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Converting Adventures Between Systems

by Mike on 3 April 2023

With all of the great RPGs out there, sometimes we want to run an adventure or campaign from one system but with the mechanics of another. Maybe that awesome 5e adventure sounds like it'd be fun in Fantasy AGE or the Cypher system. Maybe that Pathfinder 2 adventure would work well in D&D.

How do we convert adventures or campaign worlds from one system to another? The answer might be easier than you think.

When we first think of such an endeavor, we think about converting all the mechanics of the adventure over to our system of choice but we don't usually need to do that. Instead, use the mechanics of your RPG system of choice and overlay the lore and fiction of the adventure.

Don't worry about the specific details of difficulty checks, monster statistics, or other mechanical bits from the adventure or campaign. Focus on the intention of the adventure and use the mechanics from your chosen RPG system.

Ensure the Theme Fits

Certain types of adventures or campaigns don't fit well with certain RPG systems. A Call of Cthulhu adventure isn't likely to work well with vanilla 5e rules — one being a game of gothic horror and the other a game of high fantasy. It's often best if the theme and genre of the adventure fits the themes and genre of the RPG system you choose. High action adventures work well with high action RPGs, for example. Are the heroes from your chosen RPG powerful and empowered or are their lives risky and fleeting? Consider the theme of the adventure or campaign and ensure that theme fits the style of the RPG you want ot use.

That said, story-focused RPGs like Dungeon World or Fate Condensed work well with more mechanical adventures because the theme still fits. It's more of a problem when the intended feeling of an RPG doesn't fit the feeling of the adventure or campaign.

Understanding Challenges and Action Resolution

It's important to know how your RPG of choice handles resolutions like skill or ability checks. How are actions resolved? How do the characters accomplish things? What is the range of difficulty and how do you change it?

Then look at the adventure or campaign and understand how it expects to handle challenges like this. It's important to understand the underlying system of an adventure or campaign so you know what the actual difficulty of a DC 18 check is compared to a DC 12. Once you understand the ranges of challenges, you can abstract such types of checks into bins of difficulty like "easy", "medium", and "hard". Then convert those difficulty bins over to your new RPG of choice.

For example, if you wanted to play a D&D 5e adventure using Fate Condensed, you can take D&D's difficulty class range of 10 (easy) to 25 (very hard) and lay it over Fate's adjective ladder of -4 to +8. Thus, a DC 14 in a D&D adventure is probably about a +2 in Fate Condensed.

Reskinning Monsters

Many times our chosen adventures and campaigns have a big bunch of monsters in them. Instead of painstakingly converting monsters from one system to another, rip out the ones in the adventure or campaign and replace them with monsters from the RPG you're using. When they aren't a perfect match, reskin the closest monster in your RPG to the one described in the book. Reskinning once again proves to be an invaluable lazy DM tool.

Make Life Easy On Yourself

We GMs often take the hard path. I don't know why, but we feel like it's cheating when we find things too easy. What really matters is running a fun game for our friends — not how accurately we stayed within the lines of a published adventure or campaign. When it comes to converting an adventure or campaign to an RPG of your choice, take the easy path. Rip out the adventure's mechanics and replace them with those from your RPG. Take a break. You deserve it.

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