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The DMG does have guidance for encounters per day and XP per encounter, as well as for gold earned from treasure hoards by level.

There are already tables that calculate how much gold you would have at a given level, based on this guidance.

If you adventure every day and do not spend time on downtime activities, and the DM confronts you with encounters as advised in the DMG, how long would it take a typical group of 4 first level adventurers in game time to make it all the way to level 20?

I am not asking about play-time at the table (or screen) in real life, but about in-game days that the characters experience.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So answers should assume encounter rate and rest rates that the DMG uses? I think adding these to the question would be a very helpful for answers, especially so there are clear rules \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there any purpose for this question besides just being novel trivia? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27 at 22:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Are you implying that it's not a valid question? We have some well-received questions along these lines already. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Mar 28 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andrendire No, I’m just wondering if there is a concrete problem to solve here or if it’s just an interesting exercise. If there is a concrete problem here, then the question is almost certainly an XY problem and its framing should be reconsidered. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28 at 3:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the 'standard' for play-sessions in 5e? one level per session? \$\endgroup\$
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 28 at 12:17

1 Answer 1

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33 days

The basic rules give a list of XP per level. The DMG gives a list of XP per adventuring day per level. All you need to do is compare those numbers to figure out the number of days it takes for each level.

For example at 4th level you need 7500 to level up, and your daily xp budget is 3500 xp. 7500 / 3500 = 2.1, so it takes a little over 2 days to level up.

Then you can sum up all those numbers, which gives a total of 33.4 days.

Level XP to Level Up1 XP per Day2 Days to Level Up3
1st 300 300 1
2nd 600 600 1
3rd 1800 1200 1.5
4th 3800 1700 2.2
5th 7500 3500 2.1
6th 9000 4000 2.3
7th 11000 5000 2.2
8th 14000 6000 2.3
9th 16000 7500 2.1
10th 21000 9000 2.3
11th 15000 10500 1.4
12th 20000 11500 1.7
13th 20000 13500 1.5
14th 25000 15000 1.7
15th 30000 18000 1.7
16th 30000 20000 1.5
17th 40000 25000 1.6
18th 40000 27000 1.5
19th 50000 30000 1.7

1. XP to level up is calculated from the Basic Rules Character Advancement table by subtracting the XP to reach a level from the XP to reach the previous level. 2. XP per day is lifted straight from the Dungeon Master's Guide Adventuring Day XP table. 3. Days to level up is calculated by dividing the XP to level up by XP per day.

Level up during the day? Splitting XP budgets?

You will notice that a lot of days have a decimal portion. If you're willing to run half of a day using the 3rd level budget, level up, then run the remaining half of the day with the 4th level budget, then 33.4 days is the result you will get.

You could also end the day as soon as characters have enough XP to level up, in which case it would take 43 days. However I don't know of any rules saying you need to do this.

The choice that I would probably consider closest to RAW (and perhaps sanest) is to set the XP budget at the start of the day and not modify it even if the PC levels up. If you do so then you'll need 34.6 days to hit level 20.

How long in real life?

As a side note, I would estimate that most sessions I played only get through 2-3 encounters per 3-4 hour session. This may show I play relatively low combat games, but it's interesting to think that this means it would take approximately 160-340 sessions to play an entire 1-through-20 campaign. At 1 session per week, that's 3-6 years.

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