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


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All Dead Generations had an interesting post related to this topic recently. In it, the author quotes Gygax in 1976:
“It is reasonable to calculate that if a fair player takes part in 50 to 75 games in the course of a year he should acquire sufficient experience points to make him about 9th to 11th level, assuming that he manages to survive all that play. The acquisition of successively higher levels will be proportionate to enhanced power and the number of experience points necessary to attain them, so another year of play will by no means mean a doubling of levels but rather the addition of perhaps two or three levels. Using this gauge, it should take four or five years to see 20th level. As BLACKMOOR is the only campaign with a life of five years, and GREYHAWK with a life of four is the second longest running campaign, the most able adventurers should not yet have attained 20th level except in the two named campaigns. To my certain knowledge no player in either BLACKMOOR or GREYHAWK has risen above 14th level.”

The assumption was not only a campaign with the same character lasting 5 years, but also quite frequent and very long (12 hour) play sessions. Whereas, the expectation today is play sessions of 2-4 hours, once a week max, and coming to some sort of conclusion within a year.

And while I'm into the osr, I have to admit that I'm not really into the grind of classic games. There are too many new settings, systems, and games to try that I kind of want things to wrap up within 20 sessions.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Teleport, planeshift, forcage, contingency, simulacrum, mass suggestion, tons of amazing control spells.
Teleport, for when you really don't want to get where you are trying to go, but want to end up somewhere unknown and waaaaaaay off base from where you trying to get to. Even if you're very familiar with where you are trying to get to, there's a nearly 1 in 4 chance of ending up literally anywhere else on the same plane of existence that is similar, or worse.

It's good for emergencies only. If you're going to die if you don't, or someone will die if you do anything else, it's worth the risk.
 

Teleport, for when you really don't want to get where you are trying to go, but want to end up somewhere unknown and waaaaaaay off base from where you trying to get to. Even if you're very familiar with where you are trying to get to, there's a nearly 1 in 4 chance of ending up literally anywhere else on the same plane of existence that is similar, or worse.

It's good for emergencies only. If you're going to die if you don't, or someone will die if you do anything else, it's worth the risk.
Teleport is 100% accurate if you have an object from the desired location, so it's great for escapes. It's just no longer good for infiltration.
 

Aldarc

Legend
All Dead Generations had an interesting post related to this topic recently. In it, the author quotes Gygax in 1976:


The assumption was not only a campaign with the same character lasting 5 years, but also quite frequent and very long (12 hour) play sessions. Whereas, the expectation today is play sessions of 2-4 hours, once a week max, and coming to some sort of conclusion within a year.

And while I'm into the osr, I have to admit that I'm not really into the grind of classic games. There are too many new settings, systems, and games to try that I kind of want things to wrap up within 20 sessions.
This is one area where I find SotDL's approach interesting. Character levels go from 0 to 10, and leveling amounts to finishing a module. Finish a module/adventure? You level up. Modules are designed to work for a given tier of play: e.g., Starting (level 0), Novice (1-2), Expert (3-6), and Master (7-10). So any Expert module can be used for levels 3-6 play. But if you can get an adventure done in 1-2 sessions, then you're looking at around 20 sessions.
 


Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Or general travel. It would get cumbersome to have to keep and catalog items from everywhere you go. A few important destinations would be kept.
Yeah, but some enterprising conjurer is going to realize that by collecting mugs from every Inn in the Realms is going to mean he can hire out to teleport groups anywhere they want to go. Tomas' Terrific Teleporting Service At Your Service!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, but some enterprising conjurer is going to realize that by collecting mugs from every Inn in the Realms is going to mean he can hire out to teleport groups anywhere they want to go. Tomas' Terrific Teleporting Service At Your Service!
And every day he'll have to go back to some inn or another for more drin.....er, mugs, since they're only good for 6 months! He doesn't make much money, because he uses up his slots, but he's happy with the service. :)
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
AD&D 2e had NO LEVEL LIMITS for humans and certain classes of demihumans.

The tables may have stopped at lower levels in what they show on a table, but they also explain how advancement beyond that can occur. 20th level was NOT the highest level you could go.
That's something of an oversimplification. The Dungeon Master's Guide for AD&D 2E said (chapter three):

Theoretically, there is no upper limit to character class levels (although there are racial limitations). The material presented here takes characters only to 20th level--experience has shown that player characters are most enjoyable when played within the 1-20 range. Above 20th level, characters gain few additional powers and face even fewer truly daunting adventures.

While most people focus on the first sentence (and overlook the "theoretically" part of it), the first part of the second sentence is what I find more germane. The DMG only takes characters up to 20th level, having no experience point listings for gaining any levels beyond that.

Of course, various 2E books would rush to make up the difference, such as Forgotten Realms Adventures, PHBR4 The Complete Wizard's Handbook, Dragon Kings, and perhaps most famously, Netheril: Empire of Magic.

But eventually, things stabilized. Dungeon Master Option: High-Level Campaigns stated declaratively (p. 179):

All character advancement stops at 30th level, which represents the pinnacle of mortal achievement.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 


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