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We're looking to run a fast level-pace game DnD4E like game, and would rather not bother messing with new or house rules. Is there/can you recommend a similar, D20 based, game, where levelling up happens quicker (say, on the order of 1 level up per session)?

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closed as off-topic by BESW, Miniman, Purple Monkey, KRyan, DuckTapeAl Jan 12 at 3:25

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Err, why not just level up 1 per session? That seems far easier than jumping to an entirely new system, and if there's a good reason that's not an option, explaining it will help guide us to give better answers to your question. – starwed May 1 '13 at 2:50
Or boost the XP the players receive by a multiplier, or reduce the XP requirements for levelling up. Or change the requirements for levelling up so they revolve around some other mechanic than XP. You don't need an entire new system for this, just a modification of D&D 4e's mechanics. – doppelgreener May 1 '13 at 3:01
As this is a system-recommendation question, please adhere to both the FAQ and the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and on our Meta. In particular, all responses should be based on actual experience and contain references and examples whenever possible. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 1 '13 at 3:07
up vote 21 down vote accepted

Yes, The system you're looking for is 4th edition with the house rule of "level up every session".

This is actually a remarkably popular house rule and it doesn't impact 4e adversely at all. I would, personally, recommend every other session just to allow people to be used to a level (when I levelled every session, the changes (especially in epic) were... pretty severe).

Mind you, this produces a remarkable amount of paperwork and many players without system mastery will simply check out of the process. The likely outcome is that the players with maximal system mastery will carry the others.

If you want rapid advancement, you may want to choose an alternate system with simpler mechanics. However, that is outside the scope of this answer. From my experience, levelling up in 4e is significantly simpler than 3.5. An option for both systems, however, is to plan out the entire character's development at the start.

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Having run a game where players level up every session (Level 1 to Level 15 or so), I can attest that it does work just fine. The paperwork problem is an issue, as is going through all the new stuff. What we wound up doing was just limiting players to PHB1 (as well as the PHB with their class if they had a new one) in order to prevent players from spending an excessive amount of time looking through everything each week. – Thunderforge May 1 '13 at 4:20
After some independent research we reached the same conclusion. Thanks! – blueberryfields May 1 '13 at 15:25

It looks like you've found your answer already but I thought I'd recommend 13th Age anyway. It is d20-based and is similar in many ways to D&D4 as it was designed in part by one of the latter game's designers.

It is probably easier -- in terms of the paperwork involved -- to upgrade your 13th Age character with each level and the rulebook does give specific advice on how to run a campaign in which the characters gain a level each session.

All that said, 13th Age has a condensed level spread so a 30th level D&D4 character is roughly equivalent to a 10th level 13th Age character. That may be a little too rapid!

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While 13th age has the same core mechanic (d20 + modifier) in actual practice the gameplay and narrative focus are wildly different from that of a 4e game. – Joshua Aslan Smith Oct 2 '13 at 19:52
Hmm, I didn't notice any other requirements other than "d20" and "fast leveling". – Ellesedil Oct 2 '13 at 21:08
@JoshuaAslanSmith 4e and 13th Age are similar enough that I dislike them for the same reasons, so they're similar at least in some respects. :) – SevenSidedDie Oct 2 '13 at 21:33
13th age has a deliberately slower level up rate, and only 10 levels total. I don't know how that could result in a faster leveling rate. – mxyzplk Oct 2 '13 at 21:59
mxyzplk, there's support in the book for running a ten session campaign, with characters gaining a level each session. That was my thinking behind the answer anyway. – kelvingreen Oct 2 '13 at 22:05

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