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).

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