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    Canonfire :: View topic - Level of CRs in Greyhawk
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    Level of CRs in Greyhawk
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:55 pm  
    Level of CRs in Greyhawk

    I'll be the first to admit I'm not up to speed on 3E-there are some major turnoffs for me (magic items needed to balance the encounters, being able to sketch out character advancement encounter by encounter, min-maxing being easy, magic items too easy to make, too many high-level characters, etc.) but it stands to ask:

    How many high CR monsters and characters are there in Greyhawk, especially ones with additional class levels and abilities beyond the norm?

    As anyone who has followed my various posts and comments knows, I consider anyone of 7th level and above-IOW, four of which would be needed to take out a CR 7 monster-as being exceptional, having already gained some notoreity. Most characters never make it past 5th level, if that, what with anything from death to retirement getting in the way. To be able to survive to 6th or 7th level is an accomplishment in itself.

    Of course, that balance tends to be skewed when monsters have classes that build on their already-formidable powers, raising their CRs to 18 or above, requiring truly heroic opponents to face them. And 18th-level characters are both rare and exceptional, as the spread of class and level in the LGG indicates-many high-level rulers of states are 12th-15th level, and are in no way Epic. Indeed, the only characters who might be considered Epic are a few of the members of the Boneheart and the Circle of Eight, and even then no specifics are given, the DM apparently left to fill in the blanks.

    In FR, characters can have CRs of 25 (Manshoon, former head of the Zhentarim, is an example), while monsters can be truly fearsome foes-Slarkrethel, the kraken behind the criminal guild of the Kraken Society, is a 20th-level wizard! A kraken on its own is dangerous; a 20th level wizard is very rare. This guy is as powerful as Archmage Reydrich of Ahlissa, and he's a kraken to boot!

    Such a being would be a nightmare to face in Greyhawk, IMO. So I leave the question open: how many high-CR monsters, villains and heroes would there be in Greyhawk? IMO, when magic items and high levels are both rare, I would say not many.

    Thoughts?
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    Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:50 pm  

    Quite a few. They tend to live in places where humans can't get to, though.

    Here's a point: there are several high-level AD&D adventures (Isle of the Ape, Giants/Drow, Barrier Peaks) and described adventures (Blackmoor) that have rather powerful creatures in them. What is distinguishable about them is that they are in out-of-the-way places.

    In my 3.5E Greyhawk, characters of 1st-9th level are the norm. Above that level, higher level NPCs get quite a bit rarer.

    Magic items of true power are rare, indeed, but magic items in general are not rare. (They weren't that rare in AD&D, either).

    Planes and Demi-planes are useful places to source higher-level villains from; it's where the major villains of my Ulek campaigns are trapped, it's where the PCs needed to go for the Xan-Yae campaign, and the Necropolis of Rahotep also was on an alternative Prime Material plane. (There's a reason I created the stargate-like "Rainbow Portals"...)

    Higher-level NPCs of evil intent tend to exist to service the plot, but Greyhawk has several places where they can hide - the Great Kingdom, the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Pomarj, Blackmoor, and the Sea of Dust. Certainly, the Great Kingdom has several powerful (level 15+) NPCs in my version of Greyhawk, but they tend to have their eyes fixed on the prize: i.e. rulership of the Great Kingdom. As with the later Roman Empire, controlling the core is more important than expanding its frontiers, especially when you'd be losing your powerbase if you travelled elsewhere. Powerful evil NPCs of expansionist desires are relatively rare. (Consider Rary in "Rary the Traitor")

    Higher-level NPCs of good intent tend to exist to aid the PCs when the PCs aren't quite high enough level to do it themselves. Thus, Derwa, the 9th level priestess of Ehlonna in my Ulek campaign. She was created simply to allow the PCs to have access to raise dead until they could cast such themselves. In general, you don't need many NPCs of very high levels of this type.

    Really Dangerous Monsters (tm), as alluded to above, tend to live in places like the Underdark, Sea of Dust, or Blackmoor which are somewhat distant from regular human habitation. Demi-planes are also popular locations for such beings (Isle of the Ape, Dungeonland), and of course, the Abyss and the Hells are great places for really dangerous monsters (especially if summoned by a foolish priest or wizard...)

    Cheers!
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    Merric Blackman
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:14 am  

    I know we try not to argue editions here, but I think there are several things you need to understand about 3e.

    Having years of D&D experiance behind me, I confidently started a 3e campaign. Having been a DM for years, I had already filled the party in on the near impossiblity of raise dead or resurrection spells because of "the scarcity of diamonds in my campaign." (this was very sagacious, as if I knew what I was talking about). We played till they were 4th level, and they encountered an ettin. According to the book, he should pose a challenge. According to my experiance he couldnt, so I added a few hit points. And promptly killed the entire party except for one invisible mage. I have experianced this on more than one occasion.

    The systems are subtly but critically different. Statements of "IMC 7th level is high level," really depends on which edition you play. 7th level in AD&D was high. In 3ed it is not uncommon. That is the obvious difference. The subtle difference is that it is not that much more powerful. The systems do not use the same scale. IMO, what was the 1st to 12th level range in AD&D is really more like 1st to 18th in 3rd ed.

    Also, magic is not as powerful as in AD&D. You have mentioned many times that a +1 sword is a family heirloom in AD&D. In 3rd, it may be for the Cotter down the road, but for a 7th level adventurer, it really isnt that useful. A masterwork sword is just as good, and by 7th level, the average fighter has a +15 to hit anyway.

    So, when you are comparing CRs, keep that in mind. Basically, 3rd ed monsters are not as powerful (on a relative scale) as AD&D.
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:53 am  

    What Anced Math said - the edition, in this case, makes a difference and comparisons between editions can be tricky. I think the best rule is - whatever works for the edition you are using and the specifics of your campaign.
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    GVD
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:20 am  

    Anced_Math you got me thinking. I think that there could be many, many high level characters in Greyhawk. They simply have not been written about.

    Consider:
    1st ed
    A great deal of GH material was written during 1st ed. From a story point of view the "Epic Level" at that point in time was 14 (Ah, Giants and Drow...). From a rules mechanics point of view, after 21st level, there was little or no tangible benefit to advancement for characters. THACO, saving throws, and thief skills, etc. did not advance. The only thing really left was spell progressions which topped off at 29th level, weapon proficiencies, and hit points. Because magic was hard to come by and made a big difference in battles, that was its reverence. Average stats made almost no difference to a characters abilities.

    Now 2nd ed.
    Most TSR GH writing was done, but there would still be a tidbit here and there to show that "Epic Levels" were about. Rary's and Mordenkainen's levels in Rary the Traitor, the commentary in Spelljammer that between Greyspace, Krynnspace and Realmspace that Greyspace was the most dangerous of spheres to go to. Now Forgotten Realms was adopted by TSR and written about, taking full advantage of 2nd ed rules. What changed? INT limits for spell levels were still in place, but the max number of spells was gone, thieves could progress infinitely, and the 1st ed "optional rule" of Non-Weapon proficiencies was still optional, but pretty much treated as standard rule. But magic items were still hard to make/get because there was no hard written mechanic on how to get them. Average stats also did not make a big difference.

    Now 3E
    Except for LGG and possibly RPGA campaigns, nothing "official" exists GH. Writing is still done for FR and it takes advantage of the new rules. Characters can make scrolls at 1st level! Potions at 3rd Level! Weapons, Armor, and Shields at 5th! Well, of course there is magic all over the place! Average stats are not necessarily 10s, but and array of 14,13,12,11,10,8 and two points difference means something.
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:29 am  

    The long winded background is to show that, in my opinion, if more Greyhawk material been written during 2nd ed/3E years, power levels in GH material would have gone up.

    In part, this was already going that way.
    The Boneheart in the Iuz book are fairly studly for 2nd ed rules.

    Rary and Mordenkainen were already 23rd/24th level Elminster was 26th level in FR7 Hall of heroes. That is not too far difference.
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:15 am  

    Yes, Nathan, I think you are right, I think if more was written on GH in 3rd, the luminaries would have higher levels. I dont mean by this that they would have advanced, just that they would have been adjusted. Duithcarin has done a lot of conversion for his NPC site, I would like his opinion.

    Also, Magic is more "common," and I mean that in all its connotations. It is more prevelent and less important. Again, a +1 sword is a nice heirloom for a cotter, but it still will not allow a 1st level warrior to defeat a 3rd level. Magic is more, IMO, integrated into the D&D world in 3rd. After all, if a magic sword never breaks and never rusts, why wouldn't most of the +1 sword made in the past still be around?
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:14 pm  

    CSL, Ive created a guideline for epic monsters at an old "epic" topic, but they extend to epic characters and a reason for their existence (or not) in Oerth. I pasted it below, perhaps it can be useful to you:

    I have contemplated a reason for the existance of few directly interloping epic characters in Greyhawk. As in Oerth there is a kind of "militant neutrality"(IMO), it's possible to have a mutual consensus between the gods that the actions of extremely powerful mortals in the planet can be almost as damaging as a divine intervention. So, if we put in a scale of power and attitude, could be like this:

    Level/Challenge Rating : Divine reaction to this character

    1-15 : Little opposition and not noticed in a major scale unless there is direct interest / opposition at the mortal's actions

    16-25 : Cautiously observed (depending on the mortal's nature, actions and influence), but a very strong active hand in the prime can estimulate an answer not only from the opposed god/philosophy but also from neutral/impartial/aloof powers. Ex: The Canon Hazen is the patriarch of Rao (I would put him as a Cleric 20/Hierophant 5) and utilized a major artifact (The Crook of Rao) to banish most fiends from the Flanaess. Normally , such action could mean a quick reaction from some gods, but the ascendance of Evil (Iuz, Scarlet Brotherhood, etc), there was a consensus for this action.

    26 -30 From the moment the oldest and mightiest dragon can be defeated without great effort, it's a good sign for the gods that the PC's actions came to an alarming point, depending also from the character's intentions. To retire in great style or limit themselves to an specific area without causing to many disturbances are perfectly viable options. Some examples: The demilich Acererak rests in the Tomb of Horrors in the vast swamp and kills only the fools who dare to invade his dungeon. Rary is mad, but his actions are only local for now - the Bright Desert. Some gods can also belong to this power level such as Wastri (it could be a good reason why his racist crusade never leaves the vast swamp - it could mean a forceful intervention ; meanwhile Sunndi continues to build castles for the impending invasion ;-) ). The Earth Dragon limits himself to the Drachen Mountain. Sure, Iuz is way too troublesome, but that may be a reason for the gods conspire to kill him while not interfering directly.

    Now, if the character still wants to have a roaming and very meddlesome active life, I imagine three good solutions: he can serve as an agent for the balance of the Flanaess (even being selected without knowing). Mordenkainen can be a good example for that. The second option is to leave Oerth, volluntarily or not and then emugrate to another plane(perhaps receiving some omens and indicatives that he should leave, such messages becoming gradually more blatant ; Iggwilv may have problems staying in Oerth and this could be a good reason for her invasion plan in "Return of the Circle of Eight" fail). This approach can be a good plot for introduction of the character to the previously unknown and non-active-in-prime City of Union (cf. ELH). The third solution is sponsorship for divine ascension, an approach that was repeatedly used as characters of such power can be recognized for his usefulness and talent. Ex: Kyuss, Dalt, Ye'Cind, Murlynd, Heward, Keoghtom, Zagyg, Kellanen.

    31+ Even an agent for balance see his own presence as destabilizing (perhaps a way to eventually retire old Mord?) and have the option to retire or try divine ascension (if there's a god willing to sponsor). Ex: The Lich Lyzandred the Mad exists in a demiplane that affects Oerth in a very minor way (I put his character sheet in the villains topic, but his power can be reduced to 26-30 if you are unconfortable with the thousand+ year lich). Characters of such caliber will hardly have place in Oerth, unless the DM wants a more visible impact of Epic Level Play in the planet.
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    Victor Caminha
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:32 pm  

    NathanBrazil wrote:
    1e: Average stats made almost no difference to a characters abilities.


    In 1e, no long-term adventurer would have average stats. The difference between a 1e fighter with a 15 and an 18/63 strength is extremely significant. (Much more so than 3e).

    Quote:
    Also, magic is not as powerful as in AD&D. You have mentioned many times that a +1 sword is a family heirloom in AD&D. In 3rd, it may be for the Cotter down the road, but for a 7th level adventurer, it really isnt that useful.


    That is true; +1 swords aren't really that heirloomish in 3e. (Mind you, I do wonder at how heirloomish they were in 1e. There's a lot of magic weapons in those adventures!)

    Quote:
    A masterwork sword is just as good, and by 7th level, the average fighter has a +15 to hit anyway


    Hmm. I'd never not use a magic sword in 3e - without one, you can't hit incorporeal creatures or bypass DR/magic. Both situations come up fairly frequently. (Once you incorporate Unearthed Arcana into 1e, fighters begin to look a lot more like their 3e counterparts in terms of bonus to hit at levels 5-10).

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    Merric Blackman
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:33 pm  

    Wykthor wrote:
    CSL, Ive created a guideline for epic monsters at an old "epic" topic, but they extend to epic characters and a reason for their existence (or not) in Oerth. I pasted it below, perhaps it can be useful to you:


    Very nice analysis!

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    Merric Blackman
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:36 pm  

    Anced_Math wrote:
    Yes, Nathan, I think you are right, I think if more was written on GH in 3rd, the luminaries would have higher levels. I dont mean by this that they would have advanced, just that they would have been adjusted. Duithcarin has done a lot of conversion for his NPC site, I would like his opinion.


    Quite likely. It is worth noting that the primary area of development of Greyhawk for 3e - Living Greyhawk - caps PC levels at 16.

    Of course, it's also interesting to see what is occuring in the Dungeon Adventure Paths, which have several prominent GH-fans behind them.

    One point: although we know the levels of the rulers in GH (which are fairly high), we do not know the levels of the NPCs they command - which may well be higher.

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    Merric Blackman
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:02 pm  

    Good Thread, and several good points made. Wyk, your analysis is excellent, though I wonder that even a 26th level character could casually defeat an advanced dragon.

    Merric, you bring up a good point on the Magic +1 Weapon. The +1 is not the point, it is the magic that is often the key point. And you are right, there were plenty of magic weapons is Jarl's place. But, if I remember right, a +5 weapon in AD&D made a much bigger difference than it would in 3rd.

    Would you disagree? I wish someone would come up with a cohesive conversion schedule. I think it is beyond my abilities.
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    Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:22 pm  

    Anced_Math wrote:
    But, if I remember right, a +5 weapon in AD&D made a much bigger difference than it would in 3rd.


    Even +3 weapons in 3rd are very rare, mainly because player prefer a +1 flaming keen weapon. :) Mind you, I can't think of many AD&D +5 weapons!

    As far as converting 1e to 3e (or vice-versa), I've run a lot of 1e greyhawk adventures converted to 3e. There's a fair deal of tracking between levels 1-9. I'd say that 3e advances faster, but I think to the campaigns of my youth and realise that so much of that is DM dependent.

    It must also be remembered that a lot of monsters got a power boost in 2e, and 3e uses that standard; giants were made a *lot* tougher in 2e compared to their AD&D equivalents. 3e giants are pretty similar to 2e giants, but you tend to do only the 1e to 3e comparison without remembering the intervening developments.

    By the time you reach levels 10+, there's a big philosophy difference between 1e and 3e. In 1e, 12th level is where you retire your PCs. In 3e, 12th level is where the fun really begins! Of course, due to legacy issues, 3e 12th+ play isn't always as good (or balanced) as it should be. Still, there are a lot of people who have enjoyed higher-level play.

    Levels and advancement speed have always been a joke when applied to the setting. Regardless of edition, you could get from 1st to 10th level in well under a year of campaign time. It's set up for making a fun game, not for a "realistic" setting. NPCs are the levels they are because they serve the needs of the campaign, not because they fit into any advancement scheme for PCs.

    None of my 3e campaigns (and I've been playing 3e constantly for the past 6 years) have gone beyond 15th level, and often end sooner. This is mostly due to the shape of my campaign arcs, which end about then. Of course, as we play once per fortnight it also takes time to advance, and player attrition has also caused the premature end of some campaigns (primarily the first Ulek campaign).

    As such, the stated levels of NPCs in Greyhawk have been quite sufficient to my needs. They might not meet other people's needs, however!

    Strangely enough, 3e Greyhawk may well be back to the original intention of 1e Greyhawk: a place where the DM crafts the world from a limited basis to his or her needs, rather than where design decisions from on high have premolded the world.

    3e campaigns can be wildly varying (as can 1e and oD&D campaigns). I keep thinking of a few AD&D campaigns I've heard about, where after five years of play the PCs are still below level 5! That's not standard play of D&D, but I'm sure the players involved are greatly enjoying it. In such a campaign, even a 10th level character is of epic quality. So much depends upon the individual campaign.

    As such, discussing "levels of NPCs" presupposes a degree of uniformity about D&D campaigns that really doesn't exist. For full "20-level" campaigns, the Dungeon APs are a good place to start research as to what high-level NPCs are needed and how they are placed.

    Cheers!
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    Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:05 am  

    > Wyk, your analysis is excellent, though I wonder that even a 26th level character could casually defeat an advanced dragon.

    Thank you, A-M, and I agree with this if you mean a party of 26th level characters. A solo combat, IMHO, will depend much more of the circunstances (type of character, what defenses it has against the dragon). There are a gazillion of tactics and counter-tactics used by characters and dragons alike, especially after the draconomicon ;-)
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    Thu Jun 15, 2006 3:13 am  

    MerricB wrote:


    Even +3 weapons in 3rd are very rare, mainly because player prefer a +1 flaming keen weapon. :) Mind you, I can't think of many AD&D +5 weapons!



    There are indeed very good arguments under 3.5 for giving weapons (and armour) additional properties rather than investing in additional bonuses to hit. The main one is that the greater magic weapon and magic vestment spells (which last for hours) can boost the enhancement bonus of a weapon or armour with additional properties. It is usually harder to add temporary special qualities, although it is not impossible (via sonic weapons and so forth). If a fighter knows a friendly cleric, (s)he can readily have his/her +1 vicious shocking burst greatsword converted into a +3 vicious shocking burst greatsword on a daily basis, although the exact enhancement bonus depends on the cleric's level. It is much harder for a friendly caster to modify a straight +3 greatsword to have the vicious and shocking burst qualities.

    The other 3.5 innovation that has made large enhancement bonuses less popular is the removal of DR that takes a particular magical enhancement bonus to beat (e.g., DR 10/+2) in favour of straight DR/magic. This was in itself a change in the policy from previous editions, with monsters that needed a certain enhancement bonus to be injured at all.
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    Thu Jun 15, 2006 4:58 am  

    MerricB wrote:


    Levels and advancement speed have always been a joke when applied to the setting. Regardless of edition, you could get from 1st to 10th level in well under a year of campaign time. It's set up for making a fun game, not for a "realistic" setting. NPCs are the levels they are because they serve the needs of the campaign, not because they fit into any advancement scheme for PCs.

    Strangely enough, 3e Greyhawk may well be back to the original intention of 1e Greyhawk: a place where the DM crafts the world from a limited basis to his or her needs, rather than where design decisions from on high have premolded the world.



    I think these points are very important to remember.

    I converted all the Giant adventures into 3rd edition. By the time they got to the end of the Glacial Rift the Jarl would no longer have been too much of a threat. WHilst you could argue that I should have just left him as a not so tough foe I decided for drama to beef him up. He is in effect the end of level boss for want of better terminology and the fight should be tough and exciting. The players should fear for their lives, suffer a casualty or two and then triumph feeling proud of their hard won victory.

    This does mean that as the players get more powerful so the number of higher level characters in the land increase ...but... so what. It's the drama of the game that is most important I think.

    Whilst it's good to be mindful of the distribution of NPCs thoughout the levels you shouldn't worry too much about having a fixed model to base it on.

    I think someone already commented about how higher level characters tend to fade out of the public eye somewhat. Some just want a rest after a long hard slog to the top and want to retire in peace, others (such as more evil or power hungry types) have to lay low and keep to themselves or they would have been hunted down by agents of good years ago and never reached higher levels in the first place...these high level characters to appear out of the woodwork whenever neccessary as an untapped and relatively unspecified resource for the DM.

    High level characters also serve the important purpose of keeping the arrognat tending high level PCs in their place! Wink
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    Fri Jun 16, 2006 10:30 am  

    I'm a fan of 'low magic' myself and I think you do have to bear that in mind when looking at the CR of a monster.

    Agravaan Arenvale (Fg9, Wz(Div1)) fought an advanced spell-stitched wight. He was alone (apart from fair Ellavadrel Moralana, a local elf who was helping him to steal into the Royal Library), and he'd had all his magical weapons confiscated by the elves of Enstad. He really struggled to defeat this thing, which had SR and DR/magic.

    I'm not a fan of rapid advancement in 3.5 but largely because our campaign is long term. It does depend on your campaign. I divide all xp for monsters by between 4 or 8, but also give xp for role-playing well, story goals, and non combat stuff. I'm hoping that will slow em down a bit.

    In terms of epic monsters, I agree that the giants in Against the Giants should have some character levels and exceptional stats.

    Tuerney the Merciless is a nalfeshnee who also has 17 levels of sorcerer or wizard.

    I'm sure there are loads more. Why don't people post their ideas for a rogue's gallery?
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    Wed Jun 21, 2006 8:12 am  

    Wolfling wrote:

    I converted all the Giant adventures into 3rd edition. By the time they got to the end of the Glacial Rift the Jarl would no longer have been too much of a threat. WHilst you could argue that I should have just left him as a not so tough foe I decided for drama to beef him up. He is in effect the end of level boss for want of better terminology and the fight should be tough and exciting. The players should fear for their lives, suffer a casualty or two and then triumph feeling proud of their hard won victory.

    This does mean that as the players get more powerful so the number of higher level characters in the land increase ...but... so what. It's the drama of the game that is most important I think.


    That is exactly the issues I have been facing in doing my own conversion of GDQ. My goal has been to ultimately convert it to a "balanced" 3.5 scenario. The problem is that that the monsters individually with the 3.5 RAW are not too tough compared to the "danger/drama" level, but many of the encounters are. The Nosnra fight in G1 for example is at least EL16+ (22 CR7 Hill giants, 3 CR8 Stone Giants, 1 CR11 Cloud Giant, 8 CR3 Ogres and "Throat Ripper" the cave bear), but if you survive it, then fighting Jarl and his entorouge is no big deal. This still does not give Nosnra the skill required in 3E to wield is "ballista" (Large size heavy crossbow), so I had to give him Fighter levels to have the feats. To keep the story intact and in turn playable, every one needed some beefing up. So I am working on this arragement.

    Module Level
    G1 11-12
    G2 13-14
    G3 15
    D1 16
    D2 17
    D3 18-19
    Q1 Level 20-21+ for the web,22+ on the ship (how else you gonna fight Lolth?)

    The problem I have found that D1 and D2 are more like speed bumps (except for the Lich) 3.5 unless you give the monsters levels. Then again, in 1E running and playing, they were more like speed bumps too.
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