D&D 5E Levels 1-4 are "Training Wheels?"

Retreater

Legend
Last night a player commented: "Levels 1-4 are just training wheels. The game doesn't even start until 5th level. Unless you're playing D&D for the first time, you should just start at 5th level."

Now, she hasn't been playing for ages - probably just around 5 years. I would expect it to take longer than that to become that jaded to low-level play.

Do you agree? If not, how do you address this? Start at 5th level? Speed through Levels 1-4? House rules to give more power or better options?
 

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dave2008

Legend
Last night a player commented: "Levels 1-4 are just training wheels. The game doesn't even start until 5th level. Unless you're playing D&D for the first time, you should just start at 5th level."

Now, she hasn't been playing for ages - probably just around 5 years. I would expect it to take longer than that to become that jaded to low-level play.

Do you agree? If not, how do you address this? Start at 5th level? Speed through Levels 1-4? House rules to give more power or better options?
I don't agree. Our group typically starts out at level 0 (in 5e that is no class, just race and background) so we can stretch low level even more. In our current campaign I think we spent a whole year in levels 0-4. However,...

...if that was our opinion: I would probably just start the game at 3rd level. I think everyone has there subclass by that point. In fact, IIRC, that is exactly what WotC recommends and their adventures often really start around that level as well.
 



Jer

Legend
Supporter
Now, she hasn't been playing for ages - probably just around 5 years. I would expect it to take longer than that to become that jaded to low-level play.

Do you agree? If not, how do you address this? Start at 5th level? Speed through Levels 1-4? House rules to give more power or better options?
5 years is actually longer than I'd think it would take for a player to come to the realization that levels 1-4 are training wheels. Because levels 1-4 were designed by Wizards to actually be the "training wheel" levels. Character capabilities are doled out slowly, ramping up the complexity and power level of characters until they hit level 4 and they have learned most of the game's systems. You can also see it in the DMG where they break down the tiers of play and level 5 is the transition point where players move from being "Local Heroes" and into the tier where they are "Heroes of the Realm".

What your player is probably actually telling you is that she has a preference for playing at the more heroic tier of play than a starting character. That she wants to play at the level where wizards are slinging fireball spells and fighters have two attacks per round, not at the level where you could be killed by a swarm of rats.

EDIT: And I do mean that Wizards designed 5e this way on purpose. It was a reaction to 4e where they started the characters out at the more Heroic tier and took a lot of flak for it from the folks who like to start their characters as dirt farmers and go from zero to hero. So they put the zero to hero levels in and then put signposts in place for those of us who actually don't care for that play style to explicitly say "hey, it's ok to skip these levels if you want and start at level 5".
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
Last night a player commented: "Levels 1-4 are just training wheels. The game doesn't even start until 5th level. Unless you're playing D&D for the first time, you should just start at 5th level."

Now, she hasn't been playing for ages - probably just around 5 years. I would expect it to take longer than that to become that jaded to low-level play.

Do you agree? If not, how do you address this? Start at 5th level? Speed through Levels 1-4? House rules to give more power or better options?
Interesting. To me the first few levels are the most fun. Like @dave2008 we added a level 0 (prologue) also just race and background, and enjoy the challenge low-level play brings.

Another thing is we slowed down advancement so we are in those low-levels longer. It takes us 25000 xp to reach level 5, for example.

Personally, I find higher level play a bit boring because there are too many powers and options for the players to use to solve problems instead of playing them through.

A question for you @Retreater is "how often are you playing levels 1-4 compared to levels 5 and higher"? If you barely get to levels 7+ before you start over with new characters, the player might become frustrated with that?

Also, a simple houserule (more part of our system) now that might appeal to your player is what I call "faster features". You remove the ASI's at levels 4, 8, etc. and slide up the table all the other features (just features, not spells, etc.) so you have them all by level 15 instead of 20. Here's a sample for Fighter, with some new features I made up thrown in:

1642197202273.png

Without the ASI at level 4, for instance, Extra Attack is moved up into the gap from 5th to 4th level.
 

dave2008

Legend
Here is what the DMG has to say about it:

"Starting at Higher Level
Experienced players familiar with the capabilities of the character classes and impatient for more significant adventures might welcome the idea of starting a campaign with characters above 1st level. Creating a higher-level character uses the same character creation steps outlined in the Player’s Handbook. Such a character has more hit points, class features, and spells, and probably starts with better equipment.

Starting equipment for characters above 1st level is entirely at your discretion, since you give out treasure at your own pace. That said, you can use the Starting Equipment table as a guide."
 



toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
"Levels 1-4 are just training wheels. The game doesn't even start until 5th level.
I'll totally disagree with the statement (but not the belief itself) because the game is more than hack-n-slash. There's that whole "role play" part that has nothing to do with starting at level 1 or level 5. And, there's some sense of "achievement" from having earned and survived those levels rather than having them handed out for free.

Further, anything past 1st level is pretty special, even 2-4. Level 1 is a time of discovering how you react to risk (of dying) and to experiment with races and classes before you end up with pages-long arrays of abilities. It shouldn't be missed. Levels 2 and 3 get into the "folk hero" range where death isn't as likely, leading to bolder play and more fantastic powers like changing into bears. That's pretty powerful. Level 3 and 4, PCs likely possess abilities 99% of the populace doesn't, and a dozen guards couldn't bring them down. Level 5, superheroes who can defy gravity by flying and even revive the dead. Tell that to the average peasant and they'll think avatars of the gawds have come down. Anything past that, relative to the rest of the world, a big deal.

However, while it's not my preferred style of play, I also know some people enjoy epic play. While I feel you might lose something in the role-play, making stories, finding out who your character is part, when you skip certain foundational levels, I am a firm believer in play what you like. So, I can agree with her belief that's where the fun starts even if I wouldn't personally do it.
 

Retreater

Legend
A question for you @Retreater is "how often are you playing levels 1-4 compared to levels 5 and higher"? If you barely get to levels 7+ before you start over with new characters, the player might become frustrated with that?
She has mentioned that she's never gotten to do high level. Her previous DM was running Curse of Strahd, and that campaign ended with Strahd's death ("just when it was getting good," as she said.) I guess that's around 10th level?

I've never been able to DM a "real campaign" with her - just sample test adventures to try out various systems. (Because of this phenomenon Switching Around Systems Due to Burnout?).

I guess my perspective is that levels 1-2 are too underpowered in 5e. By the time you get much beyond 5th level, you're unstoppable. For me there's a two level "sweet spot" in 5e where the game actually works the way I like, which is levels 3-5.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I'll totally disagree with the statement (but not the belief itself) because the game is more than hack-n-slash. There's that whole "role play" part that has nothing to do with starting at level 1 or level 5. And, there's some sense of "achievement" from having earned and survived those levels rather than having them handed out for free.

Further, anything past 1st level is pretty special, even 2-4. Level 1 is a time of discovering how you react to risk (of dying) and to experiment with races and classes before you end up with pages-long arrays of abilities. It shouldn't be missed. Levels 2 and 3 get into the "folk hero" range where death isn't as likely, leading to bolder play and more fantastic powers like changing into bears. That's pretty powerful. Level 3 and 4, PCs likely possess abilities 99% of the populace doesn't, and a dozen guards couldn't bring them down. Level 5, superheroes who can defy gravity by flying and even revive the dead. Tell that to the average peasant and they'll think avatars of the gawds have come down. Anything past that, relative to the rest of the world, a big deal.

However, while it's not my preferred style of play, I also know some people enjoy epic play. While I feel you might lose something in the role-play, making stories, finding out who your character is part, when you skip certain foundational levels, I am a firm believer in play what you like. So, I can agree with her belief that's where the fun starts even if I wouldn't personally do it.
I don't think that anyone who says that means that you can't have fun and meaningful gameplay at levels 1-4. Just that the class complexity is relatively low at those levels.

It's ideal for players unfamiliar with the game, but players who have experience with playing those classes might find the features somewhat lacking in complexity at those levels.
 

Oofta

Legend
Level 5 is a big power jump and for a lot of people when the classes really start to kick in. On the other hand, levels 1-2 are the training wheel levels to get people acquainted with the class and how they mesh with the group. If you're already comfortable with the class or just the system it's not necessary.

On the other hand, I like the lower levels. If I had my choice they'd last longer, I feel like what I decide to do with the little I have is more important. Choices seem to matter more when you're so limited. That, and it feels more personal because generally you're still in your starting locale fighting immediate local threats to family and neighbors.
 

Retreater

Legend
On the other hand, I like the lower levels. If I had my choice they'd last longer, I feel like what I decide to do with the little I have is more important. Choices seem to matter more when you're so limited. That, and it feels more personal because generally you're still in your starting locale fighting immediate local threats to family and neighbors.
I totally understand. That's why I prefer "Fellowship of the Ring" to the other films in the LotR series.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
Because levels 1-4 were designed by Wizards to actually be the "training wheel" levels.

No, they were not, and why specifically those levels ? Why not 1, or 1-2, or 1-6 or whatever ?

Also, lots of people only play D&D at low level only, very few people play at high level anyway.

And then, some people play D&D as a roleplaying game (and not a purely technical game of skill needing "training"), and even experienced players enjoy the start of their character's adventures when they are just local heroes and not world-shaking ones.
 

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