Last year a made a number of posts about converting my homebrew campaign edition on its return from hiatus from 3.5E to 5E. I wrote about my plan for character conversion here. If we get to play once a month we feel fortune. So here we are, a little over a year later and fourteen games under my belt as DM and a little time to share some thoughts.
Basically I am happy with my decision to rebuild characters rather than convert. I think I made the right choice to use the default array, even though the original characters were rolled. As much as I grew up in the everything is random rolled first edition environment, I like that I understand the relative power the characters have, and all the characters have about the same relative power. Although I am not saying that each class is equally powerful, or each player's character choices are equally effective. 5th edition characters really do rely heavily on their stats for their bounded accuracy power - or in other words the addition of a small number of points to a success role feels very powerful in this game.
The players initially grumbled about not being able to exactly match their previous score, but in the end they built characters which for the most part feel like their earlier edition counterparts, and more importantly play and role play close enough that no one feels in game a character is significantly different. Important note: we converted eighth level characters to eighth level characters and I have not had them level up over the course of the game yet - my focus is on them learning the new rules, and their abilities. I expect to start letting them level up soon. Fourteen games in and everyone is enjoying the game and focused on the story and the challenges facing them. Success!
Now, there are places where the conversion had challenges, or is still untested.
Paladin/Sorcerer multi-class character: We had some concerns how this would play out, as the original character was a bit of an optimization experiment, or in other words depended quite a bit on some specific 3.5E rules for combat tactics. My impression is the character is still at its core what it was before, a hard to hit, hard hitting against a single opponent, fragile if you get through its AC build. No question in my mind a full effective contributor to the game. Now, some of the spell and attack combination tactics this player used previously do not work thanks to changes in spells and the buff limiting concentration rule, as an example the player no longer sees the enlarge spell as pragmatic use of a spell most of the time. The net effectiveness in combat has been replaced by the smite feature. Most of his spell slots get burned using smite, and of course the extra slots from the sorcerer often go that way too if they don't get used by a well timed shield spell. I am open to be a little more lenient if this player wants to swap out spells.
Mounted Combat fighter: Our fighter build his character to be a mounted combat monster. That does not translate as well to 5E, as there is only one feat and feats are harder to come by in 5E than they were in 3.5E. Now, in practice in our game mounted combat opportunities were hit or miss. If they ended up doing in city, in building or in dungeon adventures it certainly was not conducive to a mounted rider. About half of our campaign is in the outdoor or wilderness, and sometimes it goes in long spurts of one or the other. Having advantage from horseback against hordes of orcs certainly gives the feel of something special for this character, but the feat does not give advantage against large creatures (makes sense) so even out of doors the positives from the feat are limited.
House Ruled Ranger: One character had a house ruled ranger (does every game have one of those?) which was basically a woodland expertise fighter without spells. I have not been happy with the ranger options in the Player's Handbook, or the unofficial test versions published by WoTC. Since this player did not return after the hiatus, it has not significantly effected our game. I used his character as an NPC, and hand waved a bunch of rolls, which was no problem. I am hoping the player will return in the future, even for just a cameo, and I am determined I can build another house rule ranger to give him the feel he had!
Cleric Domain Conversion: This is largely untested. Our cleric did not return after hiatus, and converting NPCs is just not the same. Overall, I am pleased with what I see in the cleric options, but that is not the same as seeing how the conversion of a cherished character is implemented.
Magic & Masterwork Items: Bringing over items as is, or as now described in the core rule books would HUGELY break the bounded accuracy of the game. As it was this campaign was based on the characters having legendary weapons which effective balance quite a bit to start, and then add in the copious amounts of magic stuff 3.5E and I allowed in the game would create a difficult to manage situation. I had to cut back on the magic. Sounds like a good topic for my next campaign conversion post!
The dice never lie.