Using 1e Modules for 4e: Treasure
by, 08-02-2012 at 06:55 PM (4503 Views)
Back in the 1e days, treasure was important. The amount of treasure you hauled off gave you XP. And you needed it. A magic user needed 2500 Xp just to get to level 2 so he could get one more spell . You were not going to earn that XP by killing kobolds all day with a stick. In addition, there were training cost and you were really allowed only to advance one level per adventure, having any XP left over putting you 1 away from the next level!
Not that every group followed these instructions, but any rule you ignored would make a module seem unbalanced or a Monty Haul.
Fortunately, 3e and 4e took that aspect of the game away and gave you more XP for killing the monsters and beating encounters. never the less, if you read the current module in your hand now, the treasure is going to make your eyes pop. Even worse, 4e has kind of made money superfluous in order to make the economy workable (unlike 3e broken economy). Unless your 4e players have something they can spend money on, they are unlikely to care what gold they have and instead covet magic items.
Nevertheless, PC's will want some sort of reward for putting their butts on the line, so the speak.
Using Parcels: One way to accomplish this is to simply ignore the treasure in the module and use parcels. But this takes way from the flavor of the module. If I took out all of the unique treasure in Hidden Shrine of Tamachan, it becomes kind of dull.
Using treasure as written you could use the treasure as written, and in some modules, that is all that is needed. An orc with 1-6 gold on his person won't break the game. Finding anything under 250gpv is usually okay. When we start talking 500 gp plus, we being to see problems. In addition, Platinum in 1e is only 5gp while in 4e it is much more, so you want to avoid that as much as possible. And what the hell is an electrum piece?
Dividing Treasure value by 10 This is a common thing I do for many 3e and 1e conversions. I simply divide the treasure by 10, so a 100gp items is now 10gp. It controls the treasure out take. The unfortunate result is the PC's might ignore the small trinkets of treasure and thereby, avoid getting any monetary treasure at all.
Magic items: Many old gamers will always tell the 1e tale of "getting a +1 magic sword was big deal" . In some cases, it was. Some monsters could not be harmed without a magic weapon and most characters, unless they had a magic weapon, could not output more damage than they did at first level. A magic sword was not cheap; about 2000gp for a +1 weapon. Getting your AC to 0 was no easy task either. You need +1 Platemail and a +1 Shield to get that AC 0, and if you were lucky, a +1 ring of protection to get a -1 AC if you didn't have a high dexterity. And that was just for the fighter.
Many modules have different ideas about how much treasure in magic items should be distributed. Some have outrageous amounts of magic, while others are few or very powerful. Some are used by the monsters while others are locked in the chest the monster guards, where as they could have been very useful to the monster. 1e did not consider these factors, and it wasn't until 4e did we see a removal of random treasure to placed treasure. In all defense of the random aspect, sometimes players and DM's don't know what is going to be useful and the placing of items on purpose tends to make the same items come up all the time. In addition, a +1 sword in 4e, while useful in the beginning, quickly loses its usefulness later on.
When dealing with treasure as magic items you should follow these set guidelines:
Magical Treasure is Common In 4e, there is no way to get around it, magic is here to stay. Unless you run with the inherent bonuses, your players are going to need magic items. Nothing says you have to play this way but nothing slows down a fight than a PC that can't hit. In addition, magic is pretty cheap compared to 1e and 3e. Short of changing your dynamic in the game, you will be seeing PC's defined not only by powers but by magic items.
Magical treasure is for the Players: It is there reward for banging the heads of monsters. Unless the item is a macgruffin, it is usually not being used by the monsters. On occasion, you might have a bad-ass foe using a weapon that some player will covet, especially if it starts kicking his butt.
Magical treasure is useful: Defining what is useful can be tricky. What was useful in 1e is not so much in the mechanics of 4e. What you can assume is that an implement meant for a Monk is not very useful to a party that can't use a Ki Focus. 4e has placed a ritual to transfer magical properties of one item to another but the ritual is limited on level of player and item. Since all the good stuff is of higher level than the character (usually) then it starts to fall into the "not useful" category.
Interpreting Magic items in 1e Modules
Now that we are aware what magic items are used for, we can try and to find solutions on how to transfer 1e magic to 4e magic. Levels of the items should be determine by the + or level of part. So a +2 sword is alevel 6 item, a Wand of Magic missiles should be a +2 wand of Magic Missiles [Level 7] if the party is level 4 or higher, etc.
Scrolls are In/Out In a quick game, you can basically ignore the treasure of scrolls. If you are adventurous, you can make the scrolls into one time magic items that can be used by primal, divine, and arcane power users. Using the previous mechanics on monsters using scrolls, you can apply it to PC's. Anything that would be used outside the combat arena would be a ritual. I would use a Level of spell +4 to determine the attack roll of the spell; so a 3rd level fireball scroll would be +7 vs reflex for 2d8+3 daamge (with a area of 3). I would be wary of this as in some modules, a scroll can have a quite a few spells, since they were a keen source of spells for magicusers.
Wands I would treat wands as Masters wands of appropriate spell.
Staffs, Rods, Orbs, other implements These items should be level appropriate and their properties discovered after a extended rest. have the PC's choose based on level appropriateness.
Potions Potions were more useful in earlier additions to the game. If you find the appropriate equivalent of a potion, use that, otherwise, you can use the spell conversions listed in the first post. Potions should last only for a turn.
Armor and Weapons Later editions of D&D had more elaborate types of weapons and armor you could choose from. Not so much in 1e. I would use the armor and weapon + to determine the initial type of item, then after the adventure or extended rest, have the player choose the property of the item. So if they find a +2 sword, they will choose from a level 6 to level 10 item of +2 weapons.
Magical Shields There are no AC increasing magical shields in 4e. Any monster wielding one should be ignored, you don't have time to figure out what kind of shield it is. Players should choose any found shield based on its +; +1 is level 1-5; +2 is Level 6-10, etc.
Miscellaneous Item Ignore any creature with an item. Any found treasure should be the equivalent to the item in 4e at the appropriate level, discovered after a extended rest. Cloaks, amulets, rings, boots, belts, bracers, gloves, headbands, helms, etc should be used from the proper categories of slot items. Rings should be ignored unless the party is higher level.