Partial Levels for Pathfinder 1st ed

I’m pondering switching to running a Pathfinder 1st edition game after my current Really Wild West game finishes its major story arc. I had thought I might make it an E6 game… but as is often the case I can’t help but think about tinkering with the rules to get something closer to exactly what I want.

Basically, I want to keep the game in the “sweet spot” of levels 3-9 for as long as possible, without players getting the feeling they never get to advance or improve. E6 is one way to do that…. but I’m not sure it’ll give me the feel I really want. So, I came up with the idea of partial levels.

This is still a thought experiment. But essentially, at some levels, instead of going to the next full character level (and all the increases that come with it), there is a span of experience points where you gain a partial level (noted as a decimal, so after level 3 comes level 3.1). Partial levels do NOT give you the advancements of a higher class level, character level, or new class features. But you do gain some benefits, which means a character who went through levels 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 is more powerful (or, at least, more flexible) when they hit level 4 than a character who hopped straight from 3 to 4.That’s intentional on my part — I want characters to get better and better at handling threats of their level, and then when they hop a new level they can reasonably take on higher-level threats as well.

As I currently envision it, each time you gain a partial level, you get:

@1 skill point (still limited to max ranks/level) or +1 language (in case you’ve maxed out Linguistics).
@Extra hp equal to 1/6th your last class level’s max HD size, +1/2 your Con mod (minimum +1 hp total).
@One advancement from the list below. Once you have selected an advancement, you cannot select the same advancement again until you hit your next full level (unless it specifically says otherwise), but such limitations reset once you gain your next full level.

*Learn 4 new spells (prepared spellbook/familiar caster)(May take a second time to learn 3, and a third to learn 2.)
*Learn 4 new uncommon or 2 new rare spells (prepared divine — only Core and APG spells are gained automatically. All other official hardbacks are “Uncommon,” and other allowed spells are “rare.”)(May take a second time to learn 3 uncommon or 1 rare, and a third time to learn 2 uncommon or 1 rare.)
*Learn 1 new spell from another class list. (Spell is considered part of your class list now, and you gain is as a bonus spell known. Treat its spell level as as +1 spell level, an additional +1 spell level if it is a different magic source, an additional +1 spell level if from a class with a different highest level spell.)
*Gain the lowest-level feature you do not have of an archetype you qualify for which normally replaces or modifies a single class feature, as a bonus feature (to a max of those gained at a level equal to your linked class level)
*Select up to 4 cantrips you know to gain the buffed versions of.
*Gain the ability to prepare 1 more cantrip each day (characters with a spellcasting class feature only).
*Gain a heroic aura no other PC in the group has. (Characters with no spellcasting class feature may select this a second time. Characters with no class feature that grants supernatural, spell-like, or spell access ability may select it a third time.)
*Gain a Skill Unlock, based on your ranks in a skill
*Gain an Improved Skill Unlock (For a skill you have already taken Skill Unlock, treat your effective ranks as being 5 higher for purposes of determining your skill unlocks.)
*Gain a Greater Skill Unlock (For a skill you have already taken Improved Skill Unlock, treat your effective ranks as being a total of 10 higher for purposes of determining your skill unlocks).(Characters with no spellcasting class feature only.)
*Gain a combat feat for which you meet the prerequisites.
*Gain the Combat Trick version of a combat feat you already possess. (If it takes Stamina Points equal to 1/3 your bab or less, you can use it at-will. If it takes up to your bab in SP, you can use it 3/day. If it takes more Stamina Points that your bab, you can use the combat trick version 1/day.)(Fighters may select this more than once.)
*Gain a general feat for which you meet the prerequisites.
*Gain a feat (other than combat or general) for which you meet the prerequisites
*Gain a trait in a category you already have a trait
*Gain 5 skill points (still limited by max ranks/level)
*Increase an even ability score of 16 or less by 1 point.

For the specific campaign *I* am considering running, partial levels kick in once PCs hit 3rd. each partial level takes the same XP that would normally be required to get to the next full level (using the slow XP chart). There are 3 partial levels between each level from 3rd through 8th, and 4 partial levels between each level from 9th level up. If a game started at 3rd, it would take a long LOOONG time to reach 9th 9since at level 4.1, you are still mostly facing CR 4-5 threats, and thus gaining 4th-5th level XP), but you’d also have boosted your character 24 times by then.

This XP chart only goes to 10th level, but I could continue it past that with relative ease. Also, once you hit 20th, it might be all partial levels from there allowing PCs to advance without their effective character level continuing to increase.

Level XP

1 0

2 3,000

3 7,500

3.1 12,000

3.2 16,000

3.3 20,500

4 25,000

4.1 34,000

4.2 43,000

4.3 52,000

5 61,000

5.1 74,000

5.2 86,000

5.3 98,000

6 110,000

6.1 128,000

6.2 146,000

6.3 164,000

7 182,000

7.1 206,000

7.2 230,000

7.3 254,000

8 278,000

8.1 316,000

8.2 344,000

8.3 382,000

9 420,000

9.1 465,000

9.2 510,000

9.3 555,000

9.4 600,000

10 645,000

If you are enjoying any of these, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).


About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on January 28, 2022, in Game Design, Microsetting, Pathfinder Development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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