On today’s Mordite Monday we explore the process of converting an awesome old AD&D statblock and description into a Torchbearer monster. It is easy and fun!
You’re gonna make me try and track down a 2e monster manual now I hope you realize.
Pssh I need my physicals!
I highly recommend the AD&D Monstrous Manual, which was a late-cycle reissue of the various Monstrous Compendia. This is where Tony Diterlizzi really shows up and he does the lion’s share of the illustrations.
The loose page compendia were great, but became a huge organizational issue. For retrospective purposes that compilation is the best.
Yeah I had a buddy give me all of his 2e stuff a while back, but he did not have the MM or the DM’s Guide, so I keep meaning to grab those two anyway (partially because I only briefly played 2e when I was maybe 9 or so, and I’d like to revisit at some point).
This is great!
My only quibble is with the grell’s… er… brain beast’s nature descriptors. The descriptors should be macro-level things that the monster does. If you find there’s significant overlap between the weapons and the descriptors, it’s usually a sign that your descriptors need to be tweaked. Weapons should be the method by which monsters accomplish their descriptors.
For the brain beast, I would probably go with something like Colonizing, Devouring and Ambushing.
Also, I’d probably give them a special about their aversion to sunlight.
Interestingly, the aversion to sunlight wasn’t mentioned in the AD&D 2e Monstrous Manual entry. There’s a lesson in this: read as many editions as you can get your hands on!
In the 2e Monstrous Compendium entry (Greyhawk Adventures), it makes clear that Grell live in areas of perpetual darkness because their only method of “sight” is infravision and they are blinded in light.
Is there much of a difference converting a 3rd, 4th, or 5th edition monster or even one from Pathfinder’s books?
Yes and no!
The essential advice is that the language in the writeup is the most valuable thing when making a Torchbearer version. It’s no coincidence I chose AD&D 2e, which has some of the lengthiest formats for description.
But there are certainly other standouts. Pathfinder and 3rd/4th Ed D&D are usually a little more lean and fight-oriented in their descriptions, but Paizo has a great line of “Revisited” books that goes WAY deep on classic monsters. Wizards also has later books that do good deep dives on specific monster ecologies.
The rules referenced in the post are pretty unique to pre-3rd edition AD&D though. You’d look for high armor class or base attack bonus instead of low AC or THAC0 if you were converting from other editions. Hit dice are fairly universal, but I believe they scale up quite a bit more in 3rd edition and onward.
Since my advice is mostly to feel your way through using those stats, if you’re familiar with the the edition you’re working from a lot of this still works.
As Owen notes, the 2e versions had extensive Ecology sections that give a lot of useful detail.
For those that aren’t interested in picking up physical or digital versions of the 2nd edition books just to convert a monster or two, you might want to check out the Forgotten Realms fandom wiki at http://forgottenrealms.fandom.com. They have a creature portal that looks to be quite extensive and each monster write up includes full descriptions, including backgrounds, histories, and ecologies as well as stats for at least 3rd edition and 5th edition, but some also have other editions like 4th, 2nd, and 1st laid out in a way that is easy to compare.
I use that resource a lot!
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