I am the Dungeon Master in a new campaign. Since I made the players start new characters, they were wondering if there was a fast way to gain experience. The players wanted the game to still be legit, but they also wanted the game to get more interesting quickly. Some of them are not experienced players and I am afraid that what I throw at them might kill them.
Levels are just a tool for enjoying the game
No one will come barging to your RPG table to check if the levels are "legit" in any way - the only thing that matters with the leveling pace is that you and your players have fun with it. This means you can and should adjust the leveling pace to match what your players want - if they feel they're growing in power too slowly, give them more levels, and if they feel they're growing in power too fast to appreciate what they're getting, slow down.
In accordance to this, remember that it is a perfectly valid option to start the game with a higher level character. If what you really want is a high-power campaign from levels 10 to 20, there's little point in spending twice the time just to build up the characters from level 1 to 10 in action.
Consider story- or session-based leveling
I personally use story-based leveling* instead of the more traditional mode of awarding XP for overcoming challenges and combat encounters. You can find brief descriptions of these options in Dungeon Master's Guide, on page 261. In this mode, the GM grants the party levels whenever they complete quests or subquests, at the desired pace. This greatly reduces the need for bookkeeping, and removes the incentive to seek encounters and challenges just for the XP.
However, the primary reason why I think you would benefit from story-based leveling is that it is easy to pace to match the desires of the people around the table. You can eyeball leveling quite easily - if you feel the party has earned a level, you can give them one, and if you're not sure, you can ask the players what they think. Another advantage is that you can plan quests to be level appropriate further in the future, since you can control when the characters level with much more ease.
Session based advancement is similar, except it awards levels on a per-session basis: "one level every two/three/four sessions" are fairly common schemes. You can also mix and match, for example awarding a level every two sessions with lots of action and tight spots, and every three sessions if the players have been less active or the sessions have been shorter.
Remember to let your players voice their concerns regarding leveling pace too, and try to match what they're expecting.
* while often referred to as "milestone leveling", milestones are actually a separate model between traditional XP and story-based leveling, also found on Dungeon Master's Guide Page 261.
As I believe there is multiple ways to acheive faster leveling, I decided to write out a list that shows them with short explainations.
- Milestones - Simply add milestones to your campaign. These can be used to quickly add experience for the party after completion.
- Session Leveling - Some campaigns simply use an "appropriate level" design, where characters level automatically at the end of each session. This means your characters will always be on par for the story you are telling.
- Combat - Cherry pick combat for your party. Just because the CR is high for a monster does not mean it is hard to kill. For instance, a ranged party with reasonable speed could easily kite a Shambling Mound which is a CR5 with 2,700 experience.
- Role-playing/Actions - There is leeway in D&D to reward experience for basically anything. You might consider rewarding experience for disarming/surviving a trap, or a clever role-playing session that had beneficial effects for the party.
- Add Modifiers - Sometimes when awarding experience I will take into account various modifiers which made the event easier or harder. For instance, rewarding additional experience for a particularly difficult fight or action (though this is more of a house rule situation).
- DM - As always, you are the DM for your campaign and you can basically do anything you want to. If you feel allowing the players to level faster will make everyone enjoy the campaign more then you can always talk with your players and find your own solution.
As an aside, its worth mentioning that if the players want the campaign to be more interesting early, you can always facilitate that without the need of power leveling them. Make an effort to make the campaign interesting at all levels by adding unique/fun content available anytime.
I think that, especially for new players, starting at 1st level and having a few sessions with simpler and more fragile characters is important to learning how to play wisely and to not having too many complicated options right away. Even with experienced players, I like to start at 1st when possible; it helps develop the characters better, especially if they have a few close scrapes or defining encounters while they are fresh.
In 5e, the first few levels go quickly anyway, a session or two each for the first couple, not much more for the next couple. It isn't until around 5th or 6th that it takes multiple adventures to get a level up.
One thing that can help, especially at low levels (and also is good for avoiding creating parties full of wantonly murderous characters) is that I do award partial experience for handling the encounter, not just for killing it. A party that looks before leaping, that investigates the danger and the opponents and the situation first, even that simply recognizes the danger of a too-powerful monster and runs away, gets some experience for that. A party that resolves the threat of the monster by sneaking around it, or negotiating with it, or some other creative solution, gets some experience for that. This helps weaker characters and parties advance, helps foster creative and intelligent gameplay, and cuts down on gratuitous sociopathy.
You can do whatever you want! You are the DM so you can start them at level 2,4,8,10! Whatever you want, it’s not even cheating! If you want to earn XP without starting with it then put them in a Arena. It’s one of the fastest ways to earn XP! I find Kobolds and/or Goblins! Kobolds would be better though because they are less likly to kill, kill, kill! I love playing with my cousins and my sister and I even added two cat-like creatures called Tabaxi.they are at level 7 even though they just got introduced into the game