5E Nobody Is Playing High Level Characters

According to stats from D&D Beyond, above 5th level characters start to drop off sharply, and above 10th level, the figures are very low. The exception is level 20, which looks like it's probably people creating experimental 20th-level builds.

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Some of them say 0%; this isn't strictly accurate, but levels 16-19 are used by an insignificant number of players. Interestingly, there are more 3rd-5th level characters than there are 1st-2nd level.

D&D Beyond has said before that under 10% of games make it past 10th level, but these figures show the break point as being bit lower than that. DDB used over 30 million characters to compile these stats.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
Even if the story isn't done, the power curve is so much closer to being logarithmic curve than linear curve or some gradual whatever yield curves are any unfinished story needs to transmogrify into the reality warping cosmic horror end of the power scale to even be considered as much more of a threat than the average anime one strike kill battle. @ChaosOS mentioned how eberron has places like the demon wastes/argonessen/mournland/etc to give those high level PC's a place to go, but there's still the mythic levels of recovery rarely seen outside stories of greek gods & such so there's not really any threat from attrition at those levels.

Maybe 5.5e will feature some type of plateau system drawing from how respecs in ddo let you keep something while losing so much else to build back up rather than continually advancing to the point of being ale to shrug off siege weaponry & still topple kingdoms by lunch.
The problem is as a player I want get to the " reality warping cosmic horror end of the power scale" at least once... but never get the chance. So what your saying is you agree with me. It is the GMs stopping progression to higher levels. Not the players. The players are all about new toys and epic level power. My GMs have all had an issue with players getting really powerful as if it is an insult to them personally when players can break a boss with cleaver use of high level tools. So they simply deny those tools to us at all cost. I have GM'd and I don't really understand why that matters. That said, the three GMs I have played under can all be a bit abrasive and controlling even outside of D&D. So perhaps it speaks to the personality type that is primarily drawn to be GM. I have done it, but my GMing came from wanting to draw in some new players who were not comfortable playing under a GM that was not a close friend and the desire to understand the process of what a GM goes through. I really had no issue at all with players altering the course of the story. The GMs I have played under took it personally when the story started to shift away from their planned narrative, adding supper escalating power road blocks to scare the players back on track or just making impossible to leave the rails because players tools just don't work for some reason. Not an attack on on GMs, I get that they have to have fun too and some GMs invest into their story plans the way players invest into characters. So I get the lose a high level tool they don't expect might cause for them when all their plans come crashing down because one cleverly used tool can break it. They can't keep track of all the tools at higher level so they just don't let players get to that level. Usually I get one good session where I feel like the party is epic and the GM announces the next session we are starting new campaign, because of the 3 reasons I listed. I just wish they could role with it and let the players be epic for a bit. Make an Epic level, dungeons. It seems to me that players getting to " reality warping cosmic horror end of the power scale" could be freeing instead of dream destroying if the GM just says, "okay your powerful enough I can't predict out comes anymore so I am just going to build what I want and the chips will fall as they will." I have never had a GM willing to allow players that. They have a need to know they control the out come and can predict it.
 
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Ace

Explorer
The problem is as a player I want get to the " reality warping cosmic horror end of the power scale" at least once... but never get the chance. So what your saying is you agree with me. It is the GMs stopping progression to higher levels. Not the players.

SNIP great stuff
There is a lot of truth to that and there are a lot of reasons too.

DMing high level D&D is hard and its even harder to relate to whatever is going on there. Crazy monsters,. immensely powerful magic, world wrecking plots that undue all the efforts at world building can take away fun from a DM even when the challenge can be mastered.

This isn't unique to the D&D genre either. Lots of people avoid Supers because its too hard to run anything above street level Not only do player's not follow genre rules but even when they do making regular adventures for the X-Men much less the JLA is really difficult.

Now personally I prefer my fantasy to be low magic and usually try to run systems that suit that style but it does strike me as a bit unfair to dangle all the cosmic power of a high level play out there and basically never allow any players to use it.

This suggests that most groups would be better served by Low Fantasy RPG , BRP, GURPS or something that is not D&D. Its just overcoming first mover advantage is not easy.

On a personal level , I have allowed very high powered play. Destroyed an entire world, made friends with a God , blew up an enchanted wood with a magic UFO and more. Its was pretty fun. The problem was that when I did , most of my normal low powered "sane" games get forgotten and I get a rep as bat guano crazy DM.

People come to expect that play and so this means a lot of people stay far away so often its best for me to level cap may games and power cap them so as I'm not pushed into being "that guy"

There isn't an incentive for me to allow high level play. Not only is harder work but the gonzo nature of it hurts my rep too.

So I don't and I suspect between difficulty and player impatience , most high level play is not a thing.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
There is a lot of truth to that and there are a lot of reasons too.

DMing high level D&D is hard and its even harder to relate to whatever is going on there. Crazy monsters,. immensely powerful magic, world wrecking plots that undue all the efforts at world building can take away fun from a DM even when the challenge can be mastered.

This isn't unique to the D&D genre either. Lots of people avoid Supers because its too hard to run anything above street level Not only do player's not follow genre rules but even when they do making regular adventures for the X-Men much less the JLA is really difficult.

Now personally I prefer my fantasy to be low magic and usually try to run systems that suit that style but it does strike me as a bit unfair to dangle all the cosmic power of a high level play out there and basically never allow any players to use it.

This suggests that most groups would be better served by Low Fantasy RPG , BRP, GURPS or something that is not D&D. Its just overcoming first mover advantage is not easy.

On a personal level , I have allowed very high powered play. Destroyed an entire world, made friends with a God , blew up an enchanted wood with a magic UFO and more. Its was pretty fun. The problem was that when I did , most of my normal low powered "sane" games get forgotten and I get a rep as bat guano crazy DM.

People come to expect that play and so this means a lot of people stay far away so often its best for me to level cap may games and power cap them so as I'm not pushed into being "that guy"

There isn't an incentive for me to allow high level play. Not only is harder work but the gonzo nature of it hurts my rep too.

So I don't and I suspect between difficulty and player impatience , most high level play is not a thing.
You hit a few nails on the head hard here & it makes a good springboard into answering @ClaytonCross post about wanting to play at that end of the scale.... d&d is just a terrible system for players to be playing directly in the reality warping cosmic horror end of the scale. I can involve those beings in low & even mid-ish level play using things like the draconic prophecy because doing so requires the PCs to be involved* in their plans


* In my current tuesday game, the players met an ancient dragon of unfathomable power before reaching level 1, again around 2-3, a 2500++ year old half dragon lich and there is a very real possibility of one becoming a dark lord under the thumb of The Dark Powers over the next several months. This party is barely level seven & spent a significant chunk of tonight's two hour session debating if they should & planning a trip across ravenloft.

I can run games with both npc & PC in that reality warping end of the power scale in fate & have using fate based dfrpg, but mechanically that is an dramatically different type of system where the players have more say in the world & the gm has incredible amounts of leverage over PC free will via aspects & compels. Running those kind of games in d&d relegates the gm to little more than a combat generating & managing script.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
Yes. And they will think of options and branches that didn’t even occur to you.
Yes! And will be totally unique based on the composition of the party involved. That's why, IMO, pre-canned high level adventures don't work, the number of potential variables are just too high to be scripted. At Tier IV, the best adventure for a party is one that is created by a DM for that party. That's the way high level play should be experienced.

IMO, the DMG already provides a great framework for DMs to build those types of adventures for DMs who have taken a party through a precanned adventure or one they designed on their own.

That said, I do think the game could benefit from a DM toolkit to help build higher level adventures. High level story hooks, NPCs (including high level nemisis and rivals), encounters (including exploration and social, not just combat) and just general advice on how to build from the choices players make. Allowing each session to inform the next, providing a compelling story of adventure and heroism each time the group gets together.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yes! And will be totally unique based on the composition of the party involved. That's why, IMO, pre-canned high level adventures don't work, the number of potential variables are just too high to be scripted.
I don't think anyone's asking a canned adventure to cover all the variables, just to a) hit the most obvious ones e.g. teleport, and b) cover the most basic "what ifs" for each scene or encounter.

And yes, doing this makes the word count higher and the module longer but that can always be mitigated by taking out unnecessary backstory.
 

chrisshorb

Everything's Fine
To be fair, I don't think Star Wars as a setting has teleportation. But hyperspace is almost as good.
Is there a D&D 5e spell that allows the caster to be in another location and take actions, including interacting with objects in that remote location?
 
I don't know if it's DM salt that's the issue, probably more like fatigue. There are sooooo many moving parts to plan for with tier IV characters. I'm only interested in doing that much work for players who are part of a long time group of mine and who have worked their way up. As mentioned above any adventure for tier IV needs to be tailored to that particular group, and I really don't feel inclined to learn 4 or 5 15th level characters from scratch in enough depth that I can properly plan for them. If that makes me lazy so be it, but it just feels different with organic characters. You have past history and narrative to lean on there, plus you already know all the characters inside out.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
Perhaps part of adventure design for high level should be less about attempting to present a "story", and more about presenting and tracking NPCs, goals, and likely events related to those, and then you can just sit back and see what the players do. Have NPCs react and attempt to accomplish their goals, and just see how the PCs likely foil them.
 

Eltab

Adventurer
Is there a D&D 5e spell that allows the caster to be in another location and take actions, including interacting with objects in that remote location?
Mage Hand (but with rather short range).
Maybe a combination of spells, such as Clairvoyance and Telekinesis, would get the effect you want.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Is there a D&D 5e spell that allows the caster to be in another location and take actions, including interacting with objects in that remote location?
If you have a familiar, you can have the familiar do some things for you. That's the best I can think of.
 

BigBadDM

Explorer
One perspective here is AL leagues.
I have two characters created on DND beyond for home-brew games.
I have 7 characters created for AL leagues on DND beyond.
Nearly all of the AL Characters are between levels 3-6. I have only one Tier 3 character.
Finding a table for Tier1 for AL is extremely easy.
Finding a table for Tier2 is harder and fill up fast.
Tier3 tables you can find about once every 3 months.
and Tier4 tables are really difficult except every 6 months or so.
I live in Seattle also, so the community is quite large.

Most of the AL players I know use dnd-beyond for character creation as it simplifies and discourages 'cheating'
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
One perspective here is AL leagues.
I have two characters created on DND beyond for home-brew games.
I have 7 characters created for AL leagues on DND beyond.
Nearly all of the AL Characters are between levels 3-6. I have only one Tier 3 character.
Finding a table for Tier1 for AL is extremely easy.
Finding a table for Tier2 is harder and fill up fast.
Tier3 tables you can find about once every 3 months.
and Tier4 tables are really difficult except every 6 months or so.
I live in Seattle also, so the community is quite large.

Most of the AL players I know use dnd-beyond for character creation as it simplifies and discourages 'cheating'
That’s some really useful insight, and if it is even moderately representative it would have a lot of impact on the numbers we are seeing.
 

tetrasodium

Adventurer
That’s some really useful insight, and if it is even moderately representative it would have a lot of impact on the numbers we are seeing.
it probably is. In in south east florida (west palm beach area) & my experience having run a lot of AL at a nearby FLGS* with what used to be the printshop next door as a room filled with tables for various TCGs plus a night for d&D (mostly AL), a night for anything (they get boxes of stuff & use some of that room to stage & sort stuff before shelving on the slow day), & weekends for anything but there is a tcg event lots of the time on weekends.
 

atanakar

Adventurer
I'm not surprised by the numbers in the OP. Usualy campaigns crash because of player conflicts, TPKs, lack of interest. Not sure I can add anything new except to say that none of my campaigns (since 1981) have gone beyond level 12. The average for campaigns I DMed and played in is level 8-9.
 
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