Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Zero Level Characters in 5e Dungeons and Dragons

Someone asked me how I would do 0 level characters in 5e Dungeons & Dragons:

  • Assign ability scores as usual. Roll for it, use the array, point-buy, whatever it is you lot do at your table.
  • You get to pick your race as usual.
  • You get to pick your background, so you start with a couple skill proficiencies and some combination of tool proficiencies and languages.
  • All of your equipment comes from your background.
  • You start with 4 + Con mod hit points. When you acquire a class, just replace this with the class's starting hit points. (1)
  • Your proficiency bonus is +1. It becomes +2 when you acquire a class.
  • You have no saving throw, weapon, or armor proficiencies unless they came from your racial abilities. 
  • Gaining a class after one adventure, assuming your character survives, feels appropriate.
(1) - Maybe 6 + Con mod, if you're feeling generous.


  1. Simple and nice! I hadn't really thought about this before, but this seems like it should work with any adventure written for 0-level characters. The challenge is that they tend to have a death toll that's much higher than a standard 5e game.

    I have a semi-complex idea for creating 0-level characters in systems that use 4d6-drop-lowest ability scores. 0-levels start with 3d6 ability scores, but write down everything you rolled. If you survive to 1st level, roll that fourth d6 and drop the lowest then. Admittedly, this might be more work than it's worth.

    4d6-drop-lowest is my personal favorite for 5e characters and high-fantasy games in general. It gives you characters with a bit more heroic proportions than the low-fantasy of 3d6 ability scores.

    1. Thanks! tbh I don't really even know of any 0 level adventures, but I reckon this might work with them. Also, I haven't found it that hard to kill off 5e characters, so a hearty death toll seems doable to me.

    2. I've used "The Purple Worm Graveyard" (which might fit in as some sort of lost trainyard for Umberwell's worm trains?) and "Frozen in Time" (which I'm not sure how it would fit into any of your campaigns).

      Difficulty-wise, most 0-level adventures are basically 1st level adventures, with maybe a greater willingness to have certain things just kill a character outright with no chance of survival. The most interesting thing about a 0-level adventure is that the characters aren't heroes yet, they're still just ordinary people.

      One idea occurs to me, to solve the "how did you go from gardener to wizard in only 1 week of training" problem - make the 0-level adventure a "flashback" or "prologue" and have the campaign resume like four years later, when something brings the old friends back together. (As I'm typing this, I think that's also the relationship between IT and IT 2.)

    3. Yeah, I would have a stretch of time pass in-between 0 level and 1st level. Shadow of the Demon Lord basically does that for EVERY level gained and honestly it makes a good bit of sense to do it that way.

  2. I like this idea, I have toyed with it in the past by just not having a class but was unsure about how to work with HP … having 0HD for being 0th level I found it hard to justify +CON hitpoints!

    1. Yeah, "I'm sorry, you start with (checks math) -1 hit points" might be hard to sell for the 8 con wizard.

  3. That's very much like the system I came up with :D