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Thinking about Converting from D&D 4E


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So, I've been running a group of people on an every-other-Saturday 4e game for a few months now. At first, everything was great; I was using a pre-planned adventure, with maps and minis and everything else. However, my love was lost when I realized I would have yo actually map out dungeons, and pay lots of money for new minis and tiles.

Plus, the pre-game prep-work was killing me.

When we finish up the story-arc we're on, I'm going to pitch a system switch to the group. Normally, I hate system switching, especially when using existing characters, but in this instance, I think showing up with converted characters (rather than having a conversion session) would be easier.

Initially, i was thinking of going with Savage Worlds, but, while I think SW would cover what was needed pretty well, BRP would be much easier to explain, and I know it well enough that I can wing it when the players go off the rails.

I guess what I'm getting at is hoping to prompt a general discussion about the costs and benefits of converting an ongoing 4e game to BRP, and system switching in general.

Also, let's not turn this into a D&D bashing session. I don't hate the game; it just isn't meeting my needs right now.

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Is it necessary to convert the characters? Perhaps if the players are shown some of the options in BRP, they might get excited and want to try something completely different.

The major cost benefit analysis to figure out is:

a. Are you and the players having a good time with D&D 4e? Sounds like you're not (for reasons outside of the system itself). What about them? Are they up for trying anything, or do they prefer to stick with one system? Are they enjoying the tactical minis approach that D&D encourages?

b. Will switching to BRP let you and your crew have the good time that you're looking for?

From my perspective, switching systems isn't a big deal. If you convert characters, that will be most of the work. Monsters are, to me, not that big a deal. A goblin in D&D is pretty much the same as a goblin in BRP, you're just getting the stats from different sources. The core world isn't going to change because you're switching systems. For certain iconic D&D monsters, you'll either need to convert to BRP, find an analogue that serves the plot purpose you're looking for, or wing it on the fly and see what happens (my personal favorite).

As long as everybody understands the system, which you can teach easily based on your comment about choosing BRP, I don't think you'll have that much work in front of you. One week you were getting your monsters from the Monster Manual and the players were using their daily and encounter powers. The next session you're getting your monsters from the BRP book (or wherever) and the players are using their skills.

For me, the system is almost unimportant. We use whatever system strikes our fancy at the time. It's the plot, character development, and mystery that we're after.

Without knowing anything about your campaign, or what you want to emulate in BRP, it's too early to talk about the various BRP options you can invoke.

Edited by cjbowser
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Is it necessary to convert the characters? Perhaps if the players are shown some of the options in BRP, they might get excited and want to try something completely different.

I'm not thinking of a straight conversion, mostly trying to get a standard BRP character to be as close to the 4e character as possible.

I think offering too many options would make them all lock up from choice paralysis. We've had a hard time getting the group together, and I'm hesitant to do too much that involves player input.

Ideally, I'd like to get group approval for the switch, and show up at the next session with character sheets, explain the new rules, and get moving.

The major cost benefit analysis to figure out is:

a. Are you and the players having a good time with D&D 4e? Sounds like you're not (for reasons outside of the system itself). What about them? Are they up for trying anything, or do they prefer to stick with one system? Are they enjoying the tactical minis approach that D&D encourages?

At least half the group has mentioned to me privately that they're more interested in story over combat, and, while they enjoy the miniatures combat approach to 4e, they're much more interested in the more character-as-person oriented tasks of NPC interaction and persona adoption. One player said he was into RPGs as a "life sim". This was also the player whose awesome character concept was not something that the D&D system could adequately express.

His girl friend also plays, and has expressed a lack of interest in her current character, and a desire to switch characters to another one. The second character is something I think the new BRP rules would handle quite well, and it was her mentioning that she's more interested in this new concept that her current one that really got me thinking about switching.

The rest of the players I'm not sure about. One is mostly there to hang out with another player (a long-time buddy) and kill stuff. His friend seems most interested in playing D&D vs. playing anything else, but he's also interested in other games enough that I might be able to swing him over. He's a paladin, and I might be able to win him over by describing the Allegiance rules.

The last player is a newbie to the group. She's only been in at one session, so she's less invested in the current system.

b. Will switching to BRP let you and your crew have the good time that you're looking for?

That's sort of the crux of the matter, isn't it? Out of everyone in the group, I think only one is really invested in the use of the D&D system specifically, I think most everyone else would be willing to try something a little less involved, especially something that will let them play characters closer to what they want to play.

From a GMing standpoint, switching would be easier for me. I've been playing BRP-related games for over a decade, and I've written books for the game. I know it really well, and am much more comfortable using the system than I am in 4e.

Also, since BRP is much less combat intensive than 4e, the story won't, by force of the system, become a series of loosely connected fights.

From my perspective, switching systems isn't a big deal. If you convert characters, that will be most of the work. Monsters are, to me, not that big a deal. A goblin in D&D is pretty much the same as a goblin in BRP, you're just getting the stats from different sources. The core world isn't going to change because you're switching systems. For certain iconic D&D monsters, you'll either need to convert to BRP, find an analogue that serves the plot purpose you're looking for, or wing it on the fly and see what happens (my personal favorite).

Honestly, I'm less concerned about the actual mechanics of the conversion and more about how to bring it up to a group in a manner that will get everyone excited about the game again.

For me, the system is almost unimportant. We use whatever system strikes our fancy at the time. It's the plot, character development, and mystery that we're after.

This is my problem; I'm normally a mystery and character sort of GM, but the way 4e is set up, I find myself falling back on bad GM habits that I had thought I had outgrown when I was in high school. This isn't a problem with the game, but one with me and how my GMing style interacts with the game.

Without knowing anything about your campaign, or what you want to emulate in BRP, it's too early to talk about the various BRP options you can invoke.

Okay, the campaign is set up in the following manner:

1. The setting is mostly the D&D one from the 4e books, centered in Fallcrest, with excursions to various wilderness areas expected.

2. The overarching plot is the PCs uncovering, and hopefully defeating, Orcus, who seeks to turn the cosmos into an undead empire with him at the top.

For the game itself, combat should be present, but not always center stage. I'd like to see a great deal of non-combat challenges, especially ones that involve traveling to other planes, and finding ways to deal with threats that are not something that can simply be slain.

For magic, i don't see why the usual Magic Spells wouldn't work as a power system, with mutations being a close second. We only have a single dedicated magic user in the party, so esoteric magic won't be an issue.

For the party's paladin, I'm likely going to just use the Allegiance rules, and writing up a god-specific table to determine what actions garner points and what do not.

I realize that this is not all that helpful. I'm shooting for a pulp fantasy, high action sort of game where hero death is possible, but not an every-encounter concern.

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I'm not thinking of a straight conversion, mostly trying to get a standard BRP character to be as close to the 4e character as possible.

OK. I wasn't sure what exactly you were looking for, so I just started tossing out stuff. ;)

Ideally, I'd like to get group approval for the switch, and show up at the next session with character sheets, explain the new rules, and get moving.

I think this is key. After one session, bring up the fact that you'd like to try a new system. The world will be fundamentally the same, but the system will let you and your crew get more of what you're looking for. Then, let the inevitable discussion occur. I don't think player consensus in this case needs to be unanimous. It doesn't sound like it's currently unanimous on their opinion of D&D. If the majority are amenable, tell them that you'll have their characters reworked for the next session (or next month, or whenever). If any state that they want to be involved in the process of re-imagining their characters, let them. It sounds like you have several people interested in role-playing. Make sure to play up the character-centric nature of BRP. However, you should also allay the other players' possible fears by mentioning the combat, particularly its potential brutality.

At least half the group has mentioned to me privately that they're more interested in story over combat, and, while they enjoy the miniatures combat approach to 4e, they're much more interested in the more character-as-person oriented tasks of NPC interaction and persona adoption. One player said he was into RPGs as a "life sim". This was also the player whose awesome character concept was not something that the D&D system could adequately express.

His girl friend also plays, and has expressed a lack of interest in her current character, and a desire to switch characters to another one. The second character is something I think the new BRP rules would handle quite well, and it was her mentioning that she's more interested in this new concept that her current one that really got me thinking about switching.

It sounds like you shouldn't have too difficult a time convincing these two. Perhaps discuss it with them before you discuss it with the rest of the group so that you'll have advocates in your corner.

The rest of the players I'm not sure about. One is mostly there to hang out with another player (a long-time buddy) and kill stuff. His friend seems most interested in playing D&D vs. playing anything else, but he's also interested in other games enough that I might be able to swing him over. He's a paladin, and I might be able to win him over by describing the Allegiance rules.

It's not too hard to kill things in BRP either. :D

Honestly, I'm less concerned about the actual mechanics of the conversion and more about how to bring it up to a group in a manner that will get everyone excited about the game again.

One option, entirely dependent on your available time, would be to say you want to take a one session break from D&D, you'll even provide the pre-gens. For that session you run a quick BRP game with the players' D&D characters converted to BRP. Once you're done, get their take on the system after having tried it once, in a setting where they have little invested because they think they're getting session off from D&D.

This is my problem; I'm normally a mystery and character sort of GM, but the way 4e is set up, I find myself falling back on bad GM habits that I had thought I had outgrown when I was in high school. This isn't a problem with the game, but one with me and how my GMing style interacts with the game.

Everybody relapses. Just step up to the podium and say, "Hi, name is Charles..." and we'll all respond with, "Hi, Charles!" Then, the healing can commence. :D

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I am sure that one COULD have fantastic roleplaying experience with any system (I keep hearing that the Hero system which frankly gives me nightmares is the basis for an immersive and story-led campaign by its designers).

However certain rule sets CAN enforce certain play styles or at least make them easier (I've played in games at my club with players who are fantastic fun to be at the table with using ALMOST any system but revert to miniature chess playing munchkins when D&D3.x is brought out. In fact I won't play XD&D with them now at all).

So why is 4th Ed (which I've not played) leading you down a route of rubbishness? Could you play a session without miniatures and battle map? Would it be worth seeing if that had a positive impact?

My thoughts on any kind of conversion are that quick and dirty is best (low boredom threshold on my part I would guess) by doing that and seeing what the reactions are to the new versions of old PCs you might see whether in fact any of your players are a bit too wedded to detail and numbers?

Al

Rule Zero: Don't be on fire

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One thing worth considering is just how your players feel about BRP and or D&D. Usually players don't like to change systems, and if you've had trouble getting the group together in the first place, you could loose one or more players with the switch. While there are those of us who would prefer to play BRP over 4E under almost any circumstances, that might not be true with your players.

I7d suggest talking with your players and see how they feel about changing game systems. Maybe they will like the idea of change,maybe they will like BRP. Maybe they won't. But you really want to get tyis out in the open before showing up with converted characters. I was in a group where the GM suddenly switched everything over to ARMS LAW (back before it became RoleMaster), and it didn't go over well. By the end of the first session we all "revolted" and ended up going back the AD&D.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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At least half the group has mentioned to me privately that they're more interested in story over combat, and, while they enjoy the miniatures combat approach to 4e, they're much more interested in the more character-as-person oriented tasks of NPC interaction and persona adoption. One player said he was into RPGs as a "life sim". This was also the player whose awesome character concept was not something that the D&D system could adequately express.

The advantage that BRP has over D&D is that character generation is very flexible. Sure, there are professions with skills, but they are not carved in stone. D&D has fixed character classes and quite a lot of things don't really fit those templates.

What I would do with that player is to ask him to describe his awesome character concept and then fit character generation around that. You should then be able to assign skills etc without a problem.

His girl friend also plays, and has expressed a lack of interest in her current character, and a desire to switch characters to another one. The second character is something I think the new BRP rules would handle quite well, and it was her mentioning that she's more interested in this new concept that her current one that really got me thinking about switching.

Starting a new character is as easy in one system as another, so she shouldn't have a problem.

The rest of the players I'm not sure about. One is mostly there to hang out with another player (a long-time buddy) and kill stuff. His friend seems most interested in playing D&D vs. playing anything else, but he's also interested in other games enough that I might be able to swing him over. He's a paladin, and I might be able to win him over by describing the Allegiance rules.

Paladins are tricky as they are a very D&D concept. However, it's easy to have fanatical knights in any game, as long as you ensure the paladin has magical abilities that depend on his status.

Also, since BRP is much less combat intensive than 4e, the story won't, by force of the system, become a series of loosely connected fights.

Be careful with this - BRP can be quite as combat intensive as D&D, in fact complex fights take a lot longer in BRP than in D&D. Combat situations depend more on the style of the GM than the style of the game, except that experience in D&D is combat driven whereas BRP experience is skill-driven.

Good luck.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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However, my love was lost... ...in this instance, I think showing up with converted characters...would be easier.

If your heart's not in the system, forget it. I limped along for many unsatisfying years tweaking D&D - all to no avail. Only making the break to RQ/BRP finally did the trick.

Maybe you could run the converted characters as a "taster session" (or adventure, or campaign...). Perhaps on some strange (and perhaps impermanent) "otherworld". Might they stray, briefly, into the Land of Faerie? If they're ok with it, they'll find the whole world oddly 'different' when they get back... (Otherwise, I guess you'd have to revert to 4E. Sigh. If you can afford it...)

Edited by frogspawner

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, things couldn't have gone worse.

We just finished up the Keep on the Shadowfell, WotC's intro adventure for 4E, on Saturday night. Before the group breaks for the evening, I mention that I'm having some trouble running the game; it doesn't do what i want, players characters are forced into being something other than what they intended, and the prep-work is killing me.

I suggest that, with everyone's permission, I take away the characters and return with new ones, converted to BRP. Everyone agrees. 3 people in the group are actively excited, and immediately begin discussing how to best capture some nuance of their characters in the new system.

The other two are less than enthusiastic, but agree to do it if it'll help me run the game better. I drive away, thinking everything is peachy, and excited about the direction the game will take now that I won't have to fight the system.

Late last night, I get an e-mail from one of the two who was not as jazzed about it. he said that he and the other guy never really wanted to switch systems, and that they were D&D players through and through. And, since we were playing at his house, myself and the other players that were excited about switching were no longer welcome, and that they would find other people to play D&D with.

On one hand, I'm a little relieved to not have to run 4E anymore, but on the other, I'm really quite surprised that they decided to just oust 4 people from the group without talking to anyone about the way they wanted to do things. If they had said, "Look, we're not interested in switching systems," I would have said okay and just run with it. I mean, it is the guy's house, and I thought I could deal for a bit longer.

But to agree with the group consensus, and then stab everyone in the back, via e-mail, is such a cowardly way to handle this. They both seemed like decent guys, and I'm really just surprised that they would have felt it was okay to boot everyone like this.

On the plus side, I've got a tight group of really good players out of it, and we're picking up where we left off with a new system, a closer play location, and an attitude of looking for fun instead of fights.

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But to agree with the group consensus, and then stab everyone in the back, via e-mail, is such a cowardly way to handle this. They both seemed like decent guys, and I'm really just surprised that they would have felt it was okay to boot everyone like this.

On the plus side, I've got a tight group of really good players out of it, and we're picking up where we left off with a new system, a closer play location, and an attitude of looking for fun instead of fights.

You know, if you are not happy with the outcome, you might call the guy who sent the email. It might be that he didn't think he had any choice during the game discussion (he may have felt railroaded), or maybe the email came across more strongly worded than he intended--Often email is a less forgiving, and more harsh than verbal communication would be. It may be that you've both misunderstood.

On the other hand, this might be the best outcome after all, in which case let sleeping D&D players lie and go forth with your new group.

Steve

Bathalians, the newest UberVillians!

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