I am old and I haven't played D&D seriously in many years. But I remember it.

My 12yo son has a crew that want me to DM a game for them.

In the interest of leveraging my (limited) existing knowledge, and because I have some of my old Basic D&D modules (B1 Search of Unknown and B2 Keep on Borderlands, complete with old writing all over it from 12 year old me), I wanted to use Keep on Borderlands with these kids but since the old Basic D&D set (which I also have!) is kinda limited, I wanted to use it with the new "Basic Rules for Dungeons and Dragons" -- this: https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules -- which is, aweseomly, a free PDF!

I browsed it, and it seems pretty close to Basic D&D ca 1981/82 but it is different enough that I can't tell if it will work.

What changes would I need to make, if any, to make this rulebook work with B2 Keep on the Borderlands? (Or any others in the B-x series?)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Related reading: what are the big differences among D&D versions \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 4:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also very related: rpg.stackexchange.com/q/161313/38834 \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to follow up: I did this game tonight. Five 12 year olds, two 49 year olds, and a lot of pizza, soda, and some beer. The game worked great, and even after 3 hours, we hadn't even seen a hint of combat. My take was: focus on story, worldbuilding, and character development, and don't fret game mechanics, and that worked well. \$\endgroup\$
    – JDS
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 4:12

4 Answers 4


They work, with some work.

I skipped two decades of D&D, not playing between 2e and 5e (current edition). In 5e I'm currently running T1-4 for my son and his friends, I've run the DL modules, 2e modules, and B1 was the source text for my school group's last epic. (In other words: the players have 5e PCs, we're all playing by 5e rules, but I'm holding a B/1e/2e module in my hands.)

My takeaways:

  • Strong mastery of 5e's combat engine is the most helpful thing. Obviously maps and NPCs and plot points need no "conversion." It's really just the combat stats and the occasional trap (damage, difficulty, save, what-have-you) that need "converting."

    But I don't convert ahead of time. I've had no trouble just looking at an older stat block and reading it in 5e: just subtract the AC from 20, use some amalgam of HD and #ATT to figure a reasonable attack/proficiency bonus, and look at how any special features might translate to a special action or advantage.

    In doing this it's a strong sense of 5e's structure that helps most. Having run a lot of monsters and characters, it's pretty easy to remember that 5e bonuses should basically run from +2 (meh) to +10 (whoa!). Damages I rarely adjust, nor hp.

  • The older modules often give a lot more gold and magic items than is typical for 5e. Magic items seem to run around the level of a high-magic campaign, so if that's what you want then don't worry about it. If you're looking more low-level on the magic-meter then you'll have to cut out half (or more) of the magic items. Again, I do this on the fly. Gold, I'm often cutting those numbers by a factor of 10. (And if you feel like you've given out too much gold, here's some thoughts on what to do with gold in 5e.)

It's totally worth doing. Like you did when you were ten: give it a go, take some notes, and faceplant every once in a while. Good luck!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ So is the Basic Dungeons and Dragons I linked to actually considered "5e"? \$\endgroup\$
    – JDS
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are some plot points that need revision. Example: I ran the Return to the Keep and you have to change how Mendel controls the girls he has with him since Charm Person's duration is considerably shorter in 5E. For that I just had him start with Charm and enhance dependency with chemical and physical stimuli. Essentially drugs and discipline for long term effect. It also has the added benefit of hooking the players into engaging long term with the recovery of the subjects. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JDS yes, that is 5th edition basic rules. It has all of the monsters' stats for the new edition that you need to run the game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 14:01

Not without modification

They are different games in the same way that draw poker is different from stud poker. The core is the same but the nuances are sufficiently different that you are not playing the same game.

However, it’s easy to change KotB. If you use the same creatures with their 5e stats you won’t need to do much more than this.


You will need to convert the modules to 5e rules

While 5e was inspired by older versions of D&D, it is different enough that they are not compatible without modification.

Fortunately, some people have developed conversion guides for old modules and you can find them on the DM's Guild website (https://www.dmsguild.com/). For example, there is a conversion for The Keep on the Borderlands for around $3 (USD).


I also have memories from D&D from that period of time. The most notable change is combat and AC. In the early editions, AC started at 10 (still does now) and improved armor would lower that value. Now, the AC range goes up from 10. An attack in combat is still resolved by rolling a d20. Instead of consulting tables based on character class to compare the roll value vs. AC, the roll on the d20, plus any combat bonuses, is compared to the target AC - meeting or exceeding AC is a hit. I do not know of any official conversation technique. I look at description of the old-version NPC/monster's armor and see what that equates to in 5e.

You will also notice that bonuses from Ability points are different. If I recall correctly, you used to have to have a 16 or 17 to have much modifier. Now, the bonus is (stat-10)/2.

You will see more spell-casting character classes than just wizard and illusionist. Bards, sorcerer, and warlock. They base casting skill from charisma not intelligence.


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