A conversion is more art than science. Please, don’t misinterpret my words. I’m not saying that maths aren’t important, because they are. In fact, I teach discrete maths as part of my day job! But getting a monster, a character race, a spell, and so on from one system to another is something that can’t be done properly just using a formula.
Converting between two different game systems is very much like translating between two languages. You can’t proceed word by word, à la Google Translate, and hope to achieve a good result. That’s not how things work. You have to step back, take a look, and try to find what the original designer tried to convey.
In other worlds: You need to immerse yourself in the spirit of the creation and find its meaning. Only when you fully grasp this spirit can you shape your take on the concept using the mechanics of the target system. The mechanics, by the way, are simply the grammar and vocabulary of that particular language. If you capture this spirit, your reader will easily see the original author’s intent in your conversion, and your work will be as invisible as possible, which is a good thing.
But why do I write all this? Why this discussion about the spirit of a conversion? Because I’m converting some material from the Southlands to the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, fully diving into the spirit of the Southlands, and I can assure you I’m having an amazing experience. I’ve been working on several monsters and a player character race, the gnolls, and I wanted to talk a little bit about these.
I have always loved the Middle East and its themes, so I was already predisposed to like Southlands, but the monsters I’m working with are incredibly flavorful, and the gnolls I’m converting to Dungeons & Dragons have left me with the desire to stat up a new gnoll character right now. But, alas, I’m going to be the DM in my home campaign, so that leaves the monsters as my toys.
In fact, Wolfgang asked me to choose my favorite creature, but I truly can’t. From the cunning machinations of a demon that can turn into a gem, to the cruel spin put into a monster as traditional as a mummy, I’m truly liking all the material that’s coming my way. If anything, I hope that I’ll have the opportunity to make even more conversions. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the 5th edition and Southlands combination proves to be popular and well-loved.
And, since the 600-backers stretch goal has been reached, it seems that my desire will come true. Probably the blue genie that came out from that dusty lamp the other day had something to do with this…