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Convert and Scale Published D&D Adventures

by Mike on 26 September 2022

With thousands of adventures written before the release of the 5th edition of D&D, we have a huge legacy of content we can use in our games. All it needs is some conversion.

Luckily, converting adventures to 5th edition is easy enough to do. It mostly come down to replacing the monsters in the adventure with monster from the Monster Manual. Choose the one closest to the one described in the adventure and you're done. If a monster in the adventure doesn't have a 5th edition equivalent (and I'd be surprised, there are literally thousands of 5e monsters these days), take the mechanically closest monster you can find in 5e and reskin it into the one described in the adventure.

1st and 2nd edition D&D adventures are likely easiest to convert over to 5th edition. They're style aligns closely to the adventure style found in 5th edition. If you're worried that battles are too hard once you've done the conversion, use the lazy encounter benchmark to check what a deadly encounter might look like. If things are easy, you may want to beef up boss battles, but you can likely leave the rest of it alone.

What about scaling adventures up or down in level? This is a little tricker. Again, using the lazy encounter benchmark and monster dials, you can do a lot to change up the difficulty of an adventure.

There's one area where leveling an adventure up or down can be a problem though, and it has nothing to do with mechanics, it has to do with theme.

The Right Theme for the Right Tier

In Tier Appropriate Adventure Locations I offer a list of the types of locations that make sense for characters of a given tier. When I describe choosing the monsters that makes sense for the situation, we don't choose monsters based on the level of the characters. Instead we choose quests, locations, and overall situations that make sense for the current status (level) of the characters. You don't ask 1st level characters to drop into Thanatos and kill Orcus. Nor do you ask 18th level characters to go down into Uncle Ed's cellars to take care of his giant rat problem. (I've often considered a quest in which Uncle Ed sends 18th level characters into his basement to take care of his Orcus problem.) Quests should match the character's capabilities and station in the world (often represented by level) and this all has to do with story, not mechanics. Here's a quick breakdown of what that looks like:

When you're scaling an adventure for the characters, ask if the theme of the adventure fits the level of the characters using the breakdown above. Is this the kind of job they should be doing? Are they too powerful and important to deal with such things? Are they too weak to take on a big job? Matching the theme of an adventure to the power of the characters matters.

Can you change the entire theme of an adventure to fit the characters? Maybe, but that's probably not worth the effort. Better is to find an adventure that makes sense for the characters.

Last Week's Lazy D&D Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

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This work includes material taken from by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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