D&D General So what is high level play like?

Vael

Legend
... And how often have you played at higher levels?

Because TBH, while I have played DnD since 3.5, it was only 4e that got to upper levels, as I had a campaign get to mid-Paragon Tier, and we played a few Epic One-shots. And even there, since I did a lot of Organized play in 4e ... I'd say the vast majority of my time playing DnD 4e was below 5th level.

I never got to play past level 6 in 3.5, and I've gotten to 9th or 10th level in 5e twice (Curse of Strahd and Descent into Avernus) before those campaigns wrapped up.

And I wouldn't call myself an irregular player, I've had a stable RPG group that's managed to play mostly weekly for over 5 years now. But between changing campaigns/DMs/Systems ... high level play is something I've not done.

So, first ... is this a common experience? Do you play primarily at low or high levels? How is higher level play different?
 

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cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Apparently, getting to mid levels is the standard end of a campaign. It's where my players have ended up before our story arc completed, might be where the game I'm playing in ends up though it is a fairly open world, will see how far it goes.

Thinking back, I'm not sure I've ever hit high levels, always somewhere around mid-level. Maybe I should run some one shots for 14th level +
 


pukunui

Legend
Easy to play, hard to DM.

I've made it to level 20 as a player a few times now. And yeah, it's kinda gonzo.

The PCs in my Mad Mage game just hit level 15. That's the highest I've DMed for so far in 5e. (Previous record was level 14 at the end of Tyranny of Dragons. Otherwise my campaigns usually end around levels 10-12 if not lower.) One of my players is keen to make it to level 20 at least once, and Mad Mage is the easiest adventure in which to do it. I don't know that I'll DM much beyond levels 10-12 again after this. It gets really hard to challenge the PCs because they have so many "I win" buttons and "get out of jail free" cards.
 

I've DMed multiple campaigns to level 20, and played in at least 4 (as a barbarian/fighter, paladin, rune knight, cleric) that I can remember.

In all honesty, I enjoyed high-level play. Maybe I was blessed with players/DMs that knew what they were doing, and ok sometimes one round of combat lasted 45 minutes to one hour. But the epic scope of our battles will forever stay with me.

Still remember when my triton barbarian jumped off his giant crab to smite Ogremoch, or when he fought the god of death in the Shadowfell. Or when my Rune Knight fought a cybernetic dragon while flying around in the eye of a lightning storm.

I mean, it gets pretty gonzo and over the top at high-levels, but if you embrace it, it can be memorable!
 
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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Have played too few games to have a great knowledge, but from what little I've seen, high-level play can actually be a ton of fun because you actually have things to DO, and choices to make, especially if you're a caster of some kind. You have tools and tricks to deal with a variety of situations.

Back in 3e/PF, high-level or even epic-level play is a TON of fun to play (if you're okay with all the bookkeeping), but it is an absolute gorram NIGHTMARE to DM.

In 4e, it wasn't really any easier or harder to DM than (say) early Paragon, to the best of my knowledge, unless you had really wide variance in player skill within your group. (E.g., if one player EXCLUSIVELY chooses weak-but-cool choices across 20+ levels, and another chooses bleeding-edge optimal choices every time always, you can get enough of a gap that it starts to become noticeable...but it will never, EVER be as bad as "Monk 20" vs "Wizard 20" from 3.5e/PF.)

I genuinely find most "low-level" play incredibly boring in 3e/PF and 5e, so it's always nice to see a group start higher up and get some real mechanics to sink my teeth into.
 

dave2008

Legend
I've only played high level in 4e an 5e and had good experience with both.

4e: my regular group only got to lvl 11, but we did several adventures at epic levels (21-30). They were definitely more difficult to DM as the players have so many tools are their disposal and the standard monsters were a bit weak. However, with a little experience we had a blast in our last lvl 30 adventure that lasted 12 hours over 2 days and culminated in the defeat of Tiamat (after defeating a horde demons, Ashardalon, and Torog and his minions)

5e: my current group is lvl 15 and we have had a blast. Probably the most fun we've had with D&D. I don't find that the game breaks down or that it is hard to DM. But we don't play by the book either, so their is that.

We have also done some one shots at lvl 20 and done specific encounters against: Demogorgon, Tiamat, & Vecna.
 


J-H

Hero
3.5 takes a lot of work to build high level characters or monsters, and the math breaks down.

5e is fun. I have DM'd a campaign (Against the Idol of the Sun, campaign log on enworld and giantitp) that went to 20+2 epic boons, and enjoyed it. The players are a bit harder to make feel at risk, but it's still very possible. They can also take on a lot bigger challenges, and get to do cool things more. The run-up to the final battle involved coordinating the logistics of simultaneously delivering:
-the party
-a kraken
-a teleportation ring that let a group of giants cast Teleport Circle to charge through it, entirely unofficially with no help from their government due to threats made by the BBEG's forces
-several groups of assassins/wizards/etc. on the outskirts of the city.

The game-winning moment was the Warlock using the Anyspell Tome to cast Wish, and using that Wish to cast Antipathy (which has no save) in an instant on the BBEG who was highly visible to the entire city, shattering the coordination of his entire (huge) army.
 

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