D&D 5E Running 5e at high Levels

This is a great way to play. Capping things at 12th level is smart too because of that last ASI/Feat + cutting off 7th level+ spells. I think I'm going to start playing more like this! Thanks!

I'm glad someone finds it helpful.

Ponder a hypothetical here. You have two fighters in a party with different backstories and characters. This approach allows you to, in essence, custom build their progression on the fly. Those two players could end up with very different builds by the end of the campaign. And you can do this without home-brewing classes.

The obvious con here is harder balancing. But 5e is so elegant in its progression with proficiency bonuses and ASI improving ability modifiers, that its really easy to keep the power progression similar. For example an item that gives +2 to a stat is, in almost all respects, the same as an ASI. A weapon with a +1 to hit, or a +1 to spell DC, is very similar to a proficiency bonus increase.

Don't take it incorrectly, you don't have to wait until level 12 to do this. Such an item at level 3 might make that character the equivalent of a level 4 PC, What order you put items vs levels is up to you, I generally rush to level 3 for sub-class purposes though.
 

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I'm glad someone finds it helpful.

Ponder a hypothetical here. You have two fighters in a party with different backstories and characters. This approach allows you to, in essence, custom build their progression on the fly. Those two players could end up with very different builds by the end of the campaign. And you can do this without home-brewing classes.

The obvious con here is harder balancing. But 5e is so elegant in its progression with proficiency bonuses and ASI improving ability modifiers, that its really easy to keep the power progression similar. For example an item that gives +2 to a stat is, in almost all respects, the same as an ASI. A weapon with a +1 to hit, or a +1 to spell DC, is very similar to a proficiency bonus increase.

Don't take it incorrectly, you don't have to wait until level 12 to do this. Such an item at level 3 might make that character the equivalent of a level 4 PC, What order you put items vs levels is up to you, I generally rush to level 3 for sub-class purposes though.
I often give low level players legendary magic items or artifacts. One I talk about oftne here is two campaigns where I gave the rogues a dagger that was really Blackrazor. I'm big into this kind of stuff!
 

Starfox

Hero
Oh, and while we're on the subject, thanks to many of 5e's revisions to spells and inter-class balance, high level 5e is MUCH easier to run than PF1 at the same levels and has fewer issues than I remember even 12th level play in AD&D. So while there are challenges, I'm finding them so much more manageable than the previous editions I've run.
Most people say this, but it is not my experience.

I've run 3.5 and Pathfinder 1 to level 20 (and beyond for Wrath of the Righteous) and am now gamemastering 5E at level 12. I find the former worked quite well all the way to 20, whereas 5E is starting to feel like it has a lot of friction. My 5E party in order from weakest to strongest are a bard, an evoker, a fighter, an artificer, and a bladesinger/fighter, and the power difference is too high in my opinion. Some of this is players picking less optimized options, but the rules could be better. The difference in hit points, saving throws, and above all AC are more of a problem for us in 5E than in those earlier games - tough still not as bad as 4E. The massive hps monsters have also feel a bit gridny, especially when the bladesinger is not around.

The attunement mechanism in particular creates a conflict between concept and combat efficiency. With only three attuned items, some players will use them to expand on their roleplay and others will expand their combat ability.
 
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Starfox

Hero
I don't play 5e anymore but GMed two long 1-20 campaigns. And looking back, I wish I had switched to a dedicated supers system after level 14ish. Neither monster abilities (boring at the best of times) nor the rules or combat system really work at the highest levels when the players become true superheroes. And I don't blame anyone - a game system that is pretty good for farmers punching goblins and the lvl 3-12 sweet spot range doesn't have to work for supers play. But I think a superhero system way of building both characters and opposition would be better for tier 4 play.
The super games I've tried never really worked well. I haven't played a lot of them tough. Champions, Mutants and Masterminds, Dream Park, and a really old one where your character was supposed to be yourself (with stat estimations) plus superpowers. All of them felt slow, clunky, and poorly balanced to me. Dream park was probably the best one because it was so streamlined, but we never played a true superhero game there.

Maybe this should be the subject of another thread. Please go there if you wish to comment in depth.
 
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ECMO3

Hero
DOMM went to 20th level, so high level WOTC campaign has been around a while.

That said I played my first 5E campaign to 20th level in 2022 and since then I completed a total of 4 1-20 campaigns, played in an above 20th level one-shot (20th level with several epic boons for each PC) and I am in the middle of my 5th 1-20.

Although we had power issues (and a 6 hour long combat spanning multiple sessions) overall it was not much worse than at low level, overall it was not a big deal.
 

Sulicius

Adventurer
DOMM went to 20th level, so high level WOTC campaign has been around a while.

That said I played my first 5E campaign to 20th level in 2022 and since then I completed a total of 4 1-20 campaigns, played in an above 20th level one-shot (20th level with several epic boons for each PC) and I am in the middle of my 5th 1-20.

Although we had power issues (and a 6 hour long combat spanning multiple sessions) overall it was not much worse than at low level, overall it was not a big deal.
Wow, that is impressive! How long do those campaigns tend to last? How often do you play, and for how long each session?

I have finished 1 campaign to level 20, but we started at 5. I run weekly 3 hour sessions, and that took us 90 sessions, two years. My other campaigns I cut short because the dramatic conclusion and creative excitement stopped earlier.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Wow, that is impressive! How long do those campaigns tend to last? How often do you play, and for how long each session?

We play a 4-hour sessions once a week for each campaign, 5 PCs in the party. A 1-20 campaign typically lasts about 7 months, sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little less. I play two 4-hour sessions a week with this group (two different campaigns). Not everything we do is 1-20 and campaigns with fewer levels are generally quicker. I think we played SODQ from beginning to end in 11 weeks.

One thing we don't do in these games is the endless planning that many groups do, both in and out of combat. During combat you get groups that talk about how to handle an encounter in the middle of an encounter - "the Wizard will put a Web in that direction then the Tank can go engage the two outside the web and then the Paladin can .... no wait lets to it this way instead the Tank charges that guy and then ...." IF you do that kind of thing games take much, much longer.

In our game you can't initiate conversation with another Character except on your turn (you can answer) and any dialog has to be quick (it is only 6 seconds right). Anything more than a quick "don't attack that guy I charmed him" or "stay out of the circle or bad things will happen" requires an action.

I play two other regular games weekly games besides these. I am a PC in another weekly 3-hour game with 6 characters, that one is a lot slower, mostly because there is a lot of talking about what we are going to do instead of doing it. Last session we debated how to sneak into a bad guy castle for over a half hour. Then the DM said that was it for the day and the players wanted to get together between sessions to plan some more.

I DM a regular game with 4 players. That is usually once a week but the time varies from 2 to 4 hours.

I do a one-shot here and there in addition to these.
 
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Starfox

Hero
One thing we don't do in these games is the endless planning that many groups do, both in and out of combat. [...]
This is the main reason I like Blades in the Dark so much. I always wanted planning to be retroactive, but having actual rules support for it really helps.
 

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