On the surface, a DnD level up doesn’t seem that hard. You bonk a few monsters on the head; you pick up some gold or magic items; and you save the day – job’s a good’un, right? All seems well until you’re passed your character sheet and some polyhedral dice – suddenly there’s all this pesky maths to do.
It might seem like your reward for all that hard work is more hard work, but a DnD level up is rewarding. Your character gets stronger, unlocks new spells, can fight bigger DnD monsters, and can save the day in bigger and better ways than ever before – it’s all right there on your character sheet. And once you’re familiar with the different die rolls and modifier thresholds, you’ll be cruising straight to level 20.
This guide sums up everything you need to know when leveling up 5e D&D characters. This includes how experience points are awarded, and how a level up will affect key numbers like hit points, ability scores, and proficiency bonuses as your character becomes the most swole version of themselves.
Here’s a guide to a DnD level up:
Level up method
This first guide entry is for the player holding the Dungeon Master’s Guide. It’s up to the DM to decide how and when player characters will level up, and which level up method a campaign will use.
The first of these is by allocating experience points (XP). Every monster a party encounters has an XP value based on its challenge rating, which the characters will receive as a reward for defeating the creature in battle. Combat XP is split equally between the party. However, there are several instances where this rule may be modified.
For example, some DMs may choose not to award XP to absent players. They may also choose to allocate a certain amount of XP to an NPC which made the fight considerably easier. Some DMs may even choose to award uneven amounts of XP depending on which characters contributed the most in combat – though the Dungeon Master’s Guide recommends keeping the playing field even by sharing equal XP.
This approach also instructs DMs to decide how much XP their players can earn from certain non-combat activities. Alternatively, you may choose to award XP when the party reaches significant milestones, such as achieving a specific goal or reaching an important destination.
Here’s how much XP a character needs to earn to reach a new DnD level:
Another way to level up DnD characters is to do away with XP altogether. With this method, you may award DnD level ups depending on how many sessions players play, or after important plot points in your DnD campaign. This is recommended if your game doesn’t have much combat, for example.
Whether or not you use XP, however, there’ll still be plenty to do when levelling up 5E characters. We’ve broken down everything you’ll need to calculate in the following sections.
DnD classes 5E
Each of the DnD classes gains different abilities each time it levels up. If you’re looking to level up a character with a specific class, it will be helpful to have their relevant guide open alongside this one.
Here’s a list of DnD classes 5E:
- Blood Hunter
DnD hit points 5E
Each time you gain a level, your hit points increase. The amount they increase is determined either by rolling a hit die or taking an average value – determined by your class – and adding your Constitution modifier. You always gain at least one hit point per level, even if you have a negative Constitution modifier and roll very poorly.
If at any point your Constitution modifier increases, your hit point maximum increases too – by one point for each level you’ve gained.
DnD ability scores 5E
As you increase in level, your DnD ability scores will increase. For a more in-depth look at what each ability is used for, we have a DnD stats guide to give you a comprehensive introduction to each ability and the skills that depend on it.
You typically unlock the opportunity to improve your ability scores at levels four, eight, 12, 16, and 19. Some classes, like Rogue and Fighter, grant ability score increases at different levels. When improving your ability scores, you can choose to increase one ability by two points or two abilities by one point each – though no ability score can go over 20.
Alternatively, you could choose to take one of the DnD 5E feats instead (check out our guide for more details on what that entails).
As your ability scores increase, the modifiers they apply to ability checks and attacks will also change:
|2 – 3||-4|
|4 – 5||-3|
|6 – 7||-2|
|8 – 9||-1|
|10 – 11||+0|
|12 – 13||+1|
|16 – 17||+3|
|18 – 19||+4|
DnD proficiency bonus 5E
Your DnD proficiency bonus is a modifier that you will add to rolls when using a skill, weapon, or item with which your character is proficient. It doesn’t always increase when you level up, but it has a big impact when it does. Your proficiency bonus increases at levels five, nine, 13, and 17.
Here’s a complete table of levelling up 5E proficiency bonuses:
|1 – 4||+2|
|5 – 8||+3|
|9 – 12||+4|
|13 – 16||+5|
|17 – 20||+6|