I was fooling around with non-XP level progressions and thought of this neat idea: use the Proficiency Bonus as the number of Adventuring Sessions required to level up.
Have a look at the way the Proficiency Bonus scales from levels 1-20. It's a nice gentle upward slope. We can use that.
Given a typical party, how much "Adventuring Time" should be required to level up? If you run a typical 4-hour adventuring session, the number of sessions required to level up is equal to your Proficiency Bonus.
Level 1->2: 1 adventure session
Level 2->3: 1 adventure session
Level 3->4: 2 adventure sessions
Level 4->5: 2 adventure sessions
Level 5->6: 2 adventure sessions
Level 19->20: 6 adventure sessions
If you have two adventuring sessions per month (every other week), that's 26 gaming sessions in a year. That's enough time to bring characters from level 1 to level 11...or level 11 to level 17 (roughly).
The DM doesn't have to follow this rule strictly and should feel free to level up the characters a session or two early or later, if that makes more sense. Also, those 8-hr marathon sessions might be worth 2 adventuring sessions, in terms of XP.
Another way this works is that it encourages player attendance. Personally, I have a large group of players in my campaign, but I never get all of them to show up at the same time. Each time we play it can be a bit of a rotating cast. If you don't attend a session, you're a session behind in XP. Sounds obvious, right? But how do you track and balance out all that XP? What if characters helped on the first half of the quest, but weren't at the next session where they completed the quest (and thus gained the XP)? What if one session is light on combat (and XP), but the next session was a grind fest? This method doesn't distinguish much between those details. If you play a fun and interesting gaming session, then your characters should gain "experience" in the world, both literally and figuratively, regardless of how many things you killed.
This goes along with the discussion in the recent WOTC article about leveling up. Should XP come largely from "killing" monsters? This isn't Diablo or WoW. It shouldn't matter if the players killed every single thing in the dungeon, or if they spent the whole time negotiating a deal with the Orc Warchief. Both could be time well spent playing. In fact, this method discourages players from doing things for pure XP reasons alone, because individual monsters don't give set XP. They're not going to "level up faster" just by grinding kills. And if the players WANT to kill every single animated skeleton in the Necromancer's Mansion of Pain, then you can hand-wave that as story. Unless you really want to spend several hours rolling attacks after attack against level 1 skeletons. Is it important to the story? No? Then skip it.
Here's a table of the progression.
|Level||Prof Bonus / Sessions Required to Level Up||Tot Num of Adventure Sessions played|
Anyway, not sure if it would work for everyone's campaign, but it might be a neat option for non-XP based leveling module. And you don't have to use the Proficiency Bonus either, but I think it gives a nice even linear progression.
What do you guys think?
EDIT: the table looks great when I edit the post, but absolutely terrible when submitted. Thanks wotc forums!
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Rules for a simple non-XP based leveling up system, using the Proficiency Bonus.