High Level Play – Concerns

The latest Legends and Lore article on the WotC website worried me, and I responded in the comments. I feel this needs more visibility than hidden in comments and rage, however. Luckily, I have a blog I never use for just this sort of occasion.

What I wrote:

This post makes me the most concerned out of any L&L post ths far, as it seems that Monte doesn’t actually understand the reasons people think D&D breaks at high levels. This worries me.

I love the idea, the concept of high level play. The problem is, execution is always mediocre. In 3e and prior, the issue wasn’t just that encounters could be bypassed with spells, it was that the non-casters had to just sit aside twiddling their thumbs as the casters did so. The issue wasn’t that you could disintegrate hordes, it was that climactic fights could be 2 hours long, or 2 minutes, depending solely on how the Wizard’s luck went with those spells.

4e, despite all the complaining handles the tier changes the smoothest. Fights get too long, and the DM has to do a lot of work to give big challenges sometimes, but everyone remains useful, and everyone gets a chance to contribute to the game.

As a fan of Mages (as you said at DDXP), I understand fully why you’re a fan of high level play in all editions.

But please, try to understand why some of us, as fans of Fighters, Rogues, Paladins, etc, have issues with it.

I like the idea. I want the game to change. I want my Paladin to soar across the sky, mounted on a dragon, pummeling demon lords and saving gods.

But in 3e and prior? I never got the chance. Either the Wizard removed all challenge, or he failed and we TPK’d since we couldn’t get past the magical wards.

For me, the game broke.

Please understand this. And please let me pummel my demon lords.

I suppose my main point is that D&D doesn’t break as a game at high level by default. Rather, it breaks if you want to have a diverse party. If my entire 3e party were primary spellcasters, I’d be fine. But it absolutely sucks playing my high-level fighter alongside those characters.

Monte talks about the type of game where you create your own planes and lay waste to planets, teleporting around and disintegrating hordes. But he needs to remember that not every class gets to do those things. We need to make sure those classes are still fun.

If we can do that, and keep combat from ballooning into a 3-hour affair, then I’d officially call high-level play “not broken”.


Geek Ken  on February 20th, 2012

Well said. There are a lot of solid game design ideas in 4E (with some clunkers too). I’m hoping that DnDnext doesn’t throw everything in 4E under the bus. High end play is problematic, but a different animal in 4E compared to other editions with character disparity (fortunately, disparity not being one of them).

Graham  on February 20th, 2012

Thanks. There’s always that nagging doubt that I’m the only one bothered by something when I rant.

The fact that Monte can’t even see why people think high levels break is the most concerning thing I’ve heard out of D&D Next to date.

Arcane Springboard  on February 20th, 2012

I’m really not sure where you get that Monte doesn’t understand why people think high level D&D breaks down.

Sure, he says he doesn’t fully _agree_ with it. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand it.

Graham  on February 20th, 2012

Arcane Springboard,

(Sorry in advance if this comes across as a screed)

He says explicitly that he’s never agreed with it, yes, but he then goes on to try to explain what it is people are mistaking for “breaking”.

“What people are recognizing is that, at a certain level, play changes.”

“The people who say that the game breaks down at such-and-such a level are self-defining themselves as people who don’t care for that style of high-level play, which is fine, of course!”

(Emphasis mine)

What he doesn’t seem to realize is that we do accept that play changes at certain levels. And many of us, myself included, WANT that change in play.

The play style change isn’t where we think high level D&D breaks down, but that’s the only thing he addresses in his article.

I want high-level play to be epic. I want it to be grander, and somewhat more complex. I want to be able to affect whole planes and depose gods.

I don’t think high-level D&D is broken because I “don’t care for that style of play”.

I think it’s broken because (in 3e) I want my fighter to be able to participate in that style of play as well, or (in 4e) I want to be able to have that style of play withcombats that don’t take 3 hours and are still challenging.

To say that everyone who thinks high-level play breaks down merely doesn’t like the playstyle is disingenuous at best, and ignorant at worst.

Either he understands it and is ignoring it, or he doesn’t understand it. Right now I’m choosing to believe the latter, as the first is malicious, and the latter can be fixed with education.

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