Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Al-Qadim 5e Patch (with an eye towards a 13th Age patch too)

I'd like to run an Al-Qadim game in the fall, and I have two options: 1) run it with the old 2nd Edition rules, or 2) convert another system. So what would it take to do Al-Qadim well in 5th Edition or 13th Age? Looking at what minimal changes are required, it seems that 13th Age might be an easier conversion than 5th Edition, largely because of reflavoring the magic to elemental specialties, though the Icons will require more thought. The hardest bit is getting two of the most iconic elements of Al-Qadim into any patch: the Hakima and Sha'ir.

(Why no Pathfinder? I think the company is awesome, but the design philosophy doesn't float my boat. DungeonWorld might be equally awesome or Savage Worlds or whatnot, but they're also not what I'm interested in just now.)

1) Races. The basic races are probably fine. If I had the gumption I'd add in Goblins and Orcs just to remind people that Al-Qadim is a cosmopolitan setting and racial prejudices don't exist. I think this is one of the things Al-Qadim got right over Kara-Tur: its normal D&D fantasy in an Arabian setting, not what the Arabian version of D&D look like. It gives some normalcy amidst the exotic which might help people otherwise disinclined to try.

2) Classes. God, I wish I could just use the classes as written. But 5th Edition has started baking a few too many assumptions into some classes and options. Too many classes look like they're getting magic. I'm afraid to see the Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster, but those can be listed as non-options.

Clerics, however, might need a slight change of domains to work well. Ideally, domains would be something like: Bravery, Truth, Freedom, Wealth, Fruitfulness/Hard Work, Wisdom, Adventure, Beauty, Intelligence/Learning, Unity, Acceptance/Tolerance, Duty... Then there's the Hakima...

Wizards (and sorcerers and warlocks) might be redeemable by cutting their spell list down a bit and creating elemental provinces out of those, as Al-Qadim originally did. The elemental magic doesn't do all that much for me, but the Brotherhood of True Flame is a pretty neat and ubiquitous setting element. While the Brotherhood doesn't quite need rival elemental opponents, it would be kinda hard to let 5th edition wizards be the school-based mages they're presented as. So wizards might need 2-5 replacement specialties in lieu of the traditional 8 schools of magic (4 elements plus the "generalist" with 2 elements). 13th Age wizards might be a little easier, as you just force a reflavoring of spells to one element.

5th Edition Warlocks and Sorcerers might be a bit harder too. Both classes could use Genie-inspired builds: a genie heritage to replace draconic, and a some elemental genie pacts for warlocks. One might reflavor the Archfey and Fiend pacts with Jann and Efreet respectively. Maybe.

Bardic colleges might need to be reflavored or a new one added (barbering?). Barbering might also make a good thief scheme.

Then there's the iconic Sha'ir class. I think the genie lore and knowledge is more important than the gen per se, but I can see a warlock, wizard, or sorcerer (or bard!) getting a gen familiar and genie powers, so each class could have a build that fulfills that role. The crazy spellcasting mechanic would be cool to re-implement, but i'd have to see how the system works a lot more before considering how to implement it. Same sort of issue if one were to use 13th Age. The cheap way to do the Sha'ir then would be a feat that grants a special version of ritual caster: get a familiar who searches for ritual spells and cast them. Harder to find non-ritual spells or spells on another caster list. Doesn't muck with combat options as much. I'll have to rethink this once the PhB is released. Not sure how 13th Age would deal with this, though it could easily be a wizard talent perhaps.

3) Kits as Backgrounds.
By and large, the kits of 2nd edition can be backgrounds in 5th edition. In 13th Age, they are probably just sample character ideas. This is probably the easiest part, except for the Hakima and Sha'ir which are more like unique classes than sub-classes.

4) Spells.
As I mentioned earlier, this is just pairing down the spell list from the PhB for arcane classes and giving elemental province options. Also, because there's bound to be some gaps, update a few of the old Al-Qadim spells so each elemental province has a couple spells at each level. 13th Age might require less work on this end as reflavoring could do a lot of work here.

5) Cuts.
A few things might get cut as non-thematic. Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster come to mind, but those could just get an elemental spell focus somehow. The Great Old One warlock pact isn't too thematic, but maybe it's just a dispreferred element. Paladins are kinda odd in Al-Qadim. Monks can be the new Mystics of Nog, Barbarians can be from any number of unenlightened desert or island or ruined kingdoms tribes. So it might not be too bad.

13th Age might similarly need a cut, but maybe not too much from the main book. Occultist, Chaos Mage, Druid, and Paladin seem less fitting, and possible some aspects of the Bard (though poets were huge in pre-Islamic Arabia).

6) Icons.
13th Age has icons. I'm not sure what the Al-Qadim Icons might be. Probably major political forces: The Grand Caliph, The Pantheon, The Temple of Ten Thousand Gods, Brotherhood of True Flame, The Cold Gods of the Elements, The Yikaria, the Genie Lords... There's a lot of options. Each Holy Slayer group, Each Mystic group, each desert tribe... I guess there might be something to be said for keeping the number to an iconic 13 in 13th Age. Heck, any given city could be an icon, or the regions as a whole. Al-Qadim has so much described, but few (memorable?) major NPCs with world-changing agendas.

So, what's the total work-load?
2nd Edition: Nothing.

5th Edition (Basics): Convert old kits to backgrounds, possibly a new Cleric domain or two (Hakima!), 2-5 wizard specialties, spell-list triage. Something with the Sha'ir. Ban a few non-thematic options as native characters (Eldritch knight, Arcane trickster, Draconic Sorcerer, etc.)

5th Edition (Complete): Maybe add a Goblin/Orc race. Also check for new bardic colleges (Barbering) and thief specialties (Barber, Merchant) as well as other kits that might become class elements.

13th Age: Kits as inspirational list, guidelines for elementalizing arcane spells. Something for the Hakima and Sha'ir (maybe just a new talent for wizards and clerics?).

While I'm totally intrigued with testing out some new rules, I do wonder if its worth it to just use 2nd edition. Planescape or Spelljammer might be much easier conversion since they used more of the mainstream options, and races are much easier to cobble together than classes or class variants.


  1. I started a Middle Eastern-flavored 5e game over the summer. It didn't make it, but I tried to run it as-written, reflavoring to taste. I think if I tried such a thing again, I might just do 2nd edition Al-Qadim. Le sigh.

    1. I opted to use second edition. There have been many WTF moments, but I think everyone is enjoying it.