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I am currently DMing a campaign with a group of level fours. One of the four characters is much less experienced than the others.

I have planned part of my campaign for people who are lv.10+, and would be very disappointing if they never reached that point, as I have put a lot of time into it.

However, we are all extremely busy, and can only find time to run a session around once per month for 5-6 hours (but the rate will probably increase in the summer). Next year some members will be going to university, and there is not much guarantee that they will stay local. Even if they do, the business factor will only increase. In any case, I would like to get to the awesome part of my campaign. This requires them leveling up a lot. One issue with this is that the less experienced player may get overwhelmed with their abilities. They are playing a Paladin.

I have started them at lv.2, and they are lv.4 after three sessions so far. Should I continue leveling up at this rate? Or should I level them up at a much slower, regular rate, with the possibility that I will not play my epic part of my campaign?

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Leveling up at any pace is ok

Levels are a tool for enjoying the game, not an end in itself, and therefore it's not only permissible but advisable to tweak the pace of leveling to make it as fun for you and your players as possible. This means different things to different people --- some people like growing constantly in power while others prefer a slower progression, so remember to discuss the pace with your players.

Extending the idea above: the next time you want to play a higher level campaign, you can also just start the campaign at a suitable level. Have your players create level 1 characters, and then apply level-ups until they are at a desired level. No need to include several sessions of "level grinding" if what you really want is a high-level game. It's not too late to do it now, if you and your group feel like it --- you could award them those levels instantly, right now, if you liked. Seeing that you are on a tight schedule, it might be the only way to actually get to the content you actually want to run!

The only situation where you should always adhere to "by the book" leveling is organized play, where the rules might require sticking to a certain scheme for leveling the characters. It is also inadvisable to depart without careful consideration from the suggested leveling page of a pre-made campaign, if it has any.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How can I deal with the newer paladin being overwhelmed with abilities if I give them a bunch of levels? \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Jan 19 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is great and deserves upvotes. Oh, but note that it's best to discuss a rules change with your players so that it doesn't catch them by surprise, even when it's something that benefits them, like this. Changing the rules without warning or explanation can give players the false impression that your rulings are arbitrary, or that it's because of some reason that they've made up in their heads and not told you about, and that kind of misunderstanding can potentially lead to undesirable side effects. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jan 19 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Justin; that's a separate problem, that you and the paladin player need to address together. But 'artificially aged' characters will always be less useful than those that earned every xp; so long as the DM allows for this (and the characters don't play elsewhere) it's perfectly OK. \$\endgroup\$ – TimLymington Jan 19 at 22:20
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If you haven't already, switch to a Milestone leveling system.

This will give you the benefit of having the players at the right level at the right time. It will give the players the benefit of having some time to adventure at each character level to learn the ropes (use their newly acquired feature/trait/spell/etc once or twice.

This also means that characters can focus on the main story line when they are confident in their skill and do side quests to try things out.

One thing to watch out for is the new player letting the more experienced players always take the reins as they can now skirt by doing nothing but still leveling up. Make sure they need to put their character's skill to use each level.

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