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I have just had a character death. The party are 14th level but there is little to no chance of resurrection etc (and not sure the player would want to anyway), the character was the party Cleric and there are no nearby Cleric that could or would do it.

What level would it be most appropriate for the new character to be? Starting at 1st which I would have done for a low level party, would be hard but not impossible, but for 14th level party that would be impossible to survive the first combat round in most cases.

Campaign info: I have been running a Mega Dungeon Campaign called "Dragon's Delve" (now not available). We are at session 101 and it is a weekly game of about 3hr. The four main characters are now at 14th level. The local area only has one town where the highest priest is 8th Level and a low wealth level. But because of the fame of the dungeon adventurers are often arriving to have a go at the ancient ruin, so a replacement character is not impossible. The cleric died fighting a high cr devil in a dramatic battle and died getting down to -10 after five or so rounds of combat. I think the player is happy with his death.

PS: the Character actually died in "The Hall of Gods" in The Grand Temple of Jing which I was running as a special one off side quest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you tell us more about the campaign structure? There is some general guidance that we can point you at, but if we understand the situation at your table, we can give you appropriate advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 13 at 10:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sincere congratulations—and respect—on over 100 sessions of the same campaign. \$\endgroup\$ May 13 at 15:34

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I've actually run the Delve, and had characters need to be replaced on several occasions. tl;dr: I'd have the new PC come in at level 14, with about the same XP total and wealth as the average party member.

For some context: the Delve is a 20-level megadungeon, designed to take PCs from level 1 to 20. Each level of the dungeon corresponds (more-or-less) to a character level. The levels are all themed (there's an "aberration" level, a "demon" level, a prison, etc.), with some small-but-useful connections between levels (e.g. a couple of fast-travel options to get from the top to the middle, keys on one level that open doors on the next). Levels of the dungeon are connected by stairs: when you find the stairs down, you can go down to the next level if you think you're ready for it. There is light continuity, mostly through repeated references to some NPCs. There are few, if any, ticking timers beyond the encounter level. Many encounters have a "revisit" section, with information on what is likely to happen if the PCs come back to a room days or weeks later.

I would strongly encourage that the replacement character come in at level 14 (and at about the same XP total as the rest of the party, so they can level at the same time as everybody else, and nobody has to deal with "different PC level XP reward" math). The challenges - especially on the lower levels - are designed with an APL equal to the level's ... level. I would also recommend the new character have starting wealth equal to the (rough) average of the rest of the party. The former will help ensure that the party isn't wholly missing access to resources that higher level encounters might assume are present and is the least punitive to the player; the latter helps prevent the new character from being over- or under-geared and either stealing focus or not being able to fully contribute.

Which, that's honestly what I do in about any campaign, but doubly so in pre-generated adventures.

Starting at level 1 will absolutely not work mechanically (either the party cake-walks through a lot of revisit encounters in the upper levels or the level 1 PC will either die upon rolling initiative, putting you right back where you are now, or the rest of the party will need to protect them, making them a drain on the party's resources rather than a contributing member) or socially (cake-walking back through the first 14 levels of the Delve would be mostly boring and/or tedious).

One option for getting the new PC up to level (and gear) could be to have the party cake-walk them through the revisit encounters off-screen. Doing so would also explain how the new PC knows stuff that the old PC knew (because the player knows it), and how they can use things like the teleportation altar down to level 7(?); maybe speed-run through it, letting the players reminisce about cool stuff they did for a session.

That said, I would actually be inclined to have a new PC start at 1st level (with high-level gear) if they were on level 19: a fair amount of that level is letting high-level PCs be awesome (e.g. fighting an infinite plane of kobolds), so a 1st level PC wouldn't be nearly the drain they would be in any other situation, and resolving the level solves the level disparity issue nicely.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for that. My party are 14th but are still on the 7th level, they have cleared everything on a level before moving on. I think you are correct it would be unbalancing if they new character wasn't also 14th. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bucket
    May 13 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's ... impressive. My players were pretty good about finding all the XP in the Delve, and I don't think they were ever more than 1 level above their Delve level. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    May 13 at 16:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ They didn't just do the Island, they defeated all the pirates in the fort and destroyed the Grahlus (considered trying to open a portal to there home world). They closed the gate on top of the Tower etc. Are working on closing the one on Level 7th (they haven't found the third McGuffins yet). \$\endgroup\$
    – Bucket
    May 13 at 17:51
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The rule I used was:

  • If you died heroically, your new character has the same level as your last character. Your new character has the same gp as your last character. The group is not allowed to loot your old character's body after they died, because this would get them lots of unearned wealth and unbalance the economy.
  • If you died unheroically (for example you did something stupid on purpose), you get a -1 level penalty for the first three sessions.

I used this a couple of times and was happy with it. I think nowadays I'd probably replace the second part with "if you died from doing something stupid on purpose, I will remove you from the game and replace you with someone else from the internet", but that doesn't work as well for an in-person game.

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It's opinion based, but I will answer anyway. Their is no appropriate level by the rules. Do as you want, you are the DM.

That said, a game with 1 level 1 player, and the rest of the party isn't fun for anyone. What I do in my games is to make the player create a character of the level of the group (so 14 minus racial modifier on levels, or if you have the books for it, they should take racial levels, and get racial features depending on those levels). Use the generic NPC tables in books to determine how much gold they have for their character equipment, or more if you were generous with your group in term of gold and magic items.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The opening paragraph of this answer is wrong. Guidance for appropriate levels of new and replacement characters can be found on page 42 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. (Whether that guidance is good or useful is another story - and a matter for answers to discuss.) \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    May 13 at 9:20

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