5E What levels are the most important when talking balance?

Stalker0

Adventurer
A constant theme of balance discussions is what levels you are discussing them. Many things have different balance perspective depending on what levels you consider them.

But even though dnd has levels 1-20, its common knowledge that the majority of games don't play the full level range. There are many a group that will never play a 20th level character, and so balance discussions at that level....are effectively a waste of time.

So what level range do you think is the most important to get balance "right"?
 

S'mon

Legend
I tend to play across the whole level range, so I'd say 5-10 is most important but I expect the game to work at all levels and I certainly want 1-15 to be workable. 3e/PF problems at 7+ are a major issue for me since the APs typically go ca 1-15.
 

Gladius Legis

Adventurer
I'd rank them:
1) 5-10
2) 11-15
*dropoff*
3) 16-20
4) 1-4

5-10 is obvious because it's where the meat of most campaigns take place. 11-15 is second because it's where a lot of campaigns are in their final stages.

While 16-20 is pretty rare, hence a distant third on this list, it is more important to consider than 1-4 in my eyes. 1-4 go by very quickly. In fact, many tables skip at least the first two levels of that range altogether. And with fewer elements to consider, 1-4 kinda balances itself out with minimal active effort to do so anyway.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'd go for 1-12 and then something high, with more of a focus on levels 3-11 and something in tier 4. If you're looking for as pared down as possible, I'd look 3-5, 8, 11, 17 and 20.

Levels 1-12 cover most games, but many of the games I've been in have either accelerated advancement until 3rd or 5th, or started at those levels instead of 1st.

Levels 5 & 11 are power bumps for non-multiclassed characters, so are important when discussing balance. 3rd is where almost all subclasses start, so also important for balance discussions, which will bleed over to over character levels for multiclassed characters.

4 & 8 are your first ASI/feat choices - first two picks will almost always be high effect on a build, then it starts to decrease in utility slightly.

The "something high" is that sometimes class skills cascade and multiply with each other and throw things out of balance, and also at those levels many of the sins of multiclassing will be wiped out so you might have something unbalanced. I was a bit capricious in picking 17 and 20 - 17 is the point where you hit maximum proficiency, highest level spells (both full and half casters), most ASIs, while 20 is your capstone - or if you don't want it then a chance to grab some multiclass levels "for free" (no opportunity cost).
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
The "meat" of the game takes place between 5-10, but most campaigns run both before and after these levels. If they focused on setting the balance by tiers, they could do a better job of overall balance, but then they'd have issues with groups that use the standard xp rules because once one member of the party jumps to the next tier, it gets unbalanced for everyone else.
 
A constant theme of balance discussions is what levels you are discussing them. Many things have different balance perspective depending on what levels you consider them.

But even though dnd has levels 1-20, its common knowledge that the majority of games don't play the full level range. There are many a group that will never play a 20th level character, and so balance discussions at that level....are effectively a waste of time.

So what level range do you think is the most important to get balance "right"?
Sadly - All of them.

Even if you get 1-10 or whatever perfectly balanced, if some classes are much better later then they will be chosen more all else being equal.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
I think calling the range 1-15 sounds about right, which make the levels to look at first 3/5/11 as mentioned above. The archetype plus those two big power jumps are where I'd start. Even if you just used 5 and 11 as the key benchmarks for balance in that range you'd probably be fine.
 
But even though dnd has levels 1-20, its common knowledge that the majority of games don't play the full level range.
Well, sure, balance falls appart by the time you've covered even half that. ;P

And, it's not a new problem. The classic game always had a narrow sweetspot that didn't extend past name level. So, when making 3e research showed not much play beyond 10th, so why bother balancing It?
So what level range do you think is the most important to get balance "right"?
1-20. There's no good reason to present dysfunctional levels of play.
 
1-20. There's no good reason to present dysfunctional levels of play.
Yep and if you fail to balance the later levels and balance the first, then you might as well not have balanced the first levels either, as players will tend toward the classes that are good later (if all else is balanced) even if they may never hit those levels. Call it the "just in case" paradigm.
 
Yep and if you fail to balance the later levels and balance the first, then you might as well not have balanced the first levels either, as players will tend toward the classes that are good later (if all else is balanced) even if they may never hit those levels. Call it the "just in case" paradigm.
Some players might. Others will mysteriously change characters at some point.

But, more typically, campaigns will just wrap at some point after the system starts to fall apart.
 
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ad_hoc

Adventurer
5-10

1-4 go by so fast that it is okay for things to be a little unbalanced. Powers are also not strong enough to make a huge difference. I've seen people make threads about how such and such class is terribly designed because they are too weak at level 1. That's 1/2 session.

For the people who do play 11-16 they spend little time there. It's the end of the campaign. Everyone should be able to enjoy their 11th level super powers without looking at their neighbour.

I don't care about 17+ at all. And yet, I find most internet conversations about balance take place at these levels. How much campaign time actually takes place here? I'd guess somewhere in the range of .01%
 

Xeviat

Explorer
1-20.

5-10 may be where the bulk of the game is played. But if things are out of balance at 1-4, then you train new players wrong. TWFing deals more damage than Great Weapon Fighting for fighters and rangers levels 1-4, a bit less at 5-10, and then falls behind even duelist at 11th and up for fighters. Wizards at the early levels feel really far behind no casters, but then slowly take over.

Balanced doesn't have to mean equal. Everyone should be able to do things others can't, and excel in different places. But, no one should do everything better than someone. Everyone should be able to compete meaningfully in combat too, since it's such a huge part of the game and the CR system doesn't take into account of your party is all fighters or a traditional party.
 

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