The Sunless Citadel 4.5 Edition Conversion

Myrhdraak

Explorer
This conversion guide is an exercise in trying to convert the 5th Edition version of The The Sunless Citadel adventure using my own D&D 4.5 Edition conversion rules. The adventure appears in the new Tales from the Yawning Portal adventure book. In order to be able to use this conversion you need to buy the adventure book in order to take advantage of these conversion rules.

BACKGROUND
As WotC went onwards and released 5th Edition, me and some other DM’s who really liked the way 4th Edition worked was left without a supported version of the game. However, 5th Edition added several interesting elements and a lot of really good adventures. However converting 5th Edition adventures to 4th Edition takes some work, and is in many cases an extensive redesign. With my 4.5 Edition rules I wanted to make this work more easy, as well as allowing 4th Edition to handle short skirmish kind of battles quickly − as in 5th Edition − but without removing the option to also run tactical and strategic fights − as in 4th Edition.
I liked The Sunless Citadel when it came out year 2000 for D&D 3.0 Edition, and as I have a kid that has been pushing to try to play D&D, I though it might be a great opportunity to test my new rules on a real project, as well as test it at the game table as well. So this guide will provide the steps taken to do this conversion, which might help others interested in converting 5th Edition adventures to 4th Edition (or 4.5 Edition if you like its flavour of play).

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak

Also read my:
H1-E3: Demon Prince of Undeath Conversion
Pathfinder - Reign of Winter 4th Edition Conversion Path
Changing the Combat Parameters of 4th Edition
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
1. ANALYSING THE ENCOUNTERS
The first step is to look at the 5th Edition encounter design of The Sunless Citadel. In the table in the attachement you can see that analysis of the first 10 encounters that will take the party of four players to 2nd level, or 300 XP which is the threshold for 2nd level in 5th Edition.
One thing to notice is that that 5th Edition do not reward XP for traps, so I have highlighted those in blue as they need special treatment in the conversion to 4.5 Edition.
I have done the “Adjusted XP” column below differently. I have divided the Encounter XP with the four players in order to get an difficulty XP that is easy to compare vs. the XP Thresholds by Character Level table on page 82 of the 5th Edition DMG.
If we then apply thes monsters straight off and do some simple assumptions on the level of traps we want to introduce under the 4.5 Edition rules we get a new table, as seen in the attachement linked below.
As I want to use my own alternative character XP progression (10+4 encounter), I single out the combat encounters first and see that they are 765 XP, rather than 1,000 XP. This is good as we will need to add some more monsters to a few slected encounters in order to make them more 4th Edition tactical.

Random Encounters: In 4th Edition we did not usually run random encounters. In order to follow the 5th edition design methodology, I will try to add it to the analysis.
The Random Encounter table provided in The Sunless Citadel gives a 30% chance of having an average 340 XP encounter every 12 hours in the dungeon. In our 4.5 Edition game one adventuring day is 3 Encounters. Each encounter is worth 400 XP at 1st level which means a total of 1,200 XP. The average number of random encounters during an adventuring day in The Sunless Citadel is 0,6 random encounters (2 x 0.3 x 0.7 + 2 x 0.3 x 0,3), with and average worth of 340 XP, i.e. a total extra ~200 XP on average. This would mean that we on average after 2 adventuring days should have had random encounters equal to one Encounter 400 XP (at 1st level).

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
Well the funniest part is converting the monsters and combining the best of 4th and 5th Edition. So I started adding some of the monsters in the beginning of The Sunless Citadel.
Giant Rats: Added the 5th Edition traits to the rats which makes them more dangerous, and also changes some of the abilities (reduced Strength). Also turned them into brute minions as the Dire Rat in 4th Edition is a brute. This boosted the damage a bit.
Needle Trap: The original trap felt a little pointless. Who would cry for loosing 1 hp? But by adding the risk of filth fever the trap starts to make sense.
Arrow Trap: One thing I have noticed in 4th Edition that many of the traps do not deal enough single attack damage to simulate the threat of a monster of equal level, even though they give out the same XP. 5th Edition seems to be adressing this better, so maybe I will consider adding some more balanced rules to trap damage, if they only make one attack.
Skeleton: Added the language trait from 5th Edition, and changed vulnerable radiant to bludgeoning.


The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Arrow Trap: One thing I have noticed in 4th Edition that many of the traps do not deal enough single attack damage to simulate the threat of a monster of equal level, even though they give out the same XP. 5th Edition seems to be adressing this better, so maybe I will consider adding some more balanced rules to trap damage, if they only make one attack. [/URL]

/Myrhdraak

I do think I like traps being somewhat minor hazards... someone dying in a trap is a rather ignoble end not meant for heros now that doesnt mean they couldnt be like minions ie worth less experience and readily dealt with via a singular skill check. Big dramatic traps I think of as part of a skill challenge or central to it.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
I do think I like traps being somewhat minor hazards... someone dying in a trap is a rather ignoble end not meant for heros now that doesnt mean they couldnt be like minions ie worth less experience and readily dealt with via a singular skill check. Big dramatic traps I think of as part of a skill challenge or central to it.

I think it depends on the purpose of the dungeon. In kobold dungeons you should be prepared to find a variation of traps. In Tomb of Horrors, really deadly ones. However, I think the trap XP value should reflect it's danger. If it only makes one attack an the damage is the same as a single monster attack damage, then the XP should be more like the XP of a minion, not as a standard monster.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
Continued my 4.5 Conversion of the monsters the players would face in the The Sunless Citadel during 1st level.
Quasit: Added the shapechanger trait from 5th Edition which makes the new 4.5 Quasit more in line with the old version of quasit.
Elf Dragonpriest: This one was created by mixing a troll orc shaman with some elven abilities and the element orb from the kobold wyrmpriest.
Ice and Steam Mephit: I added the ice mephit false apperance trait from 5th Edition as well as renaming its blast power to frost breath. The steam mephit was kept as in 4th Edition.
Door Trap: This trap has a very limited effect to I turned it into a “minion trap”, at least XP wise. It is easy to detect and disarm, and its effect is very limited.
Kobold Quickblade: I added the sun sensitivity and pack tactics traits from 5th Edition which gave the kobolds more flavour.

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
NON-COMBAT ENCOUNTERS

Next step is to add non-combat encounters where players can earn XP for not defeating mosters. It might be cirumventing traps, running skill challenges, solving puzzles, roleplaying encounters, or just solving quests. I try to have around 30% of the XP not coming from monsters, or 4 out of 14 encounters.
In this part of the dungeon I think there are three natural areas where non-combat XP can be awarded.

  • Area 6, the Old Approach is a good opportunity to turn the opening the dragon door into a skill challenge.
  • Area 9, the Dragon Riddle is also a good encounter to award XP for solving the riddle.
  • Area 10, the Honored Guard might be turned into a roleplaying encounter with some skill challenge rolls to discover the Quasit’s flaw.
In total this would reward another 1,200 XP to the party which should be enough to almost get them to 2nd level. Above is a new table that shows the Final 4.5 Encounter Design. The traps are in blue and the other non-combat XP is in red.


The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
LEVEL 2 MONSTER CONVERSION

Next step now would have been to check the skills DCs and then do treasure distribution at Level 1, but I wanted to get going on the monster conversions for Level 2.

  • Swarm of Rats: Added 5 Edition traits as well as many of the condition immuniites.
  • Goblins: Did very few changes from the 4th Edition version. Added the Nimble Escape Power to the Goblin Warrior, but otherwise no change.
  • White Dragon Wyrmling: I changed the resist 5 cold to immune cold, more in line with 5th Edition. Damage output also looks alright for an Elite.
Level 2 in the Sunless Citadel are divided as 13 Combat Encounters of average level 0, while Level 1 was 8 Combat Encounters with average level 0.5. Out of the 13 Combat Encounters, roughly 5 are EL 1 or above, so I will look into which ones I would like to do more tactical, or if they can be combined.

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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I think it depends on the purpose of the dungeon. In kobold dungeons you should be prepared to find a variation of traps. In Tomb of Horrors, really deadly ones. However, I think the trap XP value should reflect it's danger. If it only makes one attack an the damage is the same as a single monster attack damage, then the XP should be more like the XP of a minion, not as a standard monster.

I think traps are hard, because they serve a number of purposes and they are more situational than monsters. Aside from some sort of 'atmospheric effect' single low-damage traps don't really have a point (unless you count forcing players to pixel bitch your dungeon, but I don't think that's intended). I wouldn't even place such traps, or just simply explain them as some minor traps you find and trivially disarm, with the note that this may indicate there are worse further on. You could simply describe the trap as firing off and giving someone a scratch, or glancing off their armor without any effect, etc. Why even roll? If you want 'man vs environment' conflict, then it has to be a bit more serious, and if millions of tiny traps are a real threat (I can imagine that) then the standard trap mechanics aren't really the right way to handle that anyway, IMHO.

That all being said, I think 4e's traps are often on the wimpy side. I agree that they should definitely either present the chance for multiple attacks, do some sort of high limited damage, or simply be worth less XP, or otherwise do SOMETHING more. There are some cases where they're not so bad. Pits at least present some problem as terrain, and could possibly disable a character for the whole encounter, or at least a couple rounds. Some other types similarly, but a lot of the 'poison dart trap' kinds of things do seem fairly anemic.

Actually this is a good inspiration for me to go through and do a trap writeup for HoML, because its definitely going to take a bit different spin on these things...
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
That all being said, I think 4e's traps are often on the wimpy side. I agree that they should definitely either present the chance for multiple attacks, do some sort of high limited damage, or simply be worth less XP, or otherwise do SOMETHING more. There are some cases where they're not so bad. Pits at least present some problem as terrain, and could possibly disable a character for the whole encounter, or at least a couple rounds. Some other types similarly, but a lot of the 'poison dart trap' kinds of things do seem fairly anemic.

Actually this is a good inspiration for me to go through and do a trap writeup for HoML, because its definitely going to take a bit different spin on these things...

Based on average length of combat in my 4.5 Edition and the average monster damage I have converted the average damage from multiple attacks into a damage output level for single attack traps (se the Conversion Guide page 11). This damage is equal to 60-95% of a Rogues Max HP over the levels 1 to 30. For a Fighter it would be 45-75% of their Max HP over the same levels. I have kept the variation from the rolling of dices limited in order to make sure the likelihood of instant kill not appearing just from a lucky DM roll. Is this to high? It should of course be used with care, but it is the result if you would like to have XP for traps having the same meaning as XP for mosters.

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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Based on average length of combat in my 4.5 Edition and the average monster damage I have converted the average damage from multiple attacks into a damage output level for single attack traps (se the Conversion Guide page 11). This damage is equal to 60-95% of a Rogues Max HP over the levels 1 to 30. For a Fighter it would be 45-75% of their Max HP over the same levels. I have kept the variation from the rolling of dices limited in order to make sure the likelihood of instant kill not appearing just from a lucky DM roll. Is this to high? It should of course be used with care, but it is the result if you would like to have XP for traps having the same meaning as XP for mosters.

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak

Sure, for any trap that isn't doing some 'other' thing like immobilizing or removing a character from play or whatever.

In HoML the standard damage expression starts at 6-11 damage (8.5 avg). Characters starting HP range is 14 to 22 points. A 'one off' trap would do the limited damage expression of 9-14 (11.5 avg), meaning a low HP character COULD be knocked unconscious by an average trap, if he's really unlucky, but a single trap won't INSTANTLY kill you (though a very dangerous one could, as that would level+5, which would be 33 average limited damage, so you better be darn careful, a level+5 trap is effectively a deathtrap, but then its also a full encounter of its own). As you can see, the curve is a bit different in HoML than in 4e. A level 6 PC would have at least 39 hit points though, and maybe as much as 57. I calibrated the standard damage expression to be just about enough to bloody a character. On the flip side a monster of level 1 can take about 18 damage, up to 48 at level 6, so the numbers are more equal to PCs than in 4e. I haven't entirely calibrated PC damage output, but I think traps will work fine as either standard damage output, or limited for one-shots, with something that has additional effects cutting the damage aspect somewhat (a 10' pit does 1d6 damage, and you're stuck at the bottom for instance, so it seems like that all works OK).
 


Myrhdraak

Explorer
Sure, for any trap that isn't doing some 'other' thing like immobilizing or removing a character from play or whatever.

In HoML the standard damage expression starts at 6-11 damage (8.5 avg). Characters starting HP range is 14 to 22 points. A 'one off' trap would do the limited damage expression of 9-14 (11.5 avg), meaning a low HP character COULD be knocked unconscious by an average trap, if he's really unlucky, but a single trap won't INSTANTLY kill you (though a very dangerous one could, as that would level+5, which would be 33 average limited damage, so you better be darn careful, a level+5 trap is effectively a deathtrap, but then its also a full encounter of its own). As you can see, the curve is a bit different in HoML than in 4e. A level 6 PC would have at least 39 hit points though, and maybe as much as 57. I calibrated the standard damage expression to be just about enough to bloody a character. On the flip side a monster of level 1 can take about 18 damage, up to 48 at level 6, so the numbers are more equal to PCs than in 4e. I haven't entirely calibrated PC damage output, but I think traps will work fine as either standard damage output, or limited for one-shots, with something that has additional effects cutting the damage aspect somewhat (a 10' pit does 1d6 damage, and you're stuck at the bottom for instance, so it seems like that all works OK).

Well in my simulation for the 4.5 Edition the first level Fighter will have 31 hp on average and the Rogue 24 hp. A first level trap would do 2d6+7 damage, or 9 to 19 hp damage (average 14 hp), i.e. it would hurt the Fighter or Rogue but not kill them. A deadly threat is Level + 3, which is a 4th level trap doing 2d6+15 damage, or 17 to 27 damage (average 22). It could take out the rogue, and leave the fighter badly hurt. Epic level game play is going to be more dangerous but at that level the PCs also have access to a lot of powerful healing powers.
 


Myrhdraak

Explorer
5. COMBINING ROOMS
4th Edition is very much about tactical combat with larger battle areas, preferably with several tactical options. In many cases it is therefore interesting to look at combining encounters into larger encounters areas, when converting from 5th Edition.
In these first eight encounters at 1st level, there is not so many of these opportunities. Many of the areas are quite stand alone. However, once we get to the kobold complex things start to get interesting. There are three Area 16 (Kobold Guardroom) + Area 19 (Hall of Dragons) + Area 21 (Dragon Throne), which could be seen as one encounter area. Area 20 (Kobold Colony) probably stay where they are if fights break out outside. Area 23 (Underdark Access) might have orders to guard the Underdark access at all cost and might not join a fight outside, at least not initially.
However when I start combining all these rooms I get an 1,985 XP encounter (EL 5½). This is not only a very tough fight, question is if it is going to be very fun with the battle running on At-Will power fumes. I have either the choice of turning more of the kobolds into minions, or I embrace 5th Edition and make kobolds weaker than goblins. Both strategies would work, but to follow my 4.5 Edition design methodology, I will instead try to make the kobolds one step weaker than the goblins, i.e. Level 1/2. This bring the challenge down to 1,240 XP, or a EL 4 encounter, which the party should be able to handle at 2nd level.

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
6. TREASURE
4th Edition and 5th Edition differ a lot in the view of treasure. Even though I have reduced the 4.5 Edition allocation of treqase to half (compared to normal 4th Edition), it is most likely going to be more than 5th Edition.
Doing a straight convertion from The Sunless Citadel resultet in 838 gp treasure. I should be at 1,880 gp following my 4.5 Edition rules, which would also mean roughly 2 magic items handed out every level.
In order to reach these numbers I had to almost double the treasures.
  • Area 5, increased to two masterwork fire arrows per skeleton.
  • Area 12, I gave the dragonpriest a masterwork sylvan armor.
  • Area 14, increased the value of the sapphires to 50 gp a piece.
This brought me to 1808 gp which I think is close enough. More treasure will most likely be rewarded in second level of the dungeon.
In the Treasure Appendix you will find my 4.5 Edition conversion of the magic items. When doing the conversion major change is the attack bonus that is reduced due to the bounded accuracy. The other change I do is taking away the cost of the item, and thirdly I add what power source have enchanted the item − arcane, divine, primal, psionic, etc. As different skills are used to find different magic as well as adding flavour to the items, I also intend to use monsters that may have resistance to various types of magic, but not all.

The Sunless Citadell 4.5 Conversion
4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
CREATE UNDEAD RITUAL

Are looking at converting the Night Caller magic item into a 4th Edition version. Problem is that the classic Animate Dead spell do not easily convert to 4th Edition. Either you have to use the summoning rules but then limit the characters action economy. The other option is to look at Figurine of Wonderous Power-kind of magic, which instead limits the Hit Points so they can barely take one hit before disappearing. Designwise it seems to be either or - limit character attacks, or limit monster HP. Have been considering to use Healing Surges to fuel these creations as another option, in order to have creations with both decent damage and HP, and extra actions. Has anybody seen any House Rules in this area that have been tried out in real play? Both as rituals or magic items for monster creation. The Create Scarecrow or Summon Gargoyle rituals seems the closest, but maybe someone have tried other stuff.
 

Well in my simulation for the 4.5 Edition the first level Fighter will have 31 hp on average and the Rogue 24 hp. A first level trap would do 2d6+7 damage, or 9 to 19 hp damage (average 14 hp), i.e. it would hurt the Fighter or Rogue but not kill them. A deadly threat is Level + 3, which is a 4th level trap doing 2d6+15 damage, or 17 to 27 damage (average 22). It could take out the rogue, and leave the fighter badly hurt. Epic level game play is going to be more dangerous but at that level the PCs also have access to a lot of powerful healing powers.

Yeah, the numbers are a bit higher, I didn't especially set out to cut back on hit points, but over time tweaks of whatever sort seems to have had a bit of that effect. Mostly in my system there isn't so much of a range between different classes. Honestly class has become a bit less strictly defined concept in our game. We don't really pay much attention to restrictions based on it, or a lot of prerequisite type stuff anymore, and with hit points being so abstract anyway its hard to say why one character should have more than another (since they don't really track physical toughness for instance, and who's to say that fighters are luckier, more skilled, or mentally stronger than wizards). The upshot being a wizard or a rogue may have less hit points simply because the player doesn't feel the need to crank up CON so much and may play a race that is not quite as tough (this is only a difference of 2 points at most) but anyway the end result is you don't get the 30+ HP bruisers, but the average hit points are not too much different from standard 4e. Damage expressions do tend to be a little higher though. I like tactical fights, but I also like things to be a bit more decisive. I think in some ways it maybe plays out a bit more like your '4.5e' mod, though I did calibrate combats to go 4 rounds, hopefully. Anyway, traps are definitely deadlier!
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
another (since they don't really track physical toughness for instance, and who's to say that fighters are luckier, more skilled, or mentally stronger than wizards). The upshot being a wizard or a rogue may have less hit points simply because the player doesn't feel the need to crank up CON so much and may play a race that is not quite as tough !

Ranged combatant vs Melee combatant vs mixed range.... seems a role distinction
 

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