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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

D&D 4E to Star Wars Creature Conversions

by Ken Newquist / November 19, 2008

One area where Star Wars: Saga Edition could use some help are its creatures. There are certainly a number of them out there, particularly the iconic ones from the movies, but the system tends to come up a little short with more mundane critters.

After my third session of Star Wars, I thought back our summer playing D&D 4th Edition, and got to wondering about converting monsters from that book with use in Star Wars. Now I should note that I think that at a fundemental level, Star Wars plays differently than D&D. It's less about dungeon crawls and more about relationships - relationships between characters, between master and apprentice, between organizations. Those were always the main drivers in the movies, and in almost every case the heroes only came up against monsters/creatures as a consequence of the story.

For example, the encounter with the trash compactor beast in A New Hope came into play because Han and Luke were rescuing the princess. Luke's random encounter with a wampa ice beast on Hoth led directly to his vision of Obi-Wan, and his training on Dagaboh with Yoda. Han and Luke were going to be fed to the sarlac because the crossed Jabba the Hutt. Because of this, Star Wars needs fewer monsters (and more NPCs) than D&D, but it's still nice to have choices.

Evaluating Mechanics

It's no secret that Saga Edition was used as a test bed for 4E. The two systems retain certain similarities; they both eschew traditional saving throws in favor of Reflex, Fortitude and Will Defenses. Both have gotten rid of iterative attacks in favor of a single attack per round, they've simplified combat actions like trip and grapple, and they have similarly streamlined skill lists.

There are still key mechanical differences though. D&D 4E retains Armor Class as a fourth type of defense, where as Star Wars rolls this into Reflex. D&D has also held on to a generic saving throw mechanic, which is used to see if a character shakes off a given special effect (like paralysis or slowness) that round. In Star Wars, that effect simply keeps making an attack for a certain number of rounds until it the targeted defense.

Eyeballing the entries in D&D 4E, it looks like they have about 25-50% more hit points as their Star Wars counterparts, but those are easy to shave off. Attack bonuses in 4E are higher than Saga, so they'll need to be adjusted downward.

A bigger challenge is the proliferation of supernatural powers (and beasts) in 4E. Aside from the Force, we don't see this much in Star Wars; you're just not going to run in to that many fire-breathing rancors. Many of these powers also have random regeneration rates, which is a mechanic that does not exist in Saga Edition. In this case, I would simply keep the mechanic intact.

That said, I think that if you attempt these conversions, you should let your players know what you're doing, particularly if you keep any of the 4E powers. Star Wars purists may not want any D&D in their game, while others may think the move's a no-brainer. Regardless, I think it's helpful to have players help evaluate your conversions and provide feedback for future tweaking.

Evaluating Subjects for Conversion

I think the best candidates for porting to Star Wars are those with mundane attacks and abilities. While it's possible to explain some of the supernatural powers with technology/biology, I think the bigger challenge there is whether such abilities fit in Star Wars.

I can see bringing such things in for a unique boss encounter (or perhaps guardian-of-the-boss encounter?) but conventional is likely better. Here's a list of likely monsters from the 4E Monster Manual. In each case I'd file the serial numbers off the monster and never refer to it by its D&D name to help preserve the Star Wars feel.

One drawback to 4E is that it has less mundane critters than 3rd Edition. While it does have a few dire animals, it also has a propensity for creating arcane or elemental creatures. Thus, it's not enough to just have a giant scorpion, it has to be a stormclaw scorpion with thunder powers.

  • Bat (p 27): Shadowhunter bats
  • Bear (p29): Cave bear, Dire Bear
  • Beatle (p30): Tangler beetle
  • Behemoth (p31): Macetal Behemoth (I'm not sure why they couldn't just call these dinosaurs...)
  • Giant (p120): Hill Giants
  • Manticore (p184)
  • Ogre (p198)
  • Rat (p219): Giant Rat, Dire Rat)
  • Stirge (p248)
  • Wolf (p264-265): Gray wolf, Dire Wolf, Worg)

There are a few others that I think would be cool from a "weird alien encounter" standpoint, but are problematic because their game mechanics don't match up with Star Wars:

  • Carrion Crawler (p40)
  • Chull (p43)
  • Vine Horror (p260)

You'd either need to directly port the concepts of slow, immobilized and restrained over to Saga Edition.

Conversion Guidelines

My goal with these conversions is to come up with something fast and easy; anything that requires too much work defeats the purpose of trying to cut and paste 4E monsters into Saga Edition.

With that in mind, I suggest the following:

  • Halve the hit points (e.g. stirge goes from 22 to 11 HP).
  • All attacks vs. AC become attacks vs. Reflex,
  • Subtract 2 from all attack modifiers.
  • Initiative becomes a Skill, but is otherwise the same.
  • Damage Threshold is calculated same as it is in Saga (Fortitude Defense + Size Modifier).
  • Where a 4E power requires an ongoing save, change the mechanic to require an ongoing attack. (e.g. if it's an attack that's +5 vs. Reflex and requires a save for three rounds, simply have the power make an attack each round)
  • There are no "shift" or "5-foot moves" in Saga. Either port the concept over or ignore that ability (but beware that if you move it into the system, PCs are going to want to do it).
  • To calculate the Challenge Level, do a quick comparison against other creatures in the Saga Edition core book.

With that in mind, here's my conversion of the Stirge, the classic blood-sucking parasitical monster from p248 of the 4E Monster Manual.

Zebulon Vampire Bat (Small Beast) CL 2
Based on the Stirge
HP 11 Dmg Threshold: 10,
Defenses: Fort: 12, Ref: 13, Will: 10, Speed: 2, fly 6 (hover)
Attack: Bite +4 vs. Reflex; 1d4 damage and the target is grabbed and takes 5 ongoing damage until it escapes. An attached bat doesn't make attack rolls while grabbing a target and gains +5 to its Reflex defense. Dark vision.
Skills: Initiative +7, Perception +0, Stealth +8
Str: 8 (-1), Dex 16 (+3), Con 10 (+0), Int 1 (-5), Wis 10 (+0), Chr 4 (-3)

I haven't tried it in-game yet, but it will likely show up as a threat when the heroes of my Star Wars campaign return to the jungle world of Zebulon Prime. Glancing over it though, I think it should do ok.

Doing it the Saga Way

The Saga Edition rule book provides quick and simple rules for creating creatures on p274 of the core rule book. In a page and a half they give GMs everything they need to make a level 1 to level 20 beast, including a handful of exceptional abilities. Using those rules as a guideline, here's my Sagafied swamp rat:

Zebulon Swamp Bat (Small Beast) CL 2
Small beast 2
Init +8, Senses: Perception: 0
Defenses: Fort 10, Ref 13, Will 10
Hp: 14 Threshold: 10
Traits: Airborne (reroll Initiative checks, but you must keep the second result, even if lower), darkvision
Speed: Move 2 squares, Fly 6 squares
Melee: String +4 (1d3+Poison, +1 vs Fort)
Fighting Space: 1x1
Base Attack: +0, Grp: +3
Abilities: Str 8, Dex, 16, Con 10, Int 1, Wis 10, Cha 4
Feats: Weapon Finesse
Skills: Initiative* +9: Perception: 1, Stealth: +9

My Saga Edition version of the stirge loses its blood sucking ability, but I think that would be easy enough to add back in. This version could represent an annoying, over-sized mosquito, the kind that dives into to attack then darts away.

It's faster on its wings and a little tougher than the 4E one (in terms of hit points), but it has a worse Fortitude Defense. It also does one less point of damage with its sting attack and doesn't latch on - instead it gains a poison attack that has the potential to move the victim down the condition track (basically weakening them over time).

Is Conversion Worth it?

The big question for these conversions is this: is it worth it? I think the answer depends on how often you play D&D 4E.

The Saga Edition rulebook provides quick and simple rules for creating creatures on p274 of the core rule book. In a page and a half they give GMs everything they need to make a level 1 to level 20 beast, including a handful of exceptional abilities. For those playing Star Wars exclusively, I think these rules are more than sufficient for creating new monsters.

If you play a lot of 4E, and are fluent in the Saga Edition rules, then it's probably worthwhile, particularly if you're pressed for time.

Comments

I'm still on the lookout for dark force animated corpses (zombie). Was not the soon to be Darth Vader tempted with a way to stave off death? Maybe some is trying to figure this out and zombies are an unintended or early result of this experimentation (or maybe not unintended)

Maybe down the line, if/when the party ventures into a Sith tomb or some such. But for now I don't have any use for zombies, and honestly, I think that's something I'd want to build from scratch for Star Wars rather than convert from 4E (though 4E does have some pretty nifty zombies...)