Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

4E adventures adapted for Mystara

by Joe Not Charles

Dungeon 155 had a pair of nice articles on converting Keep on the Shadowfell, which was set in 4e's default setting, to place it in the Forgotten Realms or Eberron. It went a bit farther than just a conversion, altering some encounters and motivations of NPC's to better fit the setting's feel.

I thought this was a great idea, so I decided to do the same for the other two adventures in the issue, Heathen and Sleeper in the Tomb of Dreams. (They're still available for free download!) In fact, I think I'll keep doing this with other 4e adventures that I get my hands on, because this is kind of fun.

Feel free to use this thread for all notes and discussion about this topic.

The rest of this post is reserved for links:

Since I still have a few things to think about for the Heathen conversion, I'll start with

Sleeper in the Tomb of Dreams (Dungeon #155)

This adventure is designed for 4e characters of level 8. To give an idea of the relative difficulty, this is about equivalent to level 12 in OD&D - so nearing the end of Expert level. (And, fittingly, this is an adventure that's grounded on the Prime Plane but introduces some other-planar villains that would be good adversaries for Companion level.)

This adventure is very easy to adapt to Mystara. It's set in the Warwood, a wintry northern wood which was the site of an ancient battle. This works well placed in the Northern Reaches, or farther north, because...

The adventure opens when the PC's encounter a group of priestesses of the Raven Queen escorting a body. Hel makes a good Immortal to replace the Raven Queen here. As described in Wrath of the Immortals, Hel is very evil, but I've argued in another thread that she should have a more neutral aspect. If you wish to keep Hel as a more villainous figure, followers of Odin would be appropriate due to the raven symbol and his association with rebirth and with seers. If you choose to use Odin, the raven symbols should be left as-is but you should slur over Sir Malagant's status as an "evil" paladin (which isn't central to the adventure anyway). If you choose to use Hel, the fact that Sir Malagant is actually evil is very appropriate, but you will need to change the vision involving the ravens. I suggest the following:

The world appears to freeze, and the character's vision becomes shrouded with mist. A ghostly figure emerges from the mist - a tall woman in severe robes. The skin of half of her face is bluish-black, covered in shadow. She stares dispassionately at the character and then cocks an eyebrow.

For the knightly title of "Sir" to be appropriate for Sir Malagant, the adventure should be set in Vestland, which has a more feudal system than the other Reaches, or in Norwold. If the DM is a stickler for historical accuracy and decides that 100 years ago the title wouldn't be in use in any of these places, it can be explained as a modern addition to the legend.

The messenger exarch Achreisis should be dropped - messages to the sisterhood come from Hel or Odin directly (or in Odin's case, the ravens Memory and Thought could be mentioned as messengers).

The Far Realm is a poetic name for the Dimension of Nightmares.

The element of this adventure that needs the most adaptation is Volkanth and his Tieflings. If the DM has already integrated Tieflings into his Mystaran campaign, they need no changes, but otherwise this isn't a very good way to introduce them. A Mystaran alternative which is very appropriate given that the adventure is connected to the Dimension of Nightmares is to change them to Diaboli. Stats would stay the same, but Volkanth's background would need to be changed slightly. I suggest this:

Volkanth's "grandmother" was actually a witch. When the other members of the cult of the Sleeper left the faith, she (a young woman) began studying rituals to contact the Far Realms directly. The Sleeper's master has a cult of Diaboli from the Dimension of Nightmares as well, and while the woman could not contact any being of great power, she was able to summon the spirit of a Diabolus. By the time she had become an old woman she was ready to attempt the spell, and pulled from beyond the void a tiny demonic baby. She raised Volkanth as her own, hiding him from the world and instructing him in the ways of the Sleeper, and now that he's reached maturity he was able to summon more Diabolus initiates to join them. This gives some extra flavour to the Mystaran version - although the summoned Diaboli look to him as their leader because only he knows how to deal with this strange world they find themselves in, Volkanth is really just a boy and possibly wavering in his faith. (In the original he was not a true believer, but only after power - in this version he is definitely a believer and looked on as the Chosen One, but he is inexperienced.)

The rest of the adventure needs no changes at all.

Heathen (Dungeon #155)

This adventure is designed for 4e characters of level 4. To give an idea of the relative difficulty, this is about equivalent to level 8 in OD&D - so right in the middle of the range recommended for Master of the Desert Nomads. That's interesting because this adventure has a very similar structure and end goal - first a trek through the wilderness searching for the source of an invading army of religious fanatics (here it's small raiding bands), then penetration into the enemy's home territory, finishing with an assault on their temple and fight against their leader. This adventure is smaller in scope, of course, although the magazine suggests expanding it into a "mini-campaign".

It's set in the default 4e world so a lot of the choices made here could show the default route to adapting a generic 4e adventure. Specifically, it's in the "borderlands", an area of scattered settlements in the ruins of the empire of Nerath. The defining characteristic is that each town and village is completely independent, with no overall government, and the main organisations which strengthen community between them are churches, traders and similar organisations.

I'd say the best fit for this setting in Mystara is the Heldann Freeholds. Scattered towns and villages, no government, and independent and individualist streak, too remote for most other nations to care much about them - perfect. The only thing missing is the ruins of an ancient empire. I think ancient crumbling ruins dotting the landscape would be a perfect accent to the Heldann flavour, so let's add one. Mystara already has a lot of vanished empires, from the Nithians to the Milenians, so this one needs something to make it significant - I suggest killing several birds with one stone and making it the lost Tiefling empire, which I call Sakaria. See my full proposal here. (This adventure doesn't make too much use of the ruins of Nerath, so it would also be possible to drop the "ancient empire" bit entirely, and only some character backgrounds and motivations would need to be changed.)

The central conflict is between a new cult of Bane, the Hand of Naarash, and a religious order dedicated to Pelor and founded to fight them, the Light of the Sun. In Mystara, the obvious counterpart to Pelor is Ixion, but if we instead dedicate this order to Vanya, they could act as a prototype for the Heldannic Knights. This lets us give the adventure a strong and interesting tie to Mystaran history: the fight against the Hand of Naarash is what gives the Heldannic Knights their first credibility among the Heldannic people, leading to more converts and eventually to their takeover. Light of the Sun isn't a very Vanyan name, so the cult should be renamed (and according to this post by Bruce Heard, the order that evolved into the Knights was just called the "Order of Vanya".

The Order of Vanya and its members have more detailed backgrounds and motivations than the Light of the Sun. Emesha becomes Erma, a native Hattian who has come here to spread the word of Vanya, and Dajani becomes Jaryn becomes Gwyn, a native Heldanner who is attracted to the cult's philosophy. Most Heldanners at this time value their own freedom, and believe that the head of the household is solely responsible for its defence. They live together in small towns at most, with each family contributing equally to the town defence. This is always perilous, but most believe the increased freedom is worth it. Gwyn, however, is one of a small number who believe that more order is needed for safety - he dreams of a well-organised militia, with a professional class of defenders to push back the wilderness and make life safe for all. This leads him first to join the foreign Order, and then becomes the weak point Naarash uses to control him. The corrupted version of Gwyn still believes that an organised, militaristic society is needed, but now feels that the people will never join this Order willingly and that authority must be imposed by force. The followers of Vanya are fine warriors but they are crippled by their "honour" which leads them not to go far enough - only the Hand of Naarash is strong enough and has the will to do whatever is necessary to be enough of a threat to force the people to stand together. (In my opinion, this makes a lot more sense than Jaryn's speech about the "fall of Nerath.")

The people of Heldann are initially distrustful of these foreigners and not willing to entrust their protection to them, even as the cult's depredations are forcing them to gather together in larger towns. (This is borne out well in the adventure as written.) However, if the PC's succeed in defeating Naarash, Erma and the rest of the Order will take credit for it and many will listen and start to believe that the Order's protection is needed. Many of the refugees will stay in the towns where they've sheltered, swelling their population and allowing the Order to provide services for a smaller number of concentrated settlements. This way the PC's actions will provide the direct catalyst for the initial success of the Order of Vanya and the eventual rise of the Heldannic Knights. Rather than the simple defeat of a demon, one order of religious fanatics is replaced by another, providing a nice Mystaran bit of moral ambiguity to the adventure. (Although the Hand of Naarash is unquestionably worse.)

The Hand of Naarash, for their part, should follow the demon Naarash explicitly instead of following a greater god. The 4e default setting has a handful of primary gods and lesser demons and "exarchs" are often aligned with them, so that it makes perfect sense for a cult worshiping Naarash to use the symbol of Bane. (Mainly, in this adventure, it's a convenient marker for Bad Guys.) I suggest creating a new symbol for the cult: a black fist on white inset with a blood-red eye (incorporating both the Hand and Eye symbols.) If the DM wants Naarash to be a minion of a known Immortal, Ranivorus would be a good choice if my Sakaria proposal is used, otherwise Thanatos or Orcus might be appropriate. If Ranivorus is used, consider swapping out some of the hobgoblins for gnolls.

If a fallen empire is added to the background of Heldann, the city of Adakmi can be used as-is. If the empire is Sakaria, the Tiefling empire, then Adakmi becomes quite a bit cooler - it's now a lost Tiefling city, a fortress where they were able to hold themselves apart but which is being forced to take in human refugees. This version of Adakmi's only contact with the outside world was through Dwarven traders, which explains why the main contact for transport out is a Dwarf. All other NPC's should be changed to Tieflings. If there is no fallen empire, however, Adakmi needs a new background. It could be a Dwarven citadel - not a city, but merely a fort guarding their trade route north from Heldann.

If Tieflings haven't been added to Mystara, something has to be done about Dajani, the Tiefling henchman. He can be left as-is, but it is his corruption by Naarash that directly led to his body being twisted and his new blood powers, rather than an inherited curse (his journal is a convenient way to convey this information to players). Whether he is a Tiefling or not, he is a local and should be given the Celtic name Drystan. Unless the DM has already added Dragonborn to the campaign, the sole encounter featuring them should also be changed: the middle of an unrelated adventure is a bad time to introduce them. Dwarf Hammerers are a fair replacement, since it's been established that the cult has Dwarven members (they can be turncoats from Adakmi if it's a Dwarven city); if Ranivorus is used, try Gnoll Marauders. (This bumps the encounter up to Level 6, but makes it easier to take out the wizard because the Marauders are Brutes and not Soldiers.)

To summarise, to set the adventure in Heldann including the Tiefling empire of Sakaria background, make the following changes:

Moonsfall Mountains = Mengul Mountains
Moonsfall River = unchanged, but now it's just one of many rivers that come out of the Mengul Mountains
Harsmad Hills = unchanged, or Mengul foothills (I'm not sure if the foothills already have been given a canon name)
Adakmi = same, but now a Tiefling city
Nerath = Sakaria, or drop it completely
Bane = Ranivorus
Pelor = Vanya
The Light of the Sun = The Order of Vanya
Jaryn = Sir Gwyn
Emesha = Erma
Dajani = Drystan
Dragonborn Soldiers = Gnoll Marauders

To set the adventure in Heldann but without using Sakaria:

Moonsfall Mountains = Mengul Mountains
Moonsfall River = unchanged, but now it's just one of many rivers that come out of the Mengul Mountains
Harsmad Hills = unchanged, or Mengul foothills (I'm not sure if the foothills already have been given a canon name)
Adakmi = same, but now a Dwarven outpost
Nerath = nothing
Bane = none: use Naarash directly as the cult's "god" and a black fist inset with a red eye as their symbol
Pelor = Vanya
The Light of the Sun = The Order of Vanya
Jaryn = Sir Gwyn
Emesha = Erma
Dajani = Drystan, now become demonic due to his own corruption rather than Tiefling heritage
Dragonborn Soldiers = Dwarf Hammerers