5E Avoiding High Level Play - Player or DM Preference?

pogre

Adventurer
Is it player preference or dungeon master preference that is ending campaigns/adventure paths before high levels?

My sense is that players really want to continue playing high level PCs, but the campaigns tend to fizzle on the DM's part. However, that is a very local observation and I'm interested in your perspective. Do players really prefer to end campaigns as their PCs near or hit 4th tier? Is the so-called 'sweet spot' of the game, 3rd-8th level (or 10th), the sweet spot for DMs and Players?
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Is it player preference or dungeon master preference that is ending campaigns/adventure paths before high levels?

My sense is that players really want to continue playing high level PCs, but the campaigns tend to fizzle on the DM's part. However, that is a very local observation and I'm interested in your perspective. Do players really prefer to end campaigns as their PCs near or hit 4th tier? Is the so-called 'sweet spot' of the game, 3rd-8th level (or 10th), the sweet spot for DMs and Players?
Most of our campaigns end after 1-2 years when a lot of the main stories have evolved and characters more complete. Rather than continue with the same, we ho for something new.
 

BigBadDM

Explorer
I think there is a big difference between 'playing high levels' (as the title suggests) and playing a campaign levels 1-20.

I have played and DMed several one-shot (mini-campaigns) that start at higher levels. Some even at tier4. They are just as enjoyable as any other tier.

Now going from level 1 to level 20, that takes commitment. If you play too often you'll have people drop off due to burnout. If you don't play enough, it can take 5 to 7 years to reach that. My main group that I DM in we play once a month. They are only level 8 after 2 years. They'll make 20 one day, the last campaign did too. But if you play once or more times a week, burnout and commitment issues are hard to prevent on both the DM and player front.
 

pogre

Adventurer
If you play too often you'll have people drop off due to burnout.
That's an interesting observation that is different from my experience. I much prefer a weekly campaign because players tend to remember what we are doing. I have not seen much player burn out.

Naturally, it depends on your time involved. Playing a high-paced weekly game for four hours is a lot more enjoyable than playing an all-day affair once a month for us.
 

S'mon

Legend
Is it player preference or dungeon master preference that is ending campaigns/adventure paths before high levels?

My sense is that players really want to continue playing high level PCs, but the campaigns tend to fizzle on the DM's part. However, that is a very local observation and I'm interested in your perspective. Do players really prefer to end campaigns as their PCs near or hit 4th tier? Is the so-called 'sweet spot' of the game, 3rd-8th level (or 10th), the sweet spot for DMs and Players?
My players generally seem keen to play 1-20 and I'm happy to GM them. I've now had 2 campaigns go 1-20; it does take a lot of play though if you use anything like by the book XP. I have another campaign that should go 1-20 in a year of weekly play but only because of houseruled XP system that levels them every 2-3 sessions. Default rate is more like half that.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I think its a DM thing: the more powerful the party is, the more planning encounters become a math chore instead of a fun story thing.

I know my players would like to play at high level, but I often '(bluntly) remember them that they barely understand the working of their PC at level 4. I wont play at level 17 if I still have to remind the druid that it can shapeshift or the paladin that it can smite! :p
 

BigBadDM

Explorer
Just to add one more thing:

I haven't met a player (and when I am one myself) who doesn't want to reach level 20. I think that is everyone's desire in playing the game.

The game really does act different though when you get in higher tiers.
Tier2 is perfect in the sense that there is still a real sense of danger mixed with tactical choices. The world also feels more explorable and mysterious.

Tier4 is good if you like tactics. The sense of dying is minimized to a large extent (except freak accidents). The world feels like it has to be rescued rather than explored.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
Both for me.

I like the game best from 5-10. 3-4 is fun too to appreciate the 5th level abilities and see the character grow. Level 11 is a great way to have one final adventure where the characters are super powerful.

Beyond that I lose interest. The narrative is too far away from what I can relate to. The game itself is also more complicated in ways which detract from the social interaction that I really like.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
As DM, I like to end by 10th level. After that, D&D becomes a superheroes game and I would play Mutant and Masterminds if I wanted that kind of gameplay.

Hell, I wish there was a way to slowly level PCs from 1st to 5th as they incrementally get better bit by bit so they still have a sense of progress and achievement.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
One style that I like which allows players to play their characters at all levels without me burning out at DM is to do episodic-style campaigns with milestone leveling. Basically we play longer 6-8 hour sessions. One episode/adventure will last either just one session or, at most 2 sessions. Each episode the players start at another level. The conceit is that the adventurers are off doing other things between adventures and then they are called together to investigate something, defeat someone, save the world again, etc., depending on their level. I find this format works well.

I've only run one WotC published adventure, Curse of Strahd which we played from 3rd to 10th.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think it's a combination of things. I've DMed and played in campaigns that went to 20th and it can take a long time. It's great if you can play once a week, that's just not realistic for a lot of people. In addition, it tends to take longer to plan for high level play from the DM's side of things.

It's also a question of what level people enjoy. I kind of like low level play since combat tends to be faster and there are fewer complicated decisions, especially for casters.

As far as high level play not being deadly, I guess that hasn't been my experience. Then again I structure my games so we get in 5-10 encounters between long rests and raise dead is extremely limited. I also limit a couple of problematic spells like banish that make it difficult to plan evenly challenging encounters.
 

aco175

Explorer
I find that the players, or rather half of them, want to stop before the PCs become too powerful. My table likes the way that 5e spreads out the mid levels. As a DM, I tend to make adventures for as long as the players or time allows. One of the 5e campaigns went to 11th level and was running out of ideas on its own, but the summer started, and my son could play from school, so we started a new campaign. I think we could have dragged it out another level or two, but I recall the 4e DMG saying to not be afraid to end a campaign once the idea runs out.
 

Vael

Adventurer
As a player, I'd love to play at a higher level, but between DMs always starting a low levels and campaigns falling apart, I've yet to get very far.

As a DM, most of the 1-20 adventures I've attempted to run sputter out. I crashed and burned out of running Tyranny of Dragons and Age of Worms (3.5, though that was more my inexperience as a DM). So I prefer to run shorter adventures, but I wouldn't mind trying higher level stuff.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Players at level 19 here (or so, a couple are multi-classed) we’ve been playing the same campaign for about 3.5 years. I’ve thrown out the encounter guidelines and just fling what I hope are interesting encounters at them. I’m worried my multiclassers want to take their characters to level 20...
 

jsaving

Adventurer
I think very different skillsets are required for low-level and high-level play. At low levels a DM need to be able to populate dungeons with monsters and handle situations where players fight those monsters and perhaps do a bit of role-playing as they receive rewards from local authorities. Most likely he was picked for the job of DM because he was really good at handling those things and keeping the game flowing. But high-level play requires a much deeper campaign setting in which players can participate in political intrigue that alters the course of the campaign world. Most DMs aren't going to be too interested in that and many who are quickly discover they're simply out of their depth trying to track the motivations, aspirations, etc of hundreds of influential NPCs and the Game of Thrones type maneuverings high level play requires.

Likewise for players, many got into D&D because they enjoyed dungeoneering but have little interest in doing more than that. Even if their DM happens to be good at high-level play, the players may just want to keep entering dungeons and bashing randomly generated monsters, which becomes increasingly boring as characters hit high levels.

In my experience most groups that do high level play are composed of people who most enjoy the storytelling element of the game and from the very beginning were motivated mainly by role-playing rather than dungeoneering and were even at low levels trying to shape political developments in their local areas. And the kind of DM who'd be attracted to that kind of campaign would be exactly the type who'd be well-suited to handle high-level play.
 

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