Level Up (A5E) Is Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition compatible with D&D 5E?

Bunker

Hero
Short answer: yes. Long aswer: it is if Tasha's is.

So this quesiton seems to come up a lot, and I thought I'd quickly dive into it. Level Up isn't the same as D&D 5E (otherwise why buy it?) but it is compatible with it.

Level Up is compatible with 5E if Tasha's Cauldron of Everything is compatible with 5E. TCoE changes how races work. Eberron has a new class. But it's still compatible with 5E. That's what Level Up does, on a grander scale. Some things have changed, but they all still use the core 5E system.

Now different people might have different definitions of what 'compatible' means ranging from 'it has to be an exact reprint of D&D word for word or its a totally different game' all the way to 'if it uses a d20 it's compatible'. My measure is: can I run a D&D adventure with these rules? The answer is yes.

There are some people posting online that LU is not compatible with D&D, but what they means is it's not identical to D&D. Their definition of 'compatible' pretty much means most official D&D books aren't compatible with D&D, because they contain new content or rules. Eberron has a new class in it; Level Up has 13 new classes. If those classes aren't compatible with D&D then Eberron isn't either.

So YMMV. But this is pretty much 5E with more knobs and dials.
 

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Legendweaver

Explorer
The term used by the A5e design team was backward compatible.
Wellll...they made a stronger claim than that. The Kickstarter campaign page actually says:

  • Play 5E adventures or use 5E material with Level Up.
  • Your 5E characters can adventure alongside your Level Up characters.
  • Use new rules and monsters from Level Up in your 5E games.

And the differences are bigger than with Tasha. I think a better comparison is D&D 3 vs Pathfinder. Pathfinder also claimed it was compatible with 3E when it first came out, but I don't think anyone took that seriously; pathfinder is reasonably balanced against itself, but it has a very different power gradient than 3E. I think that's true here, as well. You may be able to run 5E adventures with minor modification, but an O5E character playing alongside a bunch of A5E characters is going to feel fairly underpowered.
 

Bunker

Hero
Wellll...they made a stronger claim than that. The Kickstarter campaign page actually says:



And the differences are bigger than with Tasha. I think a better comparison is D&D 3 vs Pathfinder. Pathfinder also claimed it was compatible with 3E when it first came out, but I don't think anyone took that seriously; pathfinder is reasonably balanced against itself, but it has a very different power gradient than 3E. I think that's true here, as well. You may be able to run 5E adventures with minor modification, but an O5E character playing alongside a bunch of A5E characters is going to feel fairly underpowered.
Trying to grok what you’re saying from what you bolded. Are you implying that 5E characters cannot be played alongside LU characters? Because that’s very clearly not true. We’ve been doing that since the playtests with no problems at all. It’s not like they use a differemt rules system. They’re just new classes. Like the artificer was.
 


Legendweaver

Explorer
They’re just new classes. Like the artificer was.
They're not just new, they're more powerful. The wizard is an easy comparison to make here: side by side, the A5E wizard gave up none of the O5E wizard's abilities, and gained eleven new class features.

So what I'm saying is there's a fundamental imbalance between O5E and A5E classes (in a similar manner to between SW5E and O5E, and in a similar manner to Pathfinder vs. D&D 3.5 - and to a similar apparent magnitude). Yes, you can technically play them side by side, but an O5E wizard playing at the same table as an A5E wizard will definitely feel significantly underpowered by comparison.
 

VanguardHero

Adventurer
They’re just new classes. Like the artificer was.
This. For Martials they are Classes better balanced against Spellcasters, but if weighed against o5e "balance" they are well within the balance range just crossing the Martial/Caster divide. For Casters, I haven't looked at them as much, but a lot of the new stuff they got seems cool and flavorful. In exchange, the a5e version of a lot of OP spells got nerfed, which lowers their baseline power, as well as Martials actually giving competition. So the worst of it would be a5e Casters with o5e spells, but even then it's less powerful than the cheese you can get up to with just o5e, say a Chronurgist Wizard with a Peace Cleric dip. Mixing the two hurts the integrity of a5e's balance, not o5e's.
 

Stalker0

Legend
They're not just new, they're more powerful. The wizard is an easy comparison to make here: side by side, the A5E wizard gave up none of the O5E wizard's abilities, and gained eleven new class features.

So what I'm saying is there's a fundamental imbalance between O5E and A5E classes (in a similar manner to between SW5E and O5E, and in a similar manner to Pathfinder vs. D&D 3.5 - and to a similar apparent magnitude). Yes, you can technically play them side by side, but an O5E wizard playing at the same table as an A5E wizard will definitely feel significantly underpowered by comparison.
This is my take as well, though it does depend on the class.

I think for example the OG Druid and the new one could both play at the table and be reasonably balanced with each other. Same with old and new barbarian. Old and new Monk, no way. Old and new Wizard, no way.

Now for groups that don't care about absolute power, I don't see any real compatibility issues, but if they do....it would be very tough to have both versions of many classes at the same table without expecting one player or the other to feel a bit underwhelmed.
 

Xethreau

Josh Gentry - Author, Minister in Training
They're not just new, they're more powerful. The wizard is an easy comparison to make here: side by side, the A5E wizard gave up none of the O5E wizard's abilities, and gained eleven new class features.

So what I'm saying is there's a fundamental imbalance between O5E and A5E classes (in a similar manner to between SW5E and O5E, and in a similar manner to Pathfinder vs. D&D 3.5 - and to a similar apparent magnitude). Yes, you can technically play them side by side, but an O5E wizard playing at the same table as an A5E wizard will definitely feel significantly underpowered by comparison.
"fundamental imbalance" does exist between the two wizards, due to the fact that all A5e classes have support for all three pillars of gameplay. In the case of full casters, they received support for non-spell-related ways to contribute to exploration and social.

However, an A5e wizard has the same damage profile as the O5e wizard does. An O5e wizard won't be sad in combat alongside A5e characters because they are still viable in combat. This is true for all the classes.
 

timespike

Adventurer
In terms of O5E design, all of the classes have a lot more "ribbon abilities." Just because there's more stuff on one character sheet than another doesn't necessarily mean the character sheet with more entries will do more damage, have a higher AC, etc.

Now, will they be more versatile? Yes, almost all the time.
 

Rant

Explorer
There are bigger issues for martial classes than some are noting. If someone played a Barbarian who used original Polearm Master and Sentinel together to act as a defender for weaker party members by hitting an enemy as it closed range and stopping its movement, their character doesn’t exist in Level Up, due to feat changes. They can now eat an enemy’s reaction, instead, so the feats they used to rely on to perform don’t exist in the same form. Same with a fighter built around optimized nova rounds with Great Weapon Master.
A Wizard focused on shutting down enemy spellcasters with counterspell loses their effectiveness. There are a lot of examples of how O5E builds “don’t work” anymore with the new rule set.
That’s fine since the two are different rule sets, and you can totally use Level Up to run a module written for D&D, but no, you can’t really play D&D classes with Level Up classes since they won’t work the way they used to.
Others noted, it’s a lot like Pathfinder, but more extreme, since Pathfinder did not change many basic mechanics from 3.5, it just added new ones. Level Up also changes basic mechanics. Critical Hits work differently. There’s universal maneuvers like Press The Attack that used to be the realm of dedicated class features.
It’s a bigger shift than Pathfinder was from 3.5. It wasn’t a good idea to try to play 3.5 classes alongside Pathfinder classes, and it really really doesn’t work for Level Up. Adventure compatibility seems solid, but rules compatibility by definition doesn’t exist because it’s a different rule set. Obviously classes built around a different rule set can’t work around classes designed around a new one, and vice-versa.
 

There are some very specific things you can't do the same or builds that don't work the same way, but that is a different thing to "you can’t really play D&D classes with Level Up classes".
 


Rant

Explorer
There are some very specific things you can't do the same or builds that don't work the same way, but that is a different thing to "you can’t really play D&D classes with Level Up classes".
Seems more like a semantics difference. If a D&D character like the Barbarian using Polearm Master and Sentinel as described doesn’t work in Level Up, it might be more accurate to say “you can’t play D&D characters in Level Up,” characters, not classes, but again, that’s kind of a semantics argument.
It’s compatible for adventures but it’s not compatible for classes because it’s not compatible with the rules those classes relied on to function properly. It’s a different rule set that requires different classes, and it has them.
 

Stalker0

Legend
However, an A5e wizard has the same damage profile as the O5e wizard does. An O5e wizard won't be sad in combat alongside A5e characters because they are still viable in combat. This is true for all the classes.
If you mean "raw damage", then I might agree. If you mean "combat effectiveness"...I would dispute that.

An A5E wizard can get:

1) Cantrip as a bonus action Prof mod per day, leading to more damage.
2) An extra spell per day due to spell specialization
3) Can get a once per day added incapacitation or blind effect on a spell.

etc

Now is it "night and day" different.... for the wizard its not. But is it strictly better...yeah it is.
 

Legendweaver

Explorer
However, an A5e wizard has the same damage profile as the O5e wizard does. An O5e wizard won't be sad in combat alongside A5e characters because they are still viable in combat. This is true for all the classes.
DPR is hardly the only thing that matters in combat, though - and even there, I'm skeptical. Some of the massive changes affecting wizard combat effectiveness include: "Signature Spells" (more spell slots), "Wizard Flair" (add control to any spell once per combat), "Bestow Magic" (one extra spell per combat, potentially a buff with concentration), "Arcane Defenses" (various defensive improvements), Spell intensity (including "Duality," which sidesteps arguably the most important aspect of caster balance in 5E according to the game's own designers), and Swift Signature (quickened spell for wizards).

Now, maybe you're factoring some of the spell nerfs and assuming A5E casters only used revised spells while O5E casters use the originals. I don't have enough of a handle on the matrix of interactions there to determine if that compensates for the class buffs listed above, but I could never run that kind of bifurcated game (which fireball does an npc wizard cast? If an A5e Wizard and O5E wizard both copy fireball from her spellbook, what spell do they get? What about a wand of fireballs? What if the O5E wizard wants to copy an A5E spell into his spellbook? Or an A5E wizard wants to copy a spell from Tasha?... let alone begin to consider how O5E and A5E spells might themselves interact based on unexpected wording if cast in the same fight!!!)...so I'm assuming all wizards draw from the same spell list.

I want to be clear: I like A5E, I want to play it soon, want it to succeed, and I'm trying to tear through my PDFs to uncover (and hopefuly get fixed) as many exploits and edge cases as possible to make it better...I just don't think it'd be good for A5E or O5E to mix characters in a single game.
 

Considering the power inbalance within o5e, I don't see the new base classes being that much of an issue alongside o5e classes. But I think the key thing here is that it's not first and foremost designed with that in mind. The clear intent is that everyone will play with the new classes. They are just saying 'yes it can be done'.
 

VanguardHero

Adventurer
Considering the power inbalance within o5e, I don't see the new base classes being that much of an issue alongside o5e classes. But I think the key thing here is that it's not first and foremost designed with that in mind. The clear intent is that everyone will play with the new classes. They are just saying 'yes it can be done'.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and o5e has some BRITTLE links when it comes to balance.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Short answer: yes. Long aswer: it is if Tasha's is.

So this quesiton seems to come up a lot, and I thought I'd quickly dive into it. Level Up isn't the same as D&D 5E (otherwise why buy it?) but it is compatible with it.

Level Up is compatible with 5E if Tasha's Cauldron of Everything is compatible with 5E. TCoE changes how races work. Eberron has a new class. But it's still compatible with 5E. That's what Level Up does, on a grander scale. Some things have changed, but they all still use the core 5E system.

Now different people might have different definitions of what 'compatible' means ranging from 'it has to be an exact reprint of D&D word for word or its a totally different game' all the way to 'if it uses a d20 it's compatible'. My measure is: can I run a D&D adventure with these rules? The answer is yes.

There are some people posting online that LU is not compatible with D&D, but what they means is it's not identical to D&D. Their definition of 'compatible' pretty much means most official D&D books aren't compatible with D&D, because they contain new content or rules. Eberron has a new class in it; Level Up has 13 new classes. If those classes aren't compatible with D&D then Eberron isn't either.

So YMMV. But this is pretty much 5E with more knobs and dials.
Here's a definition of compatible: if I run a classic 5e adventure day, will the existing challenges be of the same general difficulty?
  1. In other words, can I keep the DCs the same or are their skill inflation/deflation? In tier 1? In tier 4?
  2. Can I keep the same encounters or is there power creep?
  3. Will the same number of encounters per short rest and long rest cause the same amount of usage attrition of features?
  4. Do the two longer-than-a-long-rest attrition (HD spent and exhaustion) still recover at the same rate?
Note that I'm not asking about mixing O5E and A5E classes and getting the same spotlight from features - that's one of the points we're trying to fix, giving more interesting options to everyone who needs them.

Tasha's passes the above in terms of compatibility. We see more variety of race/class combonations, but that's part of allowing more options. It stretched a bit on #3 with a proclivity for long rest recovery instead of a mix, with the changes to the Bladesinger being a great example of that difference. But its still in the neighborhood.

So, how do you rate A5E compatibility for those four points? Are they in the same rough neighborhood?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Here's a definition of compatible: if I run a classic 5e adventure day, will the existing challenges be of the same general difficulty?
  1. In other words, can I keep the DCs the same or are their skill inflation/deflation? In tier 1? In tier 4?
  2. Can I keep the same encounters or is there power creep?
  3. Will the same number of encounters per short rest and long rest cause the same amount of usage attrition of features?
  4. Do the two longer-than-a-long-rest attrition (HD spent and exhaustion) still recover at the same rate?
Note that I'm not asking about mixing O5E and A5E classes and getting the same spotlight from features - that's one of the points we're trying to fix, giving more interesting options to everyone who needs them.

Tasha's passes the above in terms of compatibility. We see more variety of race/class combonations, but that's part of allowing more options. It stretched a bit on #3 with a proclivity for long rest recovery instead of a mix, with the changes to the Bladesinger being a great example of that difference. But its still in the neighborhood.

So, how do you rate A5E compatibility for those four points? Are they in the same rough neighborhood?
So that has two answers.

1. Yes, you can do all that. The basic goal was to allow you to run an O5E adventure using our rules.
2. Even if you couldn't the game would still be compatible with 5E. A DC 18 check and a DC 17 check are both compatible with 5E. Three goblins and two goblins are both compatible with 5E. There's no incompatibility there.

I guess different folks can define compatibility in different ways, but to us it means that you can use O5E stuff in our game (adventures, characters, monsters, etc.) If you want to run Curse of Strahd in A5E, you can do so. Our Thursday night game has us playing Tomb of Annihilation using A5E rules. It works just fine, except that the DM keeps saying how much he enjoys the new tools at his disposal.

But a new 5E rule is compatible with 5E. Otherwise no new D&D book would be compatible with D&D! You can change a 5E rule and keep it compatible with 5E.

Now, if you define compatibility differently, then only you can decide whether it's compatible. But that's our definition and what we mean when we say 'compatible'.
 

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