Converting DnD 3rd to 4th edition

Converting Old Editions

These are the common questions asked about going from one edition to the next. Is it possible to transfer a character from one edition to the next? Can you combine more than one dnd edition? The answer to both questions is yes. Most cynics out there would answer no. This is very understandable considering how much work that would need to be put into it to make it possible.

I want to point out that I currently run a 4th edition campaign that involves using that technique. Yes, it is somewhat complicated and does take some effort. If you want to keep it simple, then just stick with your current edition and do nothing else. Most people like it that way.

Those who want more in a game though, do not mind doing some extra steps. I personally like to have more out of a dnd game session than what has been preset in a fourth edition monster’s manual, campaign, or player’s handbook.

Off-topic: Character Creation Details

Before I continue further, I do want to answer one guy’s comment from reddit concerning my other post I made a while back. Yes, the character creation post does not have every single detail in it. If you paid attention to the beginning instead of skimming through just looking for the negative only, you would have noticed that I stated I was not going to be putting every single bit of detail in it. When someone reads my posts, please pay attention to the introduction or the conclusion paragraphs as that will create less confusion.

Use The DM Toolbox

Now, that I said what I had to say, I want to point out that most of your help will be found in the DM’s Toolbox in Chapter 10 of your Dungeon Master Guide for 4th edition and in Chapter 6 of your Dungeon Master Guide for 3.5. If all else fails, you can always go to the front of your Monster’s Manual and use the mechanics as a guide for creating new races. It is not as detailed on the conversion process though.

For 4th edition, you can go to page 174 of your DM Guide if you so desire, but that will not help you transfer races from another edition. That is primarily for customizing 4th edition characters that already exist. No, you will want to start on page 184 instead. Now, this is not going say to you, “Convert to 4th edition by doing this.” No, you will have to use a little bit of imagination for the procedure.

For example, let’s say I wanted to take a race from 3.5 and bring it over the 4th, well I have to follow the steps as outlined in the DM Guide. So we will now convert the Blink Dog from 3.5 to 4th edition. Oh goody. What a challenge. No seriously.

Steps For Converting A Race From 3.5 to 4th Edition

So it says to choose a level first. Well, the problem here in 3.5 is it does not show levels for the monsters. It does however show a challenge rating (CR) which is the equivalent of the expected level of the party that would be encountering it. The alternative for those who do not like the idea of doing it by the challenge rating is to use level adjustments instead demonstrated on page 172 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide for 3.5.

I am going to go ahead and set its level to 2 since its challenge rating is 2 and also this method is quicker than doing it by level adjustments. Just as a note, doing it by CR is quicker, but it can cause problems now and then. You may end up with a monster more powerful than its actual level. If you want it more accurate, then I would have to say doing it by level adjustments would be the way to go. It, however, may take a little more time to do though.

The next step is picking the monster’s role. You can pretty much get an idea of what its role is by looking over its stats and description in the old monster’s manual. It can teleport, is very fast, and is medium sized. I would say my blink dog is a skirmisher.

Now, that we have the starting part established, let’s move on to the guts of it all – ability scores. This will pretty much set the establishment for the rest of the creation process. Levels and role are important as well. I am not leaving them out by pointing that ability scores are needed.

Now, according to what I am reading here, it is stating that the highest ability score (the base of the score) should not be higher than 13. Once you have the 13, you will add half the level to that number. So if you look in the monster’s manual, you will see that his highest scores are Wisdom and Dexterity. We can go ahead and copy all the scores from the book, but Dexterity we will decrease to 13 and add half the level which will make it a 14.

For hit points, we will not make use of the role we created. Actually for other items as well, we will be using the role as well as the level. To determine the hit points, AC, defenses and iniative bonus, consult the Monster Statistice By Role chart. Since the blink dog is a skirmisher, I would look under that section.

I would like to point out the part that says extra defenses. What that is talking about is that it is assuming the average ability score for a monster would be 12. You will add the level to that number for the stats. But if the ability score is lower (by 2’s) than that number you will reduce it by 1. If it is higher (by 2’s), it will increase by 1. For example, my Dexterity is 14, so the defense score would be 13.

Basically, my Reflex would be 13 since Dexterity would be the highest ability score for it. Look at page 17 of the Player’s Handbook and you will know what I am talking about concerning how determined the ability to choose for Reflex.

To determine attack bonus for powers, just use the attack bonus in the 3.5 monster’s manual or use the base attack as a starting point.

To figure out powers, you can use powers already shown in the monster’s manual that are based on the special abilities and feats that the monster being converted had previously. If that is not possible, just create a new power entirely.

For determining damage, that really depends on the role being select and what power is being used. Normally, at-will powers fall under the category of normal damage expressions and will usually be medium. Roles will however change this status to either easy or hard. For those powers that are only used on occasion, they will be classified as a limited damage expression.

Now, if some damage seems kind of ridiculous, please make a judgement call and pick from something else or come up with your own damage. You are the Dungeon Master after all. Just remember that common sense takes precedence over rules. Any sane person that has worked in any average joe low paying job should already know this.

So I am going to have my monster do a bite damage of 1d6+3. I do not see it doing 1d10+3 damage. It just would not make any sense for a low level animal to be that powerful. Plus, the 3.5 monster’s manual shows him doing about 1d6 damage anyway.

You can transfer skills as is or base it off of abilities. Whatever floats your boat. Just remember that whatever skills no longer exist will have to be removed. I went ahead and converted the spot and listen to perception. I changed sense motive to insight and hide I converted to stealth.

End Result of Blink Dog

Well, let’s take a look at my Blink Dog.

Blink Dog

Level 2 Skirmisher

Medium Fey Beast

Initiative: +2 Senses: Perception +5; darkvision; low-light vision

HP: 34; Bloodied 17

AC: 16; Fortitude 11, Reflex 13, Will 12

Speed: 8

Bite (standard;at-will)

+4 vs AC; 1d6+3 damage

Blink (move; recharge 3 or 4) Illusion

It becomes invisible until it attacks or until the end of its next turn.

Dimension Door (move; encounter) Teleportation

The blink dog can teleport 10 squares.

Alignment: Lawful Good Languages: –

Skills: Stealth +3, Insight +3

Str 10 Dex 14 Wis 13

Con 10 Int 10 Cha 11

As you can see, the monster turned out pretty well. It took me awhile to build it though. This proves that bringing back old enemies is indeed possible.

Bringing Back The Old Campaigns

Now, I did mention earlier that you could combine editions in addition to doing conversions. This is very true. There is nothing wrong with using old resources as long as you take out the old parts and substitute them with the new stuff. This may require converting the campaign itself or old deities that player’s keep complaining about not existing.

Just because some book no longer contains the information or it reads out some deity just died that does not mean that a dungeon master needs to stick with that.

Resurrect The Dead

It all boils down to what the dm wishes to do – which can cause good or bad reactions to the player. Speaking of that, players may be desiring a deity to come back to life. Why not? Why be so flippin’ stubborn about some book that says otherwise. Make the players happy and by golly bring that old foe back into the game already. It is your story after all, not Wizards of the Coast’s. In fact, they even encourage you to do it your way on page 133 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide paragraph 3.

I know it is kind of annoying for me to post page numbers, but some people are just anal like that and refuse to believe information without physical proof.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below in my replies section or send me a message on google plus.

Your Fellow Gamer and Dungeon Master


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