Monday, March 30, 2020

AD&D Black Pudding for Call of Cthulhu 5e
Image: dark blob amidst the stalagmites.
1st edition Black Pudding; courtesy of Trampier.

The Black Pudding: a copyright-free Shoggoth in D&D form. Ten Hit Dice of immune-to-almost-everything, metal-devouring dungeon menace, converted here for CoC 5e.

Nowhere near the beast the CoC Shoggoth is (closer to a Formless Spawn, statistically), but the investigators are probably just as dead.

AD&D Black Pudding, Crawling Horror.

A hideous conglomeration of voracious cellular colonies, the Black Pudding may have been created by the same vanished alien intelligences that spawned the Gelatinous Cube.

Apparently mindless, the Black Pudding nevertheless acts more like an animal than a machine, and is capable of simple ambush tactics, as well as pursuing hapless investigators should they flee.

It is rarely silent, being heralded by a chorus of little wet noises as its thousands of ravenous tiny mouths open and close in anticipation.

STR 8d6 (av. 30)     CON 6d6 (av. 20)     SIZ 8d6 (av. 27; min. 18)     INT n/a     POW n/a    

DEX 3d6 (av. 10.5) 

Hit Points av. 23-24                                  Damage Bonus +3d6           Move 4

  • Pseudopod 60%, 3-24 (3d8) + db
  • STR vs. STR or you're held and suffer 3-24 hits per round from its tiny mouths and corrosive saliva; STR vs. STR is required to escape, and your companions can attempt to add their STR to help pull you away.
  • Any metal or wooden object, including armour, struck takes 3-24 acid damage immediately.

  • None, but all metal and wooden objects striking it take 3-24 acid damage immediately.
  • Physical blows and electricity cause it to split in half:
    • Half: STR 15, CON 10, SIZ 13, db +d4, hp 11
    • Quarter: STR 7, CON 5, SIZ 6, db n/a, hp 5
  • Half (human sized) and quarter (big dog size) Puddings have the same Pseudopod attack as a full Pudding; they will attempt to rejoin over d4 rounds.
  • Immune to cold and impaling weapons, including firearms; these attacks will not cause it to split.
  • Take normal damage from fire and avoid it.

Skills: can dissolve metal and wood (and flesh); their amorphous form allows them to squeeze through even a 1" gap without slowing; they are able to crawl up walls and across ceilings without slowing.

Sanity Loss: 0/d6 to see a Black Pudding; 1/d8 to see it split, or to survive being chewed by hundreds of little mouths.

Friday, March 27, 2020

AD&D Gelatinous Cube for Call of Cthulhu 5e

Ten foot of near-invisible, corrosive jelly seems pretty Mythos to me. Statblock after the rambling.


Stats from 1e Monster Manual: AC (descending) 8; Move 6; HD 4; 1 attack @ 2-8 + paralysis; surprise 1-3 on d6; Intelligence Non-(0); Size L (10' cube)

Resistant to cold damage; immune to electricity, fear, hold, paralysis, polymorph, and sleep.


I'm using a combination of this AD&D-to-RQ document, some of my own Wisdom, and referring back to the 3e Runequest Monsters book (in particular, the Gorp - the closest thing to a Gelatinous Cube in there).

Strength: max. damage of strongest attack (8) + 6; a species average of 14; divide by 3.5 and we get 4d6 for Gelatinous Cube STR. This might be right for a later edition Cube, with its pseudopod.

However, the Gorp lacks STR, and there is good reason to think the same of the Cube: this means it is an incomplete creature in RQ, and having no STR, will never tire.

Constitution: HD + 10; a species average of 14; 4d6 again. Why not?

Size: two possible methods:
  • (source) if a 10' x 10' x 10' Cube weighs 15, 000 lbs (or 7.5 US tons), then it has a SIZ of 64 (5e Mythos Comparative Sizes and 3e Advanced Runequest SIZ Equivalency tables) and is about the same as the CoC Elephant or a Great Race cone-being. This is not the Cube I'm looking for, but maybe you'd prefer it.
  • it's a Large monster (10' tall), so that's 18-36 according to the conversion document, but only taking into account height/length (if you want to treat it as Huge for its volume, that's 37-61 SIZ).

Intelligence: Non-intelligent, so 0, and is unaffected by emotion-influencing spells (or anything else that needs to act on INT to work). 

Power: half HD + 9; species average of 11 (slightly better than a Normal Human). I don't think this is appropriate, so it should either get the same as the Gorp (3d6), or it should lack POW altogether (incomplete creature; soulless, which seems right).

Dexterity: there is a good reason not to use the 10.5 average as DEX for the Cube, so it has no DEX - just like the Gorp. It cannot manipulate objects, it may only use its natural weapons. While RQ says it can't use stealth, that is going to be one of its special abilities.

Hit Points: the average of CON and SIZ, so:
  • (64+14)/2 = 39
  • L (median 27) = (27+14)/2 = 20.5 (20-21)
  • H (median 49) = (49+14)/2 = 63
Damage Bonus: normally calculated using STR + SIZ. Even just using SIZ, we get:
  • 64 = +3d6
  • 27 = +1d4
  • 49 = +2d6
Some CoC monsters (notably the Shoggoth) use their Damage Bonus as their attack damage, so this is what we'll use for the corrosive touch of the Cube.

Move: 4 arbitrary units of distance per combat round (a Normal Human moves 8). But remember it never tires.

Armour Points: 2, under the conversion document method, but I think the Cube will probably resist physical damage in a more Mythos fashion.

Attack: no need to work this out, it's effectively 100% (like the Gorp); it's not so much it attacks you, as you need to avoid it. This also fits well with the attack forms of numerous Mythos monsters.

The anaesthetic/paralytic effect of the Cube is handled as a CON vs. CON Resistance Roll.

Skills: Hide/Sneak at 60% each (basic 10% + 50% for surprising 1-3 on d6).

Gelatinous Cube, Stealthy Corrosive Mobile Jelly.

Obedient and mindless, the Gelatinous Cube serves as the cleanser and pest control of the echoing, empty, ancient cities of alien intelligences.

All that remains after their masters/creators left/perished, are they alive or are they technology?

STR n/a     CON 4d6 (av. 14)     SIZ 49     INT n/a     POW n/a     DEX n/a     Hit Points av. 63

Damage Bonus: +2d6

  • Touch 100%; outrun, Dodge or Jump to avoid; damage 2d6 + CON vs. CON or paralysis 5-20 rounds.
  • Paralysed victims are absorbed and dissolved (2d6/round+suffocation).
  • Even if you are not paralysed, you can only attempt to Dodge or Jump on your next action - you take damage and must resist paralysis regardless of whether you succeed or not.
  • Paralysed and absorbed victims can be rescued, but rescuers will be unable to Dodge or Jump while doing so.
  • All damage is acid damage; Cubes can only dissolve conventional organic matter.
  • None, but takes minimum damage from physical attacks and is immune to all impaling weapons, including firearms.
  • Cannot be harmed by electricity; extreme cold reduces Move to 2 and gives 15% bonus to Dodge/Jump rolls to avoid, but causes no damage.
  • Normal damage from fire and magic (magic weapons cause minimum damage for their type, plus any relevant magic bonus).
Skills: Hide/Sneak 60% - Gelatinous Cubes do not actively use these skills; this represents how difficult they are to notice, even if you know what you're looking for.

And because this is CoC 5e: Glisten Menacingly 75%

Sanity Loss: 0/d4 to see a Gelatinous Cube; 1/d6+1 to see a fellow human dissolved by a Cube; 0/d10 for being absorbed and surviving.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

3rd and 4th Flavours of Skeleton: Runequest III and Tunnels & Trolls 5e to D&D adjacent.
Image: mixed heap of armed and armoured Skeletons.
Josh Kirby for Tunnels & Trolls.

Runequest III.

The Runequest 3rd Edition (Games Workshop took out almost all the Glorantha) Skeleton is very close to the 5e Call of Cthulhu Skeleton.

It has 2d6+6 SIZ (same as a Normal Human) and no POW, but is otherwise much the same simple thing. This gives it, by my reckoning, a hit point equivalent of 13 (the average of SIZ 13 + CON 0).

They are much stronger fighters than CoC Skeletons(because of the expectations of the game?), with DEX x 5% for weapon attacks and Dodge ability (10.5 x 5 = 52.5%).

In RQIII, Skeletons are animated objects, 'magical artifacts, not true undead', and can be given much greater STR and DEX (and presumably SIZ) if the creator is willing to expend the POW to do so. There are no specified limits.

The creator can also put Magic Points into the Skeleton so it can resist spells cast against it; there is no specified limit.

If hit through their armour, that hit location is destroyed. Skull and/or ribcage hits destroy the Skeleton, and they are even more resistant to piercing weapons than in CoC.

Skeletons with a Damage Bonus (those with high combined STR and SIZ) get 1 armour point per +d6 db.


There will be more involved RQ specific conversion methods out there, but I'm for old school simplicity, so I'll use the same one as I did previously.

  • (HP 13)/5 = 2.6 HD
  • Attack/10 = 52.5/10 = 5.25 = BAB +5


  • destroyed on a single hit, but can save vs. dragon breath to dodge a successful hit, or +1 or more AC bonus to reflect Dodge/DEX
    • larger specimens might not dodge, but are intrinsically more robust
  • immune to piercing weapons, unless critical hit
  • immune to fatigue
  • mindless
  • option: immune to Turning (if you decide they are not undead)
  • option: +1 or more bonus to save vs. spells

d6 Flavours of Skeleton:

  1. Multi-Armed: extra pairs of arms were added at creation (max. 6); at least one extra attack and can split between two targets. Probably really good at parrying as well as dodging.
  2. Skeletaur: if there are no Centaurs in your setting, this was constructed from parts; could be as strong as an Ogre/Bull. Could have a horned animal skull. Often used for heavy work as much as a guardian.
  3. Bone Colossus: dozens, hundreds of corpses have been rendered down and reformed into a towering Skeleton. A necromantic siege engine. Can throw boulders and make stomp attacks. Not destroyed on a single hit, unless it's from a trebuchet or a cannon.
  4. Catacomb Byte: constructions more bizarre than the Skeletaur, bursting out of the massed bones and skulls of ossuaries. Scorpion forms with biting skulls instead of stinger and pincers; lengths of vertebrae coiling like serpents (or Necrophidius); sentries that look and reach in all directions at once; finger bone tentacles etc. The animating force is not confined and infuses the whole catacomb.
  5. Skeleton Kettle Drummers: they keep excellent time, march in formation and won't betray you; de rigueur for necromancer triremes and armies of darkness.
  6. Prehistoric Skeleton: some colossus of the past. Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros, Styracosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex are all good choices

Tunnels & Trolls 5e.

There's no Monster Rated Skeleton in my/the UK Corgi edition, but reversing the MR to Prime Attributes conversion (assuming average rolls) in section 2.41 Personalizing Monsters you get a 10 MR monster (2 dice + 5 adds - this is pretty close to the RQ hp to Hit Dice conversion, so might work for RQ/CoC to T&T; I'll explore later).

Against the table in section 1.6 Creating Monsters, the Skeleton above would fall between Rats (MR 8; 1d +4) and Black Hobbits (MR 12; 2d +6).

Because there is no simple established threat hierarchy in T&T (other than deeper dungeon level = deadlier monsters), comparisons are not always useful. For example, the same table has (1st dungeon level) Centaurs, Ghouls, Goblins, Vampires and Werewolves all on c. 30 MR, and Ogres (MR 26) are weaker than Orcs (40), which are weaker than Half-Orcs (74).

I can't be sure that these are not typos, but I tend towards them being a quirk of T&T (by the 6th dungeon level, Ogres are almost 8 times tougher than the Orcs sharing the space, and Trolls end up tougher than Balrogs).


T&T, I think, defies conversion methods because things are not so set as they are in other systems (or at least, this is how I saw/see it with what is available to me). And for those who would poo-poo MR as too simplistic, I argue that mechanically tying so much to HD is an obvious old school parallel.

I'm also stymied by the lack of a 'canonical' MR for Skeletons, as I'd been thinking of using combat dice = HD or MR/10 = HD.

In sections 2.41 and 3.6 (Alternative Humanoid Characters), we do get multipliers to apply to Prime Attributes to generate monsters like you would a character.

The Living Skeleton gets x1 for everything (except in 3.6, where it gets x2 for negative Charisma, so twice as scary, I suppose): it's comparable to a Normal Human, including INT and LUCK.

d6 Flavours of Skeleton:

  1. Skeleton Gambler: walks the earth with a brace of bone dice, one black, one white; test your luck against it; rumoured to have been thrown out of the Skeleton Army. Might have two pistols and a cheroot, depending on the setting.
  2. Flesh Collector: at least twice as terrifying - reduced to bare bones, this ghoulish thing stalks and murders to fill its emptiness with organs, rub its dry bones with blood and fat, and drapes itself in skin; it can talk, does not think of itself as evil, just unfortunate and deserving. Persistent. Obsessive. Intermittently reasonable.
  3. Winged Skeleton: (d6) feathered; bat/dragon; butterfly/moth; bee/fly/wasp; paper fans; knives (2nd d6: bronze; flint; obsidian; iron; steel; special).
  4. Dragonfolk Skeletons: armed, armoured, winged skeletons of a species that does not exist and has never existed, or just dragonborn - if you like that sort of thing. Can't breath fire, but maybe an inky cloud, cold as death.
  5. Danse Macabre: a host of Skeletons dancing their sinister secret dance; (d6) 1-2 invite or force you to join in, 3-4 dance on as if you aren't there, 5-6 stop and stare with empty eyes. The dance is (d6) 1-2 antic, 3-4 stately, 5-6 interpretative. There may or may not be music you can hear.
  6. Nobody: polite and confused Skeleton; it has lost its body and its identity with it, and would like help getting it back, thank you. Roll d6, and on a 1, it's lying about some or all of this. This might be how Flesh Collectors start out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

2nd Flavour of Skeleton: Dragonwarriors Conversion to D&D Adjacent.
Image: two Skeletons with scimitars and snake-bracelets; one wears an inscribed torc.

Leo Hartas, from Dragonwarriors Book Two: The Way of Wizardry

Next up, Skeletons and some of their chums from Dragonwarriors - the best of the British old school.

Statistically, DW Skeletons are a bit weaker than Normal Humans (d6+1 rather than d6+3 Health Points), but have an Armour Factor of 2 vs. piercing weapons and half-damage from fire attacks. 3d6 Reflexes as normal.

The description implies they are mindless, programmable and loyal to their creator. It states that they sometimes use shields.


I've found nothing else to add to DW/D&D conversion since my original post, so I'm sticking with those methods.

Under the Max. HP/4.5=HD method, they are 1.5 HD monsters (1+ to 2 HD); under the Shared Hit Roll method, they have a BAB of 0 (so either 1-1 or 1 HD, depending on your preference).


  • +2 AC bonus vs. piercing weapons (or -2 damage from them, min. 0; either works)
  • half damage from fire attacks (and none if there is a save for half damage)

Chum Number 1: Barnacle Man.

As named in DW Book 3, The Elven Crystals; I'd probably go with Barnacle Folk or Barnacle Dead or Crusty Old Sea Bastards.

  • BAB +1 (they are slightly stronger fighters than Skeletons)
  • HD 1.5 (same Health Points as a Skeleton)
  • AC +4 (they're completely encrusted with barnacles, as well as plundered gold and jewels)
  • they wield weapons, something nautical - like a cutlass, harpoon, or belaying pin
  • they're Skeletons underneath their barnacle-and-treasure crust, so you could give them an additional +2 AC vs. piercing weapons, or give them the damage reduction instead
  • keep the fire resistance, too; they're wet as well as bony
  • turn as Skeletons (same Rank Equivalent) or based on their HD
From the description, these appear to be self-motivated and possibly intelligent undead that cooperate to achieve their goals. During storms they attack ships from underneath, breaking them open to obtain the treasure they adorn themselves with, and even explore wrecks in case they missed something.

DW has them as ghost pirates, but you could just as easily make them hosts for necromantic hivemind barnacles.

Chum Number 2: Fungus Man.

From DW Book 4, Out of the Shadows; also known as Black Caps, you could use Folk (though these are no Myconids) or Dead instead of Men, or something else you prefer.

  • BAB +2
  • HD 3.1
  • AC +1 (with additional +2 vs. piercing weapons)
  • wields a weapon
  • 'sickly, yellow-green phosphoresence and... sweet, musky odour' halves chance of surprise (for d6 subsystems, this could be either 1 on d12 as it is in DW or 2 on 2d6)
  • constant sinister whispers will disturb the sensitive: 
    • fail a WIS check/save or suffer -2 to Hit and AC -1 while fighting the Fungus Dead
    • penalty of 1 to roll for being a Magic-User or a psionic (cumulative)
  • each round in combat/presence, 10% chance ochre spores take root in your flesh:
    • each day (until dead or cured) you must make (suited to setting/system) one of the following: CON check, STR check, poison save, petrification save
    • otherwise d6, d6+1 or d8 damage (suited to setting/system)
    • damage responds to magical but not natural healing
    • total cure is by cure disease or heal (suited to setting/system)
    • if you die, you are consumed by fungus and rise as a new Fungus Dead within a week (same happens to any other corpses in lair)
  • immune to mind control, either as a fungus or as undead
Skeletal hosts of a fungus colony that has consumed and replaced the flesh, it's not specified that Hold Off The Dead will not work on them. 

And because 'the soft, unemotional voice of the dead host whispers of the torments and terrible delights of the grave', I'm more than comfortable saying that these are truly undead. 

In fact, I'd say a muttering undead monster is more appropriate to the DW milieu than an own-brand variant of something like the Yellow Musk Creeper or the Zygom.

d6 Flavours of Skeleton:

  1. Skeleton of Dark and Lonely Water: reskinned Wraith; touch does no damage but drains WIS, not levels; at 0 WIS, you will let it lead you into the dark and lonely waters until they close over your head.
  2. Galley Beggar: shrieking, antic, skeletal ghost; loud, terrifying and throws things.
  3. Crowned Skeleton: undead aristocracy; reskin a more powerful undead. 
  4. Death Angel's Shadow: implacable creeping shadow, cast by no object and no light; inescapable; in days=STR+level it will superimpose on you and reduce you to a withered husk.
  5. Rawhead and Bloody Bones: in tatters of blood-soaked flesh, a Skeleton as strong as an Ogre and as stealthy as a Thief that can live in the dark nooks of your house without you realising it. Surprises like a Bugbear if you don't want to give it Thief skills.
  6. General Death: solemn leader(s) of the Skeleton Army; naked bones and carries three deadly darts - one red, one black, one white (finger of death, slay livingsymbol of death); often mistaken for Death Itself.


The d6 Flavours are less variants on the basic DW Skeleton than the monster-type within the old school British folk horror/fantasy milieu.

Monday, March 23, 2020

1st Flavour of Skeleton: Call of Cthulhu 5e & 2e Conversion to D&D Adjacent.

Skeletons seem appropriate right now, and anyway I'm a fan.

The HD conversions below are probably more useful for old school settings; the BAB conversions make for a much tougher monster in the lower bonus game.

Image: Retro Horror Top Trumps Skeleton Card
A Skeleton holding a hangman's noose.

Image pasted from Hypnogoria's Tomb of the Trumps, which is worth checking out if you either held on to your original packs (I'm glad I did, plus my sister got me a reissue for Christmas) or regret ever letting them go.

Call of Cthulhu 5e.

Skeletons are statistically close to Normal Humans in CoC, though rolling their SIZ on 3d6 not 2d6+6 and having a fixed POW of 1. They have no CON.

Strength 3d6, Size 3d6, Intelligence 3d6, Power 1, Dexterity 3d6. 

The lower possible SIZ implies non-human (animal?) Skeletons and/or animated fragments (bony crawling hands, flying/rolling skulls, inchworm vertebrae etc.).

The single point of POW is their animating force, but within the system means they are vulnerable to magical attacks (POW vs. POW). Even though SAN and Luck are not normally applied to monsters, these Skeletons are neither Sane nor Lucky.

Lacking CON, Skeletons are mechanically immune to poison, drowning and so on. As hit points are normally (CON+SIZ)/2, I'll say they have 10 hit points for conversion purposes (but see below).

Average hit probability is 31.5% (DEX x3) - better than a Deep One, Ghoul, Mi-Go, Nightgaunt or Moonbeast.


The simplest conversion method I found is from Cthulhu d20 - % to d20 and close enough for what I'm after: CoC hp/5= Hit Dice, and highest attack %/10=BAB.

This gives a 2 HD Skeleton, and/or a  +3 BAB, which is 1+ HD (count from lowest to hit AC 10) or 2 to 3+ HD (count from 1 HD to hit AC 10) in AD&D and 3+ to 4 in Mentzer).


  • no hit points so take no damage, but are destroyed/shattered % chance = damage rolled x4
  • impaling/weapons half as effective (or only on a crit, but at regular damage)
  • immune to poison, drowning/suffocation, KO
  • Clatter Ominously (45%): NPCs of equal or less HD must make a Morale check
  • Rise Unexpectedly (60%): either
    • surprise 1-3 on d6, or
    • reform 1-3 on d6
  • optionally, they could save at -4 vs. all magic (because of their v. low POW)

Intelligence & Dexterity.

You can play these Skeletons like any other mindless, clumsy undead, but they've got 10.5 INT and DEX on the statblock, and could have everything this implies:
  • understanding multiple languages (whether they are physically able to talk or not)
  • possessing specialist learning (sages/experts)
  • casting spells from scrolls and using magic items (1 POW wouldn't convert to an actual Magic-User, but there's no reason they couldn't use pre-loaded stuff)
  • fine motor skills (archers, locksmiths, pick-pockets, crafters, scribes)

d6 Flavours of Skeleton:

  1. Tomb Robber: what you do, but in reverse; emerge from their sepulchres to execute planned heists/ bloody banditry.
  2. Bone Imp: an undead Pixie or Sprite (CoC 2e: STR 2d4, SIZ 1d6, DEX 4d6 = D&D Strength penalty, Dexterity bonus, lower HD or hp per die). Probably lose any natural magical powers/ ability to fly, but get a whole new perspective on the ceaseless, centuried Pixie-Sprite war.
  3. Dry Bones: the animating force is in every piece of the Skeleton, and it is able to discorporate and reform at will, sending bits off on sinister little errands. It can also recover from destruction several times (suggest 1 per HD + 1). Notoriously vengeful.
  4. Animated Skull: (d6) rolls along; carried about; too much like a demi-lich for comfort (appearance, powers and/or behaviour); shadowy wings sprout from temples; attaches to a recently beheaded corpse; happy to just sit there and chat.
  5. My Pet Skeleton: (d6) bird; cat; dog; monkey; serpent; deer/goat. Behaves much like you'd expect.
  6. Revenant Adventurer: either seeking to avenge their death, or has found that doing so did not give them blessed release. Has the abilities of their class-in-life. Very likely favours concealing robes, masks, gloves, big scarves, and/or full suits of armour with closed helms.

Call of Cthulhu 2e.

The Skeleton is in A Sourcebook for the 1920s and suffers from some typos. 

(Of peripheral interest is that several statblocks include CHA instead of APP, showing the link back to D&D via the Perrin Conventions)

Specifically, the Skeleton as written has POW 3d6, but in the Zombie description later we read:

'Like skeletons, the 1 point of POW motivates the entity.'

Which I think is clear enough.

It also lacks INT; clearly intentional. From the description:

'Skeletons need triggering to be animated... Once set in motion, skeletons fight to the death.'

Unless it's also a typo, 2e Skeletons get 2d6+6 DEX (average 13), making them even more Harryhausen than 5e CoC.

Given 9 Hit Points, but they can only be harmed through the same sub-system as affects the 5e version.

They are equipped with a variety of melee weapons, have 1d6 armour points and their habitat is 'anywhere that magicians have worked.'

They're also the only monster in the sourcebook to get a 'Number Appearing' statline: 3d6.


  • 9hp/5 = 1.8 HD (1, 1+4, 1+8 or 2 HD)
  • Best attack (DEX x 4=52%)/10 = 5.2 (+5 BAB)


  • destroyed/shattered (as above), but half-chance for impaling/piercing weapons (or also as above)
  • nothing else is explicitly mentioned in the description or stats, but everything for 5e could be applied here.
  • these Skeletons are armed and armoured and encountered in groups: not really abilities, but the certainty of armour puts them apart from other system basic Skeletons.

d6 Flavours of Skeleton:

  1. Skeleton Army: a military unit waiting patiently for the Triumph of Death; fully kitted out and looking to recruit if you start messing around with them and their stuff. Otherwise, just still, silent, eerie and intimidating.
  2. Fang Warriors: sprout from the enchanted teeth of monsters; they may have an affinity with the source creature. Animated by Ray Harryhausen, of course.
  3. Exoskeletons: undead giant arthropods; think of them as spooky robots; lose many of their natural abilities (eg. venom, silk, stingers). Natural armour.
  4. Flaming Skull: when activated, bursts into flame and flies at you; at least as likely to set a fire as a flaming torch, but the flames are supernatural so things could be worse. No armour.
  5. Skeleton Archers: two shots per round; they're as good as, if not better than, a Normal Human with a bow.
  6. Drowners: weed-draped and spongy-boned, saturated and heavy with water (fresh or salt); attack is grapple and hold under water. Only destroyed/shattered on a x3 due to being less brittle; impale/piercing weapons still x2. They can swim if unarmoured.


This was originally going to be a much bigger single post, converting Skeletons to D&D adjacent from the systems I have available. But because of COVID-19, I have the questionable leisure to break it up into smaller pieces and put it out more frequently.

Tom Moldvay's article 'The Ungrateful Dead' (Dragon Magazine #138) is very much worth the read, and had a significant influence on how I think about the undead.

Eileen Lucas's 'The End of the World' from the same issue is also a good read, though whether you're as keen to have a global pandemic as your campaign background as you were at the beginning of the year, I couldn't possibly say.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Old School Monster Conversions: Dragonwarriors to D&D adjacent

[Edit 21/06/2021 - replaced table with list]

I've not been able to find much online about converting Dragonwarriors monsters to D&D adjacent systems.

There's a document by Ian Sturrock for converting d20 characters to DW, which helps a little.

Part of this process has been a frustrating exercise in mathematics that I haven't enjoyed, lacked the skills to streamline and could be looked at as a waste of everyone's time, but it's resulted in a method for conversion that seems to work.

What I Would Normally Do.

Make it up. Does it feel right? Okay!

Why Not Just Substitute?

Because the monsters in Dragonwarriors don't occupy the same threat niches as their counterparts in other systems.

Based on statistics alone, in D&D the traditional/classic ascending threat hierarchy is Goblin, Normal Human/Orc, Hobgoblin, Ogre, Troll, but for DW it is Normal Human, Orc, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Troll, Ogre. This disregards the spell-casting abilities of the Hobgoblin.

By not substituting, but converting, I'm hoping to transfer some of essence of DW.

Why Dungeons and Dragons?

Rightly or wrongly, D&D is the Common Tongue or Rosetta Stone of old school systems.

A lot of the conversion guides I came across while researching this thing tended to be D&D to some other system, so finding Hit Dice and d20 Hit Probabilities will probably help when converting to further distant systems later.

It's not as freeform as T&T's Monster Rating system, but having just the HD of a monster allows you to work out quite a lot about it.

Shared Hit Roll Method.

D&D and DW both use a d20 Hit Roll, and as Hit Probability relates to HD/levels this seems a good place to start.

DW aims to roll under a target number, but converted to % chances there's not much difference.
  1. Work out the hit probability for a Normal Human in DW (vs. another Normal Human); call this the equivalent of 0-level character vs. unarmoured AC. 
  2. Work out the hit probability for a DW monster vs. a Normal Human.
  3. Use the difference between the two numbers as an attack bonus; count on from 0-level vs. unarmoured AC and then read back to get an approximate HD/level for the monster.
IMPORTANT: This takes no account of the DW Defence score (generally higher in more powerful monsters/ higher ranked fighters), nor the Armour Bypass roll. Somebody with more patience and mathematical imagination can attempt to reconcile them.

You can also apply this to Magical Attack vs. Magical Defence and Speed vs. Evasion to work out approximate saving throws, but there's the added complication of these being resolved with 2d10 in DW.

Under this method, the monsters very quickly outstrip their D&D counterparts: I wouldn't use it, but I did explore it. 

HP/4.5 Method.

  1. Find the maximum Health Points for the Dragonwarriors monster.
  2. Divide this number by 4.5 (the average roll for a d8: the default for monster HD between 0e and 3e).
  3. This is the monster's HD; two options with any remainder:
    1. First decimal place rounds down or up to nearest whole number.
    2. First decimal place can be used as +hp (you might want to cap at +4, but it's up to you).

This method was pretty much plucked out of the blue as an experiment, but I like the results and they don't get as outrageous as with the Shared Hit Roll Method (BAB and HD/4.5 both given in table for your choice and as demonstration of this).

DW Monster Conversion Examples:

  • Normal Human.
    • BAB 0 HD 2 Armour n/a Damage n/a STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 1st
  • 1st Rank Knight.
    • BAB +2 HD 2.8 Armour n/a Damage n/a STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 1st
  • Bear.
    • BAB +6 HD 7.1 Armour +1 Damage d8/d10 STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 6th
  • Dragon.
    • BAB +19 HD 19.1 Armour +5/special Damage d12/d16 STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 20th
  • Ghoul.
    • BAB +6 HD 3.5 Armour n/a Damage n/a STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 4th
  • Goblin.
    • BAB +2 HD 2.2 Armour +1 Damage d8/d6 STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 1st
  • Hobgoblin.
    • BAB +5 HD 3.3 Armour +1 Damage d8/d6 STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 4th
  • Ogre.
    • BAB +9 HD 6.6 Armour +1 Damage d8/d12 STR mod. +2 Rank Equivalent 7th
  • Orc.
    • BAB +1 HD 2 Armour n/a Damage n/a STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 1st
  • Skeleton.
    • BAB n/a HD 1.5 Armour special Damage n/a STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 1st
  • Troll.
    • BAB +7 HD 4.6 Armour +2 Damage d6/d8 STR mod. +2 Rank Equivalent 5th
  • Wight.
    • BAB +6 HD 4.6 Armour special Damage special STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 7th
  • Wolf.
    • BAB +4 HD 2.2 Armour n/a Damage d4/d10 STR mod. n/a Rank Equivalent 1st
  • Zombie.
    • BAB -1 HD 5.5 Armour n/a Damage n/a STR mod. +1 (16) Rank Equivalent 1st


By accident or by design, Armour Factor in DW is not far off D&D AC adjustment for armour type: where an Armour Factor is given as natural armour, you can just use the figure as an AC bonus.

In the table above, the specials are:
  • Dragons are immune to non-magical weapons
  • Skeletons get +2 bonus vs. piercing weapons (spears, daggers and short swords)
  • Non-magical and/or non-silver weapons score only half-damage vs. Wights (and then 'shatter as though from centuries of rust', Dragonwarriors p.124)


Similarly, fixed damage for common weapons in DW floats close to the average rolled damage for a comparable D&D weapon, and the dice for Armour Bypass rolls is pretty much bang on, so you could use either without upsetting things.

In older edition D&D, of course, damage is d6 regardless.

On the table, the first d# is Armour Bypass; the second is extrapolated from fixed damage.

Using fixed damage to generate the damage die is likely to result in a harder potential hit than the D&D counterpart.
  • Wights wield two-handed swords, but have a touch attack that ignores armour and drains 2d6+1 STR from the victim (at 2 they are helpless unless taken into the sunshine); call it save vs. spells, or paralysis, or even a Strength check - whatever you prefer.

STR mod.

  • Ogres get +2 to Armour Bypass and damage; in DW terms, this is a Strength of 19, which you could port straight over or just keep the bonus.
  • Trolls get +1; in DW terms, this is Strength 16-18.
  • Zombies get +1, and are stated to have Strength 16 in the DW rulebook. 

Rank Equivalent.

A measure of threat and experience award for killing in DW, included here for you to compare with the d20/DW conversion document, other monsters and the D&D adjacent stats.


In DW, on a crit (Hit roll of 1) the Bear hugs for 10 hits, ignoring armour. 

I'd suggest using the hug attack of a comparable HD/Rank Equivalent Bear from D&D, or it scores an additional (10/4.5=2.2) 2d+2 hits (use whatever dice you think are appropriate).


Spell-casting as a 10th Rank Sorcerer (see d20/DW conversion doc) and breathes fire every fifth combat round.

Damage is 2d6+12 (less Armour Factor), which converts via max. damage/4.5 to 5.3, which could be 5d+3 (d8 would be suitable for this mega-bastard). In DW, the 'save' would be a hit or a miss, so just treat this as an old school dragon breath save for half damage.


DW Ghouls don't cause paralysis, but they do panic NPCs (because they are so horrible - from the description "...shrivelled forms loping from the shadows, their olive-hued flesh puckered and leprous, yellow eyes glinting with the fever-light of insane hunger, mouths gaping to reveal the chipped uneven fangs with which they rend their prey...").

The rulebook calls for NPCs of 1st and 2nd Rank to roll under Int on d20 or flee in panic. According to the d20/DW conversion document this would be NPCs up to 6th level!

As the d20 document is based on 3e D&D (my source is the manual for The Temple of Elemental Evil PC game), we can take the XP for 6th level (15,000) and compare to AD&D and Mentzer D&D Fighters. In both, 15,000 gives you 4th level (Hero), and being panicked by Ghouls doesn't sound very heroic, so I'm going to say that only 3rd level or lower NPCs need to test Int (or save vs. paralysis).

Or you could just substitute the special ability of the Giant Shrew, which affects 3 HD/levels or lower and seems thematically appropriate.


No defined special abilities as such, but the DW description suggests they have minor spell casting powers: cantrips, prestidigitation, maybe. Nothing dealing proper damage. Darkvision/ infravision.

Personally, 'my' Goblins would always have the D&D vulnerability to sunlight and the power of invisibility to mere mortals (0-level NPCs). This invisibility can be maintained without concentration, and can be dropped and renewed at will. Ability flavoured as faerie glamour.


Surprise 1-4 on d6; easy. Darkvision/ infravision. Might ride a wolf, direct a wolfpack, or lead a band of Goblins.

Invisibility to mortals; RAW it's the same as I've given to Goblins, but I'd personally let it extend to at least 1st level characters (and maybe as high as 3rd level).

Spells: putrefy food & water; cause/remove warts; bats (7 Bats attack target for 1 round); grease (as slippery, icy patch on ground); chill touch (frost-based reskinned burning hands probably more appropriate); cure light wounds (these are only D&D adjacent suggestions; you might make other choices).

5%/ 1 on d20 chance of being a 3rd level Sorcerer (see d20/DW conversion doc).

Special weapons: cobweb: as a net or as web spell; throw poison puffball: treat as Yellow Mould attack.


At -1 to Hit and Morale in sunlight.


It's implied they're mindless and must be commanded. I think this is worth noting, as Skeletons are not so across all systems (T&T, for instance, they have normal 3-18 Intelligence range).


Immune to non-metallic weapons. Be as strict as you like, but I think in this context they mean blunt wooden weapons.

Petrified by sunlight, no save.

They are described as being resistant to magic. How about save vs. spells at +3, because: Troll Magical Defence of 11 - 5 (Troll's Rank equivalent; you get +1 Magical Defence/Rank) for 6, and the difference between that and a Normal Human's Magical Defence of 3 is 3. Or you could go further and use that figure to give them Magic Resistance of up to 15%.


The DW Wight is more folk horror/ Tolkienesque than in D&D, and is the one against which I measure all others.

In addition to those already noted above, DW Wight's have four spell-like abilities: hold portal (or it's reverse), mephitic breath (a very fatal poison cloud that rots your corpse; maybe reskinned Gorgon breath?), apparitions (nightmare illusions of 7th Rank equivalent), and raise fog (a 9th Rank spell in DW).

It's stated that Wights 'venture forth... under cover of the freezing fog they can summon up from the bleak moors', which I think implies the raise fog ability may be superior to the given spell.

The DW Wight is also a 5th level Mystic (see d20/DW conversion doc).

Flavourfully, depleted powers are recharged at moonrise.


It's clear from its DW stats that the Zombie is meant to be a poor fighter but with plenty of hit points, so for this conversion I would consider using the Health Points to Hit Dice method for its hp and saves, but the attack roll conversion for its Hit Probability.

In this case, if you're using the DW Strength of 16, you might want to ignore any bonuses to Hit, or abstract them as already factored in.

Or, just use the 5 HD version and call them Surprise! Zombies! Whether they can be Turned as regular Zombies or as 5 HD undead is up to you.

DW initiative is simply in order of Reflexes scores, and Zombies only get d6 Reflexes. Converted to Dexterity, you could rule it gives them an AC/ Initiative penalty or just go with these lumbering brutes attack last in a round.


This was a messy process; I'm not terribly mathematically minded and have only come to properly appreciate how dice work since I got back into ttrpg. This also means that I'm happy to be corrected, and I would love to see alternative methods - particularly if they have been tried and tested.

It has been interesting to see how different the two systems are, even though it meant discarding lots of work on the way here. I don't consider it wasted time, even though I had to sacrifice my sparse writing time to do pen-and-paper calculations, which has meant that I've got a backlog of unfinished d66 tables and the blog's gone a bit quiet.

I'm planning to follow this post up with conversions of my favourite DW monsters (the choice above does not reflect that), and then maybe look at CoC/RQ and T&T conversions (there are, at least, more attempts available to compare with/ pirate).