Support the GITP forums on Patreon
Help support GITP's forums (and ongoing server maintenance) via Patreon
Page 1 of 10 12345678910 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 297
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Germany

    Default Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Having had some interesting conversations about various older editions of D&D over the last weeks and several people have said that even in the very early editions the fun levels were in the 3 to 10 range. 3rd edition is infamous for getting completely out of balance around 10th level to the point that there was a hugely popular variant that ended level advancement at 6th (or alternatively 8th or 10th) level. But even when B/X was expanded in 1983 to BECMI which raised the maximum level from 14 to 36 it doesn't seem to have been very popular in the long run. Almost all the Basic retroclones around to day stick to the original 14 levels or just 12 or 10. I've even seen the complaint made against OD&D. And now 5th edition was designed explicitly to avoid that flaw. I don't know how much success they had with that.

    Why is this the case? The rules have a lot of big differences, but the problem seems to be always the same.
    Is it really just the spells of 5th level and higher that wrack the dynamics of lower level gameplay? Or is there some flaw in the level system itself that causes that?
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Flumph

    Join Date
    Jun 2016

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Gaming in general gets more complicated and time consuming at higher levels . Wizards pull off serious funny and unwanted admin . Fighters make multiple attack and damage rolls . All the noobs are now experienced veterans . starting from level 1 - 13 can easily take a year . Lots of bored players fall apart or start raping and pillaging your village people .

    I think all editions are fun at lower levels because of their simplicity . Dm is having a holiday so he is less stressed , and in a very positive mood which means he is a generous and charitable DM. Squishy players are far more dependent on village hubs for healing and shelter so they are well behaved .

    There is much different thrill and mindset when your PC is level 1 with less then 10 HP , 11 AC and a rusty sword . Make one chop on the ogre,s testical and then run for the hills ! Yay !

    I have never taken players beyond level 12 before all heck breaks loose and we have to restart . I am quite amazed to hear of stories about campaigns lasting 3 years and players making it to level 20 .
    I assume average game clubs either start their campaigns at level 1 or level 10 . I am a level 1 DM and proud .

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Anonymouswizard's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    In my library

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    One idea I've seen batted aroundisthat D&D characters were never really meant to advance beyond 10th level. This does sort of make sense if you look at the BECMI demihuman level limits (if memory serves me it's 12th level for dwarves, 10th level for elves*, and 8th level for halflings). I believe that AD&D1e had level limits for demihumans capping out at about there as well, but in 2e the level limits were raised so that all races could reach level 15 in at least one class.

    However, I agree that the increasing complexity is also a factor. Compare the D&D wizard to wizards in most other games. The D&D wizard has to go and spend more time looking at this spell list working out which ones he wants, and a list that is probably larger (a 2e wizard with 14 intelligence can have 63 spells in his spellbook before he's out of room, in most other games you probably won't hit 30 spells**).

    4e keep everything relatively balanced, so no class should be unfun at any level. However, characters do get more complicated as you increase in levels, and most of the 'iconic' bad guys are either heroic tier or low-mid paragon, so I can see why people might prefer to stick to 1-10 (or even 1-15).

    5e is weird. My experienceof it is currently all low level, with my only character having just reached Fighter (Battlemaster) 3/Cleric (Knowledge) 2, but from what I can see it solves a decent part of the caster admin problem with the 'prepare list of spells known' system. I'd say the problem here is the high level spells and spell slots, as long as nobody exceeds 5th level spells I can see it remaining fine as long as nobody has a caster class over 10th level. but that's just conjecture at this stage.

    * not 100% sure on warrior elves, but I think it's 10th level as well.
    ** Well, GURPS is an exception, but most of the spells are minor ones that you probably won't pay attention, and even then 60 spells is a good chunk of CP.
    Snazzy avatar (now back! ) by Honest Tiefling.

    RIP Laser-Snail, may you live on in our hearts forever.

    Spoiler: playground quotes
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    I don't think I agree with the premise that all D&D editions fall apart around level 10.

    What is true, at least for 2e and 3.5, is that there is a paradigm shift at higher levels. Higher level parties need different kinds of adventures than lower level parties.
    This only becomes a problem if the DM (or the players) don't realize that shift, or are not interested or able to provide the type of adventure suitable for higher level play.

    Sadly this seems to be true way to often for the writers of published adventures. You're seeing the same simple dungeon layouts just with tougher enemies passed as an adventure for high level characters.
    Thats not how it should be. The discrete encounter model just won't cut it. A good high level adventure should operate on a grander scope. Politics, information gathering and combat-as-war become increasingly important themes as you get into higher levels.

    A good high level campaign can be very rewarding for both the players and the DM, because of the increased complexity.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Anonymouswizard's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    In my library

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Zombimode View Post
    Sadly this seems to be true way to often for the writers of published adventures. You're seeing the same simple dungeon layouts just with tougher enemies passed as an adventure for high level characters.
    Eh, it works if the party is entirely mundanes. Not that I'm praising the design in any way, I hate the structure of published D&D adventures (possibly due to them being 'adventures').

    Thats not how it should be. The discrete encounter model just won't cut it. A good high level adventure should operate on a grander scope. Politics, information gathering and combat-as-war become increasingly important themes as you get into higher levels.
    You see, to me these are mostly things that should be present in a low level adventure. Sure, for beginning adventurers it's 'get information on the goblin camps raiding the city', while for high level adventurers it's more 'okay, we need you to infiltrate the enemy city and kill off every official in the order of their spouse's birthday, and if you need to blow off steam here's a bunch of goblin camps that you can destroy', but to me any adventure that relies on the discrete encounter model is a bad one.

    To me a published adventure, at any level, should provide a setting, a goal for the PCs, and a number of 'likely' encounters that can be slotted in at any point. Sure, it would be a lot more work, but it's not like the current D&D design team is actually doing any designing.
    Snazzy avatar (now back! ) by Honest Tiefling.

    RIP Laser-Snail, may you live on in our hearts forever.

    Spoiler: playground quotes
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    The idea of different level tiers is one I am really unhappy with. A lot of the really cool creatures that everyone wants to fight are such high level that a lot of people never get to encounter them, and if so then mostly as a single boss and not as a faction of antagonists with their full resources. There are rules for going to other worlds, but these are so dangerous that they only become safe to explore at higher levels. (Planescape got around that by making everyone get along peacefully in Sigil and putting more emphasis on social situations that combat.)
    But that's more of a preference thing. Not the fault of the rules when I don't want to wait until high level to get access to new encounters and environments. Perhaps a flaw, but I don't think it influences how well it works when you do it as intended.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Morty's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Poland
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    D&D has a power curve that no other system really has. There are high-powered ones, there are low-powered ones and there are those who support different characters, but none where you start out a schlub (less competent than a WoD mortal or low-point GURPS character in many cases) and work your way up to a demigod by killing progressively more powerful conveniently evil monsters.

    On top of that, the franchise never really had a good idea of what higher levels (as in, past 10) are even meant to look like. Below level 10 or so, it mostly knows what the place of the PCs in the world is meant to be, even if it can't quite handle its power level. But when you go beyond that, the PCs' abilities make the world around them increasingly irrelevant, and the rules and setting don't really know how to portray that. It also gets in the way of wishing to increase your characters' competence without making them world-strangling powerhouses.

    And then there's the fact that they come apart on a mechanical level. Rules originally meant to handle low-level play won't be able to start simulating high-powered play just by inflating the numbers. It's something that Storyteller systems learned harshly, but the designers of D&D hasn't really taken to heart yet.
    My FFRP characters. Avatar by Ashen Lilies. Sigatars by Ashen Lilies, Gulaghar and Purple Eagle.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    RogueGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Toronto
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Zombimode View Post
    I don't think I agree with the premise that all D&D editions fall apart around level 10.

    What is true, at least for 2e and 3.5, is that there is a paradigm shift at higher levels. Higher level parties need different kinds of adventures than lower level parties.
    This only becomes a problem if the DM (or the players) don't realize that shift, or are not interested or able to provide the type of adventure suitable for higher level play.

    Sadly this seems to be true way to often for the writers of published adventures. You're seeing the same simple dungeon layouts just with tougher enemies passed as an adventure for high level characters.
    Thats not how it should be. The discrete encounter model just won't cut it. A good high level adventure should operate on a grander scope. Politics, information gathering and combat-as-war become increasingly important themes as you get into higher levels.

    A good high level campaign can be very rewarding for both the players and the DM, because of the increased complexity.
    I'm also of this mind. It's a change in dynamic, that's all. Arguing politics and planning wargame type sessions might not be everyone's cup of tea of course... but if your group doesn't like that there's always the option of semi-retiring the characters and playing their lower level henchmen to further the ends of the bigwigs. That keeps you in the style of game you're used to while still advancing the goals of your principle characters.
    78% of all DM's start their campaign in a tavern. If you're among the 22% who didn't, copy and paste this into your signature and tell us where you DID begin.

    The group started out in the middle of a melee with goblin bandits. Outnumbered and outmatched. One by one they went down. After the last one fell, the situation was revealed to be a training drill with the local militia.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    The essence of D&D has usually been a group of wanderers risking there lives in a dangerous world. At about tenth level or so, they become among the most dangerous things in the world, and the tension dies out. If the PCs feel like the biggest badasses on the planet, then that's a very different game.

    My vague idea is that when the party sees a dragon and does not feel threatened, and does not consider fleeing, and does not come up with a careful plan, but just yawns and attacks from the front, the campaign is over.

    [I get that epic adventures exist. They are a very different kind of game.]

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    On top of that, the franchise never really had a good idea of what higher levels (as in, past 10) are even meant to look like. Below level 10 or so, it mostly knows what the place of the PCs in the world is meant to be, even if it can't quite handle its power level. But when you go beyond that, the PCs' abilities make the world around them increasingly irrelevant, and the rules and setting don't really know how to portray that.
    There's a lot of understanding here, but it's not true that the franchise never knew what high levels should be. It's closer to say that what high levels should be didn't really appeal to people who'd played their way up to it.

    In original D&D, at about 10th level, PCs were supposed to stop being wanderers, clear out a fiefdom in the unconquered wilderness, build a keep and an army, and now the adventures come to you, in the form of invaders.

    This worked well for the original players, who were miniatures wargamers first. But as soon as D&D was published, there were lots of new players who were in it for the adventures. They didn't want to settle down, and they didn't want to play an army. They wanted to play Gore-tex the Dragon-Slayer.

    Meanwhile, their PCs had outgrown most of the monsters and encounters, which were designed to get them to tenth level.

    The game was not designed for higher level wanderers, but higher level PCs kept wandering.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Flickerdart's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    NYC
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    [I get that epic adventures exist. They are a very different kind of game.]
    This is basically the crux of the issue. The way 3.x presented it, 1-20 and Epic were two different things, implying that 1-20 should not be Epic.

    But at the same time, the game defines anything 11th level or higher as legendary. The Perform DC to develop an international/extraplanar reputation is only 30. By 7th level, the party's wizard is a dragon. By 9th level, the party cleric has defeated death itself. Distances become meaningless with spells like teleport and plane shift.

    4e tried to address this with the "paragon" tier of play - but "paragon" is a pretty meaningless word, so it didn't work. Really, level 11 is already Epic.
    Quote Originally Posted by Inevitability View Post
    Greater
    \ˈgrā-tər \
    comparative adjective
    1. Describing basically the exact same monster but with twice the RHD.
    Quote Originally Posted by Artanis View Post
    I'm going to be honest, "the Welsh became a Great Power and conquered Germany" is almost exactly the opposite of the explanation I was expecting

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    The problem with that is that wargaming and politics is not really a natural development from dungeon crawling and monster slaying. The mechanical abilities your character developed at the early levels become largely useless and there's no real need to wait for high level to start with these things.
    There is some rough consent in my experience that strongholds were added so that players wouldn't throw away the yellow junk they got from a dungeon once they got their XP for it. When you have all the equipment money can buy, getting more money becomes pointless. Which is a real problem in a game that is primarily about finding treasure.

    I think it's a bit like the problem often described by Sanderson as an example of flawed novel writing: When you change the concept in the middle, who is wanting to read it? Those who like the first concept will be disappointed when you replace it with something very different. Those who like the second concept probably won't be interested to start reading in the first place.
    If you make a game about dungeon crawling, make it dungeon crawling from start to end. If you want to make a game about commanding armies, make it about commanding armies from the start, don't put it behind an entry barrier.
    Now there is some space where the two actually work quite well together. Once the characters got famous and known as sworn enemy of a main villain, then it can be pretty cool to let the players take charge of the army of allies they have gathered to confront the villain's forces. But I think that probably works best as an occasional special event, not as something that replaces the regular style of play. And another problem with wargaming is that there can be only one commander. What are the other 3 to 7 party members to do for the rest of the campaign. When Conan was a king, all his stories were about times where he wasn't active in politics or leading but was by himself on an adventure.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    D&D has a power curve that no other system really has. There are high-powered ones, there are low-powered ones and there are those who support different characters, but none where you start out a schlub (less competent than a WoD mortal or low-point GURPS character in many cases) and work your way up to a demigod by killing progressively more powerful conveniently evil monsters.

    On top of that, the franchise never really had a good idea of what higher levels (as in, past 10) are even meant to look like. Below level 10 or so, it mostly knows what the place of the PCs in the world is meant to be, even if it can't quite handle its power level. But when you go beyond that, the PCs' abilities make the world around them increasingly irrelevant, and the rules and setting don't really know how to portray that. It also gets in the way of wishing to increase your characters' competence without making them world-strangling powerhouses.

    And then there's the fact that they come apart on a mechanical level. Rules originally meant to handle low-level play won't be able to start simulating high-powered play just by inflating the numbers. It's something that Storyteller systems learned harshly, but the designers of D&D hasn't really taken to heart yet.
    This definitely gets to the heart of things. D&D, at least in editions I've played, has serious paradigm shifts. Spells in particular obviate many lower level challenges entirely, but the game never quite seems to realize that. It doesn't really do anything to suggest what to do with characters who can do the sorts of things D&D characters learn to do.

    STaRS (and STaRS Lite)
    A non-narrativeist, generic rules-light system, by me. Now officially released!

    Grod's Guide to Greatness
    A big book of player options for 5e, by me

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Grod's Law: You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use
    Giants and Graveyards: My collected 3.5 class fixes and more.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Flickerdart's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    NYC
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    The problem with a lot of "king goes on adventure" plots is that they start by hoodwinking the king out of being a king. The kingdom is conquered, the king is kidnapped, the throne is usurped, and so on. For players that actually cared about the king part, being de-kinged renders the achievement meaningless.
    Quote Originally Posted by Inevitability View Post
    Greater
    \ˈgrā-tər \
    comparative adjective
    1. Describing basically the exact same monster but with twice the RHD.
    Quote Originally Posted by Artanis View Post
    I'm going to be honest, "the Welsh became a Great Power and conquered Germany" is almost exactly the opposite of the explanation I was expecting

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Mar 2014

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Ultimately, because the powers and abilities of both the PCs and their foes at high level outstrip the conventions of the primary genres D&D takes inspiration from: sword & sorcery and its prettier cousin, high fantasy. Low-level play is practically a chapter out of a Fritz Lieber book, while high-level play gives the party far more powers, and more variety of powers (including setting-destabilizing ones), than are found in most high fantasy books (even ones where magic is commonplace, like Tamora Pierce novels).
    I think part of this comes from an early design standpoint to avoid placing thematic or cultural restrictions on the base classes (mage, fighter, and to a lesser extent cleric). Even the original name of the mage class, "magic-user," speaks to this design intent. Consequently, things from every fantasy book, every myth, end up being lumped into the abilities of few enough classes that the party can fill all the roles simultaneously.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    So you're argument is that wizard (and to some extend cleric) spells are not too strong but primarily too diverse?

    Interesting thought. Sounds quite convincing to me, actually.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Flickerdart's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    NYC
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    So you're argument is that wizard (and to some extend cleric) spells are not too strong but primarily too diverse?

    Interesting thought. Sounds quite convincing to me, actually.
    This is basically why (again, in 3.5) beguilers and warmages and death masters and necromancers and ardents were a thing - to combat the generalness of the myth mish-mash spell list. And it worked very well.
    Quote Originally Posted by Inevitability View Post
    Greater
    \ˈgrā-tər \
    comparative adjective
    1. Describing basically the exact same monster but with twice the RHD.
    Quote Originally Posted by Artanis View Post
    I'm going to be honest, "the Welsh became a Great Power and conquered Germany" is almost exactly the opposite of the explanation I was expecting

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    30.2672 N, 97.7431 W
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    I've been calling this the "Dragon Ball" effect, for ages. If you're familiar with the Dragon Ball franchise you'll see the same pattern. Every time Goku meets an enemy, he has to spend time getting slapped around and then powering up. The he beats up the bad guy. Then the next bigger, badder bad guy shows up. Goku has to spend time getting slapped around, and then powering up.... After a while, he's fighting guys that can obliterate half the galaxy with the twitch of one mighty eye-lash....

    In D&D (and other games) once you get to a certain level, it's really hard to explain why a character that could easily take over his entire planet, is instead still running around looking for adventure. And then you have to come up with something to challenge the wizard that can cause stars to go supernova with a snap of his fingers. It all gets too ridiculous after a point

    To be honest, the level cap on the game (read 2nd ed) was extended, basically, just to sell more splat books (rake in more dough), and wasn't really balanced all that well. By this time, other game companies had sprouted up and were taking a big chunk out of what had been, up until then, TSRs playground. They needed to increase profits, and raising the level cap on D&D was easier (and more successful, sales wise) than designing new games. How many of TSRs other RPG's can you even recall, with out resorting to Google?
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

    - L. Long

    I think, therefore I get really, really annoyed at people who won't.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Troll in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    What Jay R said, plus:

    If you look at 1e, advancement really stopped at around 9th level. After that, you only got nominal increases in hp and attack scores. Sure, spellcasters *might* get spells if they had sufficiently high scores (and with random stat generation, most didn't). But really, advancement capped out around 9th level.

    Combine that with the fact that you started running out of stuff to fight, and it started making sense to retire those characters at that point.

    Keep in mind, too, that in the original campaigns, you'd have multiple characters. So retiring one just meant you played others, not that you had to stop playing the "adventuring" game.

    Once you got rid of that soft level cap, and made the assumption that people would keep playing the same characters, and that you had to support the higher levels, a lot of the assumptions that worked in the default 1st-9th level range stopped really working.

    The biggest problem with D&D is that it's built around a playstyle that not many people use today.

    If 4e did anything right, it's to try and build a game specifically around how "most" people play, and make a game that gets rid of inaccurate assumptions. I'm not saying they *did* that effectively, to be clear. But I think the attempt was the right idea.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Titan in the Playground
     
    PirateCaptain

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    On Paper
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    I think a big part of it might be a breakdown of pacing.


    The classic Heroic Adventure Fantasy calls for a world of danger and peril, with challenges around every corner. A tomb full of traps and monsters, a forest crawling with Bandits and Goblins, and our Heroes, Triumphing over it all.

    But, once you get to a certain power level, the "World of Peril" kind of ceases to apply. CR 10 encounters are powerful enough that they can't really exist casually, which in turn kind of breaks down standard pacing.

    At low levels, fighting the Evil Sorceror could mean fighting his Orcish Mercenaries at the door, then a handful of conjured minions and animated constructs in the tower, before facing off against the Sorceror himself.

    At higher levels, you can't just use a handful of Orcish Mercenaries, A CR 10 group of Orcs would be The Legendary Blood Fist Raiders. Inside the tower, "Conjured Minions" turn into "THE DUKES OF HELL SUMMONED TO DO THE SORCERORS BIDDING", animated constructs become UNSTOPPABLE WEAPONS CAPABLE OF WIPING OUT ENTIRE CITIES.

    You either get to the point where every battle is against some unique, legendary foe, or where it strains credability that 1st level commoners could survive in this world where demon cults can use Barbed Devils as basic foot soldiers.


    Meanwhile, outside of combat, the bread-and-butter of adventuring becomes trivial. Crossing the Mountains of Peril is easy when you can just teleport. Everybody in the party can fly and the barbarian can bust down walls, so there's no reason to fight your way up the Tower of Doom, solving the Duke's Murder is fairly straightforwards when the Cleric can just cast Speak With Dead on the corpse.

    Lost in the Desert? Pfft, if you didn't drop some pocket change on an ion stone that means you don't need food or drink, plenty can be conjured. Besides, the Ranger can usually find enough food to feed a small army.
    Dealing with Courtly Intrigue? The Bard has +25 Diplomacy, everybody loves you now.The Rogue is basically undetectable, so you know all the kingdom's secrets.


    It's an especially big deal if you leveled up from low-levels. It used to be that a handful of militia and a palisade wall was enough to keep a town safe, now suddenly you can't throw a rock without hitting a handful of Fire Giants.


    Fifth edition is a bit better about this, since bounded accuracy means that it's easier to scale up encounters by increasing the number of enemies (You're still fighting Orcs, now you're just fighting a lot MORE orcs), and the reduced number of magic items means that you don't have the whole party able to fly.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dsurion View Post
    I don't know if you've noticed, but pretty much everything BRC posts is full of awesome.
    Quote Originally Posted by chiasaur11 View Post
    So, Astronaut, War Hero, or hideous Mantis Man, hop to it! The future of humanity is in your capable hands and or terrifying organic scythes.
    My Homebrew:Synchronized Swordsmen,Dual Daggers,The Doctor,The Preacher,The Brawler
    [/Center]

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    erikun's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    In AD&D, there was a specific intent that the play style would change from individually going out to solve problems below 10th level into ruling groups and bringing comrades along above 10th level. There was a reason that most characters got followers around that time, and why HP switched from dice rolls into flat +2HP/level at that point.

    I'd think that part of the reason it is something which happens across most/all systems of D&D has to do with a few things. PCs are at a greater risk of dying at lower levels. The orc with a 2d6 greataxe is a much greater threat to a 24 HP fighter or even a 40 HP fighter than to a 217 HP wizard. Magic is less common and less abundant so even something as simple as climbing a cliff needs to be resolved with something more than "just cast Fly on all party members". Equipment and expenses are more restricted as well, to the point where PCs don't just have dozens of potions and personalize magical equipment and so on.

    Once you get to a certain level, common threats start becoming trivial which means the game needs to shift gears. Either you change the direction the game goes in - by having the PCs become landowners and managing groups, for example - or you just increase the numbers and start throwing ludicrous numbers at the party.

    I think that some editions of D&D were intended to do this, it was just never officially written down and so got a bit mangled in later editions. Like I said, it seems like AD&D intended players to retire or at least deligate, which is why they got followers and why spellcasters had long-range mass teleport spells or Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion housing dozens of people. Later designers didn't take the change in theme into account, hence D&D3e's Leadership feat and some spells seemingly out of place for a small adventuring party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    So you're argument is that wizard (and to some extend cleric) spells are not too strong but primarily too diverse?

    Interesting thought. Sounds quite convincing to me, actually.
    I'd say that both numbers and spells are causing the problem. It's not just that a wizard could cast Fly and Invisibility and just float around summoning anything they like as much as they want. It's that a high level wizard simply cannot be meaningfully hurt by a low level threat. The orc with the greataxe can only do 15 damage, maximum, with an attack. When the wizard could easily have 100, 200, or over 500 HP, that kind of damage is a joke, even if it didn't miss 95% of the time.

    But yes, the spell lists are causing a big part of the problem. Everybody is so focused on reproducing earlier editions with their spell lists that they don't focus on which spells are good to keep and which ones can be avoided or dropped - or, for that matter, how to change casting and spell designs to fit a particular theme.
    Thank you to zimmerwald1915 for the Gustave avatar.
    The full set is here.
    Quote Originally Posted by darthbobcat View Post
    There are no bad ideas, just bad execution.
    Spoiler
    Show

    Air Raccoon avatar provided by Ceika
    from the Request an OotS Style Avatar thread



    A big thanks to PrinceAquilaDei for the gryphon avatar!
    original image

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Foggy Droughtland

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    In AD&D, there was a specific intent that the play style would change from individually going out to solve problems below 10th level into ruling groups and bringing comrades along above 10th level. There was a reason that most characters got followers around that time, and why HP switched from dice rolls into flat +2HP/level at that point.

    ...

    But yes, the spell lists are causing a big part of the problem. Everybody is so focused on reproducing earlier editions with their spell lists that they don't focus on which spells are good to keep and which ones can be avoided or dropped - or, for that matter, how to change casting and spell designs to fit a particular theme.
    It sounds like later edition designers confused "reproducing D&D" with "reproducing D&D."

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Bronx, NY
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Because nobody ever really tested the system that far, so nobody ever realized that the scaling just doesn't work because the numbers become so big that every action is either so minor as to be irrelevant or so major as to be instant win.
    Originally it was not that important because very few people long enough to get that far, and the few that did simply did not care. That held up through AD&D 2nd edition.

    When D20 came around they tried making plans for it but they still did not playtest much beyond 10th level, and by the time they got that far they had added so much splat that optimization made it even worse, and there was nothing to do but shrug and pretend it didn't exist even though everyone was fully aware of it.

    When they tried "fixing" it after D20, they not only messed up the math, they gutted the things that made the classes distinct to the point that they made "refluffing" a default element.

    I expect the same problem still exists with the current version of the rules.

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    At low levels, fighting the Evil Sorceror could mean fighting his Orcish Mercenaries at the door, then a handful of conjured minions and animated constructs in the tower, before facing off against the Sorceror himself.

    At higher levels, you can't just use a handful of Orcish Mercenaries, A CR 10 group of Orcs would be The Legendary Blood Fist Raiders. Inside the tower, "Conjured Minions" turn into "THE DUKES OF HELL SUMMONED TO DO THE SORCERORS BIDDING", animated constructs become UNSTOPPABLE WEAPONS CAPABLE OF WIPING OUT ENTIRE CITIES.

    You either get to the point where every battle is against some unique, legendary foe, or where it strains credability that 1st level commoners could survive in this world where demon cults can use Barbed Devils as basic foot soldiers.
    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I'd say that both numbers and spells are causing the problem. It's not just that a wizard could cast Fly and Invisibility and just float around summoning anything they like as much as they want. It's that a high level wizard simply cannot be meaningfully hurt by a low level threat. The orc with the greataxe can only do 15 damage, maximum, with an attack. When the wizard could easily have 100, 200, or over 500 HP, that kind of damage is a joke, even if it didn't miss 95% of the time.
    This seems to me to be primarily an issue of the numbers no longer matching up with the expected story and setting. I wouldn't call it a mechanical flaw as you could move on to more dangerous environments. But when it leads to players being unhappy with how their story progresses that's still a problem with game design.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiktakkat View Post
    Because nobody ever really tested the system that far, so nobody ever realized that the scaling just doesn't work because the numbers become so big that every action is either so minor as to be irrelevant or so major as to be instant win.
    That's a really good point. I think this might actually be the issue that has been troubling me. While you can scale up the modifiers, the number range of the dice always remains the same so the whole system scales unevenly. A 2nd level fighter having +2 to attack and a 2nd level wizard +1 isn't a big deal when rolling a d20. At 20th level the difference between +20 and +10 (which in practice will be more like +35 and +15) on a d20 is much bigger. And that would be a problem actually inherent to the very basic resolution mechanic of D&D. And would explain while the problem has always been there.

    Though wizard spells obviously don't help either.

    I am thinking I am going to treat my B/X campaign as E9. After that it's only going to be more hp, magic items, and one spell slot per level for casters.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Bronx, NY
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    That's a really good point. I think this might actually be the issue that has been troubling me. While you can scale up the modifiers, the number range of the dice always remains the same so the whole system scales unevenly. A 2nd level fighter having +2 to attack and a 2nd level wizard +1 isn't a big deal when rolling a d20. At 20th level the difference between +20 and +10 (which in practice will be more like +35 and +15) on a d20 is much bigger. And that would be a problem actually inherent to the very basic resolution mechanic of D&D. And would explain while the problem has always been there.
    It is more than just the attack modifier.
    Particularly in D20, an attack at 1st level deals 1-20 damage against enemies with 1-20 hp, while an attack at 20th level deals 30-200 damage against enemies with 300 hp. That's "1 hit kill" to "2-10 hit kill" (not including misses, which skews the results even more).

    OD&D, BECMI, and AD&D weren't as bad, but the Strength bonuses for monsters added in AD&D 2nd, and the weapon specialization and further options added in AD&D 2.5, brought the melee damage range close to D20 levels.

    Mind you, that's why the "4th" edition failed when they tried using tweaks and math so "everyone" was "supposed" to hit 50% of the time at every level. The calculations failed when you started using anything BUT standard monsters of the same level as the PCs, compounded by the bonuses for elite and solo monsters, compounded further by not realizing that the 50% miss chance could come on the Daily Power that was "supposed" to account for the greater hit points at higher levels while the 50% hit chance could only come on the At-Will Powers that really couldn't handle the job, compounded still further by their complete misunderstanding of probability because of Gambler's Fallacy with saves.

    Though wizard spells obviously don't help either.
    Exactly. Magic jumps to "save or die" from merely "save or suck", causing the same massive variation in effect.

    I am thinking I am going to treat my B/X campaign as E9. After that it's only going to be more hp, magic items, and one spell slot per level for casters.
    I've contemplated using "epic level" advancement after 10th level.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Telok's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    PRAK

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    That's a really good point. I think this might actually be the issue that has been troubling me. While you can scale up the modifiers, the number range of the dice always remains the same so the whole system scales unevenly. A 2nd level fighter having +2 to attack and a 2nd level wizard +1 isn't a big deal when rolling a d20. At 20th level the difference between +20 and +10 (which in practice will be more like +35 and +15) on a d20 is much bigger. And that would be a problem actually inherent to the very basic resolution mechanic of D&D. And would explain while the problem has always been there.
    Mind of course that a fighter with +2 attack and a wizard with +1 attack are almost indistinguishable except for what armor they happen to be wearing and that the fighter can take one more hit than the wizard. D&D editions 3+ seem to have the most scaling issues. 3e with to-hit and damage and hit points, the others with just damage and hit points (4e and 5e limit everyone to about the same range of AC and to-hit regardless of class).

    In AD&D 1e at 17th level the die roll to hit AC 0 is 4 for fighters (+16), 10 for clerics (+10), 12 for rogues (+8), and 13 for magic-users (+7). Which maps about equally to your base assumptions based on level. Add 18/00 strength for +3 to hit and a +5 weapon for the fighter, a +4 mace for the cleric, and a +2 weapon for anyone else. This gives us a roll to hit AC 0 of -4 for fighters (+24), 6 for clerics (+14), and 10 for thieves (+10). At 17th level the cleric has 2,025,001 xp, the fighter 2,100,001 xp, the magic-user 2,625,001 xp, and the thief 1,540,001 xp. Here's an issue then, at the high levels not everyone is the same level.

    <snipped long xp equivalency stuff>

    Of course AD&D was a different beast from the later editions, combat had different assumptions about how it was approached and played out. Still, all the attack bonuses are within 10 points for the non-fighters (fighters are much much better at fighting, which is good) and nobody has more than 100 hit points. So the combat didn't have much of a scaling issue, and the caster classes gained spells as they fell behind on combat prowess. Still, if you didn't start moving into domain or keep building stuff and stayed with the homeless adventurer model things start to look a little strange with superheroes wandering the countryside carrying a wagon full of bags of holding filled with gold and looking for dragons and titans to fight.
    Last edited by Telok; 2016-07-30 at 02:46 PM.
    Niven's Laws, #5
    If you've nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn't get it then, let it not be your fault.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Planetar

    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Foggy Droughtland

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    This seems to me to be primarily an issue of the numbers no longer matching up with the expected story and setting. I wouldn't call it a mechanical flaw as you could move on to more dangerous environments. But when it leads to players being unhappy with how their story progresses that's still a problem with game design.
    That does seem like it would often lead to that, since the one story it produces is "we were a bunch of treasure hunters in a relatively safe area who succeeded too often and decided to go somewhere we'd have a chance of dying, because reasons."

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Morty's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Poland
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I am thinking I am going to treat my B/X campaign as E9. After that it's only going to be more hp, magic items, and one spell slot per level for casters.
    I'd remove HP from this equation, since their ungodly bloat is one of the reasons high levels come apart at the seams.

    Also, 4e makes the most effort to actually define the kind of gameplay experience that different levels should bring, but unfortunately, that effort is pretty half-baked. It doesn't help that 4e does little to combat the "same thing, but with bigger numbers" problem. It arguably makes it worse, really.
    Last edited by Morty; 2016-07-31 at 08:14 AM.
    My FFRP characters. Avatar by Ashen Lilies. Sigatars by Ashen Lilies, Gulaghar and Purple Eagle.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Yora's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Germany

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I'd remove HP from this equation, since their ungodly bloat is one of the reasons high levels come apart at the seams.
    With a fixed +3 or +1 per level I don't see that becoming a problem. Not after fighters previously getting 1d8+2 per level.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

    Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor - Writing Sword & Sorcery
    Spriggan's Den Heroic Fantasy Roleplaying

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Anonymouswizard's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    In my library

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I'd remove HP from this equation, since their ungodly bloat is one of the reasons high levels come apart at the seams.
    Eh, if I remember B/X gives either 1HP or 2HP per level after 9th, although fighters might get 3HP a level (they do in AD&D2e, although I only know that as I own the books). I'm going to use Basic Fantasy, as I have the pdf and it's close enough for our purpose, so fighters get +2HP per level. Assuming 10 CON (reasonable because stats are randomly generated in order) and average hp rolls for both a fighter and a wizard the fighter ends up with 62.5 hp compared to 90 if they just continued getting hit dice, while the wizard has 33.5 hp compared to 50.

    A T-rex does 6d6 damage per attack and attacks once per round. That averages at 21 damage per attack, so the wizard is eaten in two rounds (one if unlucky), while the fighter needs three rounds on average. Using a Red Dragon we get a claw/claw/bite dealing 1d8/1d8/4d8, and assuming they all hit we deal an average of 27 damage, so the wizard is gone in one round and the fighter in two.

    Also, 4e makes the most effort to actually define the kind of gameplay experience that different levels should bring, but unfortunately, that effort is pretty half-baked. It doesn't help that 4e does little to combat the "same thing, but with bigger numbers" problem. It arguably makes it worse, really.
    4e's vision of higher levels is 'same thing, but with bigger numbers and you can teleport 30 feet once per combat'. It's also at the weird point where the most interesting gameplay is arguably at levels 1-10, but to me the most interest part of your characters is at levels 11-20. Paragon Paths were much more interesting than Epic Destinies, and more fun because you had a decent number of options (except for a few cases where your 1st level choice funneled you into one).

    I'm annoyed that more Paragon Paths didn't become 5e archetypes. I mean, you can fit some into existing classes fairly easily (avenger->paladin and invoker->cleric, seeker->ranger is also fairly easy). Also they could have chosen the Initiate of the Dragon, Mountain Devotee, or Radiant Fist as the third monk archetype instead of the Four Elements one, and I'm sure several people would have preferred it.
    Snazzy avatar (now back! ) by Honest Tiefling.

    RIP Laser-Snail, may you live on in our hearts forever.

    Spoiler: playground quotes
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2015

    Default Re: Why do almost all editions of D&D fall apart around 10th level

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    This seems to me to be primarily an issue of the numbers no longer matching up with the expected story and setting. I wouldn't call it a mechanical flaw as you could move on to more dangerous environments. But when it leads to players being unhappy with how their story progresses that's still a problem with game design.


    That's a really good point. I think this might actually be the issue that has been troubling me. While you can scale up the modifiers, the number range of the dice always remains the same so the whole system scales unevenly. A 2nd level fighter having +2 to attack and a 2nd level wizard +1 isn't a big deal when rolling a d20. At 20th level the difference between +20 and +10 (which in practice will be more like +35 and +15) on a d20 is much bigger. And that would be a problem actually inherent to the very basic resolution mechanic of D&D. And would explain while the problem has always been there.

    Though wizard spells obviously don't help either.

    I am thinking I am going to treat my B/X campaign as E9. After that it's only going to be more hp, magic items, and one spell slot per level for casters.
    I went with max level 12 for Low Fantasy Gaming. It might be what you're looking for - free PDF at the link https://lowfantasygaming.com/

    To reiterate what other posters have already said, I think most D&D falls apart after about level 10 because:

    1) Magic is too strong - teleport, raise dead, too many fly spells, etc

    2) For 3e and later, Hit points and damage inflation is too high, making lower level monsters irrelevant

    3) Paradigm shift - the classic open world sword and sorcery/adventurer seeking riches/glory - which I suspect is the kind of game many folks want to play - falls away, and instead the party turns into epic heroes charged with saving the world/politics style game.

    4) I genuinely think many players simply get a bit bored with the same PCs/setting/game system after 12-18 months of real time (at which point your party might be in the early teen levels?). So, just a natural wish for a change after that long time playing.

    5) At the mid teens etc the party fears no enemy, barring demigods or similar. The danger/suspense tends to go out of the game.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •