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5E Tell me about 5E at 11th level

Reynard

Adventurer
Every year I build a sandbox for play at conventions and for next year I am considering going a little higher level (11th) than what I have in the past (5th-7th). before then I will do some intense play testing but in advance of that, i just wanted to solicit some opinions on how 5th Edition plays at 11th level, what pitfalls to watch out for, what's fun or not fun or doesn't work or rocks. That sort of thing.

Thanks.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I ran a game for 10th and 11th level. I found it wasn't very hard to put together challenges for the PCs. We did have a lack of spellcasters though, so I would just keep an eye out for what spells the PCs have at their disposal and plan for their use. And by "plan for their use," I mean, prepare your adventures in a way that takes them into account rather than come up with ways to negate the advantages they impart.
 

OB1

Registered User
I'm running at 12th level campaign right now. Agree it's not too difficult to put together challenges. I will say it's more important at this level to keep an eye on the daily adjusted xp total as even deadly encounters can be trivial if it is the only one the party faces that day.
Also, it's probably worth establishing early the idea of multi part encounters, where reinforcements come in a few rounds after the battle begins. It helps keep PCs a bit more conservative early in a fight.
I also like letting the players feel the level of their power in the world. Having them single handedly take out a marauding band or Orcs, for example. But once they do, they discover that the Orcs were under the thrall of a powerful (cr appropriate) demon who's not happy about having his subjects slain. Take out that demon, and her two or three lieutenants come out to avenge her.
Good luck!
 

Reynard

Adventurer
I'm running at 12th level campaign right now. Agree it's not too difficult to put together challenges. I will say it's more important at this level to keep an eye on the daily adjusted xp total as even deadly encounters can be trivial if it is the only one the party faces that day.
Also, it's probably worth establishing early the idea of multi part encounters, where reinforcements come in a few rounds after the battle begins. It helps keep PCs a bit more conservative early in a fight.
I also like letting the players feel the level of their power in the world. Having them single handedly take out a marauding band or Orcs, for example. But once they do, they discover that the Orcs were under the thrall of a powerful (cr appropriate) demon who's not happy about having his subjects slain. Take out that demon, and her two or three lieutenants come out to avenge her.
Good luck!
Thanks. One of the challenges I have when running these con games is I usually have a full table so there are 8 players. Even at 7th level, they are powerful enough to walk over even deadly level appropriate encounters and if things get dicey and they decide to nova, I am consistently astounded at how powerful such a party can be.

In your estimation, is the CR system reliable at that level (or at least as reliable as it is at any level)? In other words, can I build XP budgets into encounters for 8 PCs and have them be reasonably challenging and balanced?

Another thing is that even at 6th-7th, PCs are notoriously hard to kill. I am guessing by 11th it is all but impossible aside from save-or-die effects. if that is the case, how do you build tension into combat encounters?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Something to consider when you have a lot of players is to make the challenge about something other than reducing enemy hit points to zero (for both PCs and monsters). Multiple objectives also help. The CR system doesn't take these things into account, so you can tend to go way over or under the recommended guidelines and still have a fun challenge.
 
Something else to consider is that at this level the DC of spells and monster abilities becomes really challenging. If you attack one or more PCs with high-level spells or effects, where several members are not proficient with the saving throws, it can become really hard on the party. Dragon breaths are particularly deadly...
 

Tigerzak21

Villager
Last night i just finished a super-hero style 5e game played at level 13. We had a couple of neat character builds, such as a paladin/sorcerer ironman type, an elk totem barbarian 'speedster' using boots of speed, an unarmed unarmored paladin played as a cosmic 'captain marvel' type, and a sun soul monk supersaiyan-type.

What was most challenging for the group was cooperating IC, coming up with combat encounters was not too difficult. Challenging the party without the combats being a long, slow resource drain or a quick burn of weak enemies or a game of rocket-tag /was/ difficult. Very rarely did my heroes suffer any significant resource drain due to the short length of the adventure and being allowed 2 longs rests in adventures short duration (3 in game days) but they did face interesting challenges that they had to bypass within these encounters.

I included several lower CR creatures with legendary actions or multiple turns in combat, 'skill challenges' built into the combat such as needing the players to lure a villain through a night time chase to areas lit by floodlights to make then vulnerable to attack, or having them deactivate machines that reduced a villains immunity to damage (but reduced ability to harm then) to 3/4 cover, resistance, 1/2 cover, and then regular damage/no cover.

The monk was very adept at avoiding attacks/damage. the speedster could move VERY far in a turn and could move in then away from danger on top of having rage resistance and many hp. The ironman had high ac, ancient paladin magic resistances, massive save bonuses, and (at the end of the game) armor of invulnerability. Characters at this level are VERY hard to 'challenge' by means of comnat hits/damages/save effects, unless yiu pepper them with above-cr-appropriate encounters or use 'Problem-solving' encounters like i did. I played with.a group that is decent at optimization, so this was my experience and solution because not everyone in the party wanted to always kill everything or have huge long difficult fights all game long. Your mileage may vary.
 

ehenning

Explorer
Thanks. One of the challenges I have when running these con games is I usually have a full table so there are 8 players. Even at 7th level, they are powerful enough to walk over even deadly level appropriate encounters and if things get dicey and they decide to nova, I am consistently astounded at how powerful such a party can be.

In your estimation, is the CR system reliable at that level (or at least as reliable as it is at any level)? In other words, can I build XP budgets into encounters for 8 PCs and have them be reasonably challenging and balanced?

Another thing is that even at 6th-7th, PCs are notoriously hard to kill. I am guessing by 11th it is all but impossible aside from save-or-die effects. if that is the case, how do you build tension into combat encounters?
http://kobold.club/fight/#/encounter-builder

Not a perfect solution for encounter building, but it automates the calculations and takes into account larger parties.
 

zicar

Villager
I've noticed that our game changes at about level 13-14. It's all about the saving throws after that. YMMV
 

Kreinas

Villager
11th level and above plays well for optimized characters/parties, but certain classes will perform better than other regardless. Blasters tend to scale quite well regardless of optimization, with rangers coming in last as "man, I optimized perfectly and still can't keep up". Beyond multiclassing, many melee fighters will tend to make use of "cheese" to beat fights. Examples include Polearm Mastery/Sentinel, Booming Blade/Dissonant Whispers, or ridiculous AC boosting. Additionally, once a party reaches 13, access to save-or-suck spells and duplication (looking at you, simulacrum!) will make it necessary to have at least one legendary enemy in an encounter, or risk the party breezing through each fight.

Overall, 11+ plays well, but the game assumes you've grown beyond basic encounters in order to balance out the power climb of PCs. If you want to test an encounter, imagine each party member having access to the most broken spell available at the time, and build around that. Alternate wincons become a great help in allowing unoptomized characters to pass challenges as well.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
Beyond multiclassing, many melee fighters will tend to make use of "cheese" to beat fights. Examples include Polearm Mastery/Sentinel, Booming Blade/Dissonant Whispers, or ridiculous AC boosting.
You say the game plays well for optimized characters at this lv - but then disparage the melee fighters for optimizing??
 

Tigerzak21

Villager
I see it that the combinations available to melee warriors or gish characters tend to skew their effectiveness in one way or another. The UA tunnel fighter style, polearm master, sentinel, great weapon master, and great weapon fighting style can be gotten in 10 levels with a champion fighter. When they get a third attack at level 12 they then can make 3 attacks at reach, rerolling 1's and 2's once each, potentially with a -5/+10 to hit/damage, then backing away and entering tunnel fighting stance as a bonus action to acquire multiple attacks of opportunity from sentinel and polearm master.

Sure, a wizard can cast a few big spells per day, but at this level the martial classes csn also get some.surprising always-on combinations or sirvoval features.
 

Quartz

Explorer
On paper at least the Battlemaster comes into her own, being able to retain the second attack and use a manoever.
 

ThirdWizard

Villager
In your estimation, is the CR system reliable at that level (or at least as reliable as it is at any level)? In other words, can I build XP budgets into encounters for 8 PCs and have them be reasonably challenging and balanced?

Another thing is that even at 6th-7th, PCs are notoriously hard to kill. I am guessing by 11th it is all but impossible aside from save-or-die effects. if that is the case, how do you build tension into combat encounters?
My game is 10th level, but so far I've found that in some cases, I have to dip pretty deeply into the Deadly spectrum to actually challenge them. My last game consisted of the following encounters (no short resting between):

  • 5 spined devils @ 975 XP (no challenge in play)
  • Deva + 2 Chain Devils @ 3,425 XP (pretty easy, no one was in danger)
  • 2 Young Red Dragons ridden by 2 Barbed Devils @ 3,850 XP (fairly tense battle)
  • Horned Devil + Cambion + 2 Wyverns @ 3,400 XP (somewhat tense battle)

This is a party of 4 consisting of a Dragonborn Oath Paladin, a Light Cleric, a Wild Sorcerer, and a Fiend/Book Warlock.

The fact that they can take on such deadly encounters so easily is due to 2 main factors. Those monsters were almost all affected by Protection from Evil/Circle of Evil, and Hold Person + Paladin Smite is incredibly effective (used in dragon encounter, used to kill a beholder without it getting a single action earlier). So, CR/XP encounter building can be very very swingy depending on what is being fought, what spell capabilities the PCs have, and what tactics they can employ. Protection from Evil can change the dynamic of play, for example, so it's a good idea to keep enemy types in mind when building encounters, and watch out for spells like Hold Person.
 

ehenning

Explorer
.

The fact that they can take on such deadly encounters so easily is due to 2 main factors. Those monsters were almost all affected by Protection from Evil/Circle of Evil, and Hold Person + Paladin Smite is incredibly effective (used in dragon encounter, used to kill a beholder without it getting a single action earlier). So, CR/XP encounter building can be very very swingy depending on what is being fought, what spell capabilities the PCs have, and what tactics they can employ. Protection from Evil can change the dynamic of play, for example, so it's a good idea to keep enemy types in mind when building encounters, and watch out for spells like Hold Person.
How are you using Hold Person here? On what enemies? I'm curious.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Every year I build a sandbox for play at conventions and for next year I am considering going a little higher level (11th) than what I have in the past (5th-7th).
5-7 sounds like a better idea, closer to the traditional sweet spot at which D&D has been most functional. I can say from personal experience running 5e that it's definitely not at it's best at 1st level, and swiftly improves. By 5th there's none of the problems you saw at 1st. On the upper edge, I'd only be speaking theoretically. The past editions 5e most strongly resembles philosophically and mechanically - AD&D and 3.x - never worked well at high level, so there's little reason to expect 5e to. At 11th, though, the fighter does get his extra attack and the barbarian his relentless rage, so they're kinda peaking in a sense.
 
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Zardnaar

Adventurer
The game starts to break around this level as ability scores are creeping towards 20 and feat combos come online. And spell combos/class ability combos also come online along with 3rd attacks for fighter types. You can also start using CR18-20 critters on them as solo type bosses. With power gamers things ten to start going wrong around level 8, things start to break at 11. By power gamers I mean anyone who can figure out things like Greater Invisibility is a good spell or Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter are good feats not power gamers who can craft the perfect PC.

Swarms of mooks also do not tend to work so well with things like Destructive Wave turning up around level 9 or 10.
 
I have one game at 12th (from 1st) and one at 16th (from 2nd) and have played several high level one-offs at the FLGS and on Roll20.

My thoughts:

1. ABC - Always Be Combo-ing: Players have developed sets of action combos and most fights will generally feature them no matter the opponent. Not cheesy, just at 12th+ level, you know what works together (for both PC and party) and what doesn't. Access to feats accelerates this since a lot of combos (especially melee) are feat based.

2. PC power is ridiculous versus the DMG/MM XP guide: I'm not sure if it's due to the desire by the designers to balance encounters in the 'most common levels' sweet spot or what, but once we hit 11th level, "deadly" was decidedly inaccurate. You'll have to rely on more than a monster's CR to challenge PCs (tactics, terrain, type, etc.). We hardly got scratched playing the higher levels of Out of the Abyss (lots of the NPCs died though...)

3. Magic items are hard to predict, especially in an open ended sandbox-y world. Rarity is not a great indicator of relative power - you'll want to think about an item before handing it out. Examples: Table G has +1 armor and +2 weapons; hardly game changing. It also has the mantle of spell resistance which gives Adv on saves vs spells. Doesn't seem like much when you read it, but, in actual play, it made the rogue wearing it essentially immune to spell effects. So, if you planned on prominently feature an evil wizard cabal as a BBEG...makes a big difference vs a simple longsword +2

4. The "work day" concept is useless. Players have magic that allows them to take a rest of any kind whenever they want. I'd never advocate punishing them for having that magic, but you'll have to keep that in mind when designing challenges - they can, if they decide, blow all their resources in one go and hole up in a magnificent mansion or the like.

5. The world gets much, much smaller. Any sandbox you build will need to be bigger and more detailed. Players can wind walk and teleport with greater success. They have access to better and more accurate divination spells, and their overall knowledge of the world - everything from types of creatures available for shape changing to the more important movers and shakers across kingdoms and planes - is greater then a 5th -7th level party's.
 

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