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View Full Version : Starting at first level yay or nay



Akisa
2007-12-23, 06:14 PM
Lately I been noticing many gms want to start at level 1 in openrpgs (I don't like pbp games seeing as they're too slow). Now I understand new gms who want to start at level one to make things easier and to learn how to dm. But I notice those who claim to be veteran dm also to start at level one.

I understand some people want to play up and starters or wet behind the ear youngster (I like to play em once in awhile). Sometimes I want to play a veteran, or prehaps an archer who's not a human or a fighter to be able to contribute to the fight past the first round. (Why is Precise shot have requirement is beyond me).

cupkeyk
2007-12-23, 06:27 PM
I like playing from level one because it's the thinking level. When the world is vastly more powerrful than you are and any CR appropriate encounter that will take up 50% of your party's resources, usually involves the possibility of character death. It's harder because you are just weaker. If you take these thinking mooks up to their fulfillment of their builds, that wimpy abjurer who takes up master specialist and IOTSV, his experiences of being literally, the most useless and weakest and most fragile member of his party helps him come up for solutions to dilemmas that does not involve world altering magic.

Balkash
2007-12-23, 06:36 PM
Agreed. I like starting at first level because it allows for imagination instead of BOOM! CoDzilla/ Wizard FTW. It is probably one of the few times that all classes are nearly equal. Besides, I personally think it is much more fun to start from the beginning with my characters.

SithLackey
2007-12-23, 06:43 PM
Personally, I prefer to start at level 4 or 5. This gives the PCs (whether me or not) a chance to convincingly put some experiences into their backstories, and no one is feeling like they wish they'd rolled just 20 more gold for that chain shirt. While I agree that level one is interesting, it may not actually be the best level for beginners, either. A slightly higher level allows for a bit more forgiveness if someone makes a rookie mistake. Its also great for adding a rookie to an existing group. Not too many abilities or items to worry about, but the DM doesn't have to go easy on anyone, either.

Azerian Kelimon
2007-12-23, 06:46 PM
My personal choice is level 8. Yes, it's high, but it really gives you a chance to know a player. Plus, it allows them to have a good range of options, something level 1 simply doesn't have.

KIDS
2007-12-23, 06:48 PM
I like 1st level because it's simple, you know what to expect and it usually provides a solid basis for the future. But starting at higher level is just as good, and I'd say that lvl 3-4 provides you with the greatest pool of possible character concepts. All in all, doesn't matter much - but I certainly wouldn't attach anything like "better roleplaying" to a game just because it's lvl 1. It's very subjective.

Skjaldbakka
2007-12-23, 06:51 PM
I prefer to start my campaigns at level 2.

Saph
2007-12-23, 06:52 PM
If you take these thinking mooks up to their fulfillment of their builds, that wimpy abjurer who takes up master specialist and IOTSV, his experiences of being literally, the most useless and weakest and most fragile member of his party helps him come up for solutions to dilemmas that does not involve world altering magic.

Yup. The characters who are the most resourceful and the best survivors tend to be the ones who've had to live on their wits in the past without any powerful abilities to bail them out.

Playing very fragile or low-level characters makes you much better at staying alive once you go up the ranks - you have a proper value for those higher-level abilities, and you know how to manage without them if something goes wrong.

- Saph

Kurald Galain
2007-12-23, 07:12 PM
I never have my players start at level one, simply because level one characters can be one-shotted by a lucky opponent all too easily, even through no fault of their own. Playing from level 3 onwards solves this problem, and leaves them with plenty of challenge and growth possibilities.

Jannex
2007-12-23, 07:12 PM
I may be in the minority here, but I don't especially like starting at level 1. I always feel like first level play is too... random. A character's skills and ability have relatively little impact on their success or failure in a given action; things are too dependent on the d20 roll for my tastes. First level makes it difficult to play any character concept that involves being good at anything, because first-level characters really aren't good at anything yet. And then, as Akisa mentioned, there are the feats with the seemingly ill-considered prerequisites (like Weapon Finesse, for instance...).

It's not always desirable to play the na´ve, fresh-faced youth leaving home for the first time to begin a career of adventuring. Sometimes it's more fun to play a character with a bit of a past, who might have some interesting connections and plot hooks, and valuable experiences from which to draw.

Saph
2007-12-23, 07:16 PM
Oh, I prefer 3rd-level too. It means you can take things like Weapon Finesse and actually have a little bit of character power.

That said, there is a certain fun to being low-level, as long as the GM's good. (I've had a bit of a reversal on this, though. I used to like low-level campaigns, but over the summer I had to to suffer through a long series of games that revolved around nothing but dungeon-crawling fighting CR 1 and CR 2 monsters. By the end of it I was willing to play just about any game that didn't require me to do a low-level dungeon crawl. I got into a Paranoia game instead . . . and it turned out to be a low-level dungeon crawl. Aaagh!)

- Saph

Brom
2007-12-23, 07:31 PM
For me, I favor levels four onward, but no higher than twelfth. At twelfth, it's hard for the Fighters to stand out and feel at evens with the rest of the party. Wizards, Rogues, and Clerics dominate the game. At lower levels, like fourth, the characters have some nice trump cards, fighters are still decently worth playing, no ones earned all of their signiture abilities, and the Dice Roll isn't a god which you have to pray to for survival. For a more tactical game, I prefer 8th level as a nice startup. 8Th gives me as the DM the ability to play HARD on the players, and for them to make some nice countermoves. The game feels much more tactical and deep, and no spell is yet powerful enough to nullify a challenge, no skill quite high enough to ignore the dice entirely.

If that makes sense. I keep getting this nagging impression that nothing I write today makes sense. DId someone here place Bestow Curse on me?!??!

Kurald Galain
2007-12-23, 07:35 PM
I got into a Paranoia game instead . . . and it turned out to be a low-level dungeon crawl. Aaagh!)

Well, at least in Paranoia, you don't need any monsters to get yourself killed :smallbiggrin:

Plus you can use a glowing marker to write "+3" on your metal club...

Tallis
2007-12-23, 07:44 PM
For me, I favor levels four onward, but no higher than twelfth. At twelfth, it's hard for the Fighters to stand out and feel at evens with the rest of the party. Wizards, Rogues, and Clerics dominate the game. At lower levels, like fourth, the characters have some nice trump cards, fighters are still decently worth playing, no ones earned all of their signiture abilities, and the Dice Roll isn't a god which you have to pray to for survival. For a more tactical game, I prefer 8th level as a nice startup. 8Th gives me as the DM the ability to play HARD on the players, and for them to make some nice countermoves. The game feels much more tactical and deep, and no spell is yet powerful enough to nullify a challenge, no skill quite high enough to ignore the dice entirely.

If that makes sense. I keep getting this nagging impression that nothing I write today makes sense. DId someone here place Bestow Curse on me?!??!


Huh? What was that? j/k:smallwink:

I like playing from level 1. I can go up to level 3, but I don't really like starting any higher then that. I just prefer to play the characters from the beginning of their career. I like to see their story develope rather than having it all in place. It also gives e a better chance to learn how to use character types that I haven't tried before. I find it bring out my creativity in play more.
As a DM I prefer starting characters at lower levels because it gives me a better chance to get to know my players and what they can handle.

BardicDuelist
2007-12-23, 08:07 PM
The advantage with playing from level one is, to me, very important when playing with a group you don't know.

Then you can control all magic items given, and see how the characters are developing from realitively easy to predict advantages and strategies to when things start to get complicated.

Some groups just don't use the "win buttons" that "everyone" knows, while others rely on them. When you start at level one, it is easier to create encounters that will challenge the party later on, because you saw the characters develop.

You may consider this "tailoring" D&D to the players, but I feel that "tailoring" is necessary, because if you don't, your average group will not have as much fun. It is my experience, from playing with different groups, that balanced parties are rare unless the group or DM requires it.

Deepblue706
2007-12-23, 08:29 PM
I only start campaigns beyond level 1 if they specifically call for highly experienced PCs.

I don't mind the lethality of low-level combat - in fact, I enjoy it. It's actually not exclusive to lower-levels in my games (though, I'm addressing that most recognize fights can easily go either way when you're playing a lowbie), as I always challenge my players.

While players may want to continue to develop their characters, but are cut short by death and thusly bummed out, I think death is highly important to a game - primarily because I feel if nobody ever "loses", or at least run great risks of failure, they will not treasure their victories nearly as much as they should. I don't actively seek ways to make things gritty, but I don't save PCs because they're unlucky. Sometimes, I'll be merciful, if losses are significant enough already - but I have a strong belief in that while heroes are known for their success, they have little perspective until they experience failure or misfortune.

D&D, to many people, may be a game about heroes saving the day - but for me, it's about the trials that seperate heroes from common people. It's usually not about being innately better than most people in the sense of having great attributes, possessing magical items, or learning flashy techniques - but forging oneself through willpower and determination, gaining wisdom, and enduring hardships that so many others find too daunting to undertake. Beginning at level 1 allows for players to begin their journeys from the start, and beginning as a higher level character gives players the opportunity to shine right away, instead of playing out the moments where they were inept and weak - and I will always determine the level of my games by what is most appropriate IC-wise, as foes to the PCs in my games always pose a very real threat. I think cinematics are fun, but making a game already based on the premise "The Heroes Win" any easier is against my principles.

Altair_the_Vexed
2007-12-23, 08:38 PM
The game is built to start from level 1 and always has been.

Of course, I let players make up new characters to join in an established game with half the highest XP total, just like I let players whose established characters have died make new ones at half their XP.

Aside from that, I like to start at level 1 with new groups because it has that "starting" vibe to it. 1st level is a beginning place. It's right for a first adventure for a bunch of new characters in a game.

Matthew
2007-12-23, 09:29 PM
I prefer to play a campaign from level 1, but I don't tend to play much beyond level 7 or so. A lot of this is about perception of the game world and conception of what 'level' really means in D20.

Ralfarius
2007-12-23, 09:45 PM
I am a proponent of starting at level 1 for essentially all the reasons DeepBlue outlined. Sometimes, it really can be fun for someone to bite it. It can be funny and amusing ("Remember that time the orc critted you for 16 damage? That was classic!") or sad and poignant. It really puts the adventuring lifestyle into perspective if the "most upstarts don't live a month" adage applies to a member of an adventuring party, and gives a roleplaying opportunity that just doesn't come up that often.

Level 1 is great, because when you're level 12 (or whatever arbitrary number), you can look back and see how far you've really come. Every drop of experience was earned with blood, sweat, and tears. Each magic item found can hold a special place in your memories. The notoriety of your characters can be well reflected by the list of things they've accomplished going from level 1 to what have you.

Not to say I don't have an appreciation for higher level starts. Those can be excellent in their own right, especially when you can have your character's abilities reflect exactly what you envision from the get-go.

Felius
2007-12-24, 12:47 AM
I personally prefer an at least level 2 start, preferably 3, so they still are weak, but the chances of being killed with one strike from the cat is lower.

Armads
2007-12-24, 01:01 AM
I don't like starting at 1st level, because level 1 orcs can easily one-shot a player.

MCerberus
2007-12-24, 01:01 AM
In play by post you generally give a more complex personality and it just seems like the PC is more "yours" if you play it from first level(or first PC level for LAs). All of what he/she does is what you had he/she do and in a style befitting the character. There's something to be said for going through the puzzle and monster infested area coming up with tactics and playing it how the character would as opposed to saying "using their cunning and strength they...".

Lord_Kimboat
2007-12-24, 01:07 AM
I'm for a level 1 start for many of the reasons already mentioned. Some of the problems I have starting at higher levels is 1) the PCs that I play with rarely think of good back stories - heck, I can almost never get them to read any of the setting and the better back stories are likely to be, "I went to wizard school and learned to blow things up. I then got kicked out when I blew up something valuable and decided that adventuring made the most money so I could make magic items and live well."

2) PCs ask for LA characters. Which seems fine on the surface but I figured out after a while that after they've gotten the benefit out of their LA characters they then get bored and demand to change characters. Granted, this happens at 1st level as well. At levels 1 through 4 they go a fighter type and then at 5 or so they say, "I want to go something different, maybe a wizard."

3) I've always felt that the story of the PCs is the point of playing. With the poor back stories I get, I feel that I'm missing out on the start of the story. That's why recently I've been trying to insist you play one character through from start to finish and if PCs die then I provide a quest to get them raised.

4) The people I play with will also min/max outrageously with PCs that are gods in one area but useless in others. At level 1 this is minimized and they can see what gaps exist in the party so that they are filled.

That's all I can think of for now. Best of the season everyone.

d12
2007-12-24, 01:38 AM
Nay. I generally don't even consider levels under 5 to be really playworthy. Likewise, after level 12 or so the LOL-Casters Effect starts rendering absolutely everything else pointless, so I usually don't see much point in continuing beyond that general area (not really a caster player).

I just don't really see the appeal of low levels. I'm a mook in real life, and I generally play games to get away from reality for a while. I would like to be able to do something a little more satisfying that rescuing cats stuck in trees (and nearly dying from it) for the first several months of game sessions. And, as stated elsewhere, the high degree of completely random fatality before you even get to do anything fun is a big turnoff as well. That's why I quit playing Nethack. Yup, adventuring sure is a dangerous business in which many people fail almost right out of the gate...that's why there are stories of other people doing that.

And I'm living proof that if a player really doesn't care to come up with a backstory, he's not going to do it (if that's a dealbreaker, then I guess it's a good thing we stay far from each other's games :smallwink: ). Luckily others I game with tend to realize that I just don't get anything out of that and that trying to squeeze anything of that nature out of me just isn't going to bear fruit.

As to the argument about magic items having more nostalgia value, it always depends on the item itself. No matter the level, if I run across an item that isn't better than my current equivalent item or doesn't do something for me that isn't already covered elsewhere, and doesn't do anything similar for anyone else in the party it's not going to be a really treasured memory anyway, until I can get some gold for it. And if I can't sell it, why are you wasting my/our WBL with this useless item?

That may seem a bit harsh, but repeatedly dying pointlessly for no good reason and being saddled with useless items I can't even redeem for money/useful stuff isn't why I play. :smalltongue:

Doomsy
2007-12-24, 01:42 AM
Generally, I find the bodies hit the floor way too easily at level one. Level two or three allows for more survivability and a bit more flexibility in my opinion while keeping with the learning to work with less mentality and group dynamic.

philippos
2007-12-24, 02:08 AM
The reason I enjoy starting at level one, both as a player and as DM are for the feeling of the character, and I dont find it to be that one dies easily, unless you attempt some truely "exciting heroics" as opposed to dealing with threats in a somewhat more moderate manner, and then learn to do that other stuff later. The threats can scale with the characters. That being said I also dont mind starting at higher levels if the goal/story/idea or whatever calls for strength that can't be had at lower levels and you dont want to waste time leveling up (a thing I dislike about some videogames) but if most of the world is low level people/creatures there is plenty of room for plot at that scale and seemingly less at higher levels where if its not save the X from the level Y threat then it might be too easy. But then my recent gaming has be politic centered and you can just plug whatever level strength into the villians/PCs without changing (too much) of the actuall story.

Yami
2007-12-24, 02:23 AM
Okay, I find the "dying repeatedly" arguement to be rather sub-par. I've found that at level one you live longer. In my groups at least, the only builds that tend to die early are the rouges who manage 7 hp at level 5. Monsters are easier, and you don't get into the crazy abilities just yet. Often.

But then the higher level we get, the more often the other DM's I know throw heavy encounters about, and the more often those encounters have crippling effects or tactics.

Low levels are the kind levels, at least in my group. Once you hit 6 though, the body count starts rising.

JadedDM
2007-12-24, 02:41 AM
But I notice those who claim to be veteran dm also to start at level one.

The starting level of the game has nothing to do with the DM's or the players' experience with the game. I have been DMing for over 12 years, and every campaign I have ever run with only one exception has started at level 1. (The one exception started at level 4, and only because the previous campaign fell apart and I agreed to let the players roll their characters at the same level as their previous characters to soften the blow.)

And like Matthew, I have never had a game that made it past level 7-8 at best.

Reel On, Love
2007-12-24, 02:46 AM
I have made a solemn vow never to play at level 1 again. Level 2? Fine. Level 1? No.

At level one, most characters can die in one hit, and your modifiers pale before the importance of your roll. You have almost twice as much Hp at level 2 as you do at level 1, you get skill synergies, you get more than, what, two or three spells...

Level 1 sucks. In every way.

Kaelik
2007-12-24, 02:47 AM
The starting level of the game has nothing to do with the DM's or the players' experience with the game. I have been DMing for over 12 years, and every campaign I have ever run with only one exception has started at level 1. (The one exception started at level 4, and only because the previous campaign fell apart and I agreed to let the players roll their characters at the same level as their previous characters to soften the blow.)

And like Matthew, I have never had a game that made it past level 7-8 at best.

Congratulations. You are missing more then half of D&D. In fact, I find that half to be more fun. But I can have that opinion all I want because I have played all of D&D, unlike you.

Yami
2007-12-24, 03:20 AM
Congratulations. You are missing more then half of D&D. In fact, I find that half to be more fun. But I can have that opinion all I want because I have played all of D&D, unlike you.
All of D&D? Really? That must suck...

Jannex
2007-12-24, 03:28 AM
I have made a solemn vow never to play at level 1 again. Level 2? Fine. Level 1? No.

At level one, most characters can die in one hit, and your modifiers pale before the importance of your roll. You have almost twice as much Hp at level 2 as you do at level 1, you get skill synergies, you get more than, what, two or three spells...

Level 1 sucks. In every way.

I agree completely with all of the sentiments expressed here.

Also, I'm surprised to hear that some people have found that their players are less willing or able to come up with backstories for higher-level characters. For me, I think that much the opposite would be true; I would have a much harder time getting emotionally invested in developing a vivid personality and backstory for a character that was very likely to die in some random encounter with a kobold, than I would for a character with an established past (reflected in the character's class levels) and readily-apparent talents. I'd also have much more room to maneuver with the latter character's backstory, since I could say with some validity that the character was skilled in certain areas of expertise (a statement which is manifestly untrue of first-level characters).

Orzel
2007-12-24, 03:40 AM
I like level 1 but I hate staying there more than 2 fights/challenges. The roll is too important at level 1 since the bonuses added to the roll are often less than +5 for anything except your minmax specialty (16 Str fighter's attack, 15 wizard's spell etc). It's fun for the gritty aspect bit it stinks when you get a 3 cause you know you're going to fail. It's great when you roll high because success is almost guaranteed for anything reasonable because few guys are pulling +15 bonus to ____.

Emperor Demonking
2007-12-24, 03:41 AM
I prefer to play at around level 4, I like level 1 for its simplicity and I haven't found that you die at level 1 anymore than normal.

Telok
2007-12-24, 04:28 AM
Level 3. I will also accept level 2, but never level 1. Neither as player nor as DM.

This is simply because I've seen too many TPKs at level one because of die rolls. One wolf killed two rouges and a cleric. Three kobolds killed two fighters, two wizards, and a rogue. One orc took out two clerics, a crusader, and a sorcerer. Although that last one may not count because the sorcerer went down in the first round when he fell off his horse and took more damage than he had HP.

And those were just the ones in which everyone died. I got tired of people making new characters every other game, and backup characters during downtime.

No more first level, too many dead bodies.

Kurald Galain
2007-12-24, 04:38 AM
The game is built to start from level 1 and always has been.

Well, yes, but there are a lot of things that the game is "built for" that it doesn't actually do all that well.

Kompera
2007-12-24, 05:11 AM
I don't like starting at 1st level, because level 1 orcs can easily one-shot a player.Which is why, as my GM explained it, our group fought lots of Goblins (and evil Monks) when we were 1st level.

Come to think of it, we're still fighting Goblins and Evil Monks at 4th level.... The just come in larger swarms, and with the occasional Orc or NPC mixed in.

But yeah, Orcs are really not a CR1 encounter by reason of their damage output alone.

I prefer to start in a new group at 1st level. If in my regular group then starting at 3rd level or so would help to accelerate the level cap of the campaign imposed by the realities of outside forces on the duration of the campaign.

A corollary question might be:
Starting at first level after a character death, yeah or nay?

Kantolin
2007-12-24, 05:14 AM
Interestingly, my problem with your average first level game is that you simply cannot get nor grow into many concepts that occur in higher level games. Mix that with my particular group's insistance on starting at level 1 (Until lately), and you get problems with it.

For example, it's possible that your level 1 fighter will eventually become captain of the town's guard. But odds are, the campaign will progress and your character will only have hope of becoming the captain of the guard when he's something like level 12 and beating up on dragons and frost wyrms for a living.

Oh, well. I do enjoy low level games, although extremely low-level games tend to very quickly become somewhat lame, as it's poor for a story when 'Then a lucky arrow ended the story of our hero' occurs with irritating frequency. So I'd aim for level 3-4ish as a low: Spellcasters can do more than two things ever without running out of spells, people who are supposed to be taking hits can take more than two hits without instantly dying, a lucky crit does not automatically prompt 'let me go get a book for the rest of this encounter'... things like that. You can do stuff.

But sometimes, it's fun to start as the level 1 no-options unit. It's also fun to start as the midranged level 8 very-impressive guy, or the level 15 existant hero. I like the variety.

#Raptor
2007-12-24, 07:49 AM
Imho lvl 1 can be fun, but easily 90% of my character concepts and ideas are for higher levels. Personally I'd love to see more higher level games, i.e. 7-10, where it's possible to enter prc's for most chars and wizards/clerics are not totally overpowerd yet (at least as far as i know). Perhaps add in some games that start around 3-6, then theres some balance.

philippos
2007-12-24, 07:52 AM
For example, it's possible that your level 1 fighter will eventually become captain of the town's guard. But odds are, the campaign will progress and your character will only have hope of becoming the captain of the guard when he's something like level 12 and beating up on dragons and frost wyrms for a living.

why would someone who was at that level be a captain of the guard at all, when he can seek out tasks worthy of his strength and WBL. captain of the guard maybe levels 2-4 if he is a really advanced captain. but I operate under the assumption that most people are level 1 or 2 and in a high enough population you will get stronger people but high levels are rare and extraordinary. Which is why there are still treasure and monsters and such to be had for adventurers at that level. It depends on your campaign world I guess. But to my thinking anyone that kills dragons or say a big troll(or other cave dwelling monster) and then maybe its mother is going to be talked about for a long time.

But if you are in a world where there are teleportation companies that are occasionally subverted to invade someones flying castle instead of just transport goods across the world (or the planes) then maybe dragon slaying is needed to be in the town guard, or maybe will get you questioned by them (do you in fact have a dragon slaying licence? or do you know the whereabouts of mr. Samuel M AUGistine, a pillar of the comuntiy?)

also I tend to have replacement characters or new additions start to fit into the party, so their level depends on how far along the campagin is, but if level 1 isn't too far behind I would put them there.

I don't get all the level 1 hate, figuring out how to survive at that level is not that hard if you have the right party, but party is much more important than individual ability at that point.

also high levels are super fun for the reason of being able to do amazing things, like kill grendel.

I wonder if the people in this thread have conflicting playing styles or if it is in differing DM styles.

Kurald Galain
2007-12-24, 07:57 AM
why would someone who was at that level be a captain of the guard at all, when he can seek out tasks worthy of his strength and WBL. captain of the guard maybe levels 2-4 if he is a really advanced captain. but I operate under the assumption that most people are level 1 or 2

Not everybody shares that assumption. There are plenty of campaigns where the regular guards are level 1-3 fighters, and the captain is level 7 or so. It may not be "worthy of his WBL" but he may have in-character reasons for protecting his hometown.

philippos
2007-12-24, 08:09 AM
yes, that is true, there easily be that type of situation, but would say that it is considered typical? I would think it was more atypical, and then there is the question of how this guard gained those levels, which makes me think there is an interesting story going on with the guard or the town, and isn't just stopping the local drunks from shouting near the mayor's house or cleaning up after adventurers. Also level 7 is not level 12

mabriss lethe
2007-12-24, 08:39 AM
As I've said before in various places, I like gaming no matter what the level is. In fact, I'm working on the beginnings of a campaign that takes it a step further than even level 1 characters.

whether or not it'll see the light of day is another thing entirely. All of the characters begin at level 1 as Commoners. They'll be peasant conscripts in an army or somesuch... (grumbles a bit about unfinished material) They survive 5 levels of Commoner and then use a variant of rules for retraining to convert those levels one at a time to either expert, warrior, or adept. Once they've retrained all levels as a better npc class, then they begin retraining yet again at a 1 for 1 rate into a normal base class. Race and feat selection would be where all the action in the class would be.

So bumpkin the level 5 commoner would earn enough Exp (probably half of normal) to "level up" becoming a level 4 commoner/1 adept. Once he'd levelled up to become a 5th level adept, Instead of becoming 6th level, he'd become a level 4 adept/1 Cleric. Once he'd replaced all his adept levels with cleric, then the game would progress as normal. and bumpkin could gain his 6th character level.

so far, most gamers I know take one look at the idea and then run away screaming.

Saph
2007-12-24, 08:49 AM
I have made a solemn vow never to play at level 1 again. Level 2? Fine. Level 1? No.

At level one, most characters can die in one hit, and your modifiers pale before the importance of your roll. You have almost twice as much Hp at level 2 as you do at level 1, you get skill synergies, you get more than, what, two or three spells...

I've never gone and worked out all the maths, but eyeballing it I honestly don't think your level makes much difference to your survivability.

Let's take your example. A level 1 character takes an attack from an orc (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/orc.htm) (we'll say an orc because it's probably the worst thing you can run into at level 1). You get unlucky and the orc criticals you. 4d4+8 damage. Okay, that can easily kill a low-HD 1st-level PC, no argument there.

What about level 4? A rhino (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/rhinoceros.htm) is CR 4. That does 4d6+24 damage on a charge. That's got a fair chance of killing a level 4 PC, too.

And by level 10 you're fighting fire giants (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/giant.htm), who have a full attack routine of +20/+15/+10, doing 3d6+15 damage with their greatswords, not counting their double-handed power attack, Cleave, and Great Cleave. An unlucky set of rolls from that could easily kill a level 10 PC as well.

It's probably true that at low levels, you're more likely to be knocked into negatives. However, it'll probably be -1 to -9, in which case you can be healed up. At the higher levels, a hit that drops you below 0 is much more likely to drop you to -10 or more.

The campaigns I've played in usually keep the same degree of danger all the way up through the levels. If the game's safe at low levels, it'll be safe at higher ones. If the DM runs lethal low-level games, he probably runs lethal high-level ones too.

- Saph

daggaz
2007-12-24, 08:53 AM
I love playing at level one, to me that can be one of the most challenging levels, but also for the DM. To make things a tad easier (crit avoidance, giving players some more starting oomph) I often start my campaigns at lvl three, but never beyond.

Armads
2007-12-24, 08:56 AM
The Giants have to full attack you, though, while the orc just needs to hit. Also, 2d4+4 is 9 on average, which kills wizards, rogues and low con rangers in 1 hit. If they use greatswords, they kill d8 hit die characters in 1 hit on average. Orcs are CR 1/2, too.

Saph
2007-12-24, 09:09 AM
The Giants have to full attack you, though, while the orc just needs to hit. Also, 2d4+4 is 9 on average, which kills wizards, rogues and low con rangers in 1 hit.

Nope. It just drops them to negatives. Negative HP != dying.

Assuming the party wins the fight, someone can then stabilise you with a Heal check or a cure minor wounds. You'll be out for a while, but not dead.

At higher levels, you can bounce back from negative HP much faster, but you're also far more likely to be flat-out killed by an attack, rather than just disabled. Pluses and minuses.

- Saph

Drascin
2007-12-24, 09:11 AM
Generally, no way. At first level, the only thing my players can realistically be is fresh-out-of-the-academy newbies, with little actual backstory. I don't like this. Which, together with my preference for epic storylines, makes me always start around level 4-5 - right when the characters start to be vastly better at their field than the common man, but know that they still have much to improve.

I also have DMed a few high-level campaigns which started at 8 and went all the way to 13-14.

Matthew
2007-12-24, 09:45 AM
The starting level of the game has nothing to do with the DM's or the players' experience with the game. I have been DMing for over 12 years, and every campaign I have ever run with only one exception has started at level 1. (The one exception started at level 4, and only because the previous campaign fell apart and I agreed to let the players roll their characters at the same level as their previous characters to soften the blow.)

And like Matthew, I have never had a game that made it past level 7-8 at best.



Congratulations. You are missing more then half of D&D. In fact, I find that half to be more fun. But I can have that opinion all I want because I have played all of D&D, unlike you.

Erm, feeling a little hostile in this season of good will? I don't think JadedDM even plays D20, so you could likely argue that he's missing 100% of the 3e experience. Of course, if you've never played 1e, OD&D, Mentzer, etc..., then it's arguable that you're missing a good 25-75% of the D&D experience... not to mention the hundreds of modules printed across all editions.

Personally, I have played high level D20 from time to time, find it to be not to my taste and can assure JadedDM that he's probably not really missing anything that he would like. That said, I wouldn't refuse to play in a high level game; indeed, I have a module or two kicking about that require it and which I intend to play.


I've never gone and worked out all the maths, but eyeballing it I honestly don't think your level makes much difference to your survivability.

*snip*

The campaigns I've played in usually keep the same degree of danger all the way up through the levels. If the game's safe at low levels, it'll be safe at higher ones. If the DM runs lethal low-level games, he probably runs lethal high-level ones too.

That's pretty much my experience, as well. Indeed, I have noticed that having more Hit Points and a higher AC can actually make players more reckless.

Swordguy
2007-12-24, 11:27 AM
I'll admit, I prefer player start at about 2nd level, and with the planned campaign cap about 10th. I should also point out that I give out fairly reduced experience to keep from blowing through levels too quickly.

The 3-10 region is the sweet spot for D&D - mages suffer through levels 3-4, and fighters suffer through 9-10, but everyone can still contribute even at those levels. Why do I start at 2 then, if the great spot starts at 3? I like my players to earn their accolades - but making them spend 3 levels on it is simply too much. A single level worth of time is enough to get your feet under you with the character, and not so long that you feel you've wasted your time if the PC isn't what you wanted.

And I'm still gun-shy about 1st level after living through many, many 2nd ed Fighters with 1-2 hit points. 1 HD, even 1 FULL HD, simply isn't enough. If I want PCs to die crossing the street, I'll go play Rolemaster. (Yes, that actually happened in a RM game.)

Telok
2007-12-24, 11:37 AM
As I've said before in various places, I like gaming no matter what the level is. In fact, I'm working on the beginnings of a campaign that takes it a step further than even level 1 characters.

<snippage>

so far, most gamers I know take one look at the idea and then run away screaming.

I like this idea. Unfortunately you're right, most people would run off screaming.

I may have to adapt that for my next campaign. Start everyone off with three NPC levels and have them retrain into class levels. That should keep everyone nicely low powered and 'growing into abilities' for a while without the "Oh gods! A baboon! Run for your lives!"

Seriously, it crit the cleric into negatives... Two people died that time. D&D has some issues at level 1.

Marius
2007-12-24, 11:40 AM
I never have my players start at level one, simply because level one characters can be one-shotted by a lucky opponent all too easily, even through no fault of their own. Playing from level 3 onwards solves this problem, and leaves them with plenty of challenge and growth possibilities.

I agreee. Plus many characters concept are impossible to acomplish at level 1.

CASTLEMIKE
2007-12-24, 12:12 PM
I prefer starting at levels 2 or 3 so the PCs can survive an average attack or two or survive some bad rolling.

Fenix_of_Doom
2007-12-24, 01:02 PM
I don't like starting at 1st level, because level 1 orcs can easily one-shot a player.

Is that really such a big problem?
Using two orcs with ths stats used here (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/orc.htm), they both have 5 hp and +0 to initiative, if you start under equal conditions, a small distance apart, you can for example cast a spell such as sleep or entangle and poof battle is over, you win. As an alternative you can try to shoot against AC 13, you can easily kill one(maybe even both) in one round with 4 people shooting at them.

But besides that let's say they somehow get close enough, win initiative and make a hit, anyone on the front lines should have at least AC 14 so they have 50% chance of hitting, anyone on the front lines should have at least ten HP, with 2d4+4 dmg(which is a lot) they have about 25% chance of hitting you unconscious(not dead) so in optimal conditions against a minimal front-liner they have 12.5% chance to get a one-shot. And the orc is probably dead himself next round.

Is that really that bad? I don't think so.

Leadfeathermcc
2007-12-24, 01:08 PM
I prefer starting at level 2, it allows for multiclass characters right from the start.

Felius
2007-12-24, 02:19 PM
Just a comment about the Idea of starting as level 1 commoners: Tell your players to prepare LOTS of extra characters. A level 1 commoner can be killed by a single house cat.

RandomFellow
2007-12-24, 03:05 PM
Personally I prefer levels 4-7 to start at.

mabriss lethe
2007-12-24, 03:24 PM
Just a comment about the Idea of starting as level 1 commoners: Tell your players to prepare LOTS of extra characters. A level 1 commoner can be killed by a single house cat.

Hah! yeah, that's true. The idea behind the game is that in those levels combat of any sort is going to be a climax to the story.A sample adventure might be that all the PCs are villagers from the same hamlet. Food and various sundries start going missing on a widespread level all over town. A small band of wounded goblins is fleeing from something bigger, survivors of a distant purge or what have you, and is holed up somewhere in town to lick their wounds. That sort of thing. (to keep things fair, the goblins should probably also be level 1 commoners with 1-2 hp a piece.) The goblin refugees, when backed into a corner, will fight. Some other nonviolent solution should be availible. They might wind up being valuable additions to the village if properly approached.

You might even do a Clonetrooper/paranoia sort of campaign. Each character starts as a blank slate as part of a six-pack of clones. All character sheets are identical, say they're part of an experimental army created by a very powerful group of necromancers using some variant of the Clone spell that can create flesh with souls but only as level 1 commoners. Whatever, I'm just tossing off ideas at the moment. Those that survive are rewarded, those that don't are carted off to be animated.

JadedDM
2007-12-24, 03:34 PM
Congratulations. You are missing more then half of D&D. In fact, I find that half to be more fun. But I can have that opinion all I want because I have played all of D&D, unlike you.

Erm, feeling a little hostile in this season of good will?

So it wasn't just me that felt that was a little hostile and coming out of nowhere? Good. I was worried I was reading too much into that.


I don't think JadedDM even plays D20, so you could likely argue that he's missing 100% of the 3e experience. Of course, if you've never played 1e, OD&D, Mentzer, etc..., then it's arguable that you're missing a good 25-75% of the D&D experience... not to mention the hundreds of modules printed across all editions.

You are correct, Matthew. I've never played 3E (or any form of d20), 1E, or OD&D. I don't even know what Mentzer is. And I've never run, played in, or even seen a module before. I know people will cluck their tongues at this, but I just had a very different AD&D experience than most people--namely, I am completely self-taught. I never had a DM myself to teach me. I just got a hold of some books, second-hand, and began muddling my way through it.

And I just came to discover that I like 2E. I like it a lot. And while I have not tried anything else, I haven't found it necessary to do so. Everything I want to do, I find I can use 2E for it. It's very adaptable.

And also, as Matthew pointed out, I don't really care for high-power games. Not my cup of tea. My homebrew setting was created as low-powered, so once the PCs get around level 7, they're practically gods anyway. So this works out for me. Yeah, my party may never have one-shot the Tarrasque and may not fight the gods themselves, but we still have a lot of fun. And isn't that the point of these games?

Zocelot
2007-12-24, 10:22 PM
Low level starting is okay, but level one doesn't allow for any character customization. One, two, or even three feats, and level of class benefits just isn't enough to define a character. All level one barbarians will fight the exact same way.

On the plus side the PC's race actually makes a difference.








Raging Level 1 Orc Barbarian (25 point buy) (1d12+4) 16
26 str, 10 dex, 18 con, 7 int, 6 wis, 6 cha
Weapon focus greatsword
+10 to hit (+9 in sunlight) (2d6+12)

Dausuul
2007-12-25, 12:02 AM
I hate starting at level 1, both as a DM and as a player. I have a number of reasons, but most of them boil down to one thing: The game is crazily, ridiculously random at level 1. You seldom have more than a +2 to +5 modifier on any given roll, and you lack the feats/spells/maneuvers to do much except roll skills and attacks, and so the result of the d20 is overwhelmingly important. Low hit points magnify this effect, since a crit or just a high damage roll can take a character down in one blow. I feel like I'm shooting craps instead of playing an RPG.

I prefer to start things off at 3-4, and play through 9-10 or so. Level 3 means the characters still feel comparatively weak and have to pace themselves carefully, but they have more options and staying power, and the whimsy of the dice is not quite as overwhelming. Level 10 is about as high as you can go before the balance problems and sheer weight of math start pulling the game apart.

Emperor Tippy
2007-12-25, 12:09 AM
I won't play a game that starts below level 3.

Actually if it had an absolutely astounding premise and I knew the DM I might make an exception.

But for online games? No.

Levels 1-3 really aren't worth it.

Kaelik
2007-12-25, 12:44 AM
Honestly, it depends on the how the game is taking place.

I've started about half my in person campaigns at level one (though it is declining) but PbP just sucks. It takes 2 years to level in the first place. Why penalize yourself more by making it 4 years just to have more then one spell level?

leperkhaun
2007-12-25, 02:12 AM
I hate starting at level 1. Alot of DM's like it because they tend to like th mid level range of play, and starting at level 1 allows growth before then.

i might be a bit biased. iv played way to many low level games in the past 2 years.

horseboy
2007-12-25, 07:53 PM
If I want PCs to die crossing the street, I'll go play Rolemaster. (Yes, that actually happened in a RM game.)
I once saw an 8th level dwarven cleric die from a 3' fall in RM, so I'm not really all that worried about combat being too dangerous. No, Level 1 is good for 3 things:

1)Newbieville-population you! If it's a new game or campaign setting, I'll start them out at level 1 just so they can help get a feel for what "everyday life" is like in the game world.

2) A Lark. You know, the party's wizard will be doing the only thing a level 1 wizard is really good for: entertaining at the princess's birthday party. The bad guys come in, abduct the princess. When the party pledges their support to the king, the king laughs, tells them it's okay, but they've got heroes coming to save her. The rest of the campaign is an homage to Mystery Men.

3) High school. Every once in a great while we'll want to roleplay out the whole "apprenticeship" era of our characters. Where we get to be the bumbling, goofy "teenagers" who stumble onto a mystery.

Pretty much any other time level 1 is that annoying "trainee" level on a game you just really wish you could skip to get to the "meat" of the game.

Lord_Kimboat
2007-12-28, 06:42 PM
Okay, I've read all these comments but I still think there are problems with starting at levels higher than 1.

Firstly, if my players would actually take the effort to write backstories longer than 1 page I'd be delighted - and for those that have players like that, cherish them! My main concern with starting them at high level is reflected by the season in that they act like kids at Christmas and quickly start bragging about all the great feat/skill/class combinations just before asking if I'll allow them to play a Dragon or something like that!!

Thus here is a list of the problems I see with starting at higher levels.

1) Yes, players can have greater customization of characters at higher levels. However, the players may take this customization to extremes. It can (and with my group, often is) become a min/max smorgasbord. These PCs might not be at all appropriate for the game - for example, one player insisted on having a half-giant character but then complained every time that the party had to go indoors because he was squeezing. This was seconded by the knight type character with all of the mounted feats. When I brought things into the open air, the Drow rogue complained constantly. If I'd started them off as 1st level standard races they would have had a chance to form into a group with party roles and know what settings their characters were appropriate for.

2) At high level starting, the best PC designer tends to develop the uber character which then starts taking over the party. This again happened when the Orc barbarian started outshining everyone in combat to the extent that no one else started to participate in battles. They simply couldn't see the relevance (and neither could I), even the wizards couldn't keep up with the damage he did. Now, the Orc was a true min/maxer and had no cha or wis and I could have killed the party at any time with a single dominate person spell. If this group had started at 1st level, the player might have shared some of his design secrets rather than just creating an uber character which killed the game.

3) Like both Jaded and Matthew, I dislike high level games and will only play to about level 10 or 12. If one starts at higher levels, it reduces the PCs gaming life. Living Greyhawk was a little like this forcing PCs to retire at lvl 15, so people would carefully pick which games their PC would play.

4) Higher level PCs tend to be more reckless unless they played through times when they were weak. They tend to be arrogant and incautious. Then, when you push them, the whine like jet engines and complain about how you are cheating - or worse, start cheating themselves. Then the cycle repeats as they complain that they aren't powerful enough.

5) Battles at high level take forever. With so many options, iterative attacks and modifiers muddying up the equations (the lightning calculators out there should remember that not everyone adds and subtracts quickly) battles go on and on - and then one PC will want to go back because he/she forgot to get his animal companion/summoned creatures to have an attack on his turn.

Solutions to the one hit problem (although I think Saph is right in this regard), is to have the PCs fight small or tiny creatures that don't do as much damage in a hit (but you can still have lots of them) or giving the PCs bonus hp for low levels.

Have a good holiday season everyone and I hope all stay safe.

Frosty
2007-12-28, 07:17 PM
Your half orc is an example of player-imbalance, and has nothing to do with levels.

At level 1, the barbarian will still have low cha and wis, and will still deal ridiculous damage compared to everyone else.

PaladinBoy
2007-12-28, 10:04 PM
I generally prefer to start in the level 3-5 range. Level 1 just feels boring - little power means all I get to fight, or all I get to throw at my players, are small groups of goblins, or maybe an orc or two.

As a player, I like to be able to say "my character is good at X". This isn't really possible with level 1 characters. I also enjoy coming up with a good backstory, and starting at level 1 limits the options available - it's doubtful that a level 1 character has gone through street wars and learned how to fly an airship - otherwise he/she would be higher level.

As a DM, I like it because I can have my characters fighting more interesting foes than a group of goblins. I haven't really noticed too many of the problems that Lord_Kimboat mentioned among my players..... I guess I'm just lucky.

Stephen_E
2007-12-29, 02:08 AM
The majority of campaigns I've played in started at lev 1 and frankly I dislike it most times.

I don't care about the perceived survival rate or lack of it, but I do have problems with the inability to reasonably pretend to be anything else other than newbie just off the farm/out of school. The veteran soldier, wandering Barbarian, renegade Wizard, ecetre. These concepts don't work as a 1st level character IMHO. Sod the length of backstory, it's what you can put in it that is limited so badly by starting 1st level.

Stephen

new1965
2007-12-29, 11:04 AM
IMO..

Level 1 (and levels below 10) is where the some of the most unpopular classes shine : fighter and barbarian . Its a much harder time for the wizard/sorcerer or rogues as they have to learn how to be more tactical in their actions which in the long term can only serve to help them later on.

When your a low level wizard in a magic duel, you learn how valuable those cantrips can be when you use them to make the opposition blow his concentration check. Our Wizard also spent some time being our sniper using her bow and using True Strike or sleep while sitting a safe distance away in a tree

Another of the players in the group started playing her first D&D sessions with a first level rogue. Her character's still alive to level 11 (shadow dancer/ rogue with spring attack) and she recently won best player at a convention tournament. According to her... it was solely because that she learned to play "sneaky and dirty" with her low level character.

A.Sondergaard
2007-12-29, 11:21 AM
Starting level when I DM is usually based on a few different factors.

1. The relative experience of the players with a given system. If we only take in a few vets, and more newer players, we tend to start at lower levels.

2. Number of Players. I can keep track and care about maybe 6 guys level 10+ at a time. Starting a game with anymore people at such a level is a nightmare to keep everyone's abilities straight.

3. Estimated Campaign Length. One shots, I usually give at least 5 levels to play around with, longer story arcs usually start lower. Also, noting that I don't do PbP; currently involved with three different games, soon to be four, I never really need an RP fix that bad.

4. Game Style. Actually, I only tend to run the sort of heroic "you guys are supposed to be awesome" games, but a buddy of mine likes to run lower power, grittier games, where the city watch is supposed to be more adept at fighting than you, and monsters pose serious threats. If I decided to run such a game, you can bet I'd start you at level 1.