According to the latest data from D&D Beyond, almost nobody is playing a high-level character. Most characters fall into one of three levels.
We knew that most D&D games never go beyond level 10–something like 90% of games don’t make it into the double digits. But according to the latest data from D&D Beyond, which has sifted through something like 30+ million characters, the ones in campaigns aren’t making it much past level six. But the numbers so show much more. Let’s take a look.
via D&D Beyond
Now a few things to note. First up, the 0% levels–these aren’t levels with nobody making characters in them, just that they’re statistically insignificant out of the hundreds of thousands of characters they sifted through to mine all the data. This does mean that we’re seeing at least a few people playing my personal favorite way to start a campaign–with 0 level characters just trying to make their way in the world–but it also means that there are about as many people playing 10th level characters as there are 14th-20th level characters.
In a way that makes sense; games that start at level one take a while to build up momentum, and with the demands of today’s world, it’s better just to tell a story to its conclusion than to watch your campaign peter out around the holidays when scheduling becomes difficult and nobody can remember what was happening the last time you played. But that means that most people aren’t seeing the capstone abilities of classes. Which is partly why I think you see so many people building multiclass characters–why stick to a class for the high level payoff when you’re most likely never going to see the level 20 capstone, let alone the level 14 bump.
Also worth noting is the preponderance of characters in the levels 1-6 range–where about 70% of characters are, with most of them falling into the 3-5 level range. A salient datapoint for aspiring creators on the DM’s Guild looking to pump out adventuring content. It also explains why you see so many adventure modules that stop holding back–Avernus takes you to hell by level 4 if you’re doing it right. And Waterdeep: Dragonheist has your low level adventurers confronting high level foes like the Xanathar or Jarlaxle, well before they can be expected to hold their own in combat.
Contrast this with the fact that D&D characters are notoriously hard to kill (until you actively try to do so), and you have plenty of reasons to break out the good stuff.
The big question I have for 2020 is… what would a world with more high-level adventure look like? What do you think it’d take to get people to play those upper levels more? Let us know in the comments, and as always, Happy Adventuring!