Monday, June 4, 2012

D&D Next: Starting at higher levels.

One of the many debates floating around the internet about DnD Next is about the starting power of characters in a DnD style game. 3e boosted the capabilities of starting characters and 4e takes that up several notches higher. When I first played 4e I felt like that 1st level 4e characters were about as capable as a 5th level classic edition characters. To me, the DnD Next playtest dropped characters back to roughly were they were with 3e.Which for many classic edition fans is still too high.

During these debates about starting character power, one common response from classic edition gamers is to simply start at a higher level. 3rd or 5th if you don't want to endure the low level lethality of a classic edition game. Unlike Hero System or GURPS where there rarely an issue with suggesting that a campaign starts at a higher or lower point level, it seems that this suggestion is met with skepticism and dislike by gamers regardless of edition. The general feel of the response make it sound like it would be cheating to start a campaign at a higher level.

So do you readers think that accurate? That while intellectually we know we can start campaigns at higher levels it feels like cheating?


13 comments:

dragolite said...

I have never liked the idea of starting the game at a higher level, in fact after seeing a way to start players off at zero level, I have tried again and again to start a game off like that.

I feel that something is lost by starting at a higher level. I always feel that at the start of a campaign is when the group jells. They learn what they can do and what they can't. Yes, it can happen at a higher level as well, but I guess I'm just a sucker for a group bonding over a shared experience at a low level.

Carter Soles said...

I pretty much always start long-term campaigns at 1st level, but usually start convention games and one-offs at at least 3rd level. So I have no bias against folks who start their old-school games at higher levels. Sounds like an elegant solution to the "problem" of low-level lethality to me.

Frank said...

I just had a funny thought here...

I have been playing a lot of Burning Wheel recently. BW has a life-path method of chargen. If we compare life-paths to levels in a way, (almost) no one ever starts BW with 1st level PCs... Most games start PCs with 3-5 life-paths...

It is so odd that people feel so strongly about starting at 1st level in D&D but in other games that have some means of customizing starting power level, people are totally happy playing with other than the default power level assumption of the game.

Frank

Gordon Cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gordon Cooper said...

I can't shake the feeling that if I start characters at higher levels (in order to avoid having to wait years to play a high level module, for example), I'm missing out on enjoying the full range of their adventuring careers. I don't object to the option; I just don't think I'd enjoy it as much as starting at 1st level. It's part of the experience of playing D&D. It's an integral element of D&D to fight one's way from the bottom to the top. Making 1st level characters much more powerful cheats the player of a sense of accomplishment, so I don't think that's the answer. As I said, I think starting at higher levels is a sensible and acceptable option, but I personally prefer to start at 1st level.

With non-level-based RPGs, I have no problem at all with starting characters as novices or experts depending on the requirements of the campaign, because such games involve different expectations than the linear climb to power that is the underlying theme of D&D.

Tom said...

I've been in and run games where we started above 1st level. It never bothered me. Like most things, it depends on the nature of the game or campaign.

Rob L said...

Starting at 5th level is no more cheating than giving a bunch of 5th level abilities to characters and calling it first level. The level number is just a label.

The 4e system prevented those who like early D&D from playing characters at that level. Conversely, starting at 5th level may make a difference if the "endgame" is enforced at 20th level. The latter argument is not convincing to me, but seems a concern to some.

Solution: have wimpy first level characters and have level tables through 25th for the "endgame". Start your campaign at whatever level you want.

Great shades of Spinal Tap - this one goes all the way to 11!

Mark Craddock said...

I don't mind starting at higher levels as a DM or player, depending on the type of game I want to run or am playing in. But I also don't mind simply adjusting the Hit Points in D&D Next. Remove the Con score or cut it in half, BUT I don't dislike House Rules.

Akhier the Dragon Hearted said...

I don't mind starting at higher levels, in fact the 3.5 campaign I am currently playing in started at 6th level so I could play a prestige class I had been wanting to play. I think that the reason there is such an opposition for starting at higher levels though is the fact that power is so connected to a level. I don't know about Hero System but your other example of games where people don't mind starting at higher, GURPS, is quite a different system. There is no real "level 1" and instead you have a certain number of points. Its in the end a problem of granularity causing a specific view of how to play. Because D&D is split into relatively few different levels of power each one feels that much more important and thus you people don't want to miss out on any of it.

gregarious monk said...

I've run and played in games where the characters started at a higher level. Sometimes for a one shot, and sometimes because the players wanted to start off at a certain power level.

I enjoy the gritty struggle of low-level D&D but it's not everyone's cup of tea. The game plays differently at low, mid and high level, why not allow people to play the power level they enjoy the most?

Robert Fisher said...

If I want to play D&D, then I generally want to start at 1st level. If I don’t want to start at 1st level, that generally means that I’d rather play one of the many other games with a flatter progression.

Herb said...

Back in the early 80s I played in an AD&D game where you started with 3000gp/xp. Instead of rolling starting money you got 3000gp which could be used to "purchase" xp at 1 gp each. That way everyone could start off at second level moderately equipped, first level zero xp very well equipped, or any place in between.

I liked it and prefer that idea to an arbitrary starting level if you're going higher. Make it 6000gp and everyone can start off at third level or you can have a 1 hp first level magic-user with five first level spell scrolls (especially if allowing Holmes scroll rules).

tussock said...

I figure the rules should flat out tell everyone to start at 3rd level, that should be the default for character creation. Gives more room for multiclassing too.

Starting at 1st or 2nd is then a "hardcore" option for experienced players. They could've easily done that sort of thing in 3e (saving the need for NPC classes) and 4e.