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D&D 5E What Your XP Level Says About Your Character?

I know I have seen an explanation on this before, so if this has been posted before, I apologize.

I had read a really great description about how a character advances levels and how NPC's view them as they gain more fame and popularity. Now that my lowly group of adventurers are getting stronger and more notoriety, is there a clear cut way to handle character level vs fame level?

A good example happens in Hoard of the Dragon Queen as your first level heroes rescue a ravaged and pillaged city of Greenest. You save, rescue and help out the town and when you complete this, you are given titles as "The Heroes of Greenest."

You may be just local folk heroes at the most, but as you get stronger how does the typical NPC view you? Are their levels to your "epicness" that give you more perks as you gain fame and fortune?

A level three character is definitely looked at differently than a level 10 character, right?

How do you explain the differences in characters based on their experience level?
 

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Horwath

Hero
I know I have seen an explanation on this before, so if this has been posted before, I apologize.

I had read a really great description about how a character advances levels and how NPC's view them as they gain more fame and popularity. Now that my lowly group of adventurers are getting stronger and more notoriety, is there a clear cut way to handle character level vs fame level?

A good example happens in Hoard of the Dragon Queen as your first level heroes rescue a ravaged and pillaged city of Greenest. You save, rescue and help out the town and when you complete this, you are given titles as "The Heroes of Greenest."

You may be just local folk heroes at the most, but as you get stronger how does the typical NPC view you? Are their levels to your "epicness" that give you more perks as you gain fame and fortune?

A level three character is definitely looked at differently than a level 10 character, right?

How do you explain the differences in characters based on their experience level?

Well, I think that you need to show the people that you are higher level.

You ust do something that no "lowbie" can do. Like beat up 5 or 6 local thugs at once. Or know very obscure stuff.

Fighter in full plate could be considered high level as you need quite a lot of gold for it. But you could also be local lords spoiled brat that is a wannabe warrior.

20th level character can be nothing more that a commoner in other peoples eyes if he choses it. And most rookie adventurers(1st-2nd lvl) are so full of themselves that you could think that they slay a dragon every day.
 

I find many DMs tend to treat advanced PCs with little respect. Doesn't matter that they have defeated Elemental Princes and Demon Lords in world-hinging battles, have items of staggering power and can drop a giant in a single round, they still get guff from everyone from taciturn barkeeps to insolent baronettes. Best campaigns I've been in are ones where the DMs balance player renown with the social environment, appropriately showcasing their accomplishments and capabilities in tangible ways during play.
 

Draegn

Explorer
My players are basically problem solvers for various patrons. A patron being anyone from a farmer in need of someone to kill the wolves plaguing his sheep to a noble in need of a group to go out and find a rare "gift" for him to give to a lady. The more problems they solve the more they are known in the area they live in as "hard working honest people" (the thieves can really lie well).
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I wish they would go back to named levels like in AD&D. That worked very well. And it makes sense. If you're PC has done some astounding things, rumors will spread. So they don't necessarily have to prove themselves in every town they visit. Depending on their exploits, they may already be known, for better or for worse.
 

BoldItalic

First Post
NPCs don't know what level your characters are, so they can't base judgements on that. They have to go on their, possibly limited, knowledge of what the PCs have done or, if they are strangers, how they dress, how they walk, how they act and what is written in their faces. In game terms, this is all collapsed into a single number - Charisma. In 5e, abilities doesn't automatically increase with level so if you do want your character to become more generally influential as you gain levels, putting ASIs into Charisma is something you might consider.
 

pdzoch

Explorer
I view experience and levels with skills/expertise. It is separate from their fame or renown in the world, and I think it should be. Separation of the two allows for a high level character to look unassuming. Or for a high level character to be legendary (or source of rumored power) while being obscure (a'la "You're Hercules?). It also allows for a low level character to have a noble background effectively.

Levels of a character equates to their capabilities in the game, mostly mechanical, but some are story driven.

But the story can not rely on only level progression for player happiness (though, as a young munchkin, I probably was good with advancing). The story has to be supported with other rewards

I think the player's handbook lays out some pretty good guidelines on this in their tiers of play for heroes (PHB 15):

"Tiers of Play The shading in the Character Advancement table shows the four tiers of play. The tiers don’t have any rules associated with them; they are a general description of how the play experience changes as characters gain levels.

In the first tier (levels 1-4), characters are effectively apprentice adventurers. They are learning the features that define them as members of particular classes, including the major choices that flavor their class features as they advance (such as a wizard’s Arcane Tradition or a fighter’s Martial Archetype). The threats they face are relatively minor, usually posing a danger to local farmsteads or villages.

In the second tier (levels 5-10), characters come into their own. Many spellcasters gain access to 3rd-level spells at the start of this tier, crossing a new threshold of magical power with spells such as fireball and lightning bolt. At this tier, many weapon-using classes gain the ability to make multiple attacks in one round. These characters have become important, facing dangers that threaten cities and kingdoms.

In the third tier (levels 11-16), characters have reached a level of power that sets them high above the ordinary populace and makes them special even among adventurers. At 11th level, many spellcasters gain access to 6th-level spells, some of which create effects previously impossible for player characters to achieve. Other characters gain features that allow them to make more attacks or do more impressive things with those attacks. These mighty adventurers often confront threats to whole regions and continents.

At the fourth tier (levels 17-20), characters achieve the pinnacle of their class features, becoming heroic (or villainous) archetypes in their own right. The fate of the world or even the fundamental order of the multiverse might hang in the balance during their adventures."

Essentially:
1-4 - Local Heroes
5-10 - Regional Heroes
11-16 - National/Kingdom Heroes
16-20 - Planar/World Heroes

The DM's guide contains many types of alternate awards that are appropriate for each level of heroism/fame. I view these not only as rewards, but also manifestations of their renown commensurate with their levels.

For example, in the past I had awarded a rank in the royal military (knighthood) for some characters of a certain level. The NPCs of similar military rank, who have earned it through hereditary means and the minimal martial demonstration, were far below the CR/level of the characters just awarded the rank.

XP and fame. Two different things, but interrelated.
 
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Ed Laprade

First Post
Whenever this sort of discussion comes up, people almost invariably forget that the PCs, or some of them, may be doing their best to hide their abilities for whatever reason. And not just the Rogues, either. Say, if they decide to slaughter the Goblin tribe down to the last man, woman and child, they well might not want it to become known, let alone brag about it. Similarly, if they do something for a patron that s/he wants kept secret, that isn't going to increase their reputation.
 
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NPCs don't know what level your characters are, so they can't base judgements on that. They have to go on their, possibly limited, knowledge of what the PCs have done or, if they are strangers, how they dress, how they walk, how they act and what is written in their faces. In game terms, this is all collapsed into a single number - Charisma. In 5e, abilities doesn't automatically increase with level so if you do want your character to become more generally influential as you gain levels, putting ASIs into Charisma is something you might consider.
I feel like adventuring experience has an effect on a character's bearing and dress even if they're strangers in a strange land. When a mighty-thewed half-orc with a rune-covered blade, dire wolf cloak, and thousand-yard stare walks into a shop, only the most foolish shopkeeper would treat him as just another random patron off the street. Whether the shopkeeper's reaction is favorable or unfavorable is still a question of Charisma, but regardless it's going to be different.

In previous editions, a character's "leadership score" was a function of both level and Charisma. That seems fair to me. Isolated one-on-one interactions can still go badly for a high-level character with low and/or untrained Charisma skills, but even low-Charisma characters can aspire to win a castle or a crown through deed rather than word.
 

Mad_Jack

Adventurer
As mentioned, it's entirely possible to be the world's most famous < insert X here > and still have anyone outside of that particular social circle/area of expertise/whatever not have a clue who the hell that person is.
And equally possible to not be recognized while walking down the street unless images of the character have been circulated along with word of their deeds or statues built in their honor. Characters may be famous heroes constantly recognized by everyone in one city and be nobody in the next city or country down the road.
The likelihood of people around them recognizing them on sight/knowing who they are/having heard of them before will vary wildly from one particular situation to the next depending on the specific circumstances.
Higher-level characters may generally have an air of importance or power about them due to their manner of acting, or how they're dressed, how people treat them, etc., and might be recognizable as X profession/faction/rank because of what they're wearing (uniform, regalia, insignia, heraldic device, specific gear, etc.), but being recognized as a particular individual is much less likely to happen unless word of their deeds has not only spread to the general populace but has also included a physical description of either the characters themselves or some defining characteristic or piece of gear.
 

BoldItalic

First Post
All of which boils down to the players telling the DM how their characters appear and how they conduct themselves, and the DM judging how his NPCs would reasonably respond. If the DM can't decide or wants to allow the PC some small chance to get a favourable outcome, he can call for a suitable check.

Player: I swagger into the inn and accost the man serving behind the bar, saying: "Ho, varlet, do you not know me? I am Sir Egbert de ValorHands, slayer of the Goat of Mercius, Knight of the Realm, and companion to the late Wizard Humphrey. Your finest rooms, and be quick about it!"

DM: The man looks you up and down, notes the way your tabard is on backwards and your shoes are on the wrong feet, and decides you are either a charlatan or a simpleton. "Certainly," he says, "Our finest room is 3000 guineas a night, payment in advance. Will you be requiring dinner? We have a very full menu. The roast cockatrice is recommended and only 630 guineas a portion?"

Player: Egbert realises that the prices are absurd and that he is being given the brush-off. He fixes the man with an uncomfortable stare, drums his fingers on the bar and says, very quietly, "I think it is time that this inn had a new owner." Then he grasps the man by the elbow and squeezes very hard until the bones are just on the point of giving way, but not quite. "Shall we say 2000 guineas for the inn, lock, stock and barrel?"

DM: Make a Strength(Intimidation) check, please. I'm rolling a Wisdom check for the innkeeper. *rolls dice* Okay, your DC is 17.


You don't really need a number to represent "Level of Superiority" because everything is situational.
 

Player: Egbert realises that the prices are absurd and that he is being given the brush-off. He fixes the man with an uncomfortable stare, drums his fingers on the bar and says, very quietly, "I think it is time that this inn had a new owner." Then he grasps the man by the elbow and squeezes very hard until the bones are just on the point of giving way, but not quite. "Shall we say 2000 guineas for the inn, lock, stock and barrel?"
DM: The innkeeper has no idea what a "lock, stock, and barrel" are, and the nonsensical idiom only reinforces his impression that you are a madman.

You don't really need a number to represent "Level of Superiority" because everything is situational.
We may not need a number, but we've got one anyway. The DM probably wouldn't judge that Sir Egbert looked like a fool if he actually were the experienced badass he claimed to be. We quantify badass experience with the aptly named (albeit illiterately abbreviated) Experience Points (XP), the accumulation of which translates into character level advancement.
 

In my game, your level is a meaningless construct that has no direct relevance in game, and your reputation is based on your actions/deeds. As, in general, higher level character perform more notable deeds, this leads to high level characters becoming more notable. That said, if you do secret missions that no one knows about, then you could be an archmage that nobody's ever heard of.
 

pemerton

Legend
When a mighty-thewed half-orc with a rune-covered blade, dire wolf cloak, and thousand-yard stare walks into a shop, only the most foolish shopkeeper would treat him as just another random patron off the street.
Agreed.

All of which boils down to the players telling the DM how their characters appear and how they conduct themselves, and the DM judging how his NPCs would reasonably respond. If the DM can't decide or wants to allow the PC some small chance to get a favourable outcome, he can call for a suitable check.

Player: I swagger into the inn and accost the man serving behind the bar, saying: "Ho, varlet, do you not know me? I am Sir Egbert de ValorHands, slayer of the Goat of Mercius, Knight of the Realm, and companion to the late Wizard Humphrey. Your finest rooms, and be quick about it!"

DM: The man looks you up and down, notes the way your tabard is on backwards and your shoes are on the wrong feet, and decides you are either a charlatan or a simpleton. "Certainly," he says, "Our finest room is 3000 guineas a night, payment in advance. Will you be requiring dinner? We have a very full menu. The roast cockatrice is recommended and only 630 guineas a portion?"
If it all comes down to the player telling the GM how the PCs appear, how does the GM have authority to narrate that Sir Egbert is dressed like a 3 year old?
 


BoldItalic

First Post
If it all comes down to the player telling the GM how the PCs appear, how does the GM have authority to narrate that Sir Egbert is dressed like a 3 year old?
  1. Because it's fun
  2. Because he's the DM and has absolute authority
  3. Because it's on the player's character sheet
Take your pick.
 

JonnyP71

Explorer
Player: Egbert realises that the prices are absurd and that he is being given the brush-off. He fixes the man with an uncomfortable stare, drums his fingers on the bar and says, very quietly, "I think it is time that this inn had a new owner." Then he grasps the man by the elbow and squeezes very hard until the bones are just on the point of giving way, but not quite. "Shall we say 2000 guineas for the inn, lock, stock and barrel?"

DM: Make a Strength(Intimidation) check, please. I'm rolling a Wisdom check for the innkeeper. *rolls dice* Okay, your DC is 17.[/COLOR]

You don't really need a number to represent "Level of Superiority" because everything is situational.


At which point the innkeeper calls for the guards, and 2 1st level militiamen who were drinking in the tavern come to the innkeeper's defense. 20 seconds later, a passing patrol of 3 guardsmen and a sergeant enter and arrest the PC.

If the PC gets arrogant and resists arrest/kills guards/escapes (simply because they can) then they become a wanted man and have to deal with whatever that entails. Being 15th level (or more) gives them no extra rights within any society unless they have done something to acquire fame within that specific society.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
I find many DMs tend to treat advanced PCs with little respect. Doesn't matter that they have defeated Elemental Princes and Demon Lords in world-hinging battles, have items of staggering power and can drop a giant in a single round, they still get guff from everyone from taciturn barkeeps to insolent baronettes. Best campaigns I've been in are ones where the DMs balance player renown with the social environment, appropriately showcasing their accomplishments and capabilities in tangible ways during play.

I have to agree so much! Having a lot of online gaming background, I sometimes call it the "new expansion syndrome". Doesn't matter that you just saved the world twice (literally), you'll still have to collect berries and fight off boars for townsfolk and some locals will treat you like :):):):) once the next expansion ships. While one can understand this sort of NPC behaviour in programmed online games, I expect "heroes" in a P&P RPG world to have quite a name and reputation.

Note that this doesn't mean NPC have to be able to "see" character level through the meta-lens. A level 20 wizard or evel a king might still take a nice vacation trip in shabby robes and have no one notice him (Elminster and King Azoun did it all the time...), but once you mention your real identity, this could and should result in a different attitude towards you. And I'd also say that with great experience comes a certain kind of demeanor. Your character *will* act more professional and experienced once he or she reaches a certain level of skill and people *will* notice that.
 


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