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Thread: Starting Levels

  1. #1

    Default Starting Levels

    This could apply in any of the groups but since I deal with 5e, I figured it best to post it here.

    What levels do most folks like to start at? I see 1-3-5 with 1 being common in recruitment posts. Does it make a difference in people staying interested in a game if it starts on a higher level versus level1?

  2. #2


    The main problem with level 1 is that it's very deadly because you have low max HP. But it's still good for new players because it slowly allows them to learn how they enjoy playing their character before having to make important decisions.

    For experienced players starting at level 3 is usually better.

    Starting at level 5 is only needed if there's a stronger threat. The power jump from level 4 to 5 is huge, so if your PCs are level 4 but already reach a level 5 dungeon, they might be screwed.

    How I personally do it:
    If all my players are new to 5e, it's always level 1. Otherwise I give my players the option between starting at level 1 or 3. I never allow them to start higher than 3, even if they die and create a new character.
    Last edited by Rya.Reisender; 10-06-2017 at 06:26 PM.

  3. #3


    I mostly agree with Rya.Reinsdeer, except that I would allow players to start off higher than level 5 if they died when they were higher than level 5. Having four Level 12 characters and one little Level 5 character just doesn't sound fun. Not that I've ever run a game with Level 12 characters.

    But, yeah, if I'm running a game I like to start off at level 1 or 3. I wouldn't be adverse to running a higher leveled campaign some time, but probably not if all the players were beginners. When it comes to running games, I don't care too much about my character's starting level. I just like playing the game.

  4. #4


    I can agree with Rya's assessment. Level 1 is best suited for beginners, or if you want a really long campaign. It's really easy to die at these levels, especially to an untimely crit (and even more so if the players are new to the system). Level 3 tends to be a good spot for more experienced players because that's when archetypes kick in for most classes, so it starts to feel like you're actually playing your class the way you want to. Level 5 is when 3rd level spells and Extra Attack start coming online, so again, the power leap is pretty big.

    Higher levels for a start (6 onwards) should be reserved for shorter campaigns/one-shots that'll only take you through a couple more levels, and allow the players to explore more experimental builds or just give them the chance to act a bit silly.

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by RealWittyAlias View Post
    I mostly agree with Rya.Reinsdeer, except that I would allow players to start off higher than level 5 if they died when they were higher than level 5. Having four Level 12 characters and one little Level 5 character just doesn't sound fun. Not that I've ever run a game with Level 12 characters.
    By the way, the reason why I don't allow to keep level just like that is that I want my players to be really afraid of dying.
    I'm also using the catching up AL rules that say if a character reaches level 4 and all other PCs are already level 5 or higher, he instantly reaches XP to the beginning of level 5. Same for 10->11 and 16->17.
    That way you are only level 3 for 1800 XP, which is just to get used to the character. Then, once you got those 1800 XP and reach level 5, the power gap isn't that big anymore. A level 5 can still be pretty useful in a level 10 party.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2014
    South Carolina

    Default Starting Levels

    Like has been stated above, level one is good for beginners (even though I’m recruiting a beginner game at level 2... mostly because it’s one on one so the deadlines of level one would be a big issue). Level 3 is a typical start for experienced players, and higher levels are for special games like one shots or when you just really want an epic campaign but want to start off already pretty epic (skipping all the low level stuff).
    I haven’t played in a game with a character past level 9 yet - one of those games did start at level 1, though I changed characters at level 8 at a major turning point in the campaign. I haven’t DMed anyone over level 6 yet - one as a one shot that started there and one as an ongoing campaign from level 1.
    I don’t have full proof, but have a working theory that, while lots of experienced players want to play high level games, few want to make a high level character. There have been a handful of level 20 one shots recruiting, and they got just barely enough applicants, iirc. My level 6 one shot struggled to get 14 people to apply even though lots more were interested. The higher level you go, the less people comfortable making a character. I don’t know where the ideal tipping point is yet.

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  7. #7


    To speak towards Rellot's point, one of the issues as you climb in levels is that your choices increase. If you are playing organically, those choices might be considered over time and planned for. Even if not, they only come one level at a time. Leveling a character from 4 to 5 level still takes time, but not as much as dealing with 5 levels all at once. Creating a character at a high level introduces all of those choices at once and can lead to choice paralysis. Toss into the mix that often high level games offer you an opportunity to choose a magical item or items and the choices increase.

    This hits me a lot. The only way that I've managed to combat that is on a personal level where I force myself to choose something in the creation process and refuse to revisit it. I think the fact that character creation for pbp is often done in a vacuum instead of in discussion with your group impacts it as well. If a group was making characters together, they could discuss roles and help encourage choices ("We need firepower, how about you run a wizard?" "Hey, I was thinking of a rogue. Oh, that's neat, what if I roll a fighter and be your muscle?").

    There's a lot of work between saying, "That game sounds awesome!" and "Here's my full sheet and background." Starting at a higher level might produce more initial interest, but it increases the labor necessary to complete the character. Worse, in pbp, you could spend that time making a character and then not be selected for the game. That's a tall hurdle to leap over and the hurdle gets higher as the levels go up.

    I think if you want to have a lot of interest in your game, you need a killer hook and a low hurdle (lower starting level). However, I think you should see those as being related to one another. An absolutely amazing hook (whatever that looks like) can carry a higher hurdle. Likewise, a relatively plain hook can probably still get some interest with a low hurdle. For example, I have a soft spot for Spelljammer (don't judge me). If I saw a 5E Spelljammer game recruiting, I would apply regardless of starting level. The hook would make it worth the effort to clear the hurdle.

    That said, I don't think starting levels actually impact commitment though once the game starts. I think that has much more to do with the players and dms themselves. I've been in games that flamed out at level 1. I've seen games that start at high level flame out. I've seen long running games where the characters gained several levels flame out as well. I know you're asking for a way to increase commitment. My best guess for building that commitment is that you need to build a relationship within the group.

    It's much easier to make time to check the forum and post if I'm doing it for someone I consider a friend rather than a stranger. It's also much easier to bail on folks without saying a word if you have no relationship with them (How many of us have had DMs just disappear without saying a word? Players too, for that matter). That's a harder nut to crack though. If anyone has any great insight on developing that, I'm all ears. I'm trying to build that with my game by have a discord to allow chatting among the players and myself, but it's not exactly been a silver bullet (though it has helped certain things).

  8. #8


    For the want to play high level characters, but not creating them, in my case, it's because I don't feel like the character is mine. If a character is level 3 or 5, it's someone with a lot of experience in the D&D (or Pathfinder). And I don't feel like it's my character, it feels like I'm just playing someone who's very good. But that's only my opinion.
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  9. #9

    Default to Matthan: on developing relationship; and against flaming out

    Don´t know about ¨great¨... but here´s an idea that appeals to me: group build-up, something which would take place between recruitment and the play´s start. :::: The context could be that of an open discussion, for example at the recruitment section of ttw here (I´m having pbp in view), discussion during which the future game master, taking just on the role of a game host during this stage, would present aspects of the game´s world and events which precede the trigger (or hook) which starts the adventure. The players, then, would share their opinions, and this could even go so far as to become co-authoring of that end of a GM´s story where the adventure begins. Slowly, what could happen, provided that every participant is honestly taking an interest in this dialogue, is that the future players would gradually sink into their characters and become a part of the story. There would be ample time to go into finer details, both of one´s character and of the game world´s characteristics; and besides the greater commitment which this occasions, the players would also become better at acting in accordance with their characters´ personalities. And perhaps this implies at least an equal, if not predominant, focus on socializing, compared to taking action; even if the first is often limited to monologues, or sharing of thoughts. The open discussion could be maintained later, throughout the game, and this would allow the players who lose the energy or time needed to stay with the adventure to maintain an interest, and maybe return at some point. With returns in view, it would help perhaps if there would be more than one main story thread, more than one chain of important events (the word epic comes to mind). Back to the topic of the discussion being maintained alongside the game, two more benefits: it would facilitate changes of game master, when needed; and it would allow interested people (who answered to the recruitment and participated in the early stage of the discussion) to support everyone´s morale by constituting a sort of fan club (and they could even give ideas for npcs which the protagonists would meet, or for minor events; or they could contribute to a knowledge base of the game world´s lore, that the players could draw from to enrich their performances). OOC: I stop here because this reply is becoming frighteningly large... :::: In place of an ending: Remember those older computer rp games where you were given the choice of defining your character by rolling dice or by going through a series of what-would-you-do-ifs? I think the two options are comparable, in how they prepare the player for the adventure, to the pair of usual pbp recruitment and the kind I suggested in this reply. And it may prove an interesting experience for the future game master and players to go together through such a series of situations which need be answered; together as in supporting each other and reaching individual character decisions that all agree with... ~ PS. and to avoid seeming off-the-main-topic ^_^: perhaps what I referred to here would put the matter of the starting level in a slightly different light?
    Last edited by Erran; 02-02-2018 at 07:43 AM.


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