Starting level

Reynard

Legend
My next campaign (still.a ways off) will be a sandbox campaign. XP will be gained based on encounters and difficulty (both combat and non combat) and adventures will be primarily player driven (the party hears about a thing and chooses to go check it out or whatever, rather than baked in main quest style adventures).

Given that context, if you were playing would you rather start at first level, or start at 3rd level but have to earn all the "skipped" xp before you can level up? Why? Also, would it work if you gave individual players the choice?
 
First of all, I'd make the group choose together. A 1st level character with 3rd level characters is probably just going to die.

Personally, I prefer starting everyone at level 3. This allows everyone to have their sub-class, meaning that the majority of the concept of the character is in place (and if a feat is required, they get it in one level). Even if they have to go back an earn the 900 XP, it really shouldn't be an issue, adding in 2-3 extra sessions of level 3.

If you do start at level 1, be prepared for character turnover. Level 1 PCs are very fragile, and can easily die on a critical hit if low on HP. While level 2 about doubles their survival rate, they're still fairly vulnerable. In a sandbox style game, this usually isn't as much of an issue, but if the driving plot is set by character(s) that dies, it can cause a game to screech to a halt until a new player driven plot arises.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I personally HATE skipping first and second levels. To me, it is an important part of the character arc and I really enjoy low level play. In my current campaign our first session was a zero-level funnel.

Anyway, if you are going to skip levels 1 and 2, I'm not sure I see the point in making them earn the XP for those levels and 3rd before they can level up to 4th. I suppose it does have the advantage of extending tier one play while avoiding the the squishy levels. I wonder why you don't just go full milestone leveling? Decide how many sessions, about, you want to play at certain levels and level up when it feels right for the story.
 

S'mon

Legend
Personally I tend to start my sandboxes at level 1 with some newbie zone/training wheels material. Another approach that works very well is give full CON score + maxed hit die as hp at 1st level.

3rd level sounds good, and makes sense if the sandbox premise is one that seems silly at 1st level (Kingmaker - 'go carve out a kingdom from the wilderness') but the reality is that 3rd & 4th level 5e PCs are still very squishy. It's at 5th level you can pretty much expect them to be able to go anywhere and do anything, or at least survive to run away.
 
In my world, characters start at level one. Always. No exceptions. Your character died? Restart at level 1. New player? Start at level one. No one gets free candy. Then again, the player is always more important than the character. You don't need to fight the giants if you can make them fight each other.
 
We used to usually start at level 1 back in the day, but nowadays my players and I prefer starting at 3rd level. I think that changed when we first played 4e, with it's more robust starting characters.

1st and 2nd level characters have very few options at their disposal. They're great for when players are learning the game (all of my newbie groups started at level 1). But I've found that more experienced players find it a little boring, even if it only lasts for 2 sessions or so. It's like forcing them to put the training wheels back on their bikes even though they know how to ride.

For my group at least, it's an experience they are willing to tolerate but don't actually enjoy. I don't really enjoy it much either, as 1st and 2nd level characters are so delicate I'm liable to play with the kid gloves on, which I don't much care for as a DM. (If we were playing DCC it would be one thing, but characters in 5e take long enough to put together that I really would rather not kill off someone's character at those levels - it'd feel like taking a cheap shot.) 3rd level characters are by no means the toughest things on the planet, but they've got enough resources that I won't feel bad about not holding back if I kill a character.
 

Reynard

Legend
I personally HATE skipping first and second levels. To me, it is an important part of the character arc and I really enjoy low level play. In my current campaign our first session was a zero-level funnel.

Anyway, if you are going to skip levels 1 and 2, I'm not sure I see the point in making them earn the XP for those levels and 3rd before they can level up to 4th. I suppose it does have the advantage of extending tier one play while avoiding the the squishy levels. I wonder why you don't just go full milestone leveling? Decide how many sessions, about, you want to play at certain levels and level up when it feels right for the story.
I would never do milestone leveling in a sandbox campaign. The whole point is that the players get to make risk and reward assessments and decide what sorts of activities and challenges they want to undertake. That includes whether they go to the "higher level" zone early to get bigger xp and treasure rewards. (I don't really create explicit zones but I do try and signpost enough that they can make informed decisions.)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
To me the low levels are where the players can get immersed in the setting, before the main adventure kicks off. Basically it’s the normal world before the call to adventure comes at level 3 to 5. They’re making connections (friends, family etc) and tackling local stuff before trouble arrives and wrecks their happy little lives.
 

Reynard

Legend
To me the low levels are where the players can get immersed in the setting, before the main adventure kicks off. Basically it’s the normal world before the call to adventure comes at level 3 to 5. They’re making connections (friends, family etc) and tackling local stuff before trouble arrives and wrecks their happy little lives.
Well, I don't plan a "main adventure" to kick off, but I get your meaning.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Unless I'm doing a short-term campaign or 1 shot, I want to start at 1st level. It lets me develop and form the character concept a bit but I also appreciate higher levels much more. The lower levels are where you can't really have much impact on the bigger picture so you are getting a better understanding of how the campaign world fits together.


So first level for me. I like the sense of discovery and growth.
 
In my world, characters start at level one. Always. No exceptions. Your character died? Restart at level 1. New player? Start at level one.
What happens if the rest of the party is a significantly higher level. Everyones 5th-7th level, and one player is 1st, how does that play out? Seems like it would limit the party. I kind of remember doing this in 1E and 2E but it wasn't much fun for either the higher levels or the level 1 player, nor did it help the DM when that level 1 player kept dying like the drummer from Spinal Tap.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I personally HATE skipping first and second levels. To me, it is an important part of the character arc and I really enjoy low level play. In my current campaign our first session was a zero-level funnel.

Anyway, if you are going to skip levels 1 and 2, I'm not sure I see the point in making them earn the XP for those levels and 3rd before they can level up to 4th. I suppose it does have the advantage of extending tier one play while avoiding the the squishy levels. I wonder why you don't just go full milestone leveling? Decide how many sessions, about, you want to play at certain levels and level up when it feels right for the story.
Can you talk more about zero level funnel for 5e? Or maybe I am assuming you were playing 5e.

Also, agree with you - no need for them to earn that xp. In fact, I wiuld just say “you gave 900xp, make characters as you like”. Gives them oppty to make multi-class if desired.
 

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