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Mystara 5Eby Stefan Beate
I was toying with the idea of doing a full-blown conversion of all things Known World/Mystara to 5e, or rather starting it. This would be quite a tremendous work, as seen by the 5e Mystara Players Handbook by Glen Welch. His work would be the Giant to stand on, for sure, but still, I think there might be other ideas about converting. As I find myself with some time on my hands right now, I will just start with a few basic thoughts on it. In general, I will try to keep as close to the original material, noting differences and optional additions. In general, I would advise to use the 5e rules whereever this seems fitting.
For reference, I will use the Rules Compendium (RC), refer to the standard AD&D 2nd Ed. Rules where needed (the 1989/90 version, not the later one) and note this as 2e, and the current rules edition, noted as 5e.
Lets start out at character generation. The RC gives us the standard "roll 3d6, write down in order" method, and lets change them around in minor ways. 2e presents us with no less than six methods for stat generation. 5e has the "roll 4d6, drop lowest" or the assign set values method. 5e also postpones stat generation after choosing class and race, writing player choice into the character generation rather than relegating this to chance. So, if you want to keep the RC feel intact, you would need to reverse that order, and think about how you want to generate stats. You might want to keep the RC method, and this might even work not too bad, considering that in 5e, even a 12 gives you a bonus already, and a 14 is at +2. This is, in fact, closer to the RC rules bonuses than in 2e, which is reflected with the more generous stat generation methods listed in 2e. I would only keep the stat change rules presented in RC if you keep the straight 3d6 method as well (and might consider leaving out the prohibition against lowering DEX). The 2e abilities do need to be much higher to generate any bonus at all
Next, ability requirements. In the RC, only demi-humans and the mystic do have ability requirements. In 2e, all races except humans, and all classes have minimum requirements. In 5e, this is all done away with. I would leave it at the 5e rule, but the RC rules regarding ability requirements are easily implemented if wanted.
This raises several questions. Do you want to keep it at the RC standard, or do you want to open up the gates? Furthermore, do you want to recreate the BECMI/RC D&D idea about races as classes or do you want to leave that idea in favor of more flexibility? In my opinion, this breaks down into three main answers:
1. Recreate as truthfully as possible.
2. Allowing more choices, but keeping it limited
3. Open it up completely.
1. This would include the original stance of races as classes, recreated with 5e rules. It raises the additional question if you keep demihuman level limits intact or not. This might warrant developing the "Dwarf" as an fighter archetype, and the "Halfling" as another, probably giving them a magic resistance of some sort via a feat. Additionally, the Elf class needs some thoughts, which I noted earlier. This would also leave out many of the 5e races and classes.
I would not take this approach, as it severly limits the use of the 5e rules. If I were to use this approach, I would probably develop said demihuman Archetypes, and use the "Elf Gestalt" option I briefly described earlier. (The Eldritch Knight is not coming close to what the RC elf is, IMO.)
1b. This would include only the RC races, but opening up the possible class choices. I would probably restrict dwarves and halflings from arcane classes, though, and maybe require elves who want to take the Gestalt route to take a feat allowing just this.
2. Allowing races that would have a logical place in Mystara would include Gnomes, Half-Elves and Half-Orcs.
2a. Furthermore, typical Mystaran races, as described by Glen Welch, like the Lupin, Rakasta and Tortle, might be included. All other exotic races, like Dragonborn, Tiefling and others, would be a DMs call, but not being available as default. (Same goes for classes). I leave out GAZ 10 and the PC series on purpose here, but these might open up even more options.
3. Opening the gates wide, and allow any and all race options in 5e, and probably more that are Mystara-specific.
I would go for Option 2, and allow the "Elf Gestalt" option as well. With the additional options of 2a, I would allow them, but sparingly. Humans are so predominant throughout most of Mystara that I would want to keep that basically intact. A party of, say, a Lupin, a Rakasta, a Tortle and a Sidhe might seem to be fun, but deviates strongly from what is to be expected on Mystara.
Again, Glen Welch worked on this already and offers very good ideas. Still, Iīll break the racial abilities down by edition and see what we get from it. WIth the RC, we need to take apart what is gained from the race and what is a function of the class, so to speak.
- Class: Prime Requisite Strength, d8 HD, Armor and Weapon Training, Fighter Maneuvers (note that while the Dwarf cannot use large weapons, he still can use a spear against charge, and use the Lance Attack, even though these weapons are listed as large), Combat Options. (Note: GAZ 6 introduces dwarf-clerics.)
- Race: Con 9 minimum, only small and medium Weapons, Infravision 60 ft., additional languages, detection ability, improved saving throws, one-half (or 1/4) damage from spells at high attack rank.
Dwarf 2e: min. STR 8, min. CON 11, max. DEX 17, max. CHA 17; +1 CON, -1 CHA. Classes are limited to cleric, fighter and thief, and c/f, f/t. Additional languages. Resistance to magic and poisons, calculated from CON. Magic item failure chance. Attack bonus against orcs and goblins. AC bonus against "giants". Detection ability. (no subraces in 2e PHB)
Dwarf 5e: CON +2, speed not reduced by armor, darkvision 60ft., Advantage with poison saves, resilience against poison, weapon proficiencies, stonecunning, extra language.
Subraces: Hill Dwarf: WIS +1, +1hp/level; Mountain Dwarf: STR +2, proficiency light and medium armor.
So, carrying over is a high CON, some resistance to harm, mostly from magic and poison, darkvision of some kind, and languages. Combat abilities are not as clearly attributable to the race, except in 2e.
Glen Welch does away with the standard subraces and instead creates the Mystara Dwarf. This gives STR +1, Advantage on saves against magic, and prohibits arcane caster classes. This fits well with the general magic resistance seen earlier. I would give the player the choice of adding the +1 to WIS instead of STR, or even requiring this for clerics, to reflect that the dwarf-clerics are a special case indeed.
The Modrigswerg from GAZ 7 are the purview of the DM and are most probably not fit as a PC race. They probably should not have any special resistance to magic, and sound like candidates for the Warlock class.
- Class: Prime Requisites STR and INT, d6 HD, Armor and Weapon Training, Fighter Maneuvers, Combat Options, Spell Casting.
- Race: INT 9 minimum, Infravision 60 ft., additional languages, detection ability, improved saving throws, especially at later levels, immunity to ghoul paralysis, one-half (or 1/4) damage from breath attacks at high attack rank.
(Note: Obviously, a Fighter/Magic-User multiclass. In GAZ 5, the Elf Wizard as a class option is introduced, as is the shadow elf "race". In GAZ 13, the Shadow Elf Shaman as an additional class option is added.)
2e: min. DEX 7, CON 7, INT 8, CHA 8; +1 DEX, -1 CON. Classes are limited to cleric, fighter, mage, ranger and thief, with numerous combinations. Additional languages. Resistance to Charm and Sleep spells. Attack Bonus with bows. Enhanced surprise chance. Infravision. Secret Doors easily spotted. (Note: the 2e PHB lists various subraces, noting their difference as "cosmetic")
5e: DEX +2, darkvision 60ft., Proficiency with Perception, Advantage with Charm saves, immunity to magic sleep, trance, extra language.
Subraces: High Elf: INT +1, Prof. w. Swords and Bows, one Cantrip, extra Language. Wood Elf: WIS +1, Prof. w. Swords and Bows, higher walking speed, hide in woodlands. (Dark Elves left out, as they donīt exist on Mystara anyway).
Glen Welch does away with the Trance ability. He casts all "standard" elves as wood elves, and the Belcadiz elves as high elves with a different weapon training. He then continues to introduce several subraces: The shadow elves, the sea elves and the Vyalia elves.
Shadow Elves: WIS +1, prof. Religion, weapon training, superior dark vision.
Sea Elves: INT +1, weapon training, prof. water vehicles, advantage on navigation skill checks (Minrothad elves).
Vyalia Elves: INT +1, prof. Nature skill, Pass without trace once/short rest. (probably lacking weapon training here)
So, we get detection skills, some sort of weapon skill, some resistance or immunity to either paralysis, charm or sleep; language skills, darkvision. Note that Ability Requirements or Bonuses are not keyed to the same Attribute throughout, neither is magic skill. OTOH, the skill with magic is a signature ability of Mystara elves, so I would keep that. This means that all elves should have the Cantrip racial ability of the standard high elves. The Vyalia elves are noted for giving the Thyatian Foresters their training, so they should have spellcasting by all means. The INT +1 fits for being "magical" creatures as their spellcasting depends on INT. Overall, I would cast all Mystara elves as High Elves, with the variation between the Belcadiz elves and the others being more or less cosmetic.
I like the idea about giving the Shadow Elves a more religious outlook on life, given their backstory. To keep this in line with the magic skill, they might indeed have WIS +1, and the ability to cast a clerical Cantrip rather than arcane.
It might be more in line with the setting to give the Mystaran Elves INT +2, and the +1 to DEX, to stress their arcane heritage.
- Class: Prime Req. STR and DEX, d6 hp, Armor and Weapon training, Fighter Maneuver (spear vs. charge), combat options
- Race: DEX 9 and CON 9 min., small weapons, improved saves, combat bonuses, at higher levels resistance to spell damage and breath weapon damage, hide in woodlands, hide in buildings.
(GAZ 8 introduces the Halfling or Hin Master, and the Denial special ability)
2e: min. STR 7, DEX 7, CON 10, INT 6, max. WIS 17; +1 DEX, -1 STR (note: Halfling fighters donīt gain 18/percentile STR), Classes: cleric, fighter, thief and f/t, languages, resistance to magic and poison (CON-based, as dwarf), enhanced surprise. Infravision possible, as well as dwarvish detection abilities (depending on subrace, which are otherwise cosmetical).
5e: DEX +2, Small size, Lucky reroll, advantage against fear, Nimbleness, languages.
Subraces: Lightfoot: CHA +1, stealthy; Stout: CON +1, advantage and resistance to poison.
Glen Welch: He creates the Hin subrace and gives them CON +1, prof. Stealth.
Dex is important throughout, so the +2 is an obvious choice here. The lucky reroll seems fitting to reflect the heightened saves at least partially. I concur with Glens idea, but would exchange the basic advantage against fear into advantage against magic, and perhaps exchange the nimbleness against resistance to magic.
Gnomes: As Glen wrote, Iīd take the gnomes as being either forest gnomes if "groundlings" and rock gnomes for Serraines Skygnomes (and most probably for those living inside CM4 Earthshaker!). There might be the odd rock gnome amid his fellow groundliving cousins, however.
Halfelves and Halforcs: As these are normally not part of the setting, if the DM is trying to keep it "true", they should be disallowed. They may be allowed as "cosmetic" differences, as there is some precedent for this. If the DM wants to open up, he might allow these.
Dragonborn: They have no true place on Mystara. The progeny from G:KoM (p. 122-124, Grimoire) might be the source for an odd character, but as this is a later addition which feels to me somewhat unfitting, I would advise to ignore that. As Glen pointed out, there are quite some reptilian options available, if someone wants to play those.
Tieflings: I strongly advise to leave them out of Mystara, as well as Aasimar. They just donīt fit.
There are a lot of races added on later as playable characters, in GAZ 10, PC 1-4, and the Voyage of the Princess Ark series in Dragon (and I guess in the later Savage Coast 2e supplements). Most of these I would see as being only viable in their respective "subsettings", so to speak. Many of those are powerful monster races originally, and are only made (barely) playable with "juvenile" levels. Aside from being awkward rules-wise, the advancement would need to be slowed so strongly that this runs contrary to the 5e design idea of adding levels rather quickly. (Take the sphinx from PC 2 as an extreme example: it needs 300,000 xp for each level, and 3,000,000 xp to reach normal monster status - this amount takes a normal character to the end of their advancement, or at least well into Master levels. Sounds unplayable to me, and not worth translating into 5e.) Iīd strongly recommend to take only those monster races into account that are feasible for a normal class advancement, and leaving all those others as NPCs and monsters. That said, the advancements can serve as inspiration for customized monsters.
per RC, we have Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, Mystic and Druid, and the Paladin/Knight/Avenger variations on the Fighter. In theory, Dwarf, Elf and Halfling are classes as well, but to be honest, I would treat them as Fighters and Fighter/Mages (with the option to make those classes mandatory if you want to keep THAT close to the RC rules).
2e gives us Fighter/Ranger/Paladin, Cleric/Druid, Mage/Specialist and Rogue/Bard as classes. The Monk or Mystic is absent, unless you count the rehash of the 1e Monk in "The Scarlet Brotherhood" (TSR #11374, 1999, for Greyhawk). Or I missed another take.
5e has Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Monks, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards.
So, 2e has added Bards and Rangers already, and offers Paladins and Druids starting at 1st level. These might be considered canon if you take Mystara 2e into account. Barbarians, Sorcerers and Warlocks are new in town, and Monks/Mystics are back.
The original four classes and the rare mystic are standard for Mystara. With the Druid and the Fighter variations, this might be worth a look if these could be built as variations on the standard classes rather than separate classes. This should be relatively easy for the fighter variations, but maybe building a Cleric-going-Druid is not worth bothering, with the Druid class being distinct. The Fighter variations for the spellcasters could be built along the Eldritch Knight lines as Archetypes, with the RC Knight being another non-spellcasting Archetype.
Allowing the Bard as a full arcane caster is a DMīs call. The 2e Bard was not a full caster. The limited spell list and relatively few spells known balance the class against the other classes, but it is still not that perfect fitting into Mystara. I would allow it, but this a matter of personal preference.
Barbarians are easily integrated into Mystara and wonīt damage anything. In CM 1, there are some folks called barbarians anyway, if memory serves right.
This leaves Sorcerers and Warlocks. The former might represent the few instinctive arcane casters in the world, like the hakomon of Ethengar, as Glen already noted. The Warlocks should be extremely rare.
Lets see - how might a fighter look like if the Paladin Status was built like a martial archetype instead of being a separate class?
The RC Paladin has the following features:
- 9th level minimum
- Oath of fealty to a lawful church
- detect evil at will
- cleric spell casting if WIS >12 at 1/3 fighter level
- turning undead as cleric of 1/3 fighter level
- number of hirelings limited to cleric level
- obligation to help.
I regard the oath, the limited hirelings and the obligation as more of a roleplaying feature than something that should be included in rules.
This leaves the minimum level, detect evil, spell casting and turning undead as rule features. This is not a full-blown paladin as in 2e and 5e, obviously.
Minimum level - as in 5e the martial Archetypes come into play at 3rd level, I would see this as some sort of minimum level (a probation period for the wannabe paladin, maybe?).
Detect Evil at wil - that might be available at 3rd level as well. This is a signature ability of paladins across editions, and should be kept. It replaces the weapon bond of the Eldritch knight in a way.
Looking into the Eldritch Knight, we have an spellcasting archetype. Now, the regular 5e paladin has a separate spell list and spell casting progression, which differs from the Eldrich Knights progression. I would keep the paladin spell list and just import the paladin spell casting progression, starting spell casting at level 3 instead of 2. This cuts off level 20, obviously. Spells known would be taken from the regular paladin. This raises the additional question if the minimum WIS (or CHA, if true to 5e) should be kept as requirement. I would not require it, as this is no longer part of 5e at all. I would also leave CHA as relevant attribute intact. Note that the number of spells known is a function of the CHA bonus anyway, so we have a "the higher the better" situation here. I am not sure what this spell casting would mean game balance wise, however.
Turning Undead: This is in 5e subsumed unter the header channel divinity. I would give this at 7th level - yes, late in the progression, but otoh, the cleric gets it at lvl 2, and another use at lvls 6 and 18, so it is a relatively rare ability, and seems fitting to the overall progression. As per RC, the paladin is much weaker there in this regard, and the 5e spell casting is powerful.
At that point, the RC paladin is basically done. We still have the martial archetype powers at lvl 10, 15 and 18, however. I am thinking along the lines of integrating the abilities of the various Sacred Oaths, given at level 7, 15 and 20, into this progression, at these points.
What the "Mystara Paladin" would not have is smite, lay on hands and various other abilities of the full paladin.
Note: a Ranger variant might be built along the same lines.
What do you think? Worth considering, or not viable?