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Converting Red Hand of Doom to 5E

Looking to play Red Hand of Doom in 5e? It’s a fun module, and 5e is a fun system to run it in.

For myself, I’ve been running Red Hand of Doom in 5th edition for level 8 players. Swapping out the Hobgoblins for Orcs to fit in with a PCs history. You can watch us play on the Non-Fiction Gaming YouTube channel.

What is Red Hand of Doom?

Red Hand of Doom is a 128-page adventure module for the 3.5 version of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D. It is designed as a generic D&D adventure that can be dropped into any campaign world, including a personal one.

The plot of Red Hand of Doom follows a group of adventurers who have entered the Elsir Vale, a thinly populated frontier region. The party discovers a massive hobgoblin horde that is fanatically devoted to the dark goddess Tiamat and led by the charismatic half-dragon warlord Azarr Kul.

To stop the horde, players must muster the inhabitants of the Vale, battle hobgoblins, giants and dragons, and defeat an overwhelming enemy.

Converting Red Hand of Doom to 5E

If you’ve run Red Hand of Doom (abbreviated as RHOD from here on in for sanity’s sake) and have some good advice for DMs, we’d love you to share it.

Down the in the comments below, please share content, resources, maps, tips, etc. for running RHOD in any edition.

Updating Monsters and NPCs in Red Hand of Doom

  • Stats and Abilities: Convert all monster and NPC stats to their 5E equivalents. Where no direct equivalent exists, choose a similar monster from the 5E Monster Manual and adjust its statistics to match the intended challenge level.
  • Abilities and Skills: Modify abilities and skills to align with 5E’s simplified skill system. This includes converting skill checks and saving throws to 5E’s ability check framework.

The Red Hand Warband

Many of the monsters that make up the bulk of the Red Hand’s army already have official 5e counterparts. Which should be easy enough to plug into your game using many of the DM tools available.

In particular, the hobgoblin is a great stand-in for the hobgoblin regular or hobgoblin veteran. If you’re looking for more variations of Hobgoblins and Bugbears, consider getting the Ultimate Bestiary: Revenge of the Horde 5th Edition from DriveThruRPG. It offers monsters such as: Hobgoblin Legate, Pikeman, Arbalester, and more.

The Red Hand Monsters

Once again, most of the monsters used in the RHOD adventure have readily available 5e stats. Monsters like chimeras, manticores, hill giants, and ettins can be ported directly from the Monster Manual.

The barghests in Volo’s Guide do differ from the 3.5 version, however. Once you get to the Fane of Tiamat, you’ll also have to deal with abishai. While these are listed in MToF, consider which CR level version you’ll be throwing at your party.

Greenspawn Razorfiends

Greenspawn razorfiends, also called harrowblades by wood elves and other forest dwellers, were cunning, voracious dragonspawn.

Greenspawn Razorfiend
Large monstrosity (dragonblood), lawful evil


Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 85 (10d10 + 30)
Speed 50 ft., swim 50 ft.


STR 18 (+4) DEX 17 (+3) CON 16 (+3) INT 5 (-3) WIS 15 (+2) CHA 12 (+1)


Damage Immunities acid
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities paralyzed, unconscious
Senses darkvision 60 ft. passive Perception 12
Languages Draconic
Challenge 6 (2300 XP)


Water Breathing. A greenspawn razorfiend can breathe underwater indefinitely and can freely use its breath weapon while submerged
Tiamat’s Blessing. A greenspawn razorfiend grants immunity to acid to dragonblood creatures within 5 feet of it. This immunity lasts as long as the creature remains within 5 feet of the greenspawn razorfiend.


–Actions–
Multiattack. The greenspawn razorfiend makes three attacks: two with its wingblades, and one with its bite.
Wingblade. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) slashing damage4) slashing damage.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) piercing damage4) piercing damage.
Acid Breath (Recharge 5-6). The greenspawn razorfiend exhales acid in a 20-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking 17 (5d6) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

High Wyrmlord Azarr Kul

High Wymlord Azarr KulLarge dragon (mutated goblin), lawful evil
Hit Points 207 (18d10 + 108)
Armour Class 19 (natural armour, sentinel shield)
Speed 40 ft.

STR 22 (+6) DEX 10 (+0) CON 23 (+6) INT 16 (+3) WIS 14 (+2) CHA 19 (+4)


Skills. Arcana +9, Deception +10, Insight +8, Intimidation +10, Perception +14, Stealth +6
Senses. Blindsight 60 ft., Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception 22
Saving Throws. Dex +6, Con +12, Wis +8, Cha +10
Languages. Draconic, Goblin, Infernal. Azarr Kul knows Common, but never speaks it.
Challenge Rating. 17 (18,000 XP)

Notable Equipment. Azzar Kul wields a magic scimitar set with a ruby of the war mage and bears a sentinel shield. He carries a potion of flying, a potion of invulnerability, and a potion of invisibility. Among his prized possessions are a crystal ball of telepathy and a set of Nozlur’s marvellous pigments. The crystal ball was a gift from Tiamat and is bound to his life force, if Azarr Kul is killed it shatters as if he had cast the spell using a 5th-level spell slot. He has a sending stone paired to the one carried by Hravek Kharn.

Personal Treasure. Azarr Kul wears platinum tailbands, bracers, greaves, and a girdle with silk loincloth. Each piece is engraved with a duelling dragon motif and set with sapphires; as a set they are worth 2,500 gp. He carries a statuette of himself carved from gold and decorated with sapphires worth 2,500 gp and a ruby worth 5,000 gp which are used as the focus for his contingency and forcecage spells.

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Azarr Kul fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.

Spellcasting. Azarr Kul is an 18th-level spellcaster. His spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). Azarr Kul can cast shield and suggestion at-will and has the following wizard spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will) green-flame blade, fire bolt, mage hand, ray of frost, shocking grasp
1st (4 slots) chromatic orb, feather fall, magic missile, thunderwave
2nd (3 slots) detect thoughts, invisibility, mirror image, shatter
3rd (3 slots) counterspell, fireball, sending, thunder step
4th (3 slots) banishment, fire shield, vitriolic sphere
5th (3 slots) cloudkill, cone of cold
6th (1 slot) chain lightning
7th (1 slot) forcecage
8th (1 slot) mind blank
9th (1 slot) time stop

Contingency. If a spell renders Azarr Kul incapaciated, blinded, or restrained, contingency targets Azarr Kul with a 5th level dispel magic.

Azarr Kul’s spellbook contains the spells listed above plus antimagic field, contact other plane, contingency, detect magic, dispel magic, dominate monster, foresight, imprisonment, infernal calling, invulnerability, magic circle, planar binding, plane shift, power word stun, private sanctum, project image, scrying, soul cage, symbol, and teleportation circle.

Actions
Multiattack. Azarr Kul makes two scimitar attacks.
ScimitarMelee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d6 + 6) slashing damage.
Lightning Breath (Recharge 5–6). Azarr Kul exhales lightning in a 90-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Each creature in that line must make a DC 19 Dexterity saving throw, taking 66 (12d10) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Legendary Actions
Azarr Kul can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. He regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.

Cantrip. Azarr Kul casts a cantrip.
Thunder Step (Costs 2 Actions).Azarr Kul casts thunder step without expending a spell slot. He requires no components to cast the spell in this way.

Converting Encounters in RHOD to 5E

  • Challenge Rating (CR): Adjust the CR of encounters to ensure they are appropriate for the party’s level. This might involve changing the number of enemies or swapping some monsters for others that are more suitable for 5E’s balance.
  • Encounter Balance: Utilize the encounter balance guidelines from the 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide to ensure each fight is challenging but fair.

Here’s a suggested encounter list structured to match the flow of the adventure while adapting it for 5E mechanics:

Part I: The Witchwood

Objective: Players discover the advancing threat of the Red Hand and must disrupt their preparations.

  1. Goblin Ambush: Encounter a scouting party of goblins (CR 1/4 each) led by a hobgoblin (CR 1/2). (Easy)
  2. Old Keep Exploration: Defend against animated armors (CR 1 each) guarding the old keep. (Medium)
  3. Wyrmlord Showdown: Battle Wyrmlord Koth (CR 5 hobgoblin warlord) with goblin reinforcements. (Hard)

Part II: The Ruins of Rhest

Objective: Players must investigate the cut-off Old North Road and deal with the threat in Rhest.

  1. Swamp Crossing: Navigate the swamp, encountering bullywugs (CR 1/4 each) and a giant frog (CR 1). (Medium)
  2. Black Dragon Encounter: Negotiate with or fight a young black dragon (CR 7) lurking in the ruins. (Hard)
  3. Lizardfolk Allies: Ally with or confront a tribe of lizardfolk (CR 1/2 each) in the ruins. (Variable)

Part III: The Ghostlord’s Tower

Objective: Prevent a powerful lich and his undead forces from joining the Red Hand.

  1. Approach the Tower: Defeat traps and undead guardians like wights (CR 3 each) and a specter (CR 1). (Medium)
  2. Lion’s Den: Convince or defeat the Ghostlord’s lion (CR 4) and undead minions. (Hard)
  3. Phylactery Retrieval: Secure the lich’s phylactery, possibly facing the Ghostlord himself (CR 13). (Deadly)

Part IV: The Siege of Brindol

Objective: Defend Brindol from the Red Hand’s assault, influencing the war’s outcome.

  1. Skirmish at the Gates: Repel hobgoblin soldiers (CR 1/2 each) and ogres (CR 2 each) at the city gates. (Medium)
  2. Inside the City: Save civilians from rampaging bugbears (CR 1 each) and a rampaging hill giant (CR 5). (Hard)
  3. Final Stand: Face off against a Red Hand war leader (CR 6) and his elite guards. (Very Hard)

Part V: Fane of Tiamat

Objective: Strike at the heart of the Red Hand by invading their stronghold and confronting Azarr Kul.

  1. Infernal Allies: Battle lesser devils (CR varies) summoned to aid the Red Hand. (Medium)
  2. High Wyrmlord Azarr Kul: Confront Azarr Kul (CR 8), now an empowered warlord with draconic abilities. (Deadly)
  3. Aspect of Tiamat: Face an aspect of Tiamat (CR 10) in the climactic final battle. (Deadly)

Each encounter should be balanced considering the party’s level, the expected difficulty, and the number of players. This list provides a general structure, but each encounter can be scaled up or down based on how the adventure is progressing and how the players are managing their resources. Remember to adjust the loot, experience, and story progression to maintain engagement and provide appropriate rewards.

Converting Magic Items in RHOD

  • Conversion: Convert all magic items found in the module to their 5E equivalents. If an item doesn’t exist in 5E, use a similar item or create a new one using the guidelines in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
  • Distribution: Consider the rate at which 5E expects players to gain magic items, which is slower than in previous editions. Adjust the loot accordingly.

For a seamless conversion of “The Red Hand of Doom” from 3.5 Edition to 5th Edition D&D, here’s a detailed guide for converting magic items found in the module, ensuring that they align with the mechanics and balance of 5E:

Existing 5E Equivalents

  1. +1, +2, +3 Weapons and Armor: Directly use the same items from the 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide.
  2. Potions of Healing (Minor, Major, Superior, etc.): Direct equivalents exist in 5E.
  3. Scrolls (Spell Level 1-9): Use spell scrolls as described in 5E, ensuring to match the spell levels appropriately.
  4. Wands of Fireballs, Lightning Bolts: These can be converted to the Wand of Fireballs and Wand of Lightning Bolts in 5E, with limitations on daily uses to balance them according to 5E standards.

Items Needing Adjustments or Replacements

  1. Boots of Striding and Springing: This item exists in 5E and can be used as is.
  2. Ring of Protection +1, +2, etc.: Use the 5E equivalent, ensuring the bonus does not stack with other protective magical effects.
  3. Cloak of Elvenkind, Cloak of Arachnida: Both items exist in 5E; use as described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Creating New Items or Adjusting Non-Existent Ones

  1. Sun Blade: This item exists in 5E and remains largely unchanged, serving as a radiant damage-dealing sword.
  2. Dragon-Slaying Sword: Use the Dragon Slayer sword from 5E but tailor the dragon type based on the context of the adventure.
  3. Gauntlets of Ogre Power: This item exists in 5E and maintains its feature to set Strength to 19 when worn.
  4. Amulet of Health: Directly use the 5E version, which sets the wearer’s Constitution score to 19.
  5. Robe of Eyes: This 5E item can be used as is, granting the wearer a wide range of vision benefits.
  6. Rod of Lordly Might: Use the 5E version but adjust for any specific powers that do not directly translate from 3.5 to 5E.

Example of a New Item Creation

Amulet of Natural Armor: This item doesn’t have a direct equivalent in 5E because natural armor doesn’t work the same way. Instead, create a new item:

  • Amulet of Defense: This amulet grants the wearer a +1 bonus to AC. It requires attunement and doesn’t stack with other magical items that provide an AC bonus.

General Considerations

  • Balancing Item Power: When converting or creating new items, consider how the item’s power impacts game balance in 5E. Use attunement as a balancing tool to prevent characters from becoming too powerful by wearing multiple potent items.
  • Frequency of Magic Items: 5E generally expects fewer magic items than 3.5, so consider reducing the number of magic items or adjusting encounters to maintain challenge levels.

Each item should be considered within the context of the campaign’s progression and the intended power level of the party. This balance ensures that the magic items enhance the game experience without overpowering the players or trivializing the challenges they face.

Rules and Mechanics

  • Resting: 5E’s short rest and long rest mechanics should be integrated, replacing the older recovery systems. This affects the pacing and difficulty of the adventure, as players can recover more quickly.
  • Spellcasting: Update all spell references to reflect the spells available in 5E, adjusting NPC spell strategies as necessary.

Narrative Adjustments

  • Alignment with 5E Themes: Ensure the story and character motivations align with the themes of 5E, which often emphasize a broader range of moral complexities and character backgrounds.
  • Hooks and Quests: Update quest hooks to be more aligned with character backgrounds available in 5E, utilizing the background feature from the 5E Player’s Handbook.

Specific Conversion Examples

  • Monster Example: A hobgoblin from 3.5E would be converted to its 5E counterpart by adjusting its stats, abilities, and tactics to align with the 5E Monster Manual.
  • Magic Item Example: An item providing a bonus to a skill check would need to be adjusted to fit the bounded accuracy system of 5E, possibly by providing advantage on the check instead of a numeric bonus.

Playtesting

Time to start testing or straight up running your converted adventure. I’ve run a party through a Red Hand of Doom adventure converted to 5E and recorded our sessions for analysis.

Part I: The Witchwood

Other great conversion resources:

Daniel Ryan
Daniel Ryanhttps://www.nonfictiongaming.com/author/nfgdan/
Daniel 'Sheriff Dan' Ryan is a long time Dungeon Master who has worked in Esports, Marketing, and writes about Gaming when the sun goes down.
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