How-To DM: Converting Old Modules/Adventures

If there’s an activity that I enjoy as much as I enjoy miniature painting, it is the act of converting old modules.

As I have detailed before, there’s an old adventure in Dungeon magazine issue 53, called “Clarshh’s Sepulchre” that is easily one of my most enjoyable modules to run. The best part of this module is that the entire thing is very easily converted to 5e. The only thing I needed to do was do a Homebrew creation of a monster that has not yet been officially converted to 5th edition. I actually found a pretty good conversion of it elsewhere on the web, then did my own conversion and posted it on D&D Beyond.

In any case, one of my daughters and her friends wanted to play and asked me to run. I decided, after much deliberation, to run Keep on the Borderlands as a sort of one shot. They would get as far as they get and all the girls would end up going off to college.

That was the plan.

Then they decided they wanted to finish playing the module and keep playing for a while. Okay, I can do that via Roll20. The only problem was that I could not find the adventure on Roll20. What I did find was a really good knockoff that was not populated. It had all the dynamic lighting and everything else already done, it just needed populating. Easy enough, I can do that.

I then began the painstaking labor of populating the entire dungeon complex. Some things were easy, like an owlbear, some things were a little more difficult. In several instances, I just used upgraded forms of the original creatures. For example, for the hobgoblin cave, I used regular hobgoblins as they were, upgraded hobgoblins as hobgoblin captains, and their leader was a hobgoblin Warlord.

For those of you that are familiar with this particular campaign, the sheer volume of creatures is sometimes… prodigiously numerous to say the least.

As I do this, I realized that I can actually write out the conversion that I am doing and put it up on the DMs Guild website. I’ll do that some other time, as I have this to run in the near future. The only thing I have left to do is the… Well, some of those players may end up reading this blog so I don’t want to post any spoilers.

Nice try, ladies.

In any case, when doing conversions, there’s a lot of options in the Monster Manual alone that enable you to put forth various critters.

For example, with hobgoblins, you have the standard hobgoblin, the hobgoblin captain, and the hobgoblin warlord. Depending on your needs for the adventure, you can utilize what you want. This way, you have fewer things that you need to create from scratch. Not that doing that is bad, but it’s much easier when doing conversions.

The only time things get a little sticky is when you can’t find a version of the monster that hasn’t been released yet, like the arcane from the aforementioned adventure “Clarshh’s Sepulchre.” Thankfully, he isn’t really needed and is not essential to the adventure. Of course, the crypt thing at the end of the adventure (sorry for any spoilers) I had to find online, then go ahead and put up in the Homebrew section of D&D Beyond. The rest of the critters are easily found in the monster manual and other such places.

Even more so when you have to improvise certain things like substituting various kinds of poisons and traps. The Dungeon Masters Guide provides a significant amount of guidance as to what kind of traps you’re looking at and how to substitute various trap DCs. Again, very vanilla.

Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, when you have some kind of wonky sort of mechanic that worked really well in the older editions of D&D, you may have to improvise in 5e. Recently, I ran Treasure Hunt, a wonderful adventure that actually starts players at level zero. I had to improvise that particular element.

Basically, I let them have their race, and their background, and nothing else. The adventure actually begins with the party not having any equipment either. It actually turns out to be really fun. For those of you who are premium subscribers, you have heard, at least in part, this adventure at the Episode 0 of the Inglorious Ingrates. It’s a really interesting mechanic and I was forced to improvise even some of that.

I know this hasn’t been much about what I said the post was about, but it was interesting enough I thought you all would want some tips about old module conversions.

Thanks again, Dear Readers.

Until next time…

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Published by The Daily DM

I'm just a DM telling the stories of my tables.

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