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For a one shot session, I'm DMing a 5th Edition Level 1 adventure, but our regular sessions are 4th Edition. The group is a mix of some new players and experienced players.

The new players will be playing purely 5th Edition. That's fine as it's just try out D&D. But not all experienced players want to switch te 5E for just a single session. There happy with playing their one-shot character as they are used to (Standard/Move/Minor action), despite my end being a bit different.

This got me to thinking;

Looking purely stat wise (Ability Scores, Modifiers and bonuses) could the experienced players use a lvl 1 4th Edition character, dispite the monsters on my end being 5th Edition?

Is there, stat-wise, a difference between a 4E lvl 1 character and a 5E lvl 1 character?

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Not really

They're two completely different systems, and you'll get quite a headache trying to figure it out. It'll be much easier to just pre-make some new characters for them than to try and make a 4e character work in 5e.

For a few interesting points:

  1. A 4e character, even a Wizard has in the region of 25 hit points and about 5 or so Healing Surges
    A 5e character has much less (about half) and only gets 1 surge.
  2. A 4e Leader has 2 healing powers per encounter
    A 5e character only has a handful of healing spells per day, and they come from the same list as his good offensive spells
  3. A 4e Fighter can have a 20 AC easily at first level just by picking Plate + Shield
    A 5e Fighter can't afford the 1500 GP for plate as starting equipment.
  4. A 4e Controller has area spells at-will, which deal enough damage to wipe out many low level 5e monsters in one blow.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth mentioning that all 4E characters get Second Wind (a surge use during combat for self-healing) and Action Points (equivalent to 5E Fighter 2nd-level power Action Surge) as standard. \$\endgroup\$ – Neil Slater Jul 10 '15 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ There really is no "Healing Surge" in 5E... aside from the fighter's... Hit Dice don't get used when others heal you, and at present, you can only ever use them when resting. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Jul 12 '15 at 0:52
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No

The two systems are quite incompatible. Even the expected range of modifiers is different. 4E characters' skills are even going to be wrong. Further, a lot of 4E character abilities apply modifiers to other characters, something that is very rare in 5E.

Even the spellcasting principles are differently handled.

Saves don't work quite the same; they're directly on attributes, and don't go up with level... unless proficient in them.

Further still, the relative starting survivability is a bit lower in 5E.

These differences mean that, aside from not having matching labels, many of the differences result in the closest comparable ability being significantly different in expected rating.

Also, the weapons list is shorter in 5E, and not entirely the same.

Conversion, However...

Most core PHB1 4E classes have equivalents. Most but not all. The attributes are the same, and if using array, even the same before-race-modifiers values. This makes rewriting the character much quicker.

The exception is the warlord. There's no good direct equivalent to it. If you want the same "buff my allies" mechanical role, converting to a cleric or bard is good. If you want the same theme, it's the 5E Battlemaster-Fighter.

All the PHB1 races are in 5E, too... tho Eladrin are buried in the DMG.

So, to convert, figure out the starting array used, apply the racial mods from 5E, take the same number of levels in the same class (and, if eligible, the subclass), select skills, and you're rolling.

Rebuilding

It's probably easiest to simply rebuild the character from the concept stage, as important attribute associations are different.

Any of the automated methods (Fifth Edition Character for Android is what I use) can make generating a new character as fast as 5 minutes, including writing it down on paper...

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I have been running a campaign blending 4th and 5th edition elements, but the characters are all built in 4th. 4th edition level 1 characters are stronger by a fair piece than 5th. It would work more smoothly in terms of balancing to use a 5th edition character leveled above 1st level with 1st level 4th edition group. A 4th edition character 1st level is going to be out of balance with the 5th edition characters.

In your situation, it sounds like it will work better to convert the character to 5th edition. There are direct equivalents in some cases. In others there are not. Where there is not, you can either choose to use nearest available equivalent, or create your own homebrew equivalent.

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Yes, but only the role play aspects

You should be able to transfer the role play aspects. In the case of 5e, look at backgrounds and see if the backgrounds given can fit the characters.

Get people to play their characters; they will have to be agnostic of the system. You are, as you say, only trying out this new edition.

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It is possible to use 4th ed classes in 5th ed. Apply the following changes:

  • Hit Points: use the hit dice of the 5th ed counter part (example: 4th ed fighter will use d10 hit die)
  • Surges: instead give them hit die equal to their level.
  • Skills: apply the prof bonus to the skills the character would be good at
  • Saves: apply the 5th ed counterpart class's save prof
  • Features: take the 4th ed features and use them.
  • Powers: once again these can be used. if a power targets a non ac defence, instead make the target make a save; fort=con, will=wis, ref=int( dc = 8 + prof + ability). shifting stays the same and if a power has a save ends, make it that the character makes a save when the power is used then one at the start of his turn :)

that should do you

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  • \$\begingroup\$ pure curiosity from one who's never played 4e: why map Reflex save (4e) onto Int save (5e) rather than Dex save? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 16 '16 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's refreshing to see a mapping from 4e to 5e. 5e has a bit less actions than 4e, but it's not impossible to convert it. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – eirvandelden Feb 9 '18 at 10:53

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