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D&D 5E Relative Difficulties of Advancing in 5e


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OptionalRule

Explorer
I think that's being hyperbolic.

This edition plays very well at high levels.
Worse, it's pointless. I made this because I don't generally play at that level and many people don't but some might be interested and I think they'd be as surprised by this as I was so I thought I'd post it and hopefully help them plan better for high level play.
 

The XP chart in 5e makes no sense whatsoever.

Its designed to be really fast to level 3 (you can easily go from 1st to 3rd in a single session), slow down markedly at the sweet spot of 4-11 (2-3 sessions per level) and then rapidly speed up again from 12th to 20th (1 session per level).

Most campaigns finish at around 11th level. The rapid advancement is simply the game providing an incentive to keep going a few more months and reach 20th.

Reaching 20th is fun. Which is the whole point of the game.
 

One of the topics I wished they'd addressed in the DMG was the number of encounters required to level up by level (breaking down and explaining the chart linked from the OP).

They do have an 'encounters per day' and 'Adventuring day XP' table to give you some idea of how much XP you're expected to get per adventuring day.

Breakdown is here:

RPGBOT - DnD 5e - Practical Guide to Campaign Planning.

To advance from 1st to 20th requires roughly 200 'CR' equivalent medium encounters, spanning the course of roughly 30 adventuring days at around 6.8 medium difficulty encounters per adventuring day, with hard and deadly encounters dropping the number of encounters needed to hit 20th.

You go from needing 5-6 or so medium encounters to hit 2nd and 3rd, up to 10-15 medium encounters for each of levels 4-10 (with a median of roughly 13), then down to roughly 8 medium encounters per level from then on.

Every deadly encounter counts as roughly 2 mediums.
 


Reaching 20th is fun. Which is the whole point of the game.
I agree although I have never gotten there myself as a player or with any campaign. Usually real world circumstances intervene. I was just talking with another player in my group last night about a campaign that we were running that tanked. We couldn't remember why it did but we might bring back parts of it in our current game.
They do have an 'encounters per day' and 'Adventuring day XP' table to give you some idea of how much XP you're expected to get per adventuring day.

Breakdown is here:
That breakdown is interesting. I started a new campaign last Friday this could come in useful because were planning to have multiple DMs throughout the course of it so I'm going to give this a more thorough read through and pass it along to the other two DMs so we're on the same page.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Pretty much all recent WotC adventures use milestone advancement rather than XP awards. I think WotC have given up on XP.
With good reason I think. They understand that their adventures that they're writing are paced based on the story they are telling, and aren't wasting space or time "filling in" areas with additional monster encounters just to make sure PCs have the chance to get enough XP to level at the points they think it makes sense for them to level in the story.

Besides which... that's the whole point of random encounter tables. They're there so that DMs who use XP leveling and feel they are necessary can add in as many additional combat encounters they need to get the players where they need to be.
 


That's less leveling up pacing and more adventure pacing. Which is indicative that the DM isn't considering downtime to its fullest since that is the main purpose of downtime anyways

You can go from fighting kobolds when you leave home to fighting kobolds a decade later if the DM decides the second Kobold adventure takes place 10 years after the first one. That's not an issue.

A small dungeon where I narrate that the hallways are so long that it takes you weeks to go from one room to the next does not at all feel the same as a large dungeon with many rooms.

But the problem with slow leveling up in real time is that players will feel like their character has stagnated. This is exaggerated with noncasters since they can't usually switch tactics anytime soon before a level up and must concede to their standard tactics the entire time. They may also be longingly looking at their future features.

If all you're doing is opening up monster closets and slaughtering the inhabitants, sure. It gets boring after the 3rd or 4th closet has the same sort of enemies, and you do the exact same things to kill them. I'll refer to you what I said earlier: A great campaign is fun regardless of how fast you level. The goal should be to present content at a high enough quality that players are there to engage with the world, not unlock the next doo-dad on a chart. I mean, how is it that Rob Kuntz enjoyed playing Lord Robilar for years, despite a 0e Thief getting little in the way of new widgets after a few levels? If all you're doing is grinding XP to pull the lever on the Skinner box, then something is missing.
 



Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
A small dungeon where I narrate that the hallways are so long that it takes you weeks to go from one room to the next does not at all feel the same as a large dungeon with many rooms.
Exactly. It makes more sense than the dungeon who have rooms so close they're basically overlapping.

That is, I assume you're still talking about the pacing of the game where your character goes from level 1 to level 20 within a year.

If all you're doing is opening up monster closets and slaughtering the inhabitants, sure. It gets boring after the 3rd or 4th closet has the same sort of enemies, and you do the exact same things to kill them. I'll refer to you what I said earlier: A great campaign is fun regardless of how fast you level. The goal should be to present content at a high enough quality that players are there to engage with the world, not unlock the next doo-dad on a chart. I mean, how is it that Rob Kuntz enjoyed playing Lord Robilar for years, despite a 0e Thief getting little in the way of new widgets after a few levels? If all you're doing is grinding XP to pull the lever on the Skinner box, then something is missing.
It doesn't have to be isolated as "only give a ton of exp" or "only provide story with no level ups."

In fact, my point is that it should be both. As much as we'd love for all of our players to be able to enjoy their character regardless of when they get something new, certain players still want to know what it feels like to get that second Action Surge or that Barbarian Capstone.

I mean, its gotta be one helluva story to have a whole JRPG turn-based game that the characters never gets new stuff with that keeps us players engaged.
 


Exactly. It makes more sense than the dungeon who have rooms so close they're basically overlapping.

That is, I assume you're still talking about the pacing of the game where your character goes from level 1 to level 20 within a year.

I'm talking about the claim that DMs who run games where you don't level up quickly are a problem. It's not that running big dungeon complexes like Greyhawk Ruins or Temple of Elemental Evil are characteristically different from a modern WotC storybook adventure and break down if the characters level up every 2-3 adventuring days, it's that they're just plain designed wrong, and DMs who want to run adventures like that like that are just doing it wrong.

In fact, my point is that it should be both. As much as we'd love for all of our players to be able to enjoy their character regardless of when they get something new, certain players still want to know what it feels like to get that second Action Surge or that Barbarian Capstone.

Being 20th level isn't about adding 6 to your damage instead of 3. It's about being a demigod, a hero (or villain!) before whom the world kneels, so powerful that you and your best friends can waltz into the Abyss and challenge Demogorgon to his face. I don't see any fundamental reason an adventure has to be there in a year's time, such that it's a problem if, instead of defeating Zuggtmoy in direct combat, you're desperately seeking a way to banish her back to her realm and end the Cult of Elemental Evil once and for all. IMO, enjoying the adventure takes precedence over enjoying your character sheet, and if an adventure can still be fun while you're a somewhat mundane fella with a sword and a thirst for an adventure, that's not a problem.

I mean, its gotta be one helluva story to have a whole JRPG turn-based game that the characters never gets new stuff with that keeps us players engaged.

You ever play Fire Emblem? The powers your characters get as they level up aren't much compared to D&D.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
I'm talking about the claim that DMs who run games where you don't level up quickly are a problem. It's not that running big dungeon complexes like Greyhawk Ruins or Temple of Elemental Evil are characteristically different from a modern WotC storybook adventure and break down if the characters level up every 2-3 adventuring days, it's that they're just plain designed wrong, and DMs who want to run adventures like that like that are just doing it wrong.
Its a problem for me. If your players are completely content on playing games where leveling is slow, then that's how they should play. However, in terms of adventures meant for the public, relying on milestones that come out at a slow pace can be quite a problem.
Being 20th level isn't about adding 6 to your damage instead of 3. It's about being a demigod, a hero (or villain!) before whom the world kneels, so powerful that you and your best friends can waltz into the Abyss and challenge Demogorgon to his face. I don't see any fundamental reason an adventure has to be there in a year's time, such that it's a problem if, instead of defeating Zuggtmoy in direct combat, you're desperately seeking a way to banish her back to her realm and end the Cult of Elemental Evil once and for all. IMO, enjoying the adventure takes precedence over enjoying your character sheet, and if an adventure can still be fun while you're a somewhat mundane fella with a sword and a thirst for an adventure, that's not a problem.
You're talking about how long it takes in real time. Gotcha. But my players don't often have the ability to take things slowly because of their other obligations. Its not that the rush the story but engaging in things that were – in both story, roleplay, and mechanic-wise – a waste of time can be annoying when the players realize that they very well might not even see the climax due to a campaign that peters out due to real-life time constraints.

We don't know where we'll be in 3 years, so planning a campaign to take that long is basically never planning on them to see their characters to their conclusions. That's why a quicker leveling, and a quicker yet saturated adventure, structure is more appealing to me than one where being unnecessarily slow comes with the threat of a incomplete story.
You ever play Fire Emblem? The powers your characters get as they level up aren't much compared to D&D.
I have. Both the older ones (I've played shadow dragon but haven't beaten it but I have beaten Blinding Blade and Three Houses amongst some in-between).

The difference is that FE's stats increases are much more frequent and stats are insanely important in that game because the difference between 14 and 15 speed may be the difference between 11 damage and 22 damage.

Also, they have skill level ups which are even more rewarding and more frequent as they can start to add +20 bonuses to hits, avoidance, and even crits while also increasing damage by +6 on player phase.

These don't even mention the benefits that this has on classing and how much more powerful a swordmaster/assassin is to a myridon/thief.
 

I remember in the Temple of Elemental Evil pc game, the max level for that game was Level 10. I wasn't exactly fond of such a low level cap. It was the first DND PC game that used the 3.5 rules and we all know the max level for that edition was 20(40). So I'm used to fairly high DND levels because of that. Level 10 was just too low.


Ultimately, YMMV based on group/personal preference. Nothing wrong with that. I can see BOTH XP and Milestone leveling having their places. Now in regards to leveling up too fast in 5E, I don't have any opinion on that as my group has been doing Milestone leveling.

If you feel that XP leveling is too fast and don't want to Milestone due to DM fiat, you can always change it up. Somebody mentioned on here, in the thread about Goodman announcing Temple of Elemental Evil, to swap out the current 5E XP charts with something like the 2E/Advanced Dungeons and Dragon's Thief class XP chart. It's "faster" leveling compared to the other classes XP charts but not as speedy as 5E. shrugs.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
We don't know where we'll be in 3 years, so planning a campaign to take that long is basically never planning on them to see their characters to their conclusions. That's why a quicker leveling, and a quicker yet saturated adventure, structure is more appealing to me than one where being unnecessarily slow comes with the threat of a incomplete story.
I have. Both the older ones (I've played shadow dragon but haven't beaten it but I have beaten Blinding Blade and Three Houses amongst some in-between).

Just a quick note on this - when it comes to campaign structure I try to plan major and minor arcs. At low level the big threat is the corrupt captain of the guard or the wererat gang that's causing havoc in your neighborhood. So even if you never get past 5th level, you may resolve 1 arc, 1 story. Kind of like reading a book series.

There will be the bigger arc hinted at, and if we all get to that conclusion it's fantastic. But we can still wrap up smaller stories and have multiple "conclusions" along the way.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Just a quick note on this - when it comes to campaign structure I try to plan major and minor arcs. At low level the big threat is the corrupt captain of the guard or the wererat gang that's causing havoc in your neighborhood. So even if you never get past 5th level, you may resolve 1 arc, 1 story. Kind of like reading a book series.

There will be the bigger arc hinted at, and if we all get to that conclusion it's fantastic. But we can still wrap up smaller stories and have multiple "conclusions" along the way.
It helps, though it can still be annoying since its rare that the campaign dies out just at the conclusion of a small arc.

The prince needs help against bandits! Great job helping him. But now the bandit leader wants revenge for...oh ok, guess that's the end of the story anyways.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I would just prefer less levels with a cap at 10 maybe 15. I don't necessarily want level 9 spells to go away, or higher level powers disappear, just would like to see things condensed down so the players reach a higher power level earlier/faster.
I wonder what would happen if we played the game very simply by advancing 2 levels at a time, and called them half: start the game at 2nd level and call it level 1, next jump to 4th level and call it 2nd... end game at 20th but call it 10.

PCs would never start with too little HP.
Spell level would match class level.
Levelling up would not be that fast.
No level up would ever feel too little.

Less granularity for sure, but doesn't sound that bad to me.
 

I wonder what would happen if we played the game very simply by advancing 2 levels at a time, and called them half: start the game at 2nd level and call it level 1, next jump to 4th level and call it 2nd... end game at 20th but call it 10.

PCs would never start with too little HP.
Spell level would match class level.
Levelling up would not be that fast.
No level up would ever feel too little.

Less granularity for sure, but doesn't sound that bad to me.
Seems like a good idea. I dont see any problems with doing so. We're 1 game into a new campaign, might not be too late to give it a try.
 

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