One of the selling points of the current (5th) edition of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game was its streamlined compatibility with older editions of the venerable game — or, at least, its ease of converting old content to the new edition. Still, converting older monsters, adventures and characters can be a chore in even the best of conditions.
The D&D Beyond licensed and official digital tools are a huge step in being able to take old adventures and adapt them on the fly to 5th Edition games.
Nerdvana was provided with access to D&D Beyond’s features.
Dipping back into Dungeon Mastering after years away is intimidating enough, especially when you haven’t so much as played in a game for all those years. Favored by the gods and faced with the prospect recently, I intended to use the D&D Starter Set adventure “Lost Mines of Phandelver” or, more likely, the new D&D Essentials Kit’s “Dragon of Icespire Peak” as an entree for my players.
As the dawn of a new campaign approaches, however, I have come around to thinking I may even start off in a more basic way, throwing some total newcomers to the game into a simple five-room dungeon scenario I create myself or, even more likely, just running them through the simple chambers of the solo dungeon in the old Basic D&D “Red Box” that I started with all those years ago.
Rather than writing up an intensive “conversion” of this dungeon, though, it’s easier to just pull up the monsters and items therein using a laptop, tablet or phone with D&D Beyond. The basic descriptions and scenarios in the old adventure can stand, but instead of using the stats as written, or rewriting them (sounds like homework), I can use D&D Beyond as a reference for the actual “guts” when it comes to battle.
That Rust Monster? Ignore the hit points, armor class etc. in the old book and pull up the 5E version from D&D Beyond’s version of the Monster Manual in a browser tab or the mobile app. Or, I don’t know, substitute a different monster if you feel like it. Those old basic dungeons’ denizens and their placement could feel a little arbitrary, in retrospect. You DM you.
It’s easy to imagine applying this to converting old dungeons from many classic D&D adventure modules that haven’t already been adapted for 5th Edition yet, but are widely available again (either collecting dust on your bookshelf, purchased secondhand or reprinted as a PDF or print-on-demand from Dungeon Masters Guild or DriveThruRPG). (“Red Hand of Doom,” anyone?)
Of course, depending on the adventure, there is arguably more to converting old dungeons than simply substituting statistics. Player character balance differs from one edition to another, for example. But sometimes the simple approach is better, and, in a pinch, this method can get you started down the path of putting those older D&D materials to good use when you really want to dip back into them.
More about D&D Beyond
The D&D Beyond mobile app, which is free to download but requires an account to use and a paid subscription to access content beyond the basic free rules, isn’t perfect, but it’s a great way to access sourcebook and adventure material quickly at the table without fumbling through the many print books. And, if you have access to enough titles in Beyond, it becomes a one-stop shop that brings what would be possibly dozens of books together in one place, literally at your fingertips. What the app lacks, currently, is access to digital character sheets and homebrew creations you can create, edit and view through a web browser.
The D&D Beyond service is marking its two-year anniversary this week. David Buck evaluated the D&D Beyond service for us as a beta tester a couple years back, and we plan to have some more explorations here of how it’s evolved since then coming up on Nerdvana in the future, including the Encounter Builder, which is now in alpha testing and available only to Hero and Master tier subscribers but is already amazing, right town to its cute Beholder-behind-the-Dungeon-Master-screen loading image.
While buying a D&D book doesn’t automatically unlock its content in Beyond, which is an understandable sticking point for some would-be users, recently there have been been some tentative steps in that direction with free access to the “Dragon of Icespire Peak” adventure material with a purchase of the Essentials Kit box, which started as a Target exclusive but becomes available everywhere Sept. 3. The Essentials Kit also includes a coupon for 50% off the D&D Beyond version of the Player’s Handbook. D&D Beyond Bundles and subscriptions are also available.
What are you favorite hacks or tips for converting old dungeons to new editions of the D&D game?