This question was inspired (at least in my head) by this wish question. Namely, wishing for higher levels.

One reason wishes for levels don't work is because many DM's say that a player is meta-gaming if they talk about "levels". But I wonder if levels are truly a abstract concept.

In game, a character would not understand things like experience points, hit points, ability scores, and terms like that. These are what I would call abstract--They are concepts we use as players to describe and work within the parameters of the 5e (and other systems) rules.

But levels have very specific traits attached to to them. The player gains more hit points, so yes, that part is still abstract and is reflected by the ability to withstand more punishment. But there are features that are determined (or even defined) by level such as extra attacks, new feats, ability to learn and use new spells. The list goes on. There is a direct correlation between these features/abilities and level.

In martial arts, there is the definitive marker of experience; the belt. In scouting there are merit badges. In the military there are ranks. These are what I would refer to as literal--proof of experience and training.

A 1st-level Fighter is a white belt, and a 20th-level Battle Master is a black belt and there would be stages in between. A 1st-level Ranger is a Cub Scout and a 20th-level Ranger is an "Arrow of Light". You get the idea.

So I'm asking, in 5e, is "level" (not XP) an abstract or a literal?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I do not understand what you mean by abstract and literal, and that what, exactly, is the question here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Jan 2, 2018 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega, I thought I spelled it out fairly well in the question. By abstract, what I mean is, is a level just a tracking system with no in-game ramifications other than PC1 is better than PC2. Or is it literally a station within the ranks of the chosen profession--PC1 has competed all the training and tasks required to be of a better station and title than PC2. Does this make more sense? \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jan 2, 2018 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott Is there a distinction between this question (and its answers) and the one marked as a duplicate? If so, give it an edit. Maybe it can be re-opened. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2018 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott What you wrote here is both a clearer question and also not a duplicate of the other one. You should shorten the text and reword it to bring the aspect of level as/vs rank to the front. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Jan 2, 2018 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this question amount to "Are the discrete levels of character power called 'levels' by the rules recognised as existing within the fictional universe of the game, or are they a mechanical abstraction of characters growing stronger over time that happens to be quantized in a manner similar to ability scores?" Because if so, I have to agree with those who say this question is a duplicate. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Dec 23, 2020 at 22:12


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