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Author Topic: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?  (Read 472 times)

Maelish

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How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« on: September 09, 2020, 10:50:57 AM »

I've run a few games over the decades where the characters started as 0 level.  In once instance, my players started as pre-teens.  That part of the campaign ran about 2.5 sessions.  The characters were from a borderland keep area and it was a lot of fun for the players.  They enjoyed playing in an adventure that created the reasons their characters ended up as their classes and the characters ended being well connected to each other.  The PCs had real reasons to keep one of their friends from making bad decisions.  But I've not seen any practical notes on commoners for 5E. 


How do you guys handle 0 level characters in 5E?  For all practical purposes 0 level PCs are commoners.


There are a number of house rules and publications that suggest various things.  Most suggest using 6 or 8 hit points plus constitution bonuses for commoners.  But that makes no sense to me.   Commoners should have fewer hit points than level 1 adventurers.  If you are a wizard, why would you'll loose hit points when you level up to 1. 


I'd love to hear some different opinions on the topic.
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Omega

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2020, 11:39:30 AM »
Easy.
Don't try to run PCs in 5e as 0 level. It just does not work really without needless finagaling.

Then theres the issue of "what does this really accomplish?" other than playing out backstory or just watching the PCs die alot more than 1st level PCs?

One solution is to just have the players roll up characters then halve their HP and restrict any magic. Or hand them a commoner NPC and just roll normal characters when the reach "level 1". Problem is this then has to ignore various caster cantrips, especially the wizard who has that spell from long practice and use. Of course could just say that is the only spell they have yet.

It can work, but its going to be messy one way or another. You just need to decide what angle to approach it from and what you want from the experience. For some players it can be a severe turnoff or feel pointless. For others it adds background, or is playing out background.

As usual. Totally YMMV.

S'mon

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2020, 12:48:24 PM »
I suggest giving them 4-8 hit points, which is within the Commoner 1d8 range, and possibly some ability related to their future class if you want them as pre-adventurers. Probably give them the class's weapon & armour proficiencies.


Eg
A Wizard-0 might have 4 hp and know 2 Wizard cantrips.
A Sorcerer-0 might have 5 hp & know 1 Sorcerer cantrip.
A Bard-0 might have 5 hp, know 1 Bard cantrip, and 1/LR use of Bardic Inspiration.
A Fighter-0 might have 6 hp and Second Wind 1/LR to recover 1d6 hp.
A Barbarian-0 might have 8 hp and Unarmoured Defence.

A Barbarian-0 might have 8 hp & unarmoured defence.


« Last Edit: September 09, 2020, 12:50:29 PM by S'mon »
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Steven Mitchell

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2020, 12:53:41 PM »
I wouldn't, because I think 5E is the wrong game to do it.  But ignoring that for the sake of discussion:
  • Something similar on hit points to what others suggested above, or just set it to 4 + Con Mod flat.
  • Proficiency bonus set to 1.
  • Only Cantrips for spells.  Cantrips burn out.  Every time a caster uses one, roll d6.  On a 1, no more cantrips until after a long rest.
  • Heavily restrict starting equipment.
To me, part of the fun of playing such characters would be getting excited about mundane stuff.  You can do that a lot more easily if the characters start with almost no money or equipment.

Nephil

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2020, 03:33:43 PM »
1 HP + any bonus from CON, and whatever you get from your background. That should suck enough for the masochists who start characters from level 0.

Razor 007

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2020, 03:44:00 PM »
1d4 hp at level zero, since all first level characters have at least 1d6.  Most, potentially have more.


No Con bonus, either.  Get ready for your 0 level PC to be fragile.
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mAcular Chaotic

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2020, 05:15:12 PM »
That depends on what stats are supposed to represent.


Are you supposed to gain your current status from training up to become level 1? Or is it just your natural state before acquiring class proficiencies?


If the latter, give them whatever stats you want but make their hit die be a d4. Give them no proficiency bonus and no class features. Basically a commoner with better stats.
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Opaopajr

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2020, 01:07:31 AM »
As a zero level funnel, a la DCC? Background only (no stats, saves, abilities, features, or quickstart gear), 1d4 Hit Die, PB +1, assume straight 8s if you must ability check. Sell 'em a Backpack or gear with their Background starting cash and go forth and play!  8)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2020, 01:11:34 AM by Opaopajr »
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Ghostmaker

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2020, 08:17:34 AM »
But why would you WANT to play a 0 level character? Or GM a 0 level party?


I don't get this.

Maelish

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2020, 11:21:47 AM »
Thanks for the suggestions everyone!   ;D
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RandyB

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2020, 11:26:12 AM »
As a zero level funnel, a la DCC? Background only (no stats, saves, abilities, features, or quickstart gear), 1d4 Hit Die, PB +1, assume straight 8s if you must ability check. Sell 'em a Backpack or gear with their Background starting cash and go forth and play!  8)

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That'll do ya.

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Omega

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2020, 02:17:28 PM »
But why would you WANT to play a 0 level character? Or GM a 0 level party?


I don't get this.
To play out background a little, or alot. Some really get into this. Others really hate it.
Dragon Storm actually starts you out as essentially 0 level common folk, with the occasional apprentice or such in there. Then soon after BOOM! They are caught in a dragon storm and change. Thus learning the truth and the adventure begins. It works because theres little difference between a commoner and a shifter. And one thing the game could have used was a learning phase where the PCs need to get a handle on what is is to be a dragon, unicorn, etc. You can just roleplay that. But there is no mechanics to facilitate it.

mAcular Chaotic

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2020, 04:23:09 PM »
One thing it's good at is minimizing the amount of work needed to play. No picking classes, no spells, skills, etc. Just get the commoner and play.
Battle doesn't need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose. You don't ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don't ask why I fight.

VisionStorm

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2020, 06:50:25 PM »
But why would you WANT to play a 0 level character? Or GM a 0 level party?


I don't get this.

I’m a little torn about it, cuz on one hand, I can understand the desire to play characters since their early days, when they were still training for whatever profession they wished to become, a la Harry Potter, where the main characters are just kids still learning magic, with only a few weak-ass spells at their disposal. But on the other hand, level 1 characters in D&D are already pretty incompetent and pathetically weak enough as it is, and level 1 casters only know a few weak-ass spells as well—even with all the hand-holding in 5e compared to earlier editions. So level 1 pretty much already IS apprentice level, which is why many groups start their characters at higher levels.

I’ve only played a single level 1 session in decades, and that was only to give someone completely new to RPGs are general feel for the game and startup characters. But I generally treat level 3 as the starting level and consider it to be the default level for all “professionals” (including NPCs) in the game world, and levels 1 and 2 to be just “training levels”, the equivalent to level “0” in OD&D.

LiferGamer

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Re: How do you handle Zero Level PCs in 5E D&D?
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2020, 12:09:05 PM »
But why would you WANT to play a 0 level character? Or GM a 0 level party?


I don't get this.

I%u2019m a little torn about it, cuz on one hand, I can understand the desire to play characters since their early days, when they were still training for whatever profession they wished to become, a la Harry Potter, where the main characters are just kids still learning magic, with only a few weak-ass spells at their disposal. But on the other hand, level 1 characters in D&D are already pretty incompetent and pathetically weak enough as it is, and level 1 casters only know a few weak-ass spells as well%u2014even with all the hand-holding in 5e compared to earlier editions. So level 1 pretty much already IS apprentice level, which is why many groups start their characters at higher levels.

I%u2019ve only played a single level 1 session in decades, and that was only to give someone completely new to RPGs are general feel for the game and startup characters. But I generally treat level 3 as the starting level and consider it to be the default level for all %u201Cprofessionals%u201D (including NPCs) in the game world, and levels 1 and 2 to be just %u201Ctraining levels%u201D, the equivalent to level %u201C0%u201D in OD&D.


While I DO always start new campaigns at level 1, I agree with VisionStorm otherwise. 


AD&D 1st Level Classes and Titles: 
Cleric = Acolyte
Druid = Aspirant
Fighter = Veteran
Paladin = Galant
Ranger = Runner
Magic-User = Prestigitator
Illusionist = Prestigitator
Thief = Rogue (Apprentice)
Assassin = Bravo (Apprentice)
Monk = Novice

Other than 'Veteran' these all sound like totally green recruit names; so that seems to be the implication at least back then.

If you wanted to play children, I'd maybe do first level characters but hold back some of their attributes - or give them the 8's straight down and point buy when they 'grew up'.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2020, 12:10:55 PM by LiferGamer »
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