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I grew up on second edition AD&D. I played some first edition, and frankly found most 1st edition add-ons to be highly compatible with 2nd Edition.

However, I'm a huge fan of Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and a variety of other 2nd edition add-ons. How can I convert them to D&D 4 in such a way that they're playable, enjoyable, and not super-high-effort? (Or, for that matter, super-high-cost -- i.e. I do not want to pay for dozens of new source books.)

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You can gain access to all the rules materials from all D&D 4e supplements, source books, modules, and magazine articles (Dragon and Dungeon) via DDI subscription using tools like the compendium, monster builder, and character builder. wizards.com/dnd/tools.aspx –  Joshua Aslan Smith May 7 '13 at 12:23
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6 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think the two things you have to do "manually" are monsters and treasure conversion, which will actually probably be more of a "re-imagining" than a conversion. That can be fairly labor intensive, though, and I don't know a way around it. Using the compendium and monster builder can definitely help in tracking down and/or creating equivalent monsters, though. I recently used the monster builder to rebuild myconids from scratch to make them like 1e myconids, and it actually went pretty smoothly.

Although you said you don't want to buy new source books, there is a Ravenloft book coming out for 4e that puts the setting in the Shadowfell.

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What I would do to convert 2e material to 4e, is not work from the point of view of conversion, as much as making the best analogues I can using what 4e gives. For instance, taking a 2e Druid and converting it to a 4e Druid of the same level wouldn't work at all - they're entirely different character types. A 2e Druid is really a 4e Cleric (unsurprising, as 2e treats them as a special case of specialty priest) with some powers from the Druid class, but still having an emphasis on healing that the 4e Druid doesn't have.

You'd have to do this in each instance. You'd also need to take a look at various monsters. A lot of them were entirely re-imagined, such as the Lamia, which has nothing to do with the 2e Lamia. You'd really have to build her from scratch using Adventure Tools.

Other than that, thematically they're quite compatible. As a big fan of 2e, I really enjoy what 4e gives me, and I've played through a 2e Dark Sun module in 2008, before it was re-released for 4e.

I'd also strongly recommend using Heroes of the Fallen Lands as a base - the classes are designed to be more traditional, so creating new classes along those lines would go a long way to doing 2e modules in 4e.

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They are pretty different games. I don't think there is a way to convert from one to the other, at least not low-effort - you'd need to sub in appropriate level 4e monsters, but NPCs will be a bear.

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I admit this may not be the answer you are looking for but are you aware of Gold and Glory a 2e AD&D retroclone?

This is the thread where the author is working on it. This is the download link to what he has finished. Basically it takes the d20 SRD and removes anything that wasn't part of AD&D 2.0 and alter the stats to make the classes, spells work like their AD&D 2.0 equivalent. It not a perfect clone as some things were never released under the Open Game License (Mind Flayers, Beholders, etc) and some tables and rules are slightly different to avoid copyright violation.

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On that note, you might also be interested in Greyhawk Grognard's "Adventures Dark & Deep" project, which from what I understand is his attempt at a more "Gygaxian" 2e. adventuresdarkanddeep.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7 –  Numenetics Aug 20 '10 at 3:10
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Really doesn't answer the question that was being asked... –  YogoZuno May 5 '13 at 1:38
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Changing AD&D 1st and 2nd ed monsters (which are mostly interchangeable) to D&D 4th ed:

  1. Increase AC by 12.
  2. Keep original movement.
  3. Adjust HP at your discretion if you deem it necessary.
  4. Melee basic attack: d20 + S mod + 1 if trained fighter, +2 if veteran, +3 if adventurer, solo monster, elite or adventurer. Damage is shown (increase if required).
  5. Ranged basic attack: d20 + D mod + 1 if trained fighter, +2 if veteran, +3 if adventurer, solo monster, elite or adventurer. Damage is shown (increase if required).
  6. Add new attacks if required (definitely for large monsters and challenging opponents).
  7. Calculate Fortitude, Reflex and Will defenses by adding the relevant modifiers (dexterity for Reflex, constitution for Fortitude and wisdom for Will) to 10 and adding any 'racial bonuses' if you think they should be higher/lower.
  8. Tweak as appropriate
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@SevenSidedDie Ah, didn't know. Cool :) –  LitheOhm Oct 24 '13 at 19:41
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A decision to remove much of the class power role playing elements from basic, AD&D, 3.0 and 3.5, is the essence of 4.0. It was simplified, removing the more radical (life expectancy elements from prior editions, and reducing. It is easy enough to lets say, remove things like magic resistance, instant killing poison, and morale, but reversing those is much more difficult to implement. Thus 2.0 to 4.0 is easy, simple and dumbed down. You take an old power replace it will a simple 4.0 save system and/or a daily/encounter limit and there you go. Is this about rescuing or comprehension?

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This still doesn't answer the question. Please cite your more... extreme claims. I'd love to see how you operationalize "simplified". –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 5 '13 at 8:11
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Please raise a question on meta if you require a deconstruction of why your -6 voted post was deleted. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 5 '13 at 8:24
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Having a better answer than someone else doesn't really mean much when you have a thoughtful answer that actually resolves the problem in the original question and the other person's answer basically boils down to, "You're dumb for wanting to do that." –  Oblivious Sage May 5 '13 at 15:28
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I think your misunderstand what this place is. We do not discuss, or editorialise. We opine rarely, and only when it is constructive toward a honed point that is backed by convincing experience or citations. That honed point is answering questions, as we are a Q&A site. For example, you post talks about the qualities of 2e and 4e. That doesn't answer the question. What would answer the question is (e.g.) a rubric for converting things like creature statistics, treasure values, and such that vary functionally between the editions. Also, do read our FAQ. –  SevenSidedDie May 5 '13 at 16:54
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Also, on the note about posterity, deleted posts may be undeleted. We're much like a wiki, where everything is preserved and may be refined or restored. If one wanted to fix a deleted answer so that it no longer deserves deletion, for example, that is something one can do. Impartiality means that a truly good post will get restored by voters and/or mods. –  SevenSidedDie May 5 '13 at 17:11
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