D&D (2024) So where are the higher tier feats?

DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
Like practically nobody bought or played the Epic Tier modules in 4e, and similarly, the Epic Characters Handbook in 3e was a major underseller.
It ain't so much that people don't want to play at high levels or have content for high levels-- though it's obviously going to be less popular than beginner and "sweet spot" content-- it's just that as games run longer (and reach higher levels) prepackaged adventure modules are going to be less and less relevant to them. Characters are more specialized, characters have more history with the specific NPCs of their game and even the NPCs of previous modules aren't the same running game-to-game because umpires run them differently and over the course of an AP they've changed in different ways than in everyone else's game who bought the same AP.

No way around it. The longer a game runs, the longer any game runs, the more homebrew (even if it's just story) it incorporates and the more loadbearing the unique personal elements of that game become.




It's not so much a lack of content as that tables tend to start at lower tiers, and burn out before they get to the top tiers of the game. Even if their tables didn't burn out, they tend to slow burn and advance at a lumbering pace that stretches out for years before even breaching level 10.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have Epic Boons or higher-level-locked feats, mind you -- I'm explicitly in favour of more epic tier content! But I don't think the rationale is because they don't focus on it. And I think they're tabling most feats for the time being because this package was already huge. The only feats included were the Fighting Style feats -- which are required to make certain classes work -- and the ASI feat, which is required for all classes in lieu of any other feats.
 

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Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
It ain't so much that people don't want to play at high levels or have content for high levels-- though it's obviously going to be less popular than beginner and "sweet spot" content-- it's just that as games run longer (and reach higher levels) prepackaged adventure modules are going to be less and less relevant to them. Characters are more specialized, characters have more history with the specific NPCs of their game and even the NPCs of previous modules aren't the same running game-to-game because umpires run them differently and over the course of an AP they've changed in different ways than in everyone else's game who bought the same AP.

No way around it. The longer a game runs, the longer any game runs, the more homebrew (even if it's just story) it incorporates and the more loadbearing the unique personal elements of that game become.
Makes sense agreed
 

Vael

Legend
Two separate topics:

1. I want to see more high level support. TBH, most of the DMs (myself included) that I've played with run premade adventures, and I'd like more modules. I've played or DMed through Descent into Avernus, Curse of Strahd, Light of Xaryxis, Dragon Heist, and only one of those campaigns continued after the module did. And no homebrewed adventures I've been in have wandered into higher tiers either. So yeah, I'd like the adventure material and support to go higher.

2. That said ... I just think that more feats in general would be nice, I'm not certain how many feats can find a power level between the 4th level and Epic Boon feats properly and not be just auto-includes.

Sidenote: I get having a wide field of general feats, but I'm surprised that class or species specific feats seem to be nixed by the design team. It's a wide area to develop
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
It ain't so much that people don't want to play at high levels or have content for high levels-- though it's obviously going to be less popular than beginner and "sweet spot" content-- it's just that as games run longer (and reach higher levels) prepackaged adventure modules are going to be less and less relevant to them. Characters are more specialized, characters have more history with the specific NPCs of their game and even the NPCs of previous modules aren't the same running game-to-game because umpires run them differently and over the course of an AP they've changed in different ways than in everyone else's game who bought the same AP.

No way around it. The longer a game runs, the longer any game runs, the more homebrew (even if it's just story) it incorporates and the more loadbearing the unique personal elements of that game become.
A big issue with higher level adventures official and nonofficial is that many just send you off to a dungeon and have you ignore the starting town and PCs after a point. The NPCs "on the field " are weird and undeveloped and don't offer you chances to alter your PC through play.

For example at my table there are 4 courts of Fey who rule the background of nature. Involving yourself with them at low levels is suicide. However you can get a temporary gift from a fey noble and keep it indefinitely as a Level 8 feat. A royal fey gift sans the curse is a level 12 option if you are idiotic or crazy enough to take anything from a fairy prince(ss). Otto's ID that lasts as long as you dance is useful.
 

Stalker0

Legend
No way around it. The longer a game runs, the longer any game runs, the more homebrew (even if it's just story) it incorporates and the more loadbearing the unique personal elements of that game become.
I agree. I mean ultimately there are many reasons most people don't play high levels.

  • Its slower and takes more mental effort.
  • The gameplay shifts to a very different feel than at low levels, which not everyone wants.
  • The campaign has already finished up before you get to the highest levels.
  • DM doesn't want to run high levels (due to the extra work involved).
  • etc
 

DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
I agree. I mean ultimately there are many reasons most people don't play high levels.

All of the reasons I described why high-level modules don't really work for legit– "earned it"– high-level adventuring parties are the reasons I prefer high-level D&D as the next logical step from low-level D&D. The power fantasy of trodding the jeweled thrones beneath your feet or asking The Gods if they remember the old days, when you used to pray to them, only really hits if the players feel like they have a close personal relationship– not to put too fine a point on it, but an earned relationship– with the worlds they casually stuff in their back pockets on their way to the forum.

It's not the power you need to earn, it's the relevance.

And there's nothing sweeter, as an umpire, than the first time you get to tell the player of a newborn god that the petty noble who stiffed them out of forty gold when they were first level... is now praying to them.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
All of the reasons I described why high-level modules don't really work for legit– "earned it"– high-level adventuring parties are the reasons I prefer high-level D&D as the next logical step from low-level D&D. The power fantasy of trodding the jeweled thrones beneath your feet or asking The Gods if they remember the old days, when you used to pray to them, only really hits if the players feel like they have a close personal relationship– not to put too fine a point on it, but an earned relationship– with the worlds they casually stuff in their back pockets on their way to the forum.

It's not the power you need to earn, it's the relevance.

And there's nothing sweeter, as an umpire, than the first time you get to tell the player of a newborn god that the petty noble who stiffed them out of forty gold when they were first level... is now praying to them.
I agree with you on this. The reason why I have never really bothered with high-level adventuring is because I'm of the opinion that high-level adventurers should be moving on to bigger-scaled adventures. Going plane-hopping being the most obvious direction. But if you aren't having the PCs do that, then high-level adventuring gains you nothing. For my money, having 16th level PCs running around a duchy solving the same sorts of issues they did at 6th level is a pointless endeavor. Yeah, they all get to use their brand-spanking new and pretty game mechanics... but the story is no different. And that to me is a grand waste of time and energy.

I saw this especially true in a number of the 4E so-called 'Epic Tier' adventures you could get through D&D Insider. We're talking adventures for PCs in levels 20-25 that are about solving run-of-the-mill problems, only that the monsters that get thrown at them have massive CRs. I just pulled up one of them randomly, 'Winter Of The Witch'... and this one sends Level 22 PCs back to the village of Winterhaven (the introductory village in 4E's first Level 1 adventure 'Keep On The Shadowfell') to deal with a fey witch who has made the Nentir Vale really cold. And the party's expected to go traipsing across the Vale to find some magic items, destroy a bunch of demons, and then deal with this fey and solve the ice problem. An adventure that players would easily have gone on and done back at something like 5th level (if the CRs were just lowered).

So yeah... they gave us some 'Epic Tier' adventures for us... but really, what is so epic about them? What's the point? The levels might be higher, but the actual adventures are no different! At this point if anyone needed a high-level adventure they could just take another adventure written for 7th and 8th level PCs and just swap out the monsters for more powerful versions, if the stories are going to all be the same. And if that's the case... then needing WotC to do it for us is a massive of waste of time. We can just make these things ourselves.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
I agree with you on this. The reason why I have never really bothered with high-level adventuring is because I'm of the opinion that high-level adventurers should be moving on to bigger-scaled adventures. Going plane-hopping being the most obvious direction. But if you aren't having the PCs do that, then high-level adventuring gains you nothing. For my money, having 16th level PCs running around a duchy solving the same sorts of issues they did at 6th level is a pointless endeavor. Yeah, they all get to use their brand-spanking new and pretty game mechanics... but the story is no different. And that to me is a grand waste of time and energy.

I saw this especially true in a number of the 4E so-called 'Epic Tier' adventures you could get through D&D Insider. We're talking adventures for PCs in levels 20-25 that are about solving run-of-the-mill problems, only that the monsters that get thrown at them have massive CRs. I just pulled up one of them randomly, 'Winter Of The Witch'... and this one sends Level 22 PCs back to the village of Winterhaven (the introductory village in 4E's first Level 1 adventure 'Keep On The Shadowfell') to deal with a fey witch who has made the Nentir Vale really cold. And the party's expected to go traipsing across the Vale to find some magic items, destroy a bunch of demons, and then deal with this fey and solve the ice problem. An adventure that players could easily have done back at something like 5th level (if the CRs were just lowered).

So yeah... they gave us some 'Epic Tier' adventures for us... but really, what is so epic about them? What's the point? The levels might be higher, but the actual adventures are no different! At this point if anyone needed a high-level adventure they could just take another adventure written for 7th and 8th level PCs and just swap out the monsters for more powerful versions, if the stories are going to all be the same. And if that's the case... then needing WotC to do it for us is a massive of waste of time. We can just make these things ourselves.
One could easily imagine those sorts of quests working if say, the Witch of Winter had transformed the entire Nentir Vale into a Domain of Dread (or a Winter Court/Gloaming Court Fey Domain of Delight; I don't recall the thematic underpinnings of the adventure and it's not particularly important). You'd then have to deal with the consequences of being trapped by the Mists of Ravenloft, or time and space dilation messing with everything as you go around killing those demons, and it would matter to you because you started your adventures here and presumably the NPCs now caught in the STORY of the Domain and forced to carry out the actions of the whims of the Domain's Dark Lord/Archfey until the spell is broken.

There are ways to make it work, but if it's the SAME reality rules, then yeah, it feels like taking a Companions (Fighter's Guild) quest to clear out a bandit hole that you might have taken way back at the start of Skyrim, but since the players are higher level now, the bandits are also now lv 50 Bandit LORDs instead of lv 5 Bandits… It's number scaling without meaningful consequence changes. It's tougher so that you can't make quick work of it but it's rote and repetitive.

Mind you, that's also old school gaming to some extent -- you might spend your entire campaign exploring Castle Greyhawk, just with more difficult challenges at the end. Or an entirely dungeon campaign set in Moria might fight goblins and orcs for the first 10 levels, then have to take on the Watcher of the Waters as a major tier-ending boss fight, before eventually fighting hordes of Orcs later on and then encountering the Balrog at the very end and highest tier of the game. Fighting a more powerful enemy can be made interesting and be considered epic -- the Balrog's lair actions, the way the Balrog literally causes the mines to burn and boil, the bridges and stairs collapsing and now what was once a mine is now an MC Escher painting but falling on top of you and from below your feet -- that can all be considered a major consequential change despite being in the "same" location the entire campaign. So "now you fight demons" in the Nentir Vale could be considerably epic if demons are all epic tier threats with major world-transforming elements and consequences. Of course, my recollection is that that adventure didn't build all of that into fighting demons, but instead they were just stat blocks to be fought.

There were plenty of other articles you could combine with it to mod out your campaign there to make it more epic, but that takes work and what DMs want with published adventures is something ready-made that is appropriate for the tier of the game.

I think the biggest difference now though is that WotC has a LOT less pressure to churn out "content" for the player base (including content for DMs) because of the DM's Guild. A big part of why 2017 saw us drop from 2 Adventure Paths per year to 1 (and 1 AL season alongside it, though starting in 2018 when they realised that the previous year's anthology book wasn't actually an adventure path), was because they could now trust there to be enough high quality content on the 'Guild to fill in the gaps (and even now directed you to semi-officially-sanctioned tie-in content via the Guild Adepts program, appropriately starting with 2017's Tomb of Annihilation). Guild Adept program is dead now, but I understand more so because they don't need to put that effort in given that the community has such great content they churn out as well and creating that artificial dichotomy between Guild Adept content and Guild content elevated some content to high seller status over equally good or even better content that just didn't have that gold stamp of approval from WotC. In any case, the Guild also has Epic Tier handbooks and all sorts of other modular elements that WotC sometimes has mimicked with Core Rules revisions and/or Rules Expansion content. I'm especially looking at how many of the Xanathar's Lost Notes to Everything Else subclasses have been mimicked by Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and other subclasses published in official WotC books.

WotC doesn't NEED to give us those epic tier content as long as they have good enough guidance in the 2024 Core Rules for DMs on the Guild to make us that content and make it feel appropriately epic. D&D Insider was indeed subcontracting out writing to DMs from the D&D community, but it had a lot more integration with WotC than the DM's Guild does -- they at least had to look over and review and approve everything that showed up there, even if the writers weren't on staff (though some were). That's a LOT of time and effort for WotC when they can just get their paycut from licensing fees from us publishing via the DM's Guild now -- yes, of course we could publish via other licenses and use DriveThuRPG's non-licensed storefront or our our storefronts or else via Patreon, and I know that game creators and publishers like @Morrus have had great success in that way. I LOVE En5ider, for example, and I know that others here love Level Up 5e (for me, En5ider is the missing piece that Dragon+ failed to deliver on, though I appreciate D&D Beyond's more recent steady stream of articles that are Dragon-esque, even though the vast majority aren't providing direct new mechanics to play with -- I have a feeling part of that arose from the purchase of the site by WotC).

What I really want WotC to do is provide us with Core Rules Epic Boons, front and center as part of the PHB, and a chapter or significant chunk of a chapter in the DMG that covers how to write and run higher tier gameplay. I also would like to see the return of the 2-book Adventure Path modules like with Tyranny of Dragons and Waterdeep, though I wouldn't be surprised if they brought it back in 2018 just to try it out again and decided "nope it really does still cut into our sales by splitting the buyer-base between the two books." But if not 2 books, provide AP books that carry us to those higher tiers, not cut out at 10th or 15th. If that means a chunkier book, then by all means. I don't mind if a Campaign Setting comes with a shorter adventure -- Spelljammer and Planescape are both trying to be an AP, a Campaign Setting Gazetteer, a PHB expansion for the setting, and a MM expansion for the setting. And I don't expect the new Phandelver book to get to 20th Level because it's expanding on the Starter Set adventure and intended to build straight off of that (if it doesn't include that adventure republished inside of it, outright). But I do want to see at least some APs have that high tier content, especially if they're pitting us against the threat of Tiamat or the Princes of Elemental Evil or the Demon Princes or the Archdukes of Hell… it's okay if the adventure for the most part considers these threats out of our league, but I want at least a chapter or two in the back of the book on continuing it to Epic Tiers and how to appropriately challenge the players on taking on the BBEGs rather than just having them as a threat too powerful to ever realistically challenge. It could even be something like the Domains of Delight pdf released alongside The Wilds Beyond the Witchlight -- something that realistically should have been part of the book but was given to us/sold as a separate digital release to expand on the book. Could be like the Monstrous Compendiums that are released to D&D Beyond -- but instead be something like "Continuing the Adventure."

I don't need D&D to have an official Epic Level Handbook -- D&D Beyond already has a number of high quality options in that front. But I do want WotC to consider it as part of their APs and give DMs Guidance on it. This is the best chance they have since Perkins is getting all the time he could feasibly need to focus nigh-100% on a revised DMG that greatly improves the guidance to DMs.
 

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