Playing at Level 20?

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Extensively? No. A few sessions? Yes.

It works fine, better if you follow the guidelines of 5-8 encounters between long rests and adjust encounters based on your group. But I guess I say that about every level. :)

The biggest problem for me was developing a compelling story. In my case it was for example fighting ancient dragons with levels of sorcerer or small armies of bad guys. Things like meteor storm can really ruin plans, so you need to know what your group is capable of.

In another campaign we were plane hopping, lots of creatures from Kobold Press's Tome of Foes and custom very high level monsters.

If you only throw a handful of encounters, don't expect solos to work well out of the box, but then again I think that applies to just about every level.

It can be fun, just a little gonzo and as a DM you have to think out of the box on challenges.
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
I haven't run at that level, but I have played at level 20 for a couple months. It works about as well as anything does above level 16. The capstones are cool, but none of them really seem to take over the game at that level. IMO, they don't really feel worth it. Though, none of us was a Druid.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
I recently ran a campaign that went from level 1 up to level 20, although after we hit level 20 we wrapped after only 4-5 sessions.

It's hard to challenge characters of that level because they have so many tricks up their sleeves. Between all the high-level spells, and the limited-use magic items they've been hoarding the entire campaign, they can survive just about anything. So somewhere around level 17, the gloves come off. You can just throw anything you want at the party. Once they hit level 20, I was actively trying to destroy them by setting up CR 25 encounters that played to their weaknesses. Nothing worked. I'm not generally an adversarial DM but if the game is a cake-walk it quickly becomes boring.

One thing that would help, I think, is if the characters care about something more than themselves. If all they care about is wealth and power, then you've got epic-level murder-hobos just wrecking everything and laughing at your encounters. But if they care about their reputations, or their people, or about behaving morally, or about some quest, then you can threaten those things instead of threatening the PCs themselves. The other thing that would really help is for the players to understand their characters' abilities really really well. In particular, high-level full-casters can have an enormous bag of tricks available, and knowing the right spells (and remembering to cast them!) can make a big difference. I've seen casual players really slow the game down by spending a lot of time picking spells, or drag out an encounter by not casting the spells that would have ended it right quick. ("What do you mean, you forgot about dispel magic???")
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
With "bare bones" (read: no magic items) PCs it's pretty manageable, though as usual, the more full casters you have in a party the less manageable it becomes. It's still more manageable than earlier editions. As [MENTION=12377]77IM[/MENTION] states, it's easier with players who aren't 20th level murder hobos (that needs to be a class already). The more players invest in a setting, a party, a game, the more they'll self-restrict and you won't have to throw squadrons of Solars at them to keep them in check.

Like most editions, the more magic items you add to the mix, the more out of whack things can get, depending on which magic items they are, who is using them, and how cleverly someone can use them.

As others have said, I've played at max level in 5E, but not for long 6-8 sessions tops, wrapping up the final bad guys, saving the world, heroically sacrificing themselves, settling down.

As a player and as a DM, max level in 5E is a little underwhelming and doesn't really feel much different than anything 15th or higher.

It's not 3.5 level 20. And all that that implies.
 
I'm in a 3 year plus campaign that hit 20 about 3 sessions ago. I predict we'll be playing for at least another 10 or so before wrapping things up but who really knows. As someone else said, it's not that much different from levels 16+ for most of the players, although since my character is a moon druid I definitely feel that I got a massive boost in power.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
When they say epic...think epic. It's no longer about saving the Kingdom or the Land...it's about saving the World or the Universe from things far greater than what you can imagine. Things that lie in the dark that make normal people go mad...are the things you find as the minions of the Elder things that lie beyond our sphere of recognition.

Epic Boons are your way of life, and even with them it is only barely that you even survive to fight another day. The entire pantheons are threatened as every one of the deities are slain and only you are left to restore them against unsurmountable odds.

And if you win...well...other planes and threats to them exist as well.

In scope...it needs to be epic and you'll have fun. Can be gonzo...yes...but if you like that type of play then it can be a blast.
 

S'mon

Legend
Epic Boons are your way of life
I was wondering how often do GMs give out Epic Boons?
When I had an individual PC hit 20 in my sandbox Wilderlands game, he got EBs for:

1. At BBn-19 he soloed Kainos Warbringer, a CR 25 demigod son of Ares-Bane - hit BBn-20 and my son persuaded me it was so outrageous the PC (not his) should get an EB too.
2. Finally killing Borritt Crowfinger, the (recently turned Lich, CR 21 + minions) BBEG Prince of the Black Sun who'd been the main villain for 7 years of play.
3. Soloing Matriarx, a CR 21 ancient black dragon - though that was a bit of a kerbstomp battle.

I've been looking at how I should give out EBs in my Runelords campaign with a bunch of PCs at 20th likely long before the finale. Soloing a CR 21+, and completing a major quest, seem like two possibilities. I'm not very keen on tracking XP-for-boons, it feels like it should need something, well, 'Epic'. :)
 
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GreyLord

Adventurer
I was wondering how often do GMs give out Epic Boons?
When I had an individual PC hit 20 in my sandbox Wilderlands game, he got EBs for:

1. At BBn-19 he soloed Kainos Warbringer, a CR 25 demigod son of Ares-Bane - hit BBn-20 and my son persuaded me it was so outrageous the PC (not his) should get an EB too.
2. Finalling killing Borritt Crowfinger, the (recently turned Lich, CR 21 + minions) BBEG Prince of the Black Sun who'd been the main villain for 7 years of play.
3. Soloing Matriarx, a CR 21 ancient black dragon - though that was a bit of a kerbstomp battle.

I've been looking at how I should give out EBs in my Runelords campaign with a bunch of PCs at 20th likely long before the finale. Soloing a CR 21+, and completing a major quest, seem like two possibilities.
AS per the DMG I give them out every 30,000 XP. This means that they will actually gain a boon far more often than they were leveling prior to that.

Unless you want to be inventive and create your own Epic boons (and you can...though if players help be VERY careful...most boons give ONE usage per long rest and have some pretty large limitations) it can separate the characters out a bit more than picking from the limited list found in the DMG.

If you only stick with the DMG ones, eventually you probably will also need to allow them to raise up their ability scores (an option given on the alternate page) over 20 (all the way up to 30 if you do this) as that will elongate the time period which you can grant rewards in regards to Boons given.

In regards to the things that you listed I probably would have given them things more akin to a blessing (given a few pages before epic boons are described for treasure)...at least for #1 which you list. The others, probably not, but for things similar to #1 blessings are also options that you can look at.

Marks of Prestige also can be a useful item (in fact, in games over level 20, the later portion of the Treasure section of the DMG is probably more useful for epic games).
 

bgbarcus

Explorer
The biggest thing I've noticed at the highest levels is that it is actually easy to build an encounter that kills PC's. Lots of those high CR monsters can do huge amounts of damage so one lucky round can drop a character. When my HotDQ/RoT group (six 17th level PC's) fought Tiamat, they only succeeded because they had a life cleric who Mass Heal to basically reset the entire party all at once when most of them were within one hit of dying. It worked because he waited long enough to get the most effect from the spell and worked with a couple of other players to transport everyone close enough for spell to cover them.

There had been a few other encounters in prior sessions with similar results. Even though we had a fairly large group that was all 15th or 16th level, the monsters hit hard enough to make for some close calls.

It would be difficult for me to run that group non-stop but they will get periodically revisited for 'save the world' adventures.
 

S'mon

Legend
The biggest thing I've noticed at the highest levels is that it is actually easy to build an encounter that kills PC's.
I've noticed that just a few giants can do obscene amount of damage even to PCs with a decent AC. My son attacked 3 fire giants with his dragonborn Bbn-19 expecting an easy fight, and got a major ass-whupping :D
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
I was wondering how often do GMs give out Epic Boons?
When I had an individual PC hit 20 in my sandbox Wilderlands game, he got EBs for:

1. At BBn-19 he soloed Kainos Warbringer, a CR 25 demigod son of Ares-Bane - hit BBn-20 and my son persuaded me it was so outrageous the PC (not his) should get an EB too.
2. Finally killing Borritt Crowfinger, the (recently turned Lich, CR 21 + minions) BBEG Prince of the Black Sun who'd been the main villain for 7 years of play.
3. Soloing Matriarx, a CR 21 ancient black dragon - though that was a bit of a kerbstomp battle.

I've been looking at how I should give out EBs in my Runelords campaign with a bunch of PCs at 20th likely long before the finale. Soloing a CR 21+, and completing a major quest, seem like two possibilities. I'm not very keen on tracking XP-for-boons, it feels like it should need something, well, 'Epic'. :)
In my 5e Age of Worms campaign, I had the heroes attain 20th level halfway through chapter 11. When they finished chapter 11, they gained an epic boon as a sort of "level 21" before starting the final chapter.
 

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