I'm running the Lost Mine of Phandelver module with my players, and I've been using monster and reward XP as the book says so far. I have 5 players and they're all level 2 and have just cleared the Cragmaw Hideout.

However, I've been throwing in quite a bit of homebrew stuff I made, new plot points and enemies. I don't want to throw the level balance included in the base module away though. I'd rather stay with it so that I don't need to worry about balancing the encounters too much and I can base the difficulty of the stuff I add on what they're currently doing in the story.

I'm thinking of going with the milestone leveling system, so that they're all at level 5 by the time we're at the finale of the story. The book only seems to call one quest/dungeon as a milestone and that's the Hideout.

What other dungeons, quests, or story points in the module would make suitable level-up milestones to give them the level ups they need?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nekuskus No worries! I revised your last sentence a bit to clarify that, let me know if that gets at what you're looking for. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2022 at 21:05

2 Answers 2


Award about one level per part of the adventure

Doing this will roughly match the progression from gaining individual XP from encounters in the adventure, and will allow you to add in additional side adventures. Not using milestone progression and adding additional adventures would likely make the PCs a level higher than what the adventure is balanced for.

Technolskald tallied up all the encounter and story award XP from the module. By this analysis, if you have a party of five characters, and they win a good chunk of those XP, they should be gaining about 1 level per major chapter. (There are a few more XP in each, probably because not all the encounters are mandatory). If they do nearly all the side quests, they could get to level five early or in the middle of the last part.

Using this, they are

  • Part 1: Goblin Arrows: Level 1. The adventure advises you to promote to level 2 at the end with help of a story award, but the total difficulty weighted XP in this section already sum up to 2,500, and with all story awards, a party of 5 could gather 4,250 XP, nearly sufficient to promote them all to level 3 (they need 1,500 XP total for level 2, 4,500 for level 3).
  • Part 2: Phandalin: Level 2, and probably halfway in, level 3. This section gives them another 5,050 XP, for a possible total of 9,300, not quite enough to advance to level 4, which needs 13,500, but deep into level 3. However, many of the adventures here are optional, and the adventure probably does not expect the PCs to pursue and solve all of them.
  • Part 3: The Spiders Web: Level 3, and probably halfway in, level 4. In this section you can total 17,975 XP, for a possible total of just over 27,000, short of brining everyone to level 5.
  • Part 4: Wave Echo Cave: Level 4, and probably halfway in, level 5. Here the adventurers can gain another 19,600 XP, which could take them to a total of nearly 47,000, and for sure will bring them to level five, which needs 32,500, but even in the best circumstances they will not get to level 6, which needs a total of 70,000 XP for a party of five.

So at the end of the adventure they will be level 5, matching the adventure's claim that:

By the end of the adventure, the characters should be 5th level.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks a lot! That's exactly what I asked for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nekuskus
    Dec 9, 2022 at 21:17

It doesn’t matter

You are assuming that the module is balanced or that this is something that is particularly important in D&D 5e. Both assumptions are false.

The bounded accuracy design of 5e means that underpowered enemies still present a challenge for higher level parties, and, conversely that overpowered enemies can still be overcome. The main constraint on character power is the action economy and that doesn’t change whether the character is 1st or 11th level. Sure the higher level character gets better toys to use but a goblin is just as dead whether it takes 10 or 50 points of damage.

All within limits of course - I’m not suggesting that an 11th level party would be challenged by the final encounters, but a 6th level party would be.

As for the module itself, the encounters are all over the place. See Why are all of the encounters in the Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign Hard or Deadly?

So, just hand out the XP and let them level when they earn it. It won’t make a difference.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ That is definitely not an answer to my question, the encounters are meant to be somewhat challenging, and not all of them pose any major issue to the party if they are playing smart. Furthermore, the options higher leveled characters get definitely reshape the challenge of a fight. Especially the higher damage outputs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nekuskus
    Dec 12, 2022 at 0:06

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