I understand that 5e has flattened the curve significantly, but characters will still achieve (at least demi-) godlike powers by the time they are level 20. I'm interested in a more gritty setting, where death is final and non-magical characters don't achieve anything obviously supernatural (so magic users should be limited as well).

In 3.5 I've played E6 (a variant where 6th level is the "epic" level, and level stops increasing afterwards), and found it a decent match to my expectations. In 5e, would E6 work pretty much as originally designed? Would it require changes? What level should it go up to for a similar feel and power level?


3 Answers 3


D&D 5e has 4 "tiers" of adventure, with different levels of power expected in each of them. Levels 1-4 is the first tier, with levels 1 and 2 being considered "apprentice" levels. One is not fully a member of their class until level 3. At level 5, power jumps up quite a bit, introducing magical effects such as fire balls, and fighters being able to do a second attack. From levels 1-4 characters are expected to take on challenges that threaten a village or hamlet, or small town.

The next tier of power goes from levels 5-10. At these levels, the characters are expected to take on challenges for a kingdom, or larger city. By level 10 characters are powerful but not too powerful. At 11th level wizards jump up in power getting 6th level spells, and fighters get a third attack.

Unlike in 3.5, level 6 or 7 is not much of a benchmark in terms of levels. Your proficiency bonus goes up at levels 5, 9, 13 and 17 while you shift "tiers" at levels 5, 11, and 17. Therefore, any gritty version of D&D 5e, will likely have a different level at which to stop. Due to the nature of feats in 5e, the rules will also have to change. From what I can tell, a direct conversion of e6 to 5e, will not work without a good understanding of both 5e level progression, and e6 design goals.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In 3.5 they also get in on level 5. E6 ends at 6th mostly due to things that would happen on seventh (or things that would happen with seventh + all the feats). \$\endgroup\$
    – Hassassin
    Aug 30, 2014 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hassassin Ah, I was looking at the Sorcerer table not the wizard table thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Aug 30, 2014 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Strong +1, honestly I think that 5e has a much smoother power curve, if anything would be a problem it'd be spellcasters but that seems to be a problem with every D&D incarnation so far. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr Tumnus
    Oct 1, 2014 at 21:47

5e has only been out for a few weeks: not really long enough for people to make much in the way of alternate systems yet. I'm not aware of any testing with e6 yet.

That said, I'm not sure it would quite work out straight across. e6 relies heavily on bonus feats, but feats have a very different meaning in 5e than 3e. You get fewer of them, but they do considerably more. For that reason, the post-L6 game should probably be rebalanced, and I'm not sure if exactly the best way to do this has been figured out just yet.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I would think at least the last question about how the levels compare is also answerable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hassassin
    Aug 30, 2014 at 16:48

Honestly, I think the mathematics of progression in 5e actually solves the same problem as 'E6'. The 'core' effect of the E6 rules seems to be to prevent characters from reaching the exponential power-curve available to certain classes, and unavailable to others. It has the side effect of keeping all the critters you fight pertinent (at least en mass), and making the really nasty stuff the sort of thing you have to plan for to defeat.

Depending on exactly what you're looking for, you might want to cap spells at a certain level, and maybe some class features at certain levels of effectiveness. At this point, 5e doesn't have the sheer volume of add-on books available to other editions, so it's tough to tell where things might get 'squirrelly' as levels progress.


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