Leveling UP

DING! Your players just completed a quest or killed a monster that earned them enough XP to reach the next level. So when do they get the sweet reward of leveling?

There are many different ways to handle this situation. Some of the more common methods that I have seen are: level up then and there, level up at the end of the session, level up when you camp, and find a trainer.

Level up here and now is often used in video game RPGs, but for table top it is quite disruptive to the flow of the game. Leveling up usually involves having to read through books, weigh options, and otherwise spend time doing bookkeeping tasks that are not playing the game. From an in-game realism perspective this is also undesirable especially in the case of multi-classing. Taking a level of fighter or wizard are the most jarring as suddenly a character has gained the ability to use nearly every weapon and armor available or can now cast several spells.

Level up at the end of the session is ideal for the table top environment, it helps bring the session to a close and gives the players something to look forward to when they come back next time. It also allows plenty of time to choose where skill ranks go or what feats are taken without disrupting play. Though it still has the same in-game realism issues as the here and now approach.

Level up when you camp makes a bit more sense from the in-game realism perspective. Characters must take time to reflect and process their experience, perhaps the fighter is able to practice that new feat and finally got the move down right or the wizard finally mastered the difficult pronunciation of the verbal component of a new spell. Of course the players may decide to camp right in the middle of a session and thus you get the same gameplay problems as the here and now method.

Finding a trainer is perhaps the most realistic from an in-game perspective, but it has the potential to slow down the game as now characters must search for someone who can teach them what they need to know at the new level. What if no one in town knows sunder or there are no monks around, then that character can’t find a trainer and can’t level up. I have tried this method, but always ended up just hand waving the situation and saying “well you found a trainer” and then skipping the whole bit.

My usual way of handling level ups is towards the end of the session in which the level up was earned. The PCs must be in a safe place where they can rest, generally a town or other settlement where they won’t have to deal with a random encounter.

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~ by katallos on November 4, 2009.

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