# D&D 5EHow long does it take to level?

#### overgeeked

##### B/X Known World
So I was killing time with Excel (like you do) and decided to take the assumptions of D&D5E at face value and see about how long in game it should take for a character to level up. This is kind of a tangent off the D&D world demographics thread, but I didn't want to derail that thread, so here's a shiny new one for this.

My assumptions are:

1. The party is four adventurers.

2. One medium encounter is the party facing one solo monster of a CR equal to the party's level.

3. The adventuring day consists of the recommended 6-8 medium encounters.

According to pure math, with 6 medium encounter per day, it would take 143.28 days to go from 1st level to 20th level. At 7 medium encounters per day, 122.81 days from 1-20. At 8 medium encounters per day, 107.46 days from 1-20. As an example, the Mighty Nein, the PCs from Critical Role campaign 2, went from 1st level to 16th level in 327 days. This is the equivalent to about 1.7 encounters per day. The rest are: 1 enc/day, 859.65 days to 20; 2 enc/day, 505.68 days to 20; 2 enc/day, 429.83 days to 20; 3 enc/day, 286.55 days to 20; 4 enc/day, 214.91 days to 20; 5 enc/day, 171.93 days to 20; 6 enc/day, 143.28 days to 20; 6 enc/day, 122.81 days to 20; 8 enc/day, 107.46 days to 20.

Considering how hardy adventurers are and how the game mechanics are stacked in their favor, most people who start the life of an adventurer would survive...and in a rather short period of time, you'd have a world dirty with high level characters. The hiccup would be parties between levels 1st and 4th because they wouldn't have access to resurrection spells. Revivify comes online at 5th. If the party has a cleric, celestial sorcerer, or wildfire druid. Even if adventurers are so rare that there's only one adventuring party formed per year, you'd still get four 20th level characters every year. Unless you consider things like adventurers retiring. A few too many near death or actual death experiences and the character hangs up their bedroll. Or they set out to accomplish some specific task, did so, then retired. Or they were trying to get a certain amount of gold for some purpose, then called it quits.

ETA: Yeah, characters advance however often the DM wants. I don't bother with XP and just use story-based advancement. This is just a post about the game's math. Not how it "should" be done.

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#### Malmuria

##### Hero
Levels make no actual sense from a world-building perspective and are just a conceit of playing the game, imo.

#### iserith

##### Magic Wordsmith
It might be worth considering downtime in there as well. I'm not sure there's any standardized metric for it outside of AL though. In my current hexcrawl game, I've made some changes to when resting occurs and how XP is gathered (via gold) so the PCs are 3rd or 4th level on Day 110 right now. There's a good amount of downtime in there since long rests are 1 week and tied to a downtime activity.

But as was already mentioned it's probably not worth thinking about the setting implications too closely for most campaigns. If one does though, there are plenty of fictional reasons one could imagine for the world not being populated by high-level adventurers.

##### Hero
It takes as long as it takes.

#### aco175

##### Legend
This is why I wish they still had level NPC like commoner and expert. I still tend to give some levels of stuff to the more important NPC in my games and maybe a skill bonus. It can take adventurers a week to go to 3-4th level and a blacksmith of 30 years still only had 1HD. Seems like he may have had to do some things along the way and have a couple HP and some cool smith power. I know the premise of adventurers are exceptional and nobody else is will in to place themselves in danger is a common thought in the game to make things work.

#### Mercurius

##### Legend
As a rule of thumb, I try to make leveling up occur every 2-5 sessions, depending upon level.

At early levels (1-4), I make it happen every 2-3 sessions. Once the party gets to 5th level, I slow down to more like every 3-5 sessions, with 4 being the norm.

But there is no formula - I do it more organically, and guide XP accordingly. Meaning, I use XP rewards as a baseline and then adjust accordingly to match the pace that suits the campaign and players, and that may include individual player bonuses for good roleplaying and heroic/clever acts.

#### Yora

##### Legend
For a very long time, I went with aiming for PCs gaining a new level every 4 or 5 games.
But when I started running a 5th edition game last year, I found that classes get so much new stuff that that pace feels very rushed and much too fast. Every 6 to 7 games probably works much better.

The prolem is that characters get too many XP per fight. Unless you play a game with very few fights, the standard XP pgogression is just too fast.

#### Mercurius

##### Legend
Levels make no actual sense from a world-building perspective and are just a conceit of playing the game, imo.
Yes and no. On one hand, an advancement system like Runequest (back in the day, at least) makes more logical sense: incremental improvement of specific skills over time. On the other hand, people often get better at something in jumps, especially after a "rest period." A musician or artist or athlete will work hard every day and notice no gains, and then take a break for a few days and when they start up again, see noticeable improvement.

Obviously D&D levels are an over-simplification of a complex process, but that is true of every aspect of the game.

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#### CleverNickName

##### Limit Break Dancing
The characters gain a level at the end of each quest, adventure, or mission. If they were successful and triumphed over evil, they might also gain other rewards like treasure, magic items, and powerful friends.

An adventure usually spans 2-6 gaming sessions, with 4 being the average, and we play every week. So I guess you could say that the characters in my games level up once a month, more or less.

#### el-remmen

##### Moderator Emeritus
My current 5E group went from 1st to 5th in 23 sessions that range from 4 to 5 hours. In-game time that has been about three and a half months, but soon I am going to introducing my own version of "extended rests" based on MCDM's Strongholds and Followers, since they built a lodge and are building ties to the community.

#### DemoMonkey

##### Hero
You're right! The math checks out, there SHOULD be a ton of high level adventurers. But...there aren't.

Why not?

Who or what is killing all the high level adventurers??

#### overgeeked

##### B/X Known World
My current 5E group went from 1st to 5th in 23 sessions that range from 4 to 5 hours. In-game time that has been about three and a half months, but soon I am going to introducing my own version of "extended rests" based on MCDM's Strongholds and Followers, since they built a lodge and are building ties to the community.
I really hope MCDM does something focused on politics and intrigue. In a recent Twitch steam he mentioned loving spy movies. I'd love to see him do a pure political campaign and spy thriller book.

#### ccs

##### 41st lv DM
So I was killing time with Excel (like you do) and decided to take the assumptions of D&D5E at face value and see about how long in game it should take for a character to level up. This is kind of a tangent off the D&D world demographics thread, but I didn't want to derail that thread, so here's a shiny new one for this.

My assumptions are:

1. The party is four adventurers.

2. One medium encounter is the party facing one solo monster of a CR equal to the party's level.

3. The adventuring day consists of the recommended 6-8 medium encounters.

According to pure math, with 6 medium encounter per day, it would take 143.28 days to go from 1st level to 20th level. At 7 medium encounters per day, 122.81 days from 1-20. At 8 medium encounters per day, 107.46 days from 1-20. As an example, the Mighty Nein, the PCs from Critical Role campaign 2, went from 1st level to 16th level in 327 days. This is the equivalent to about 1.7 encounters per day. The rest are: 1 enc/day, 859.65 days to 20; 2 enc/day, 505.68 days to 20; 2 enc/day, 429.83 days to 20; 3 enc/day, 286.55 days to 20; 4 enc/day, 214.91 days to 20; 5 enc/day, 171.93 days to 20; 6 enc/day, 143.28 days to 20; 6 enc/day, 122.81 days to 20; 8 enc/day, 107.46 days to 20.

Considering how hardy adventurers are and how the game mechanics are stacked in their favor, most people who start the life of an adventurer would survive...and in a rather short period of time, you'd have a world dirty with high level characters. The hiccup would be parties between levels 1st and 4th because they wouldn't have access to resurrection spells. Revivify comes online at 5th. If the party has a cleric, celestial sorcerer, or wildfire druid. Even if adventurers are so rare that there's only one adventuring party formed per year, you'd still get four 20th level characters every year. Unless you consider things like adventurers retiring. A few too many near death or actual death experiences and the character hangs up their bedroll. Or they set out to accomplish some specific task, did so, then retired. Or they were trying to get a certain amount of gold for some purpose, then called it quits.

ETA: Yeah, characters advance however often the DM wants. I don't bother with XP and just use story-based advancement. This is just a post about the game's math. Not how it "should" be done.
There's a flaw in your assumptions. And that's that assuming adventures adventure (I.E. having those 6-8 encounters) every day until they max out.
I don't know how your campaigns run, but in 40 years I've never yet run a game where that pace has occurred. There's down time, hand waved or played, and days where no xp is really earned but story goals are still advanced, etc.

#### DEFCON 1

##### Legend
Supporter
Levels are a game conceit so the players can be awarded with something tangible for their efforts playing the game, rather than just their memories of the adventures they went on. A board game allows you to "win" the game, which is the reward players go for usually in playing board games. Without a "win" situation in RPGs (other than "not dying")... the game needed an award. So becoming more and more powerful via levels became it. But levels themselves destroy the very fabric of world-building that many DMs try to create, because it makes characters ridiculously unbalanced compared to the rest of the people of the world.

#### Shiroiken

##### Hero
There's a flaw in your assumptions. And that's that assuming adventures adventure (I.E. having those 6-8 encounters) every day until they max out.
I don't know how your campaigns run, but in 40 years I've never yet run a game where that pace has occurred. There's down time, hand waved or played, and days where no xp is really earned but story goals are still advanced, etc.
But, but, but... the MATH says otherwise!

I've always hated whiteboard discussions. Yes, it is quite possible for PCs to gain levels very quickly. It's even possible for it to happen within a game year if an epic quest is involved. However, most games that use XP don't even come close to this pace. My first campaign went to level 18 in about a year and half in-game time, and it still felt somewhat rushed.

#### Stalker0

##### Legend
Here's the other thought. If we exclude the "chosen" PCs for a moment....than the real question is.....how much XP can an adventuring group reasonably obtain?

PCs have the benefit of the DM continuously scaling up their encounters (for most campaigns). But imagine if your 10th level guys are only finding 1st level or lower encounters the vast majority of the time. How long would it take to level up under that model?

Aka the goblin model....how fast can you level just killing goblins?

#### Dausuul

##### Legend
Considering how hardy adventurers are and how the game mechanics are stacked in their favor...
Whoa, hold up there. Are you including "level-appropriate encounters" as a game mechanic here? Some force steers a low-level party away from bumbling into an adult dragon's lair?

Because if not, then the mechanics are stacked in adventurers' favor in the same way that Russian roulette is. Each time you play, there's a 5 in 6 chance of winning. Pretty good odds... but you play again, and again, and again, and no matter how many times you win, you can only lose once. Resurrection magic doesn't do any good if the entire party is dragon chow.

#### overgeeked

##### B/X Known World
Here's the other thought. If we exclude the "chosen" PCs for a moment....than the real question is.....how much XP can an adventuring group reasonably obtain?

PCs have the benefit of the DM continuously scaling up their encounters (for most campaigns). But imagine if your 10th level guys are only finding 1st level or lower encounters the vast majority of the time. How long would it take to level up under that model?

Aka the goblin model....how fast can you level just killing goblins?
1st-20th level takes 2,148,400 XP per character. Assuming 10 XP CR0 monsters. CR0: 214,840 monsters. CR1/8: 85,936 monsters. CR1/4: 42,968 monsters. CR1/2: 21,484 monsters. CR1: 10,742 monsters. If you're in a party of four, you'd need 4x the XP, so all those would be x4 as well. The baseline goblin is CR1/4, so 42,968 goblins per character, or 171,872 goblins for a party of four. So however many days it takes you to find and kill that many monsters of that CR.

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#### loverdrive

##### Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
You're right! The math checks out, there SHOULD be a ton of high level adventurers. But...there aren't.

Why not?

Who or what is killing all the high level adventurers??

#### Flamestrike

##### Legend
As an example, the Mighty Nein, the PCs from Critical Role campaign 2, went from 1st level to 16th level in 327 days.

327 adventuring days, or game sessions?

They're different things.

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