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What are some reasons people might start at level 1?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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Silver Crusade

I've just wondered about this, cause I've always hated level 1 starts. Mostly because of how helpless you feel but also cause in a lot of context it makes no sense.

Usually you have characters that have gone through intensive training and the like, level one characters tend to be some of the biggest pushovers...with the exception of MAYBE the barbarian.

Everything is even more luck based then usual with a single roll making or breaking you

In our current campaign of reign of winter, it honestly got to the point where the entire group....basically had to beg the DM to let us level up earlier then he wanted to.

Like i said my main complaint is you would think traveling adventurers even rookies of the pathfinder society would at least be level 2-3 starting out? level 1 just seems like a Power grab, depending on what kind of dm you have.

Idk can someone please explain this to me?


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Because everyone needs to start somewhere?

It's literally when you get straight out of bard college or whatnot. So you are relying more on luck than anything else. You lack experience. Level 2 feels a lot safer as a 2 handed crit won't kill you in one shot. But this is how the game works.

What I dislike more are backstories like "I was captain of a ship and saved the mayor of X town" or "Single handedly fought off a tribe of orcs". No you didn't, you are level 1 XD


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Because its useful to have those 'scary' moments to help define your character's personality. Sure you (generic you, not anyone in this thread) said your barbarian is fearless, but after that first tactically unsound charge, does your character adapt/learn? Either yes or no, you have a more interesting character for having to deal with it.


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Pathfinder Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Some people like a complete journey. They want to start out at the bottom and claw their way up, and want character relationships formed from the start.

Sometimes starting at first makes thematic sense, like how in Strange Aeons, the PCs have lost their memories. I agree that it doesn't make sense for a band of adventurers setting out to solve problems, but that's only some games.

Sometimes the powerlessness of first level is part of the experience- again, Strange Aeons is a good example, where the horror elements are more effective because the PCs are first level and there's only so much they can do.

For the record, I generally think first level is miserable, and should be avoided, but my players like it well enough, so I won't argue.


Level 1 is miserable, dont get me wrong. And I am really looking forward to the day my Paladin is lvl2 in the Rise of the Runelords game he is in... Need the Lay on hands, as the scale mail and 12 dex he started with doesn't avoid blows as often. T_T

I like starting at the bottom though.


Malik Gyan Daumantas wrote:
In our current campaign of reign of winter, it honestly got to the point where the entire group....basically had to beg the DM to let us level up earlier then he wanted to.

Reign of Winter is quite harsh at level 1, from what I read. In a homebrew campaign I'd always use velvet gloves at level 1: Just x2 crits and no shutdown spells (like sleep). Any CR 4+ encounter needs close examination - an infamous example is a barghest with its three attacks, 45 HP and DR 5/magic.

Dark Archive

5 people marked this as a favorite.

I enjoy first level. I'd feel like I was missing out if I had to start at a higher level.

All the levels have their own challenges. I find the challenge of keeping a first level character alive much more fun than the challenge of calculating the attack bonus of the 15th level character I'm currently playing.

(BAB plus strength plus one or more of the following - rage, heroism, greater magic weapon spell, power attack, bless, prayer, haste, blessings of fervour and a few others I'm probably forgetting, plus remembering which ones stack, and maybe the bad guys will stick on a few penalties just when I've got the current value straight.)


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I always assumed masochism.


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Why would players start at level 1? Because the GM said "I'm running a campaign. We're starting at level 1. Wanna play?" The players choose either to start at level 1 or not to play.

Why would the GM start at level 1? As others in this thread have said, it's useful to have those 'scary' moments, and powerlessness of first level is part of the experience. I think it's especially important for beginning players to experience level 1, to get them to appreciate that the danger is real. That way, once they're at level 5 - or at least 3 - and they get attacked by a big group of people, they think "We're in trouble now." And when they beat those seemingly great odds, they appreciate that they're HEROES now. It means more when there's a contrast.


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It's a bit of a "journey vs destination" kind of thing. For some people the rise to the top is more important than actually being at the top.


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Let's think about this for a minute

Joe the townsman is going to be stats 8-13

So
Str: 12, Con 13, Dex 10, Int 9, Wis 11, Charisma 10 (or some variant, but I am assuming a villager here). Two Skill Point (probably PROF: Farmer and KS: Local)
Commoner (1) Probably 2 feats IIRC: Probably A occupation based and some kind of health (Endurance/Stamina/Alertness...etc...).

HP 7, BAB +0, AC 10 :Weapon: Short Sword? Quarterstaff?

Now the PC is going to have

Str 17, Con 14, Dex 13, Int 10, Wis 12, Chr 8
Fighter (1), 3 feats: Maybe Weapon Focus, Power Attack, Cleave and 3 skill points

Armor: Chain mail Shirt & Lt Shield, Longsword

HP 12, AC 16 BAB +1

Your Lvl 1 character may be green, but he is still a HERO, capable and better off than the commoners.


I don't particularly enjoy playing at low level, but when you play to see your character evolve, the lower you start, the more evolution you'll do.


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Advantages of starting from level 1:

Simple mechanics, few stacking bonuses, no need to worry about losing your full attack if you move.

Encourages stories where the PCs use cunning to survive rather than simply casting the one spell that instantly solves the problem.

Combats where you and your opponents can go from healthy to unconscious on a single dice roll are unpredictable and therefore never routine.

Most hits aren't strong enough to take you from conscious to dead in a single attack, so combat isn't especially lethal.

Loot is more exciting because you don't already have a dozen magic items.

Characters can more easily be replaced if they die since there is less invested in them.

Makes the other levels feel more powerful by contrast.


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My only problem with starting at level 1 is that some classes don't really get their most iconic abilities until later levels. For example, a warpriest without fervor or an investigator without studied combat don't really feel like what they are.


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I loathe both playing at level one and DMing for level one characters.

Playing at level one I don't feel like a fantasy hero, I feel like I'm relying on a string of flukes to achieve anything and if I'm a caster I feel particularly irritable.
DMing for level one is like treading on egg shalls. I derive absolutely no enjoyment from random mook number 3 randomly critting and killing a character someone was excited to play and if I'm going to fudge the rolls why not just start them at a higher level? Its all DM fiat one is just more honest.

As to why people like it? I know one person who said they felt like they were cheating if they started beyond level one. And some people like relying on luck for reasons which have always mystified me. Each to their own though.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I like to start at the beginning, and I prefer to start campaigns at Level 1, both as a player and as a GM.

I'm one of those players who prefers to advance my PC organically, based on how the game plays out, learning/growth opportunities, influence of other PCs, interactions with NPCs, etc. I never plan my PC's advancement more than a level or two ahead. Starting out at Level 1 is like beginning with a more-or-less blank slate from which to grow.

Plus, I'm one of those players who prefers low-to-mid-level play. I think level 7-10 is the "sweet spot."

As a GM, I love starting out at level 1, partly to set the stage for the rest of the campaign, and partly to underline how the characters grow and mature. I thinkn it also helps with party cohesion, as the PCs learn to develop cooperative tactics before eveyone has fully committed to a bunch of specialized tricks.

One trick I like to do in that regard is to have the PCs encounter the same monster at different levels; this gives them a sense of progress. ("Hey! We just curbstomped a party of six ogres without breaking a sweat! Remember when we all almost died fighting just one ogre?")


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Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
And some people like relying on luck for reasons which have always mystified me. Each to their own though.

It's like the people who prefer to roll for stats instead of use a point buy.


I mostly don't. First, this is a (mechanically) very character-building focused game, whose special abilities and combos often come online in later levels. Secondly, as a roleplaying game with 1-20 levels of power structure, level 1 seriously reduces the number of background stories you can have. Yes you can make anything up, but I personally don't find anything believable at first lvl except beginners, apprentices and similar stuff. My favorite starting level is 3-6.

That said there is something to be said about simplicity of play and of ingenuity with mundane equipment to overcome obstacles at 1st lvl.


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If my character build functions at level 1, then I prefer to start at level 1 because I'm one of those that enjoy the journey rather than the end game.

If my character build doesn't start function until level 3 or 4, then playing levels 1-2 are an exercise of patience. I'd prefer to skip them at that point.

Example: I played a level 1 melee wizard at level 1 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a challenge to scrape by as best possible and see it heartily succeed (+5 to hit with a 1d6+6 quarterstaff, even achieving AC 25 in one fight) when first instinct says its a worthless thing (wizard? melee? serious...?)

Example: I had trouble getting into a life oracle at levels 1-3 because it just didn't have enough spell slots per day to do much of anything as a "caster". It wasn't until level 4, and really level 6, that it became very enjoyable to play.

Ever since, when creating a character, I always keep one eye on when it really becomes playable.


Because what makes a PC hero special isn't their stats or abilities, it's their astronomical growth rate. They're like those blob monsters that become the size of the city by the end of the movie.
Npcs take 50 years to get to level 7.
Pcs are there in like 2 months.

Shadow Lodge

I think it is also a matter of character concept and backstory not meeting well with mechanics. I think that some of the iconic characters for pathfinder materials fall into this trap (some not all).

You have these level 1 PC class characters with backstories of them completing or accomplishing things that would be hard by even the standards of a level 3 or 4 character (sometimes higher). Then all of a sudden they start actually getting played and they are a joke compared to what they have done in their back story.

Realistically, whenever a player comes up with a character concept they should be thinking that this person was a adept/commoner/warrior 1 before achieving their PC class lvl 1. What they could and couldn't do was basic at best. Grand accomplishments from the past should be framed more as oddities of fate or luck and not so much as character skill and ability. Any level 1 character is probably within the first year of achieving their first level in a PC class.

Its also a matter of player expectation. A lot of players I know basically want medium difficulty enemies that are bags of hit points and not anything that is an actual challenge or threat. I have seen a lot of people get upset because they felt like their character was not overly effective in a large number of encounters or even in "boss fights". This also has to do with how a character defines "effective". I've seen players dish out heal, battlefield control, party boosts, and hinder with status effects all in one combat but b%##@ that they are not effective because their ide of effective is basically damage related. I'm not immune to wanting to feel like a badass and be an unstoppable force but I try to check myself and stay in the game.

I mean most adventures never make it to hero status and end up dying long the way. Even then, what qualifies as "this should be challenging" vs "this should be a cake walk". My group just finished up Strange Aeons, the last fight was difficult and we felt like we might lose for a lot of the combat (we didn't) but stepping outside my head and the fact that I wanted a guaranteed win, allowed me to enjoy the fight for the epic nonsense that it was and the real fact that if we lost the end of the world would have happened.....which would have been a good story in its own right.


I think first level is good to remind you of the challenges, but I don't want to soothe more than a couple sessions there. Usually Paizo agrees and you pass to second level pretty quickly.


Melkiador wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
And some people like relying on luck for reasons which have always mystified me. Each to their own though.
It's like the people who prefer to roll for stats instead of use a point buy.

I don't like stat rolling but I could get on board with, I couldn't deal with the whole role them and then apply them to stats in order thing. Thats just too much for me.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I met a lady at Gen Con who has never played higher than level 7, and prefers level 1. She said that the threat of genuine death makes it more real for her, plus increases the challenge. Once you start getting high enough level that Raise Dead is an affordable option (or you can cast it in-party) she wants to roll a new PC, because there's no real threat any more.

Not my own opinion -- I kind of like high level shenanigans. But I can see her point of view.


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Hmm, I guess I'm one of those people that like starting at level one. Don't get me wrong though, I love higher level play too. I just prefer walking along side my characters as they grow more and more powerful, at first relying on their wits and luck to survive, then slowly learning the meaning and extent of their own strength (and ability to help people).

It just feels ... more rewarding to play from first level. The victories are sweeter, the defeats more bitter, and the attachments have more depth to them. I am all for delayed gratification and it reflects in my play style. I live and breathe the story. The mechanics are just the vehicle to get you from point A to point B.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
amethal wrote:

I enjoy first level. I'd feel like I was missing out if I had to start at a higher level.

All the levels have their own challenges. I find the challenge of keeping a first level character alive much more fun than the challenge of calculating the attack bonus of the 15th level character I'm currently playing.

(BAB plus strength plus one or more of the following - rage, heroism, greater magic weapon spell, power attack, bless, prayer, haste, blessings of fervour and a few others I'm probably forgetting, plus remembering which ones stack, and maybe the bad guys will stick on a few penalties just when I've got the current value straight.)

I'm with you on this, Amethal. I like level 1 as well, both as a player and a GM.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One of the disadvantages of a level based system is that each level tends to be less of a jump in power than the one before. A ninth level character is pretty close to a 10th level character, but a first level character is much weaker than a second level one.

Conversely though, that makes one of the advantages of starting at level 1, is that you get to see a lot more growth and increase in the power of your character than you do if you start at a higher level.

Personally, I always like the challenge as well. At level one, even if you do everything right their is a good chance that a couple unlucky breaks can kill you. This means their is a lot more tension during level one combats, and it also really forces you to TRY to do everything right, to at least mitigate that risk.

I wouldn't want to play a whole campaign at level one, but I really don't like starting at higher levels. It feels like 'easy' mode to me, and Pathfinder already has enough 'easy mode' compared to earlier additions.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Two words.

Adventure paths.


captain yesterday wrote:

Two words.

Adventure paths.

Yeah, but I feel you could let the players start at level 2 without breaking the path too badly. Especially, if you lowered the xp rewards throughout the first book.


I generally start at lvl 5 to give most builds time to get online (examples: fireball, gunslinger Dex-to Damage, both halves of an oradin)


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If the players and/or DM are new to Pathfinder why wouldn't you start at level 1?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Melkiador wrote:
captain yesterday wrote:

Two words.

Adventure paths.

Yeah, but I feel you could let the players start at level 2 without breaking the path too badly. Especially, if you lowered the xp rewards throughout the first book.

And that's fine, but it isn't how we roll.


My group insisted on starting at level 1 for our next campaign. But I did recommend in the house rules for it that they get max HP for the first 3 levels.


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DungeonmasterCal wrote:
My group insisted on starting at level 1 for our next campaign. But I did recommend in the house rules for it that they get max HP for the first 3 levels.

I hand out max HP for every level, but noticed it devalues Con and the good old Toughness feat. Of course, one could argue: With HP being less of an issue, players can focus on more interesting stuff. Cleave is way more exciting than Toughness...


Playing from level one because that's where the GM wants to start and willingly playing from level one is not the same thing.
Playing from level one because you don't know any different isn't the same as willingly either.


Lower levels is one of the few times an adventure path or module can actually be a challenge for some players. Right now my group for Emerald Spire has a level 10 character that can get up to 44 AC in a fight with no resource expenditure. Sometimes I wonder why I roll attacks against him XD


Because otherwise he wasted his time xD


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captain yesterday wrote:

Two words.

Adventure paths.

That is one side of my reasons. Adventure paths start at 1st level, AD&D always started characters at 1st level, 1st-level characters are the easiest to build, and the easiest beginning to a character's story is when he or she starts adventuring.

The other side is that leveling up is about victory and anticipation. Abilities beyond 1st level are earned through success. They are prizes in a game that is never completely won. The maximum anticipation occurs from starting at the lowest level.

Liberty's Edge

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I like starting at level 1, actually. It lets the whole progression feel organic and makes you actually appreciate the power you get as you level rather than taking it for granted.

I hate playing at level 1, mind you, but it's still useful and results in good things. Plus it very seldom lasts long. I mean, you're level 2 inside what, two or three sessions?


I have played in 2 campaigns so far. One died because the GM dident have time to GM, but the other one is still going. Both started us at level 1 and I quite enjoyed them both. At level 1 you have less money, So you cant just buy the power items, But it forces you to plan what you want to bring. You arent very powerful, But if you started all powerful, What room is there for growth? And there is serious risk for death, But what fun is there if there is no true danger?


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What people have said above about not wanting to skip the beginning of a story... and because earning the high-level abilities and expensive items is so much sweeter than just having them handed to you on a new character sheet.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Mostly because the GM wants to, and they are a good enough GM for me to bear it.

Personally, I always start above 1st now.


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A better question would be "Why doesn't everyone start at level one?"


Over my gaming career, I've started out at many different levels, and have allowed players to do the same. In the upcoming campaign I'm working on it's pretty essential they start out at first level and then work their way up. Granted, if anyone new joins the game after it gets going they'll have to start at a compatible level with everyone else, but that's just a thing I'll have to put up with.

One reason I like starting characters at 1st level is to help them learn what their characters are capable of doing as they progress, especially if they're playing a class that's new to them. Starting a noob player or even an experienced player who's not that great at character building (I have one of those) at a higher level is often too much for them to handle sometimes. This way they learn as their character grows what is abilities and powers are and have a better handle on it.

This is RULE ONE in my new campaign house rules:

"FIRST AND FOREMOST, know what your character is capable of doing. You don’t have to know everything about every level right from the start, but you DO need to know what you can do at your current levels. If you’re unsure what an ability means or does ask me or look it up, either in the Core Rulebook or any other books you may have or use the best go-to site www.d20pfsrd.com".


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I also prefer starting at level 1, both when playing and GMing. I don't mind higher levels for a one-shot, but I prefer to follow the character's arc the whole way through in a full campaign. Though 1st level isn't my favorite to actually play at (I don't hate it, but it definitely makes you feel squishier), I would feel like I was missing something otherwise.

Getting crazy amounts of power is fun, but the journey there is important to me too. I don't really want to skip the beginning of it.

Shadow Lodge

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Brother Fen wrote:
"Why doesn't everyone start at level one?"

Because they choose not to.


I don't mind starting at level 1, but only if I can ever see higher levels. My old DM tends to have long, LONG running campaigns that never see over level 3 so......

I think he had one for his usual group that might have gone as high up as 6......


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I don't want to sound like an old curmudgeon, but you kids have it so easy today, with your multiple spells and abilities to actually do stuff!!! Seriously, first level has improved so much, I hated the days where you might have one spell per day as a wizard. It was bad in, IIRC, 1st and BECMI.

I am fine starting at level one generally, but I have no problem being higher, and some of the responses here are good reasons to start higher, like feeling limited with background stories. You can't do a grizzled veteran at 1st level, unless you do something like you've been level drained down, had all your items stripped, and lost all your gold. Once, that might work, but even that is a stretch. I didn't mind back in 2nd edition where Dark Sun started at 3rd, but I would have been fine at 1st too.

Liberty's Edge

I enjoy playing at low levels because it is more of a challenge to keep your character alive; and I enjoy seeing my characters progress. Once you get to higher levels the game becomes much more complicated and the character becomes much more dependent upon the quantity if magic he possesses.

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