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How to Level Up in 5e DnD

Your DM says the magic words, “You guys level up!” The excitement races through the table as you all immediately reach for your character sheets, wondering what cool new abilities and features you’ll have the next time you sit down to play together.

So, how does leveling up actually work? Read on to find out!

Hit Points

Increasing your character’s hit points is one of the best parts of leveling up. It’s never fun when your character is constantly on the verge of falling unconscious, and those few extra hit points can help you go the extra mile in battle.

To determine your new hit point total, you need to roll one die, the size of which is determined by your class. Wizards and Sorcerers roll a d6. Artificers, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Monks, Rogues, and Warlocks roll a d8. Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers roll a d10. Barbarians, the beefiest characters, roll a d12.

However, that roll is not the only factor. You also add your Constitution modifier. For example, if your Ranger levels up, you roll a d10 and get a 7. Your Constitution score is 14, which gives you a modifier of +2. Therefore, you would add 9 to your hit point total. If your Constitution modifier is negative (from a score below 10), you don’t subtract from your hit points. You simply add 1 to whatever you rolled.

Spells

For learned spellcaster classes, leveling up allows players to replace existing spells and learn new ones. For prepared casters, leveling up lets you prepare more spells each day. When you hit odd-numbered levels, you can cast higher-level spells. For example, leveling up from level 2 to level 3 allows a caster to prepare or learn spells of 2nd level.

Class Features

A variety of class features become available at specific levels that require a player to make decisions. These decisions can range from:

  • New skill proficiencies
  • New skill expertise
  • Eldritch Invocations (Warlocks only)
  • Metamagic Options (Sorcerers only)
  • Fighting Styles
  • Infusions (Artificers only)
  • Magical Secrets (Bards only)
  • Ability Score Improvements (See our article on ASIs) or Feats

GameCows Tip: Feats are an optional rule. Always consult with your DM first before you take one!

Even if your new level doesn’t give you any class features that require a decision, it is still important to look them over and familiarize yourself with their effects.

Regardless of what level you’re advancing to, every class gives you something new at each level to keep players invested. Most of these class features let you do something new in battle or enhance your role in the party.

Subclasses

All classes are modified by a specialized subclass at a certain level. That level may not be the same for all classes, but your subclass gives you additional features and abilities that can greatly differentiate members of the same class. For example, two players with Sorcerer characters may function differently in the party and have separate battlefield strategies based on their subclasses.

Clerics, Sorcerers, and Warlocks all choose their subclasses at level 1. Wizards and Druids choose at level 2. All other classes choose at level 3.

Multiclassing

When it comes time to level up, you may decide not to continue with your current class. This section is far too short to debate the pros and cons of multiclassing, but some players choose to incorporate two or more classes in a single character. This can be for the sake of the narrative (to reflect a character choosing a new path) or to diversify a character’s abilities.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that multiclassing gives your character the benefits of your new class level. For example, if your level 4 Bard takes a level in Paladin, you would roll a d10 for your hit points, not a d8.

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