Quick Level Advancement in Dungeons and Dragons

I’m getting ready to go on a couple week hiatus of gaming due to scheduling conflicts and Father’s Day, which will give me time to plan the next leg of our party’s journey. They’re getting ready to leave Maldora, a creepy “hell on earth” type of world with abhorrent and undead monsters, devils and demons, and some other really strange things. Maldora is a place of my own making, and I’ve been really happy with how the adventure has turned out.

The question of leveling has come up several times. My players are eager to level to paragon in 4th edition, and I’m eager for them to level so I can throw new monsters at them. I have yet to play in a game that went beyond Level 6, so this will be a new experience for me, even if I’m technically not playing.

The issue with leveling is that when we level by XP, it seems to take a long time unless I throw huge encounters at them, and then, of course, we lose PCs. So instead, I’ve been leveling them every session or every other session to get where we need to get. I have the storyline in my head and I know exactly where I want them to hit their paragon level.

I like this method of leveling for several reasons. First, it makes my job easier. I’m already putting quite a few hours into the game itself, and I’m trying to get better at making the encounters XP appropriate for the group. But by leveling at certain encounter intervals, I’m better able to do the encounters I want to rather than being caught up in counting points to the next stage.

Second, the players like it. This might not be true for all gaming groups, but the players in mine get excited when I let them level. A couple of them want to get to Paragon level and the others like the fact that for the most part we don’t get bogged down in monsters from the same few levels for what sometimes feels like an endless string of same level encounters.

Third, it feels like a reward. Understandably, XP is supposed to be the reward players get for fighting monsters, solving puzzles, and owning the skill challenges. While XP is awesome, it always feels like a bonus when you get to level. Having said that, I can also see where this might backfire. When you do something too much, it loses its novelty. Leveling quickly might mean that the players get tired of the game faster or that the thrill of it is lost sooner.

One can also argue that if you want to be level 11, why not just start at Level 11? Two reasons come to mind. Number one, you can really build your back story in those first ten levels, and that’s extra flavor for the paragon path you take. Number two, starting at high level can be overwhelming. When I was first starting to DM, I ran a Level 5 adventure with people who hadn’t played much fourth edition if they’d played at all. The number of powers and items overwhelmed them, and a few got a little testy. In my current gaming group, I have someone who’s just getting her feet wet with DnD. Starting at Level 1 has given her the chance to get used to her existing powers before we throw new ones at her.

The plan is to continue to speed level until we reach the 11th level point, then taper off and spend more time at each one. By then, I hope to have a good grasp of my game and be able to use XP for the purpose of leveling again. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. For now, the players are cool with it and I can chalk it up to another experimental learning experience for a Dungeon Master in training.