D&D 5E "When I Run D&D 5E, the Arc of the PCs' Adventures is 'Zero to Hero'." (a poll)

"When I Run D&D 5E, the arc of the PCs' adventures is 'Zero to Hero'."

  • True.

    Votes: 55 53.9%
  • False.

    Votes: 47 46.1%


Yes, sometimes, no, sometimes.

Since it's not always, I marked...False. It's not a true or false answer for me, really, though, because there are times I've run it zero to hero, and times I haven't.

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So the premise is pretty straightforward:
Not really, no.

In my games, who the PC starts out as is up to the player. And that means you get professional adventurers starting out alongside hapless innocents who have adventure thrust upon them.

And the end point is up to the players too. If they want to finish as villains that path is open to them. They are not required to be heroic.

So, in the same game you might have one player who chooses to play a zero to hero arc, whilst another plays a hero to villain arc.

Li Shenron


I normally start playing with a new group at 1st level, but even if we start at higher level, story-wise I can still consider characters up to a few levels to still be "zeros" in story terms, just well-trained and well-prepared for adventuring but having accomplished nothing heroic of note before the game starts. That is usually the story arc in my games, even if we decide to technically start at level 3 or 5. This may help a player to be for example a top-student recently graduated from a magic academy (Wizard 5) or another be a dojo veteran black belt (Monk 5), but both not having yet had a real adventure. Conversely, I do not particularly like players who write a long background containing plenty of accomplishments. I guess my general preference is to tell the whole story of the characters at the table rather that on your character sheets.


Elder Thing
I voted true, because while I rarely play 5e these days, I always start campaigns at level 1. Like others, I didn't the formative levels to be most interesting when characters are at their most vulnerable.

I do feel that 5e's biggest shortcoming is having subclasses not kick in for a level or two. But given the game"s exploding popularity, I think it's safe to say my opinion is in the minority there.

False because I'm all over the place. Some campaigns are Zero to Hero. Others are high powered fantasy from the start. Then there's the spelljamming pirate campaigns, the one where everyone started as a ghost in the Fields of Elysium, and many more.


Follower of the Way
I have enough zero in real life. In my fun time I want to be at minimum a 3 or 4.
Yeah, exactly this.

Also, mildly humorous that the poll switched so hard toward "true" over the time since I voted. I had been mildly surprised to be in the larger group. My surprise is now thoroughly gone. It's pretty clear that there's a strong old-school style preference on these boards, even if there isn't a strong old-school system preference per se (such preferences absolutely are represented, but the preference for the style vastly outstrips that for the systems specifically.)


Somewhat misnomer of terms, but I voted yes. My preferred style is that the characters start slightly better than the average commoner, but about equal to the average militia or guard. Hero can depend on the level the campaign ends, but is generally true. My first 5E campaign was a true "zero to hero," going from lv 1-17, ending with a PC as baron over a small section of the Northern Lortmil Mountains. My second campaign never got higher than level 3, with minimal local influence, so "hero" is a questionable term.

How do we define zero?

Because my experience is that since 2E, you just don't normally start as "zeroes", and I feel like most of the people claiming they are doing "zero to hero" have a creative definition of "zero".

From 2E onwards, a PC likely starts with a race with serious abilities (unless human), a class which is not helpless at level 1, and on top of that a kit and skills/proficiencies that often make even a level 1 character kind of formidable.

3E, 4E, and 5E obviously continued this. A 5E PC of level 1 is probably tougher/more dangerous than most level 3 1st edition PCs, for example.

So unless we redefine zero as simply "a term for level 1", I don't believe most people who are claiming to go "zero to hero".

I had to vote false. I try to push my player's characters to complete that arc as much as possible, but 5E makes starting players pretty powerful so the "Zero" isn't assured, nor is getting the players to actually achieve the "Hero" part.


i have to admit one year into 1st edition we just stopped rolling 1st level characters. Even now we start at 3rd level. 1st and 2nd level have always seemed pointless to me in any edition. But the games either heroic or not worth doing to me. I get all my nitty gritty suckage in the real world I go to D&D to escape it.

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