[RPG] D&D 5e equivalent of the e6 variant style


Now that 5e's been out for a few years, has anyone found a point past which characters have a significant jump in power and developed a set of rules for capping levels below that, similar to the "E6" system in 3.x?

If there's not a generally accepted system, has anyone created and used a set of rules that accomplish the goal of capping play at a modest power level, where PC's can't topple kingdoms by themselves? Specifically, I have a large city on the verge of a peasant uprising, where I want the players to be able to influence the outcome one way or the other by strategically picking battles, running supplies, advising leaders of different factions, etc., but not by just blasting whoever they want to lose.

Best Answer

In a word? No.

There are several people out there who have tried to cap 5e Character progression in differing ways (one such example being here), but there is no 'broadly accepted' system that I have ever seen.

Part of this is because 5E is much better balanced than 3.5E was. Yes, spellcasters are very powerful... but spells like Solid Fog that are basically "Be a Spellcaster or Lose" simply don't exist anymore. And the existence of spells like Solid Fog are the whole reason that E6 was invented in the first place. And other spells that 'broke things' at 7th level, such as Polymorph, received a significant Nerf. (Polymorph used to let you turn targets into dragons, aberrations, etc. Now it only lets you turn targets into Beasts)

See, 5E introduced Bounded Accuracy, sharply restricted the Magic Item creep, made non-casters more powerful than they used to be, and ditched a lot of the terribly unbalancing spells. These systemic changes are widely viewed by fans of the old E6 system as an integration of E6 design goals into the base system. As a result, it seems that the fanbase at large has not deemed the addition of an E6 system to be necessary. The opinion seems to be that 5E doesn't "break" at a certain level the way 3.5 did.

Advice Section

With the factual bit out of the way... let me offer a bit of advice.

If you want to cap character progression for your campaign, then do it. 5E provides rules for doing without XP, so your characters only advance at 'Milestones' (i.e. when the DM wants them to level up). So you could pace your entire adventure so that they level more slowly than 'normal' and only reach your chosen 'max level' by the time the campaign is over.

Alternately, have a look at Epic Boons in the DMG, and if you want to cap them at a particular level, but allow progression to continue... consider inventing some nerfed versions of those.

Bear in mind... 'Level 7' isn't quite as big of a deal in 5E at it was in 3.5. The 'Tiers' of adventure are divided up at...

  1. Level 1-4 (local threats... such as those threatening a small town)
  2. Level 5-10 (Area threats... such as those threatening a city or kingdom)
  3. Level 11-16 (Continental threats... such as those threatening an entire continent or region)
  4. Level 17-20 (Global to Universal threats... such as those threatening the entire world)

As a result, in 5E... the published adventures tend to follow this trend.

Lost Mine of Phandelver deals in a fairly local threat, and caps out at level 5. Curse of Strahd deals with a Kingdom-scale threat, and caps out at level 10. Basically all the rest of them address threats that target an entire region, and cap at level 15.

So, just pace your game so that they level at a pace to keep them within the 'appropriate' range.