View Full Version : Converting D&D Basic Modules to 5e - Need some help

October 10th, 2016, 03:24
I'm in the process of converting old Basic Modules into 5e while creating my modules in FG and that is the easy part!

Where I have an issue is in trying to figure out how to balance the mobs/XP. For example One of the Basic module encounters (a level 1-3 module) calls for six Orcs.

All well and good until I drag an Orc from my MM into my NPC list, set up an encounter and look at the XP... one Orc is 100 XP (CR 1/2), so 600 XP (CR3) for those six Orcs. For a party of four 1st level players, that's 150 XP each, half a level for one encounter. There are over 30 encounters in the module, so I could only imagine what level the players would be if I didn't adjust the XP values, number of mobs in the encounters or both.

Has anyone else come up with a good way to manipulate the encounters for the conversion of the old Basic Modules?

October 10th, 2016, 12:09
There's a number of conversion guides on the net if you do a Google search. Here's one here (https://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/DnD_Conversions_1.0.pdf). There's also a lot of guidance in the DMG as to what constitutes encounter difficulty. Six Orcs would be way too much for a party of 4 1st level characters (even just 3 is a deadly encounter) so it's not just a question of directly converting the numbers; you'll have to adjust the challenge as well.

October 11th, 2016, 04:06
Check out the guides as Zacc suggests. But, take a step back first.

Note that the systems are different, not just mechanically, but philosophically. In AD&D, levels were designed to come, roughly, in even increments. In 5E, that's not the case. in 5E, second level is akin to a raw recruit who has just being blooded. It's supposed to come quickly. 2nd comes pretty quickly, 10th takes quite a bit more time, it's not a linear progression (in 5E).

So, taking a step back, go for intent when you convert it. So, in the original module it was 6 orcs, who should have been an moderate, but not dangerous fight. So, consider kobolds or goblins. Maybe a single orc with a couple of goblin helpers. Look at the module as a whole, and then throw out the mosnters and put together a whole new set of enemies.

October 11th, 2016, 04:46
Hmmmm.... I dont think there was much linear happening in old school D&D progression....

October 11th, 2016, 05:54
Exponential progression. Every class on a different scale.

October 11th, 2016, 19:47
Thanks you for the input everyone, I appreciate it.

I think I was having a brain fart when I was originally posting this and was thinking CR completely wrong. I was looking at it individually and not as a party (ie: a CR of 1 was a challenge for 1 player or a CR of 4 would be a challenge for a party of 4), so with correct logic in mind, that original encounter I posted with 6 orcs would be 2 max. in 5e.

The issue will still be balancing the amount of XP. With it only being 300 XP from level 1 to level 2, and if those 2 orcs in one encounter are 200 XP (50 per player for a party of four), the party in this module will be leveling FAST. Six encounters like this would make them level 2 and there are 30+/- encounters in the module. They won't all be this high in CR/XP, because there are several caves of goblins and kobolds, but there are also caves of Bugbears, a Minotaur and other higher XP mobs.

Would it be "wrong" (for lack of a better term atm) to create some of these encounters to keep them challenging/fun enough for the players, but modify the total encounter XP so they aren't leveling too fast? Using the same 2 orcs as an example, when I create the encounter, on the encounter box swap the 200 XP to 100 XP for example, so it's only 25 XP per player?

I recreated "B1 - In Search of the Unknown", which was a little easier because the room encounters were blank in the original module and left up to the DM to fill in any way. In this current module, "B-2 The Keep on the Borderlands", which has a lot of encounters and each cave section broke up by type of creatures, it's a bit more difficult to keep it similar to authentic. I'm looking forward to recreating "B3 - Palace of the Silver Princess", which was one of my favorite modules as a young D&D player.

October 11th, 2016, 19:53
B2 will probably get characters to 5th level if you go verbatim. You could get around this by assigning a lump sum XP total for each cave cleared and not worry about individual encounter XP... this would allow you more control over things. But... reducing numbers will get to the point of IMO absurdity where a whole "tribe" would consist of 6 members in some cases.

October 11th, 2016, 19:58
When converting, I use the website Kobald Fight Club (KFC). I look at the overall "feel" of the earlier edition encounter, get a feeling for how hard the fight is, and work from there. I also keep track of how many fights of each type my players have..for example, if all the fights have been easy, or a few moderate, I may make the next one Hard to keep them on their toes, or stick with an Easy to make it a milk run. With KFC, it's easy to get an idea of what sort of fight the players would be looking at.

October 11th, 2016, 20:00
As was mentioned above the level progression in 5e is a bit different to previous iterations of D&D. Level 1-2 is very quick and half a dozen encounters is enough to do it depending on the challenge. I can't remember far enough back to Keep on the Borderlands nor how long it took to level up in AD&D so I don't know how long the party were expected to be at level one. There is nothing wrong, of course, in delaying level progression and in fact you can do away with levelling via XP if you want to and use the Milestone rules in the DMG. That way you could decide that the PCs will remain at level one until they have cleared out the Kobolds and Orcs and get to level two before facing the Bugbears.

There's several other things you can do such as reduce the number of encounters or allow the PCs to level but throw several encounters at them at once. I think you will have to reduce the number of beasties or the number of encounters or both. After all the players are likely to get bored if they are just fighting their way through 30 encounters and not seeing any tangible reward.

October 11th, 2016, 22:37
All great ideas and advice. Thank you all for the input, I will figure out how to best handle it in time. Once I run a group through, I can take notes on how/what to tweak... and the great thing is, with FG its pretty simple to do.

I used to create maps using Map Tools and one campaign took FOREVER to enter. I've had FG for just over a week and already have two old Basic campaigns plugged in (minus these tweaks to the mobs/xp), with all the functionality that FG offers. Both modules are about the same size in scale, but I finished B2 quicker than B1, so my guess is as I get better with it, I will only get faster.

October 12th, 2016, 01:04
Basic D&D levels might not correspond to 5e levels exactly. The conversion guide linked in post #2 says that older edition character levels (except 4e) are equivalent to 5e levels. I can believe that for 3.5e, but I would have guessed that a Basic D&D module for level 1-3 characters would translate to level 1-5 for 5e. I would probably allow the group to level quickly for the first couple levels, which might result in later encounters converting a little closer to the original versions. I never played B2, so I don't know if PCs were expected to level along the way.

October 12th, 2016, 01:54
With spell caster cantrips I think 5e 1st level characters are way tougher than 1e ones!

October 12th, 2016, 11:41
With spell caster cantrips I think 5e 1st level characters are way tougher than 1e ones!

True. Unfortunately, 5e orcs are tougher than Basic D&D orcs.

October 13th, 2016, 16:11
Consider looking at how others have converted it. For B2, Google "caves of chaos next playtest" to find the playtest version. On DMsGuild, search "Classic Modules Today".

October 13th, 2016, 17:58
Some fun (?) facts and figures for B2 Keep on the Borderlands. It says it will take 6 to 9 characters through level 3 play. Basic D&D "classes" were Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic User, and Thief. Each class had different XP requirements to level. In addition, if you were lucky to have a high enough Prime Requisite score, you could earn bonus XP. This system is very difficult to "math".

If you assume that the players only had the Basic rules, then you had a level cap at 3 since you didn't have rules for going to higher levels. Assuming a party make up consisting of one of each class, the slowest leveler is the Elf, requiring 8000 XP. So to get all seven players to level three would require at least 8000 * 7 = 56,000 total XP. This is assuming all XP is divided evenly, no one dies or misses a game session, and no bonus due to ability score.

If you drop the Elf and have six players, then the next to slowest is the Magic User at 5000, or 5000 * 6 = 30,000 total XP. This is a big change. It would be interesting to add up what the maximum achievable XP in the module is (but I doubt my interest will last long enough to do it). In Basic, you earned XP from Monsters and Treasure.

If you do away with the level cap and go back to the 7 member party, an average party level of 3 is achieved with levels 3/3/2/3/3/3/4 (respective to the class list above) with total XP of 35,000. This party reaches the cusp of 4th level at XP total of 70,000 (4/4/3/4/4/3/5).

October 13th, 2016, 18:39
With 1 GP = 1XP a group of 6 certainly can make 3rd level in B2.