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Tell Me About Your Experiences With High Level 5E

Eric V

Explorer
Do the default assumptions work for most groups? Probably not. So turn it up to 11. Or 12, or 20. Increase your XP budget to whatever number you need. Try different tactics or limit the number of rests between encounters. The solution is going to vary by group and there's no one answer.
That's probably true, but this: "this adventure is made for 45 DPR 20 AC 90 hp heroes" is much more directly useful than a metaphorical "turn the dial to 11" no? Some old 2e mods, in addition to saying what level they were for, on the cover, would include, on the inside, additional DM information for the type of group they would be most successful at it (I'm thinking the type of advice found in City of Skulls for the DM, for example).

I mean, why not include that? That would be really helpful.
 

Saelorn

Explorer
Who suggested expected damage per level? Or dry and boring? Or anything from 4E really? (I just suggested that instead of byzanthine encounter guidelines, how about stating (making up numbers here) "this adventure is made for 45 DPR 20 AC 90 hp heroes" allowing DMs - for the first time - actually useful parameters to judge their own party's capabilities against. Minmaxers then count as level N+3 heroes, while naive newbies might count as N-2 heroes. In no way do I advocate changing any actual rules. I was just suggesting to completely scrap all existing attempt to hide the actual numbers that count.
If you base encounter guidelines on things like DPR and AC, rather than level, then optimization becomes counter-productive. You get to a situation where the fighter has to seriously consider throwing away their equipment, because fighting N+3 enemies is far more dangerous than fighting N-2 enemies. You get the situation from Final Fantasy VIII, where a random encounter will kick your butt if you grind up to level 100, but the same encounter will be a pushover if you avoid gaining any levels.

It's really not the sort of message that the designers should be sending.
 

Eric V

Explorer
If you base encounter guidelines on things like DPR and AC, rather than level, then optimization becomes counter-productive. You get to a situation where the fighter has to seriously consider throwing away their equipment, because fighting N+3 enemies is far more dangerous than fighting N-2 enemies. You get the situation from Final Fantasy VIII, where a random encounter will kick your butt if you grind up to level 100, but the same encounter will be a pushover if you avoid gaining any levels.

It's really not the sort of message that the designers should be sending.
It would help me in terms of adventure purchase. I can buy this one knowing it's more of a challenge to my particular group than that one, even if they both are ostensibly for 9th level characters.

Going further with the idea, a mystery-based adventure could have additional advice like "Characters trained in Investigation and Bluff will be key to succeeding in this adventure; a character with telepathic abilities could fill this role." A political adventure would have something similar, with different emphasis, obviously.

It's not clear to me how providing more information would hurt. I will admit to never having played Final Fantasy.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Well the proof will be in the pudding with the Dungeon of the Mad Mage campaign. That's supposed to level all the way up to 20, so we'll finally get to see what WotC thinks a campaign at that level should look like and we'll get some first hand reports from tables trying to play it. DMs will of course have to turn some knobs to tune to their table (I wonder if there'll be guidance on that...?)

Anyway should be good for a few hundred posts! :D
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
That's probably true, but this: "this adventure is made for 45 DPR 20 AC 90 hp heroes" is much more directly useful than a metaphorical "turn the dial to 11" no? Some old 2e mods, in addition to saying what level they were for, on the cover, would include, on the inside, additional DM information for the type of group they would be most successful at it (I'm thinking the type of advice found in City of Skulls for the DM, for example).

I mean, why not include that? That would be really helpful.
I get where you're coming from and philosophically I agree. I just don't think it's that simple. Most people wouldn't know how to calculate DPR, or know what the DPR of their party is. Personally I only have cursory understanding of my player's character's capabilities. Yes, my wife's barbarian can do a ludicrous amount of damage, but how many encounters will she be raging? Tim's assassin does massive damage the first round, how does that average out over the course of the typical encounter? How many encounters will there be between long rests?

Instead of being in every adventure, I think there probably could have been (should have been?) a chapter in the DMG on this kind of stuff. It still probably wouldn't have been adequate. I just don't think there's a way to break it down to a scientific equation.

It's been easier in other versions for various reasons, either because options were more simple or more easily quantifiable.
 
I ran a game that went to high levels; 20th level with one Epic Boon. The big bad was a half dragon Empyreon. He made every save and the party members failed every save and still mopped up the mat with him.
 

Reynard

Adventurer
Tomorrow night is the first, combat centered test. Five 17th level PCs versus a bunch of demons in a ruined city. I'll be curious to see how long it takes.
 

S'mon

Hero
I ran a game that went to high levels; 20th level with one Epic Boon. The big bad was a half dragon Empyreon. He made every save and the party members failed every save and still mopped up the mat with him.
IMC a level 19 berserker barbarian PC solo duelled an empyrean with double attacks & 5 points higher AC - it was very close thanks to a lot of failed Stun saves, but the barbarian won.

If you want to seriously challenge 4 good level 20 PCs you really need multiple CR 20+ creatures I think.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I ran a game that went to high levels; 20th level with one Epic Boon. The big bad was a half dragon Empyreon. He made every save and the party members failed every save and still mopped up the mat with him.
Solos have never worked very well. You either need legendary along with lair actions and a CR several levels above the PCs or minions. I usually throw in minions that are high enough level to be distracting and dangerous that can also help prevent or deflect attacks against the BBEG.

I guess it can be done if the solo can use hit-and-run tactics, but just a straight up fight? Nah. It's too much focused fire.
 
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OB1

Registered User
Solos have never worked very well. You either need legendary along with lair actions and a CR several levels above the PCs or minions. I usually throw in minions that are high enough level to be distracting and dangerous that can also help prevent or deflect attacks against the BBEG.

I guess it can be done if the solo can use hit-and-run tactics, but just a straight up fight? Nah. It's too much focused fire.
For a solo fight try 150% party level for CR. The XP value will be just over deadly and the creature will have a chance to take out PCs who haven’t taken precautions against the monsters most powerful abilities.

It’s no mistake that monster CR goes up to 30 when PCs go to 20.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
For a solo fight try 150% party level for CR. The XP value will be just over deadly and the creature will have a chance to take out PCs who haven’t taken precautions against the monsters most powerful abilities.

It’s no mistake that monster CR goes up to 30 when PCs go to 20.
Good point. But it's still going to depend on the group size and their overall effectiveness which varies significantly by group. In any case, if you're running a game with high level PCs you should have a general idea of what you can throw at them.
 

OB1

Registered User
Good point. But it's still going to depend on the group size and their overall effectiveness which varies significantly by group. In any case, if you're running a game with high level PCs you should have a general idea of what you can throw at them.
Oh absolutely! Depending on your party’s defenses you can easily TPK an unprepared group with a CR 150% baddie.

I’m just saying that it’s easier to start with the base for a solo combat at 150% party level to CR and then adjust from there.

CR is a linear progression not an exponential one, so a CR30 monster against a level 20 party is similar to CR3 monster against a Level 2 party or a CR6 monster against a level 4 party and so on.

A CR2 monster against a level 1 party would be like a level 10 party taking on a CR20 and I think people sometimes make the mistake of thinking that going 1 CR over level at higher levels has the same effect as it did at level 1.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Solos have never worked very well. You either need legendary along with lair actions and a CR several levels above the PCs or minions.
Or, of course, you could hope and expect that WotC finally does it right.

This was after all the FIFTH attempt.

What doesn't work well, is absolving the designers from having to do what we pay them to do.

It seems we all want creatures that can confidently handle five level 20 heroes all by itself.

The ONLY way to ever get that is to put the blame squarely at the devs feet. And never resign ourselves to "Solos have never worked very well".

I mean, none of us argue it's impossible. Right? (Personally, I'd say it's pretty fracking far from impossible.)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Or, of course, you could hope and expect that WotC finally does it right.

This was after all the FIFTH attempt.

What doesn't work well, is absolving the designers from having to do what we pay them to do.

It seems we all want creatures that can confidently handle five level 20 heroes all by itself.

The ONLY way to ever get that is to put the blame squarely at the devs feet. And never resign ourselves to "Solos have never worked very well".

I mean, none of us argue it's impossible. Right? (Personally, I'd say it's pretty fracking far from impossible.)
There's too much variation in group ability and power level to get it "right". In any case, no monster in 5E is actually labeled a "solo". It's just my observation that a single monster needs to be higher CR than many people expect, or you need to use tactics to shift the balance.
 

Reynard

Adventurer
Last night we ran a high level test, which ended up encompassing 2 battles over the course of about 4 hours. The PCs were a Lifer Cleric, a Monk, a Bard, a Paladin/Sorcerer and an Illusionist.

The (admittedly thin) backstory was horrible demons were attacking cities across the world and establishing magical energy pylons in order to eventually take down the Capital, etc... The PCs were Big Damn Heroes who, with the support of scrying and teleporting mages, could drop in on a group of demons and kill them before they established their pylon.

In the first battle (which did not include the illusionist as the player was not there yet) the opposition included 4 hezrou, a vrock, a barlgura and a Nalfeshnee. The paladin did huge amounts of damage every hit, using Shadowblade and Green Flame Blade along with his smite. The Life cleric ended up banishing all but the barlgura and the Nalfeshnee just a couple rounds in, so it turned into a pretty trivial fight. No one took any major damage.

Before they could do any resting, HQ called them to another battle (I wanted to see how much of their resources they had burned that first fight). This time there was an army of slaadi, which having killed the demons were trying to take the pylon as their own. There were 8 red, 2 gree, 1 gray and 1 death slaad. The illusionist was present for the this one.

The illusionist. Ugh. So, it appears that a high level illusionist can carry pretty much an infinite number of pre-cast illusions around in his pocket (or as jewelry in this case). Most high level illusions have unlimited durations. Illusionists have Maleable Illusion. So the illusionist casts the illusion, modifies it into a carryable object, carries it around until needed then modifies it back into an illusion of whatever. In addition to that, there is Illusory reality.

So the party drops in. The first round the illusionist creates an illusory adamantine shelter trapping the party and just a couple slaad, then makes it real. After a bit some slaad break through the walls of the thing and the illusionist casts mirage arcana to create a battlefield of difficult terrain and heavy fog except in an area directly around the players with a chasm separating them from the majority of the slaad force. I ruled that while the caster slaad could not see through the fog, as long as there were 3 living slaad within range of their telepathy they could triangulate area of effect spells into the PC safe zone. The illusionist player did not like this.

The monk showed promise but did not do much beyond punching and knocking slaad back or prone. The bard was moderately successful with vicious mockery and a few other spells. The paladin continued to do ridiculous damage, though the player was a little more conservative burning spell slots than the first fight. Eventually the illusionist had to drop the concealing fog (I ruled even the caster could not see through it because you cannot disbelieve mirage arcana) and the fight went a little faster once everyone could see everyone else. Eventually it was clear the slaad were doomed and the two that could plane shifted out. The party took almost no damage between easily made saves and counterspells and high ACs.

Overall, it was interesting but not especially fun. I think characters of that level would be more fun to DM for if you had gotten there with them, rather than made them as pre-gens. And I did not test any super high CR monsters because I wanted to know what a stock fight looked like. overall, it appears that while 5E is perfectly playable at that level, it isn't really the right fit for a convention game.
 

OB1

Registered User
[MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] - Thanks for the write up. Just curious as to what the level of the characters were and what you calculated the XP value of each fight as. Also, what if any magic items did the party have?

I show the first fight as 29,700 XP and the second as a 33,100 XP base. If these were tier IV characters I probably wouldn't use a multiplier since all of the enemies are of a CR significantly below the party.
 

Reynard

Adventurer
[MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] - Thanks for the write up. Just curious as to what the level of the characters were and what you calculated the XP value of each fight as. Also, what if any magic items did the party have?

I show the first fight as 29,700 XP and the second as a 33,100 XP base. If these were tier IV characters I probably wouldn't use a multiplier since all of the enemies are of a CR significantly below the party.
We played on Fantasy Grounds so I used that program's CR calculator. The first was CR21 and the second CR22. The PCs were all 17th level with 4 PCs for the first fight and 5 for the second.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
We played on Fantasy Grounds so I used that program's CR calculator. The first was CR21 and the second CR22. The PCs were all 17th level with 4 PCs for the first fight and 5 for the second.
Not sure how that calculator works, but I use an alternate calculator that ignores the number of opponent multiplier and just adds up the XP budget. It seems to give me better numbers ... then again with only two fights there was no way to deplete resources.

But for the other, I agree that knowing how the party works and what makes them tick makes a huge difference. It's particularly difficult with casters because of the whole counterspell schtick. Personally I prefer lower levels, but I've also had and run dynamic fun high level fights. I wouldn't want to just jump in to a one-shot though.
 

OB1

Registered User
We played on Fantasy Grounds so I used that program's CR calculator. The first was CR21 and the second CR22. The PCs were all 17th level with 4 PCs for the first fight and 5 for the second.
Not sure what CR21 and CR22 means in terms of gauging difficulty of a fight since CR is only a gauge of how deadly a particular opponent is, not an encounter. Using the encounter building guidelines from the DMG, the first encounter rates between Hard (23,600xp for a party of 4) and Deadly (35,2000xp for a party of 4). The second encounter also rated between hard (29,500 for a party 5) and deadly (44,000 for a party of 5).

If the way it spits out difficulty is by CR, I'd say you need to be in the 150% range so more CR26-26 if you want a challenge assuming the party has feats and MC as well as have some magic items.
 

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