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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. –  Joshua Aslan Smith May 7 '13 at 12:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 14 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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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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