Converting Temple of Elemental Evil to 5th Edition

I’m using Brian C. Rideout’s conversion notes to 5th Edition, which can be found here:

http://newworldscoaching.ca/downloadable/toee.pdf
It is a very well done conversion. There are a few minor errors (for example on xp for monsters), and it has to be adjusted to fit with the group size to some extent. My first session had a massive group of 7 players, so I to add a few monsters to most of the encounters.
I also made individual names and equipment for the brigands (bandit NPCs from the MM), as it was likely that one or more would be captured and interrogated.

That leads me to the mention: I find it puzzling, that the original module has names for some NPCs, but not for all of them? Why would one give the name for all the village councilors, except the village elder? Why give a name for a main boss, but not for the brigand leader?

Bringing the world to life:

Mr. Rideout also added some encounters and events that add flavor to the settlements of the campaign. These small events and encounters are very valuable, easy to run and can easily be scaled. It is a great addition to the conversion material.

I used the first, when one of the characters (1st level Cleric of Olidammara) wandered alone around Hommlett, and ended up rescuing a kid from a Giant Tick, which had set upon his dog. It gave him a nice solo xp-bonus, and gave them something to talk about and the cleric a boost to his reputation in town.

Change in treasure amount
I differ somewhat on the treasure level of the conversion. The original module perhaps suffers from a lack of variety and higher power level than Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, as Rideout also notes (there are several rings of invisibility among the NPCs, which is high powered).

But even with Rideout’s edits, I estimate that the level is still a bit high, when I look at the campaign we normally play. For example – the main boss in the Moathouse has 3 permanent items in the original version. One is a magical plate armour. In my view, the plate armour, which costs 1,500 gold pieces, and is quite hard to obtain in Hommlett, is a treasure in itself, and does not need to be magical to be seen as a very nice treasure. I will keep a permanent item, and add a scroll and a potion.

That said, as the party composition changes, depending on who attends from my large pool of players, I can be a little more generous, as the items will be spread across a much larger than normal amount of players.

We will be playing again next weekend, with some changes in party composition and size. I look forward to seeing how it changes the group’s approach to the adventure.

Steading of the Hill Giant Chief

As a one afternoon/evening adventure, we played Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. It was converted from the AD&D module into 5th edition.

There were 5 characters – all of them 12th level. There was a Dwarf Fighter with plenty of feats and maneuvers, a Dwarf Fighter/Barbarian, a Tiefling Warlock/Sorcerer, a Cleric of Light (damage dealing & suppoer) and a Cleric of Life (Healing). I gave them two uncommon items each, like +1 shield, wand of detect magic and cloak of protection +1.

We had great fun with the adventure. The group chose a wise path through the steading, found the secret stair down to the dungeon and located the treasure, explored parts of the dungeon, and fought the keeper and his pets as well as the stone giants and went back to the main hall to fight the chief and his giants as the final encounter of the evening.

Conversion notes:
Fundamentally the conversion worked well. It is easy to convert the two systems between each other. I did however make a number of changes to make it more fun.

First of all, the original module is very much made up of creatures which can only fundamental make a regular melee or ranged attack. To make it more interesting and varied I inserted an Ogre magi with a couple of bodyguards, and I change the manticores guarding the treasure to Chimeras to make it a greater challenge and to add the breath weapons, which required Dex saving throws. I also made the wife of the chief into a 9th level Cleric.

I also pulled a few giants from the main hall to the dire wolves and courtyard area.
Instead of just having two fire giants, I also added a young red dragon to the mix. The encounter was never played, but I think it would work well.

The keeper I gave a higher AC with armour and made his pets into Giant Apes.

I also changed the troglodytes to trolls, but the group did not go near them either.

The map of the steading is one of the greatest problems, if you are using miniatures. In D&D 5th hill giants are size huge, and they simply don’t fit the current map. Furthermore, as was mentioned in the original reviews of the module, some of the dungeon areas are way too small to house 30+ escaped orc slaves. As we didn’t use minis I didn’t bother converting the map, but I guess it needs to be at least double size, to fit all the giants in the main hall.

Game Play notes:
The challenge fit quite well against a group that didn’t go leave the steading and get a long rest. We were under some time pressure, so they opted to go full steam ahead. It was clear that the first couple of encounters wouldn’t kill any characters, but they did drain resources. The combat was also quite quick and smooth.
The upper level was a chance to sneak and gain information and kill a couple of groups of monsters.

The bugbears posed no challenge at all – which was fine, as they gave the group a chance to shine. The Keeper, with his giant apes really packed a punch, and I thought it was a fine encounter when the bugbears also came charging and were annihilated with fireballs.

At their challenge rating it was my impression that hill giants work well against a high level party, as a party of level 12 will most often hit CR 5 monsters no matter what, but the giants could really take some damage and deal some back. They only had 15-20 % chance of hitting the fighters, but with two attacks from each, the damage did begin to mount.

The final battle with the chief was fun, albeit a bit chaotic, and some of the players would have liked a proper battle map with minis. I forgot to include the cloud giant and stone giants (it was late), but the outcome was good, as they would have stacked the battle too much in the favour of the giants, due to their higher to hit bonus and damage output. As it were the giants put up a great fight, but had trouble getting to all the characters, which meant they were split up to try and circle the characters. At least one character was down, but the life cleric kept them alive.