5e recommended 2.5 sessions/level rate

S'mon

Legend
What do you think of the 5e DMG's recommended 2.5 sessions/level rate? How do you think it compares to using the XP system, which seems designed to keep PCs in the level 5-10 range as long as possible?

After several campaigns using XP RAW, for my Thule game I've been using a modified system that gives advancement around every 2.5 sessions. So far the highest level PCs have reached level 9 from 1st. It seems to work fine but I'm wondering if maybe it means leveling out of the sweet spot too fast, and how it'll work at level 11+.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I personally think its too fast, as many of my players just do not delve into the game so deeply that they will grok or use the new game mechanics they have just acquired for leveling up. Once PCs reach 3rd level I try to make sure they get at least four to six sessions at each level so they have time to use what they've acquired (especially considering each player might be out for one of those 4-6).

But I don't begrudge WotC for suggesting 2.5 sessions as a recommendation. For those groups really focused on understanding and running the rules (or for those tables that tend to switch games/campaigns two or three times a year), barreling ahead probably allows for more uses of all the goodies they can get.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
That's pretty much what I've always done in 5E. It depends on the group and what you want to accomplish with the campaign of course, but go too fast and it feels like you don't get to enjoy those new abilities before there's something else new. Too slow and you feel like your on a treadmill. In previous editions leveling was much, much slower and it was fine, but it's also nice to get to higher levels.
 

akr71

Explorer
I agree - too fast. My players like to play something new every time and rarely use the same class twice. Throwing new abilities at them every 2 or 3 sessions would mean they wouldn't fully grasp how to use them, or when to use them.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I've been using a homebrew XP system of my own that grants levels approximately every 1.5 to 2.5 sessions. We've had 30ish sessions and the PCs are around level 15. I'm fairly happy with it.

I suppose it depends on the story that you want to arise from your campaign. If you have a ton of material that you want to explore, you could slow advancement. If you have have a fairly tight amount that you don't want to pad with filler, I could see increasing advancement to as much as 1 level per session.

If you want your campaign to run to level 20, at 2.5 sessions a level that's around 50 sessions (you get level 1 for free, but presumably you want to give the players a few sessions to enjoy level 20). If you don't have 50 levels worth of material, it's probably better to accelerate advancement than to add filler (IMO).

Also, you can throttle by tier. If you want the fast-slow-fast-slow pace of the XP system, have tiers 1 and 3 require 1.5 sessions, and tiers 2 and 4 require something like 3.5 sessions.

As my campaign is ramping up towards tier 4, I've found that I'm giving out more XP. While I want them to be able to enjoy the upper levels, high level D&D is a bit wahoo. They've become serious movers and shakers, which adds a bit to my logistics as a DM. Hence, I've been leaning towards giving out sufficient XP so that they've been leveling every 1.5 sessions. My setting is a sandbox, but I find it difficult to create sufficient areas to challenge high level characters while still maintaining internal consistency in the world. I suppose the obvious solution is to send them to the planes, but that means sacrificing or pausing the connections and projects they've made on the Prime, which I'd rather not do.
 
I think it's better to use milestones than sessions - I've known some sessions that involve little more than the PCs chilling in a tavern. It doesn't seem to be in the spirit of D&D to level up after an episode in which nothing much happens.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
You know, it seems fast but oddly enough we've done about 2.5 sessions per level on average up to level 9. It began much faster at lower levels with only one session per level for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (end of session #3) and it then jumped to 3 sessions per level. 7th level took 4 sessions, but there were fewer encounters per session so it makes sense. Just hitting 9th level took 4 sessions and I expect it will continue to increase at a slow rate as we need more XP.

We are also averaging about 6.3 encounters per session. Our rest rate varies depending on our current situation: about 1 short or long rest per 5-6 encounter for dungeon crawls to after nearly every encounter or two for overland travel.

Personally, the first few levels can happen so quickly that in future games I will probably advocate beginning at 3rd level.

One last note is we play every other Saturday. I have a feeling if we played every week, the DM would slow the pace. I think his ideal is to level the characters about every two months of game play or so. That is fine since it means I am looking towards level 12-13 by the end of this year and after playing all of next year will probably reach level 20 (about 2.5 years total). That might be too slow for some people and about half the rate WotC intended, but so far we like the pace.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
2.5 sessions seems fine for intro but fast after that.

We use a scaling rate of 3-4 x tier sessions per level. The wiggle at 3-4 gives us good flexibility in timing. We like that pace of advancement. It gives a good amount of time to get to use new stuff before leveling again.

If I were going to change it I would change it to 6-7 x tier sessions and let them level two levels each time. Thst way each jump is bigger but lasts longer.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
What do you think of the 5e DMG's recommended 2.5 sessions/level rate?
I think after level 5 you could slow it to 5 sessions per level or do as I have done for a long time advance everybody whenever it feels good in story for the over all scope and theme to change/intensify.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
I hadn't even known that was the recommendation. I've not read through the DMG, I've gone through the basic set rules, the PH and the MM cover to cover but I've only recently started in on the DMG. I am running a 5e conversion of the Pathfinder Carrion Crown Adventure path so I am going by adventure milestones for levelling which has been way more than 2.5 sessions per level. I talked with my group and they said they were fine with whatever once they got past level 1, it helps that the campaign is mostly a CoC investigation/ghost story so stats are not a big deal so far.
 

S'mon

Legend
I've been using a homebrew XP system of my own that grants levels approximately every 1.5 to 2.5 sessions. We've had 30ish sessions and the PCs are around level 15. I'm fairly happy with it.

I suppose it depends on the story that you want to arise from your campaign. If you have a ton of material that you want to explore, you could slow advancement. If you have have a fairly tight amount that you don't want to pad with filler, I could see increasing advancement to as much as 1 level per session.

If you want your campaign to run to level 20, at 2.5 sessions a level that's around 50 sessions (you get level 1 for free, but presumably you want to give the players a few sessions to enjoy level 20). If you don't have 50 levels worth of material, it's probably better to accelerate advancement than to add filler (IMO).
Yeah, I am running a Princes of the Apocalypse monthly game which is working well at ca 1.5 sessions/level; the pace is still pretty close to what the book expects (assuming not every bit of dungeon is cleared) and it works well with a fairly casual group doing the Epic Quest.

My Thule game though runs weekly and at 2.5 sessions/level should span 1-20 in a year, which is definitely much faster than I usually do.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
My first campaign used the standard xp, but I was using a lot of older 1E adventures, which can be a grind of combat. Once we got about 10th level or so, they started leveling almost every session, because they were killing so many things each time. This didn't really give them time to adapt to their new abilities, so they were often overlooked and forgotten. I'd think 2.5 sessions should be the minimum, except for levels 1-2, which can be done in a session or two each.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
One session for lvl 1, 2-3 session for lvls 2-3, then slower. But we will top out at 8th lvl and get feats only after that. We use milestones, too. Our sessions are 3 hours long, which I suspect is fairly short.
 
What do you think of the 5e DMG's recommended 2.5 sessions/level rate? How do you think it compares to using the XP system, which seems designed to keep PCs in the level 5-10 range as long as possible?
I have never reached 10th level in 5e, but so far the advancement rate using standard XP has been quite close to 3 sessions / level.

For my tastes it's too fast, since I would personally prefer a lower and also decreasing speed, but for example for my children it's just right.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
Two sessions per level sounds good. We play (if we're lucky) 2 sessions a month; sometimes it's once a month. A slower progression than that would feel like the characters weren't advancing at all, with months between levels. I think XP awards by the book are fairly miserly. I will never use XP in future D&D campaigns.
 
What do you think of the 5e DMG's recommended 2.5 sessions/level rate? How do you think it compares to using the XP system, which seems designed to keep PCs in the level 5-10 range as long as possible?
I missed that memo.

The XP progression in 5e is a pretty good idea, IMHO, it speeds your players through the deadly/dull Apprentice Tier, lingers in the Sweet Spot, and gets dysfunctional high-level play over with fairly quickly, but not so quickly you feel like you've been cheated of the accomplishment. So I'd be hesitant to give it up were I running a long campaign.

Anyway, even assuming hard encounters, through the sweet spot those'd map to 4-encounter sessions using the XP tables .... hm, actually, that'd be mapping sessions approximately to adventuring 'days' of 6-8 medium/hard encounters. Those'd be long sessions and/or fast combats.
Probably what they were thinking?
 
Last edited:

jgsugden

Adventurer
How is session a unit of measurement when people have different length sessions and move through sessions at different rates? I'm not familiar with this 2.5 sessions, anyways. If you follow the DMG recommendations for encounter building and adventuring, levels 1 and 2 are fast, 3 and 4 slow down, 5 5through 16 are slow, and 17 to 20 speed up again (if all experience comes from fights and you use repetitive patterns in encounter design based upon level).

I have used milestone advancement for decades longer than we had the term. I design things so that new abilities arrive to freshen things up once they've played with established features for a while. It works, and it tends to result in faster advancement per game hour if you play rarely and slower per hour if you play often.
 

BMaC

Explorer
My math is fuzzy, but if a party runs the “recommended” 6-8 encounters per adventuring day, and these encounters are of varying difficulty levels, then a party is going to level up (by XP at least) faster than 2.5 sessions unless 1) your sessions are really short or 2) a single adventuring day spans multiple play sessions. Or both.

our group plays every other week for six hours and does straight XP leveling. We average a level every 1.5 sessions.
 

S'mon

Legend
My math is fuzzy, but if a party runs the “recommended” 6-8 encounters per adventuring day, and these encounters are of varying difficulty levels, then a party is going to level up (by XP at least) faster than 2.5 sessions unless 1) your sessions are really short or 2) a single adventuring day spans multiple play sessions. Or both.
Only if every encounter is with a single opponent. :)
 

Advertisement

Top