Maxing out levels

Where do you go from here, now that all other character’s have leveled up?

When we feel we have squeezed the fun out of one set, we start another.

For me, it’s the story. Always the story. Levels are an abstract for power and chasing them can be serious fun; it’s also the side of RPGs that lead us to video games.

What do you do beyond that? Share good stories. Sometimes the stories will say “Time to get out new characters!” or “Time to revisit old ones for fun!” and that’s when I change.


Find out what their L1 kids are up to…

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The last time I hit max level with my group we formed a Merc guild and our new characters were either offspring or new recruits in the guild. Our old characters either ran the guild or focused on their professions, offered discount and crafting to reduce downtime between missions for the new guild members. The next campaign kicked off 15-20 years after the founding of the guild since half our group played offspring.

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We’ve hit Level 20+ so many times in D&D, Pathfinder, etc… In those higher levels the games get unwieldy. Even in the Hero System the numbers start to blur when XP gets up there. We’ve started with new characters, a few generational, but so much feels unfinished.

We’ll get back to them some day!

You’ve reached max level? Awesome. Now pivot. They’re no longer adventurers, they’re now forced to become pillars of kingdoms and government - nuclear weapons to be dispatched in the worst of cases - but otherwise move to worldbuilding and make them now responsible for the world they’ve murdered through.

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This begs follow-up questions…

  • What games have no level cap?
  • Do you know any RPGs that don’t concern themselves with levels or the equivalent?

Hmm, was there a max level? I don’t recall such a rule. At least there are none in the systems I play?

As a person who frequently plays at high levels, I have yet to run into characters that I cannot challenge. Be it 1000+ point GURPS superheros or 20+ D&D characters looking at epic or divine selections, they are all easy to handle in my opinion.

However, I find that I must echo @Grimwell and @tesral … while I have no issues dealing with challenging any level of characters, two critical aspects really are story and fun, but not just the story alone.

For me, story by itself doesn’t cut it. That puts all the work on me as the DM/GM. Instead, I go for player goals (which admittedly often winds up being story/plot related in the end).

When the players have goals they want to accomplish AND can see how the story and encounters (combat or RP or otherwise) tie into their goals… THEN they will stay interested, no matter what level of play we are at, and have FUN!

For example, my 19-20th level party wanted to teleport to the City of Greyhawk to follow up on a lead to the secrets of safely breaking through to a higher level of power (ie: Epic level) as they had learned hints that there are multiple ways to do so with varying effects and consequences. Having rejected one possible method (the easy route with the worst effects, kudos to them) that had consequences they were not willing to live with, they are on the hunt for other methods. Only, they need to track down the real tomb of Acerarack (among the numerous fakes) where he hid the secrets he discovered when he made the attempt.

They were currently in Istivin, the capital city of Sterich. Which, for those not familiar with maps of the Flaaness, is less than a thousand miles away but over the Lortmil mountain range, as the crow flies. So the distance isn’t an issue given their maximum range is 1900 miles or so.

However, upon checking all their character backstories, not a single one comes from or has ever visited Greyhawk, not even once.

Checking the rules for teleport in D&D, it turns out that if someone has never seen a place or doesn’t know where it is, they cannot teleport to it. And nobody had any scrying capability, whoops.

A dot on a map does not count as seeing a place even if it solved the “where it is” problem, nobody had a painting of the target city (that they could find), they could not find anyone who had been to Greyhawk (it is pretty far away) and simply saying teleport that way X number of miles would work, but would also put them rather high in the sky (ie: miles straight up), since that is all that they can see of said destination area.

Possible asphyxiation and definite altitude sickness plus cold exposure, not to mention the miss chance and the possibility of random encounters at destination, heheh. (They had already crossed one mountain range by piecemeal teleportation just to get to Istivin, did not enjoy the process, and were eager to not repeat said process. And for those unaware, there are a fair number of species that make their homes in the cloud banks often found around mountains in the Flaaness, making chance sky encounters a decidedly and very pleasant for the DM non-zero chance. )

Enter the Drow.

They already had a negative relationship with them, and were not pleased to find out that their deliberating on how to get to Greyhawk had been overheard by Drow spies. Nonetheless, the Drow knew of a teleport locate the party could use to get to their desired destination, for a small, easily accomplished price… (insert DM smile)

As a result, the party eventually caved in and consummated a deal with the de… er, drow. As a result of this plot twist and rules hiccup, they became involved with some local happenings, and actually decided to delay their teleport voluntarily to finish handling matters in the City of Istivin, even after they received the promised teleport locate… a complete side quest they took upon themselves.

It turns out most people are not aware of the built in limitations of the teleport spell in D&D.

Did I get my overland journey with encounters? No. (Not that I should expect to at their level, that would just be silly.) I did not even get a piecemeal teleport journey either, since they underestimated the challenge of doing so the last time, hah! But I did get a completely unexpected side quest out of it, and we all had fun.


I love these references. Coming up with creative ways to move on or go forward helps drive endless stories.

By level caps, I’m referring to the point at which the rules become unwieldy or the dice rolls skew towards the pointless. The point where the game has changed so much that the regular rules cannot apply. Epic rules in D&D is a prime example.

What happens when I reach Druid level 150 or 425th level Wizard in D&D, and can I even get there?

If GURPS 120,000 point characters are not unwieldy and have not been so for quite a while by that point, I’m going to try it. Because that sounds awesome. not sarcasm

I’m not talking about creating godlings, but even if I were, the game rules change. I think this happen because of scale. Levels imply upper limits, even if they are practical limits and not hard lines.

The cap I’m referring to is the point at which levels get in the way of the story. That’s when we move to a different set of rules or maybe even something similar to stop leveling.

But I agree, as long as we’re having fun, keep going.

There really is not maximum level in the various D&D systems, as much as some people would like to artificially place one. I have former PCs in the high double digits. They are now the foundations of the campaign world. Had it not been for the “unlimited” wilderness adventures (Bring anything, any level) I would not have those.

So yea, yet again, have fun.

I guess my experiences are unique due to my approach.

We started role playing with a group of people who owned a random mish mash of books that everyone could afford as kids. That meant we never had a complete system, of any system. Furthermore, we all liked different concepts from different books and systems, thus we did the logical thing and we built system conversion tools so that we could use any piece from any system in our characters that we needed or wanted. That only makes sense, right?

I guess you could call those a real Frankenstein’s monster of a build method. In any case, the first thing we learned was how to play each system the best we could with what we had. The very second thing we learned was how to take apart the systems and mix and match them all.

This gave us a unique view of roleplaying. We’ve always thought of systems as not having all the building blocks one night need, and so we’ve never been held back by the mentality that “you have to use only one system”. As such, we do not see the rules as “breaking down” at some level… the idea simply didn’t occur to us. When a designer inevitably didn’t think of a particular thing for the game, we just borrow a building block from another system like you would a Lego brick from your sibling’s pieces.

I mean seriously, rules don’t break, it’s only designers that didn’t think of stuff or phrased stuff poorly. Rules just do exactly what they were designed to do, nothing more or less… and it’s PEOPLE who agree or disagree at how well it works or to follow it or not.

The very idea that a system is broken or a rule is broken is foreign to me. It’s always a people problem, never a rule or system problem. If something isn’t working, I guarantee that it’s actually because of a person 100% of the time. It might be the designer or the player or the GM, but the real problem is because of person without exception.

I’ve never had a problem with the D&D epic rules, because I use them as they were intended to be used, and (perhaps more importantly) I don’t have issues with what the epic rules allow, and I know how to challenge people at that level of character ability. Thus, epic level play never “breaks down” for my groups, because there is nothing to break. Everyone knows I don’t allow infinite recursion tricks, which eliminate most of the bad grammar and poor phrasing right there.

Another point is that people seem to forget one of the simplest rules of D&D: only roll dice when there actually is a chance of success or failure. You should be rolling dice less and less the higher level your players become.

Finally, I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but I’ll mention it again: I additionally take the approach of memorizing every known exploit of a game system I’m using, and decide how to handle them all in advance. This eliminates all unexpected surprises of how player character abilities works. YMMV.

I also take such things into account in the world setting. If it can be done, then it has likely been done before by an NPC somewhere, somewhen. A PC busts out their optimization trick they’ve been building up towards, and they are suddenly accused of inheriting the lost secrets of ancient hero (or villain) X and abruptly there are descendants, old opponents and other organizations interested in the character. Ties them into the world nicely without taking away the player’s toys. :grin: