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


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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
For sure. But I think some players (like the one in my example) enjoy a bigger, more epic experience sometimes (i.e. wrestling a Titan and staking him to the side of a mountain, fighting a warlock mounted on the back of a black dragon flying over a swamp of acid, etc).
Low level D&D tends to be kobolds, goblins, bandits, and weak undead. It's understandable to be tired of that if it's all you've played for 5 years.
I have no problem with folks who prefer more capable, even super powered characters. I just vehemently disagree with this idea you have to be capable of larger than life feats to be heroic.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sadly, IME, they have not been. I have had multiple DMs drag these levels out for ages, both in PbP and in more "typical" session play. I believe, in the longest-running 5e game I've been in, we took three weeks to go from level 1 to level 2. (And, keep in mind, this was after I gave an honest attempt at convincing the DM to let us start higher than 1st level, since no one in the group was new to D&D/tabletop generally, but a couple were new to 5e.)
Three weeks (which I assume means three sessions) to get from 1 to 2 isn't slow at all unless the sessions were 12 hours each.

Also, that this is being raised as an issue at all (by others as well as you) gives me the impression that you see levelling up as a primary reason for playing rather than just a side-effect of other aspects of play - the roleplay, the story, the combats, and so forth.

If levelling is viewed as just a side effect then it can happen way less often without anyone caring much.
In my experience? Badly. Have seen multiple level-1 TPKs that subsequently resulted in group dissolution.
If a very early TPK results in the group dissolving it probably wasn't much of a group to begin with.

What ever happened to persistence: "try again and let's do better this time!"?
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Sure, though the kind of heroism a level 1 character can engage in in D&D is something akin to running out of a landing craft under machine gun fire rather than actually accomplishing much. It's fine, but I find in games where characters matter more, just getting whacked by the roll of the dice for not being a coward isn't anyone's idea of a good time.
Eh, that's still up to the DM, though what you describe may be a "typical" experience.

One of the campaigns I'm running right now characters we agents of the crown and had authority and rights to do certain judgements against people. Early adventures had nothign to do with goblins nor fetch quests. It's one of the reasons I like 13th Age - with the Icon relationship,s players are important before they are powerful, and that really cements them as the heroes of the story.
 

aco175

Legend
I like low levels myself. I mean, level 1 is the introduction to the campaign and a few encounters. End of the night- "Congratulations, you are now level 2." New players love leveling and regular players like to gain a level as well.

My other point I find strange is that I have seen several threads where people on the site talk about how level 1 PCs are heroes and stand apart from locals, but then we complain here about how they suck. I get that they are better mechanically than a farmer, but it is still peculiar.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I like low levels myself. I mean, level 1 is the introduction to the campaign and a few encounters. End of the night- "Congratulations, you are now level 2." New players love leveling and regular players like to gain a level as well.

My other point I find strange is that I have seen several threads where people on the site talk about how level 1 PCs are heroes and stand apart from locals, but then we complain here about how they suck. I get that they are better mechanically than a farmer, but it is still peculiar.
Its all in perception. Some folks subscribe to this idea that even a level 1 character is way better than the average person (Like Marvel heroes) For others, the PCs are ordinary people that just choose to risk life and limb to be heroic (and gain fortune and fame). Its the deeds that make one a hero for some, its the power they wield for others.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Three weeks (which I assume means three sessions) to get from 1 to 2 isn't slow at all unless the sessions were 12 hours each.
Most people stridently insist you're supposed to be level 2 by the end of the first session, two at most. And, again, keep in mind that I find 1st level mind-numbingly dull in a gameplay sense. A good DM provides or fosters a good story regardless of level, so this is exclusively a gameplay concern.

Also, that this is being raised as an issue at all (by others as well as you) gives me the impression that you see levelling up as a primary reason for playing rather than just a side-effect of other aspects of play - the roleplay, the story, the combats, and so forth.

If levelling is viewed as just a side effect then it can happen way less often without anyone caring much.
Nah, levelling up is not at all a primary aspect of play for me. Having enough mechanics to actually sink my teeth into, on the other hand, is. And most 5e classes are barely deep enough to get your feet wet at 1st level. Being stuck in the "earn the right to actually be a thing" zone for potentially months at a time is very grating when you signed up because you wanted to be the thing, y'know? It's not that I care about levelling up itself. I just sure as hell don't feel like much of a Bard or Paladin or whatever until at bare minimum 3rd level. So I care about getting those first few vital levels that are the "you must clear at least this much content before you're allowed to play what you want to play." Once that's out of the way, yes, I do want a reasonable rate of advancement but I'm fine with it taking 2 years to reach level 20 or the like.

And, as noted, a good (or even just decent) DM can provide/support a story that is engaging completely outside of the mechanics of the game. I am presuming that aspect is already fine. I play a role-playing game just as much to role-play as I do to game. If I just wanted to RP, I've been able to do that freeform for years and years, no problem. I play D&D, and other systems, because it offers both role-playing and actual gaming. So...if I can get my RP fix by itself easily enough, and gaming by itself is a few mouse clicks away...my D&D kinda needs to offer a productive mix of both things in order to be worth my time. Otherwise I could just be playing Stellaris or FFXIV, or chatting on a forum.

If a very early TPK results in the group dissolving it probably wasn't much of a group to begin with.

What ever happened to persistence: "try again and let's do better this time!"?
Firstly...this comes across as really, really uncharitable. Like borderline mockery. "Wow, not very persistent are you?" But assuming this is just an accident of phrasing...three things.

One, in a sense, you're 100% correct. As I've said many times now, I don't have a stable gaming group where I can play. (My stable gaming group, I'm the DM of the one ongoing game I've ever run, and that's unlikely to change in the next couple years.) I don't have a set of old friends I can turn to and say, "hey, one of you feel like running D&D?" All of my gaming was done online even before the pandemic, in part because I'm painfully shy, and in part because going to a physical game shop is rather a chore (I live in a moderately large city, the shops certainly exist, but none anywhere close to where I live). And since it's not my friend group, I'm shopping around for online games wherever I can find them. So...yeah, an unexpected TPK is pretty likely to tank the group's interest in playing. Even when it IS being run by, and with, friends or acquaintances.

Two, unlike old-school play, I tend to go into a game with a concept I want to see unfold. I've invested a lot of time and effort into making that concept compelling and open-ended. Having that unceremoniously terminated, "you LOSE, good DAY sir," is pretty harmful to my enthusiasm and desire for play. It also means I must go to the drawing board and come up with an entirely new character, truly different from the first, all the while pining for what might have been. Yeah, I can get there. But I won't have much fun doing so. When "having a good time" is the whole point...and I'm already at least somewhat frustrated by having to slog through low levels I don't enjoy playing...it's just one more non- or even anti-fun element added in and one fewer fun element present.

Finally? TPKs are demoralizing as heck. They'll suck the air right out of a campaign. Even if it's 100% possible for the DM to realign and start over, it's hard on me as a player. Even just one character other than my own biting the dust in an unexpected and unceremonious way is hard on me; I took the death of the party Wizard in my (lone, sadly cut short before its time) long-runner 4e game way harder than the actual player did, for example. Deaths suck, and severely damage my interest in continuing on. Total party kills leave me with a very strong aversion to continuing. Has nothing to do with "persistence" for me, it just is a majorly sucky feeling that has to be just accepted, neither really mourned nor worked through 'cause in a week we're supposed to be right back at it.

So...yeah. TPKs tend to be the end of a group, because I play these games in part to FIND a group that could survive a TPK if need be (but, assuming I've found one that actually works for my interests, the need is very unlikely to ever be such.)
 
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Most people stridently insist you're supposed to be level 2 by the end of the first session, two at most. And, again, keep in mind that I find 1st level mind-numbingly dull in a gameplay sense. A good DM provides or fosters a good story regardless of level, so this is exclusively a gameplay concern.


Nah, levelling up is not at all a primary aspect of play for me. Having enough mechanics to actually sink my teeth into, on the other hand, is. And most 5e classes are barely deep enough to get your feet wet at 1st level. Being stuck in the "earn the right to actually be a thing" zone for potentially months at a time is very grating when you signed up because you wanted to be the thing, y'know? It's not that I care about levelling up itself. I just sure as hell don't feel like much of a Bard or Paladin or whatever until at bare minimum 3rd level. So I care about getting those first few vital levels that are the "you must clear at least this much content before you're allowed to play what you want to play." Once that's out of the way, yes, I do want a reasonable rate of advancement but I'm fine with it taking 2 years to reach level 20 or the like.

And, as noted, a good (or even just decent) DM can provide/support a story that is engaging completely outside of the mechanics of the game. I am presuming that aspect is already fine. I play a role-playing game just as much to role-play as I do to game. If I just wanted to RP, I've been able to do that freeform for years and years, no problem. I play D&D, and other systems, because it offers both role-playing and actual gaming. So...if I can get my RP fix by itself easily enough, and gaming by itself is a few mouse clicks away...my D&D kinda needs to offer a productive mix of both things in order to be worth my time. Otherwise I could just be playing Stellaris or FFXIV, or chatting on a forum.


Firstly...this comes across as really, really uncharitable. Like borderline mockery. "Wow, not very persistent are you?" But assuming this is just an accident of phrasing...three things.

One, in a sense, you're 100% correct. As I've said many times now, I don't have a stable gaming group where I can play. (My stable gaming group, I'm the DM of the one ongoing game I've ever run, and that's unlikely to change in the next couple years.) I don't have a set of old friends I can turn to and say, "hey, one of you feel like running D&D?" All of my gaming was done online even before the pandemic, in part because I'm painfully shy, and in part because going to a physical game shop is rather a chore (I live in a moderately large city, the shops certainly exist, but none anywhere close to where I live). And since it's not my friend group, I'm shopping around for online games wherever I can find them. So...yeah, an unexpected TPK is pretty likely to tank the group's interest in playing. Even when it IS being run by, and with, friends or acquaintances.

Two, unlike old-school play, I tend to go into a game with a concept I want to see unfold. I've invested a lot of time and effort into making that concept compelling and open-ended. Having that unceremoniously terminated, "you LOSE, good DAY sir," is pretty harmful to my enthusiasm and desire for play. It also means I must go to the drawing board and come up with an entirely new character, truly different from the first, all the while pining for what might have been. Yeah, I can get there. But I won't have much fun doing so. When "having a good time" is the whole point...and I'm already at least somewhat frustrated by having to slog through low levels I don't enjoy playing...it's just one more non- or even anti-fun element added in and one fewer fun element present.

Finally? TPKs are demoralizing as heck. They'll suck the air right out of a campaign. Even if it's 100% possible for the DM to realign and start over, it's hard on me as a player. Even just one character other than my own biting the dust in an unexpected and unceremonious way is hard on me; I took the death of the party Wizard in my (lone, sadly cut short before its time) long-runner 4e game way harder than the actual player did, for example. Deaths suck, and severely damage my interest in continuing on. Total party kills leave me with a very strong aversion to continuing. Has nothing to do with "persistence" for me, it just is a majorly sucky feeling that has to be just accepted, neither really mourned nor worked through 'cause in a week we're supposed to be right back at it.

So...yeah. TPKs tend to be the end of a group, because I play these games in part to FIND a group that could survive a TPK if need be (but, assuming I've found one that actually works for my interests, the need is very unlikely to ever be such.)

I find it makes it very hard to dm when there is the implicit expectation that the characters should never die, especially in a way that is insufficiently meaningful. I recall one 5e campaign I ran, where I made a difficult but surmountable challenge for my group of 5 5th level characters. And they did indeed survive, and none of them even went down, but they unexpectedly made a number of very poor tactical decisions that made the encounter more difficult than it had to be. I was also rolling in the open (on roll 20), so wasn't artificially making things easier. Anyway, a couple players thought I was being adversarial with these encounters. I felt like the expectation was that they should be able to approach situations as recklessly as possible and still find a way to pull out an "easy win." I found that I was walking on eggshells after that point, always worrying if something would be perceived as too difficult.
 

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