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D&D General Why does D&D still have 16th to 20th level?

Not that I disagree, but what about high level play is fun for the GM? I see a lot of advice here that boils down to, "Your PCs are super powerful now and can do what they want, more or less. Deal with it." The problem with high level play is it widens the gap. Players get more cool stuff they can do, including ways to ignore challenges that used to actually be challenges. GMs just get expotientally increasing headaches.
DMs also get exponentially increasing space to build crazy challenges, because even infinite dragons is something the pc's might be able to deal with.

If you like going big, running epic games lets you go as big as you can imagine.
 

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jgsugden

Legend
T
Not that I disagree, but what about high level play is fun for the GM? I see a lot of advice here that boils down to, "Your PCs are super powerful now and can do what they want, more or less. Deal with it." The problem with high level play is it widens the gap. Players get more cool stuff they can do, including ways to ignore challenges that used to actually be challenges. GMs just get expotientally increasing headaches.
You get to participate in a different type of story. You get to play with powerful creatures with powerful toys, as well. You get to launch complicated plots from the perspective of the enemy. But mostly - you get joy from the players getting to experience those high level toys. When you watch a PC that has climbed from level 1 to 17 cast Wish for the first time... Or you see the Open Hand Monk deliver a Quivering Palm - that should be an insanely cool moment for everyone at the table. And more than just playing with the toys - when the PCs do something that changes a campaign world forever - that is a cool moment that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

I absolutely agree it is more work to run high levels well. However, it is so worth doing. If I write out my top 20 most memorable moments in RPGs, most of them come at high level because we're most invested in those PCs, the stakes are higher, and the impacts can change a campaign setting forever.

Levels 17 to 20 are the best place for a good climax that lets you use everything you've got, and I want to finish a game with a great climax.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I sort-of agree with the OP, that levels 16-20 aren't necessary. However, I think all of the abilities and such are still good, and don't need to be removed.

Essentially, every time you level up, you get more abilities/spells than you currently do. So the "new 15" is roughly equivalent to "current 20."

The reason I'm against levels 16-20 isn't because they're too strong, but that few campaigns ever last long enough to get there. I think a lot of players do want to get to level 20, and DMs do too, but it just takes so long to get there, and most games start at level 1 or 3. It can take 2 years for games to get to even level 15 (look at Critical Role!).
 


the Jester

Legend
IMHO if it was any other game but D&D, the move would be to acknowledge that for most people there is a "sweet spot" in play for D&D.

So just design for that sweet spot. Have 1-20 levels but set them so that the game prolongs what 'tier' of play most find most desirable rather than move people into a different genre every 5 levels. The E6 mod for 3.5 is a great example of this.
4e explicitly attempted to do this.
 

the Jester

Legend
...So 5e's Epic Rules already allow you to theoretically end up with 30s in all of your Ability Scores, every Feat you qualify for, and a bunch of cool Epic Boons giving you stuff like extra 9th level spell slots, proficiency in all skills, literally immortality (agelessness), etc.

I'm sure that there are people who just won't find that satisfying (is there a strong desire for the character sheet to say "Level 22"?), but I honestly think most people clamoring for epic levels haven't really read that section.
It's not a clamoring for epic levels, it's a clamoring for support for high level play in general. Good monsters. Good guidelines. A good adventure. Good adventure design guidelines specifically for high level adventures. I mean, I have material going back multiple editions, and there's a bit here and there that really helps- especially in the adventure design advice in the 3e era. But that's ancient, and it could definitely bear repeating.
 

Uni-the-Unicorn!

Adventurer
I probably prefer a more 4e approach with epic destinies.

For 5e, the boons need to be fluid, allowing the play free choice of which ones to take. Some boons are stupendously better than other boons. Players will and should cherry pick the better boons.

That said, the boons can organize thematically. Some themes will relate to Psion becoming an immortal mind (reminds me of Ob1). Some like Wizard becoming an immortal archwizard. Some themes wont relate to class, such as an undead Lich or so on.

At minimum, each theme should be levels 21 to 24, a full "immortal" tier. But higher levels are also possible. Even so, the player can pick any boon they want at each level, so the immortal levels are fluid.

Simply becoming level 21 should get immortality for free, but the flavor of the epic destiny will determine HOW the character became immortal (magic, ascendant, undead, etcetera) − in addition to the first choice of boon at level 21.
There are no levels with the boon system. That is what is great about it. It feels different than 1-20, which it should
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
There are no levels with the boon system. That is what is great about it. It feels different than 1-20, which it should
I perceive the attainment of each new boon to be a separate level, requiring experience to attain. The immortal tier levels 21 to 24, has four boons as part of its "class" features.

The recent Magic The Gathering setting introduced the concept of a subclass that multiple classes can take. The immortal tier is similar.
 

Uni-the-Unicorn!

Adventurer
I perceive the attainment of each new boon to be a separate level, requiring experience to attain. The immortal tier levels 21 to 24, has four boons as part of its "class" features.

The recent Magic The Gathering setting introduced the concept of a subclass that multiple classes can take. The immortal tier is similar.
That is fine, but that is not a universal perception and I would suggest that is actually a poor way to visualize the boon system. If you want epic "levels," there are few good supplements on the DMSGuild and RUA for that.
 
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