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Updated 10 February 2015 (added link to Monster Traits and Actions)

This is the third in my series of conversion documents for D&D 5th Edition. (You can find the one for
Next here and the one for 3.5/3E/Pathfinder here.) I created this document by comparing the 5E
versions of monsters from the Monster Manual with their 2E counterparts. I also referred to two
sources for converting monsters from 2E to 3E: Wizards’ official Conversion Manual and the Dragon
Magazine article “How to Create a Monster”.

I will once again include two warnings:


1. If you compare the 2E and 5E versions of monsters yourself, you will notice this conversion does
not produce perfectly identical results. I went for approximation, not precision.
2. I am fallible, so there may be mistakes. If you find any, let me know.

The end of this document also explains how to adjust these guidelines for converting monsters from 1E.

You will need access to at least the D&D Basic Rules and the Monster Manual to make full use of this.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide, while not strictly required, is highly recommended for its monster creation
guidelines (pages 273-283).

Also, thanks to Russ Morrissey for a simplification on dragon AC, and the people in this ENWorld thread
for general help!

Challenge Rating

Before you get started, you should choose an initial Challenge Rating for the creature. This is an
estimate of the monster’s CR, which you can use to guide the rest of your conversion. There are two
ways to do this:

 Use the CR of a similar 5E creature. If you use this approach, the creature should also serve as
your “reference monster” (see Ability Scores).
 Use the CR Estimator in Appendix 1 to convert its AD&D 2E XP Value.

When you are finished converting your monster to 5E, you may wish to adjust this initial CR for a better
fit. The best way to do this is to use the rules for determining CR in the DMG, but if you’re pressed for
time, you can just compare it to similar 5E creatures once again.
Size

5E appears to use 3.5’s size ranges (slightly trimmed). These do not perfectly match 2E’s size categories,
so convert them as follows:

2E Size 5E Size

Tiny (2’ or less) Tiny (2 feet or less)

Small (2’-4’) Small (2-4 feet)

Medium (4’-7’) Medium (4-8 feet)


Large (7’-8’) Medium (4-8 feet)

Large (8’-12’) Large (8-16 feet)

Huge (12’-16’) Large (8-16 feet)

Huge (16’-25’) Huge (16-32 feet)

Gargantuan (25’-32’) Huge (16-32 feet)

Gargantuan (32’ or more) Gargantuan (32 feet or more)

You can also simply use the 2E size category as is, if you don’t mind being off by a few feet.

Type

2E did not have creature types, so you will need to assign those yourself, based on the monster’s
description. The types are all explained in the 5E Basic Rules.

Tags

Appended to the creature type in 5E, these can be determined from the monster’s description. Typical
tags include titan (for creatures like the tarrasque), shapechanger, specific types of fiends (such as
demon or yugoloth), and specific humanoid races (elf, thri-kreen, etc.) If your creature isn’t likely to
have any of the tags above, skip this step.

Alignment

Generally, keep this the same. However, creatures in 5E may also be unaligned, meaning they operate
on instinct - so you may want to change neutral to unaligned for some creatures.
Armor Class

It’s easiest to recalculate AC from scratch, based on their Dexterity bonus and any armor worn. (Make
sure to check the rules for determining AC in the Basic Rules PDF.)

If the creature did not wear armor, and had an AC of 6 or below, they should have natural armor. In that
case, give them a +2 bonus to their new AC.

Dragons appear to have stronger natural armor in 5E. For now, I suggest estimating their 5E AC by
subtracting it from 19.

Example: A dragon of some sort has AC -1. Subtract that from 19: 19-(-1) = 19+1 = 20.
Hit Dice

In 5E, the type of hit die is determined by a creature’s size. Tiny creatures use d4 hit dice. Small
creatures use d6 hit dice. Medium creatures use d8 hit dice. Large creatures use d10 hit dice. Huge
creatures use d12 hit dice. Gargantuan creatures use d20 hit dice.
In 2E, Hit Dice may be displayed in formats like “1-1” or “5+3”. The first number is the number of Hit
Dice; ignore the later number.

Tiny creatures should keep the same number of hit dice as they had in 2E.

Small or Medium creatures should add one hit die. For example, 1d6 should become 2d6.

Large, Huge, and Gargantuan creatures should add two hit dice. For example, 3d10 should become
5d10.

Average hit points for creatures should be recalculated as follows:


Xd4 - Multiply X by 2.5 (round down), then add their Constitution bonus, times X.
Xd6 - Multiply X by 3.5 (round down), then add their Constitution bonus, times X.
Xd8 - Multiply X by 4.5 (round down), then add their Constitution bonus, times X.
Xd10 - Multiply X by 5.5 (round down), then add their Constitution bonus, times X.
Xd12 - Multiply X by 6.5 (round down), then add their Constitution bonus, times X.
Xd20 - Multiply X by 10.5 (round down), then add their Constitution bonus, times X.

Example: A monster has 3d8 HD and a Constitution of 14 (+2 bonus). So their average hit points are 4.5
times 3, rounded down: 13. Then you multiply their Con bonus by their HD, for a total of +6. 13+6 = 19.

Two exceptions:
Oozes should probably keep their current hit dice.
Dragons have been upgraded a lot since 2E, so any 2E dragon converted like other monsters is likely to
be comparatively weak. But since we have only one example, I can only suggest you convert them like
other creatures of their size.
Speed

Use the 2E Movement stat, then convert it as follows for each movement type (in feet).

Movement up to 12: Divide by 3, multiply by 10, round to nearest 10.


Movement above 12: Multiply by 2, round to nearest 10.

For reference, the 2E abbreviations for special movement are Fl (flying), Sw (swimming), Br (burrowing),
Cl (climbing), and Wb (moving across webs).

Example: A creature has Movement 9, Fl 21. Its new ground movement is 9/3 = 3, 3x10 = 30 feet. Its new
flight speed is 21x2 = 42, rounded to 40 feet.

A creature that can move across webs (Wb) should replace that speed with the trait Web Walker (see
Giant Spider in the Monster Manual).
Ability Scores

The only ability score provided in most 2E stat blocks is Intelligence. You can use this statistic as given -
if there’s a range, go for the average or highest score. If only the Intelligence “rating” is provided, use
the below for reference:

 Non- (0) [which must be increased to at least 1 for 5E]


 Animal (1)
 Semi- (2-4)
 Low (5-7)
 Average (8-10)
 Very (11-12)
 High (13-14)
 Exceptional (15-16)
 Genius (17-18)
 Supra-genius (19-20)
 Godlike (21+)

If you are really lucky, the monster’s description may describe other ability scores. Use them as given if
they are provided, with the exception of Strength, which should be converted as follows:

2E Strength 5E Strength

1-18 Same

18/01-18/99 18

18/00 (2E ogre) 19

19 (2E hill giant) 20-21

20 (2E stone giant) 22-23

21 (2E frost giant) 23-24

22 (2E fire giant) 25-26

23 (2E cloud giant) 27-28

24 (2E storm giant) 29

25 30

For any ability scores missing at this point, you will need to choose a “reference monster”. This is an
existing monster similar to the one you’re converting. (For example, a skeletal undead could use the
skeleton as a “reference”.) If you based the monster’s initial CR on an existing 5E monster, you already
have your “reference monster”!

Use the ability scores of the “reference monster” to fill in any blanks, possibly tweaking them as needed
to fit the monster’s concept or known ability scores.

When choosing a “reference monster”, use these sources, in this order of preference:
1. The D&D 5E Monster Manual.
2. Monsters from D&D Next material.
3. D&D 3.5’s Monster Manual. You can use this site as a quick reference:
http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/monsters.htm
4. The “How to Create a Monster” article (linked above).

Note that in 5E, creatures always have all six ability scores. If you use a 3.5 “reference monster” and it is
missing any of these, you should look at the next closest Next or 5E monster, or use the guidelines for
filling in blanks from my 3.5 conversion document.

Alternatively, the 2E sourcebook Dungeon Master Option: High-Level Campaigns provides a method for
determining monster ability scores, if you want to fill in the blanks from the 2E side. They recommend
rolling randomly and consulting a table, but I would use the average result on the table instead (results
9-12). Another 2E resource to consider is The Complete Book of Humanoids. Note that any resulting
Strength scores would still need to be converted to 5E.

Saving Throws

Ignore the 2E rules for monster saving throws. In 5E, saves are associated with each of the six ability
scores, so most creatures just use their ability bonus for saves.

However, a few 5E monsters do appear to apply their proficiency bonus to these saves. You may wish to
do the same for your converted creature, if their 2E description suggests it should.

In most cases, though, you should probably pass on giving your creature proficiency with saves - it’s
much easier without it.
Skills

The majority of monsters will have few or no skills, especially monsters driven by instinct. Consult the 2E
monster’s description to see if it has any talents that might match a particular 5E skill. For reference, the
5E skills are:

Athletics (Strength)
Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth (Dexterity)
Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, and Religion (Intelligence)
Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Perception, and Survival (Wisdom)
Deception, Intimidation, Performance, and Persuasion (Charisma)

Full descriptions of the skills can be found in the Basic Rules PDF.

If a creature has proficiency in a skill, their bonus with that skill is equal to the relevant ability bonus,
plus their proficiency bonus.

Example: A monster has a Dexterity of 15 (+2 bonus) and proficiency in Stealth. This means that they
should have a +4 bonus with Stealth (Dexterity) checks. If they are a more powerful creature, they may
have a +5 bonus instead.

If a creature is hard to surprise, it should probably have proficiency in Perception (Wisdom). If the
creature is good at surprising enemies, it should probably have proficiency in Stealth (Dexterity).
Some creatures seem to have a higher proficiency in one skill than the others, typically double their
normal proficiency bonus (+4 or +6). For example, doppelgangers have a +4 on Deception (Charisma)
checks. You may wish to do the same with a creature’s “signature” skill.
Vulnerabilities, Resistances, Immunities

Look at the 2E creature’s Special Defenses and description - this should give you an idea what the
creature is vulnerable against (listed under Damage Vulnerabilities in 5E), what the creature is resistant
against (listed under Damage Resistances), and what the creature is immune against (listed under
Damage Immunities or Condition Immunities).

Some 2E creatures can only be harmed by magical weapons of a certain bonus (+1, +2, etc.). This should
be listed under Damage Resistances as follows:

bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons

If the creature can only be harmed by some other material, add the following:

...nonmagical weapons that aren’t (silvered or adamantine or [other substance])

Modify the above as needed for other resistances.

When you note Condition Immunities, remember that they may overlap with resistances or damage
immunities. For example, a creature immune to poison damage should also note that they are immune
to the poisoned condition.

The innate immunities of undead in 5E are:

Damage Immunities: poison


Condition Immunities: poisoned

Only add other immunities to an undead creature if they are separate from its undead nature.

Incorporeal creatures should probably have the following resistances and immunities:

Damage Resistances: acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from
nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities: poison
Condition Immunities: grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained

Magic resistance has also been simplified, and is now listed as a trait - see the flameskull for an
example.
Senses

There are only four senses established in 5E at this point: blindsight, darkvision, tremorsense, and
truesight. 2E’s infravision, ultravision, and similar senses are equivalent to darkvision. Any non-visual
replacement for sight should be blindsight or tremorsense. Any creature with innate “true seeing”
should have truesight.
Also, all creatures have a passive Perception score. This is equal to 10 plus their total bonus to
Perception (Wisdom) checks.

Languages

Refer to the Basic Rules PDF for the known languages in 5E. If no language for your creature is listed
there, give them the native language provided in their 2E description.
Traits

To determine a creature’s Traits, look at the 2E monster’s description. When possible, you should use
equivalent traits from the Monster Manual; if this is not possible, either base the converted trait on a
similar 5E trait, or simply use the original text as is.

A list of the known Traits in 5E can be found here.

Spellcasting is a special case. In addition to being used for 2E monsters with levels in a spellcasting class,
lists of spell-like powers also tend to be translated as Spellcasting. (The only exception should be specific
spell-like powers which are really important to a creature’s concept, in which case they are either listed
as Innate Spellcasting or broken out as individual traits, actions, or reactions.)

If the creature lists a caster level, use that. If no caster level is provided, use their 2E Hit Dice. Make sure
to use the 5E rules for spellcasting, and replace spells with closest equivalents if necessary; refer to the
Basic Rules for more details. (For Innate Spellcasting, the spellcasting ability is typically Wisdom or
Charisma.)

Actions with an Attack Roll

Actions should be taken from a 2E creature’s normal attacks, Special Attacks, or description. You need
to convert three things to make these into 5E actions - the “to hit” bonus, the damage inflicted by
elements of the attack, and any saving throws required.

A list of the known Actions in 5E can be found here.

To Hit

Ignore the THAC0 and recalculate this from scratch. In 5E, the “to hit” for an action is based on the
proficiency bonus. This is combined with the relevant ability bonus (usually Strength or Dexterity).

Note that most natural attacks (claw, bite, etc.) appear to be finesse attacks, meaning they can use
either Strength or Dexterity with attack rolls. Unless you think your creature should be a weak melee
combatant, you should choose the highest of either Strength or Dexterity for “to hit” with natural
attacks.

Unusual attacks like the wraith’s Life Drain appear to either have a higher bonus, or are using something
other than Strength or Dexterity. I don’t have any specific recommendations for this right now, but feel
free to experiment with other ability scores (like Constitution or Charisma) if that seems appropriate.
You’re probably safer avoiding that, however.
Damage
In 2E, damage is often expressed not in dice, but as a range, like 1-6, 3-12, or 2-5. In such cases, you will
have to figure out how many dice that is before converting. (In the above cases, it’s 1d6, 3d4, and
1d4+1.)

For attacks that use a weapon, refer to the damage listed in the Basic Rules PDF or Starter Set. If the
creature is large, increase the weapon’s damage die by one (i.e. 1d6 becomes 2d6). If the creature is
huge, increase the weapon’s damage die by two (i.e. 1d6 becomes 3d6). Some especially huge
creatures, and gargantuan creatures, may increase the damage die by three (i.e. 1d6 becomes 4d6), but
you may be safer sticking with two.

For natural attacks by tiny or small creatures, you should probably leave the damage dice alone.
However, the minimum damage die appears to be 1d4, so any weaker attacks should probably upgrade
to that. (The same goes for damage dice below 1d4 for other creatures.)

For natural attacks by medium or larger creatures, use the following table:

2E Damage Dice 5E Damage Dice

1d4 1d6 (or 2d4)

1d6 1d8 (or 2d6)

1d8 1d10 (or 2d8)

1d10 1d12 (or 2d10)

1d12 2d8 (or 2d12)

If an attack inflicts more than one die of damage, increase the 5E damage die by that number. For
example, 2d4 should become 2d6 (or 3d4).

Some creatures’ strongest natural attacks seem to add both one die of damage and increase the die
type by one - for example, 1d6 becoming 2d8. This should be used carefully, however, and shouldn’t be
used on more than one attack.

Don’t forget to add the monster’s Strength bonus to melee damage and Dexterity bonus to ranged
damage. You can calculate average damage through the method above under Hit Dice.

Other types of damaging attacks (like the flameskull’s fire ray) seem to be treated much like the
“strongest natural attacks” above, but there aren’t many examples yet. Still, that guideline may work for
now. Dragon breath weapons are upgraded much more than that, but until we have more dragons, I’m
reluctant to recommend any guidelines there.
Saving Throws for Actions

5E saving throws are very different from 2E. They should probably be converted as follows:
2E Saving Throw 5E Saving Throw

Paralyzation, Poison, or Death Magic Constitution

Rod, Staff, or Wand Wisdom (or Dexterity)

Petrification or Polymorph Constitution (or Wisdom)

Breath Weapon Constitution (or Dexterity)

Spell Wisdom

Feel free to substitute a different ability score for the save, if it seems more appropriate.

You will need to calculate a Difficulty Class (DC) for the save your creature inflicts. The usual way to
calculate this is 8 + proficiency bonus + the ability bonus of the creature for the relevant save. For
example, a CR 2 creature with Constitution 13 (+1 bonus) that inflicts a Constitution save effect should
require a DC of 11 (8+2+1).

The wraith’s Life Drain should be used in place of 2E’s energy drain attack.

Recharge

Some actions also have a recharge. Two examples are the giant spider’s Web and the young green
dragon’s Poison Breath, which both have a recharge of 5-6.

Recharge seems to cover strong effects that, in 2E, could only be used a limited number of times per
day, or required a number of rounds between uses.

My recommendation is to use “Recharge 5-6” for most limited-use actions, and keep “X per day” for
especially strong attacks that should only be used once in a battle.
Actions without an Attack Roll

Many 5E creatures - such as the doppelganger, flameskull, grick, nothic, owlbear, and young green
dragon - have Multiattack, allowing them to take more than one action per turn. If your 2E monster
could attack more than once, you should probably give them Multiattack in 5E. Note that most creatures
can only make two attacks - the only exception is the young green dragon, which can make three.

There are also a few creatures that can take actions not requiring an attack roll or saving throw. If your
monster could do this in 2E, you can probably use them as is in 5E.

Reactions

Anything that could be converted into an Action, but requires some sort of trigger, should be
categorized as a Reaction. Otherwise, they should be converted like other Actions.

A list of the known Reactions in 5E can be found here.


Final Notes

Everything not mentioned above, like Morale, should probably be dropped in 5E. Of course, if you feel
it’s very important to the creature’s concept, feel free to port it over anyway.

Appendix 1: CR Estimator

The below conversion follows a very broad comparison of the 5E CR and 2E XP Value for the same
creatures in both editions. It’s not perfect, but it works as a rough starting point.

5E CR 2E XP

0 7

⅛ 15 to 35

¼ 65 to 120

½ 175 to 270

1 420

2 650

3 975 to 1400

4 2000

5 3000 to 4000

6 5000 to 6000

7 7000

8 8000

+1 +1000

Psionic Ability is listed for many 1E monsters (as well as a smaller number of 2E monsters). Psionics
rules are beyond the scope of this conversion, but you may wish to import any described psionic powers
as Innate Spellcasting (see the Mind Flayer for an example), or as other traits, actions, or reactions as
appropriate.

FYI, the 1E Monster Manual II has a list converting the damage ranges (2-8, etc.) to dice rolls, which may
come in handy for both 1E and 2E conversions.