D&D (2024) Split the Players Handbook into two books: Lower Tiers and Upper Tiers


He Mage
Divide the 5e Players Handbook into two separate books:
• Lower-Tier (LT) Players Handbook
• Upper-Tier (UT) Players Handbook

I advocate four-level tiers.

Levels: The Lower Tiers
1-4: Student (apprentice, page) ≈ Basic
5-8: Professional (journeyer, squire; adventurer) ≈ Expert
9-12: Master (guildmaster, knight) ≈ 1e Name Level ≈ Champion

The LT Players Handbook includes a full Master tier. It represents the 1e name levels, when the character attracts followers and builds an institution, such as a fortress, wizard school, religious community, paladin order, thieves guild, and so on. The player should have freedom to design the legacy that the character builds. The legacy may or may not relate to the background at level 1, but it is nice when it does.

Likely, many campaigns end with the Professional tier at level 8.

But there are campaigns that press on for a bit longer before retiring their characters, and the Master tier is for them to leave their mark in the world. When the players create new characters, they can be family members of their previous characters, or pages in the fortress of the Knight, or apprentices in the school of the Wizard.

The Master tier enriches the D&D experience even for those whose campaigns only use the Lower-Tier Players Handbook.

The Upper-Tier Players Handbook is a separate book for a more superheroish D&D. The characters are a community of world-shakers, archwizards and other grandmasters. Epic is an option that the DMs Guide already touches on, and the upper-tiers can advance into it.

Levels: The Upper Tiers
13-16: Grandmaster (Archwizard, Noble/Lord/Lady) ≈ Master
17-20: Legend ≈ Immortal
21-24: Epic

The Grandmaster deals with other Grandmasters, whether as allies or rivals, striving to reshape the world. This is a superhero. Or a League of Superheroes battling against a League of Supervillains.

The characters step out of a medievalesque world into a realm of sorcery and magic, and power. The institution that the character built during the earlier 9-12 Master tier now influences the fate of the nation and world.

At level 13, Grandmaster Fighters choose a magic weapon, or armor, or other item, as part of their Fighter class feature, to use magical effects, within this new tier of magic.

Next, the Legend tier gains some form of immortality. Compare 4e. The character can become an archfey, a lich, a demigod, or whatever. Some means of living forever.

Next, the Epic tier acquires a "portfolio", a means to personally influence some aspect of the cosmos itself. "Boons" replace class features when leveling in the epic tier. A boon is a superpowerful feat. The boon may or may not relate to the class, depending on which boon the player chooses.

Where the Players Handbook divides to a LT book and an UT book, likewise, there is a LT Monster Manual and an UT Monster Manual.

The LT books focus on the D&D experience that most campaigns explore. The UT books explore the higher levels that impact the multiverse.

As separate books, the upper tiers are more than an afterthought. The designers think about how high level characters function at these higher tiers. Mechanically, the UT rules finetune balance and the health of the gaming engine with the new UT stresses. Narratively, the UT rules focus on how these powerful characters impact the world and reshape it. Now by means of their actions, players are becoming worldbuilders. The DM is no longer the creator alone. The players are in partnership to reshape and create the setting and its world.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


Once A Fool
Traditionally (and currently), the main question about high-level play in D&D is:

Are there so few high-level players because those tiers are poorly supported, or are those tiers poorly supported because there are so few players of them?

The answer is: Yes.

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases