How long does it take for a campaign to get to level 20?


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I've never run or played in a campaign that hasn't fallen apart long before 20.

I have at least one player in my group that is really curious about high-level play and seeing a character reach it's apex.

For those of you that have campaigned all the way from 1-20, how long did it take? How often did you play? How long was each session?

Dark Archive

I never have gotten a character to 20, but I did get to 18. This took about 18months of gaming almost every weekend sessions lasting 4-8hours depending on other circumstances. That group was a bit heavier into the role-playing aspect of things than others, which is why I stuck around, so that might had some influence on the time spent. I recall one session without any combat, not that experience wasn't had, but probably not as much as other sessions.

When god says so. Well, the gm.

Nimon wrote:

I never have gotten a character to 20, but I did get to 18. This took about 18months of gaming almost every weekend sessions lasting 4-8hours depending on other circumstances. That group was a bit heavier into the role-playing aspect of things than others, which is why I stuck around, so that might had some influence on the time spent. I recall one session without any combat, not that experience wasn't had, but probably not as much as other sessions.

Thanks that's helpful. I think I will give out hefty ad-hoc xp for roleplaying.

I've had one go from 1 to 19 or so in a 3.5 game. It took roughly twenty months. Starting above 1, or simply giving out more experience will speed things up considerably.

The Exchange

I've dmed a few into that realm. Each of those took close to 2 years.. Sporadic game play slowed us down.

Towards the end, those last few levels take forever as combats can take entire game sessions to resolve.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Two days, more or less.

(That's about how long it takes to make a 20th-level character.)

Yeah I was gonna dispute but hitting 12th has taken me 25 sessions over a 7 month block.

I've played in a few campaigns that went to level 20. I really don't know how long it took, but my guess is somewhere between 1 and 2 years.

It takes long because although we play weekly there usually is a couple parallel campaigns going on in my group.

Ravingdork wrote:

Two days, more or less.

(That's about how long it takes to make a 20th-level character.)

Come on dood. Even the topic says "campaign", not "character". Not to mention this:

Grimmy wrote:
For those of you that have campaigned all the way from 1-20, how long did it take?

I've never had a character above level 15...wait that's a lie, had a level 18 crossblood arena sorcerer that f$+*ed everyones day up....I miss her, I feel dead inside.

But yeah, experience awarding is key. The arena we leveled when the dm thinks we should level.

Our 1-20 campaign took about a year and a half, off and on.

I have played a character to 20th in about 2 months but I was unemployed playing 3-4 times a week lol. Did that a couple times, both dnd 3.5 one started at level 3 the other at level 4.

My PC's have gone from 2-16 in about 9 months grinding through Rapan Athuk. We do 1-2 sessions a week. There's not much role-playing, so most of the time is actually spent on encounters. It all depends on how long your GM plans to run it for, and how committed the PCs are.

Not sure about the post level 15 area, but in general it seems to work out with my group we have 2-3 gaming sessions per level and I see no reason this wouldn't apply post level 15. But it varies, there was a period in the 90s when I was part of a group that occasionally ran a straight campaigning marathons, and a 3 day weekend could result in going from level 1 to level 9 in an epic 80+ hour session.

Rather than a span of time, I will throw out a general ballpark I've heard about session: you probably level about once every 4 times you meet.

This is rather vague estimate, but I will assume that you are doing nice meaty sessions, with XP rationed out well. It works out math-wise for the once a week set up a lot of people are mentioning since a lot of people are saying 18-20 months.

I'd say our game will take about five years of weekly sessions to hit 20. In the year that I was in the last campaign I went from min experience for level ten to a couple hundred shy of level twelve (not with the same character though - died two or three times in between). Since our new Pathfinder campaign is going to be on the slow track and our first session netted only 233 xp (about 1/13 of a level), I'm figuring it'll take about three months per level. Hopefully I really like my Rage Prophet.

It's been a while since I was in a campaign that lasted long enough for that, but I did GM an Age of Worms campaign from level 1 to around level 22 once. I believe it took around a year and a half from start to finish, with play every weekend (or every fortnight; I can't remember exactly) for about 6-7 hours each time.

Thanks for all the responses guys.

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Caveat: I'm a crusty old

We got to Fighter 22 (Friend), Magic-User 20 (Me), and Fighter 21 (Friend)...dropped to 15 after a REALLY bad fight with a vampire. This was all in 1st Edition AD&D. We played roughly 16 - 20 hours a week during school (weekends), and probably about 20 to 40 hours a week during summer vacation. This was all in junior high and high school up here in Canada. We would test new games every now and then (Star Frontiers was big for one summer, but Gamma World, Basic D&D and even Dawn Patrol at one point), these never lasted more than a few weeks to a month, tops.

So, time to get to roughly 20th level in 1e AD&D, playing an *obscenely large* amount of time...6 years. If I had to guestimate the 'straight through' playing time...I'd call it 4 to 5 years of 'straight' 1e AD&D.

[Grognard Voice] Young whippersnappers nowadays, all expecting to get to level 20 in a year or two? Poppycock! Why, back in my day, you were lucky if your 1st level character survived the first battle! If you played well and used yer smarts, you could maybe survive to level 2! Getting to level 3 wasn't much better, but if'n ya did...well, that's something to be proud of! After you hit 4th or 5th, miracles of miracles, the skies the limit! Well, assuming you don't do anything too foolish and go off half-cocked believing yerself invincible or some other such malarkey! Kids nowadays....level 20 in a year! Balderdash I say! [/Grognard Voice]

** ;) **


Paul L. Ming

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Remember, if you want to run a 1-20 campaign, you're free to abandon the experience system and have the PCs level whenever it feels right. They could level up from training rather than adventuring.

Scarab Sages

I ran a campaign up to 20 and it took about 2 years (playing around 3 hours per week). I did fast track it a bit towards then end though.

It all depends on pace really. My groups tend to chat a bit throughout the sessions, so we don't get too much done.

On a semi related note, playing 6-8 hours per week how long should an adventure path take? Gross over or underestimates I will likely identify if any but reasonable guesses or experience welcomed.

I did it in a year, but I tended to run 6 to 8 hour sessions and we played every weekend unless life got in the way.

Depends on the exp progression and the level you start in.

Dark Archive

Last campaign that arrived to the 20th level was Age of Worms, and it took slightly more than 2 years.
Weekly sessions of about 3-4 hours each, with about 5 weeks per year skipped due to holidays, vacations, work getting in the way, etc.

It really depends on the DM. I ran a 1-20 campaign in about a year, because I decided that that was how I wanted to run the campaign ahead of time. I made sure to throw constant challenges against the players that would allow them to get the XP that they needed.

I had several campaigns that got up to 18th level (Sorcerer gets 9th level spells) and that took 20 months or so. Had one campaign that made it to 21st level, and that took right at 2 years.

3-4 hours per week (Monday, now Sunday evenings), and we missed perhaps 6-10 meetings a year due to holidays, vacations, etc.

-- david

We just ran a 1-20 campaign that took us three and a half years. We would run adventures that lasted between 4 and 8 weeks, playing once a week for about 5 hours a session. We leveled up after each adventure (we have done away with XP) and took a week off to level up as a group and play something else for a single session before starting another adventure.

We also rotated GMs each adventure, so my character wasn't present for levels 5, 10, 11, 16 and 20.

More than a year to hit 20 seems excessive to my personal tastes.

Well, at least taking over a year to complete an adventure path. See, I take turns gaming so when this campaign ends its my turn and I'm stocked to run it. Yet, not ready to retire from the current campaign so...

Silver Crusade

I used to manage 1-20 in a semester of weekly 12hr sessions.

The larger the party, the slower the gain though. Also it comes down to the diet you feed the party.

I started a weekly pathfinder game online about a year or two ago, and the party is now getting to level 12 or so. Levels start to slow down once you pass the name-level hump though because the exponential increase gets larger and larger and if you're not throwing CR equivalent monsters at them all the time (like every encounter), well, they take it slow.

Also level 11 is when they stop getting fed for base humanoids, meaning they take out entire villages of orcs/goblins/gnolls and don't get anything for ripping through 'the horde,' except the feeling of being utter badasses .

Hahaha yep! 10 rounds,80 gnolls 1 solo fighter with whirlwind attack. That character is a famous unforgettable pc I .gm'd for years ago. Took that well into the twenties in about four months.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

While I've never played a 1-20 game, I have had dms that used accellerated leveling, basically we had very optimized characters and very difficult encounters resulting in ALOT of xp. In a game that reached 18th level, a little less then once a session gaining something like 5 levels every 6 sessions. In that way we reached 18th level In about 6 months playing once a week.

But correlating to your statement it is hard to accumulate 60-70k experience on .cr 1/3 monsters. Or are you saying the rules ACTUALLY shut off xp for encounters lower than APL-x?

we play weekly since august last year, the campaign is carrion crown... we are beginning wale of the watcher an theyre level 14 (we use the add ons adventures, some others for increase the experience like Night of the walking dead from ravenloft, and more)
they play from zero level, and play the house made adventure for lyvar hawkran to burnt the prision...

they play the evil guys party as a group under the orders of A.V. between prologue, hoh, totb, and bm... from zero level to 9th (using others modules for them)...

I guess if we don´t play all of those other things, or the campaign would over already or they get reach the 20´s or maybe!

im waiting mythic adventures to implement with the Skull and Shackles, we next campaign

Our group plays every other week and we generally manage to play for 5-6 hours, although we goof off quite a bit. When I run I plan for 4 encounters per night but often only squeeze in 2-3 encounters.

My homebrew campaign started off using the medium experience progression path, but I switched to the fast path maybe 12 months into the campaign? I ran for a year and a half and the PCs reached level 9 before we put it on hiatus.

We are now playing Carrion Crown and we should make level 10 next session. We've been playing the AP for a year and half now. I think we just had session #36? Pretty close to that anyway.

I once ran a 1-18+ campaign that took about 5 years, but that was back in 2.0/3.0 days. I don't think the characters made level 20 by the end of it, but I could be mistaken. It's been a while. *grin*

> rubs palms together eagerly < yayes, I to anxiously anticipate the release of mythic...should be dastardly fun!

I think if you can get a long session every week a year is a reasonable amount of time.

When I say long I mean about 6 hours. You don't have to run that long every time but in my experience 4 hours seems too short to wind things up with more than one encounter. Of course the higher levels you make it to, the rounds can take longer and longer even if they take less total rounds.

A lot of it depends how organized the players and dm are. Plus the character classes. Some of them have so many options even experienced players dither over what to do in a given situation. And the higher you go the more bric a brac like scrolls and items come into play: "Hey I have something in my backpack, let me look something up."

Liberty's Edge

Our group plays every month doing 12 hour sessions so usually about a year and a half

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Daenar wrote:
> rubs palms together eagerly < yayes, I to anxiously anticipate the release of mythic...should be dastardly fun!

Be advised that mythic by itself does not address post 20th level play in the way the old Epic Handbook did. It's more of a sideways mechanic.

No, but it seems to hint at making it possible for level 20 parties to play like epics used to thereby achieving a similar outcome.

I had a group of 12 players who took about a year and a half (closer to two) to get to 20.

In a game I was playing I got pretty high (I think I was like 17?) it was about the same level.

Should be noted that both games started at about 4th level.

There are lots of variables in how long it takes folks to get to 20th.

The big ones are:

Fast/Medium/Slow XP.
Frequency of Sessions (ie how often you play, 1x/week, 1x/month, etc).
How many PCs are at an average session.
How long you play on average (ie do you play for 4 hours, 8 hours, etc).
How much time you spend on activities that don't generate XP while at your sessions.

Throwing some VERY rough #'s on a spreadsheet and assuming that you play about once a week for about 4 hours with an average of 4 PCs, I came up with about 87 sessions (includes 3 sessions for "getting to know you / shopping / other no xp gaining ; 2 sessions each of "character activity spotlights" that might not get XP for the group and 4 sessions of "not enough accomplished").

You're probably safe figuring at just shy of two years if you play once a week on a medium track assuming your GM doesn't do odd things with XP or advancement. Optimized characters / vet players can probably shave it down to just over a year.


My current 4th Ed. group just hit level 22 the session before last. We play every other week for about 4 hours or so and it took us a little over 3.5 years to hit 22. That of course includes a number of missed sessions due to work, illness, vacations, holidays, etc.

Our group is also not the most efficient group as we tend to engage in a lot of chit chat during the session, etc. As others have said, it really depends on the group and the DM. As DM you are always free to accelerate or decelerate the XP progression as you feel is right. For me, 3 - 4 sessions per level feels about right. It gives you an opportunity to try out the new goodies each level while still keeping the next carrot within reach.

This current campaign though is the only one I've ever been involved in that even really got close to 20. I think the previous record was about 13th (maybe 12th). Unfortunately, things usually fall apart (in my experience) long before 20 either because people move, get busy, tpk, want to roll new characters, try new games, etc.

That being said, its been really cool getting into epic tier and I almost always look to go close to 20th when I start up a campaign (as DM). As a player, I usually hope we'll get there, but know that we likely won't which is why I design my characters for current levels rather than 20th (i.e. avoiding the "well, the first 9 levels will suck, but man, by the time this guy gets to 20, he'll be a beast!")

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

I am GMing a game that has run for a year, a session every two weeks. The PCs are nearly level 6. If the game ran every week at 4-6 hours, I would guess you could get to 20 in a little under two years.

1 through 4: One long weekly session (6-8 hours) per level
5 through 9: Two long weekly sessions per level
10 through 15: Three long weekly sessions per level
16 through 20: Four to five weekly sessions per level, depending on the story and circumstances.

Two years to get to 20 seems like an awfully long time. Even a year and a half. Half the progression, and gaining a level less than once a month seems crazy long to me and a little boring. But I am used to the more incremental gains of things like White Wolf games or indie RPGs that rely less on stats to begin with.

Silver Crusade

With story-advancement (XP gets tedious at higher levels), we average 1 level every 3 sessions, and each session runs @5 hours, so we could guess 300 hours for a maximum length campaign.

It took our last long campain around 6 years( with playing once a week at best) With lots of talk and kinda slow pace after level 6.
Edit: We played monday from 19 to around 23 and it was never very effective game time wise.
Edit2:And we started with the beta version of the game yes.

When I run games, we usually play about once per month. The PCs also gain a level about every four sessions.
So about 6 to 7 years.

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