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Converting BECMI Dragons to 3E

by Greg Weatherup

I think many of the details of conversion are not terribly important and can be safely ignored (ie in BECMI most spellcasting dragons have clerical/Divine spellcasting while in 3e most have Arcane {Sor} spell*) or simply have the BECMI idea swaped in without change (ie alignment differences from core 3e dragons). The main sticking points as I see them are: Chance of talking, chance of spell-using, age, age categories, size, & HD/Levels.

*=Though the idea that Draconic magic is fueld by Dragon Souls adds complications.

For chance of Talking, I never cared for that, I have personally always ruled that dragons can always speak Draconic and the listed chance is the chance that they can speak the local common language.

The percentage chance of spell-using is problematic in 3e. A creature of a certaint CR is always supposed to be an encounter of the same difficulty (assuming the party level doesn't change inbetween encounters and assuming things like surprise/terrain/etc. is otherwise equal), but if there's suddenly an x percent chance of a CR Y creature having medium or high level spell use, then that one encounter against a CR Y is no longer the same as the next CR Y. In 3e the spellcasting of a dragon is a scaled power based on breed and age category, but in BECMI it is a random "on-full" or "completely non-existant". It seems the easiest here is just to go with 3e rules concerning draconic spellcasting.

To find a good system for conversion I was looking at comparing 2 points or stages of a Mystaran Dragon: both the natural point they can reach without any ceremonies of sublimination (Natural aging) and converting a full blown "Huge" BECMI dragon:

Converting solely based on the size descriptors (which are only comparative terms in OD&D/BECMI) obviously doesn't work (ie there's no "medium" nor "Colossal", and I think a BECMI "Small" would likely be a 3e Medium or Large). I would ignore BECMI size descriptors and go with 3e one's.

Using a 1:1 age exchange doesn't quite work for 3 reasons- 1) once they start undertaking Ceremonies -it's well out of whack (3e dragons advancing solely by age can't advance as fast and before that OD&D/BECMI dragons mature faster), 2) the age ranges, (even using any of the proposals for increased dragon longevity follwing successfull ceremonies), never match up with 3e norms, & 3) 3e age categories do NOT vary by breed (neither does relative power, by much...)
for example w/o any ceremonies, a BECMI dragon's natural lifespan is 66-605 years depending on breed and gender (or 6-484 using the un-errated version of Bruce's article). 1:1 age exchange gives dragons Age category 5 "Young adult" to 9 "Very Old" at max (or 2 "Very Young" to 8 "Old" if using the un-errated version) and that will vary drastically with breed (ie a White can only reach 6 "Adult" at max). Even if I was to use that there was no clear way then to connect further advancement with the other 3e age categories.

It's clear that the assigned numerical ages in 3e needs to go or be drastically changed, or have different scales for each breed, or some combination thereof- What I'm thinking is that each breed has appropriately renumbered age categories up to a certain point, then higher categories depend on # of successfull ceremonies of sublimination and degree's of success, and not on a numerical age range.

I'll mention here that core 3e dragons go up to age category 12 ("Great Wyrm") with rules for advanced dragons of even higher (unlimited) categories in SRD & Epic handbook, and those rules are repeated in the Droconomicon. Alternatively Mongoose Publishings Slayers Guide to Dragons & Book of Dragons add's a 13th category "Draco Invictus".

Trying to do a straight 1:1 HD conversion leaves Mystaran Dragons rather weak under 3e stats:
w/o any ceremonies, a typical "Small" OD&D Dragon will be "Very Young" (age category 2) in 3e terms if 1:1 conversion of HD (if counting the +/- 3HD, then range from typical "Wyrmling" {age category 1} to typical "Young" {age category 3}). At first, this sounds good, but looking on...
Large OD&D will be between age category 2-4 ("very young" to "Juvenile"), depending on Breed
Huge OD&D will be between age category 3-5 ("Young" to "Young Adult") for White/black/green, or 4-6 ("Juvenile" to "Adult") for blue/red/gold
thus there's no way to get a Mystaran dragon of age category 7 ("Mature Adult") or higher this way.

I think now the key is to do a 1:2 HD conversion...
If 1:2 then "Huge" Black's can get up to age category 11 "Wyrm", Huge White's up to 10 "ancient", Green up to 12 "Great Wyrm", Blue 13, Red 14, Gold 15.
And max from natural aging is: White 5 "Young Adult", Green/Black 6 "Adult", Blue/Red/Gold 7 "Mature Adult", which are nicely all, in some form, "Adult".

It's not a perfect match (ie you'll never have White or Black "Great Wyrm's"), but it seems like a workable compromise. Thoughts?

Looking at White Dragons (the weakest and shortest lived breed) in closer detail as an example, a typical BECMI "Small" White dragon has 6 HD and ought to reach that level at 25 years of age through natural growth (or 3 HD to 9 HD range at age 10-40 if accounting for the +/- 3 HD). So in 3e a "typical" mature White dragon who has not had any ceremonies of sublimination would be a 12 HD Dragon, putting him or her in Juvenile age category (4) in 3e terms, while giving a range of 6 HD to 18 HD (age category 2 "Very Young" to bearly reaching age category 6 "Adult") using the wider range. The maximum age for a White Dragon that never succeed's at a ceremony, (using the +10 errated version), and adding in the bonus for a female dragon is 198 years.

If we add an age category of 0 ("Hatchling" perhaps?) and combine with the BECMI aging rules from the article in Dragon 170 converting HD over 1:2 between BECMI and 3e, then we can work out the following for a Mystaran 3e White Dragon:

White Dragon

Age Category Years corresponding HD range
0 "Hatchling?" 0-2 1-2 HD
1 Wyrmling 3-9 3-5 HD
2 Very Young 10-17 6-8 HD
3 Young 18-24 9-11 HD
4 Juvenile 25-32 12-14 HD
5 Young Adult 33-39 15-17 HD
6 Adult 40-198 18 HD

reaching higher age category (equivalents) are not dependent upon aging but upon Ceremonies of Sublimination.

A similar nice table results for Black Dragons:
typical BECMI "Small" Black Dragon is 7 HD at age 30, or a range from 4 HD up to 10 HD at age 15 to 45
In 3e that would work out to 14 HD (Juvenile) or a range from 8 HD (Very Young) to 20 HD (Adult)

Black Dragon

Age Category Years corresponding HD range
0 "Hatchling?" 0-4 1-3 HD
1 Wyrmling 5-12 4-6 HD
2 Very Young 13-19 7-9 HD
3 Young 20-27 10-12 HD
4 Juvenile 28-34 13-15 HD
5 Young Adult 35-42 16-18 HD
6 Adult 43-262 19-20 HD

reaching higher age category (equivalents) are not dependent upon aging but upon Ceremonies of Sublimination.

Moving up the dragon power scale to Green's you might need another possible age category equivalent (-1?).

Green Dragon

Age Category Years corresponding HD range
-1 "?" <1 1 HD
0 "?" 1-7 2-4 HD
1 Wyrmling 8-14 5-7 HD
2 Very Young 15-22 8-10 HD
3 Young 23-29 11-13 HD
4 Juvenile 30-37 14-16 HD
5 Young Adult 38-44 17-19 HD
6 Adult 45-352 20-22 HD

reaching higher age category (equivalents) are not dependent upon aging but upon Ceremonies of Sublimination.

While it seems like you could easily merge that -1 with the 0 category, when you move on to toughter dragons you begin to see why you need that category:

Blue Dragon

Age Category Years corresponding HD range
-1 "?" 0-2 1-2 HD
0 "?" 3-9 3-5 HD
1 Wyrmling 10-17 6-8 HD
2 Very Young 18-24 9-11 HD
3 Young 25-32 12-14 HD
4 Juvenile 33-39 15-17 HD
5 Young Adult 40-47 18-20 HD
6 Adult 48-54 21-23 HD
7 Mature Adult 55-416 24 HD

reaching higher age category (equivalents) are not dependent upon aging but upon Ceremonies of Sublimination.

And you'll note that by the time you get to the Blue Dragons they can (just bearly) reach age category 7 solely through natural aging.

Red Dragon

Age category Years corresponding HD range
-1 "?" 0-4 1-3 HD
0 "?" 5-12 4-6 HD
1 Wyrmling 13-19 7-9 HD
2 Very Young 20-27 10-12 HD
3 Young 28-34 13-15 HD
4 Juvenile 35-42 16-18 HD
5 Young Adult 43-49 19-21 HD
6 Adult 50-57 22-24 HD
7 Mature Adult 58-506 25-26 HD

reaching higher age category (equivalents) are not dependent upon aging but upon Ceremonies of Sublimination.

Gold Dragon

Age category Years corresponding HD range
-2 "Hatchling?" <1 1 HD
-1 "Yearling?" 1-7 2-4 HD
0 "Baby?" 8-14 5-7 HD
1 Wyrmling 15-22 8-10 HD
2 Very Young 23-29 11-13 HD
3 Young 30-37 14-16 HD
4 Juvenile 38-44 17-19 HD
5 Young Adult 45-52 20-22 HD
6 Adult 53-59 23-25 HD
7 Mature Adult 60-605 26-28 HD

reaching higher age category (equivalents) are not dependent upon aging but upon Ceremonies of Sublimination.

In the case of the -2 category, I would be tempted to simply merge the -2 and -1 categories, since there aren't any tougher dragons in Mystara than Gold's, and thus that -2 category would never be expanded. Perhaps rather than using a negative category just don't use a numeral at all and simply call it "Baby" or "n/a" or somesuch for all dragon breeds.

One nice feature of this is that Gold's and Red's, the strongest breed's, are the only one's that can advance below the minimum HD for category 7 solely by natural aging.

edit-adition: Minor, nice, subtle detail that might be worth pointing out- For White, Black, and Green Dragons (the weaker dragons), converting a "Typical/Base line" BECMI "Small" dragon results in a "Juvenile" (category 4) Dragon in 3e, while for a Blue, Red, or Gold (the stronger dragons) it resluts in a "Young Adult" (category 5) Dragon in 3e. Accounting for the +/- 3 HD range in BECMI resluts in, at minimum (-3 HD in BECMI), a "Yery Young" (category 2) for White/Black/Green or a "Young" (category 3) for Blue/Red/Gold, and likewise (as pointed out above) the stronger 3 breeds (Blue/Red/Gold) are at max "Mature Adult" (category 7) through natural aging vs. just "Adult" (category 6). So there's all around a nice distinctive break between the weaker 3 and stronger 3 breeds of dragonkind.

This method is also the easy for anyone using the optional Dragon Advancement rules in Mongoose's Book of Dragons as it is fully compatible.

I think this 1:2 HD conversion seems to capture the feel the best, what do others think?. Of course it doesn't address the issue of Dragons who also have class levels in addition to racial HD (A possiblitiy in 3e), ie let's just take a look at the first dragon in the Who's Who Among Dragons article (Dragon 171) - Marudi - in my next post.

Marudi BECMI stats- 14-HD Blue Dragon. "He is a master at illusions." ... "The youngest among the Known World's huge dragons, he is 98 years old and particularly skillful as a thief among humans and dragons."

Obviously he had to have succeeded in at least 2 (likely many more) Ceremonies.

In 3e should Marudi be simply a 28 HD, age category 8 equivalent, Blue Dragon? or should he also have levels in Rogue since he is said to be a skillful thief? And if so should this reduce the 28 racial HD as a dragon (and possibly the age category equivalent) or be in addition to them?
Should he have some levels of Bard or Wizard or Sorcerer to account for his affinity for illusion magic? OR can his illusion affinity by adequately explaned through feat selection and/or spell selection of the innate 9th level equivalent Sorcerours spellcasting of a 28 HD Blue?
While obviously the answers to this part might depend on the power level of the specific campaign, I think it could be handy to have some guidelines for quick and dirty base-line conversions.

I've decided to make differing versions, one using just 28 Dragon racial HD (CR18 I believe) and core rules, and another, more powerful version with 13 class levels and age progressions (CR25 I think).

Marudi is likely to assume the shape of a desert prince or a rich merchant

he is ... particularly skillful as a thief among humans and dragons.

The above to me implies that he takes human form and in that form is an accomplished thief.