1st level characters, what are they?

So, there is a lot of discusssion and differing viewpoints on what exactly is a 1st level character. Are they humble starting inexperienced fools who just got their first suit of armor, sword, spellbook, holy symbol, or theives' tools? Are they mildly competent adventurers who've seen a little of what the world has to offer and want more? Are they action movie badasses, (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Milla Jovovich, Sigourney Weaver, Sylvester Stallone), whose badassery only gets badassier (that should be a word)? Are they some combination of some or all of these?
I'm curious and I think having a collection of these viewpoints will help.

Personally, I see them as somewhere between inexperienced fools and mildly competent. I don't really see 1st level as the badass action hero level.


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Great thread orkbard

In my case, low levels inexperienced fools, mid levels competent adventurers, high levels movie stars. Gradual steps in between very much included.
I see Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Episode IV is the iconic 1st-level hero.  He's not a hapless infant.  He's picked up some real skills, and he's got an improbable survivability thanks to heroic plot-armor.  But he has no adventure experience.  He's not a badass.  And his name certainly isn't spoken in hushed tones all across the galaxy.  Han Solo and Chewbacca, on the other hand, have been in a lot of scrapes, and people know who they are (unfortunately).  They're mid-level.  And of course Obi-Wan is well into a prestige class.

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are more like 1st-level characters whose players chose to start as an NPC class for RP reasons.  That's certainly fine if you want to do it, but they're not representative of the typical 1st-level D&D character.
I see Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Episode IV is the iconic 1st-level hero.  He's not a hapless infant.  He's picked up some real skills, and he's got an improbable survivability thanks to heroic plot-armor.  But he has no adventure experience.  He's not a badass.  And his name certainly isn't spoken in hushed tones all across the galaxy.  Han Solo and Chewbacca, on the other hand, have been in a lot of scrapes, and people know who they are (unfortunately).  They're mid-level.  And of course Obi-Wan is well into a prestige class.

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are more like 1st-level characters whose players chose to start as an NPC class for RP reasons.  That's certainly fine if you want to do it, but they're not representative of the typical 1st-level D&D character.



This right here.  Luke, for all his inexperience, could still bulls-eye womp rats in his T-16 back home.  He's not some useless shmuck.

Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging. Roll dice, not cars.
I see Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Episode IV is the iconic 1st-level hero.  He's not a hapless infant.  He's picked up some real skills, and he's got an improbable survivability thanks to heroic plot-armor.  But he has no adventure experience.  He's not a badass.  And his name certainly isn't spoken in hushed tones all across the galaxy.  Han Solo and Chewbacca, on the other hand, have been in a lot of scrapes, and people know who they are (unfortunately).  They're mid-level.  And of course Obi-Wan is well into a prestige class.

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are more like 1st-level characters whose players chose to start as an NPC class for RP reasons.  That's certainly fine if you want to do it, but they're not representative of the typical 1st-level D&D character.



This right here.  Luke, for all his inexperience, could still bulls-eye womp rats in his T-16 back home.  He's not some useless shmuck.


I agree with this.  I feel that even level 1 heroes (and yes, they are heroes) are already a cut above (at least) common folks.  So if a 1st level character is an "incompetent fool", then wouldn't that make the common folks barely able to even dress themselves?

This isn't saying that a 1st level hero should be storming castles and slaying dragons, but they should still feel like heroes.  They can get beaten up, know the sting of defeat, probably have to run away at times, but they shouldn't feel like helpless buffoons who can't do anything right.

Hehe, just to clarify, I never advocated for incompetent fools, inexperenced but competent fools though yup I'd love that
I want my characters at level 1 to be trained and ready for adventure, but never had any. So, the paladin has trained for 5+ years as squire. The fighter might have held his fathers sword since he was 11. The Mage has studied sufficient to knows that adventuring is dangerous, and he should be prepared. Essentially, a level 1 char should be about the same as a level 1 monster, otherwise your character feels too useless to adventure.
I see Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Episode IV is the iconic 1st-level hero.  He's not a hapless infant.  He's picked up some real skills, and he's got an improbable survivability thanks to heroic plot-armor.  But he has no adventure experience.  He's not a badass.  And his name certainly isn't spoken in hushed tones all across the galaxy.  Han Solo and Chewbacca, on the other hand, have been in a lot of scrapes, and people know who they are (unfortunately).  They're mid-level.  And of course Obi-Wan is well into a prestige class.

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are more like 1st-level characters whose players chose to start as an NPC class for RP reasons.  That's certainly fine if you want to do it, but they're not representative of the typical 1st-level D&D character.



This right here.  Luke, for all his inexperience, could still bulls-eye womp rats in his T-16 back home.  He's not some useless shmuck.


I agree with this.  I feel that even level 1 heroes (and yes, they are heroes) are already a cut above (at least) common folks.  So if a 1st level character is an "incompetent fool", then wouldn't that make the common folks barely able to even dress themselves?

This isn't saying that a 1st level hero should be storming castles and slaying dragons, but they should still feel like heroes.  They can get beaten up, know the sting of defeat, probably have to run away at times, but they shouldn't feel like helpless buffoons who can't do anything right.




Add my voice to this chorus.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
In D&D - I see 1st level characters as "Young Professionals". 

They've got a lot of technical know how - but no practical experience.

- That cleric has never had his faith challenged by either a rival faith - or the endless drudging encroachement of the inevitable victory of the undead.

- That mage has some good theory - but has never had a duel with another mage - has never read a forbidden text - or run afoul of Planar Arcane forces.

- That fighter has certainly sparred - maybe even killed a man - but never has he been the bulwark against a terryfying ogre - or fought outside of a company with "Non-Fighters" - or been the agent of his own victory in combat.

etc. etc.

The biggest difference to me - is that the 1st Level Adventurer is facing his first moments away from direction.  Away from Knight-Commanders, Guild Masters and Hierophants (old edition druidic leaders). 

NPCs are victims of Fate... Adventurers are agents of Free Will.

Power level means very little to me.  
I think level 1 characters should be ordinary people, not heroes. They're not idiots, of course, but they're not exceptional either. Like a rank-and-file soldier, a common thief, an apprentice wizard, a simple woodsman.

The reason for this is simple: it is easy to start at a level above level 1, but impossible to start below. Some people want to be heroes right off the bat, and this is a fine thing. The game should accomodate that. But some also want to start off as common folks who become heroes, and the game should accomodate this too. Modularity and accomodating different play styles is what this whole edition's being marketed as.

I think the best way to accomplish this is to identify the level at which PCs start to be exceptional, and have guidelines in the rulebooks to that effect: simply telling the DM what level corresponds with what character type should be enough.
Conan in the Tower of the Elephant, Elric in The Dreaming City, Geros Lahvoheetos in A Cat of a Silvery Hue (he actually was a apprentice hero class in Revenge of the Horseclans like the -500xp fighter from Unearthed Arcana (IIRC?)). These are what I envision as a first level character.
1st level PC is to 10th level PC as a high school student with an A in biology to a surgeon.

A 1st level player character is equivalent to a person who just finished basic training. They aren't bumbling but they aren't the movers and shakers of anyplace. Kobolds might fear them but they barely have any plot armor.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

A first level character by right, has survived the treadmill or has some type of natural talent in the class that is chosen, so they are a cut above the rest. As to the status of the individual, that is highly dependent on the campaign or game world, i.e. you can explain it as just surviving in a brutally harsh world in dark sun, or being a young professional in greyhawk. Therefore, I do not use the level of the character to equate to the common person. The majority of commoners are not first level as the character experiences it. Something has set them down a path that makes them different.
Plenty of knowledge about what to do, but no actual on-the-job experience. Kind of like reading an instructional manual gives you the knowledge of how to do whatever it is you want to do, but until you've actually done it you have no actual experience. I have never labeled a level 1 character a "hero" until he has actually done something heroic. That could be after his first encounter, or as far out as 3rd or 4th level, depending on the circumstances.
I would say limited practical experience (not none) except in the cases of some exceptional prodigies. Conan had Venarium, Elric was trained by his father in the arcane arts and his faithful servent in martial matters.

Geros started out as an untrained noble man's servant who accidentally killed 3-4 rebels one night on a dark road riding to gain aid for his master and the rest of his party. He actually would represent the Commoner character who becomes more but I still think that was better shown by the Level 0 rules I referenced in my post above.
1st level PC is to 10th level PC as a high school student with an A in biology to a surgeon. A 1st level player character is equivalent to a person who just finished basic training. They aren't bumbling but they aren't the movers and shakers of anyplace. Kobolds might fear them but they barely have any plot armor.


I think it's okay to turn up the plot armor beyond what the character's other skills might suggest, by the justification that they're "destined for great things" or whatever.  They may not be able to go toe-to-toe with an ogre yet, but they're more likely than most to survive and escape to fight another day.  They aren't victims.
I would say limited practical experience (not none) except in the cases of some exceptional prodigies. Conan had Venarium, Elric was trained by his father in the arcane arts and his faithful servent in martial matters.


I'd say Conan was 1st level at Venarium.  By the time of "The Tower of the Elephant" he's actually had a couple major adventures under his belt (including killing two frost giants, not that we should expect Howard's universe to conform to D&D monster level standards).
In D&D - I see 1st level characters as "Young Professionals". 

They've got a lot of technical know how - but no practical experience.

- That cleric has never had his faith challenged by either a rival faith - or the endless drudging encroachement of the inevitable victory of the undead.

- That mage has some good theory - but has never had a duel with another mage - has never read a forbidden text - or run afoul of Planar Arcane forces.

- That fighter has certainly sparred - maybe even killed a man - but never has he been the bulwark against a terryfying ogre - or fought outside of a company with "Non-Fighters" - or been the agent of his own victory in combat.

etc. etc.

The biggest difference to me - is that the 1st Level Adventurer is facing his first moments away from direction.  Away from Knight-Commanders, Guild Masters and Hierophants (old edition druidic leaders). 

NPCs are victims of Fate... Adventurers are agents of Free Will.

Power level means very little to me.  



I concur.
'That's just, like, your opinion, man.'
Gygax explicitly used the term super hero for high level characters and veterans were the first level fighter. If I go find a veteran in real life he isnt just out of boot camp.

 
  
NPCs are victims of Fate... Adventurers are agents of Free Will. 

Power level means very little to me.  

 

That right there is my take...

And level is for me a measure of what kinds or flavors of adversaries/situations the heros are capable of confronting to a degree that will very much mean both skill and luck so when Gabriel is able to confront the Cyclops in an Early Xena? she is not really low level but likely a somewhat higher level non-combatant (lazy lord) Bard. 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I think level 1 characters should be ordinary people, not heroes. They're not idiots, of course, but they're not exceptional either. Like a rank-and-file soldier, a common thief, an apprentice wizard, a simple woodsman.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />The reason for this is simple: it is easy to start at a level above level 1, but impossible to start below. Some people want to be heroes right off the bat, and this is a fine thing. The game should accomodate that. But some also want to start off as common folks who become heroes, and the game should accomodate this too. Modularity and accomodating different play styles is what this whole edition's being marketed as.

I think the best way to accomplish this is to identify the level at which PCs start to be exceptional, and have guidelines in the rulebooks to that effect: simply telling the DM what level corresponds with what character type should be enough.



There's really no reason they can't create a level 0 like they did in some previous editions where Fighters don't have any bonuses or maneuvers or CS dice, where Wizards get 2 Minor spells and that's it, Clerics get no bonuses and only get 2 Orisons, and rogues don't have a scheme or skill mastery. Those that want to start off as less than a commoner are fine to do that, but in previous editions the commoner class had all kinds of perks that almost compared to 1st level characters...
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
I think 1st level characters should crumple to a bad look of a Kobold. They should slink around in fear of their lives with an 11' pole poking every square inch of a room before entering. I think they should sneak around and steal treasure until they level and never take any risks. I think a player should have to play 1000 characters before they find that 1 character that is lucky enough to make it past 1st level. I think even at mid to high levels a players first instinct should be to run away from enemies rather than fight...

Bwahahahahah... Sorry, can't keep a straight face...

If I can't play a hero from start to finish I'm not playing the game...Smile
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Crunchy mostly, and not very filling.

They don't start sticking ot the ribs until level 4 or so. 
I feel like at level one a character should be more than an ordinary person but not by much.

The kid who was the best swordsman in his village but hasn't seen anything in the broader world.

The apprentice who has barely scraped the surface of magical study but who supprises his instructors at every turn.

The young thief who has managed to outwit the local authorities at every turn since he was 6.

The Paladin who has passed the grueling trials of his order and now goes off traveling for the first time.
Just adding my voice to the Episode IV Luke Skywalker chorus.

I"ll add another voice for a character with a great deal of potential but just starting out in their career. I.e. The episode IV luke skywalker.


I heard it described another way by someone in a different thread the the difference between a simple commoner and a fighter should be about the same difference as the difference between a level one fighter and a level 2 fighter. Just enough that you know there's a difference in fighting ability, but not so much that the transition is jarring.

I tend to agree with TheCosmicKid et al. Although if you're rolling 3d6 stats old school, you can easily end up with Joxer instead of Luke Skywalker. ;)
Children believe what we tell them, they have complete faith in us. I ask of you a little of this childlike simplicity, and to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words: "A long time ago...." (Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast) Winner of You Build the Character #12, YbtC #22, YbtC #24, YbtC #28 and YbtC #35 Winner of You Make the... Contest #8
Simple idea for a "level 0":  choose a background.  No class.  You get a few hit points, but nothing else.  When you hit level 1, choose a class and advance as normal.
I see Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Episode IV is the iconic 1st-level hero.  He's not a hapless infant.  He's picked up some real skills, and he's got an improbable survivability thanks to heroic plot-armor.



Bad example I'm afraid. Luke never has a chance of failure or dying. He has plot armor which will carry him through till the end. This is one playstyle of D&D but not it's default.

Gygax explicitly used the term super hero for high level characters and veterans were the first level fighter. If I go find a veteran in real life he isnt just out of boot camp.

 
  
NPCs are victims of Fate... Adventurers are agents of Free Will. 

Power level means very little to me.  

 

That right there is my take...

And level is for me a measure of what kinds or flavors of adversaries/situations the heros are capable of confronting to a degree that will very much mean both skill and luck so when Gabriel is able to confront the Cyclops in an Early Xena? she is not really low level but likely a somewhat higher level non-combatant (lazy lord) Bard. 



And once again, it's been pointed out to you before that the list of titles above "Veteran" in the old books would actually be lower terms than veteran. A "warrior" can be anyone of any level, so can a "swordsman" and a "swashbuckler". Same goes with "Hero", a hero can be a guy who saves a child from drowning.

I wouldn't get hung up on what the terms mean.

Bad example I'm afraid. Luke never has a chance of failure or dying. He has plot armor which will carry him through till the end. This is one playstyle of D&D but not it's default.

Writers of adventure stories face a delicate balancing act:  they have to show that the protagonist has a chance of failure, but have him succeed anyway, because if he actually fails there is no story.  It is, shall we say, uncommon for an adventure protagonist to die to some random mooks halfway through the first act and be replaced by a suspiciously similar substitute.  DMs, if they want to replicate the feel of an adventure story, must face the same balancing act.  And while I'm certainly not going to say that you're playing the game wrongly if you adopt a different style, I am going to challenge your assertion that this style is not the default.  D&D is marketed, sold, and played as a heroic fantasy adventure game.  Its core rules should treat PCs the way players expect from the protagonists of heroic fantasy adventure stories with which they are familiar.  The simplest way of doing this is to be a little more generous to them with plot armor in the form of hit points:  they still risk death, but they have more of a cushion so that they're not going to die from a single unlucky axe blow or overlooked trap.

A "hardcore mode" where death is easy and common is, again, fine for those who want it, but more suited for a module.
Bad example I'm afraid. Luke never has a chance of failure or dying. He has plot armor which will carry him through till the end. This is one playstyle of D&D but not it's default.

Writers of adventure stories face a delicate balancing act:  they have to show that the protagonist has a chance of failure, but have him succeed anyway, because if he actually fails there is no story.  It is, shall we say, uncommon for an adventure protagonist to die to some random mooks halfway through the first act and be replaced by a suspiciously similar substitute.  DMs, if they want to replicate the feel of an adventure story, must face the same balancing act.  And while I'm certainly not going to say that you're playing the game wrongly if you adopt a different style, I am going to challenge your assertion that this style is not the default.  D&D is marketed, sold, and played as a heroic fantasy adventure game.  Its core rules should treat PCs the way players expect from the protagonists of heroic fantasy adventure stories with which they are familiar.  The simplest way of doing this is to be a little more generous to them with plot armor in the form of hit points:  they still risk death, but they have more of a cushion so that they're not going to die from a single unlucky axe blow or overlooked trap.

A "hardcore mode" where death is easy and common is, again, fine for those who want it, but more suited for a module.



Getting killed randomly is a part of D&D. That is why using a movie character or one from a novel is pointless. I have ran and played in many games where character A starts the game while character B finishes it. I go into games hoping to make it to the end but I know that may not happen.

D&D isn't a movie, it is an ever changing event that is decided by the dice at the end of the day. While the term "Protagonist" can be used in D&D, it doesn't contain the full volume that it does in a book, play etc..

Yes you have a main character, or characters but that can change on a whim. We don't know what would have happened to Luke if he had been in a D&D game because there is no guarantee as to whether you succeed or fail. Luke has "plot armor" which consists of things happening outside of Luke's control but in a fixed way. The storm trooper that just happened to bump into a wall which sent his laser blast in another direction who just happen to hit the other storm trooper who was about to shoot Luke in the face is an example of plot armor.

There is nothing wrong with having a Luke Skywalker concept but he doesn't resemble a D&D first level character in any way accept for the fact that Luke is starting out. What happens to him is set in stone, default D&D doesn't come with that guarantee.

Yes you have a main character, or characters but that can change on a whim.


Can you see how this might not be a satisfactory experience for every player?

There is nothing wrong with having a Luke Skywalker concept but he doesn't resemble a D&D first level character in any way accept for the fact that Luke is starting out. What happens to him is set in stone, default D&D doesn't come with that guarantee.


What argument do you have that this is "default D&D" as opposed to simply "D&D the way I play it"?  I've made my case based on the standard expectations of the genre that the game tries to emulate.  You have simply asserted that D&D is as you describe, without providing any reasoning that might convince the rest of us.  And what is freely asserted may be freely dismissed.
In my world lvl 1 is an apprentice just to go through their first real test, or one that has just finished basic training in what they do.

In the 1-30 lvl scale in my world

The little village main bully (lvl 2 fighter/rogue)
A typical city militia (lvl 1-2 fighter)
The old grizzled veteran soldier with lots of stories (lvl 3 fighter)
An elite soldier (lvl 4 fighter)
Captain of the guard (lvl 4-6 fighter)
A renowned swordsman (lvl 6 fighter)

The village witch/wise woman (lvl 2 wizard)
The town arcanist (lvl 4 Wizard)
The head magister of the moderately large academy (4-6 wizard)

The local village priest (lvl 2 cleric)
An initiate (lvl 1 cleric)
The master of the temple (lvl 5 cleric)
Luke Episode VI is just a PC who got lucky, never died, and leveled up a lot.

It happens. Even in D&D. Roll enough nat 20s at the right times and you'll survive a lot of stuff.

Especially in books and movies. Many tales in the media have only softball fights and suicide missions. Many movies and books have the heroes only in real serious danger once or twice for the whole movie/book.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!


What argument do you have that this is "default D&D" as opposed to simply "D&D the way I play it"?  I've made my case based on the standard expectations of the genre that the game tries to emulate.  You have simply asserted that D&D is as you describe, without providing any reasoning that might convince the rest of us.



That's Xun in a nutshell.

  And what is freely asserted may be freely dismissed.



So's that.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
A starting 1st level character has no experience in the field. He has literally 0 XP, he didn't even killed a single 15 XP Kobold yet. He is fresh out of training camp one can say, all theory no practice.

How known or famous he is is a matter of how reknown he is and this can vary based on status, social class etc...  

How badass and kickass he is on the other hand is a  a matter of strenght, endurance and power and in this regard a 1st level character is pretty weak all around. He is not strong enought to kill an Bugbear with a single blow, something a more experienced hero would be able to achieve and can in turn be clubbed to death by the Bugbear in a single swing, something a more experienced hero wouldn't succumb from so easily.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

I think 1st level characters should crumple to a bad look of a Kobold. They should slink around in fear of their lives with an 11' pole poking every square inch of a room before entering. I think they should sneak around and steal treasure until they level and never take any risks. I think a player should have to play 1000 characters before they find that 1 character that is lucky enough to make it past 1st level. I think even at mid to high levels a players first instinct should be to run away from enemies rather than fight...

Bwahahahahah... Sorry, can't keep a straight face...

If I can't play a hero from start to finish I'm not playing the game...



I think Kobolds should crumple to a bad look from a PC.  Pcs should stride into rooms, immune to traps and damage. I think a player shouldn't even have to roll dice to conquer foes, and death should be a word that only applies to NPCs. I think that by mid to high levels commoners should mistake the Pcs for deities walking the earth...

Sorry, I tried to see your side of things, but...

If I have to play Superman with a Zweihander I'm not playing the game...
'That's just, like, your opinion, man.'
How badass and kickass he is on the other hand is a  a matter of strenght, endurance and power and in this regard a 1st level character is pretty weak all around. He is not strong enought to kill an Bugbear with a single blow, something a more experienced hero would be able to achieve and can in turn be clubbed to death by the Bugbear in a single swing, something a more experienced hero wouldn't succumb from so easily.


All the same, a party of 1st-level PCs can tangle with a band of orcish warriors and win.  We're used to thinking of orcs as cannon fodder, but in the context of the typical D&D world, that's actually pretty impressive.
My general feel for how "impressive" a first level character is is based on the following observations -

- While not true in every possible setting, it's generally the case that magic is fairly rare and fairly special. While it's possible for magic and magical things to be Not Special, I don't really get the sense that that's the default feeling or the feeling that most campaigns use. Even in Eberron, most people are not magical.
- First level characters can be spellcasters. While they can't be completely omnipotent world-changers, they can perform acts of wizardry on a daily basis that are pretty remarkable. Even in high-magic settings, a spellcaster is probably one out of a hundred, if not one out of a thousand. In settings where things are a little more down to earth, a spellcaster might be even more notable.
- With no other reason to assume otherwise, it's not unreasonable to assert that however special a spellcaster is compared to the rest of the world, a nonspellcaster is proportionately special. So a level 1 fighter is not some ransom hayseed who just fell off the turnip truck and can't tell a poleaxe from a pauldron; he's something at least somewhat notable.
- The game has historically backed up the notion that a level 1 [whatever] is not a fresh-faced whatever. A level 1 3.5 fighter, in addition to possessing competance with a variety of weapons and armor, can easy cut down an orc warrior in single combat, something that is presumably out of the grasp of the vast majority of the population. Other classes have even more spectacular and unique abilities. (Well, except maybe rangers.) While 4e characters aren't quite as high-impact at level one as 3.5 characters, they still have lots of unique capabilities.

The notion that because a level 1 character has 0 XP he has never done anything worth experience points is outright silly. Level 1 characters start with 0 XP because it makes sense to index that from zero because it's where the game starts (by default). It's virtually impossible to come up with a remotely compelling backstory for any character ever that doesn't implicitly or explicitly involve them doing something that would be worth XP in an actual game (like, say, overcoming any sort of challenge whatsoever.)
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
The capabilities of even a 1st level Fighter or Rogue are more impressive than the comoner or city guard though. PCs can perform skills and feats (generic term, not game element necessarly) to accomplish prowess more impressive than most people in the world can achieve.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

This is a world design issue and thus DMs can do as they like.

In my campaigns...

Level 1 - is the modern day equivalent of fresh out of boot camp.  Better trained than farmers and shop keepers but hardly elite.

Here is how I view the levels 
1 to 6     - Town guards and their sargeants.  Veteran soldiers.  Common hedgewizards.  Village priests.
7 to 10    - Common Knights.  Well trained swordsman.  Guards for high level important people.  Well to do wizards
11 to 15  - Renowned warriors.  Advisors to Kings.  Champions.  
16+        - Legends, ArchMagi.

I admit this is not the D&D advised system.  I use it because it makes the world make a lot more sense. It explains why the monsters haven't taken over.