5e Campaign Length

Kaique pointed out in the comments of my last (actual) post, "5e Campaign Structure", that there is actually some variation in level duration between the beginning and end of a character's progression: namely, that levels in the second tier last for more adventuring days than levels in the other tiers. On one hand I wanted to bring attention to this in itself, but also I found another interesting effect.

It seems like, if you round normally (instead of up or down), the total number of adventuring days it takes to level up is 31. This means that a campaign set at the default time tick, so to speak, takes 31 in-world days if you're hauling ass.

This increases to 43 days if you round up, although that might not necessarily be reflective of actual play since 5e does not put any restrictions on leveling or gaining experience (e.g., a character could technically level-up midday and continue to gain experience even if they don't gain the benefits of that level until after the next long rest). I have a feeling as well that maybe this wasn't a super calculated/simulated/tested decision, but maybe they just threw everything into a spreadsheet like the one above, saw it added up to 31, and were satisfied with that. It's just very convenient!

Using the gritty realism option, since one can expect alternating cycles of adventuring and downtime weeks, that probably looks like 62-86 weeks.


  1. Does that take into account that the adventuring day expectations use adjusted XP based on the number of creatures in an encounter, but that only unadjusted XP is actually awarded to the players?

    1. good question! off the cuff for a 4-PC party, a single bugbear awards 200 XP while a group of 4 kobolds awards 100 XP (albeit having a modified XP equal to the bugbear). maybe, to take the average of those two cases, you could divide the values on the table above by 75%?

  2. I think the main problem with these kinds of assumptions, every time I've seen it brought up in the years since 5e was first brought out, is that it leads from the fallacy that you would even have 31 "adventuring days" in a row. Even if you assume that every time characters engaged in combat, it was part of a full adventuring day, you'd be incredibly unlikely to do 31 of them in a row. Travel times and downtime would naturally exist as a part of nearly any story on that time scale.

    1. yep, that's exactly what i mean by "hauling ass". it's not a practical number.

  3. I made a simulation spreadsheet that take into account the XP multipliers. You can make a copy and change the fields in yellow to produce different results. Here's the link


    In order to have discrete results, I did round up the number of sessions and calculated the "residual XP" that "leak" to the next level. I assume a DM will prepare an Adventuring Day considering the actual level, and reward XP accordingly.

    I tried to find parameters that produced a number of expected sessions per tier equal to the number of expected treasure rolls per tier, while being close (-20% to +10%) to the expected adventuring day adjusted XP.

    DMG on Using the Treasure Hoard Tables: "seven rolls on the Challenge 0-4 table, eighteen rolls on the Challenge 5-10 table, twelve rolls on the Challenge 11-16 table, and eight rolls on the Challenge 17+ table."

    They also mirror the standard rate of advancement, assuming 1 Adv. Day = 1 Session.
    DMG on Level Advancement Without XP: "A good rate of session-based advancement is to have characters reach 2nd level after the first session of play, 3rd level after another session, and 4th level after two more sessions. Then spend two or three sessions for each subsequent level. This rate mirrors the standard rate of advancement, assuming sessions are about four hours long."

  4. On a side note. The often mentioned "6-8 medium or hard encounters" originated in the Basic Rules v0.1, written before the DMG publication. On these rules, the XP Thresholds were the "maximum" of the desired difficulty, not the minimum, but the values were the same. So, "6-8 medium or hard encounters" should've been changed to "6-8 easy or medium encounters" when they revised the rules.


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