We’ve been over this before, but it never hurts to say it. I love Barbarians of Lemuria. It’s a great little system that inspires me and I find it painless to write stuff for it. Of course, great as it is it has a limited player base, especially when compared to a certain well-known 800 lb. gorilla of the RPG scene. So here are some notes I’ve knocked together for converting BoL characters to Labyrinth Lord and other games in that big ol’ extended family. Use or ignore as you see fit.
First up, the ever important Attributes. Just like in my Quick & Dirty BoL to BRP Conversion post, attribute values can be derived by taking the BoL value, doubling it and then adding 10 to it. So a BoL merchant with a Strength of 1 would have STR 12 in LL while a mighty thewed-barbarian with a Strength of 4 in BoL would rock an 18 STR in LL. And so on. Hooray for that 3-18 scale that’s so popular with a certain era of games!
Of course, we need to map the BoL stats to LL stats. Here’s what I propose:
- BoL Might = LL Str, Con
- BoL Agility = LL Dex
- BoL Mind = LL Int, Wis
- BoL Appeal = LL Charisma
As with the BoL-to-BRP conversion, one could surely devise more detailed and “realistic” formulas for this sort of thing. But for most purposes, the above should work. That said, if you really need a character to be high INT/low WIS (or low STR/high CON, etc.), just adjust as needed.
Careers To Levels & Classes
Probably the biggest issue in this conversion is dealing with taking a non-class/non-level system like BoL and rendering class- and level-based characters out of it. There are probably a million different takes on this, but my suggestion is just to make the LL character’s level equal to the sum of the BoL characters career ranks. So your typical starting BoL character would come over to LL as a 4th level character, while the average BoL NPC (per the examples in the Legendary Edition) would wind up as a 2nd level character. This power level in LL might not quite match up with BoL, but it seems to give the characters a reasonable leg up while leaving room to grow as well. And hey, the original title for a 4th level Fighter was Hero and a 4th level Magic-User is called a Magician in those lovely light blue rules designed for experts*, so I’m happy with this.
As far as classes go, I feel the best thing to do is just pick the class that seems to fit the character best – multi-classing where needed, but preferably as little as possible. A character whose capabilities in BoL would require two classes in LL are really the only ones who should multi-class (e.g., characters with rank in both Soldier and Magician). If it is at all possible to stick with one class, though, that’s what I recommend. “But what about my Magician 2 / Merchant 1 / Sailor 1 / Torturer 0 character? Shouldn’t she be a F-M/U?” I hear you ask. And the answer is no. Being a merchant and a sailor – even skilled ones – doesn’t make you a Fighter in LL terms. But don’t worry, you’re not screwed. Read on for more…
Since classes are normally generalized while careers can be a bit more specific, I also suggest looking at the character’s career ranks and giving them +2 per rank in a career on Ability Checks related to the careers (but not to combat or thieving abilities or anything else that specifically mechanical in LL – those things come with level, not career rank). So that BoL character with 2 ranks in Merchant would get +4 on attribute checks relating to the buying & selling of goods, knowledge of caravan routes, and so on. Oh, and while having a Zero in a career rank won’t get you a bonus to checks, just like in BoL it could very well make checks possible that a normal person wouldn’t be able to make (por exemplo, the classic Thief 0 allowing you to know about the local thieves’ guild in ways that someone with no rank at all wouldn’t).
BoL’s combat attributes don’t translate all that well, since fighting skill is a defined function of classes in LL. You can either ignore these entirely (advised for most NPCs and Mooks) or bring them over where each rank provides a +1 bonus to the appropriate kind of attacks (for Brawl, Melee, Missile) or −1 to AC for each rank in Defense. Doing this for PCs and significant NPCs will further help with the perceived power level difference between BoL characters and their LL analogues. [editorial aside: This is one of the reasons I really adore BoL. Your combat skills aren’t based on whether you’re a fighter or a thief or whatever. They’re based on whether you’re good at combat or not. And that means you can have badass sword-swinging wizard or a fancy “can’t hit me” lightly-armored fighter without throwing a monkeywrench into the rules. End of editorializing.]
Boons & Flaws
BoL’s Boons & Flaws also don’t translate directly to LL. But, just like with Careers I suggest granting PCs and important NPCs a bonus (+2 or so, but maybe higher or lower depending on your needs) on Ability Checks (or Saving Throws) that relate to a boon that the BoL version of the character possessed. Similarly, imposing a penalty of −2 (or so) on rolls relating to a Flaw found in the BoL iteration of the character should get the job done just fine.
In the case of Boons & Flaws that don’t modify dice rolls, a little improvisation will be necessary. But the author of this quick & dirty guide trusts that his readers can handle those situations on their own and in the ways that will best suit their own needs.
Weapons & Armor & Such
Obviously BoL handles armor in a completely different fashion than Labyrinth Lord does. The easiest thing to do is just assign an Armor Class based on the overall armor level found on the BoL character. Translate as follows:
- BoL No Armor → LL AC 9 (unarmored)
- BoL Very Light Armor → LL AC 8 (roughly, Leather armor)
- BoL Light Armor → LL AC 6 (roughly, Leather armor & Shield or Scale alone)
- BoL Medium Armor → LL AC 4 (roughly, Chainmail alone or Studded Leather & Shield)
- BoL Heavy Armor → LL AC 2 (roughly, Chain & Shield, Plate alone)
- BoL Very Heavy Armor → LL AC 1 (roughly, Plate & Shield)
The examples given above are, as indicated, rough equivalents. I can do the math and know that Chain & a shield actually equals AC 4 and not AC 2. Remember, though, that BoL is much more fluid in its definitions of what armor levels equate to. If you want to be more precise, then by all means be more precise.
Oy, here’s a challenge. BoL’s magic system so completely doesn’t mesh with the Vancian fire-and-forget stuff that Labyrinth Lord and its relatives use. I suppose you could just say “Well, you’re a 4th level magic-user, so act like one” and be done with it if you want to keep it simple. I also suggest having BoL characters with Priest career ranks but no Magician ranks not be treated as Clerics, since BoL Priests don’t really work “magic” in the spellcasting sense. Ignore that suggestion if being a Cleric is really key to the conception of the character as it is crossing the line between these two world.
One other idea that occurred to me is that the Vancian stuff could work as a reasonable model of BoL’s Alchemy. Instead of having X number of spells per day per level, though, you’d get X number of alchemical preparations (which you define with Labyrinth Lord spells) per adventure. Just use the M/U spell tables to determine what X is and you’re set. So I’d class BoL characters who were Alchemists as M/Us in LL-land but restrict their usage of spells as noted above. To offset that, I figure you’d need to give them better HD or something. But again, that’s beyond the scope of this post.
The above stuff works for characters who display a full range of stats, but normal BoL monster listings are a bit more abstract. Ultimately, though, what you need for a Labyrinth Lord monster is an Armor Class, a number of Hit Dice, and a concept of how they attack & what damage they do. So here’s how I’m breaking these numbers out from a BoL listing:
- LL HD = (Lifeblood/5)
- LL Attacks = BoL attacks (i.e., claw/claw/bite or whatever, with the bonuses to hit listed), with damage as follows:
- 1 LB = 1 HP
- d2 LB = 1d2 HP
- d3 LB = 1d3 HP
- d6-1 LB = 1d4 HP
- d6 LB = 1d6 HP
- d6+2 LB = 1d8 HP
- 2d6-1 LB = d10 HP
- 2d6 LB = 1d12 HP
- 2d6+2 LB = 2d8 HP
- 3d6 LB = 3d6 HP
- 3d6+2 LB = 2d10 HP
- 4d6 LB = 2d12 HP
- LL AC = 9 – (Defense + Average Protection/Armor Value)
But what about Movement? As I see it LL Movement varies quite a bit independent of creature size, while in BoL’s “Base Move” is entirely based on creature size. I’m too lazy to come up with a specific approach here, so I’d suggest just defaulting everything to LL’s 90/30 unless being fast or slow is part of the creature’s schtick. In that case, adjust accordingly.
For monsters’ attributes, just use the same translation method as for PCs ([BoL Att*2]+10) if you need to know them. But since LL doesn’t often reference creatures’ attributes, this shouldn’t matter too often.
A couple of examples are probably in order. So first, let’s look at a character. How about good ol’ Captain Ertegun Vaul? Based on his listing in the linked post, here’s how I would render him as a Labyrinth Lord character:
Ertegun Vaul / Human Magic-User 4 Chaotic Good
STR 12 INT 12 WIS 12 DEX 10 CON 12 CHR 14
HP 13 AC 7 Gold 40
Scimitar, +1 Dagger, Leather Armor
MU Spells: Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, ESP, Phantasmal Force
Non-Combat Bonuses & Penalties: +6 to mariner rolls (+4 from careers, +2 from boon); +2 to merchant rolls; +2 to religion rolls; +2 to carousing rolls; −2 to resisting greed
Note that even though he had a rank of 0 in Sorcerer as a BoL character I went ahead and made him into a 100% Magic-User in LL. Even rank zero qualifies you to cast some scary stuff in BoL, so having that should – at a minimum – result in a 2/2 split with another class. More often, though, it should override all the other possible class considerations (in my opinion). Or you can, of course, build the character without magic at all. That’s an entirely reasonable approach as well. Mostly I think it depends on your conception of the character in question and the level of magic in the campaign you’re working with.
Now, let’s convert a monster – just for fun. In this case, let’s use the Ilthoth-eg of Nogoloth.
No. Enc.: 2d4 (2d4)
Alignment: Chaotic (Neutral)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 1-1
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Hoard Class: VI
Small, grey-furred cat-like beasts that inhabit the caves deep within the northern mountains of Nogoloth, Ilthoth-eg are set apart from the “normal” wildcats of the region by their abundance of eyes. A typical Ilthoth-eg possesses somewhere between 7 and 11 eyes arrayed across their bodies. Though not truly intelligent, these animals chitter and whisper their previous victims’ words as they stalk their prey through the darkness of the caves.
Due to their abundance of eyes, Ilthoth-eg are only surprised on a 1-in-6. Further, these creatures are incredibly difficult for thieves to backstab. A thief attempting to perform this maneuver against an Ilthoth-eg suffers a −25% penalty to the move silently and hide in shadows rolls necessary for a successful backstab.
Following my suggestion of tweaking the movement rate for a converted creature beyond 90/30, I upped these guys slightly based on their wildcat-esque nature. I improvised on the No. Encountered, Morale and Hoard Class for these guys. The Save As and XP Value were calculated per the LL rules.
So that’s my ideas for converting Barbarians of Lemuria characters and monsters to Labyrinth Lord. I think they’ll get the job done well enough for most purposes. These should also allow you to take BoL resources and use them in any other game from the same gene pool as LL. Those games are, after all, pretty much the same game with some minor changes here and there.
I’m open to any thoughts you, my readers and friends, might have on how to handle things. So go nuts in the comments if you like. Your input is, as always, invaluable to me.
*Other iterations of the source material refer to a 4th level MU as a Theurgist. You can’t win ’em all.
Yeah, that wasn’t actually all that quick, all things considered. But hey, I never promised you a rose garden, kids 🙂
Comprehensive. I can really appreciate the challenge in trying to port BoL’s magic system.
Would you consider a hero points equivalent in LL? Not having them makes the game play a little less “wahoo,” a little more “I prod it with my ten foot pole and retreat around the corner,” satisfying on some levels, but not evocative of, say, Conan.
Another feature that could potentially transfer (and has me lighting candles in my personal shrine to Simon Washbourne) is the way BoL handles healing. LL and the retro-clones et. al. pretty much necessitate having clerics, healing spells, and the whole ‘resource management’ approach to fighting, which, again has some appeal but doesn’t always feel like Swords and Sorcery.
Oh yeah, those two approaches to magic are way, way off from each other. Really about the only thing to do is shrug and say “Well, here’s how it works in this game. Deal.” And since the conversion guidelines are more intended for using BoL adventures and stuff with LL, rather than actually converting a campaign in progress, that should be ok.
I’m always a sucker for hero point concepts, but I’m not sure if I’d put one in LL. Both that and the healing stuff you mention are part of what make BoL what it is. Conversely, the lack of such things are part of what make LL and its cousins what they are. I’d rather just play BoL instead of hacking LL to be like BoL. And I think most people who want to play LL want it to be the LL experience, complete with 10′ poles and Clerics and such.
Ultimately, I don’t want to turn LL into BoL (or vice versa). They’re both great games that do specific things very well. That said, I’d totally consider adapting those concepts to an LL game if that was the only way I could get the players on board for a specific setting or something. Fortunately, BRP (as noted previously) is the middle ground with my group, and it already has some decent Fate Points mechanics (in the Big Gold Book, anyway) and some non-magical healing methods as well.
The truth is that I really only banged these conversion concepts out so that the Nogoloth and Tlactoztlan stuff (and anything else I wind up doing using the BoL rules) could potentially reach a broader audience. Though I think the audience for both – regardless of system (and especially if conversion is required) – is fairly small. But that’s a different topic entirely 🙂
“…(and has me lighting candles in my personal shrine to Simon Washbourne)….”
You’ve got one too?
Don’t we all? 🙂