Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

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Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Fri May 20, 2016 2:34 am

Alright. This is the beginning of a trip through the RC in an effort to convert any monsters to 5E that do not appear in the Monster Manual. I debated with myself about placing this in the Mystara forum since it concerns Mystara-specific content, but in the end I believe this is more about the 5th Edition system than a setting.

What I intend to do is probably post a creature's stat block, followed by notes and comments on how and why I ended up with what I did. From there, I hope to have some discussion on other options and considerations that could improve the creature, be it from a balance or play standpoint.

So, I hope that this sparks some interesting conversations about how to handle Basic D&D monsters in the 5E paradigm. I believe that exploring the behavior and nature of some of these monsters, and how that translates into game mechanics (both in Basic and 5E), is quite interesting.

And, at least this thread may provide people with additional creatures for their 5E games!

The first creature up is in fact the first creature listed in the RC's Monsters section - the Actaeon! I'll start him up in my next post.

[Edited to add my checklist.] This lists the Creature name, what its CR is in basic D&D's Rules Cyclopedia (RC) (according to my formulas), the D&D 5E CR that it has been converted to, and if the conversion has been "done" or I have yet "to do". To shorten the length of the post, the table has three columns across. I hope this is alright to do.
I have now added links where any creature is listed as "done" to bring you directly to the post. Thanks to enderxenocide0 and Tim Baker for the suggestion and how-to!

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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Fri May 20, 2016 2:52 am

ACTAEON (ELK CENTAUR)

The actaeon is a creature embodying the majesty of the elk, in a 9 ft. tall humanoid form. Its head, including a set of impressive antlers, along with its lower legs, are those of an elk. The remainder of its body is shaped like that of a human, and it is fully covered with hide like that of an elk.

Woodland Watcher. The solitary actaeon is always on the watch, well camouflaged among the woodland's terrain and foliage. They are the protectors of the creatures there, ensuring that no undue harm comes to them. When the actaeon encounters one of these vile acts, this otherwise serine and gentle giant springs forth to protect those under its charge, seemingly out of the woods itself. This has lead to folklore of the actaeon being able to enter trees in a manner similar to that of the dryads, although they are false.

Renowned Heroes. Actaeons are part of the woodland community, along with normal forest creatures and other inhabitants such as druids, centaurs, and dryads. Partly due to their fierce bravery, and partly to their rarity, actaeons are renowned heroes within these circles. An actaeon's call for assistance would never be denied by a member of this community.

ACTAEON (ELK CENTAUR)
Large giant, neutral
Armour Class 15 (natural armour)
Hit Points 110 (13d10 + 39)
Speed 40 ft.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Senses passive Perception 11
Languages Sylvan
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Innate Spellcasting. The actaeon can innately cast Conjure Animals once per day. In addition to beasts, the actaeon may also call upon centaurs and griffons.

Hide in Plain Sight. The actaeon can spend 1 minute creating camouflage if it has access to fresh mud, dirt, plants, and other naturally occuring materials with which to create its camouflage. Once camouflaged in this way, the actaeon can try to hide next to a tree or among similar foliage. It gains a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks as long as it remains there without moving or taking actions. Once the actaeon moves or takes an action or a reaction, it must camouflage itself again to gain this benefit.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
ACTIONS
Multiattack. The actaeon makes three melee attacks: two with its spear and one with its antlers.

Spear (2H). Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target.
Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) piercing damage.

Antler. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.
Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage.

Polymorph Breath (Recharges after a Short or Long Rest). The actaeon exhales a 10-foot cone of transforming gases. The effect is similar to the Polymorph spell with the following changes. Each creature in the area must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or be polymorphed into a normal forest creature (owl, squirrel, deer, etc.). The polymorph effect lasts for one hour. If the saving throw failed by 5 or more, then the effect lasts for 24 hours.


_________________________________________________________________________________
Edits: - Increased WIS by 1 to 14 to improve its Polymorph Breath save DC. Also changed the breath weapon's Save from CON to WIS to match the polymorph spell. Adjusted wording to mention the spell. Detailed the Hide in Plain Sight ability.
- Added Description.
- Formatting update (and any other creatures edited on May 15th, 2017)
Last edited by Hugin on Tue May 16, 2017 1:02 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Fri May 20, 2016 3:42 am

We get to start off with a bit of a tough one, although I really enjoyed delving into this one, especially since I don't think I've ever used it in a game. The notes and comments will be done roughly in the order of "Creating a Monster Stat Block" begining on page 275 of the DMG since I generally follow that in the conversion process.

I went back and forth between the giant type and monstrosity. The actaeon isn't too different than a minotaur, which is a monstrosity for example, but monstrosities are mentioned as "not truly natural, and almost never benign". That part didn't feel to sit right, while giants appear to be able to be more than just really big humans, including such creatures as ogres and trolls. Thus, giant just felt better.

Ability scores are always tough to gauge. For its STR I took its "Load" values and compared them to various other animals. The actaeon had the same load capacity of a riding horse in the RC, which has a STR score of 16 in 5E. That sounded fine to me. INT is given in the RC so I used that, and the rest I just played around with.

The next step is quite an important one from a design and concept standpoint - what is your expected Challenge Rating for the creature? One of the conversion guides I found online (through a link someone posted here on the Piazza) has a chart comparing Basic XP values to 5E CR values. It suggested a CR of 11 or 12. That seemed too high for this particular creature, and in fact it was too difficult for me to get the actaeon to such an actual CR. So I ended up lowering it to about half that, which is where it ended up falling to anyway.

The conversion guide I just mentioned also has a good suggestion for ACs; 19 minus the AC in Basic should be a good approximation for the AC in 5E. That formula gives 19-3=16. The suggested AC for a CR 6 creature in 5E is 15, so I gave it a +4 natural armour on top of its +1 for DEX, for a total of 15. The 'normal'/most common natural armour bonus range is between +1 and +3.

Its HPs are low, even for a CR 6 creature, however I used a higher "effective" HP value to reflect the additional health of summoned animals through its Conjure Animals spellcasting ability. This is an example of how traits, features, and other abilities can be used to affect the CR calculation.

Speaking of which, I think the spell Conjure Animals does a good job of handling the actaeon's ability to "summon woodland creatures". The spell allows the summoning of "Beast" creature types, but I included centaurs and griffons specifically as a nod to the RC ability. They still fall in the summonable CR ranges of the spell, although treants do not, thus I excluded them.

The ability in the RC of the actaeon being able to "camouflage itself perfectly in light or dense woods" has been translated as equivilent to the Ranger's "Hide in Plain Sight" feature. I think the two concepts are essentially the same so why make up a new feature.

Lastly (for this post anyway), there is the polymorph breath ability. It is indeed "powerful" as it appears in the RC. Too powerful in my humble opinion, and not really 'fun' for the game and the players. I toned it down, i.e. made the successful save actually successful, but also used a 'degrees of failure' mechanic to keep some potency.

This one was a little long (partly because it's a more powerful creature and partly because it's the first one). I may post some additional comments and more details of how some of the stats effect the CR level.

Comments and feedback welcome.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Morfie » Fri May 20, 2016 7:21 am

Hey, I think someone's already completed this project. I haven't checked to see if they missed any as I've only skimmed it, but there were lots done.

Available at Pandius - http://pandius.com/Monster_Manual.rar
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby enderxenocide0 » Fri May 20, 2016 1:07 pm

A couple suggestions/thoughts: if you choose not to use monstrosity (which, I definitely understand in this case) perhaps Fey would be a better choice than Giant, as the Actaeon seems like a creature tied to nature rather explicitly. As for the Polymorph Breath, it might be beneficial to change it to a Wisdom saving throw, to match the saving throw on the Polymorph spell. I might even suggest rewording the ability to specifically reference the spell. Conjure Animals is a tricky one. This ability means that the Actaeon's damage output per round might increase, along with its effective hp. That might also need to be considered.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Fri May 20, 2016 3:13 pm

Morfie wrote:Hey, I think someone's already completed this project. I haven't checked to see if they missed any as I've only skimmed it, but there were lots done.

Available at Pandius - http://pandius.com/Monster_Manual.rar

Well that'll take a lot of the fun out of it. :|

I guess I need to decide if I'm going to continue on or not. I don't know, I still might. Thanks for the heads up though.

Edit: I think I am going to continue, partly just for the discussion component we'll get out of it. I do love their format presentation though!
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Fri May 20, 2016 3:47 pm

enderxenocide0 wrote:A couple suggestions/thoughts: if you choose not to use monstrosity (which, I definitely understand in this case) perhaps Fey would be a better choice than Giant, as the Actaeon seems like a creature tied to nature rather explicitly. As for the Polymorph Breath, it might be beneficial to change it to a Wisdom saving throw, to match the saving throw on the Polymorph spell. I might even suggest rewording the ability to specifically reference the spell. Conjure Animals is a tricky one. This ability means that the Actaeon's damage output per round might increase, along with its effective hp. That might also need to be considered.

Hmm, I'll have another look at fey, but nothing in the actaeon's description gave me that 'fey creature' vibe, with the lone exception of the fact that they are "members of the woodland community along with centaurs, dryads, etc.". Still, I'll revisit the idea. (I see that the conversion Morfie pointed out has them listed as fey as well.)

I agree with your thoughts on Wisdom for the polymorph save. I originally came to Constitution through referencing another chart on saves and effects, but I like your suggestion for the consistency alone. Again, I see that the other conversion also used Constitution, although it appears they made the save DC lower than it aught to be. My wording certainly needs to be worked on.

I'm pretty sure I looked into any affect that additional damage output might have on the actaeon's CR value, and at that time, it didn't appear to make a difference. I'll review it again though.

This is exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for, so thanks!

I notice that the other conversion lists the actaeon as CR 11. That looks far too high for the rest of the stat block, and that the breath weapon alone is accounting for about 4 or 5 of the CR levels. I'll run it through my excel sheet to see the results.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Tim Baker » Fri May 20, 2016 6:28 pm

As a late-comer to Mystara and Basic D&D, it's interesting to see the variety of monsters that never ended up in AD&D or later editions. Thanks for sharing this.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Havard » Fri May 20, 2016 6:37 pm

Tim Baker wrote:As a late-comer to Mystara and Basic D&D, it's interesting to see the variety of monsters that never ended up in AD&D or later editions. Thanks for sharing this.


Yep. 3E did go back and add many of these to its Monster Manuals, but the creatures that were exclusive to BECMI in the TSR days were always Mystara creatures to me.

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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Fri May 20, 2016 8:09 pm

It's my pleasure to share, Tim. As it was with others who have already provided conversions of these creatures.

I think that this thread will be interesting to me because of the discussion I hope it will create. For instance, as we talked about above, should the Actaeon be considered a giant, monstrosity, or fey?

And yes, Mystara certainly had some unique monsters associated with!
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Tim Baker » Fri May 20, 2016 8:46 pm

Havard wrote:3E did go back and add many of these to its Monster Manuals.

That's good to know. I skipped all of 3.x during my "RPG hiatus," so this was news to me.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Sat May 21, 2016 9:43 pm

Alright, so I have gone through and assessed the conversion of the Actaeon found on the Pandius (referred to as the Pandius version below), and have found some interesting points of difference to discuss. This is not meant as a 'putting down' of another's work, but a showcase of 5E monster creation, CR calculation, and how the creature concept affects the result.

Onward! We agreed on size (large) and alignment (neutral). We differed on the creature type (I chose Giant, they went with Fey) but this isn't a great matter, and both have their arguements, including other options [such as Monstrosity mentioned below]. It is a tough call in my opinion. I say go with the one that reflects your veiw on the nature of actaeons.

I think we got relatively close to each other with regards to ability scores; same STR (16), my DEX was lower (12 compared to 14), CON (16 & 17) had the same modifier, INT was 12 as shown in the RC, WIS was lower in my conversion (13 & 16), and CHA was a notch higher in my version (12 & 11). Assigning Ability Scores for creatures is tough but we matched up relatively close in my mind.

The biggest difference between the two versions is the Challenge Rating (CR). I went with CR 6 while the Pandius version used CR 11. That's a huge difference. As I continue you'll be able to see how different the Actaeon is from a CR 11 creature.

AC - The suggested AC of a CR 11 creature is 17; for a CR 6 creature it is 15. They aren't all that far apart, which illustrates 5th Edition's "bounded accuracy" approach. Interestingly, we both ended up with an AC of 15, suggesting a CR closer to 6 than 11, but there is more to consider. Note that for CR calculations, this would help reduce the Pandius version's CR downward.

Hit Points - Suggested hps for CR 11 is about 221-235 hps but the Pandius actaeon only has 102 hps. My actaeon is CR 6, suggesting 146-160 hps and is also under the guidlines at 110 hps. It is closer to what is expected from its CR level but still low. However, the "effective" hps, used in calculating CR, should be modified by the hps from the creatures it can summon via Conjure Animals.

As a representative of that I used two Brown Bears which is the number the actaeon could conjure. They have 34 hps each for a total of 68, and if added to my actaeon's hps, brings it up to 178 hps, slightly above the guide. Adding that to the Pandius version only brings it to 170 hps, still significantly short of its guide range of 221-235 hps. This has an effect on the CR calculation as it means the actaeon's Defensive CR base is only 7, which is reduced by an additional 1 due to its low AC, giving a Defensive CR of only 6!

[Defensive CR calculation summary: 'effective' hps of 170 = CR 7; actual AC 15 minus suggested AC 17 = -2 divided by 2 rounded down = -1; Defensive CR = 6.]

Next we look at the Offensive side of the CR calculation.

This begins with damage per round. The Spear attack is listed as only 1d8+3. As a large creature, the number of dice should be increased by 1, thus 2d8+3. [We both chose for the actaeon to use the spear two-handed( d8 instead of d6); I wonder if the picture in the RC influenced us!] This means the actaeon's damage capability is very small for a CR 11 creature, even at 2 attacks thanks to Multiattack. We both came to the same damage for the antler attack.

Again, adjusting the very weak damage of the Pandius version actaeon with damage from 2 brown bears (bite + claw = 19 x 2 = 38) helps. Even adding that damage fully to the Actaeon's 2 spear attacks damage of 14 brings it up to 52; still lower than the suggested damage range of 69-74. So, the Offensive CR starts at CR 8.

Offensive CR is adjusted by attack bonus info. CR 11 should be around +8 to hit. The Pandius actaeon's spear attack is only at +3! It looks like it isn't proficient with the spear and so is only given its strength bonus. The bears it summons are only CR 1 and have a +5 to hit. I think this is a big error. The antler attack is at +5 which is either STR +1 proficiency bonus (and that makes no sense since the bonus begins at +2), or it is DEX +3 proficiency bonus; could be although CR 11 should have a +4 proficiency bonus.

These low 'to hit' numbers further reduce the Offensive CR by another 1 bringing it down to 7.

[Offensive CR calculation summary: 52 Damage per round = CR 8; actual attack bonus 5 minus suggested 8 = -3 divided by 2 rounded down = -1; Offensive CR = 7.]

We now take the average of the creature's Defensive CR of 6 and its Offensive CR of 7 to give a final CR of 7!

What this means is that the Pandius actaeon's other abilities, mainly the once-per-day* polymorph breath attack, increases its CR by 4 all by itself.
* = Note that the Pandius version does not list the once-per-day restriction as in the RC version. This might just be an oversight, but if intentional, that makes the breath weapon very "powerful" as it is usable every round and cannot be saved against to avoid. Whether an ability that powerful is worth 4 CR levels is debatable, but at a range of only 10', the actaeon would be dead very quickly if its Forest Camouflage surprise goes poorly.

As it is set up, the Pandius actaeon seems to be a 'high-level trap'; either it works or the party disarms it quite easily.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Big Mac » Sun May 22, 2016 4:26 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
Havard wrote:3E did go back and add many of these to its Monster Manuals.

That's good to know. I skipped all of 3.x during my "RPG hiatus," so this was news to me.


There is actually a team of people, called the Creature Catalogue Team, who have been spending years hunting down every unconverted pre-3e D&D monster and converting them to 3e stats. They were still going as D&D Next was being playtested! :o

If anyone ever wanted to go beyond converting monsters from the Rules Cyclopedia and do the same thing as the Creature Catalogue Team, it would probably be about 10 years work! :shock:
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Tim Baker » Sun May 22, 2016 10:25 pm

Big Mac wrote:There is actually a team of people, called the Creature Catalogue Team, who have been spending years hunting down every unconverted pre-3e D&D monster and converting them to 3e stats. They were still going as D&D Next was being playtested! :o

If anyone ever wanted to go beyond converting monsters from the Rules Cyclopedia and do the same thing as the Creature Catalogue Team, it would probably be about 10 years work! :shock:

Dang. That's some dedication, there.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Marco Fossati » Mon May 23, 2016 7:46 am

I'd change Actaeon's Type from giant to monstrosity, like the centaur in MM.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Tue May 24, 2016 10:43 pm

[Sorry for the delay - We've been away for the long weekend.]
Thanks to all for contributing to this thread!

Marco Fossati wrote:I'd change Actaeon's Type from giant to monstrosity, like the centaur in MM.

I contemplated this one too and here some of my thoughts were;

I think the main reasons I didn't, and went with giant instead, was that I was envisioning the actaeon as natural and (at least sometimes) benign, as opposed to the monstrosity's "not truly natural, and almost never benign".

After that it suggests that "some are the results of magical experimentation gone awry" which could be a reason why the centaur is categorized as a monstrosity, "and others are the product of terrible curses". It's also a "catch-all" for creatures that "defy categorization" which could be another reason the centaur is one.

But that said, I really don't know anything about actaeons. I have only found the sparse descriptions in the Master's set and RC. I'm assuming they're natural but maybe they were cursed!

Do you have any other thoughts on this?
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Dread Delgath » Wed May 25, 2016 4:56 pm

All of the centaurs reading this are incensed at being classified as "monstrosities", as referring them as results of magical experimentation gone awry is highly insulting to them. They consider themselves to be natural, as fey creatures go. ;)
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Wed May 25, 2016 5:26 pm

Goes to show how the setting can influence a creature's type through background and origins! :P
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Dread Delgath » Wed May 25, 2016 5:40 pm

Hugin wrote:Goes to show how the setting can influence a creature's type through background and origins! :P


You call it "influence". I call it "pigeon-holing"! :? This is one mechanic in later editions that was meant to help DMs & players determine what a monster is made of, but, for me, it really put a strangle-hold on DM creativity and player agency.

But you may be right about the setting-as-rules bit. Its been a long time since I looked at the RC, and I don't know if I have anything centaur specific for Mystara/Known World. Perhaps for this D&D they were the results of magical experimentation, and could rightfully classified as "monstrosities"?

:cool:
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Wed May 25, 2016 5:49 pm

Even if centaurs were not the results of magical experimentation, and perhaps I'm miss-remembering that, the monstrosities category is also a catch-all group. It could be that if centaurs are not truly fey, but are otherwise perfectly natural, they may end up there because nothing else really fits.

The good thing about the monster types in 5E is that they really play an absolutely minimal role in the game itself. Changing the monster type for your own setting (or even just preference for that matter) will not disrupt anything mechanically. It's *mostly* flavour.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby enderxenocide0 » Wed May 25, 2016 5:54 pm

Hugin wrote:The good thing about the monster types in 5E is that they really play an absolutely minimal role in the game itself. Changing the monster type for your own setting (or even just preference for that matter) will not disrupt anything mechanically. It's *mostly* flavour.

The one place where this comes into play mechanically is spells and abilities that rely on creature type. Protection from Evil and Good, for instance, affects aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead, but neither giants nor monstrosities. The Ranger's Favored Enemy ability, on the other hand, includes all creature types in its selection. Giants and Monstrosities do not vary mechanically, for the most part (an exception might be the Giant Slayer magic weapon). But making it a Fey would make it an acceptable target for a number of spells and abilities.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Wed May 25, 2016 6:07 pm

Indeed, enderxenocide0. There are a few things that interact with a creature's type, but not a lot.

The main thing is that nothing "breaks" or is "disrupted" and there is no recalculating to do when changing monster type. Besides what you mentioned, there could be some other qualities to adjust, like condition immunities for instance.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Dread Delgath » Wed May 25, 2016 6:17 pm

Hugin wrote:Indeed, enderxenocide0. There are a few things that interact with a creature's type, but not a lot.

The main thing is that nothing "breaks" or is "disrupted" and there is no recalculating to do when changing monster type. Besides what you mentioned, there could be some other qualities to adjust, like condition immunities for instance.


This is one of the modular things in 5e that I DO like. :cool:

...and it follows the guideline philosophy from the very beginning, and that is if you don't like something - change it.

It is nice to find that this is easily done in 5e, considering all the problems I had with adjusting to the change to 3.0 all those years ago. :oops: LOL!
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby enderxenocide0 » Wed May 25, 2016 6:37 pm

Dread Delgath wrote:
Hugin wrote:Indeed, enderxenocide0. There are a few things that interact with a creature's type, but not a lot.

The main thing is that nothing "breaks" or is "disrupted" and there is no recalculating to do when changing monster type. Besides what you mentioned, there could be some other qualities to adjust, like condition immunities for instance.


This is one of the modular things in 5e that I DO like. :cool:

...and it follows the guideline philosophy from the very beginning, and that is if you don't like something - change it.

It is nice to find that this is easily done in 5e, considering all the problems I had with adjusting to the change to 3.0 all those years ago. :oops: LOL!

Right?! I can crank out a new monster in 5E fairly quickly compared to 3.X and can tweak things that I like or don't like without having to overhaul the concept.
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Re: Converting Rules Cyclopedia Monsters to 5E

Postby Hugin » Wed May 25, 2016 7:28 pm

No kidding! I'm having a blast working on monsters in 5E. It only took me over a year to start playing around with it though, but I'm glad I finally got around to it.
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