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D&D Burgoo (4E): When the Wheel Weaves a Conversion

Posted By Troy E. Taylor On April 5, 2011 @ 6:00 am In Crock Pot,GMing Advice,Specific RPGs | 7 Comments

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.

Races

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.

Classes

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.

Creatures

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
Darkfriends: shadar-kai
Draghkar: vampire spawn, medusa
Gholam: bodak, slaad or troll
Gray man: dark creeper or quickling
Green man: treant
Grolm: drake
Horse: horse, warhorse
Lopar: macetail behemoth
Mounted cavalry: centaur
Myrddraaal: death knight, lich, wraith
Ravens: stirge
Raken and to’raken: wyrven, fell wyvern
Spirits: ghosts and specters
S’redit: mammoth
Trollock: goblinoids, ogres, gnolls, minotaurs
Wolf: gray wolf, dire wolf
Wolfbrothers: shifters

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.

(1) It’s no use informing me of the series’ many shortcomings, particularly literary ones. Believe me, as a fan—I’m all too aware of them. If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s cool with me. But grant me my indulgences, please.

About  Troy E. Taylor

Troy's happiest when up to his elbows in plaster molds and craft paint, creating terrain and detailing minis for his home game. A career journalist and Werecabbages freelancer, he also claims mastery of his kettle grill, from which he serves up pizza to his wife and three children.




7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "D&D Burgoo (4E): When the Wheel Weaves a Conversion"

#1 Comment By DMN On April 5, 2011 @ 7:51 am

I’ve never read the books, but the names of the creatures/races/classes/etc could be used in place of the ‘standard’ creatures/races/classes in almost any fantasy RPG setting (or any style setting).

This would not only provide depth to a campaign, but prevent the players from automatically knowing what ‘stats’ are required to kill the thing.

Player 1: “I’m not sure what to do here. Sure sounds like the description of a drake, but what the hell is a GROLM?”

Plenty of inspiration here, even for those who don’t know the books.

DMN

#2 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On April 5, 2011 @ 8:24 am

@DMN – I hadn’t initially thought of it that way, but yes, you make a good point: New names for creatures is a way around the problem of players “knowning what’s coming” just by hearing a creature’s name.

As I rescan the list of creatures, I could see that the harpy’s charm attack might make it an interesting substitute for a draghkar, and the MM2 has an entry for blood hawk that might be a better raven substitute than the stirge (which is pretty good, though).

#3 Comment By DrummingDM On April 5, 2011 @ 9:09 am

Regarding the Algai’d’siswai – I’ve built them many a time as various incarnations of a Whirling Barbarian with spears. Just fluff their powers as involving lots of spinning and dodging, a’la “dancing the spears.”

#4 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On April 5, 2011 @ 10:05 am

@DrummingDM – Great suggestion!

#5 Comment By eryops On April 5, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

The biggest problem with 4e is that it’s *too* balanced. Aes Sedai are supposed to kick all kinds of ass, and having them dumbed down to the rest of the playing field kills a lot of the feel of the books to me, anyways.

(This coming from someone who gave up on the series close to a decade ago, that after singing its accolades for the decade prior to that.)

#6 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On April 5, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

@eryops – Well, yes. But if an Aes Sedai holds to the oaths, maybe it won’t be that apparent.

Remember, also, that the Powergirls (Elaine, Egwene and Nyneve) are among the most powerful/talented AS of the age. There are lots of AS that aren’t so powerful. You might argue that most aren’t. So it’s possible for in-game reasons, that you’d explain the lack of power that way.

#7 Comment By SavageTheDM On April 14, 2011 @ 5:57 pm

You know reading this opens up my mind to all kinds of things that can be used inside of DnD 4th E. I once ran a zombie apocalypse simular to the Resident Evil extinction movie. now I am going to run a Halo themed game were the players are Spartan 2′s. But I am wondering just how many things can be ran using 4th E game rules. also I am going to use the whole calling monsters something else a lot more now. sounds fun. thank you for the post.


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