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Skip Navigation LinksHigh Fantasy HERO>Conversions>Conversion Styles
System Conversion
Methods of Converting into the HERO System
Many people through the years have been in a position where they were playing some other Role-playing game and liked the setting, background, concept, content, and general material but reached a point where they could no longer tolerate the poor rules and / or mechanics of that game.
Some of those people have decided that rather than continue to suffer, or just roll the game up permanently, they would instead find a Universal Role-playing game whose strength is well designed rules, and convert their current game into that game system.
This offers several advantages; marrying the strong concepts and familiar continuity of an existing campaign with a more flexible, adaptable, consistent rules systems gives you the best of both worlds.
Of course, it comes at the cost of a lot of work for the GM, the social aspect of convincing the player base (who typically are unlikely to care as much about rules nuances as the GM does) to make the switch, and an unstable transition period of converting Characters and concepts while simultaneously learning the new system.
Unless most of the players and the GM are able to overcome the obstacles and maintain a good attitude about trying something new, the entire endeavor can end badly in near or total failure.
The various conversion resources presented on this web site are intended to help ease the pain and burden of this process. However, there is always more than one way to do something, and it is important for a GM coming into such an undertaking to have a clear understanding of exactly what it is they are trying to do. Without a clear goal in mind, success is much less likely.
This document discusses various approaches to a conversion and asks the GM to consider which approach most closely mirrors their own preference, offers some pros and cons to that method, and offers advise on how to use the resources provided by this web site to best effect to meet their needs.
The three distinct conversion styles discussed below basically show three points along a graph, the two most extreme ends and a point roughly in the middle. Your personal preference might lie somewhere along the line between them. In other words you might prefer something between a Look & Feel and a Total Conversion, or something between a Reboot and Look & Feel Conversion.
This is completely fine and reasonable; in such a case simply leaven the advise presented for the two styles you fall between with each other. As you move between the points the pros and cons of the first morph into the cons and pros of the other.
Total Conversion
One of the approaches a GM can take is an attempt to do an as exact as possible conversion of whatever system they are coming from, bending the mechanics of the new game system to model the mechanics of the old system as closely as possible.
The only real advantage to this approach is that if you do it correctly, even the most contrary and reluctant player will  be able to make the transition to the new game without much grounds for complaint (other than why are we even bothering to do this?).
However, while this may seem to be a logical approach on the surface, it is actually replete with problems.
For starters, it takes the most work of all the possible approaches, by far. In addition to all the other obstacles inherent to transitioning your game, now you also have to overcome difficult mechanical conundrums, which also often have ripple effects such that even one seemingly minor change can have a massive effect much like throwing a pebble into a pond.
Secondly, and this is the kicker, if you're undergoing a conversion just to make the new system exactly like the previous system, the logical question is why are you converting in the first place? If you want to make the new system work like the old system you might as well just stick with the old system.
If this style of conversion is your preference, bad news. The approach taken by the conversion resources is not a Total Conversion approach, so if you are intent on doing this you'll likely find the material presented here frustrating. You can still use large chunks of the material provided to get you closer to a Total Conversion, but you'll have to do the work to bend the mechanics to fit the old system yourself.
Look & Feel Conversion (aka Analogue Conversion)
analogous: (adj) similar or correspondent in some respects though otherwise dissimilar.
Another approach to conversion is to look for parallels and analogues between the two systems and structure your conversion effort around that so that wherever possible mechanics and concepts that exist or work in both systems are paired up.
This method has a lot of advantages. The principal advantage is you are using the mechanics of the new system rather than twisting them out of shape, so whatever mechanical strengths of the new system that attracted you to it in the first place are maintained.
Another advantage is that its not a total departure from the "look and feel" of the original system since some or even many of the tropes of that game have been translated into the new system. Further, while this method does still take some work, it doesn't take as much work as a more "tight" or exact conversion would and further since you are working with the new system rather than against it, it is generally easier to overcome obstacles.
However a downside of this approach is it requires whoever is doing the bulk of the work for the conversion to know both systems well enough to understand where one system is like the other system and find the places where the source system and the target system match up.
Another downside is that since anything rooted in a mechanic or concept that doesn't align to something in the new system is dropped there will be some Characters and some players that rely or like those elements that will be disrupted by the lack. Fortunately this can be addressed on a case by case basis by extending the new system to accommodate the orphaned mechanic, but in general this works best for finite ideas that can be made to play nicely with the new system; if you find your self making changes to existing mechanics rather than just snapping on the idea you're looking to add you should stop and reconsider.
If this style of conversion is your preference, good news! This is the general approach taken by the conversion resources on this site. They are particularly intended to be helpful for people that lack the intimate knowledge of the HERO System necessary to understand where it is similar or can accommodate other systems in an elegant non-disruptive fashion.
Additionally the conversion resources also accommodate the Magic Systems of the source material as closely as possible, using the vast flexibility of the HERO System to overcome most of the the differences between the game systems. Also in some places where a key idea from the source material does not have a parallel in the HERO System, the conversion resources will provide a custom rule to handle it in a non-disruptive fashion.
Reboot Conversion
Another approach to conversion is to basically leave the old system behind and just use the mechanics of the new game system as is, reinterpreting characters in the new system and simply ignoring any thing from the old game that doesn't match up. The setting and background information from the old game is retained, but the mechanics are junked or at best used as inspiration for expressing ideas in the new systems terms.
This method offers a lot of advantages. It is by far the simplest means of conversion since you really aren't bothering to do an actual conversion. This means it is also the quickest way to convert. Since you're not tweaking around with the new systems mechanics you are also unlikely to run into major rules issues.
However, there are some downsides to this method as well. There will be some (or even many) elements of the original game that simply do not translate into the new system without some conversion effort, and thus are left behind.
This can have a huge effect on the general "feel" of the setting going forward. In some cases this all works out, with the setting mutating in a fashion that is agreeable to the GM and players, but in others it can cause the people involved to lose interest in the game as the elements that they liked about the original setting are lost.
Similarly, the archetypes that were rooted in the old game's mechanics may find themselves eclipsed by new archetypes that stem from the mechanics of the new game, which can also take the setting in new directions. Players whose liking of the old game was largely based upon a fondness for a particular sort of Character will definitely be disgruntled if their favored character type fades away or turns out to be disadvantaged in the new system.
If this style of conversion is your preference, good news! Much of the content in the conversion resources will still be useful to you since they merely demonstrate how to use the HERO System to model concepts from the original game. But, more significantly all of the generic High Fantasy HERO content provided by the site is immediately useful to you as a buffet line / cafeteria style resource for you to cherry pick from.