it?

Well if I am playing 2nd, 3rd or 5th ed then levels are about to 2 to 3.  So if the adventure says it is for 6th level then I take 4th level characters through and replace the monsters appropriately.

If I am playing B/X/C or BEMCI (aka "Basic") version of D&D or AD&D 1 then I add 5 levels to the characters.  B/X/C and BEMCI assumes that the characters, well, human characters, will advance to 36th level.  And your average 1st level 4e character is still more powerful than your average 4th-5th level character.

I am more likely to try it under Basic; going from 1st to 36th level.  I am not really sure how well it would work to be honest.  But I will also admit this is my conversion of choice.  It allows me to use all the cool OSR toys I have and use a system am very familiar with.  I would adopt some of the 4e trappings like conditions, especially "bloodied" and ideas like minions.
I have already converted 1st and Basic-era luminaries as Emirikol the ChaoticAleena and Morgan Ironwolf to 4e, so going backwards is not that difficult.

There are a couple of conversion guides out there too. WotC has one as does Sly Flourish.  But none that I have found so far back-converting.

If you are new to this and want to learn how to play 4th Edition D&D and see the first part of the HPE saga you can get H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules for 4e for free.


Dr. Theda said...

Part 2... Conversion, Yes, works very well.. Often altered things and adjusted these elements into the Game. Some took longer than others. My players seemed to enjoy them.
.. Second and Third Level characters tend to die off rather quickly in my games (Dungeon Master of Chaotic Evil alignment)...

Karen Baldwin said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Hmm? I have no idea about anything Dungeon & Dragons, but it looks very

Jonathan Linneman said...

I have yet to play 4e at all (and suppose I may never play it), but I like it when folks in the OSR community are willing to publicly embrace aspects of it. The parts of it that people really rag on (that it plays like a board game/card game/MMORPG/whatever-that-isn't-really-D&D-enough) make it seem to me like just a different sort of fantasy RPG experience that could probably inform some interesting OSR gaming.

And I always love seeing peoples' thoughts on conversion among editions/clones/etc. I have yet to be convinced that mixing the editions really has to be much more than a matter of scaling power levels.

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

That sounds really complex and I have no idea what half of it really means :). I suspect asking what makes the systems so different would probably takes pages and pages to explain, correct? ;)
Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

JB said...

@ Tim:

"Orcus is a rampaging beast?" Not sure where you got this impression (aside, I suppose, from how he's portrayed on the covers of various WotC manuals). Orcus was listed as a "supra-genius" in the original Monster Manual (intelligence 19-20) and was noted as being exceptionally intelligent even in Eldritch Wizardry (his original listing). I've always considered it'd take more than brute force to elevate oneself to the rank of "demon prince," lord of one (or more) planes of the Abyss. Yes, Orcus is physically powerful in his own right, but that's not what makes him dangerous.

At least, I've always seen him that way: far smarter than mere mortals, something akin to a demigod, definitely not a beast waiting to be slaughtered by some hunting party (I'll be interested in your take on the Bloodstone modules).