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Context: the last version I played was AD&D (ie. 1e) where characters could (technically) progress to unlimited levels. Looking at the 5e PHB I get a sense that 20th level is now a concrete ceiling in terms of character level, and no progression beyond that is possible -- but I can't find it explicitly stated anywhere. Is this the case?

(NB. I'd have no objection to a Lvl20 limit, but I'd like to know for definite, since of course it has a major impact on how one plans a multi-class character).

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2 Answers 2

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Currently the rules provide no provision for a character to progress beyond level 20.

With that said, they don't explicitly ban it, either, and as you've noticed, it would be simple to continue using a multiclass. The only things you would need to come up with houserules for would be proficiency, experience requirements, and multiclass spell slots.

Personally, I would rule that proficiency progresses according to the proficiency by CR table on page 8 of the Monster Manual. Multiclass spell slots could continue to gain 1 per level in the existing pattern (I can see it but I can't explain it) and experience requirements could continue to rise by 10000 every 2 levels.

Updated with the release of the DMG: The DMG includes suggestions for character advancement past the level 20 mark. This is the Epic Boons section on pages 231. The gist of it is that for every 30000 XP a character earns past level 20, they receive an epic boon. The list of Epic Boons is on page 232; they are essentially like feats, but considerably more powerful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Mainly I wondered if I'd missed something in the rules that talked about levels above 20th, or specifically stated that such a thing is impossible. Seems I didn’t; it's just been left ambiguous. My personal view is that I'd probably keep to the 20 level limit, with the limitations that it inherently places upon multi class characters (no more than 20 class levels in total). That seems in keeping with the tone of the 5e rules, which are clearly written with a view to characters never becoming zany powerful. \$\endgroup\$
    – RickL
    Oct 13, 2014 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RickLecoat Limiting people to lvl 20 also is keeping with their "bounded accuracy" design philosophy; as you said, they don't want characters to be zany powerful. \$\endgroup\$
    – PipperChip
    Oct 13, 2014 at 18:55
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In AD&D 2e, and D&D 3e and 3.5e, rules are only given for up to level 20 in the Player's Handbook.

Levels beyond that are "Epic" levels, and are covered by slightly different rules, in the Dungeon Master's Guide for 3.x, or for AD&D 2e, DM's Option: High Level Campaigns.

(See the 3.5 Epic rules, for example.)

D&D 4e used the same Epic level terminology, but included the rules in the PHB.

Rules for Epic levels for 5e are in the DMG. They stop advancing as normal, and instead receive Epic Boons, which are like epic feats.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting, thanks. This is where my ignorance of anything between AD&D 1e and D&D 5e comes back to bite me. \$\endgroup\$
    – RickL
    Oct 13, 2014 at 22:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure that in the 4th edition players handbook levels went to 30. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr Tumnus
    Oct 13, 2014 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrTumnus Ah thanks. 4e is always the odd one out ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Oct 14, 2014 at 0:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, 2e has no level limit, just the tables provided stop at 20. Rules to "go up from there" are in 2e core. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 2, 2014 at 0:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RichardYoung when we played AD&D, we always houseruled away all racial restrictions. Any race can be any class (including paladin), no level cap, and any race can multiclass. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    May 3 at 8:00

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