How to handle high level casters in D&D

High level casters

Handling high level casters in D&D is a problem that dungeon masters have experienced since the first time a wizard or cleric reached high level. Luckily in 5th edition casters are not nearly as strong. Does that mean that high level casters are not a problem for many dungeon masters? No, high level casters still can be a pain and destroy the game.

How did you deal with it? Did you do roll over and cry as a player or dungeon master as everything went wrong? Leave a comment and tell me what your first experience was like, but here is the simple short answer on how to deal with high level casters in D&D.

Use concentration, block line of sight, intelligent monsters, and whittle down high level casters in D&D’s resources. DO NOT FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE!!!

Concentration is a weakness

In the previous editions wizards clerics and the like were able to cast mage armor, fly, protection from projectiles, and around 7 other buffing spells on themselves before the fight began. This is no longer the case thanks to 5th edition’s concentration mechanic.

Concentration makes high level casters in D&D have to choose which defensive or offensive ongoing spells they need to use. This alone makes them less powerful since they cannot have around 20 buffs and 7 debuffs on the enemy while they laugh flying above the pathetic mongrels on the ground.

High level casters in 5th edition make a choice and this is a huge weakness. Make use of that weakness by interrupting their concentration or just having a way to circumvent their concentration spell.

A fighter is going to engage in melee, but the wizard casts the fly spell and moves away! In 5th edition you can shoot that wizard with arrows since they have no protection from projectiles and break that concentration. Flying is now a liability instead of just a get out of jail free card.

Rule the world for a second

All high level spellcasters can do amazing things but are limited by the number of spell slots that they possess. If a spellcaster wants to use all their spell slots in a fight, they can do some amazing things that blow most classes out of the water. After this, the high level caster wants to just relax and drink tea as soon as possible since they are now weaker than every other counterpart.

Yes, wizards and the like can rule the world and completely change it, but only for a minute. Once the high level caster is out of spell slots that moment of glory is completely gone. A fighter can easily out damage a wizard, and a wizard is only amazing while they have high level spell slots. Once they run out, there is nothing else that they can do.

Caster utility is godly, but fatal.

Consider this for a moment. A mountain is in the parties way and the wizard decides to deal with the problem by making the party fly, teleport, whatever the wizard wants to do. In order to do this the caster has to burn on of his highest level spell slots, but he/she looks cool.

High level casters in D&D are best used for their utility and that is okay. If a wizard decides to burn all those spell slots on making the party think that he/she is cool then let them bypass your little obstacle. That just means that they are weaker in a fight.

High level casters suffer the ‘I can do anything!’ syndrome. While this is technically true, most spellcasters spread themselves too thin. Instead of focusing on combat they focus on how to be awesome and get the party past an obstacle, charm a person, or do whatever else. In spreading themselves thin they become weak when a specific issue arises later like let’s say combat.

Spells rely on sight…. Mostly

Most spells rely on sight. If a caster cannot see their target, they cannot affect their target. If the caster wants to an area effect spell to catch the enemy that is fine, but most casters won’t cast a fireball centered on themselves.

Sight is a huge issue that high level casters in D&D will always be dealing with. If you want to give the casters a hard time but make martial combatants shine, make a rogue fight the party. Seriously, a high level rogue is more of a threat than a high level wizard. Let me give an example that always happens when I have a cocky high level caster in my group.

Boss spellcaster is just going about their day being the main protagonist of the party and suddenly they are restrained with a rope. The caster didn’t see the rogue, and can still use verbal components. The wizard misty steps, but cannot find the rogue. One spell slot down.

The rogue can keep playing these games of hide and seek, and have the wizard never know where a rouge is. The wizard casts area of effect magic to kill the rogue but wait! The rouge is practically immune to all area effect spells. The wizard is unable to do anything and panics. The wizard teleports away and thinks he is safe, but the rogue has done her research. She knows where the wizard sleeps, and it will be easy to take care of the idiot now.

There are many other creatures that can go invisible, hide as a bonus action, or do something to make the spellcaster not see them. Use cover, terrain, or something to make the spellcaster have an extremely difficult time.

Use monsters intelligently

If you are just throwing one Nalfeshnee at the party and then let them rest, what are you doing? High level casters in D&D thrive on throwing a big load out for a brief span of time and then resting. Don’t let them rest. Make sure that high level casters are forced to keep fighting if they ever engage in a fight, and don’t let them rest.

I cannot stress the don’t let them rest point enough, but monsters have to be used intelligently.

If you bring a knight to a wizard fight and the knight only focuses on hitting the wall of steel that people call a ‘fighter’ in front of him, can you really be surprised when the spellcaster destroys the enemy?

Make your fights interesting and not simple. Don’t let there be one, two, or even three bad guys for your party to tank. Make more enemies, diversions, illusions, whatever. Do something to make your monsters intelligent. High level casters in D&D are rare, but anyone at this level should know how to handle them.

The enemies know how to fight you

While most of the world will only hear of your party or the enemies you fight in legend, your party fights these guys on a weekly basis. That is the same with them. The enemies that your party fights have developed their own countermeasures to deal with high-level casters. Monsters or any humanoid at this level have figured out some way to deal with them, and here are a few simple ways.

  • Vision. We talked about this before.
  • Counterspells. Many humanoids understand how to lock down enemy spellcasters with counterspells or something like this.
  • Spell defenses. We will get into this later.
  • Some racial or other ridiculous thing. A monster with wings will fly away from the wall of steel and kill that cloth glass cannon asap.
  • Legendary resistances. If you need to slap on one more just to make your fight a bit more challenging.

Those are some basic ideas, but let’s get into some real caster counters!

Fight casters with hacks.

You are a high level caster with items, magics, and a ridiculous amount of things to fight me with? That is great because I have this ring of spell absorption. I also have a shield that can emanate an anti magic shell around me. Who is laughing now?

Generally you do not want to punish a player for playing their class correctly, but there are mage hunters. If your party is particularly caster heavy or has a lot of high level casters have the big bad enemy hire a mage slayer like this. Make sure that mage slayer separates the casters from the rest of the party, and your high level casters in D&D will start to go down or take the game seriously again.

These spellcasters are gods, but they can be thrown down. Make sure there is always a bigger fish.

Don’t fight fire with fire

Some dungeon masters try to fight high level casters in D&D with their own high level casters and this never works out.

When is a spellcaster most useful? Is it when they just start an adventure or when they prepare for a specific situation? If a high level caster prepares for a specific situation and the other spellcaster does not, there is no contest. If a spellcaster at this level decides to prepare for a situation, in general, they should win 90% of the time. Why am I saying that your spellcaster will prepare for the player? The answer is simple, you cannot help but prepare.

If you think that you will not metagame, watch my video. In short, every spellcaster created by the dungeon master will counter the party spellcasters because you cannot just forget what you know. You as a dungeon master know that the players use these spells the most. Therefore you will specifically work to counter these spells. This is not a fair contest at all.

There are some ways to make this work, like have the enemy spellcaster scry on the party daily, send his/her minions out to fight the party and get information from the ones that come back, or just have an invisible imp follow them. These are some ways to justify the enemy spellcasters preparations, but generally you do not want to fight fire with fire. It will make your players feel cheated and they honestly kind of are.

Making your spellcasters fight

The monster comes and attacks the party! What do you do? “I cast fly on everyone and we just leave.” This is something that high level casters in D&D can do, and do you really blame them? Why would that spellcaster waste more spell slots to kill a creature instead of just avoiding the fight? The spellcaster wouldn’t want to waste precious resources, and your monsters won’t be worth it for a high level caster to fight just because …..reasons…..

You have to make your spellcasters be invested in the outcome of a fight. Every person in their right mind would avoid a random encounter, but what about some evil baddies attacking the village that the party protects? What about when the objective is on a strict time limit? What happens when your high level casters have to do something that they want to do?

This is the key. Make your high level casters invested in a fight and they won’t avoid it. The problem is quite simple to solve, but we often overlook the simplest solutions.

Whittling resources is bad?

I have gone at length describing how to whittle down caster spell slots, but almost all of those instances have been because the spellcaster chose to do so in order to avoid something. These options are fine, but you shouldn’t just force the spellcasters to use resources. Every spell should be a decision that holds weight. Once high level casters in D&D are out of spells you might feel victorious for a time as a dungeon master, but the spellcasters have almost nothing to work with.

Don’t punish your players for playing the game well. Don’t force your players to just burn resources in order to make your life easier. Make every use of a spell a decision, a decision that most spellcasters don’t want to make but need to make because that is what they want. Could a spellcaster slowly whittle away a horde of goblins with a lot of firebolts? Sure, but it would be a lot easier and cooler to use a fireball….

If you really need to whittle down resources, extend the fight. Make sure your high level casters are invested in the fight, and make one lead into two, two lead into three, and possibly three lead into four. Don’t let a rest happen, and your spellcasters will need to be more careful with their resources.

A great way of doing this is to show them that there is a whole boatload of enemies to fight. That will tell the caster right away that every spell counts and they will not get out of this fight quickly.

Do not just try to whittle down resources with stupid random encounters. It will not work and using resources should feel like a real decision that has weight. Not forced.

Conclusion

There are a lot of weaknesses that high level casters in D&D have and most enemies of the caster level have a way to deal with high level casters. Use that information and make some interesting countermeasures.

High level casters have a lot of weaknesses that can be exploited, but they should not be singled out. If a player is a problem they should be dealt with, but that player should not be punished for playing well. It is a fine line to walk, but one that many dungeon masters will have to tread when dealing with high level casters.

What do you think about high level casters and how do you deal with them as a dungeon master? If you want to discuss how to handle high level fights, read how high level fights become anime.

This has been Wizo and keep rolling!

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *