I’m an unapologetic fan of the “Wheel of Time” series by the late Robert Jordan and its current author, Brandon Sanderson. (1)
It was interest in trying out the 2001 roleplaying game based on the d20/Third Edition system that moved me to the GMing side the screen in the first place.
I ran two solid campaigns using those rules. It went pretty well. Yes, the channellers can rule combat encounters (as they should, if you’re being faithful to the books) and the Aiel algai’d’siswai class is overpowered, but there’s more roleplaying than rollplaying in one of my Wheel campaigns than even my standard D&D stuff, so those were secondary concerns.
The question: Is it worthwhile a decade later to put a Fourth Edition skin on the setting? And if so, could it be done with an eye toward minimal preparations and alterations?
The spirit of 4E is that it should be a matter of simply plugging in what we want and discarding the rest without getting bogged down in charts, tables and elaborate stat blocks.
At first blush, the theme-based spellcasting of the Aes Sedai and their ajahs (factions), not to mention the various dueling sword forms of blademasters using heron-marked blades (such as “parting the silk,” or “hummingbird kisses the rose”) are in lockstep with the powers mechanic.
Besides, the time to run a Wheel campaign is in the coming year — before we know the end of the story with the release of the last novel in the series.
So here it goes. Remember this is only conceptual. Working out the details is the kind of thing only game play will reveal.
There are two races: humans and ogiers. Humans are humans, of course. And goliaths (PH2) stand well enough for ogiers. I would say you could allow other demihuman stats to stand as humans, too. Elaidrin could be a type of ta’veren, those beings strongly woven in the pattern. Using dwarves, halflings and elves would be OK, so long as you just accepted their stats and called them humans with special abilities. (For example, Cairhienen are a short people, maybe not as short as halflings, but it could work.) Shifters would be OK for a wolfbrother, but the shapechanging would have to be limited to the world of the Wolf Dream. And some darkfriends could use tiefling abilities.
This list can be quite involved, if only because 4E allows customization that is more respective of the different Aes Sedai ajahs. But it was exactly that kind of distinction that was missing from the d20 version.
Algai’d’siswai: archer ranger (spears), rageblood barbarian or thaneborne barbarian.
Armsman: great weapon fighter
Ashaman: earth warden, isolating avenger, pursuing avenger or wizard
Blademaster: great weapon fighter
Captain: inspiring warlord or tactical warlord
Forsaken/Darkfriend: infernal pact warlock
Gleeman: cunning bard or valorious bard
Noble: guardian fighter, valorious bard or inspiring warlord
Thief taker: two-blade ranger
Treesinger (Ogier): guardian druid
Wanderer: trickster rogue
Warder: protecting paladin or guardian fighter
Wilder: chaos sorcerer or dragon sorcerer
Windfinder: guardian druid or chaos sorcerer
Wise One: panther shaman or wild warden
Wolfbrother: predator druid
Woodsman: archer ranger
Now for the Aes Sedai: any wizard or sorcerer build would be OK, but other options exist, too:
Blue Ajah: deceptive warlock, control wizard
Brown Ajah: preserving invoker
Gray Ajah: deceptive warlock
Green Ajah: scourge warlock, battle cleric
Red Ajah: wrathful invoker, war wizard
White Ajah: control wizard
Yellow Ajah: devoted cleric
Items of power
In Wheel, there are basically three types of items of power: angreal, sa’angreal and wondrous ter’angreal. The last do not require the ability to channel to use. They come in all shapes and sizes, so it should be a matter of course to simply use most any magic items. Power wrought blades (and other weapons) are quite rare. So there aren’t a lot of magical swords, and the ones that exist, really are ter’angreal that do things other than grant attack bonuses.
The world of Wheel is far more conventional than your basic D&D campaign, meaning there are far fewer fantastic creatures. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use some Monster Manual entries for other things. Also, there are some fantastic creatures that aren’t EXACTLY a good fit for their nearest analog. (Draghkar comes immediately to mind).
Here are my suggestions for the major creatures of the setting:
Blight worm: purple worm
Bubbles of evil: elementals, plant monsters and various oozes
Darkhound: shadowhound, hellhound or wild hunt hound
Draghkar: vampire spawn, medusa
Gholam: bodak, slaad or troll
Gray man: dark creeper or quickling
Green man: treant
Horse: horse, warhorse
Lopar: macetail behemoth
Mounted cavalry: centaur
Myrddraaal: death knight, lich, wraith
Raken and to’raken: wyrven, fell wyvern
Spirits: ghosts and specters
Trollock: goblinoids, ogres, gnolls, minotaurs
Wolf: gray wolf, dire wolf
The 4E rules aren’t a perfect fit. But I think any GM who is earnest about giving their players an adventure about defending the Borderlands from an invading horde of trollocs from the Blight, who want to spin webs of daes dae’mar (the Game of Houses or the Great Game) with the fate of nations at stake or have Aes Sedai confront darkfriends and/or Forsaken abroad or in their own midst (the whispered evil of the Black Ajah), then these tools are sufficient for hours and hours of fun.
Just make sure the Dragon Reborn reaches the Last Battle.