The Wololo Adventure Conversion Standard Guide


The Wololo Adventure Conversion Guide

A Pathfinder Second Edition guide

by Archvillain Ediwir

Image by Shabazik

Foreword

As of the time of writing this guide, I am concluding a long period of conversion testing.

Once the playtest for Pathfinder’s new edition closed, I proposed an experiment to my test group: I would run for them the same adventure I had already been running with another group in First Edition, and see how feasible converting turned out. With the exception of a bit of preparation to figure out my first steps, I have been converting War for the Crown week by week, while at the same time continuing the adventure in First Edition with my other group, and found the results to be extremely positive. Not only the conversion works, but the combined work of converting and running it requires very little effort in addition to what it took me to run the original adventure, and the benefits are immediate and clear, with encounters being more dynamic, itemisation being more interesting, and enemies being much more memorable. Indeed it was successful enough that after eight months of testing, both groups are now running Second Edition, thanks to a little bit of character conversion effort.

It is my personal conviction that edition conversion is not only possible, but feasible enough to be done easily once someone becomes familiar enough with the method, and can be a key feature of expanding the range of playable adventures for Pathfinder in these first few years of content release.

I hope you can all benefit from this and enjoy the full range of adventures published by Paizo over the years, or even import third party adventures published for other systems, if you are so inclined.

I’d also like to add a brief thank you to all my players, who have acted as my guinea pigs for months, and to my actual guinea pigs, who have supported my efforts wheek by wheek.

For more guides:
PubAlchem, an alchemist’s resource

The 25 Reasons to Play Pathfinder, an introductory collection

Off to See the Wizard, a guide to Foundry’s Rule Elements

Join me at the Pathfinder_RPG subreddit or discord.gg/pathfinder for more game discussion!

Aims

This guide is meant to provide the tools for a GM to set up a simple series of documents to be able to integrate an existing Pathfinder First Edition adventure into a current Pathfinder game. With enough practice, it is meant to be quick enough to use that converting ongoing adventures on a week-by-week basis is feasible and quick.

While it can be used to convert games from other systems or even write original adventures with relative ease, as most advice is system-agnostic, some sections of this guide (especially in terms of Combat and NPCs) rely on some basic assumptions that may vary from the standards used in different games.

As with all inter-system conversions, this should not be considered a guide for new GMs that are just approaching the hobby. While an inexperienced GM can follow this guide and obtain a usable and functional adventure for the most part, some nuances may require familiarity with both systems to be translated effectively.

A secondary, perhaps more ambitious aim is to set a standard for adventure conversions, helping GMs contribute, share and use standardised documents to expand the range of available adventures for Pathfinder, and allowing new GMs to download these document packages as integrative tools to run adventures from First Edition.

Standards and References

Most of this guide is written with the assumption that it will be used for conversions of Paizo’s Adventure Paths. It also assumes that players who write or use the conversions own the Adventure Path being converted, and is not intended to help build full substitute products. While the content of a conversion might include spoilers, names and other informations, this should not be enough to play the adventure entirely without the full book. Supporting Paizo by purchasing their adventures is the only way to get more of them.

That said, some Pathfinder First Edition concepts will be referenced, such as Challenge Rating (CR), and GMs might be required at times to be able to examine and reference First Edition statblocks (which can be found on Archive of Nethys as free resources) and require if not familiarity at least some level of understanding of the old system.

The guide also assumes GMs to be familiar with Pathfinder concepts and terminology, and especially with the Adjusting Creatures chapter of the Bestiary (with particular attention to the Elite and Weak adjustment templates) and the DCs by level table.

Remember to also add or remove +/-2 from creatures’ stats when adjusting them this way

Finally, this guide uses the Catacombs of Wrath dungeon as an example of conversion, and therefore includes minor spoilers from Rise of the Runelords. They are not censored.

Setup, Deconstruction, and Timing

The first thing we need to begin writing an adventure conversion is a reference point. For most conversions, this reference point is going to be the character’s level, and it will determine the pace of wealth distribution, ease of combat, challenge rate of given skill DCs and more.

If you are using a fixed level module or scenario, the level won’t change and will be clearly noted. If you are using an Adventure Path, the character’s level will normally be noted in the Advancement Track right before the adventure background.

Make a note of which sections of the adventure happen at which levels. If the adventure is a more open-ended style of sandbox spanning a few levels at a time, make a note of the level range.

Because many games tend to make abundant use of story XP, it can be challenging to recalculate the total amount required to maintain pacing. When converting an adventure, it is much easier to instead operate under the assumption that leveling will be handled via the milestone system, but if not, you’ll have to reverse engineer story xp based on the given milestones and the encounters xp. Keep in mind players might skip some.

Once you know which levels your conversion will cover and which chapters each level will encompass, write it out as a small reference, such as:

Rise of the Runelords (Burnt Offerings), lv1-4:

lv1 (part 1, 2 and 3, up to the Catacombs of Wrath)

lv2 (part 3, the Catacombs of Wrath)

lv3 (part 4, Thistletop)

lv4 (conclusion)

This will be your frame of reference for loot distribution and subsystem setting.

You will then need three main documents for each book you convert: Loot, Combat, and NPCs, plus an additional document for each main subsystem (like for example Relics, Leadership, Verbal Duels, or The Dancing Hut).

The idea of using split documents is to allow the possibility to have several of them open at the same time and switch between them, keeping information separated and organised. Dividing them by book also allows for them to be relatively small sized, potentially fitting into a custom GM screen.

Loot

Of the three documents we prepare, Loot is both the simplest and the most variable.

First of all, we need to copy our reference in the document, so that we know our level intervals. Loot management is outlined by the Core Rulebook in terms of level interval budget (see table 10.10, Party Treasure By Level) to help GMs in adventure design. It fits well for conversions, too.

Once we know how many players we have, we can calculate adequate wealth and distribute it to each adventure subpart, noting permanent (p) and consumable (c) item levels and total wealth. Our document should look somewhat like this:

Rise of the Runelords (Burnt Offerings), lv1-4:

lv1 (part 1, 2 and 3, up to the Catacombs of Wrath): p(2x2nd, 2x1st), c(2x2nd, 3x1st), 40gp

lv2 (part 3, the Catacombs of Wrath): p(2x3rd, 2x2nd), c(2x3rd, 2x2nd, 2x1st), 70gp

lv3 (part 4, Thistletop): p(2x4th, 2x3rd), c(2x4th, 2x3rd, 2x2nd), 120gp

lv4 (conclusion): 0

This leads us to the next step, where we will have to go through the book and examine the parts of the adventure where loot is actually present. To help us quickly reference this, we can use Paizo’s own lettering system as a reference point. We see that lv2 treasure should be distributed in the Catacombs of Wrath, which will make a fitting example for our conversion.

In the original Catacombs, treasure is distributed in B3, B8, B11 and B12 only. Let’s lay them out in the First Edition version:

B3 (welcoming chamber): masterwork ranseur worth 400gp.

B8 (ancient study): scroll of flaming sphere

B11 (meditation chamber): book worth 100gp, scroll of burning hands, wand of shocking grasp (28 charges).

B12 (shrine): 4x waters of lamashtu (they turn to simple unholy water after a time)

Additionally, Erylium carries an enchanted dagger and some expensive clothing items. Let’s try to have a look at the Pathfinder treasure table (see table 11.1, Treasure By Level, or the Equipment page on Archive of Nethys) and select appropriate items to replace these, before replacing the monetary values with more appropriate ones. Then, let’s add some more if needed, and lay it out once again as converted Pathfinder loot, highlighting area names and including item level for easy identification DCs:

B3 (welcoming chamber): crying angel pendant (lv2), ornate ranseur worth 300sp.

B8 (ancient study): scroll of flaming sphere (lv3), 6gp

B11 (meditation chamber): book worth 80sp, scroll of burning hands (lv1), wand of shocking grasp (lv3), low grade cold iron dagger (lv2), lesser serene mutagen (lv1), 22sp

B12 (shrine): 3x unholy water (lv1), 18sp

This follows (loosely) the treasure form in the original adventure and adds some silver coins and extra items here and there. Note that art items, valuables and jewelry sell for their whole value (so the 300sp ornate ranseur sells for 300sp), but adding weapons or gear as treasure would count for only half their value.

It takes from our item budget a total of p(1x3rd, 1x2nd), c(2x3rd, 1x2nd, 4x1st), 40gp. We have split a 2nd item consumable into 2 1st level ones for money equivalence, and are then left with a remaining p(1x3rd, 1x2nd), 30gp. Knowing that Erylium will have a +1 returning dagger on herself (the two runes fulfilling our need for a 1x2nd, 1x3rd level permanent item) plus some trinkets and that some of this treasure should likely be given out as rewards in other sections of the adventure (for example for rescuing Ameiko), we can be happy enough with this section and make a note to distribute the remaining 30gp later on.

Additionally, because most adventures feature a final reward (and our 4th level budget is currently 0), we can detour some of this wealth towards a final “cinematic” moment. I advise to not let this impact earlier level finances too much, but shifting items and money between levels to alter progression or for story purpose is something you may find yourself doing often, not just in terms of cash but also in terms of items, if you feel the need. More likely however, a final reward should come mostly from the final budget, with some minor contributions from the previous level cash allowance.

Remember that while this brings our party of adventurers to an adequate wealth by level, it doesn’t mean they should have to explore every single nook and cranny to keep up. Increasing this total by a small amount will allow our players to not suffer excessively for missing a secret or two, and reward those who find them all. I tend to use either 10%-20% of the total value (so 17gp, 50gp and 85gp for the example) in cash, a similar value in healing potions and elixirs (which I normally do not assign as standard treasure, as a way to control attrition and maintain loot interesting), or a mix. In a lv1 adventure, for example, I would add 3 minor healing potions and 5 gp in various areas, possibly on relevant enemies’ bodies or hiding spaces (something that did not yet happen in our example). This is mostly to allow for more purchasing freedom and should be easily expendable.

You should not feel too concerned with calculating the value of NPC weaponry. As noted above, weapons and gear sell for half value. At early levels, this usually translates into healing potions and sustain power, which is usually welcome, and bulk works well as a limiting factor when playing with attrition. At higher levels, standard weapons quickly become cheap enough that they are essentially dead weight – 5 to 7 levels of difference being enough to not worry about them at all (respectively, 10% and 5% of the value of an at-level item, or 5% and 2.5% if sold). Do however keep track of magical weaponry within that 5 level range, as it will be impactful on your character’s wealth (while Paizo guidelines advise a 4 level difference to be enough, that is in reference to the creature’s level, not the PCs). More on this in the NPC section.

A final note on references: you should note at the end of your document what source the items were taken from. If more than one source is listed, specify it in each item’s entry so the GMs can more easily find them. In this example, all are from the Core Rulebook.

Combat

When converting combat encounters, we won’t need an exact level reference. This is because the level of a challenge is independent from the level of the players. You should however be mindful of the characters expected level in order to gauge difficulty and pacing.

Challenge and Levels

For most Pathfinder First Edition adventures, the level of enemies (known as Challenge Rating, or CR) and encounter difficulty follows similar assumptions as Pathfinder’s creature level. When converting, it is usually sufficient to begin with the assumption that CR = Lv, and work from there. Creatures of CR ? or ? should translate as Lv-1, and CR ? can be translated as Lv0.

There are exceptions – sometimes a creature in an Adventure Path is so weak that it cannot pose a threat to a Pathfinder character if directly translated, and other times the level is artificially higher than the creature’s actual threat capacity (most commonly because of odd class combinations). In these cases, the GM will have to exercise some of the aforementioned system mastery and make a judgment call. Is the monster there purely as fodder, for flavouring purpose? Then it can remain a meaningless weakling. Is it meant to swarm and damage the players? It might be better represented as a group of creatures sharing a single, higher level statblock, similarly to a swarm or troop. If the level is off, is it because the intended threat was higher, or is it meant to be weak? Does this apparently weak creature have some sort of effect or power that threatens characters of any level, such as a touch attack ability drain? What is the intended difficulty of this challenge? Adjustments may be required, and some degree of understanding is necessary.

In other occasions, terrain and other elements might be part of the challenge itself. For example, a group of 5x CR4 bandits (hobgoblin archers) and 2x CR5 dire lions (double-elite lion) might seem like an easy enough encounter for a group of lv8 characters, but the use of cover, distance, and stealth can bring them easily up to par.

Particularly in high-level pathfinder first edition adventure paths or modules (usually lv15+) several encounters may need rebalancing or retuning. In this case, refer frequently to the encounter budget rules and consider retuning creatures or adding more of them, as it’s common enough for encounters to shoot low at higher levels.

In a similar way as with treasure, we can use the lettering system and lay out a simple encounter list in our Combat file:

B1 (guard cave): Sinspawn (wrathspawn) CR2

B4 (pool): Vargouille CR2

B6 (prison): 2x Sinspawn CR2

B9 (prisoner pits): Human Zombies CR 1/2, Koruvus CR3

B13 (cathedral): Erylium CR4, 1x Sinspawn CR2

What’s the problem with this? Well, the problem is that some of these creatures do not exist in Pathfinder at the time of writing this guide. While Koruvus and Erylium could be better represented in the NPC chapter, and other creatures like Sinspawns and Zombies only need a Bestiary page reference, Vargouilles are common enough that we should be able to have quick stats for them, and this is where quick monster conversion comes in.

Quick Monster Conversion

When attempting to convert a monster that does not exist in Pathfinder, our first step should be to examine its statblock in the old edition to get the gist of their concept. For example, the Vargouille should be a flying small fiend with bite and poison, able to stun in an area, and with the ability to turn characters into spawns.

Our next stop is to find an approximation. The Creature By Type and Creature By Level pages in the Bestiary can help, as can the Monster Filter tool. When creating a human bandit, hobogblins can work pretty well. When creating a high level armoured guardian, resized stone giants might do the trick. Right now, we are looking at an aberration or fiend, of level 1 to 3, possibly a fragile flier. The Imp and Quasit fit that description, so we’ll look at them. The Imp has a lot of magical abilities and resistances, while the quasit has more health and specific weaknesses. Whichever we choose should still lead to similar results, but knowing the dungeon boss is going to be a Quasit we can stick to that statblock for continuity. We have a cold iron dagger in the loot, after all.

The third step is scrubbing the Quasit. We remove everything we don’t need, like Change Shape, Spells, Healing, Virtue Aversion, Abyssal Knowledge, and essentially consider the whole statblock empty of any special ability we don’t want. We then build our Varguille on the skeleton of the Quasit by adding the Elite template to bring it up to par, changing the Claw into a Bite, altering the poison and adding a Shriek and Kiss. This requires some monster creation tricks.

Weaknesses and resistances can remain as in the original Quasit. Because it’s a solo encounter, high health is a good thing to have, but in many other cases, common resistances and weaknesses (such as a resistance to all physical damage save for silver, or a weakness to slashing damage) should translate in an alteration of about 3hp per point of resistance or weakness, while uncommon resistances or weaknesses are less of a concern – they should freely reward preparation, or punish hasty tactics, but not be considered baseline assumptions. Moderately common or easily exploitable weaknesses should fall somewhere in the middle. Notice how the Quasit and Imp differ by only 10hp, with the Imp having resistance 3 to most attacks. If you intend to give a monster resistances or weaknesses, having it equal to their level is a good starting point.

Damage is given to monsters in the form of dice rolls, such as “1d6-1 slashing plus 1d4 evil”. What this really means, however, is “an average of 3.5-1+2.5 = 5” (to which we need to add 2 because of Elite). When adapting a monster, you will often need to deconstruct and reconstruct their damage to account for different dice size or number. Let’s say that we like the evil damage component, and we need our Vargouille to deal 7 damage with a bite, which normally uses d6 or d8s. Say d6 because it’s small. We can have this deal 1d6+1 and 1d4, or 1d6 and 1d6. The second is easier to roll but harder to block, so we’ll go with the first option – but bites are not Agile, so we remove that trait.

When using different creatures, particularly humanoids with weapons, this step is important to give the challenge more verisimilitude and confront the players with familiar structures. Use traits, damage size and dice number as required by the attack or itemisation, and add either static damage or special damage conditions to make up for what’s left. A 1d6 fire damage for burning oil, or 1d4 negative damage for blades charged with necromantic energy are perfectly acceptable if the creature lacks brute strength.

Poison depends on what you want to do with it. It’s essentially a conditional temporary debuff that can carry over some extra damage. Our Vargouille uses poison to prevent healing, so let’s state that Vargouille Poison has a DC of 16 (regular DC for lv2 monsters) and has no effect other than preventing magical healing unless the caster succeeds at a spellcasting check, lasting one turn at stage 1 and one minute at stage 2. Other poisons might add conditions, damage, or something nastier, but as a rule of thumb should be comparable to other poisons of their level and have at least a couple stages.

Special attacks such as Shriek can be trickier. When you are adapting a monster, you have to consider the size of your power budget. How much did you take away? How much can you pack into a single power? Shriek is the Vargouille’s only combat special ability, so it’s likely going to be pretty strong, but you don’t want it to be a death sentence. Altering the DC can play a strong role in determining power, but affects replayability if lowered. For this example, we’ll use Shriek [>>], Fort DC16 within 60ft area to avoid being Slowed 1 for one round. On critical failure, creature is Stunned for one round. As for Kiss, the Vargouille curse should be scary enough to be a threat but hardly come into play, so we’ll state a Vargouille that successfully strikes a Stunned or unconscious character can forego damage and instead affect the target with the Kiss. Again, DC16, and the curse can proceed as in the old edition.

How does this all translate into our quick-reference combat file? Simple:

B1 (guard cave): Sinspawn (lv2 PB1 p.297)

B4 (pool): Vargouille (lv2 Elite Scrubbed Quasit, PB1 p.76, with bite; poison obstaculates magical healing (DC16, s1 1r, s2 1 min); shriek>> 30ft area FortDC16, slowed1 or stunned on crit, lasts 1r; can Kiss stunned or unconscious targets it hits instead of damage)

B6 (prison): 2x Sinspawn (lv2 PB1 p.297)

B9 (prisoner pits): several Zombie Shamblers (lv-1 PB1 p.340), Koruvus (lv3 NPC)

B13 (cathedral): Erylium (lv4 NPC), 1x Sinspawn (lv2 PB1 p.297)

With at most two lines spent on a monster, this can be used as a quick reference to run a whole dungeon. Spellcasters sometimes require more space, especially when substituting their spell lists, but should still be able to fit in relatively small spaces for ease of use. Further explanations on the Vargouille’s special attacks and abilities should, if needed, fit in a monster conversion details at the bottom of the document, with creatures fitting in alphabetical order, but not as full statblocks. For those, we’ll move to a new document and face a whole new challenge.

Note that some named NPCs might still not be worth the extra attention and be converted as simple monsters. The processes differ only in the amount of time, depth and attention you dedicate to each, and a particularly strong bandit might ultimately still be just a bandit. At the same time, a very unique and flavourful monster might deserve its own statblock even if it becomes rather common. In this example, Koruvus is probably a borderline situation: he is extremely unique and notable, but not a key figure.

Finally, like in the Loot document, references can help GMs run the conversion more easily: list all relevant source books and abbreviations near the end, and page number in each entry. The example uses monster from Pathfinder’s Bestiary 1 (PB1) and custom NPCs. Listing level also helps GM determine identification DCs.

Traps and hazards

Traps, as of now, have no guidelines in the core books, and only a handful of examples. Paizo released a Hazard Creation guide as part of their GMG. While hazard conversion will feel very much like full creation, you’ll only normally need Stealth/Thievery DCs, saves or attack value, and damage for most simple hazards. Some classic types of simple traps are broken down below:

Pitfall traps: Extreme stealth, Low disable, High DC.

Attacking traps: High stealth and disable, average attack.

Ranged traps: Extreme stealth and High disable, average attack, lv-1 damage.

Multi-target traps: High stealth and disable, average attack or save, lv-2 damage.

Magic traps: High stealth and disable, with High requirement. Spell of half trap level (rounded up). DCs High. Include a Dispel entry.

Most traps don’t require a defense entry unless they automatically reset, as they are likely to be either triggered or disabled most of the time. If your players want to smash, make sure you have the defense table handy.

NPCs

Unlike simple monster encounters, NPCs are relevant, detailed key characters in an adventure and often require more attention. When converting an NPC, we will be writing out a complete statblock, but still start with a similar process as monster conversion, with approximation, scrubbing and reconstruction working in a similar way.

At the state of latest update, full monster rules are freely available on AoN, and a more handy version is available in the GMG. While these are  more accurate than any monster editing, they require some practice to be used directly, and monster editing is still an effective way to begin. Being this guide aimed at teaching, I’ll start with that method and re-examine the result after.

Monstercrafting for beginners

Taking Erylium into our focus, we will once again need the Quasit statblock. However, because Erylium is meant to be a lv4 creature, we won’t use it as a skeleton – instead, we should look at the Pixie, a higher level nasty spellcasting little flier. We could repeatedly apply Elite to bring her up, but the template tends to be less effective with multiple stackings, and I don’t encourage to use it multiple times (dual-elite being the most I’ll do myself). Again, we scrub the statblock and rebuild as needed, using the Quasit as a guideline for her speeds, abilities and details, but halt before adding special attacks and spells to examine more carefully our concept.

We know Erylium tends to exploit her invisibility and spellcasting more than her attacks, which lines up well with the pixie’s statline, but we don’t really want 4th level invisibility in this fight. Spells will have to change. We could give her a Primal prepared spell list, as they fit the curse flavour of the old Witch, and have her act as a summoner/debuffer, with melee as her last resort. Closer attention to the skills will lead us to something along the lines of this statblock:

ERYLIUM (creature 4)

Unique CE Tiny Demon Fiend

Perception +12; darkvision

Languages Abyssal, Common, Thassilonian, telepathy (touch)

Skills Acrobatics +13, Arcana+11, Deception +11, Intimidation +11, Nature +10, Stealth +11

Str -1, Dex +5, Con +1, Int +3, Wis +2, Cha +3

Items +1 returning dagger, tiara worth 70sp, black silk gown worth 12gp, silver symbol of Lamashtu.


AC 23, Fort +8, Ref +14, Will +12; +1 status to all saves vs. magic

HP 40; Weaknesses cold iron 5, good 5

Virtue Aversion: The players do not have the means to retrieve items of significance to Erylium’s mortal life at this time.


Speed 15 feet, fly 35 feet

Melee dagger +13 (agile, finesse, magical, thrown 10ft, versatile S), Damage 1d4+3 piercing plus 1d4 evil

Melee claw +12 (agile, evil, finesse, magical, poison), Damage 1d6+2 slashing plus 1d4 evil and quasit venom

Ranged returning dagger +13 (agile, finesse, magical, thrown 10ft, versatile S), Damage 1d4+3 piercing

Primal Prepared Spells DC 21; 2nd Dispel Magic, Summon Animal; 1st Goblin Pox, Spider Sting, Summon Animal; cantrips acid splash, guidance, read aura, tanglefoot.

Divine Innate Spells DC 21; 4th read omens; 2nd detect alignment (at will; good only), invisibility (at will, self only); 1st fear; Cantrips (1st) detect magic

Abyssal Healing (concentrate, divine, healing, necromancy) Frequency once per round; Effect Erylium restores 2d6 hp to herself.

Change Shape (concentrate, divine, polymorph, transmutation) as Quasit

Quasit Venom (poison) as Quasit, but DC19

If using the SRD monster creation rules, we see Erylium has Moderate Perception, one High and several Moderate skills, almost Extreme AC but very Low HP, a High/Moderate/Low save line, Moderate strikes with Low damage, High spells, and her regular abilities.

As you can see, this is different from the Quasit and the Pixie both, and while on the low end of Lv4 creatures, it represents the original NPC quite well (as she does appear rather on the weak end in her original version as well). We should probably add a single-use Paralyse among the innate spells to boost her power, and while she begins the fight at the Runewell, it would be a good idea to point out a handful of statues or skull decorations that she can use as perches, a detail clever adventurers could exploit by knocking them down and forcing her to land (remember, staying in flight does require actions). Having NPCs interact with the environment, or having some sort of “trick” to beating them can make for very rewarding fight and is a detail that isn’t often emphasised enough in First Edition. Give it a twist.

Monstercrafting, advanced

Once you have enough familiarity with understanding how to tweak values, using the monster creation rules directly or a tool such as the PF2 Monster Maker (by Kyle Pulver) can save you a lot of time and effort, and a pdf format NPC file is easy to read and follow. If using the Monster Maker, the possibility of exporting a .json file allows other GMs to edit your work and tweak the creature to their needs. Just make sure you get some practice on the abilities and follow the monster type ability standards – for example, Erylium should still have all of the regular Quasit traits such as shapeshifting, venom, weaknesses, flying speed and so on.

The first step into creating a monster block from scratch should be picking a roadmap, to get a general guideline on what our creature should look like. Keep in mind that, if not advised differently, the general suggested value (especially for attacks) is Moderate.

Then, we need to determine how (if at all) the creature differs from the advised thresholds. Going back to Erylium, we have seen extreme AC with low HP – a slippery, but squishy creature, that will die very quickly once you finally manage to get your hands on her.

It is very important to note that Extreme values in general can cause issues, especially on creatures meant to take the role of bosses or end-of-level encounters. Missing constantly can be frustrating, just like being hit all the time, and should be counterbalanced (say by much lower HP or damage) in order to give a good gameplay experience. Creatures meant as mooks or minions can afford generally higher values with less issues – but this is a kind of balancement that should only apply to unique or campaign-specific creatures.

This note is particularly important when using the Monster Maker, as the Soldier roadmap defaults to Extreme AC (despite advising “High or Extreme”).

As far as tweaks can go, you have some narrow wiggle room -one or two points, perhaps, depending on level- before you start to affect balancement too much. If you do more than that, or make too many adjustments, you’ll have to compensate somewhere else. Health for AC, saves for casting, damage for precision, depending on your concept.

After this, you’ll have to add any abilities the creature should have. Try to lean onto a minimalist approach – abilities should be flavourful, usable, and noticeable, unless they are some major part of concept. For example, noting down that an NPC uses a d8 for shortsword damage because she is a cleric of Norgorber is flavourful, but very much passive and quite likely to go unnoticed – it is however helpful in defining concept, and players may relate it to their own class abilities. An ability that notes how the NPC has a higher than normal spell DC because of a pact with Asmodeus is just a story hook, and unless it can be acted upon, likely useless.

For most creatures, you probably want a couple of abilities, more for meaningful villains. Keep in mind some general creature traits, such as spell resistance, will affect balancement as if they were main abilities, and some others, especially in complex or recurring villains, might see different use in different situations.

Things to be especially careful about are abilities that affect action economy – free actions, extra reactions or two-for-one actions tend to affect a creature’s power noticeably, and should be handled with care.

If the monster you are creating is the advanced version of an existing creature, such as a lv13 otyugh or a lv5 ghoul, start with examining the base creature, and determining what the original stat thresholds are. Is the original a lv1 “high AC, moderate HP, high attack, moderate damage” creature? Then the higher level should likely start at those thresholds. Is there any important change you need to make, such as a size increase? You could lower AC and attack, while increasing HP and damage. If the creature is intelligent and “gained a class”, you’ll probably want some basic abilities from it, such as flurry of blows or retributive strike. Always consider that the base statblock number is passive power, and the abilities are what makes the creature memorable. You have some budget to spend.

Subsystems and DCs

A Subsystem file is usually something I do at the start, detailing any particular minigames or parallel progressions the adventure might have. These can be major and revolutionary like Kingmaker’s Kingdom Management System or they can be much more limited in scope, like Reign of Winter’s Dancing Hut Controls. Other adventures use a large variety of subsystems, like War for the Crown’s Persona, Influence, Verbal Duels, Relics, City Management, Loyalty and Suspicion systems (plus many more: there are rules for jousting, playing croquet and even competitive ballroom dancing).

This is not going to be a chapter on how to convert specific systems, because they are too varied. It’s going to be a general discussion on how to convert a system in a way that gives you something usable. Unfortunately, in First Edition it’s hard to figure out expected outcomes, due to the high variability of character statistics (at the same level, you might have three characters having a -1, +8 and +32 modifier, all facing a DC17). This means that as a GM, you have the full weight of arbitrating outcome difficulty. This can vary depending not only on the adventure, but on how your own group handles difficulty and challenge. If they want to face harsh odds and obstacles, you might harshen the checks, while if they prefer a more laid back approach, you can lower them. In most cases, however, setting a challenge level can be as easy as using the NPC’s given level. In others, there might not be an NPC of reference, making your job a little harder. This variability is also why this guide does not provide a conversion format for skill DCs.

A DC conversion table was made by user dogs_not_gods, available here, and while it is fairly accurate for most adventuring skill checks (such as for hidden doors, locks, tracking and so on) it should likely be used with discretion and thought. Check if what you are converting should be based on some other value that players might be aware of, such as an NPC’s Stealth or Perception DC. Look at whether it is part of some challenge you rebalanced, and if the difficulty represents the reward. Consider whether you need that value higher or lower to fit the adventure difficulty. Use this as a guide, not a blind formula.

Fortunately, once we have a moderately appropriate target in mind, the core system of Pathfinder gives us a very simple system to handle resolutions: proficiency vs challenge.

Single-check resolutions

Whenever you are looking at building a subsystem and are faced with a check to resolve an issue, consider the idea of using some sort of character or NPC check against a standard DC of variable level based on the challenge. For example, a kingdom building system could see one of your vassal, perhaps the kingdom’s Treasurer, try to solve a financial matter of taxation. Your Kingdom’s Financial modifier determines the check will be done at an Expert level, and your treasurer is Lv6 with +2 Int, so your modifier is +12. If this is a lv4 challenge, the DC is 19. Alternatively, the Financial modifier might provide the level, and the NPC the ranking. If this is to be solved by a PC, he might have his own rankings, derived from in-game events or achievements, and just use his level and modifiers. It’s an extremely simple solution, but works in most cases, and can easily be your base over which to build.

Multiple-check resolutions

What if instead you wanted to have a multiple-check resolution? Say, the players need to all stealth around a guard – that requires one check from each and normally fails if even one raises the alarm. You want a certain chance of success (say, 80%), but you can’t just set the DC to easy and let everyone roll. An 80% collective success on 4 checks requires a 95% individual success chance (because 0.95 x 0.95 x 0.95 x 0.95 = 0.81)

What you’ll need to set a multiple check resolution is, first of all, your final percentage of success (S) in decimal form (like 0.75) and the number of checks (N). The average chance of success required from each check (C) is given by the formula here:

C=NS

You can do this easily on a calculator or on Google, or you can fiddle with multiplications until you get the right results. It’s made easier by the fact that, because the game uses a d20, we are forced into using success percentages which are a multiple of 5.

That average chance, once paired with the average Trained modifier (or Expert at higher level), will give you the required DC for each check – which you will of course tweak up and down according to your needs. Just make sure to verify the final success chance.

Let’s try an example:

At level 5, the players are faced with the exploration of a creepy hedge maze, surrounded by a misty fog and where plants tend to crack and twist at the edge of their vision. They are chasing a person who walked in before them, and trying to figure out what they’re doing every night in there. You know they have enough time to make 3 attempts before the person leaves and their chance is wasted for the night, and that a single failure will lead them to become lost and find themselves back to the exit. They need 4 successes to reach the center.

Our formula tells us that to get a 30% of final results with 4 successes we need an average of 75% success. At lv5, an average skill modifier is about +9, and a specialist’s skill modifier could be about +13. Let’s say we set our reference at +11, because we’ll give players the choice of 4 out of 6 checks and they’ll likely pick their good skills. Our average DC is 17, but instead we have:

Athletics (DC19), Nature (DC17), Occult (DC18), Perception (DC16), Survival (DC15), Will (DC18).

Depending on what the players pick, things can be harder or easier, and it’s quite likely that they’ll have to come back another night to try again, or even delay until they manage to level up and make things easier for themselves. None of these checks are hard, but the collective challenge they represent is. Hero points are likely to be burned here.

It’s also important to note that, because of the math involved, multiple-check resolutions tend to be easily solved by Assurance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s a feat investment paying off, but ensure you have a wide selection of skills so that this boosts success without removing the whole challenge. Additionally, players normally don’t know the DC ahead of time, so it might not even come into play until a second try – if a second try is permitted at all.

Alternatively, it’s possible that we’ll need several independent multiple-check challenges, each contributing to a total of successes. There are millions of possible scenarios, and overthinking is going to make things much harder than they are – try to overthink only a little bit so that players don’t get immediately screwed over. No pressure.

Financial additions

Some subsystems involve extraordinary expenses, and assume the PCs either invest part of their finances or receive additional wealth to make up for this. The best way to represent this is to relate it to the portion of character wealth this is meant to cost, but due to the different way the economies scale, this is not as easy to do in practice.

For converting costs, I use this simple formula, which is fairly accurate (mean error: 31%) up to level 15:

PFsp=PF1gp Lv20

That will, by knowing the amount of gold a certain purchase costs in First Edition and the level at which these purchases are expected to take place, give us the adequate amount of silver it should cost in Pathfinder. For example, if our system hinges on Build Points which can be purchased for 1000 gold, and this becomes available at lv5 but we want the party to rely on outside income and not burn their own resources until lv7, we can calculate

PFsp=1000 720

And obtain as our final result that one Build Point should cost about 350 silver, or 35gp per point. We can use this as a basic measurement to know how to affect financial gains for the players – Just sum up the additional wealth given specifically for the system, convert it as above (using the same level as constant, regardless of the level they’re obtained at) and compare it with the cost they’re expected to invest in the subsystem before taking a financial hit. The difference will be what you need to add as treasure, and any extra they invest to get additional benefits or accelerate gains will be out of their own pockets.


Note that financial-based systems tend to have some form of negative feedback limitation integrated in them. For example, it might be easy to gain free Build Points, but it might be very inefficient to sell them for money, only netting players ? of the normal sale value. This is so that the subsystem doesn’t actually get ignored in favour of personal combat power.

For levels higher than 15, the following approximate (mean error: 12%) formula is advised (if at all necessary):

PFsp=PF1gp (Lv- 13.5)5

A final warning: some online tools exist to convert gold from PF1 to Pathfinder. While I welcome users to submit any recommendation for additions to the Guide, I have not been able to find a single one published so far to be accurate. In particular, Discord users often bring up easytools’s conversion page. It has an average error margin of 208%. Please stop.


Custom Items

When adapting a specific item, the simplest way is to once again rebuild it from scratch. Doing so is normally fairly feasible in the new system, as you don’t have to worry excessively about pricing formulae or crafting requirements. Items are priced based on their overall power and can be easily derived from existing items. However, guidelines for appropriate power levels exist and apply to most items. While spellcasting items like wands, staves, or many of the items that reproduce a spell have plenty of examples in the book, the most difficult ones to translate are often skill bonuses items and weapons/armours.

A first note: if you want to build an item that combines the functions of two items… Just treat it as two items. A sword whose scabbard works like a magic staff is, from a mechanical standpoint, a sword plus a staff. Count the parts separately for loot and sales, but treat them as a single item when handing it to your players.

As for the appropriate levels of magic item bonuses, follow this general guide:

Level

armour

resilient

weapon

striking

skills

2

+1

3

+1

4

Striking

5

+1

8

Resilient

9

+2

10

+2

11

+2

12

Greater 

14

Greater 

16

+3

17

+3

18

+3

19

Major

20

Major

It’s important to note that scaling items should be appropriate not to the level at which they’re gained, but to the level immediately preceding an upgrade. In other words, if your magic sword gains a new power at level 11 and has a new upgrade planned for level 15, it should gain Greater Striking, or it will fall behind. This is normally fine as it makes the item feel more epic, but it does impact character wealth. Adjustments might be needed, if the power is not accounted for by the adventure difficulty.

Resources and Downloads

As a finishing point to this guide, I am leaving a space for premade conversions. If some of you have decided to follow my tips and write your own accessory material to convert Adventure Paths, all you need to do is drop a download link in the Guide’s feedback thread, and I’ll add it in here for everyone to enjoy. For assistance and contribution, a small community has started in the form of the Series of Dice-Based Events Discord group. While I do plan to work on my own as well, I doubt I’ll be able to cover them all, so feel free to join in. Please ensure you follow the Community Use Policy below.

I will also add a general template you can download to get started, with some basic instructions embedded in the files. Have fun and help others have fun!

General Wololo Template v1.1

This link includes a zip folder containing a basic setup to begin writing your own guide, including brief summary of instructions and formatting, the Community Use Policy, and the Open Game License. You will need to submit your project to Paizo to use registered names.

Adventure Path War for the Crown (book 1 of 6) by Archvillain Ediwir on 14/1/20

A level 1-4 campaign in the kingdom of Taldor, where players face politicians and spies in a shadow war for succession.

Tomb of the Iron Medusa by Archvillain Ediwir on 15/11/19

A level 14 module which sends the PCs in the ancient tomb of a near-extinct Taldean noble family in an effort to find the evidence that will finally clear their name.

Updates / versions (1.4)

1.1 Included monster creation rules and monster creation tool.

1.2 formatting advice for combat / loot documents.

1.3 split NPC chapter, added advice on using the monster rules.

1.4 added formula for high level financial conversion, error margins, and DC conversion tool.


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