Conversions to 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons
Updated: Jun 8
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Crit Academy discusses converting old Dungeons & Dragons content to 5th Edition. Many of us have played through multiple iterations of the game, and through all that, we developed some beloved characters, monsters, and worlds. We walk through a guide published by Wizards of the Coast to help transition your old favorites to the newest version of D&D.
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Segment: Main Topic: Conversions to 5th Edition D&D
This document provides guidelines for converting characters and adventures from earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons to the fifth edition.
Conversion of D&D material is more art than science. The aim of conversion is to arrive at something that feels like the older-edition version, rather than at an exact replication. The guidelines in this document are intended to help you create what you want, not to force your choices along particular lines.
Converting Your Player Character
Your DM sets the starting level of a converted character. For fourth edition characters, fifth edition level is two-thirds of fourth edition level, rounded normally instead of always down. For example, 25th level in fourth edition becomes 17th level in fifth edition. Level in other editions converts directly into fifth edition, but only up to 20th level.
Choose the race that most closely matches your character’s race. For instance, a wild elf in Faerûn is closest to the wood elf in the Player’s Handbook. Replace all racial traits with those from the fifth edition Player’s Handbook. Ignore traits that have no bearing on fifth edition characters, such as third edition’s favored class trait or other editions’ class limitations.
Racial proficiencies of like kind—skill, tool, or weapon can be swapped for their equivalents in fifth edition. You might swap skill proficiency for tool proficiency when the tool is a better representation of a skill from a previous edition.
Details are given for converting races not represented in the Player’s Handbook as well. This focus is mostly on verbiage and features.
Choose the fifth edition class that most closely matches your character’s class (or classes, if your character has more than one). Alternatively, choose the class that most closely matches how you’d like your character to be in the game’s narrative.
Don’t feel constrained by your character’s original class or classes. For example, you might decide that warlock or sorcerer is a better fit for your magic-user’s story than wizard. Similarly, you are free to decide that fifth edition’s paladin class or a cleric of the War domain better expresses your fighter/cleric than multiclassing does.
Multiclassing can be the answer to fulfilling many character concepts. Before multiclassing in fifth edition, however, make sure no single class’s development path fits the character’s intent better. The DM can also use the “Modifying a Class” section in chapter 9 of the DMG.
For most editions, a character’s ability scores, unmodified by magic, can convert directly to fifth edition values. In all cases, the upper score limit of 20 still applies. A few extra guidelines follow.
We recommend following the Reassigning Ability Scores Guidelines, as it just makes it easier. Rather than converting scores, especially if you have trouble doing so, you can follow the rules for determining ability scores set forth in the fifth edition Player’s Handbook. To do so, use the standard set of scores or customized scores acquired by spending points. Then apply racial adjustments and any adjustments
from the Ability Score Improvement class feature. Use the original character’s ability scores to guide your choices.
In fifth edition, a character’s proficiency options usually come from race, class, and background. Weapon proficiencies can be changed only with DM permission. Based on your character’s history, you should choose a background for your character during conversion. Alternatively, the DM can help you create an appropriate background. Then pick proficiencies that reflect what the character was good at in the previous edition. In the Guide you can find a few other guidelines for specific editions.
In the conversion process, feats from third and fourth edition should usually be ignored, because feats in fifth edition have a very different place in the game than the feats did in those two editions.
When converting a spell from an earlier edition, your first task is to make sure the intended effect doesn’t already exist in a spell in fifth edition. Even if the effect doesn’t exist, a similar one might. If you find a similar effect, you can use that spell instead. Or you can base the new spell on the existing one, making the job easier.
When you create a spell, use the “Creating a Spell” section in chapter 9 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide
Rather than going through the work of full conversion, you may use published adventures from the first three D&D editions as they’re printed. You can “convert” during play using the guidelines in this section. Fourth edition adventures are usually amenable to quick conversion.
When you do so, it will be difficult to give experience points based on encounters and to determine encounter difficulty accurately. Therefore, be prepared to improvise and allow level advancement through alternative methods, such as those described in chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
The first task is to select an adventure of the appropriate level for your player characters. Characters of a level in the middle of a suggested level range are likely to find the most challenge with the least overt risk of excessively difficult encounters. In any case, adventures along the lower and middle parts of the level spectrum work better with quick conversion.
See full guide for further details on changing of monster statistics and treasures.
A masked menace terrifies the region, raiding villages to fund her devious plan. Unknowingly, the adventurers stumble into her most recent evil scheme: the kidnapping of a famous performer known as Devon Artis. Their mission is to deliver a ransom and collect Devon. Though, as in most cases, not all goes as planned.
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Ardent Soul: (PHB3 4E)
You are a brilliant vessel; you embody hope, joy, and endless confidence, and your presence lifts your allies’ spirits. On the battlefield, you wash away despair, dispel doubt, and fuel your allies’ passions.
As an argent soul, you have an uncommonly pure spirit. You see the best in every situation, finding solutions where others find only defeat. Melancholy has no hold on you, for optimism’s light burns away grief. Others find your good nature infectious and strive to rise to your example.
The road to becoming an argent soul is varied. You can simply be a good and wholesome person, untouched by the horrors you have witnessed, or you might have been touched by a god, your soul purified and claimed for a higher purpose. Regardless of the cause of your transformation, it is profound.
When you fight, a silver corona glimmers around you. Those it touches feel their confidence building, the pain from their injuries falling away so that they can keep fighting no matter the odds.
Hyrax Tower Scout (Theros)
“The scouts of Hyrax Tower keep watch at the edge of Setessan territory, protecting the polis from inhuman monsters and enemy armies.”
Some have attempted to cross the borders into Setessa and have failed for they have underestimated the scouts at Hydrax tower. These scouts take their duties with a dedication few rival in protection of their country and their sisters in arms. Those that attacked them expecting easy prey, only find their attacks repaid in kind and decisively.
Origin Statblock: Merrow
Lost Features. Amphibious, Bite, Claw Large size. Harpoon
Add a shield for a +2 AC bonus
Long Spear. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft. and range 30/60 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 +4) piercing damage or 13 (2d8 +4) piercing damage if used with two hands to make a melee attack.
Reaction: Sweeping Counter. When a creature misses the scout with a melee attack, it can use its reaction to make a long spear attack against the creature. On a hit, the target must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
Keep it safe!
A dying warrior emerges from a forest with a strange box. His dying words: “Keep it safe.”
Nyx Lotus (Theros)
Wondrous Item, rare (requires attunement)
This unique pink and purples star shaped flower is extremely rare. It is formed when powerful divine energies clash. It surrounds those who attune to it with powerful defensive magic.
You gain the following benefits while attuned to lotus.
You can cast the mage armor spell at will.
Your spell save DC and spell attack bonus each increase by 1.
The lotus has 4 charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend a charge to harness the lotus’ power. The next spell you cast within a minute is treated as if it was cast at one level higher up to a maximum of 9th level.
The lotus regains all expended charges after a tenday.
Dungeon Master Tip:
Don’t be afraid to end a session a little early, especially if it would make for a great cliffhanger, you've reached the end of your prep work, stumbled onto a good stopping point or the day is just long and stressful for some reason.
Player Tip: Don’t be a Dick
Don’t fear a characters Death - Bookmans
It’s surprising how attached a player can become to their character. People even grow attached to another’s character or an NPC (a non-player character which the DM creates and plays as). To combat the worry of losing an amazing character, try rolling a new one. Think about this new characters story, style, and personality. It’s not uncommon for a veteran player to have several characters they are excited to “bring out.” You can consider making this character a relative or friend to your other character. This way, should they fall, their memory lives on. Also, your character you can revitalize your character in a new campaign.
Closing: Please join us on our next episode we will discuss Elminster's Candlekeep Companion.
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