The First Level - What Does It Mean?

What does taking the first level in a class mean, to you?

Does the first level in a class represent the end of a long effort of training, or is it the beginning of the journey?  Something inbetween, or none of this at all?

This question applies to both the first character level as well as a potential first level in a new class in a multiclass situation.


Edit:  Yes, I know the correct answer is "It's up to your group."  My real question is, for your group, what does it mean, not what it should mean at the abstract system level.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
It's whatever you want it to be.  The only important things about it rules-wise are 1) it's playable and 2) it's a good starting point for new players.
Starting at 1st is graduating from whatever training it took to get you there.

Starting a new level in a different class due to 3E multiclassing is an abomination that defeats the purpose of having a class system in the first place.
...whatever
What does taking the first level in a class mean, to you?

Does the first level in a class represent the end of a long effort of training, or is it the beginning of the journey?  Something in between, or none of this at all?

This question applies to both the first character level as well as a potential first level in a new class in a multiclass situation.

I think every group should be able to determine that independently. My group may see it as the culmination of youth plus initial training where another might rule it's the beginning of the journey. If the mindset behind 5e ends up being "it's up to the group," then all types of multiclassing can be included, and your group can just use whichever system(s) fit your definition of "Level 1".

And to me, it's the culmination of initial training, but that doesn't rule out adding a class later as the story dictates. Been there, done that. It just has to be worked into the story and have a good way of working out the additional training.

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

With Backgrounds being part of the system I look at it as a starting point, particularly if a healty multiclass system is in place (which I hope for).

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of any failed saving throw, including but not limited to petrification, poison, death magic, dragon breath, spells, or vorpal sword-related decapitations.

It's like graduating high school, or finishing an apprenticeship, or leaving the family farm around the age of majority to find your own path.  It means you have some kind of skills or abilities you can use in the world at large, but you are far from being able to take over the world.  With luck and perseverance you can affect the world in small ways, or without them you can lead a life of anonymity.

In a multi-class situation, it's harder to define, but to me, it's like being a jock in high school who takes the bare minimum classes required to graduate and barely passing them (or being passed because you're a jock).  You have developed physical abilities and a certain skill set to do well at sports, but then you go to a community college to pick the academics you could have learned if you hadn't focused so much on sports.

First level in a 1e/2e-type multiclassing system would be more like being very active in sports in high school but putting just as much effort into academics, doing little else because you had no time to do anything else.

If that makes any sense...

First level is the beginning. Seriously, that's what it is. How a character gets there is up to the player, and I've heard many stories about how a character acquires their skills.


It's all good, really.

I generally think of it as meaning "I now have enough background and ability in this area that it makes sense to model it as a level in this class". In my experience, if someone is planning on playing, say, a Fighter/Inquisitor (in Pathfinder), they start out by playing an inquisitorial Fighter - the kind of person who makes sense as an Inquisitor - and when they take the Inquisitor level, it doesn't seem weird, because it's a natural extension of who the character is, because that's how the planned it. The character was always something like a fighter/inquisitor, it's just that levels are discrete. In general, I view things as "a character should be mechanically represented as the combination of classes that make mechanical sense for representing the character". The notion that classes are, like, these discrete career paths that actually mean something in-world and you can't take a level in cleric without going off and studying how to be a cleric as though levels are actually discrete in-world strikes me as something from the realm of parody, at best. The same is true of the assumption that a level one character is fully trained in his first class but is somehow completely zeroed out in preparation for any other class. I do think that the notion that character classes are discrete career paths instead of attempts at representing someone's capabilities is good for a parody setting (it seems to be popular in D&D-based webcomics), and might be interesting for sort of a bizarre, meta, self-aware setting, but that's not my default.

Taking a level of a really out-of-left-field class is questionable roleplaying, but that's not something that I feel like I really experience first-hand all that often. Players who tend to plan their advancement tend to play a character that makes sense with the planned advancement. Players who make character option choices that just kind of make sense to them as they go along tend to make choices that... make sense. I don't think I've ever run into somebody just being like, "Hey guys, remember me? The party's warrior-type? I'm INEXPLICABLY ALSO A LEVEL ONE DRUID NOW. How's about that?"

Edit: With regards to the related question, which is "how significant does your potency in an area have to be to count as having a level in that class?", I err on the side of "quite a bit". A level one cleric can perform several significant miracles every single day. I don't see the fighter equivalent of that as "guy who barely knows which end of the sword to hold." (That doesn't necessarily mean he has lots of formal training. He could just be talented, lucky or driven, but he's not a no-competence schmuck.)
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 fighter know how to use effectively a wide range of weapons and armors.
The rogues learnt twice the skills a normal guy knows, is a master in all of them, learnt anatomy and the mastery of a good number of weapons to sneak attack or assassinate. If he use alternatives to sneak attacks, they are still requiring combat training.
Wizards learnt how to cast cantrips, and then how to cast spells. Not as impressive as a rogue…
The cleric class is so vague in tis concept that I will just suppose some of them need training.

It seems that PCs need a lot of experience or long and hard training, except for the wizard and maybe clerics.
As a DM, I would require a good background to justify the fighter or the rogue mastery of their abilities.
Wizards could just have ended school.
Clerics… I suppose that the ones using weapons and armors like fighters have to justify this knowledge. The others just have… faith ? I don't know how and at which rate D&D clerics grow spells.

In 5e, 1st level apparently means "boring as hell". At least so far. So whether my table thinks we are bad**** at level 1 or some common serfs with pig crap on our faces and no world experience, the classes feel like absolute beginners. If 5e doesn't give PCs more choices at low levels than I can't see myself every playing anything but level 6 or 7 up. I just can't spam a cantrip every round; I would rather not play. This is why I started my B/X game at 6th level. Same thing.

I think it means two different things.

first level in your first class indicates the skills you have aquired in your time before becoming an adventurer.  in that basic training kind of way.

for the wizard you've just now grasped the basics of magic, you can cast a couple of the harder to understand spells and have a few that are so easy you can always cast them.  You are also incredibly limited in what you can manage each day.

that rogue is just collating all of the skills he has procured over his life and are able to apply them in grander manner towards a more adventuring type of pursuit.

it's the farm boy that has a bow that he always used for hunting, but is just now realizing he can use it as a means of fighting monsters.

it's the guard fresh out of basic training that has been given the skills and combat training to be an effective guard

its the beginning of the story where you are just collating all of your skills and realizing they can be applied to an adventurer's life, and not just to the exact use you put them to before.

First level in a multiclass is different however.  It is learning new skills as you have already been adventuring.  It is taking those skills you already had collated and realizing you can apply them differently than you were before. 

So I guess in reality both of them are somewhat the same.  First level is taking skills you had already aquired and redefining your use of them to fit a different usage and style of usage.

That fighter has always been dexterous...him multiclassing into rogue is him identifying that that dexterity could be used in a different manner.  Rather than just using it to attack and defend he can use it for slight of hand for theft and for nimble movement and stealth.

The first level of a class is taking your capabilities as you already had them and applying them in a newly realized manner. 

I think the difference between first level and multiclassed first level is that for your first first level you are defining how your non adventuring based skills and aptitudes apply to adventuring, while a multiclassed first level is to show your growth and learning of a different way within the story.

I know I always come back to it but to me the best descriptor of first level is the emonds fielders in Wheel of Time book one (The Eye of the World) more precisely the first quarter to half of that book.  They all have skills and the first half of the book is them learning how to apply those skills to the life of an adventurer.  They have all been hunting and gathering and working their capabilities for a long time. heck one of them is even leveled (nyneve hence why she joins the party later than everyone else from emonds field).  However they never realized how to apply them to anything, but what they were used for before.  Every one of the boys is a crack shot with their bows...they all used it for hunting, and feast day competitions, it didn't even occur to them they could use it as a means of real violence...it takes the beginning of the adventure to teach them this...very quickly.  The main character has been tought the means to becoming a blademaster...yet never knew it, to him it was just a concentration trick his dad had tought him (his dad being a blademaster unbeknownst to him).  as the book prgresses you see two of the character's pick up a level of bard even playing music and juggling in inn's and farmhouses to make his way to the party's next meeting, after having been tought the skills by a master bard.  Even those skills were just something he already had, he was already dexterous, and smart enough to play the flute Thom just had to show him how to redefine his usage of that capability.

(sorry for the disorganization of the post just some free thought on the subject, I like this thread) 

In 5e, 1st level apparently means "boring as hell". At least so far. So whether my table thinks we are bad**** at level 1 or some common serfs with pig crap on our faces and no world experience, if 5e doesn't give PCs more choices at low levels than I can't see myself every playing anything but level 6 or 7 up. I just can't spam a cantrip every round; I would rather not play.


Instead of taking the easy opportunity to crap on something you said you wrote off a year ago, how about you actually answer the question and provide some useful input to the discussion at hand.



I am answering the question. It doesn't matter if I think of them as novices or experienced, they play like choiceless, bland bores at low levels. I would rather start at level 6 or up. So that should answer the question.

In 5e, 1st level apparently means "boring as hell". At least so far. So whether my table thinks we are bad**** at level 1 or some common serfs with pig crap on our faces and no world experience, if 5e doesn't give PCs more choices at low levels than I can't see myself every playing anything but level 6 or 7 up. I just can't spam a cantrip every round; I would rather not play.


Instead of taking the easy opportunity to crap on something you said you wrote off a year ago, how about you actually answer the question and provide some useful input to the discussion at hand.



I am answering the question. It doesn't matter if I think of them as novices or experienced, they play like choiceless, bland bores at low levels. I would rather start at level 6 or up. So that should answer the question.




I also like to start at level 6+ because I like to give my players some room with the backstory to have adventures they have already gone on both alone, and with the group they are with.  However sometimes I like to start at level 1 with the guys fresh to the adventuring game that literally have no idea what they are actually doing for the most part.
I generally think of it as meaning "I now have enough background and ability in this area that it makes sense to model it as a level in this class". In my experience, if someone is planning on playing, say, a Fighter/Inquisitor (in Pathfinder), they start out by playing an inquisitorial Fighter - the kind of person who makes sense as an Inquisitor - and when they take the Inquisitor level, it doesn't seem weird, because it's a natural extension of who the character is, because that's how the planned it. The character was always something like a fighter/inquisitor, it's just that levels are discrete. In general, I view things as "a character should be mechanically represented as the combination of classes that make mechanical sense for representing the character". The notion that classes are, like, these discrete career paths that actually mean something in-world and you can't take a level in cleric without going off and studying how to be a cleric as though levels are actually discrete in-world strikes me as something from the realm of parody, at best. The same is true of the assumption that a level one character is fully trained in his first class but is somehow completely zeroed out in preparation for any other class. I do think that the notion that character classes are discrete career paths instead of attempts at representing someone's capabilities is good for a parody setting (it seems to be popular in D&D-based webcomics), and might be interesting for sort of a bizarre, meta, self-aware setting, but that's not my default.

Taking a level of a really out-of-left-field class is questionable roleplaying, but that's not something that I feel like I really experience first-hand all that often. Players who tend to plan their advancement tend to play a character that makes sense with the planned advancement. Players who make character option choices that just kind of make sense to them as they go along tend to make choices that... make sense. I don't think I've ever run into somebody just being like, "Hey guys, remember me? The party's warrior-type? I'm INEXPLICABLY ALSO A LEVEL ONE DRUID NOW. How's about that?"

Edit: With regards to the related question, which is "how significant does your potency in an area have to be to count as having a level in that class?", I err on the side of "quite a bit". A level one cleric can perform several significant miracles every single day. I don't see the fighter equivalent of that as "guy who barely knows which end of the sword to hold." (That doesn't necessarily mean he has lots of formal training. He could just be talented, lucky or driven, but he's not a no-competence schmuck.)



I've tried multiclassing characters 3e-style to model a specific type of character, but it never felt quite right playing them from low level and adding additional classes with no training of any kind in the new class.  Maybe it was the front-load of the classes, as doing it in Star Wars seemed to work better.  Maybe Star Wars being made after 3e, and with multi-classing meant to be done more often contributed to that, but idk.
I usually think of 1st level as something you have achieved through all your learning and training in the early years of life. A 1st level fighter has been training for years with weapons and combat. A first level rogue has maybe grown up as a pick pocket or just a kid who liked to sneak and hide a lot, or whatever the rogue's focus is. A first level wizard has studied for years to learn the fundamentals of magic - you need to know basic arithmetic before you can do calculus - until finally getting to the point where they can cast a couple of cantrips and 1st level spells.

It's mostly this point of view that gives me trouble with the idea of 3e style multiclassing. I feel like when a fighter picks up that first level of wizard, it's cheapening for the pure wizard, because it turns "years of trainign required" to "picked an option from a list."

That said, I've seen other approaches to first level acquisition that make sense and don't assume years of training. 3E sorcerer was an easy one - your natural talent for makig just sort of awakens on its own.

As a DM I am usually pretty open to letting my players describe what they went through to get their first level abilities. Sometimes I find they go overboard and come up with a big long history of many accomplishments and that's hard to me to reconcile, because if they have all that experience then why are they still first level? So I try to work with them in that regard. But for the most part, whatever they come up with usually works for me.

Beginning of the journey for me.

The first level in a class represents you having taken the time to learn the basics of functioning as a certain archetype. For warrior types, this could be just finishing being a squire. Wizards or clerics could be finishing studying in a cloistered setting. Druids could be finishing a several year walkabout/hermitage. Rogues could be finishing a partnership with an experienced guild member. Etc, and so on, yadda yadda.
Edit:  Yes, I know the correct answer is "It's up to your group."  My real question is, for your group, what does it mean, not what it should mean at the abstract system level.



The correct answer is "It's up to your group."  The even more correct answer is also "It's up to your group, for each campaign you all play."  The most correct answer of all is "It represents whatever your character is at the beginning of the campaign, if your campaign starts at level 1".
Edit:  Yes, I know the correct answer is "It's up to your group."  My real question is, for your group, what does it mean, not what it should mean at the abstract system level.



The correct answer is "It's up to your group."  The even more correct answer is also "It's up to your group, for each campaign you all play."  The most correct answer of all is "It represents whatever your character is at the beginning of the campaign, if your campaign starts at level 1".


Which is still avoiding the question.  What does that mean for you in your game.  Mand12 is asking for apersonal answer to a personal question.  Why the dodge?  Why do so many people on these forums hate answering direct questions and instead twist and contort to find fault in the question.  There's no ulterior motive here.

My answer: In most campaigns, I like 1st level characters to feel like professionals -- a step above the untrained commonfolk in terms of adventuring skills -- but with little real-world experience. 
I've tried multiclassing characters 3e-style to model a specific type of character, but it never felt quite right playing them from low level and adding additional classes with no training of any kind in the new class.  Maybe it was the front-load of the classes, as doing it in Star Wars seemed to work better.

It's definitely an imperfect fit, and the more different the classes are, the more it requires kind of blurring the line, but the big difference for me is that I don't see it, generally, as it's actually played out by actual humans actually playing D&D, as typically a situation where somebody trained for ten years to become a monk, and then spontaneously one day out of nowhere is suddently also a wizard with no training of any kind in the new class. When somebody wants to play a monk/wizard, they create the character as somebody who makes sense as a monk/wizard. There's no reason I see for the mentality that a neophyte character is fully trained as whatever his first class is, but fully zeroed-out on every other possible skillset. The game certainly doesn't explicitly disallow you from taking a class that makes little sense from an advancement standpoint, but the game doesn't police that sort of thing in any other area, either. It just assumes that you're trying to play a character that makes sense.

When I think about characters in the abstract, like Bob the Generic Level 1 Fighter, the notion that Bob the Generic Level 1 Fighter is suddenly a wizard now too, with no wizard training, I can understand where the conceptual difficulty with that sort of multiclassing comes from. When I think about actual multiclassed characters played even by brand new players, with the depth and nuance and particularities that actual, played characters have, it's hard for me to think of any cases where I felt a multiclass option that an actual human decided to take didn't make sense. (Although there are certainly cases where a character kind of changed direction a bit in-world to make a planned multiclass more naturalistic.)
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.
Starting a new level in a different class due to 3E multiclassing is an abomination that defeats the purpose of having a class system in the first place.




I was going to jump all over this, but after a little thought I realized that this is an area were deviation from the norm could be very beneficial.  In all editions of D&D, multi- (and dual) classing has always been problematic.  It's hard enough to balance a single class against all of its options, but when you start adding in all the permutations that combining with other classes generates, it is neigh impossible.  I think rather than seeing fighter/wizards I'd prefer an Arcane Warrior class.  One class per archetype.  They could start with a dozen or so of the most popular/classic of the archetypes and go from there.  There could be a sub-class system like in 2e AD&D, but some sub-classes that combine two root-classes could either share inheritance, or maybe have to choose one root.  I doubt very much WotC would go this route, but I think it would remove all of the problems with combining classes.  Presitige classes could then be roleplaying rewards that have little effect on class progression and have roleplaying rather than mechanical prerequisites.  I agree the 3e/3.5e multi-class/PrC system was a foul abomination that should never be repeated.

To answer the OP, I think that 1st level has always represented training in the profession the character is following.  The word "training" is where most ambiguity and argument comes in.  I think training means the character has received enough instruction to not make a fool of himself in the wide world, but they are far from an expert at their craft.  Most common tasks for their class should be routine, but combat with monsters is not common or routine.  In the larger campaign world, they have little respect from local, regional, or world power structures, but pig farmers and scullery maids think they are rad.

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I think that part of the reason (although only part of the reason*) that we saw a lot of "arcane warrior" base classes in 3.5 is because multiclass fighter/wizard didn't come close to delivering. You can say "We don't need a duskblade! That's just a fighter/wizard!", but, even ignoring the class's unique abilities, the problem was that fighter/wizard was A) awful, from a power-level perspective and B) a fighter stapled to a wizard, not a fighter wizard. (Well, due to how other things in the system shake out, it was more like a crummy wizard that can use a sword sort of okay than anything else, but that's a property of which class features step on other ones.) We can do without a bunch of hybrid classes only in environments where the multiclass that they allegedly represent actually A) works well and B) feels right. (Note that in some cases in 3.5, the Hybrid Base class adds very little anyway. A paladin, for example, really is mostly just a Fighter/Cleric, whereas a Duskblade is much more coherant than a Fighter/Wizard.)

*Other reasons: New classes are sexy; presenting something as a single class that you can just take is in some ways simpler.
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.
1st level really should mean starting at 3rd level.

That means that characters are interesting for new players if they aren't too complex but also not too simple and boring.

1st level means starting with enough hit points so that the DM doesn't have to worry about you getting killed with just one attack.
That means your full constitution score + the maximum number of your hit die.

Then every level after that, you roll your hit die but if you roll lower than half your hit die, you take half. 1d12 roll 5? Then take 6hp when you level-up.
Monsters just roll and take whatever is rolled.

1st level should start you out with 3 skills, unless you are a rouge/ranger/assassin -- in that case you start with 6 skills.

So many people want to have two weapon fighting at 1st level that every character and monster should have a main, off-hand and reaction.

The only way to differentiate lower level characters from higher level ones would then be to give the highest level players 2 main, 2 off-hand and 2 reactions.
They already do more damage with ability+level or feat+magic modifiers.

Casters should start out with 3 spells and only 3 spells. Because casters get the lowest hp, armor and weapon damage, they should do the highest spell damage 2d6 or 3d4 as a counter to the fighting class' 1d12 main and 1d10 off-hand damage doing.

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I've tried multiclassing characters 3e-style to model a specific type of character, but it never felt quite right playing them from low level and adding additional classes with no training of any kind in the new class.  Maybe it was the front-load of the classes, as doing it in Star Wars seemed to work better.

It's definitely an imperfect fit, and the more different the classes are, the more it requires kind of blurring the line, but the big difference for me is that I don't see it, generally, as it's actually played out by actual humans actually playing D&D, as typically a situation where somebody trained for ten years to become a monk, and then spontaneously one day out of nowhere is suddently also a wizard with no training of any kind in the new class. When somebody wants to play a monk/wizard, they create the character as somebody who makes sense as a monk/wizard. There's no reason I see for the mentality that a neophyte character is fully trained as whatever his first class is, but fully zeroed-out on every other possible skillset. The game certainly doesn't explicitly disallow you from taking a class that makes little sense from an advancement standpoint, but the game doesn't police that sort of thing in any other area, either. It just assumes that you're trying to play a character that makes sense.

When I think about characters in the abstract, like Bob the Generic Level 1 Fighter, the notion that Bob the Generic Level 1 Fighter is suddenly a wizard now too, with no wizard training, I can understand where the conceptual difficulty with that sort of multiclassing comes from. When I think about actual multiclassed characters played even by brand new players, with the depth and nuance and particularities that actual, played characters have, it's hard for me to think of any cases where I felt a multiclass option that an actual human decided to take didn't make sense. (Although there are certainly cases where a character kind of changed direction a bit in-world to make a planned multiclass more naturalistic.)



definately the same for me.  Even if I take that first class as monk maybe I'm a monk from an arcana filled temple all the monks there are multiclassed monk/wizards...at first level I have grasped the monk portions of the ideaology and am still working towards grasping the magics of my order, at some point I will grasp these things and will take my first level of wizard.  in play if I want to become a magic using fighter I may indeed go about finding my self a place to study magic for some time to gain that level or may have already began studying on my own to learn these things just needing some practical examples from other casters to finally make all the books I have read click into place.

LIke I said before, taking the first level of something is the embodyment of your character identifying, collating, and fully realizing skills they already had and applying them in a way new to your character.

they don't automatically poof, and now I am a wizard too, they need to have a reason to make it happen.  There is no, "I'm the fighter, I have no training with magic, and poof now I'm also a wizard", you have to go through the training to become a wizard in some way to gain that level.  I mean you can poof I'm a wizard now too, but that isn't exactly how you have to play it, and in my opinion isn't how it should be played.  I definately think there should be advice on something like this in both the player's guid and the DMG when they are released so that people understand how to tell a story.  To note there are totally ways to have poof and now I have spell casting capability too and that can be fun but it generally needs to be some kind of plot delivered piece that opens it up (Play lunar silver star story complete watch the main character get magic without needing the training the mages have).  Pretty much no matter what multiclassing always needs to follow the plot.
1st level means you've got nowhere to go but up.  Unless energy drain gets included, this is technically true of all levels, but it's especially true of first.

Thematically, I like the "Graduated from highschool/finished apprenticeship/ready to leave home and find your fortune" answer.

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There's no reason I see for the mentality that a neophyte character is fully trained as whatever his first class is, but fully zeroed-out on every other possible skillset.

Me too, I don't see any reason for that either. People change careers all the time. Sometimes drastically and sometimes without anything more than getting hired somewhere and falling into it. They don't forget their old career either.

I don't see why anyone should complain if someone changes their class mid game, no matter how outlandish, as long as the character's personality and circumstances fit with the change.

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There's no reason I see for the mentality that a neophyte character is fully trained as whatever his first class is, but fully zeroed-out on every other possible skillset.

Me too, I don't see any reason for that either. People change careers all the time. Sometimes drastically and sometimes without anything more than getting hired somewhere and falling into it. They don't forget their old career either.

It's the same reasoning that means years of training and background and whatnot sums out to zero experience.
"Start at level two" would solve all manner of problems.


  • A 'hybrid' character simply takes level one in each of two classes.

  • Initial HP would be roughly double 1e/2e/3e HP starts, solving the "angry housecat" problem.

  • 3E style Multiclassing loses some of its insanity as rampant frontloads are spread out over two levels.

If level 1 causes problems, the solution is to fix level 1, not ignore it.  Because then level 2, or 3, or 6 becomes level 1, and the problems still exist.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
1st level should be a starting point.  You can get into all sorts of detail about backstory, but the true adventure starts from there.  

So a 1st level character should be able to participate in the role that their class exemplifies, but they shouldn't be full-fledged paragons of that class.  
They do not need 1st level access to everything that makes their class their class.  Just a direction and a starting point are enough. 
What does taking the first level in a class mean, to you?

Does the first level in a class represent the end of a long effort of training, or is it the beginning of the journey?  Something inbetween, or none of this at all?

This question applies to both the first character level as well as a potential first level in a new class in a multiclass situation.


Edit:  Yes, I know the correct answer is "It's up to your group."  My real question is, for your group, what does it mean, not what it should mean at the abstract system level.



Beginning of the journey. You trained enough not to suck, now it's time to go use those skills. For a fighter, this would mean going through basic militia training. For a wizard, that means knowing enough about magic to decipher a new spell.

Which is still avoiding the question.  What does that mean for you in your game.  Mand12 is asking for apersonal answer to a personal question.  Why the dodge?



It's not a dodge at all.  If the campaign starts at level 1, level 1 represents whatever I've designed my character to be at its start.
If level 1 causes problems, the solution is to fix level 1, not ignore it.  Because then level 2, or 3, or 6 becomes level 1, and the problems still exist.

Yeah, good luck convincing the "I wanna start AWESOME!" crowd to give up rampant frontloads and actually accept that starting at not-one is an actual option.

Being 1st level means you completed all basic training in your class.

Taking 1st level in a new class trough multi class might mean you still have to catch up on certain parts of your training. 
this would also reduce fromt loading

Dual class wizard
at 1st  level dual class wizard you gain spellcasting
at 3rd level dual class wizard you Gain  Wizardly Knowledge
at 6th level dual class wizard you gain Tradition of Wizardry  

Which is still avoiding the question.  What does that mean for you in your game.  Mand12 is asking for apersonal answer to a personal question.  Why the dodge?



It's not a dodge at all.  If the campaign starts at level 1, level 1 represents whatever I've designed my character to be at its start.



That's where I am as well.  Sometimes my character has had a lot of backstory training and it culminates with him starting at level 1, and sometimes my character has had no training at all and level 1 begins with the very incident that gets him started on the path to adventure. 
What does taking the first level in a class mean, to you?

Does the first level in a class represent the end of a long effort of training, or is it the beginning of the journey?  Something inbetween, or none of this at all?

Yes.

It depends on the character, and that depends on what the player wants.  Some of my players like having a total rookie, someone whose skills are innate rather than learned.  Others like having what I think of as a default character: they have gone through some amount of training as part of their background.  Still others like to play an older character who is adventuring for the first time.

For multiclassing, I am hoping that whatever system they use doesn't result in gaining a lot of abilities by simply adding a second class (as would happen with the front-loaded classes in 3rd edition).  This makes it a lot easier to conceptualize adding a second class without it taking a lot of time.

In my group, we sometimes try to roleplay the addition of a second class during the sessions leading up to the next level (at which time the new class will be officially added).  But it isn't needed, because often it is stuff that would be happening during downtime, which isn't acted out.  It is like they said in the Order of the Stick: "If I multiclass to wizard, it's retroactively assumed that I've been looking over [the wizard's] shoulder this whole time and taking notes about magic."

www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0126.html

Sometimes a little hand waving goes a long way.  As Chris Perkins said in today's article: Lighten Up, and remember that it is a game and everyone is there to have fun.
As Chris Perkins said in today's article: Lighten Up, and remember that it is a game and everyone is there to have fun.

Wait a minute...
Everyone's not there to tell me I'm doing it wrong?

As Chris Perkins said in today's article: Lighten Up, and remember that it is a game and everyone is there to have fun.

Wait a minute...
Everyone's not there to tell me I'm doing it wrong?


Well, that one guy is.  You know the one.

I think there is more to this question than 1st level.

The implications reach across the whole set of levels from 1 to 20.  Because what first level means will also ripple on to what 10th level means.

 
Clearly 1st level in DDN is the most important.  Characters progress pretty slowly from 1 to 10, and even slower from 10 to 20.  This is largely duee to bounded accuracy.  

If you start with a 16 str as a martial class, you will have a +4 hit bonus.  Eventually you wil have a +10.  Spread that out and you are suggesting that your accuracy builds at a rate equal to 0.315 points per level.  Proportionally, this means that level 1 is 1266.66% more impactful than any subsequent level.  

A fighter starts with Parry, a trait, 4 skills, a maneuver (we can ignore fighting style since its meaningless), a feat, and racial traits.
As he gains level he will get 3 feats, 4 combat surges and 4 more maneuvers.  So he starts with appx 9 features, and will gain 11 more across the next 19 levels.  Averaging again we get 0.579 features/level.  SO proportionally, 1st level is 1554.54% more impactful than any subsequent level.

Damage scales a little better.  He starts with 1 MDD and a +3 ability score bonus. (avg 6.5 bonus dmg).  Eventually he will have an average bonus of 46.  So the rate of increase is 2.42 damage per level.  Proportionally this means that level 1 is 268.5% more impactful than subsequent levels.  This is just about right.  And it falls in line with HP scaling (which makes sense)

Compare this to a 3.5 fighter and you will see that the 3.5 fighter scales far more evenly, and 1st level loses a lot of its impact even with the addition of saving throws and even in a system that was notorious for level splashing.  And even in a system where the fighter was considered to be a very dull class.

So... how important is 1st level?  In DDN, with bounded accuracy, it is more important than it has ever been in the history of the franchise.  Scaling has been greatly squashed outside of damage and hitpoints so 1st level is hugely important.  If you were expecting the old climb to power... too bad for you, because you start 2/3rds of the way up, and the summit is only 20ft high.
They could have several ways/modules/variants to approach 1st level (more HP, etc).

1st level can be "epic" (Heracles, etc). 
To me, level 1 means "fresh meat." It means that you've got some skills and a bit of talent, and you've gotta learn to pick up your tricks in earnest so you can be a hero. You're not big and bad yet, but that's why you're fighting mere fellow humanoids, and often frail ones at that -- you're learning how to rise above the rabble you're facing.

That said, it also means the end of a large part of your life. I think of it like the random starting age chart in the 3.5 PHB -- human wizards could be 30 years old! You've had a whole regular life, and I suppose your character must be yearning for something else, something riskier.

I hope that's included in making a character advice on release -- not just "what does it mean in the rules to be level 1," but also "what does it mean for a person to be level 1."
I don't use emoticons, and I'm also pretty pleasant. So if I say something that's rude or insulting, it's probably a joke.
since i use the greyhawk 0 level character rules, level 1 to me and my group means we have graduated from school and are ready for the work to begin on our adventuring careers. i never liked starting out at higher than level 1 unless its 2nd edition dark sun. your early days of adventuring are just as fun and creative as when your 20th level. i have every dungeon mag so i see so much great low level material its a shame to waste it all.