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I'm interested in DMing and want to know: would it be okay to award levels to the PCs at the end of the story arc instead of keeping track of XP?

The benefits I can see are:

  • I don't want to write a story only for the players to blast through the ending fight due to having leveled up a few times since the beginning of the story.
  • I like the idea of the abilities the PCs have at the start of the story being what they have to work with.
  • It would avoid stopping the flow of the adventure with altering sheets.
  • It would help planning the next arc, in that I could write the next story based on what new stuff they choose at the end of each.

I'd give the players stuff from side quests that'd help on the way, of course.

The question isn't whether these are benefits, just: is this alternative way of leveling up the PCs okay?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a copy of the DMG? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 13 '17 at 13:23
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Yes

Awarding experience as entire levels instead of keeping track of the experience points is an easy and reasonably popular alternative way for character advancement. The Dungeon Master's Guide has a small section devoted to this variant, "Level Advancement Without XP", on page 261.

You can award levels on a per-session basis, or based on campaign progression. In my own DnD 5e games, we use the latter: whenever the players complete an adventure or a particularly dangerous part of one, they gain a level at the end of the session.

An advantage of this method is that it is possible to fine-tune and pre-plan the experience progression very easily to suit your tastes, whether that means a swift "zero-to-hero" ascension or an extended adventuring on the lower levels. There's also less need for bookkeeping, and the players may feel less pressure to seek out combat and other challenges just for experience. A possible disadvantage is that the progression can feel arbitrary and less objective than XP, and removes the immediate experience reward for succeeding in combat or other challenges.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Another disadvantage is that less-experienced DMs may fall into the trap of awarding levels too quickly, and risking the player characters becoming too powerful for the planned story. Exercise caution. \$\endgroup\$ – hideous-laughter Feb 13 '17 at 1:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @hideous-laughter It is true that such can happen, but I don't think that problem is directly related to this method. It is possible for a GM to miscalculate experience progression and encounter difficulty with any other scheme as well. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Feb 13 '17 at 12:14

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