D&D 5E Expanding out of the Abyss to level 20+

Valdier

Explorer
I have a few months before I am starting a semi-customized campaign of Out of the Abyss. I am looking to expand the game out to level 20+ (Epic Boons, etc). For anyone that has completed running it... what are some ideas for how you would further expand the story line? What ideas do you have for exploring further paths?The immediate thoughts lend to a plane hopping adventure taking the battle directly to the demon lords.Additional ideas would be uncovering that an external force was the one manipulating all of this in order to distract from the "other" evil things they are doing, etc.
 

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Daern

Explorer
I recommend digging up those last few Dungeon Magazines with the Demogorgon AP. There are a bunch of adventures that go all the way into hell and his lair. Pretty epic stuff.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I'm planning on taking the existing material and expanding it to get the party to level 20+. There's so much material in Out of the Abyss it's been easy to increase the challenge and xp of encounters to boost the PC levels. I'm planning on making the Demon Lords viable enemies for a group of level 20 characters.
 
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I have a few months before I am starting a semi-customized campaign of Out of the Abyss. I am looking to expand the game out to level 20+ (Epic Boons, etc). For anyone that has completed running it... what are some ideas for how you would further expand the story line? What ideas do you have for exploring further paths?The immediate thoughts lend to a plane hopping adventure taking the battle directly to the demon lords.Additional ideas would be uncovering that an external force was the one manipulating all of this in order to distract from the "other" evil things they are doing, etc.

The ending of the book has some idea's for continuing after like going after Lolth.
 

I'm planning on taking the existing material and expanding it to get the party to level 20+. There's so much material in Out of the Abyss it's been easy to increase the challenge and xp of encounters to boost the PC levels. There's so much in Out of the Abyss. I'm planning on making the Demon Lords viable enemies for a group of level 20 characters.

All of the Demon Lords pretty much already are viable for a group of level 20 characters.

Very little is needed to be modified with them in order to prevent them being cheesed.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
All of the Demon Lords pretty much already are viable for a group of level 20 characters.

Very little is needed to be modified with them in order to prevent them being cheesed.

That may be true if you're not allowing magic items. I'm allowing magic items. I've found Demon Lord damage output and hit points to be relatively low. I'll be boosting hit points. Adding Damage Resistance against magical weapons to make them stand out from regular demons. And adding knockback resistance to cantrips after the fun discussion on eldtrich blast knocking enemies back up to 40 feet. I can't be having high level warlocks knocking demon lords back up to 40 feet using an unlimited use cantrip while the archer and ranged attackers pepper them with powerful damaging attacks turning a demon lord fight into a joke of an encounter. Just as I modified the wand of viscid globs not to work on legendary creatures because restraining a dragon or demon lord for an hour while the party whacks on it is an incredibly stupid and anticlimactic battle. Mearls wrote it off as not a problem. I'm wondering how much of a problem he'll think it is if he gets play reports back from Out of the Abyss that it was a cool adventure until parties started using the wand of viscid globs to restrain demon lords and do massive damage from range ending them with far more ease than I hope was intended. I've cleaned up some of that stuff to ensure it doesn't end up being exploited by my min-max players.

The one thing I've always liked about playing with min-maxers is as a DM you learn how to counter some of the most devious tactics the game offers. You learn how to build monsters to last even against tactics that usually trivialize encounters. I've had to make a lot of adjustments to deal with such play over the years when one of my players comes up with some crazy combination that renders an encounter trivial and tries rinse-repeat mode to "break the game."

The demon lords may be ok against a lvl 20 party without magic weapons or only a few magic weapons or a party that isn't particularly adept at tactical play. But DMs definitely need to pay attention to the wand of viscid globs. One hit of that wand and you have a restrained demon lord for 1 hour. The restrained condition is rather harsh. The only demon lord immune to the restrained condition is Juiblex.

If you have a warlock in the group, I'd watch out for the Repelling Blast reverse kiting tactic. Spread a party of heavy ranged attackers out so the demon lord can't focus on one. Have the warlock ready an action as soon as the demon lord closes range, hit him eldritch blast knocking him back 40 feet to ensure he can't melee attack. Each time the ranged attacker gets his turn he falls back 30 or more feet to ensure that the demon lord has to continually close the distance using 20 to 30 feet of movement, then knock it back 40 feet so that it can't move to get all of its attacks or melee legendary actions to keep the damage numbers in your favor. It's a very effective tactic if you can set it up.
 
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That may be true if you're not allowing magic items. I'm allowing magic items. I've found Demon Lord damage output and hit points to be relatively low. I'll be boosting hit points. Adding Damage Resistance against magical weapons to make them stand out from regular demons. And adding knockback resistance to cantrips after the fun discussion on eldtrich blast knocking enemies back up to 40 feet. I can't be having high level warlocks knocking demon lords back up to 40 feet using an unlimited use cantrip while the archer and ranged attackers pepper them with powerful damaging attacks turning a demon lord fight into a joke of an encounter. Just as I modified the wand of viscid globs not to work on legendary creatures because restraining a dragon or demon lord for an hour while the party whacks on it is an incredibly stupid and anticlimactic battle. Mearls wrote it off as not a problem. I'm wondering how much of a problem he'll think it is if he gets play reports back from Out of the Abyss that it was a cool adventure until parties started using the wand of viscid globs to restrain demon lords and do massive damage from range ending them with far more ease than I hope was intended. I've cleaned up some of that stuff to ensure it doesn't end up being exploited by my min-max players.

The one thing I've always liked about playing with min-maxers is as a DM you learn how to counter some of the most devious tactics the game offers. You learn how to build monsters to last even against tactics that usually trivialize encounters. I've had to make a lot of adjustments to deal with such play over the years when one of my players comes up with some crazy combination that renders an encounter trivial and tries rinse-repeat mode to "break the game."

The demon lords may be ok against a lvl 20 party without magic weapons or only a few magic weapons or a party that isn't particularly adept at tactical play. But DMs definitely need to pay attention to the wand of viscid globs. One hit of that wand and you have a restrained demon lord for 1 hour. The restrained condition is rather than harsh. The only demon lord immune to the restrained condition is Juiblex.

If you have a warlock in the group, I'd watch out for the Repelling Blast reverse kiting tactic. Spread a party of heavy ranged attackers out so the demon lord can't focus on one. Have the warlock ready an action as soon as the demon lord closes range, hit him eldritch blast knocking him back 40 feet to ensure he can't melee attack. Each time the ranged attacker gets his turn he falls back 30 or more feet to ensure that the demon lord has to continually close the distance using 20 to 30 feet of movement, then knock it back 40 feet so that it can't move to get all of its attacks or melee legendary actions to keep the damage numbers in your favor. It's a very effective tactic if you can set it up.

Even with Magic items they are still a challenge. (As the DM decides which ones they get.)

I have edited the Wand of Viscid Globes anyway. (A DC 20 Str save can now break out of it) Plus I destroyed it so the PC's could not use it anyway, during the fight with Shoor. (When the fighter landed for the final blow on Shoor I stated he attempted to block with the Wand but the fighter cleaved right through it and into Shoor.)

Anyway my Demon Lords all have a few tweaks, but for the most part are the same as they are normally. Here are some of the edits.

For one I gave them all a 500 foot Teleport by default. While it is an action for most of them, Graz'zt 120 foot teleport that he can use as a legendary action has been buffed to 500 feet as well. Making him the most mobile of the Demon Lords.

All of the ones without flight can now use the fly spell at will. (But it is still a concentration spell that they can be knocked out of.)

All of them except Juiblex can use the fireball spell at will. (This gives them all an aoe and allows all of them to actually kill Juiblex. )

Graz'zt has an extra use of his Great Sword his Greatsword has also been made a +3 magic item. Graz'zt charisma has been boosted to 30 and his CR is now 25.

Yeenoghu's flail and Baphomets Gliave are +2 weapons now.

Demogorgon now has a pair of bites that deal 2d8 +10 piercing damage and 2d10 fire damage. Demogorgon's strength have been buffed to 30, Demogorgon's gaze (Insanity or Begiling only) now automatically applies to creatures within 30 feet of him like a medusa or basalisk. Demogorgon has been promoted to Gargantuan Size. Demogorgon's CR is now 27. Demogorgon can now use a spell or gaze as part of his multiattack.


Lastly Demon Lords will always have lesser demons as backup.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Even with Magic items they are still a challenge. (As the DM decides which ones they get.)

I have edited the Wand of Viscid Globes anyway. (A DC 20 Str save can now break out of it) Plus I destroyed it so the PC's could not use it anyway, during the fight with Shoor. (When the fighter landed for the final blow on Shoor I stated he attempted to block with the Wand but the fighter cleaved right through it and into Shoor.)

Anyway my Demon Lords all have a few tweaks, but for the most part are the same as they are normally. Here are some of the edits.

For one I gave them all a 500 foot Teleport by default. While it is an action for most of them, Graz'zt 120 foot teleport that he can use as a legendary action has been buffed to 500 feet as well. Making him the most mobile of the Demon Lords.

All of the ones without flight can now use the fly spell at will. (But it is still a concentration spell that they can be knocked out of.)

All of them except Juiblex can use the fireball spell at will. (This gives them all an aoe and allows all of them to actually kill Juiblex. )

Graz'zt has an extra use of his Great Sword his Greatsword has also been made a +3 magic item. Graz'zt charisma has been boosted to 30 and his CR is now 25.

Yeenoghu's flail and Baphomets Gliave are +2 weapons now.

Demogorgon now has a pair of bites that deal 2d8 +10 piercing damage and 2d10 fire damage. Demogorgon's strength have been buffed to 30, Demogorgon's gaze (Insanity or Begiling only) now automatically applies to creatures within 30 feet of him like a medusa or basalisk. Demogorgon has been promoted to Gargantuan Size. Demogorgon's CR is now 27. Demogorgon can now use a spell or gaze as part of his multiattack.


Lastly Demon Lords will always have lesser demons as backup.

Cool changes. Smart to get rid of that wand. It's a real game breaking item as it is written.

Yep. Backup helps immensely. What demon lord worth a damn wouldn't have a horde of demons hanging with him.
 

Also two last things I gave them. Baphomet has a breath weapon of Unholy Water that does necrotic damage. As he had that since 1e.

I also fixed a mistake. With Orcus' stat block. The stat block takes into account his wands attack bonus but forgot the damage bonus he wand gives him.

I also gave Demogorgon a new lair action. As he only had 2 to all the others 3. His new lair action is this

Demogorgon creates a wave of fear and madness. Each creature within his lair must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw (with disadvantage if Demogorgon is within line of sight.). On a failed save a creature is frightened until Initiative 20 of the next round and gains a level of madness. A creature that saves cannot be affected by this effect for 10 Minutes.

I granted him this ability to heighten Demogorgon's themes of Fear and Madness. All beings even powerful demons within Demogorgon's Palace should be going mad from fear.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Lastly Demon Lords will always have lesser demons as backup.

Yep. Backup helps immensely. What demon lord worth a damn wouldn't have a horde of demons hanging with him.
While very true, the problem with this line of reasoning is that it does nothing for all the times when you want the BBEG to be awesome enough to stand against the adventurers' on his own.

The way the game caters to realism in that no creature suddenly sports five actions and five times the hp limits the fantastical scenarios the game can handle. And I guess I'm not used to D&D being too cautious a game to handle the real space-out scenarios...

There is no good solution if you don't accept the 4E notion of "solos" or boss monsters, because by the 5E dogma, you're limited to either bringing in reinforcements or making the monster of such a high CR (like, more than double the APL) that the encounter starts to break in other ways.

(Such as the monster being so much higher CR that its suddenly immune to the attacks of the heroes, just to give one trivial example. Perhaps a more worrying example is that there are no monsters in the CR 40-60 range, which I imagine would be needed to give my players (or Celtavian's) a sporting match at level 20)

The problem isn't that adding backup doesn't work (it does, it's very effective). The problem is that the game provides no good answer for the times when you don't want backup.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'll be boosting hit points. Adding Damage Resistance against magical weapons to make them stand out from regular demons.
I would like to ask more about how you handle this.

I would have thought just adding more hit points would fix this. What do you accomplish by adding resistance against magical weapons, and more importantly, how do you plan for the fighters of your team to overcome this?

(Are you perhaps goind down the 3E route of "resistance against +3 weapons" where a +4 weapon would still work... or what?)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Myself, I would be liberal with the self-imposed core restrictions this edition has imposed on itself for epic creatures.

For BBEGs in the 10-19 level range, the current legendary actions and lair actions are sufficient. I just wish they used a less powerful word than "legendary", since for me legendary > epic, and I interpret those rules as being below epic.

For BBEGs above level 20, that is epic BBEGs, I would handwave even basic restrictions, and say these BBEGs took some cool epic boons. Boons that turn them into true destroyers of worlds (or at least small group of high level adventurers...).

The beauty is that I don't plan to ever run a campaign above, say level 25. Effectively making these balance-wrecking boons unavailable to the characters.

(I hope that the DMG epic boons, together with the regular multiclassing rules, will provide a reasonably satisfying levelling experience, at least for the first few eopic levels, that is levels 20-24. Obviously, the lack of truly epic abilities will then be felt, but at the time the characters should in fairness get the same boons their epic BBEG opponents did, it's time to wrap up that campaign, since the D&D framework would no longer support such a game)
 

While very true, the problem with this line of reasoning is that it does nothing for all the times when you want the BBEG to be awesome enough to stand against the adventurers' on his own.

The way the game caters to realism in that no creature suddenly sports five actions and five times the hp limits the fantastical scenarios the game can handle. And I guess I'm not used to D&D being too cautious a game to handle the real space-out scenarios...

There is no good solution if you don't accept the 4E notion of "solos" or boss monsters, because by the 5E dogma, you're limited to either bringing in reinforcements or making the monster of such a high CR (like, more than double the APL) that the encounter starts to break in other ways.

(Such as the monster being so much higher CR that its suddenly immune to the attacks of the heroes, just to give one trivial example. Perhaps a more worrying example is that there are no monsters in the CR 40-60 range, which I imagine would be needed to give my players (or Celtavian's) a sporting match at level 20)

The problem isn't that adding backup doesn't work (it does, it's very effective). The problem is that the game provides no good answer for the times when you don't want backup.

Trust me they are still way more then strong enough. Even with out backup. Tiamat the current strongest monster in the game can easily crush pretty much any party. The Demon Lords are not quite on her level but can challange a party. At level 15 the ending level for out of the abyss. Just one of the Demon Lords alone is still considered strong enough to pretty easily wipe the entire party.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Just one of the Demon Lords alone is still considered strong enough to pretty easily wipe the entire party.
I'm not asking about the designer's consideration. Their assessment is consistently wrong.

For instance, their "average" encounter is a total joke. Even the so-called "deadly" encounter is probably too weak to function as an average encounter for a minmaxed party in a game with generous magic items (aka a 3E-style party).

So I'm asking you. I'm not so sure even characters of as low level as 15 won't attempt - and succeed - in taking down a lone Demon Lord.

At level 20 I wouldn't be surprised if they could take them all down, one by one. And it was you who planned to run the module all the way up to level 20.

I'm asking you since I don't have any experience running the game at that level.

I'm basing my asumptions on such facts that to consistently present my party with a overwhelmingly powerful foe, doubling the APL isn't enough. Tripling it is more the ticket. (A level 5 party would need to face a CR 15 creature for me to feel confident it's suicidal to attack)

I'm open to the possibility the actual mechanic is more like CR=APL+10 than CR=APLx3, but still.

I was amazed the previous campaign's level 6 party took down a CR 11 Remorhaz without breaking a sweat. It told me the official challenge rating guidelines is worth less than toilet paper.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I would have thought just adding more hit points would fix this. What do you accomplish by adding resistance against magical weapons, and more importantly, how do you plan for the fighters of your team to overcome this?

It's a style choice. I want to clearly show that the demon lords are more powerful than regular demons. They can shrug off attacks even from powerful magical weapons and keep on going. They are the lords of the Abyss and creatures of such immense power that even a party of level 20 adventurers should quiver in fear when facing them and know they risk their lives and immortal souls fighting them.

The fighters will overcome it the same way casters must overcome using fire spells or the like against resistance to their attacks. They'll keep on swinging until it dies. We play with feats, so pure martial attacks tend to do in the 20 point plus damage range. Right now the Ranger is hitting for an average of 22 to 24 points a hit. Halved that would be 11 to 12 or 24 points a round. Paladins can smite for quite a bit that will bypass the weapon damage resistance.

(Are you perhaps goind down the 3E route of "resistance against +3 weapons" where a +4 weapon would still work... or what?)

No. I'm not going that route. I'm making demon lords one hell of a tough fight. The characters may even half to fall back and flee to heal up taking a short rest. I want the fights against the demon lords to be epic and memorable. I want them to last the entire session. I want taking down a demon lord to feel like they just fought godzilla in an action movie. No 18 to 30 second (3 to 5 round battle), but a burn all your resources, this fight took minutes, possibly hours of time. They might have to wear the demon lord down killing his minions before they can engage him. I want that kind of insane fight. The whole attraction of this module was a fight with the Lords of the Abyss. I want to make it as epic as possible.

Amusingly enough, another player just joined. I will now have seven characters in play. I'm going to try to give it that Magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai feel, save that instead of saving a village from some bandits, they're saving the world from the Demon Lords of the Abyss. Should be fun if I can pull off the right feel for the fights.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Also two last things I gave them. Baphomet has a breath weapon of Unholy Water that does necrotic damage. As he had that since 1e.

I also fixed a mistake. With Orcus' stat block. The stat block takes into account his wands attack bonus but forgot the damage bonus he wand gives him.

I also gave Demogorgon a new lair action. As he only had 2 to all the others 3. His new lair action is this



I granted him this ability to heighten Demogorgon's themes of Fear and Madness. All beings even powerful demons within Demogorgon's Palace should be going mad from fear.

I might steal that one. That's a good power, right there.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
While very true, the problem with this line of reasoning is that it does nothing for all the times when you want the BBEG to be awesome enough to stand against the adventurers' on his own.

The way the game caters to realism in that no creature suddenly sports five actions and five times the hp limits the fantastical scenarios the game can handle. And I guess I'm not used to D&D being too cautious a game to handle the real space-out scenarios...

There is no good solution if you don't accept the 4E notion of "solos" or boss monsters, because by the 5E dogma, you're limited to either bringing in reinforcements or making the monster of such a high CR (like, more than double the APL) that the encounter starts to break in other ways.

(Such as the monster being so much higher CR that its suddenly immune to the attacks of the heroes, just to give one trivial example. Perhaps a more worrying example is that there are no monsters in the CR 40-60 range, which I imagine would be needed to give my players (or Celtavian's) a sporting match at level 20)

The problem isn't that adding backup doesn't work (it does, it's very effective). The problem is that the game provides no good answer for the times when you don't want backup.

True. It can be tough. It's very tricky to design solo monsters capable of standing against a high level group. I'll be using a trial and error process with some of the weaker demon lords as they work their way up to Demogorgon.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I was amazed the previous campaign's level 6 party took down a CR 11 Remorhaz without breaking a sweat. It told me the official challenge rating guidelines is worth less than toilet paper.

You had this experience as well? I was surprised when our level 9 party started taking down CR 15 dragons with relative ease. This was when we were playing point buy, though we did each have a nice magic item.

I really thought Legendary actions would make up for the vast power of a PC party. It didn't. I'm used to this from 3E/Pathfinder. Not sure how 4E was, but 3E/Pathfinder required the creation of a lot of custom enemies. I usually live with the party steamrolling the trash. I definitely don't like them steamrolling the BBEG. So I customize them as though they were a Darwinian creature needing certain abilities that allow them to counter powerful tactics to stay alive, especially if the tactics are extremely common. If a creature can't survive attacks by coordinated parties, no way they would hold any power in the world in my opinion. The Darwinian Survival of the Fittest theory should always push design since anything not designed in that fashion would be destroyed in a highly competitive and dangerous environment like a D&D world. At least that is how I see it.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
No. I'm not going that route. I'm making demon lords one hell of a tough fight.
Sure. First off: as a end set-piece there is no problem.

And I really don't wish to bring back the golf bag syndrome of mainly d20 where you need this weapon for monster X and that weapon for monster Y. Holy silver avenger? +3 adamantine putter? Axiomatic blue jelly fork? Let my caddy bring it right up!

And the way there were fire spells that could harm fire immune monsters, which necessitated ultraimmune monsters, and then ultrafire weapons...

I just wanted to raise the flag that in theory there should be a way to overcome this counter. Just like there are counter-counters to everything else. Otherwise you've just halved the damage potential of fighters with no recourse, and that's not a good way to do it (I mean, changing the rules to remove, say, GWM, would be a more direct and open way to adress this issue). And if you simply say demon lords are resistent to everything, then it might be simpler to just double their hp total...?

But that's assuming play goes on afterwards. Otherwise I have no issues with your ruling.
 


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