D&D 5E No One Plays High Level?

Retreater

Legend
The DM's Lair posted this video recently ...

In it, he discusses reasons why few people play High-Level 5e D&D.

I've been DMing for 30 years (starting in 2nd edition AD&D), and I can say that the highest level reached in any of my campaigns was around 12. My wife, who discovered the game during the 5e era, asked me recently why our games don't get to higher levels. She is beginning to feel discouraged that she'll never have a character who will be able to use "really cool abilities."

While watching the DM's Lair video, I had an epiphany: I don't think high-levels are now (or have ever been) intended to be played. It's like buying a Powerball ticket when the prize has reached $500M. It's aspirational. It's the story of the American dream - "if you just work hard enough, you too can become Jeff Bezos."

Realistically, it's never going to happen, but it's an extra power fantasy grafted on to your existing power fantasy of playing D&D.

Sure, there are going to be a handful of people who have played 18-20th level who are going to post here to prove me wrong, but I think those of us who frequent these boards have an exceptional level of interaction with the hobby.

What do you think? Do you think high-level play is actually important to the game? Do you think it's just in the book for nostalgia or window-dressing for power gamers?
 

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nevin

Hero
Sure, there are going to be a handful of people who have played 18-20th level who are going to post here to prove me wrong, but I think those of us who frequent these boards have an exceptional level of interaction with the hobby.

What do you think? Do you think high-level play is actually important to the game? Do you think it's just in the book for nostalgia or window-dressing for power gamers?
why argue with observation Bias, it's one step below arguing with a crazy person.

If you want a game that the rules handle everything then yes high level is broken. If you are a less is more guy then they are fine. this is why the scale never budges no matter how much effort is put into the arguments.
 

Oofta

Legend
I've run a couple of campaigns to level 20 and played in another. It was a lot of fun and it worked just fine. I can't say that about the previous editions, 4E worked but fights took far too long especially in epic tier. With 3E casters dominated the game after about level 15 or so.

But 5E? It worked just fine for me. There's not enough support for high level monsters which is something they've discussed for the 2024 release. But it's mostly a chicken and the egg - modules and monsters don't go that high with only a few exceptions for the latter. Modules in particular are difficult to write because there's a lot of variation at high level on what the party enjoys and is capable of needs more tailoring to the group in my experience. Then again, they also have people fighting avatars of a god at 15th level in Rise of Tiamat or going to the hells in Rise of Avernus so they've kind of toned what should be very high level challenges to be survivable by low level PCs.

Many groups fall apart or are ready to move on after a while and so on. I think there may be more high level play if there were better guidelines for creating higher level PCs. But the structure of high level 5E is not the problem.
 


Do you think high-level play is actually important to the game?
It's not, but there is also no reason to waste half of the level budget on nothing, when there is only one reason the high levels become impossible. And that's high-level spells. There is nothing game-breaking about a lv16 Barbarian/Fighter/Rogue.

Like, DnD4 went to level 30 without the issues that 3e and 5e have. Clearly the higher levels were meant to work there.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I've played "high level" in 2e, 3e, and 5e. Would have LOVED to have played higher level in 4e but it just never happened.

For me, high level play is fun. The key is to make sure high level play feels DIFFERENT, not just low level play with the numbers amped up.

But yes, it's fairly rare to non -existent in most groups. Too many DMs seem to believe high level play has to be earned by coming up through the lower levels, even with a group that knows the game well. Having now started a few sessions at high level, I don't share that opinion.

That said, high level play with a group that doesn't understand the game/rules well IS a big challenge for the players and DM. It is especially challenging for the DM. which is why I think you don't see it that much, it's IMO, not easy to do it well. Especially not to make it different, not just low level play with bigger numbers.

Is it important to the game? I actually think so. It's great for players to actually see the fruits of their labor and to actually get to see some of the BIG stuff in play and being interacted with.
 

In the 3 5e campaigns I played in that ran their intended length, one ended at level 14, one ended at 12, and one went all the way to 20.

It’s hard to point out where the game started to have a different feel, because it was different for each class IMO but they all started to hit that point where it became harder and harder to offer meaningful challenge that wasn’t just throwing a bigger sack of hit points without really offering much for interesting combat options. Worth mentioning probably the most fun I had as the DM in the campaign that I ran to 14 was a fight against a green dragon possessed by the spirit of a long dead dragon from one of the additional scenarios for Icespire Peak and I think that was at level 12? So it’s certainly possible to create an interesting combat situation, it just seemed a lot harder to make happen IME.

YMMV, IMO, etc, etc
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I agree that the paucity of modules in that space don't help those levels get played as much. However, the higher the level the PCs, the more work the GM needs to do to ensure that the encounters match the party composition. And, if you played to those levels, high level adventures kind of beg to be built around the history of the campaign. In a thread not to long ago, someone suggested sequel adventures to the big campaign books make the most sense for high level modules at least in part because they are connected to what the PCs have been doing.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Around 10th+, the game turns into an Avengers Assemble sort of play. Basically, the characters are superheroic and can take on challenges mere mortals simply can't handle - often all by themselves. And few DMs are prepared for the extra work that requires when developing adventures. I fall into that category and so I don't run high level adventures, preferring to top out around 8th-9th level.
 


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