Playing Level 18 Characters in DnD

Some may say level 18 characters in DnD are overpowered and no longer fun, but we disagree.

“My GM ended the campaign at level 10. He said that’s how most people do it because upper levels are too powerful.”

“We ended at level 14. Things get too complicated above that.”

“Does anyone actually get to tier 4? Most campaigns fizzle out before that.”

After a number of similar things being said from friends and online, we now find ourselves in the talked-about scenario. After nearly eight years of playing the same TTRPG campaign, we have level 18 characters. And this isn’t a game we just play once a month, either. We play it every week with the exception of being sick or being out of town (though we have played from a lakeshore cabin before!).

Progressing This Far in a Story

Being able to bring characters from level 1 all the way to level 18 in DnD is thrilling. You feel them grow up, get stronger, and take on bigger challenges. They change, for the better or the worse, with the story. You build relationships with NPC’s, with other party members, and you definitely get long-running rivalries with antagonists. It’s truly a joy to tell a story for eight years, and now be so close to seeing it come to a satisfying conclusion.

Level 18 Character Powers

We played in a short-term level 20 game with B. Dave Walters. He said, “Some people think you can’t challenge players at this level. I disagree.”

That certainly was the case in his game, with many of us coming close to death. And that’s been the case in ours, as well. There is no shortage of challenges. In fact, they just get bigger and more difficult. We’ve had characters go down, we’ve had spell slots run low, and we’ve had mid-battle stress deciding what to do next.

To clarify, we are heavy homebrewers. While DnD stat blocks are very useful for level 18 characters, it’s also entirely possible and simple to build your own bad guys and monsters from scratch that are up to the task.

Tips on Tier 4 Storytelling

If you find your party in tier 4, that is to say levels 16 – 20, here are some of our tips to make it less daunting.

  • When you’re this deep in the story, it’s not always about combat. The narrative and the characters are driving it at this point. Don’t worry so much about the biggest, baddest monster you can find.
  • The environment can play a huge factor in challenges for high-level DnD characters. Steep drops, crumbling ground, dangerous thunderstorms, blizzards, and more offer expanded challenges beyond just who can hit the hardest.
  • Keep it character-focused. Involve NPCs and antagonists frequently. Give characters situations they don’t want to just firestorm their way out of, like saving innocents.
  • When role-playing a high-level character, think about the weight of their power on them. How does this affect them? Are they more or less likely to use it? Do they feel heavy responsibility? Or has it made them arrogant and reckless?

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