[RPG] Good starting levels for a one-shot


My friends and I have a tendency to do one-time sessions that can last anywhere form 3–10+ hours. The difficulty I have when I'm going to be the DM is deciding what level to start everyone at. Usually the variables for each session change; some have a good portion of time for character creation, others have a very short time. Also, sometimes the player base is a mix of new and experienced players.

What are good levels to start a one time session at? Are there clear breakpoints, or ranges of levels to avoid starting at? By "good" I mean either quick character creation, or allows a good mix of character creation while keeping it simple, or for later on when you want a higher level session.

Best Answer

I would suggest you back into the level based on the amount of time you're willing to commit to character creation. In my experience, there tends to be a non-linear relationship between character level and time required to create the character from scratch. Let's create a simple model of how long it takes to make a character (assuming players are familiar with the process):

  • 15 minutes base for a concept, name, abilities etc.
  • 10 minutes per level for powers, hitpoints and other level-dependent choices
  • 10 minutes per tier above heroic, representing the additional complexity

This gives us twenty-five minutes for a first-level character, and about two and half hours for a eleventh-level character. Your model may be different, and will likely have different values based on your group. Use your model to calculate how many levels of a character your group can build based on the time you've allotted for prep.

For example (using my model): You have a short game running about four hours, and you can only allot 45 minutes to character generation: you would calculate that your players can build level three characters in that time, so build a level three adventure.

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