Running multi-edition D&D games

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Havard
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Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Havard »

Has anyone here considered running multi-edition D&D games?

The basic idea is that each player can bring in a character from whatever edition he prefers.

I think this might be extra difficult if playing face to face, but for Play by Post games, doing the maths for quick conversions should not be that hard.

Of course, the more editions you allow in the game, the more complicated things become.

I don't think we need to worry about every variable. In some cases players from a specific edition might be at an advantage, but if we get the biggest issues out of the way, then the rest should be things you can brush over.

I think the most important thing is that the DM decides on a baseline system and then converts effects on the fly.

Things to work out:
  • Ascending vs. Descending AC: This is pretty easy to work out.
  • Saving Throws: These work very differently and the categories have changed many times over the years.
  • XP: I'm thinking about using Milestones or half milestones here, but this doesn't work so well for the TSR era editions. I might come up with a system to convert milestones to XPs for those editions. You don't want your AD&D Thief to gain levels at the same rate as an AD&D Wizard.
  • Ability Checks, Skill checks, Proficiencies: This is also something you need think through.
  • Difference in numbers: 5E has the lowest number ranges, while 3E or BECMI can get crazy high. This is something to take into account and maybe have some conversions for.
What do you think? Is this workable?

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Dread Delgath »

At first, I was under the assumption that this was a kit-bashed system of two or more rules sets like BX and AD&D, which I used to do bitd.

I don't even want to think about the game you suggest! I barely have time to manage one 5e game rules system, let alone..... many!

But if the DM is familiar with any rules system that each player brings a character for, sure, why not?
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Khedrac »

I can see a real problem just in comparing ability scores..

OD&D : 3-18 I think?
BECMI : 3-18 (hard camp at 18 until Immortal)
AD&D 1 : 3-25 (though very hard to get over 18), percentile strength
AD&D 2 : 3-25, a little easier to get over 18, percentile values possible in all stats
3.X : 3-..., usually stops in the 30s, but uncapped, characters can start at 20 very easily
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5 : I don't know well enought comment
Even before you compare the ability bonuses you need to think about how you compare the scores.

If you run using different mechanics for different characters you need to work out how you will hand interaction between characters. Take saving throws; a high level basic/advanced character will expect to make saving throws pretty much all the time, but a high level save-DC focussed 3.X caster will expect their spells to be nearly unresistable - so what happens if they have to cast a spell at a basic/advanced character?
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by apotheot »

Yes, sort of. I had a single session that was an "Edition War" group of players from 2nd ed vs a group of players from 3e. Sort of a 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' type thing. Since 2nd ed characters were hitting the negative AC's and 3e characters were hitting ACs super high numbers they couldn't actually hit eachother except with certain spells. Anyway, the heroes eventually banded together and were able to defeat the main villian who had stats from both editions and required both versions to be defeated in order to be killed.
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Big Mac »

I think you would need a computer to automatically convert between different D&D mechanics on the fly.

The Min/Max Brigades would have geekgasms working out all the ways they could use obscure combinations of rules in one edition of D&D to make characters that were unbeatable in other editions of D&D. :lol:
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Mike »

Stats are easy to convert and are not the challenge. The biggest difficulty is the "tactical profile" of various games. An edition with conditions, tactical movement, or feat combinations will be hard to mix with BX for example. Either the BX characters lack the special moves to deal with monster abilities, or the PF characters are not engaged by a straight up fight.

Another complication is hit points. It's easier to adjust monster damage to characters, but difficult when different characters are attacking the same monster. If BX character his for 3 hp, and a 3E character hits for 300 hp, how do you reconcile the actual effect on a DCC monster with 30 hp?

(There used to be a thread on EN world called Sultans of smack, where people tried to design attack combos that would do 300+ hit points in a single round. They succeeded for every character class, and sometimes greatly exceeded the 300 point threshold. I don't know if this is still possible in 5E or Pathfinder, but the balance remains significantly different than OSR D&D.)

Staying within the same game family will be easiest. AD&D, BX, DCC, and other OSR games will be very easy to combine because the balance and tactical profile is very similar. 3rd Edition, Pathfinder, maybe 4E and 5E will combine fairly easily. 5E probably fits with either family, if the players are flexible enough to either scale it up or scale it down to match the other players.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Dread Delgath »

Mike wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 5:11 pm
Another complication is hit points. It's easier to adjust monster damage to characters, but difficult when different characters are attacking the same monster. If BX character his for 3 hp, and a 3E character hits for 300 hp, how do you reconcile the actual effect on a DCC monster with 30 hp?

(There used to be a thread on EN world called Sultans of smack, where people tried to design attack combos that would do 300+ hit points in a single round. They succeeded for every character class, and sometimes greatly exceeded the 300 point threshold. I don't know if this is still possible in 5E or Pathfinder, but the balance remains significantly different than OSR D&D.)
Yes, Hit points would be one of the biggest disparities between editions. AD&D monsters have the lowest hits, while subsequent editions kept inflating the numbers to compensate for additional character abilities.

I don't know abotu 3x or PF, but my 5e players have 4th-5th level characters that can (moderately) easily do 30+ hp of damage per round. Thankfully, the amount of damage never really went up exponentially as they gained levels.
Mike wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 5:11 pm
Staying within the same game family will be easiest. AD&D, BX, DCC, and other OSR games will be very easy to combine because the balance and tactical profile is very similar. 3rd Edition, Pathfinder, maybe 4E and 5E will combine fairly easily. 5E probably fits with either family, if the players are flexible enough to either scale it up or scale it down to match the other players.
Adjudicating ascending/descending AC is easy for me, as is calculating thac0, so that would never be a problem, but the sheer number of abilities that 3x, PF, 4e & 5e characters and monsters have will outweigh any character or monster of equal HD or level from BX or AD&D.

One solution is to give every character or monster from BX or AD&D a HP "kicker" of at least 10 to 20 hps every level or HD. That makes monsters & characters a little more equal as far as staying alive for a few more rounds.

I'd also suggest that every time a 3x or newer edition monster or character that uses a skill or ability on a monster or character from BX or AD&D, and BX/AD&D doesn't have any equivalent to that ability), the BX/AD&D character or monster gets a flat 35% MR roll against that ability. Roll under, the ability doesn't work.

Spells should not come under that rule, since AD&D monsters already have MR ratings, and would use that anyway.
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Tim Baker »

The editions are so different, I struggle to imagine being able to reasonably do these conversions. You might be able to get away with a baseline edition that you convert everything to, doing your best to capture the flavor of the source. But when a 30th level 4e character uses an Epic Destiny with their action point to do something truly over-the-top, how do you capture that if they're fighting a monster with AD&D stats? When 4e characters shouldn't be able to receive any more healing from the party cleric, because they're out of healing surges, but the cleric is from BECMI, where healing surges aren't a thing, how do you reconcile the two.

I love the idea of being able to do this. I remember early D&D Next playtest interviews mentioning how a basic character could play at the same table as a 4e character, once they were converted to D&D Next. It's one of the promises of 5e that I didn't see pan out at the table.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by pawsplay »

IME, 5e is the Rosetta stone. 4e is hardest to do on the fly, but 3e scales easily and BECMI/AD&D stuff is pretty easy to do with existing conversion guides.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Tim Baker »

pawsplay wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 12:34 am
IME, 5e is the Rosetta stone. 4e is hardest to do on the fly, but 3e scales easily and BECMI/AD&D stuff is pretty easy to do with existing conversion guides.
I'd never heard 5e referred to as the Rosetta Stone before. There's some truth to it, I suspect. It does appear to borrow from previous editions, striking a balance between 3e and 2e with a handful of mechanics sprinkled in from other editions.

Personally, I view Castles & Crusades as serving as the Rosetta Stone of D&D editions. Its simplicity helps to make it more easily adaptable to classic editions, while its consistent core based on the OGL is friendly to 3e. It shares several mechanics with 5e (although it pre-dates it by a decade), and given how quickly Troll Lord Games is converting its content over for 5e, I suspect it's a fairly easy conversion process. So maybe C&C is a system to consider for this challenge.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by paladinn »

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:26 am
Personally, I view Castles & Crusades as serving as the Rosetta Stone of D&D editions. Its simplicity helps to make it more easily adaptable to classic editions, while its consistent core based on the OGL is friendly to 3e. It shares several mechanics with 5e (although it pre-dates it by a decade), and given how quickly Troll Lord Games is converting its content over for 5e, I suspect it's a fairly easy conversion process. So maybe C&C is a system to consider for this challenge.
Except that not everyone is a fan of the Siege engine. And there are rather large differences between the C&C and (A)D&D renditions of paladins, rangers and bards.. probably others too.

I've been trying to come up with a mash-up of BX (and Labyrinth Lord), BECMI, 3x and 5e. It's a daunting challenge because of the various nuances of each edition.

I think to do this successfully, you'd have to go back to as Basic a game as you can (BX) that still allows variation in classes (LL). Then you need to come up with BX/LL-suitable versions of warlocks, barbarians, bards, etc.

I'll be Very interested to see how this pans out!

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Tim Baker »

paladinn wrote:
Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:04 pm
Except that not everyone is a fan of the Siege engine. And there are rather large differences between the C&C and (A)D&D renditions of paladins, rangers and bards.. probably others too.
I agree, it may not be a good match for everyone. I think any approach has pros and cons. The thematic difference between various classes over time is something to consider even between the editions. An AD&D barbarian isn't the same as a 5e barbarian (especially some of the more out-there sub-classes), for example. Any attempt to syncretize different systems or editions will likely need a set of tenets, and conversion decisions would be made in light of the tenets, making hard trade-offs where needed.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Dread Delgath »

C&C does have the advantage of being 3.5 OGL, so it is compatible with 3.5 and PF, and that is key for players who like 3.5+, but dislike 4e & 5e.

I can only speak for character creation, however, and won't pretend to know anything other than how the basic parts of each system works.

When you get to XP and level advancement, especially monster CRs, I wouldn't even try it. 5e monster CR vs. actual XP worth is hands down the ridonkeydiculous system I've ever used.
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by agathokles »

I think Sturm's current game here works more or less in this way. However, as a player I see it as almost rule-less, so I'm not entirely sure how he handles the math behind the (virtual) screen.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by timemrick »

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 1:26 am
pawsplay wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 12:34 am
IME, 5e is the Rosetta stone. 4e is hardest to do on the fly, but 3e scales easily and BECMI/AD&D stuff is pretty easy to do with existing conversion guides.
I'd never heard 5e referred to as the Rosetta Stone before. There's some truth to it, I suspect. It does appear to borrow from previous editions, striking a balance between 3e and 2e with a handful of mechanics sprinkled in from other editions.
5E was deliberately designed to appeal to players of as many previous editions as possible. That was especially apparent if you followed the Next playtest at all. I only read the first couple iterations of those rules, but I got the impression that they originally wanted to make certain parts of the rules strictly optional, so that if you wanted to emulate a particular past edition, you'd use some of those options but not others. In the end, feats and multiclassing were left as optional, but other subsystems, like skills, were made core.

Personally, I have no interest in playing a game that mixes multiple editions simultaneously. Frankly, it's hard enough keeping track of what's changed from one edition to another without trying to do that for two (or more) at once! (It's bad enough that I have a new edition of Pathfinder to learn right now, while I'm still learning Starfinder, which falls somewhere between the two. And all 3 are jockeying for time in my local organized play venue. "So what kind of action is X in this week's system again...?")

OTOH, I've long been a fan of converting material from older editions to whatever the current one is at the time. But it would drive me crazy trying to do that on the fly.
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Tim Baker »

timemrick wrote:
Wed Oct 23, 2019 3:59 pm
I got the impression that they originally wanted to make certain parts of the rules strictly optional, so that if you wanted to emulate a particular past edition, you'd use some of those options but not others.
I believe they explicitly stated that this was a desired feature of the system in the early phases of the playtest. The idea was to mix-and-match modular pieces so you could make D&D Next emulate any style of play between original D&D and 4th Edition. Obviously that wasn't completely successful, although there are some optional rules and variants in the DMG that can help nudge things in a certain direction.
timemrick wrote:
Wed Oct 23, 2019 3:59 pm
I've long been a fan of converting material from older editions to whatever the current one is at the time. But it would drive me crazy trying to do that on the fly.
Same here. For me, my favorite system doesn't have a ton of support in terms of adventures. So I regularly draw from adventures written for other systems. I sometimes need to whip up a monster, magic item, or trap on the fly, especially if the adventure goes in an unexpected direction. But I don't have to constantly convert in real time. I think that's what would make this so intimidating to me.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by apotheot »

There was an interesting epic 6-part multi-adventure story at Gen Con in 2015(?) or so. Its been a few years, and I didnt get a chance to play, but someone described it to me at the time. Players started the first adventure playing OD&D, then in the second those same characters has converted to 1st ed, then to 2nd, then to 3e (guessing 3.5), then 4, finally ending on 5. All in order to save the multiverse from some big threat. Not exactly what you were going for, but it is an interesting conversion style game.
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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Tim Baker »

apotheot wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 6:15 am
Players started the first adventure playing OD&D, then in the second those same characters has converted to 1st ed, then to 2nd, then to 3e (guessing 3.5), then 4, finally ending on 5. All in order to save the multiverse from some big threat.
The Living 4 Crits blog posted a series on running a similar campaign. They didn't just switch editions, but entire game systems as the characters leveled up. They always stayed in the same campaign setting, but as they became more powerful, the different systems captured that aspect of their character growth. The series was called Quattro con Carnage.

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Re: Running multi-edition D&D games

Post by Princess Strega »

If I were to allow players to create characters from any edition, what I would do is try to consolidate as much overlapping information as possible. The next thing I would do is buy a systemless adventure and run it as a 'systemless' game. System mechanics would be used for the minimum mechanics necessary above and beyond overlapping edition information.

In this kind of game I would expect the players to not be newbs to the characters from the ditions that they are playing.

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