Monday, August 31, 2020

Converting D&D to Cypher ... and Milestone D&D

 By Christopher Robin Negelein

Yeah, you’re saying “What?” 

I’m getting to that, hold your horses. 

GM’s usually go in a cycle when they start converting an adventure or world setting from one game system to another. First they focus a bit too literally on converting the mechanics and math. Then they learn that’s a fools errand unless the systems are basically two different editions of the same game. 

The last phase is learning that while a GM should really convert the intent and flavor instead of mechanics, those mechanics informed adventure design and thus need a little tweaking as well.

Perfect example, Cypher really doesn’t give out XP for monster mangling but lots of D&D adventures have XP grinds built in as combat or other types of encounters. So while such a system makes converting the plot relevant points of a D&D adventure a breeze, it also leaves a lot more fighting that has a lot less motivation attached to it. 

And in retrospect, this can apply to 5e games that advance via milestones. If the party can advance by achieving goals as compared to butt-kicking then a lot of the fights in a standard adventure are entirely optional, but fun filler.  So if your crew loves to kick ass no matter what, that is GREAT!

But here’s some ideas for those who want to try something different.


It’s a lonely world, make it more so.

If the adventure is in a remote local or someplace long abandoned, you can simply ignore these fights and describe empty rooms that add to the faint echoes of the place. For groups that are less map centric, you should occasional skip a few rooms, describing them together as a group. A GM could use details of the omitted encounters as inspiration -- the dusty, abandoned lairs of monsters that have moved on. 

Numenera mind-cluckery.

Even if your world setting is not a classic sci-fantasy setting like MCG’s Numenera, it’s still a world of mighty magic, muscular monsters and mystic mishaps. Places where an unintended consequence of this spell or that creates the need for adventures or places where adventurers fulfill their needs (wait, that didn’t sound right.)

You can offer up strange bits experiences that come from open rifts in space or time. These can be strange walking dreams from other dimensions or bizzare traps created from random chaos magic. Get the tone just right and the players will be more scared out by the Weird inside a haunted house than by any ghosts already tweaked to perfection by CR.

Puzzling it out. 

I suggest using this one sparingly as too much can be nerve wracking for everyone at the table. Simply add an extra puzzle or two to the adventure where a fight would have been. Be warned that puzzle rarely proceed at a predictable pace. They often take either too long or too short to solve, leaving GMs frustrated. The best thing to do is see if it drags out too long and then eventually provide hints until the party wraps it up. 

Lore as you leave it.

Finding that you can’t pass on all the backstory you developed for the location? Want to set up clues for the next adventure? Want to recycle some lore you didn’t get to use for a few adventures yet? Going full circle and stealing from video games, you can plant bits of lore that eventually build into a story.

Bit of magically reinforced scroll, runes in stone and forgotten libraries can located where a fight was supposed to be if the party is knocking about in ruins. For some groups, it might be better to provide props or notes to the player to pass around and look over as compared to reading something out loud. It will save your voice and players don’t have to worry about missing something in their notes … if they take notes. 

While the occasional fancy written prop for the big clue or plot twist is mega cool, just typed paper notes is fine on a weekly basis. 

More ways to make it yours. 

Nothing is wrong with a fun combat scene but when a GM is using Cypher or Milestone-style 5e for character advancement they have a chance to switch out an encounter that no longer serves a mechanical need for the game and replace it with something uniquely their own. 

And there is nothing cooler for a GM than when they hear their players brag about how their version of the adventure was awesome but so different than anyone else's  

Go, Ganza! Go!

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