It’s time for the big XCrawl/4E conversion thread [Mirror]

A while ago I stumbled upon these posts by The Wyzard on I contacted him (or her) and they gave me permission to repost them here as a sequel to my Televised Dungeon Crawling posts. My ideas are not XCrawl as I wasn’t a fan of the setting, but a lot of XCrawl material could be used for it, so I thought you’d enjoy it. My comments are in blue. This is just the first post in the thread, I’ll post the rest here. Forums have a habit of loosing posts, and I thought you’d enjoy these. If you think this is a cheap post for me and I should never do it again then let me know! If you love me finding interesting things and reposting them here (with permission of course) also let me know.

Here is the first one:

It’s time for the big XCrawl/4E conversion thread by The Wyzard

XCrawl is a better fit for 4E than it was for the edition it was originally set up for. Seriously. The profusion of tactical movement powers create a more dynamic, athletic-feeling battleboard. The conditions that last for seconds instead of minutes also help with this. The new philosophy of traps contributes to faster-playing, more entertaining encounters (a room with bladed tops spinning around and caroming off the walls is, let’s face it, far more appropriate to “demented game show” than fantasy novel stuff.) The fact that encounters are balanced towards multiple opponents with individual powers who use teamwork to stymie the PCs is perfect. The fast healing rate also helps keep things moving, making things “feel” more like an athletic event or pro wrestling match than medieval combat. Anyone else can probably come up with even more reasons why this is so. The “treasure parcels” in the DMG are nearly perfectly suited for being handed out as individual-room “prize packages.”

So, how do you run it in 4E? I’m not too much of a fan of super-detailed settings. I think that you can generally get rolling with, at most, two or three pages of setting handout for each player. For that reason, I’m going to leave that part in broad strokes. If anyone else wants to fill in, then that’s awesome. But I’m not going to stress out about how the inclusion of Tieflings changes the game setting.

I’d say the biggest problem with the original XCrawl books was too much on the setting, not enough on the crawl, but that is just my opinion.

Here’s what I’ve got:

The PCs are generally talented losers in real life. That is, no matter how awesome they may objectively be, they just don’t seem to have the lucky breaks and ability to get ahead in the office that other people have. Otherwise, why would they do XCrawl? For that reason, the skills given on the character sheet are “adventuring skills.” They generally don’t have the application you’d think they have outside of XCrawl. A guy with History knows a lot about the history of XCrawl, and all the stories they got out of that intelligent sword, etc. A guy with Athletics does a great job if he ever has to out-swim a pack of ravenous alligators (either in or out of a Crawl) but he’s not necessarily the best in the office baseball team. Essentially, the PCs default to their base attribute bonus + 1/2 level if it doesn’t seem adventure-ey enough.

-I’m not sure I agree with The Wyzard here. I can see a number of people with no other options getting sucked into XCrawl (or the dungeons in my setting). Think of a suicidal white collar embezzler who knows he will never work again when he gets out and whats to leave his family something. A street thug who’s gang is destroyed by a rival and joins XCrawl rather then be hunted down by his rivals. If you use the darker version of my setting then anyone who speaks out against the government. An autoworker’s factory just closed and his family is living off welfare so he joins XCrawl for a paycheck. There are lots of reasons, and I see this as an interesting part of the character –Canageek

New Skill Uses:
1. History: Now, incredibly useful. This includes knowledge of the massively complex official rules and regulations of XCrawl. Can be used to argue technicalities, and get referees to rule for you and against the DJ. All DJs have this skill, or have advisors who have it. I’m not going to actually draw up such a codex, just run it Burning-Wheel style. The player says “But section 805(b)(1)(a) specifically prohibits installing traps outside the green room door while the PCs are in it!”
2. Dungeoneering: This skill covers knowledge of XCrawl DJs. Their habits, personalities, techniques, reputations, ons and offs. In combination with History, social skills, and and clever use of skill challenges, can provide plot-bennies.

–Ok, I love these. I’d add Streetwise for learning what the buzz about this dunegon is. I mean, think about places like Metafilter. I mean, look at this thread. Guys like this are going to track DJs every move looking for info. Did the DJ order 400lb of bamboo? They know that, and can hint he might have a dire panda. He took out a book on the care and feeding of chimara? What about the guy who cleans the cages? Streetwise will get you some hints.

Working the Crowd:

Each PC can only make use of the work-the-crowd rules once per crawl. They have three options.

1. Pre-Crawl Interviews: Make a hard Diplomacy check, and talk up one of your team members or yourself. Roleplay this out. You may include montage sequences in your description. On a success, you gain a token keyed to either yourself or the PC you talked up, as appropriate. During the game, you can spend that at any time the PC chosen has to make a D20 check, to have the crowd remember the interview. They suddenly cheer that PC on, and the PC gets a bonus. It’s +2 if it’s your character, +4 if it’s someone else’s. This must be announced before the roll.

2. Mugging for the Camera: Spend a free action to make a hard Bluff check. If successful, you get a +2 bonus to any D20 roll of your choice before the end of your next turn. Alternately, use a free action to make a hard Bluff check to call attention to one of your teammate’s efforts – they get a +4 to a roll of your choice before the end of their next turn. This must be used before the roll.

The DJs work a little differently. They get 4 bennie tokens to spend during the crawl. They use these by using lighting and stored footage to get the crowd cheering for the monsters (not that hard, since the crowd will be full of people who are backing teams other than the PC’s.) They can spend a Bennie at any time to give one of the monsters a +2 to any D20 roll. They must announce this before the roll.

This leads into use number 3:

3. Psyche-Out: A PC can make a hard Intimidate check when the DJ has announced the use of a Bennie token. If the PC fails, the token is used normally. If the PC succeeds, the monster gets a -2 rather than a +2, as the PC snarls and the monster chokes under the pressure.

Crawl Design:
I suggest using the following as a basis. A Crawl consists of three Delves – each Delve must be completed within a day. Delve 1 has about three level-appropriate-encounters, Day 2 has the same, Day 3 has about 4. Appropriately designed, this means the PCs will gain a level per crawl (So, one per game-year unless they get in more than one.) Obviously, some variation on this is normal. Mostly, it makes it really easy to split up the treasure parcels. The best treasure is on Day 3, so that it only goes to parties who don’t wash out. PCs can get in a short rest once per encounter room, if they want to rest longer they need to find a green room (This shouldn’t be necessary, if they’re sharp enough, since they can always get rested between delves.)

The GM can also, of course, come up with various non-standard tournament forms, such as linear dungeons that are pure time-trial, etc.

I’d mix this up a lot as I feel this would get boring. Just grab maps from D&D mods, Shadowrun, even starship deck plans and use that. There was a battle in roman times where they flooded the arena and staged a naval battle. Now think of doing that in roman times and extrapolate with additional technology. A pure time trial set in a mall filled with zombies? A McGuffin retrieval on a decommissioned warship….as it sinks? Go for it. Pure combat games get old quickly unless you keep things diverse.

Suggestions? I’m really not sure how one should do scoring. Knowing that there are other parties going through the crawl as well, what’s a good way of judging the PC’s performance? I’ve considered a combination of bonuses for goals and penalties for extra time, but I’m not completely certain how that should work, or even if it’s worth the effort.

And the message giving me permission:

The Wyzard
Post Re: Do you mind if I mirror your posts?
Quote: Originally Posted by Canageek
I’ve been doing a blog series on televised dungeon crawling: It’s not XCrawl, but its in the same genre. I’m going to link to your posts at but was wondering if I could mirror them? RPG.NET has been known to lose threads from time to time and if I run a game I’d definitely be referencing your posts when explaining the world to people. I’m NOT a high traffic blog, its just a personal indulgence of mine, but I’d be willing to link to any blog or website you have in exchange for the privilege.
I’d like credit and a link back to the thread in any post mirroring it, obviously, but as far as I’m concerned you can go to town.
I’d also like a link to your blog, in case there’s any interesting discussion. Get some interest, and I might even go back to working on the idea in-thread.

Until next time, Stay Geeky.


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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey, it’s cool to see this finally posted.

    The original post has to be about a year old, and I’d say that with the more sophisticated understanding of 4E that I have now, I’d absolutely change a few things.

    I’d really prefer to see the “bennie-spending” powers have uses keyed to different abilities, probably take a minor action, and possibly have uses comparable to skill powers. I think you’re right that a completely standardized crawl format would eventually get boring, but it might also be beneficial to have an idea of what a “baseline” crawl is like in order to make the deviations stand out.

    I still have no idea how one should decide whether the PCs beat the other teams. It’s possible that the only viable method would be to have a list of various objective measures (number and type of rests taken, etc.) that add up into an abstract pool of “victory points,” and judge the party’s performance by their score. Biasing this system to make the PCs very likely to win unless they completely screw up, or toward making it fairly challenging to take first prize, would make it possible for the individual GM to decide somewhat on the tone of the game.

    The more I think about it, the more I decide that what I would really like to do is make a fairly detailed meta-game system, tracking the popularity of teams and individual players, as well as that of the DJs, and their relationships and influence. Essentially, a 4E/XCrawl version of Damnation City/Block By Bloody Block.

    I suspect, though, that there are about ten gamers in the world who would want to play that game.

  2. Hey There,

    Brendan LaSalle, creator of Xcrawl here. Thanks for the great post! Very interesting take on the game. I love the idea of journalists “tracking” the DJ’s, looking for clues to upcoming challenges. Intriguing!

    When 4E was first announced I began making plans for a 4E version of Xcrawl. Unfortunately, the license as written disallows modern style games and games that reference the real world from going 4E. As of this writing, there can not be a legal version of 4E Xcrawl.

    Watch the Goodman Games for an announcement regarding the new edition of Xcrawl, coming soon!

    be well,


  3. […] always. So without further ado, The Wyzard’s posts on XCrawl. Oh and the creator of XCrawl has posted a comment back on the first post in this series if you want to check it out. This is taken from the Wyzard’s thread if you’ve […]

  4. I like the ideas here, and I will actually implement some. That being said, while at first blush 4E seems made for Xcrawl, pepople may want to take a nother look.
    The -tactical- side of 4E is a perfect match, no doubt about it. But the way 4E simplified characters down to repetitive damage machines is not. Xcrawl is at its core organized chaos, where the DJ plays AGAINST the team(s) and vice versa. 3.5/Pathfinder is much better in its non limiting of player creativity. 4E is by its very nature limiting. Aside from the ability to create damage in a variety of ways, the characters are very limited. Not good imo.
    If you want to run a pure fighting game, the 4E is your one trick pony. You want high adventure? ANY other version of AD&D is your vehicle of choice.

    • I keep hearing that, but aside from some spells I don’t see much that you can do with 3e you can’t do with 4e. Now I do find the spells that are missing take something with them, but most of them where banned in the XCrawl setting anyway. Can you give me some examples?

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