I made a post recently about Lost Mines of Phandelver (5e), and it's safe to say I'm less experienced than a beginner.

The characters are level 2 and I looked up how to level up, but since then I've watched some videos and there seems to be a lot of different things being done in every video, in a different way.

When we leveled up we rolled for max hit point increases, found out the level 2 attributes and passives, and the wizard got 2 extra spells (also his magic missile gained an extra missile).

Is there anything I have missed? If so, can you please give me a simple step by step on what I need to do when leveling. The adventurers are almost level 3 so I was looking for a heads up for tonights session.

We have the base 4 classes - Fighter, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard

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    \$\begingroup\$ How did your wizard gain an additional projectile into his magic missile? That only happens if you cast the spell using a higher level spell slot. \$\endgroup\$
    – PnP
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 8:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ When checking level up video's, make sure they are for the proper version of D&D. "Gains an extra magic missile" sounds like a 3rd edition video. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 10:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Answerers should keep in mind that Lost Mine of Phandelver is an adventure inside the Starter Kit. It may be helpful to tailor advice and page numbers to the Rules booklet it comes with, and give directions to rules beyond the booklet with that context in mind. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 19:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a perfectly valid question. Previous editions had step-by-step guides for leveling up in the PHB (3.5E, p58; 4E p27) but for whatever reason, the 5E PHB doesn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 15:24

4 Answers 4


First, you gain hit dice (and a corresponding increase in maximum hit points).

This is described for each class briefly under Class Features, and explained on page 15 of the PHB (or here in the free Basic Rules):

Each time you gain a level, you gain 1 additional Hit Die. Roll that Hit Die, add your Constitution modifier to the roll, and add the total to your hit point maximum. Alternatively, you can use the fixed value shown in your class entry, which is the average result of the die roll (rounded up).

Almost everything else is shown on the table in each class description.

For example, page 71 for the fighter or page 113 for the wizard. You can see the charts for the basic classes online for free as part of the Basic Rules — for example, the Cleric Table.

As you go up in level, if a value goes up on the table, use the new value. (The plusses are not cumulative.) All classes have a proficiency bonus which works this way. When you increase this value, of course, also increase all the places on the sheet like trained skill checks which depend on it. Other examples of values which increase on the chart are the number of cantrips known, the monk's Unarmored Movement, the sorcerer's Spells Known, or the barbarian's Rage Damage.

And, if you get new spells slots, they'll be shown there too.

Then, look in the "Features" column. Anything there will be described in the corresponding description later in the section on that class. In general, when these class features improve at higher levels, there will be a note on the table. For example, Druid has "Wild Shape" at level 2 and "Wild Shape Improvement" at level 4.

Some features have per-level scaling not mentioned in the chart.

For example, the number of distinct spells a wizard can prepare per day (which is separate from spell slots) is equal to Intelligence modifier plus wizard level — but note that this isn't really something you need to know when leveling up per se. It's something to know when preparing spells. A Moon Circle druid's limit on creature CR is similar: at 6th level, this becomes druid level divided by 3. You don't need to know this when you level up, just when you shift into beast form — but of course it's good to have this in mind so you can be prepared at the table.

Other increases do basically happen at level-up time. For example,

Each time you gain a wizard level, you can add two wizard spells of your choice to your spellbook for free.

So, really there's no help for it but to be aware of which of your class-features are level-based. Most features which have something level-dependent not on the chart also have an additional complication. For example, wizards can add spells as above, but also in other ways, so just having the chart show number of spells known wouldn't work for wizards the way it does for sorcerers and bards.

The good news is that there's not really a lot of these, and the ones that exist tend to be core to the way your character works at the table (like, wizards and spellbooks or moon druids and shapeshifting) so they're relatively easy to remember. And they are all described in the appropriate class features section, not scattered randomly throughout the rules.

A tip: mark these in some way on your character sheet (with a ⛤, for example). That way, you don't have to scan through all of the features every time.

Some racial traits get better.

This is also just something you'll need to look out for. Usually, it's when you have the ability to cast spells — you may get more at higher level. In other cases, damage increases.

In the Player's Handbook, this only applies to the Drow Elf subrace (spells), Dragonborn (breath attack), and Tieflings (spells). Oh, and Hill Dwarf gets an additional hit point per level.

As with class features, marking features which scale with some symbol you'll remember on your character sheet might help.

Damage from most attack cantrips goes up at certain points.

These are "level 0" spells — they don't use spell slots or preparation and if known can be cast at will. Most damaging cantrips increase in power at 5th, 11th, and 17th character level. This is noted in the spell description, not on the class chart, because it scales with character level not class level (which may differ if you multiclass — see below). If you have cantrips written on your character sheet as attacks, this is good to be aware of when you level up.

It's also important to realize that other spells don't do this. Some spells note that they can be cast using a higher-level spell slot and give what the effect of casting in that way would be. For example, Magic Missile says:

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the spell creates one more dart for each slot level above 1st.

I can see how it'd be easy to interpret this as meaning "2nd character level", but D&D uses "level" to refer to different things (in 5E, character level, class level, and spell level are all distinct). Here it refers to spell level — Magic Missile is a first-level spell, but if you cast it using a higher-level slot, you can create more darts. From the class chart, you can see that wizards gain 2nd-level spell slots at 3rd class level. A 3rd-level wizard has two 2nd-level slots and four 1st-level slots, and so could cast magic missile six times, with two of those times gaining an extra dart.

In general, except for cantrips, spell damage (or number of targets, or etc.) does not increase as you level up. Instead, you gain higher-level slots, which you can use to cast some spells with greater effect.

Pretty much nothing else changes.

D&D 5E uses a concept of "bounded accuracy", which means that few things scale just for the sake of going up as you level. You mention "level 2 attributes and passives". This isn't a thing. At 2nd level, your attributes stay as you chose originally (unless of course the DM lets you rebuild; in Adventurer's League you can rearrange things at will up through level 4).

Ability scores only increase as part of the "Ability Score Improvement" class feature (or through Feats which grant increases). When you do get to the point where you increase an ability score to the point where the modifier changes, saves and skill modifiers (including passive checks) should be adjusted to match — but this is technically part of the Ability Score Improvement class feature, not of leveling alone.


If you are multiclassing — mixing and matching between different classes as you level — special rules apply. (See Multiclassing in the Basic Rules.)

If you are using the Starter Set...

In this case, the included rules don't include a generalized guide to classes or leveling up. Instead, on the second page of each character sheet, there is a section called Gaining Levels which tells you exactly what increases for each sample character at each new level. Do exactly what it says, and no more. These character sheets cover everything you need to know up through 5th level, but not beyond. For example, since the proficiency bonus increases at 5th and 9th level in the standard rules, the example sheets note this as increasing at level 5.

This is all fine, but I highly recommend at least adding the Basic Rules, downloadable from Wizards of the Coast for free, or available online (ad-supported free) as part of D&D Beyond. This will help you better understand what's going on, and give you more options. (And, for that matter, the PHB costs less than a gaming group all going out to a movie one night, and lasts a lot longer.)


Leveling up:

Proficiency Bonus

It stays at +2 when reaching lvl3, but will become +3 when reaching lvl5.

Class Feature

When your character gains a level, his or her class often grants additional features, as detailed in the class description.

The characters gain the class feature (if any) of their new level. So, when your players will reach lvl3:

  • Fighter: The Fighter has to choose a Martial Archetype (Champion, Battle Master, Eldritch Knight...)
  • Cleric: The Cleric doesn't learn more spells (they already know them all). They can prepare 3+bonus(\$WIS\$) spells (of lvl 1 or 2), and they have now 4 lvl1 spells slots and 2 lvl2 spell slots to cast them.
  • Rogue: The Rogue has to choose a Roguish Archetype (Thief...)
  • Wizard: The Wizard learn 2 new spells (of lvl 1 or 2) and add them to their spellbook. They can prepare 3+bonus(\$INT\$) spells (of lvl 1 or 2), and they have now 4 lvl1 spells slots and 2 lvl2 spell slots to cast them.

max HP increase

As you did, each player roll a dice for their character, depending of the class they took for this level (e.g. d8 for a Rogue), and add their \$CON\$ bonus. Note that:

  • You don't have to roll the dice, you can instead use the fixed value shown in your class entry, which is the average result of the die roll rounded up (e.g. 4.5 \$\to\$ 5 for a Rogue).
  • If their \$CON\$ has increased (e.g. with the Class Feature Ability Score Improvement), the effect is retroactive!

    For example: your 7th-level fighter has a Constitution score of 17; when he reaches 8th level, he increases his Constitution score from 17 to 18, thus increasing his Constitution modifier from +3 to +4. His hit point maximum then increases by 8.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Shouldnt on the wizard and cleric specific level ups be made clear that the bonus they get from their casting stat is the amount prepared, not the amount casted? \$\endgroup\$
    – PnP
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 8:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I think it's better if you make the clear distinction between spells known, spells that can be prepared, and spell slots available. These are three concepts that can be confused by some newer players. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 9:13

Step by step levelling up of a D&D 5e character.

Recording the consequences of each step on your character sheet:

  1. decide what class your character is levelling up in (you may already have or want a multiclassed character)
  2. if the class is a new class for the character refer to the Multiclassing rules (PHB p.163) to determine if your character has the prerequisite ability scores and what new proficiencies, if any, it gains
    • if it does not have the prerequisites then choose a new class to level up in
  3. find the class table and description in the PHB, or other reference, to refer to
  4. roll the correct hit die for the class, or use the fixed value if your DM allows, to increase hit point total (add the roll or fixed value plus your con bonus to the current hit point total)
  5. refer to the class table to see if your character's proficiency bonus has changed
    • if it has, update all proficient saves, skills and attack bonuses with the new value
  6. Refer to the class and subclass tables for any new class features and record them and/or their effects
    • if the character is multiclassed check the Multiclassing rules on Class Features (PHB p.164) to see what effects, if any, the new class level has on existing features from any other classes
  7. if the class is a spell casting class:
    • check the class and subclass tables, and class description, to see if your character gains any new cantrips or spells
      • if it does select the cantrip/spell(s) from the spell list for your class
    • if the class allows for swapping a spell on gaining a level, choose a spell to remove and choose a spell to replace it with from the class spell list
    • if the character has only a single spell casting class refer to the class table to determine what spell slots the character now has
    • if the character has more than one spell casting class use the rules on multi-classed characters (PHB p.164) to calculate the total spell casting level of your character and refer to the multiclass spellcaster table (PHB p.164) to determine what spell slots the character now has
  8. update the characters class(es) and level(s)

There are too many possibilities, especially going from level 2 to level 3 where many classes gain a subclass (e.g. fighter can choose champion, battlemaster or eldritch knight) to list all the details. You just need to be careful to read both the class table and the class description for the effects of new features.


The simplest I can come up with is: As the you level - you decide if you roll HP or take average (a 5e option). After which each individual class goes into his specific table and spots what happens at the level he gained. That includes archetype.

Pending on some races, you may gain a new power on certain levels. In which case you need to look up your race again.

What makes this not simple is that each class with an archetype does different things for each level. Some gain 2 spells, other gain 1 and can reselect a previous one selected. Some gain sneak attack damage. Some gain a feat/attrib boost. Some gain access to more spells pending their religion.


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