Archive for October, 2018

D&D Did You Know’s: Third Edition Conversion Exploit

October 7, 2018

Across the spectrum of Dungeons & Dragons, over the course of many iterations and editions, there have only ever been three official conversion books.

To be sure, there have been numerous guidelines, spotlights, and overviews whenever a new version of the game nears release. From magazines to messageboards, the issue of changing things between versions of the game (and other games) is a perennially popular topic. But in terms of actual, official stand-alone products that walk you through the process of changing things from one version of the game to another, I’m only aware of three.

The most recent of these is the 5E conversion guide. It’s something that only really barely qualifies, as it’s a four-page PDF (and, insofar as I know, never had a print version) that deals more in guidelines than in hard-and-fast rules about how to convert your D&D game over to Fifth Edition. Prior to that, there was the v.3.5 Accessory Update Booklet, which did have a print run but was more concerned with – as the name says – updating specific 3.0 products to 3.5 rather than a more general guide to converting characters, items, and other game abilities.

That leaves the D&D Third Edition Conversion Manual as the sole remaining book that could be called an honest-to-goodness conversion guide. I still have my print copy, and looking back now it’s interesting at how it attempted to convert pre-Third Edition characters to what was, at that time, the latest version of the game.

Far more fun, however, is that this allows for an interesting – albeit minor – “exploit” for converted characters.

Exceptionally Unusual Strength

Normally, the highest Strength score you can start with for a Third Edition (3.0) character is 20. That is, start with an 18 (whether by an exceptionally good roll or by splurging on your point-buy), and then play a race with a +2 Strength bonus. Notably, this would mean that you won’t be playing as a human, since in Third Edition they have no racial modifiers. So presuming the DM isn’t letting you play a monstrous race out of the Monster Manual (which, in 3.0, didn’t list things like level adjustments or ability score modifiers), this pretty well limits you to being a half-orc if you stuck with the Core Rules. Otherwise, the highest Strength you could hope to start off with was an 18.

Unless you were bringing over a character from AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition.

Maybe.

You see, older versions of the game had what was called “exceptional Strength,” where – if you were a fighter or fighter subclass (in AD&D 1st Edition), or were a member of the Warrior group (in AD&D 2nd Edition) – and had an 18 Strength, you could roll a d% to further measure just how strong your character was. Someone who rolled a measly 01% would have a +1 to hit and +3 damage, for instance, whereas someone who rolled a 100% would have +3 to hit and +6 to damage!

Of course, there were numerous obstacles to getting an exceptional Strength score. In addition to being restricted to the most overtly-martial classes, you were also limited by race (and, in AD&D 1E, sex). So if you were playing an elven fighter in AD&D 2nd Edition, you were capped at an 18/75 Strength; that is, you couldn’t have an exceptional Strength score of more than 75%, even if you rolled higher. With the way the racial guidelines broke down, if you wanted to get the best Strength possible, you had to play a human (male) fighter of some sort.

So what does all of that have to do with exploiting the Conversion Manual for D&D Third Edition?

The answer is found in the Manual’s guideline for converting abilities scores (pg. 3-4):

Exceptional Score New Strength Score
18/01-18/50 19
18/51-18/75 20
18/76-18/90 21
18/91-18/99 22
18/00 23
19-20 24
21-22 25
22-23 26
24-25 27

Now, leaving aside that a Strength of 22 in the older editions could apparently be a Strength of 25 or 26 in the new one, notice what the exceptional Strength values convert over to. A character with any exceptional Strength at all is going to convert over to a Strength of at least 19. If you had that coveted 18/00 Strength before, you now had a Strength of 23!

Now, that won’t really matter much if you’re converting over a higher-level character, since Third Edition assumes inflated ability scores far more than previous versions of the game ever did. But at 1st level it’s a notable score indeed. A +6 to hit and damage right off the bat is a powerful advantage when you’re trying to survive those early adventures.

Of course, insofar as exploits go, this one is rather hard to take advantage of. Utilizing it essentially requires you to follow the AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition guidelines for generating a character and then converting them over via what’s in this book. So even if you follow the various race and class restrictions for being able to get an exceptional Strength score, you’ll still have to actually roll the score you’re hoping for, as those editions weren’t exactly enamored of point-buy generation for ability scores. But it’s still technically possible, and hey, all the books are official.

So, the next time you’re sitting down for a Third Edition game and want to play a fighter, try making an older-edition character and then converting them to 3E rather than generating them under the Third Edition rules directly.

You just might end up with something exceptional.

Advertisements