So, here I am the Fantasy AGE developer with tons and tons of d20 adventures sitting on my shelves. A lot of them are really cool concepts, from a tour through the waters around Freeport to more than a hundred Adventure Path volumes from my former employer. I definitely want to run more Fantasy AGE games, but my time is limited and it seems a shame to just chuck all my older gaming products. That makes me wonder, naturally, how hard is it to adapt adventures and settings from other game systems to Fantasy AGE? And, is it worth the effort?
The answers are; not hard at all (though there’s an easy way and a hard way), and, of course, it depends.
Let’s talk about the value of such an idea before we get into some tips on how to do it. The most obvious reason to convert materials for other games to Fantasy AGE is because you like the way Fantasy AGE plays as a game, but need ideas to fill your adventures. Especially for games built around having races, 20-level classes, and fantasy themes. The adaptation work isn’t particularly difficult, so you can easily treat multiple games’ worth of material as idea generators for your Fantasy AGE game.
This is especially helpful if you have multiple game editions of material for the same world, or want to mix elements from different system’s game worlds. So if you want to use the core world of one 20-level fantasy game, an adventure that uses a different game system, and a monster from a third, adapting all of these elements to Fantasy AGE may well be easier than picking any one of the three systems you are borrowing from to adjust everything to.
There is, of course, a secret to adapting other games to Fantasy AGE the “easy way,” and it is this: don’t even worry about trying to get it right.
Seriously, Fantasy AGE is not a game where you need to worry about a dozen tiny bonuses or have exactly the right balance of skills and special abilities. Yes, you CAN do things the ‘hard way’ and try to emulate every single special attack, creature type property, and tiny circumstantial bonuses… but mostly that’s not going to produce an end result that is any more fun and satisfying. As long as you use an appropriate equivalent, you can swap out a Fantasy AGE stat block for most things you might encounter in other game systems. If you tell players they are facing a band of 3-foot tall kobolds, they’ll never know you’re actually using the stat block for goblins. Or bandits. Or living dolls.
There are just a few things it’s useful to understand when working on your simple adaptation.
Adversary Threat Level
Fantasy AGE has guidelines covering what level PCs are expected to deal with what degree of adversary threat (Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, 104), and this is a good general guideline for adapting a Fantasy AGE stat block to represent a foe from another game system. If you have 7th level PCs, and you are running a d20 adventure for 12th level characters, it’s best for most of your adversaries be moderate threats. Yes, that means instead of making a 12th level d20 evil sorcerer a 12th level Fantasy AGE mage you may just want to pick a moderate threat monster with spells, and treat it as a sorcerer. A djinn or shadow person (Fantasy AGE Bestiary) can substitute for a fine spellcaster, and similar you can use any of the elementals from that book as element-themed mages.
Don’t do any more work than you have to. This is supposed to be fun for you too, after all.
Shuffle Special Qualities
Anything that isn’t appropriate for your adapted foe? Just ignore. Don’t worry about fine details of balance—if you want a simple air-mage just grab the wind djinn, ignore the flight (or describe it as a spell) and strike out the bound special qualities, and go for it.
If it’s crucial your adapted monster have some special ability to fit the theme of an adventure or to have an encounter make sense, look at the Modifying Monsters rules (Fantasy AGE Bestiary, 133) and pick something close-enough. Again, the idea isn’t to exactly emulate every feature of your adapted adversary, but just to pick a few things that match its theme. If you really need to give a creature a new power to emulate some special ability the bestiary doesn’t give you any options for, consider just giving it a stunt that access a spell from an appropriate arcana.
It’s All Hazards And Tests
Nearly anything that does nasty things to the PCs and isn’t an adversary can be translated into Fantasy AGE as a hazard (Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, 101). Trapped chest? Hazard you can avoid with a Perception test, and bypass with a Dexterity (Traps) test. Poison cloud? Hazard you can reduce the damage of with a Constitution (Stamina) test. Barrier against good? Hazard you can ignore with a Willpower (Faith) test. Hazards don’t have to be restricted to damage (though it is the simplest option), so you can apply other effects (borrowed from arcana or adversary abilities, or that you make up on the spot). A tar pit can be a hazard that just prevents a character from moving until they pass a Strength (Might) test, a magic blinding rune can require a Willpower (Self-Discipline) test with failure causing the character to be unable to see for 10 minutes, resulting in a -3 to attack rolls and halving their movement rate.
Similarly you can translate most non-combat challenges into basic, opposed, or advanced tests as appropriate. If an adventure has special rules for a chariot race, finding the right book in a partially-flooded library, or building a rebellion within an occupied city, it’s rarely going to be worth it to try to emulate the details of those rules. Just pick the test type that seems closest, tell PCs how often they get to roll based on how long the goal should take, and move on.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
When looking back on enjoyable RPG experiences, most players remember when they pulled off an amazing stunt, discovered the mayor was a vampire, swam across the River of Souls, slayed the dragon, or were the last defender standing at the Gate of Heroes. They don’t generally care as much if they had five +1 bonuses from different sources, managed to master the special rules for winning a senate debate, or got lucky on the 4-part drowning rules. The Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook has all the tools you need to challenge the players and create memorable adventures, as well as advice on how to create new threats and encounters. When adapting material from other games, all you are doing is borrowing names, art, and general plots as blueprints for creating Fantasy AGE adventures.
If you keep things fast and fun, the players will never know if you didn’t give the half-dragon dire rat ghost from a d20 adventure all of its special defenses—they’ll just remember the dang thing kept running through walls and breathing fire on them until they skewered it for good.
Owen K.C. Stephens is a game designer who has worked on a number of products for Pathfinder, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and more. He is our Fantasy AGE Line Developer when he’s not working one of his other jobs, running his own company (Rogue Genius Games), or writing things for his patrons at https://www.patreon.com/OwenKCStephens.