Running the Temple of Elemental Evil with ACKS


I’m GMing an ACKS game; we’re all new to it, and old-school-style games in general (the oldest of us has played AD&D; I cut my eyeteeth on 3.5). “Good ol’ dungeon-crawl bash in the door kill the bad guys take their stuff” was the type of game desired, and so I’ve decided the Temple of Elemental Evil should do. They didn’t want to start fresh (us having run through perhaps six different systems in as many months) so I threw everyone 10k XP (before I read the section on starting advanced characters; whoops) and we started rolling up characters.

My questions revolve around the differences between the system ToEE was written for (1st ed, right?) and ACKS. I can get around most of them (different monsters, spells, etc.), but I’d like to bring a few concerns to the wise denizens here.

Firstly, AC. I think I can just take 10 minus whatever the statblock has and make that ACKS AC, right? Complicating factors include whether all the armors are the same (I think Plate is -7 vice ACKS’ 6?) and the bonuses for Dex being different. Can anyone please enlighten me on the differences between ACKS and [1st ed. I think] in this regard?

Secondly, teh phat lewts. ACKS rewards straight 1xp for 1gp recovered - reading the module I think it was written for more 1xp per 5 gp recovered. Is keeping the loot stat blocks as-is going to rocket my party’s level into the stratosphere? (They might need it for the 4th floor, ha!) Also, are the monetary systems themselves equivalent? I felt like Gygax and Mentzer are just throwing double-handfuls of pp at the PCs, but maybe I’m just stingy.

Thirdly, does anyone whose run ToEE before have any advice, general or specific? I’m also a new GM so any advice on that is also certainly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

-the Fool

So, I ran ToEE in Hackmaster oh these many years ago. the T1 portion of the crawl is really quite good. I like the T2 to T4 parts much less.

First, I rebuilt the shape of the floors of the Temple to suit my needs. They wound up completely different.

I’d honestly go through and rebuild the treasure in lairs- the temple itself is not such a bad place to get random stuff kicking around, which I would mostly leave as is.

If you feel like leveling is going too high at any given point, I’d dial the coins in a given trove back a decimal. Assuming a party of five, the Temple more or less figures you’ll be level 8 by the time you’re done. My crew messed up and summoned the full force of the temple onto their heads around 4th, kipped out and never went back.

Assuming 5 PCs, doing only the Temple and no side quests, there should be about 600,000 xp in the dungeon, which translates out to about 500k gold and 100k monsters. I’ve no idea how it actually wrangles out, but a quick perusal of level 4 for a few pages has me counting over 50k in gold fairly easily.

If there’s not enough treasure to advance, then your guys may need a side quest or six. My party for my current Dwimmermount game have gone afield to a few nameless microdungeons, the ruins of a dwarf citadel, and a bandit-infested ruined city just because Dwimmermount got boring.

I haven’t personally run 1E ToEE, so these comments are general based on my experience in running a lot of 1E->ACKS conversions and a lot of modules written by Gary Gygax.

AC: ACKS AC = 10 minus 1E AC. Unless you have an excess of free time, I wouldn’t worry about re-calculating the monster stat blocks other than that. Yes, there can be a 1 point difference between ACKS plate and 1E plate, and a 1 point difference for DEX 18 (-4 AC v. +3 AC). But that means the biggest difference is 10%.

Loot: My experience in running Gygax/Mentzer modules is that they tend to be more difficult than other adventures for similar level characters, and that they tend to give more treasure in exchange. As a result I generally see a higher body count, with faster leveling for the survivors.

I’d recommend you take the most minimalist approach you can to adapting the module, making only such changes as are strictly necessary.

We made a start on the temple. T1 was great but the PCs got a little bored by level 2 in the dungeon. They do not mind dungeon hacks but big hacks get a bit repetitive.

Your basic idea with ACs is correct and you can modify them if needed depending on how familiar with A&D armor you are. No offence to Alex but he may have made a small boo boo with attack throws as it is slightly harder to convert from AD&D or 3rd ed. AD&D-3rd ed conversion is a bit easier IMHO. I have played enough ACKs/AD&D/3rd ed I can convert in my head off the page as the DM.

ACKs and 1st ed both use the 1 gp= 1xp rule IIRC.Or at least BECMI did so I claim memory fart. ToEE is loaded down with gold though so in effect this means rapid xp gains. We also started with level 2 ACKs characters as they are kinda weaker in some ways than AD&D characters, a bit more powerful in other ways (the healing prof is very very good in ACKs).

Alex can you post a table on these forums? I can do an AD&D-ACKs-3rd ed conversion table for ACs and attack throw/THAC0/BAB conversion.

If you set the text format to Visual Editor, you should be able to cut-and-paste a table directly from Word. That’s how I’ve always done it.

Also, technically I did not make a mistake about Attack Throws, I simply didn’t mention them. I make enough mistakes already in my rules, no ascribing additional ones to me!!

Thanks for all the replies!

So to keep things simple I’ll take the monster entries as they are in the module, AC = 10-%statblock entry%; I’ll ignore the plate/Dex nuances. For attack throws I’ll use the ACKS monster tables (by HD, right?). I won’t worry about loot unless it actually starts becoming a problem (either too little or too much; we might have a 6th PC joining us so I doubt it’ll actually be too much now).

I’ll just handwave the differences in monsters and try to find loot/spells that are similar. (I didn’t have too much trouble Googling for Keoghtom’s Ointment, at least!)

Thanks again for the help! Any advice for running a dungeon crawl in general? Clever ways of keeping time? How exacting should I be regarding torches and rations?

Stay awesome,

-the Fool

Managing the logistics burden is one of the hardest challenges for the exploration-focused campaign. Opinions vary widely on how closely and carefully to track time.

I’m sure some GMs can do it in their head, and others can intuitively estimate it in ways that are fair for all. I can’t! So I keep a notebook open during play in which I note down what the players do. (I use these to write up my actual-play reports later).

In the notebook, I mark the passage of time. During dungeon crawls, I hash-mark each turn until they reach six turns, then mark an hour, etc. I inform the PCs to scratch off a torch or flask of oil each hour.

When a spell with a duration is cast, I write down the spell, when it was cast, and when it will expire.

I don’t necessarily do the above in real-time however. Dungeon/sandbox exploration tends to create decision points where the PCs need to stop, think, and discuss among themselves. That’s when I get “caught up”. (That has a secondary benefit of getting me to shut up and not interfere in their discussion).

I critically need to start doing this regarding torches and food especially. I’ve got 14 players running 22 characters, and my after action reports aren’t so hot.
We use a facebook group, and I’ve offered a 5% bonus to earned XP per session if the player posts an in character description of their session after it is complete.

I tend to keep a red d6 around that I use just for counting down torch / rest durations. +%XP for session reports is a good idea anyway, though…

I might steal that red d6 idea! Thanks!

I would love to see an ‘official’ conversion document for B/X, BECMI, AD&D and (to a lesser extent) 3rd edition.

ACKs is based on B/X so that should require minimal conversion.
BECMI is very similar and so again should not require much conversion. The higher level stuff can probably be ignored.

AD&D is harder. There is a BECMI to AD&D conversion guide in the Rules Cyclopedia if I recall correctly. The issue with AD&D is the scale is slightly different. This thread hasp already covered AC but ‘to hit’ and HP are different. In AD&D Fighters get a d10, Clerics a d8 and Thieves a d6. Monsters are based on a d8. (All IIRC, my books are packed away.). This is one die type higher than B/X and ACKs.

Also the ‘to hit’ progression is different I believe. (As an aside I am intrigued by the comment that Alex made a mistake with attack throws mechanism and the response. Why is this?)

All old editions of D&D derive to-hit directly from HD (although the 2E manuals print THAC0 separately and often actually get it wrong), so that’s not problem at all. You’ll just have to re-roll hit points for PCs. Monsters, though, require next to no conversion in my experience: you just adjust AC by 1 and recalculate XP values. (I’ve converted over a pile of AD&D 2E monsters so far.)

AD&D monsters improve their to-hit by 2 per 2 HD. ACKS does to-hit improvements much more sensibly than AD&D, IMO; instead of giving monsters a bump of 2 every 2 HD, they get 1 per 1 HD. The same for clerics. I really see no good reason to not increase THAC0 at 1:1 for monsters in AD&D 2E (although I have a vague recollection of having read a decent one, I still didn’t agree with it).

3E, though… forget about it, really. You’d have to build everything from scratch. Even HD don’t really translate over directly, IMO, because the “value” of 3E HD is so different.

I think the attack throw thing is that there’s some “offset” between B/X and AD&D attacks. B/X starts descending AC at 9 (chain mail at 5), and you need a 10+ on d20 to hit AC 9 (14+ to hit chain mail), by default. ACKS starts ascending AC at 0 (chain mail at 4), and you need a 10+ to hit AC 0 (14+ to hit chain mail).

However, in AD&D, AC starts at 10, chain mail is AC 5, and then things get complicated…

In 1E, by the matrixes, a 1st-level character (other than magic-users and illusionists) needs an 10+ to hit AC 10. That means 15+ to hit AC 5! That’s 5% harder than in B/X or ACKS. A 0-level man or a 1st-level magic-user/illusionist needs 11+ to hit AC 10, or 16+ to hit AC 5. (10% harder!) A 1 HD monster needs 9+ to hit AC 10, and 14+ to hit AC 5. HD 1-1 monsters need 10+ for AC 10, and monsters with less than 1-1 HD need 11+. Monsters with 1+1 HD need 8+, and then we get a staggered progression…

In 2E, things change again! 0-level people to 1st-level PCs need 10+ to hit AC 10, and 15+ to hit AC 5 (so, flat 5% harder than in B/X or ACKS). Monsters of 1 HD need 9+ to hit AC 10, and 14+ to hit AC 5. 2E also switches fighters from a “2:2” progression to a “1:1” progression, and gives monsters a “2:2” progression (so their THAC0 is always odd past 1 HD; 17 at 3 HD, 15 at 5 HD, but never 18 or 16).

So the to-hit numbers are basically off by 5% between AD&D and ACKS (and also, 1E is kind of crazy).

Er, when I say “AD&D monsters” in the 2nd paragraph, I mean AD&D 2E. AD&D 1E monsters improve by 1.5 every 2 HD.

Rhyme, great posts, thank you. I will need to digest a bit.

Damn autocorrect!

That was probably my comment. My players have been struggling with attack throws. They are mostly used to 3rd/4E type ascending ACs and were struggling with THACO in 2nd ed so I converted it to attack bonus like Pathfinder, Castles and Crusades etc, Myth and Magic etc.

ACKs uses something half way between THACO and BAB in effect. It kind of works but I find THACO/BAB easier to use and +4 or whatever is very simple IMHO. Makes monster stat blocks easy. I did start a thread about converting THACO, BAB and attack throws though.


It’s fairly easy to convert, fortunately, isn’t it?

[Attack Bonus] = 10 - [Attack Throw]
Add +10 to AC to get “target number AC.”

So, a 2nd-level fighter has +1 to hit, and an unarmored dweeb has AC 10. The fighter needs to roll 9+ on d20 to hit (9+1=10).

AD&D 2E THAC0 turns into attack bonus easily, too: [Attack Bonus] = 20 - [THACO]. A 1st-level fighter has +0, 5th-level fighter has +4. [Ascending AC] = 20 - [Descending AC], so aAC 5 becomes dAC 15 (in either case, the 1st-level fighter needs to roll 15+).

I’d just ignore the differences between THAC0 and attack results between the games, because the % chance to hit unarmored opponents for a given combatant (HD or class & level) actually varies by edition.

Although, again, I think only the AC conversion matters, since all editions derive base to-hit chances from class & level or HD.