Sometimes it’s tempting to think of high-level play as being just like low-level play but with bigger numbers. Instead of fighting an orc that has 10 hit points, AC 15, a +5 to attack rolls, and 1d6 + 1 damage on a hit, you fight a super-orc with 200 hit points, AC 30, a +25 to attack rolls, and 1d6 + 20 damage on a hit. But if the PCs also have commensurate increases to their attack rolls, damage, and hit points, the high-level encounter feels exactly like the lower level one, but the numbers exchanged at the table are different. The players use the same tactics, the fight goes exactly the same, and the result is the same. That’s okay sometimes, but it’s not what most people want out of the game when they play at higher levels.
What these people want out of high-level play is a completely different experience, such as encounters where conventional movement is sometimes replaced by flight, teleportation, or phasing. Where damage extends across levels of reality and affects creatures in unconventional ways. Where foes are no longer just simple combat stats but are challenges that can be overcome only by using special tactics, magic, or almost supernatural feats of strength or speed.
A thing to remember is that high-level play can still be simple: simple to run, simple to play, and frankly, simple to design. Good design can make complicated high-level play somewhat simpler, but the challenge comes with keeping it simple when players possess more options and quirkier abilities.
As we work on high-level play, how do you want us to handle it? Which of these options do you prefer?
How much complexity should exist in high-level play?
Should bigger numbers be a hallmark of high-level play?