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BECMI to 5E Karameikos Conversion

by Stefan Beate

Following my thoughts on conversing NPCs to 5e here, I want to note a few ideas Iīm in the process of developing for 5e, starting with Karameikos, as per tradition...

First, all Gazetteers give adventure ideas, sorting them to the BECM(I) rulesets. I think this would translate to the 5e tiers almost seamlessly. Basic = 1st tier (level 1-4), Expert = 2nd tier (level 5-10), Companion = 3rd tier (level 11-16), Master = 4th tier (level 17-20). With Karameikos, Master level adventures really donīt fit into the picture, the Grand Duchy being too insignificant for this level of game play. If you read the adventure ideas given in the GAZ (p.62-64) and compare the notes there to the tier explanation in the PH (p. 15), it fits quite well IMO. With regard to level conversion, I would recommend the "3 to 2" rule given in the 5e conversion notes for directly converting from BECM to 5e. This leaves out characters above level 30, but these august personages call for a special treatment from the DM anyways. It would be fitting that Emperor Thincol is already above and beyond written game rules, for example.

For adventurers, the possibility to raise dead is always of big interest. With the converted rules, there are but three clerics in the whole of Karameikos being able to cast the spell: Olliver Jowett (L 12), Alfric Oderbry (L 9) and Sherlane Haralan (L 9). If you leave it at that, no cleric is able to cast Resurrection, so you better make haste to reach and convince one of these holy men within nine days, to allow for one day of learning the spell - and donīt forget to provide the material component. Keep those Revivify spells handy! Resurrection is a special case: Jowett is one level shy to cast that spell, so a DM might decide to give him that level just in case. (As a side note, anybody who is not important and wealthy has no chance to be raised at all - adventurers had better proven their worth beforehand and have somebody speaking on their behalf.)

But I see an opportunity here: The spell is quite taxing for the caster as well, so if Jowett were to cast the spell, it might send him into a coma or worse. In a worst-case scenario, one of the family members of the ducal family (or even one of the ambassadors, if you want some diplomatic troubles) dies and is found too late to be raised, so the only option would be Resurrection. So, if Jowett were to cast Resurrection, it might throw the realm in turmoil as he falls into a coma, and the power struggle for his succession commences, perhaps while the duke has his hands full dealing with the aftermath of the death and resurrection of someone important. This would work best if the PCs (presumably of at least middling levels, well into the 2nd tier and perhaps close to 3rd tier) are already involved with the ducal palace and the politics in some way. In fact, this whole scenario might be the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the 3rd tier.

Further things to note, even if they have surely been noted in earlier conversions:

PC races: Half-elves are a natural fit IMO, but are rare. I would rule out Vyalia Half-elves, as they are very reclusive.
Half-orcs better be prepared to be attacked or at least thrown out if they enter civilised areas, and generally mistreated, hated and feared everywhere.
Tieflings and Dragonblooded do not really fit into Karameikos. I can see a few in Glantri and some in Alphatia, but they will probably be (mis-)treated as Half-orcs in most places. I would not allow them in a Karameikos game.
Gnomes obviously do exist already, but got a major rewrite since first appearing in the BECM rules, especially regarding their outlook in life. Dorfus Hilltopper seems to be a rather dour, reclusive type, and according to the GAZ entry for Highforge, a "typical" gnome. This seems quite different from the description given in the 5e PH. Perhaps this playful, curious outlook in life is a thing younger gnomes have, and are expected to leave behind after a few decades living out in the world. Or maybe these PH gnomes are different than the regular ones. Or the description of Dorfus Hilltopper is just wrong, and just a facade he puts on. Most gnome PCs will be rock gnomes, with forest gnomes being as rare as Vyalia elves at least.
I would rule out any more monstrous races as PCs - Mystara always had a feeling of a "human" world to me.

Classes: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard are obvious class choices available, with dwarves, halflings and gnomes being regular fighters if "translated" from the older rules. It is not a perfect fit for halflings, obviously. Elves could be simulated as Eldritch Knights, probably having this archetype as an (almost) exclusive elven speciality on Mystara. As the Eldritch Knight is strongly combat-oriented and somewhat limited in his spellcasting, multiclassing would be another way to simulate elves, even limiting them as to the max. levels they can reach in each class. WIth the options given in the PH, the sorcerer does not fit for elves IMO. Maybe racial Archetypes are called for, especially for elves and halflings. As an option, any arcane magic might be ruled out for dwarves and halflings.

Bards, Druids, Paladins and Rangers would fit into a Karameikos game as well, but should be rare. I think in 3.x there were rules to determine the number of classes in any community, they might give an idea as to the rarity of these classes. Perhaps rangers and druids are more common among elves.

Monks, Sorcerers and Warlocks should be very rare in Karameikos. I would probably rule them out as PCs.

EDIT: I forgot about Barbarians. I guess they would not fit too well into Karameikos, so I lean towards not allowing them there.

I started converting an NPC, Sergeant Arthol from B10. I saw a recommendation to just use the knight NPC stats from the Monster Manual, but I wanted to try and see what happens if you rebuild an NPC with a PC class. I did not do a full write-up.

Sergeant Arthol, human male fighter 3 (originally level 5)
TP 31 (3d10), AC 16 (Chain mail), 30 ft
S18 (+4), C 17(+3), D 9(-1), I 10, W 11, Ch 14 (+2)
Saving Throws Str +6, Con+5
Proficiencies (+2 bonus): Athletics+6, Intimidation +4, Insight +2, Perception +2
Passive Perception 12
Attack: Longsword +1,
Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d8 + 5 slashing damage. Critical 19-20.
Fighting Style: Defense (+1 AC while wearing armor)

I kept the original stats, which work very well with 5e. Hit points are max. at 1st level, average (6) thereafter. The AC would be 15 for Dex penalty, but I think that Defense is a good choice for a guard. I took the soldier background, which gives him the Athletics and Intimidation prof, with insight and perception being vital for a guard. He would take the champion archetype and get improved critical. I did not note down Second Wind and Action Surge as per PH class description. Regarding Equipment, he is not described as using a shield, but as having a +2 chain mail and +2 long sword originally. As magical armor starts at rare in 5e and a +2 weapon would be rare as well, both would not be regular equipment for him, so I decided to give him a +1 weapon and no magical armor. In the original write-up, his AC is 2, but with just chainmail +2 and neither shield nor dex bonus, it should be 3 instead, unless he uses a shield. If he would, his AC would be 18. His alignment is given as Neutral originally, I would see him as Lawful Neutral here.

I tried to convert Baron Halaran to 5e. The spellcasting suffers from major discrepancies, of course. (Taking GAZ 1 as starting point, p. 56-57)

Baron Sherlane Halaran
Cleric 9, Human, LG (Church of Karameikos), Acolyte Background
AC 10 HP 39 (9D8) Speed 30 ft
S9 (-1), D10, C8 (-1), I14 (+2) , W18 (+4), Ch14 (+2)
Proficiency Bonus +4
Skills: Insight+8, Religion +6, Persuasion+6, History +6; Passive Perception 14
Saves: Wisdom +8, Charisma +6
Languages: Thyathian, Traladaran
Attack +3, Mace, Damage 1d6-1 bludgeoning
Spells: 4 Cantrips, 4/3/3/3/1, Spell Save DC 16, Spell Attack +8
Cleric features: Spellcasting, Divine Domain, Channel Divinity 2/Rest, Destroy Undead CR 1, Ability Improvement (2)
Divine Domain: Healing
Feats (optional) Inspiring Leader, War Caster

I let the ability scores stand as they were, without modifying them for the overall +1 for being human and without the improvements at later levels. This could be handled differently, of course. From his characterisation, I see him as being Lawful Good. His rather low physical attributes are due to his age, Iīd say, and leave them at this, even though he has a negative mod to strength he did not have before. His backstory points to no other background but a church background, so I defaulted to Acolyte. As the Church of Karameikos does not venerate a single Immortal, I did not give him one of the Divine Domains from Glen Welchs 5e Mystara Players Guide, but instead took healing as an appropriate Domain. It grants proficiency with heavy armor as a bonus, which fits nicely to the "warrior-cleric" tradition in Karameikos. In keeping the ability scores intact, it might be an option to use Feats instead of ability improvements. The two feats I found fitting are listed above.

EDIT: Using K:KoA as starting point, and converting the levels directly would make him 14th level, of course. This keeps his spellcasting ability closer to the original writeup, so this might be worth considering. The conversion from GAZ1 to K:KoA levels was 1-to-1 for the most part, it seems. I still think that this gives levels that are too high, considering the tier structure of 5e. Furthermore, it takes the spotlight away from the PCs once they reach double digit levels themselves if too many NPCs of levels 10+ are around. My own level conversion shows six NPCs of levels 10+ in all of Karameikos, with 17 listed originally, three of those are level 18. So one could argue that only three NPCs had even reached half of the potential possible, with three more just out of the Expert Set level range. It depends on personal taste, I guess - do you want powerful NPCs, or do you want to portray Karameikos as a low-powered place? Iīd rather take it low-powered - if a baron of a small backwater town in a minor realm is already a powerful cleric, it gets difficult to portray more powerful places.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

I was just looking at the "Lost Mines of Phandelver" from the Starter Set to see if this can be placed in Karameikos. Turns out, it is not that easy. Krimson has placed the locations here, with the discussion here.

The description given for the town of Phandalin describes it as "the area has no local lord or authority" to chase a band of ruffians off who control the town and give the settlers a hard time. Furthermore, "Phandalin has no functioning government, but the townsfolk elect someone to serve as town master each year." That does not sound too fitting for Karameikos IMO.

Krimsons placement of Phandalin a few miles west of Verge would put this new settlement under the purview of the Antonics, Iīd say. If there was a new settlement that close to Verge, the Antonics would surely install some authority, and news of some brigands there would reach them quickly. Now, the brigands are not to be trifled with and present some real danger. But it would be more fitting to have this village placed somewhere farther away from authority and power. The story sure gives a "frontier feel". Zendrolions work for northern Karameikos introduces and places Highdell and Utica from Dungeon #42. While I think that a "bandit town" as Utica is described does not make much sense, an independent frontier settlement could well be there and turn a blind eye towards banditry, while everybody struggles to get ahead. So, I would rather place LMoP here. The characters start with their supplies in Highdell or even in Threshold, which would explain why the dwarf is so much faster than a trek with provisions. In the original adventure, the distance from Neverwinter to Phandalin is about 70 miles, while according to Zendrolions map, Threshold to Utica is about 40 miles.

You might even place the story in Highdell, if you either ignore Sir Reynald or have him gone, perhaps due to the aftermath of the adventure in Dungeon #24. But the distance is "only" some 20 miles to Threshold, so it is pretty much the same situation as with Krimsons placement.

I thought about converting Duchess Olivia Karameikos the other day. The writeup in the GAZ shows by removing two thieves skills that the usage of the Thief class was a compromise or an approximation, probably stemming from a desire to stay within the rules but the need to give her more abilities than possible with the Normal Man stats.

Looking at the 5e Rogue class, it seems not to be fitting here, but then, the Thief class was not really fitting anyway. 3e addressed these issues with the NPC classes, the Noble in particular. With 5e, NPC stats are much more loosely defined, which is not a bad thing IMO. According to the DMG, you can either build an NPC based on the classes given in the PH, or build the stats as monster stats. The NPC stats in the MM show that NPCs are more or less given the abilities they need to fulfill their role, and donīt worry about class specifics. This would be a way to go here. Duchess Olivia is a creature of the noble courts, and as such has no need for "adventuring" skills and abilities. On the other hand, she is quite experiencend, and while surely no real threat in combat, she is no less dangerous in other ways.

So, by looking at the NPC stat blocks in the MM, the spy stats seem close to what was probably intended by the author of the GAZ - quite a high number of skills, a more socially oriented stat distribution seems to fit the bill. On the other hand, fighting skills are not fitting at all, so I would throw them out (perhaps leaving one attack at low values), and add Expertise from the Rogue (which might give her a substancial bonus on up to four skills). I would even keep the 6 HD to reflect her experience, and which would amazingly fit to recalculating the levels to 5e using the 2/3 rule from the conversion sheet for 4e to 5e, if you take the HD as class level equivalents.

I started yesterday to have a look at the PCs given in the Starter Set, and how they fit into Karameikos. I got only two so far, with more to come.

Human Fighter, Folk Hero background:
The folk hero seems to be fitting for someone who fled from the Black Eagle Barony, of course. His parents fled to Threshold, and he had to make a living as logger. He might have stood up to an abusive taskmaster, or if you want to spice up things a little, even to some members of the thieves guild.
His goal is to free the land from the Black Eagle. He should be of traladaran descent.
Perhaps his melee weapon should be changed to to a greataxe. A greatsword is more a weapon of professional soldiers, while an axe is easily obtained by a logger. It is much cheaper, too. For that difference, you might equip him with a studded leather armor instead.

Elf Wizard, Acolyte background
The background concerning the faith of Oghma and the defiled altar has to go. If venerating an Immortal, Ilsundal would be an obvious choice. The character probably hails from Rifflian and is a Callarii Elf. For now, I would leave this character as a Wizard. Having him as yet another fighter becoming an Eldritch Knight later defeats the point (he would qualify for multiclassing into fighter, however).
The Acolyte background does not fit the elves of Karameikos, I cannot imagine them as having temples. As he is a wizard, one might consider a sage background. Overall, the backgrounds given in the PH donīt seem to fit too well, this might call for developing some backgrounds for the various races here.

Some more thoughts about the PCs from the Starter Set:

The Halfling rogue
This depends upon the Redbrands as they are transferred to Karameikos, so I will touch that later. I can imagine Lightfoot as well as Stout Halflings here, and will keep the Lightfoot as described.

Dwarven Cleric
Hill Dwarf aptly describes the Karameikos Dwarves (with Rockhome Dwarves probably being Mountain Dwarves). While the Soldier Background is fitting, Mercenary does not sound right. This dwarf is a Highforge Soldier, probably of a NCO rank, and thus Comfortable. Maybe he is not content with the Gnome Kings isolationism any more, and goes out adventuring. But the real question is the Cleric part. For one, does a dwarf show that he is a cleric? If you go by the ideas laid down in GAZ6, then he wonīt. But this is an individual decision, to be made by player and DM. Furthermore, a dwarf probably venerates Kagyar. But what Domain would he have? Knowledge is given for smith deities, and Moradin is mentioned, so this might be the PH default, even if the PC originally has the Life Domain. Or you might want to try the Matter Domain from the Mystara 5e players handbook.

Human Fighter, Noble
This cries out to be a Thyathian noble fallen on hard times. Maybe his parents failed at an attempt to build their own fief in the early days of Karameikos, and now have nothing more than a noble title to their name. I would change that Greataxe to a Greatsword, as this befits a noble better IMO. The two fighters would be a perfect opportunity to show off the tensions between Traladarans and Thyatians.

With level conversion, I looked at the table Hugin put together. For fighters and thieves, it is pretty straightforward.

- Duke Stefan Fighter 15 originally, now F 12
- Admiral Hyraksos F 12/ F 11
- Gunter Schonberg F 11/F 10
- Abdallah ibn Hamid F 11/F 10
- Flameflicker Thief 18/Rogue 14
- Anton Radu Thief 12/Rogue 11
- Mistress Sascia of Luln F 12/ F 11
- Baron Ludwig von Hendriks F 12/ F 11

As these classes are more or less completely redefined within the 5e rules, I would recommend rebuilding these NPCs according to the new rules.

Spellcasters are more complicated. I compared the spell levels the characters reached in the original rules (Magic-User and Cleric) to the spell levels in the 5e rules, where clerics and wizards have the same number of spells per day, spell levels (up to 9) and reach the spell levels at the same character levels. Of course, the old cleric only had 7 spell levels, while now they have 9. So, I had a look just at what level the classes reach the spell levels. Hugins table holds up pretty well there also.

The old M-U gets one new spell level every odd level, up to level 11/Spell level 6. The old cleric gets one new spell level every even level, up to level 12/Spell level 6. Up to this level, the old levels are more or less identical to the new spell levels. In fact, up to level 11, it is identical with the old M-U, the old cleric being one level behind. The only discrepancy would be that a level 11 M-U would be converted to level 10, and thus lose access to lvl 6 spells. If this would be crucial for the NPC in question, just add that one level.

After these levels, it does not fit as well anymore. The M-U gets access to higher spell levels earlier than the converted level Wizard:
M-U 15 Spell level 7, which would convert to Wizard 12 and Spell level 6. This is corrected at level 13 already, so, again, add a level if needed. As original lvl 15 is the first CM set level, this might be fitting.
M-U 18 Spell level 8, which would convert to Wizard 14 and Spell level 7. Again, at level 15, Spell level 8 is gained, so this can be fixed.
M-U 21 Spell level 9, which would convert to Wizard 15 and Spell level 8. Level 9 spells are gained at level 17, so this is probably the most major discrepancy.

Clerics gained spell level 7 at level 17, which would convert to level 13. While 5e clerics get spell level 7 at the converted level 13, this does not mean the same spells, of course. So, with clerics, a close look at the spells would be needed to find any discrepancies in spellcasting.

For the sake of it, I recalculated the clerics and wizards as well:

- Lady Marianita M-U 18/Wizard 14 - so she would not be able to cast 8th level, unless we make her level 15.
- Lord Olliver Jowett C 18/C 14 - here, checking spells would be mandatory. But at least, Resurrection would be accessible.
- Alfric Oderbry C 14/C 12 - spell level 6 in both cases, but check needed.
- Aleksyev Nikelnevic C 11/C 10 - spell level 5 in both cases.
- Sergyev C 9 in both cases.

- Teldon M-U 15/Wizard 12 - he loses access to 7th level. Iīd just make him level 13.

- Baron Desmond Kelvin II C 10 in both cases.
- Baron Sherlane Halaran C 14/C 12 - spell level 6 in both cases, but check needed.
- Aleena Halaran C 12/C 11 - spell level 6 in both cases, but check needed.

- Bargle the Infamous Magic-User 15/ Wizard 12 - same as Teldon, but here, level 13 should go without saying.

I tried to rebuild Duke Stefans stats for 5e. I decided to use Hugins modified level equivalent table, and not an xp equivalent table, as I think the level eq. is more important due to 5e balance reasons. I decided to ignore aging modifiers and ability score improvements, and take the stats at the values given in the GAZ without any modification, reasoning that the stats are those that the NPCs have at that point in time. I did not give him any feats, as these rules are optional anyway and would IMO be inconsistent if I do not use ability score improvements. I kept to the skills given in the 5e PH, which are sorely lacking for representing a ruler, as reflected by the skills he has in the GAZ - these are now relegated to DM territory. The Noble background was only logical. The Champion archetype is IMO the default for a fighter. I checked his magical items to see if they are appropriate for his level tier, and they all are. I listed all his saving throws, as they are all modified by his Ring of Protection. I did not list the various class abilities for the most part. I took 10 hp for level one and 6 for each thereafter.

Turns out, he is quite formidable, both within court and on the field of battle. He does not miss much of what is going on, and is quite persuasive - and if that is not sufficient, can be quite intimidating. His "civil" AC is quite good, and his battle AC makes dragons envious. The offense capabilities are not trivial, either.

Duke Stefan Karameikos, human male Fighter (Champion) level 13, LG
Armor Class 16 (Leather Armor, Ring of Protection +1, Dex, Defense) or 24 (Plate Mail, Shield +2, Ring of Protection +1, Defense)
Hit Points 108 (13D10+26)
Speed 30 ft.
STR 16 DEX 16 CON 14 INT 13 WIS 15 CHA 17; Proficiency bonus +5
Saving Throws: STR +9, DEX +4, CON +8, INT +2, WIS +3, CHA +4
Skills: History +6, Persuasion +8, Perception +7, Intimidation +8; Passive perception 17
Languages: Thyathian, Traladaran
Fighting Styles: Defense, Protection
Three Attacks, Longsword +2, Attack +10, Damage 1-8+5, Critical 19-20

I am not sure how to calculate the Challenge Rating, this part of the rules seems somewhat murky to me. Judging from the NPC stat blocks given in the MM, it would be a 5 or 6, I guess. (see the Gladiator for an example).

After being sidetracked considerably by the level conversions for 5e, I want to return to Karameikos.
I wonīt return to the Starter Set for some time, but rather have a look at what is needed as foundations to start a campaign based in Karameikos. For that, I want to follow the order of character creation given in the 5e Players Handbook. Some ideas are taken from Glen Welchs 5e players guide.

Races: Basically, humans, elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes are available. Half-elves and half-orcs do not originally exist, or are counted as belonging to one of their two races. Half-elves are easily included, but will be rare. Half-orcs are not recommeded as PCs, as they will be ostracized at least, attacked on sight at worst. Tieflings and Dragonborn have no real place in Karameikos, and would be regarded as dangerous freaks, and are excluded here.
Humans: they can be Traladaran, Thyatian or mixed. This probably should not have any influence on the race as described in the PH. However, backgrounds could be developed that reflect ethical origins, rather than professional trainings.
Elves: Callarii are high elves, Vyalia are wood elves. Consider the special rules for elven fighter/mages.
Dwarves: I would basically follow Glens idea regarding dwarven resistance, but would replace resistance against poison damage with advantage on saves against magic, so both (poison and magic) are with advantage on saves. This keeps the notion of dwarves being magic resistant intact. On the downside, this precludes dwarves from learning arcane magic. Karameikos dwarves should be hill dwarves only IMO.
Halflings: I would recommend replacing the lucky trait with the advantage against magic, as dwarves, to keep the narrative intact. This has the downside of precluding arcane magic as well. Karameikos halflings seem to be predominantly stout (note the poison save advantage).
Gnomes: I would go with Glens idea of standard gnomes being forest gnomes, and the skygnomes of Serraine being rock gnomes - this seems to fit quite well. The Karameikan gnomes are rather reclusive, so there wonīt be many gnome adventurers.

Classes: Barbarians and Monks do not fit into Karameikos and should be excluded here. Sorcerers and Warlocks are probably seen as evil, and should be extremely rare in Karameikos, if they exist at all. Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard are of course rather common classes, while Bards, Rangers, Paladins and Druids are rare - Rangers and Druids might have some connection to the elves, Paladins to the churches and "true" Bards are probably almost as rare as Sorcerers. Paladins are most probably exclusive to the Church of Karameikos/Order of the Griffon. The spellcasting subclasses of the fighter and the rogue should be rare as well.
Divine Domains: the Church of Karameikos (and the Cult of Halav) should have access to the Life, Nature and War domains, maybe Light. I donīt see Knowledge, Trickery or Tempest here.
The Church of Karameikos could have access to all Domains, as it encompasses a broad range of Immortals. I would rule out Trickery and Tempest, however, as they donīt seem to fit the church ideals.
For demihuman clerics, this depends more on the Immortals worshipped.
Iīm not sure if Glens ideas of the Spheres as Domains are fitting - Domains should reflect what the Immortal stands for, not to which sphere he belongs to.

Backgrounds: I think there should be backgrounds based on race or ethniticy, like Traladaran or Highforge (dwarf or gnome), but as these are quite involved, I will leave them for a later date.