How to run high level OL games?

General question of sorts.
How do you run campaigns where your party is at the higher levels?

Me and my single other player my whole party) have been playing together for the longest time now. Our campaigns don’t last longer than up to level 5. But my player is interested in running a super long campaign. I agreed.
So we started a new game, starting from level 3, and it’s set to last until they reach the summit at level 20.

It has been many months of playing now. My players are level 10, having finished 2 main story-line arcs and about to finish the 3rd as they are facing the big bad. I’m worried about how I should go about the 4th story arc which my player said they wanted to travel to be about visiting a new dimension different from the one they’ve been wandering around in as they’ve pretty much explored all that there was in that universe.

I thought running a high level game of Open Legend would be easy to handle compared to other systems. D&D for example become real difficult to handle unless you’re experienced once characters reach level 10, maybe even just level 5. Battles become overly long and tedious, and magic casters have access to spells that just… Solve problems. But Open Legend is different! Right? I thought at least. Higher Power Level banes and boons weren’t all bad when I read them, and there is no such feat that exists that are too OP. No shenanigans and over powered abilities like a wish spell, ZA WARUDO time stopping, controlling the weather, and freaking terraforming…! The worst I saw was the Precognition boon which I thought I could easily handle.
Boy was I wrong…

At levels 1 through 4 things are generally managable. They’re the comfortable zone. A newbie can very easily run games for players at these levels.
One can easily challenge their players and let them revel in the simple tropes of dungeon crawling and fighting of the bad guys and other typical rpg shenanigans.
But once a player reaches level 5 challenging them becomes rather difficult.
At level 5 specialized players finally gain access to Power Level 7 banes and boons which are… Hard to deal with.

Banes are pretty rough to deal with, but the roughest things to deal with are the boons.

Precognition… Holy crap does it suck.
I think Precognition is too OP and should be ranked 3/5/7/9 instead of 1/3/5/7. It’s simply THAT powerful.
At the highest power level precognition simply solves all problems.
Get boon focus on it and now the players can just squeeze info right out of me the GM.
“What’s the solution to this puzzle?”
“Who killed captain Alex?”
“Let me talk to dead guy (insert wise dead guy name) for some sage advice!”
“What is the Big Bad Evil Guy’s weakness?” or sometimes even more meta-gamey
“What are the Big Bad Evil Guy’s Hit Points, Defenses, Attribute Scores and Feats?”

Insubstantial is… Well it is a thing…!
Characters who can cast them are like:
“What is a wall? A miserable pile of condensed molecular structures! But enough talk, have at you!”
High security lock? Just phase through!
Dungeon? Just phase through!
Attacks? Just phase through!

And if level 5 was bad, wait until they get to level 9, where they finally have access to the whole spectrum of abilities their primary attributes offer and cast Power Level 9 Banes and Boons!

There is the Death bane!
Which I don’t think needs explaining.

There is also the Dominated bane!
Hippity hoppity your body is now my property!

and as for boons we have Resistance which at Power Level 9 grants you absolute resistance to a chosen attack type!

Polymorph, Shapeshift, Reading, Sustenance, the list goes on and on…!

Characters at these levels are incredibly powerful that it’s incredibly difficult to challenge them anymore at these levels…
And I was thoroughly mistaken to think engaging the players in high level play would be easy…

So I’ve come to ask one and all to give their advice and tips on the matter. From their own experiences, their own teachings, and heck, just telling me someone you know and directing me to some forum post or youtube video will do well as well!
And from my experience and what I’ve gathered I have my own advice as well.

The only advice I feel confident in giving are things that you shouldn’t do at higher tier play.

Firstly, don’t run it the same way you would at levels 3 and lower.
Don’t expect it’ll work because it wont.
At higher levels, the same old low level challenges and threats you pit them against simply won’t challenge them anymore. Doesn’t matter if the enemies have more hit points and defenses, and challenges have a higher CR. Fact is, at higher levels players have WAY more options that allow them to just circumvent those old threats.
The only reason dungeon crawling is difficult is because there was no way to circumvent a wall, at least easily at lower levels.

Don’t limit players!
This is just from my own philosophy but I think limiting what players can do is lazy GM-ing and is also bad.
Don’t force your players through your challenges by limiting and banning their abilities. They have those abilities, they should be able to use them!
Like for example, a dungeon where X banes and boons are not allowed and doesn’t work inside here. If there is a tower, and the goal is at the top, let them fly in if they have the ability to. If you didn’t want them doing that, you never should’ve given them levels and the ability to gain these options. What’s the point of gaining an ability if they’ll always get dissallowed anyway?
If you are limiting their abilities, there should be a very good story reason behind it.
Like obviously a super evil master mega necromancer undead lich will be unbothered by Death. It’s a mere inconvenience for them. And large and powerful political figures probably have control over information and media and countermeasures to obtaining info so Precognition attempts to pry info about them wouldn’t work and shouldn’t work.
Otherwise, forcing players to play a certain way by limiting the things they can do is just not something I agree with (But maybe something I’ll be tempted to do one day anyway despite this when I probably inevitably crumble and show my ‘true colors’.)
I’m sure there are ways to challenge players even when they have a variety of tools at their disposal without resorting to bans.

Higher stakes
Bigger baddies, bigger rewards, bigger challenges, bigger conflicts, everything should be in scale with the players level.
You can’t expect them to continue their dangerous and deadly job of dungeon delving as they continue getting stronger.
At the beginning, they would be fighting lowly goblins, or thugs, or simple minded aliens. But the enemies should keep getting stronger. And to add to it, the threat and stakes should increase too.
At the beginning, yeah, simple conflicts. Save this mothers poor child from kidnappers, should they fail, the poor mother will be forever distraught. Succeed though and they’ll be rewarded with a couple pennies and maybe some renown.
Once their levels become higher, players will want bigger game, bigger prey, bigger hunt.
Destroy Scourge, the great evil that seeks destruction before it consumes all of the kingdom and maybe the whole world! Fail and the world is doomed! Succeed though and they’ll recieve grand rewards and be set in stone as grand heroes of the kingdom and be forever held in high regard.

That’s all I’ve got. I know what kind of story should take place and what not to do as a GM but everything else is a blur for me.
How does one challenge players at high levels?

Tl;dr Basically… How do I challenge players when they can just cast Death on every enemy and Insubstantial their way past walls, traps, and puzzles?

First of all, I wouldn’t ever plan a campaign to go up to level 20 in Open Legend. While there is no actual maximum limit, the game is really designed for levels 1-10 and beyond that things can quickly get out of control. You should consider that each XP gives the players a chance to level up, so really that’s like 27 levels between those points. Levels 9+ are the epic tier levels, where the PCs are among the most powerful beings in the world (in most games at least).

As for how to challenge them, remember that you have the same tools as the players do and some more besides. I’m not saying you should be inflicting the Death bane on them, but remember Nullify bane and Restoration boon exist. On the subject of the Death bane, You also have the option of Bane Resistance, which was explicitly designed as a safety valve against players over-relying on powerful banes.

Insubstantial can actually be fairly easy to deal with, particularly when objects are involved. There is no “partial” insubstantial per the rules as written, meaning anything stored in a space smaller than the character can’t be reached, including things like lock mechanisms and traps. As mentioned above, Nullify is your friend if players are over-relying on any boon: it doesn’t stop them from using it, just means you have a way to counter it; particularly in combat.

Precognition is a trickier one. The important thing is that at PL5 they only get one question about a subject per week, while at PL7 they don’t get to choose what information they get at all. The only rule for PL7 is that it has to be detailed, the players don’t get to choose what those details are. If you’re very good, you can also build your campaign in such a way that the answers to their weekly questions won’t cause any major disruptions unless they ask very particular questions, but this can be extremely tricky to pull off with smart players and I don’t have any universal advice for how to do this other than “be unexpected”. Honestly, if you want to increase the PL requirements or even outright ban the high levels of the boon this might be a good solution to fit your needs.

On a more meta, campaign level, even if no individual thing is challenging them you can still keep things interesting in the endgame by giving them difficult decisions and consequences to their actions. A highlight of the end of my last supers game came when the party decided that since they couldn’t reach one of their allies in time to help when he was under attack, so they would leave it to the local heroes. Their focus was split, they never went to check up on him after he survived. He was the next boss they fought.

In general, yes there are some extremely powerful things players can do, but remember you can do them too. Pay attention to places where the rules place decisions in the GM’s hands as these are usually the places that you’re meant to be applying limits if they seem necessary. As a final point, even level 100 PCs can’t do everything all at once. Let them feel badass by steam-rollering most of the threats they face, but let their enemies feel badass by pushing where they’re not in control.

I hope this helps. If you have any specific questions about high level play, I ran that supers game up to level 11 and I’d be happy to share my experiences.


This is a really important aspect. You seem to approach many of these problems from a game mechanics standpoint. I would advise to instead put a narrative approach to the forefront in these cases. So, what do I mean by that? Well, the first question I would ask myself is “Where does the character draw this knowledge from? What’s their supernatural source that enables their powers?” Maybe it’s their God that gives them visions. So what if their God hasn’t perfect information about this new dimension that they are entering? Or are playing out different possible futures in their mind’s eye? Well, maybe a variable has changed since their calculations and now something unexpected comes up.

You also seem to think that Precognition shows past and future, which is not the case, so many of the examples that you’ve brought up wouldn’t necessarily apply.

I have to say I find myself disagreeing with some of these premises quite a bit, so I’ll challenge some of them and maybe it opens up some new ideas or avenues for you.

This is mostly true, I’d say, but sometimes dialling up an angle to 11 can work, especially if it plays to a weakness of the group. Did the group have trouble dealing with 10 enemies at the same time in the past? Well, let’s see if they have learned from their mistakes and make it 20 instead. The players don’t always expect to be challenged by the same premise multiple times, so bringing it back can either show them that need to work on that aspect if they don’t want to be overwhelmed by it again or it shows them how much they’ve grown since the last time they’ve encountered such a challenge. Either way, this is often narratively more interesting than mechanically, nonetheless still interesting.

This is the one I probably disagree the most with and I’m not 100% sure you are convinced by this one yourself, as you provide many valid exceptions later on. You mentioned the last time that you are a video game developer and I think it shows here: Negative punishment feels bad for players, so don’t use it.

And I agree with that sentiment, but you are creating challenges for the characters and sometimes that means taking them out of their comfort zones so that the players have to adapt (you used the term “player” a bit loosely, so it wasn’t always clear if you meant their characters or the players themselves). Obviously this tool should be used sparingly but when used it should be poignant and significant so that the players know that it will be a serious and threatening challenge for their character.

To give you an example of how I would apply that to your Insubstantial problem: Let’s say they want to infiltrate a mage tower, but that particular mage is quite paranoid about ghosts, so they have created a double-walled tower, with the space in between the walls being a protective barrier against ghosts. As soon as the PCs pass through the first wall, they are greeted by hundreds, if not thousands, of trapped wailing ghosts. So the walls let them enter but not exit, so now they have to find another way to exit or they will be trapped in there forever and become themselves one of the many wailing ghosts. If they break the walls they might unleash all the trapped ghosts, which they can use against the paranoid mage but it might haunt the area for years to come, and so on.

As you see, this is a gimmick that I would use once, or twice at most, during a campaign but it emphasises the danger of the situation immediately.


Disagreed. This kind of escalation can often become boring quickly because it becomes repetitive and predictable. Superhero movies and stories in general, face this problem often, as they start building up one bbeg after the other, one more powerful than the next, but then comes along the odd small-scale superhero story that resonates more with people or leaves more of a mark than these stepping stone movies. The solution to making a smaller scale story work is to make it personal: Compare a Logan to the other X-Men movies. Or Civil War versus the other Avenger movies.

I would advise trying to incorporate that kind of story into your games because it not only gets the players automatically involved, as they care about the problem at hand without needing to dangle a reward in front of them, but it also shows them that you incorporate their backstories into your game and setting, creating a more dynamic communal narrative.

So, creating higher stakes doesn’t have to mean “more”.

So to sum up my advise in general: Think less about what would make for a great game and instead focus more on what would make for a great story, and then figure out how you would translate that into the campaign.


Your replies are all very great and helpful. I’ve come up with more and other ways to deal with the problem banes and boons now thanks to you guys’ replies and a bit of introspecting.

Running a game at high levels isn’t dumb. It just takes significantly more effort than running at lower levels as I’ve always seen so often in threads.
As from the things I’ve read, it does tell me that I need to spend more time thinking and working on my stories and challenges for players at higher levels. Be as creative and unexpected as the players you are running the game for…

I wholeheartedly agree. But the online rules site thing did give us various things that show all the way up to level 20. Back at chapter 8 at least…

Thanks to quarantine, we now have more time than ever to goof around and play games while being outside melee range of each other (5 feet)
Which is why we are doing a really long campaign that lasts up to 20.

I agreed to the insanity, I didn’t know I would go insane from it though.
Regardless, getting to play at high levels is a rare experience, even rarer to go beyond high level so I wanna see it through to the end. I’ll get more experience and it’ll be fun for all.
No regrets.

That’d be cool.
It would be helpful to see others run their own high level games. By this do you mean there’s videos of the games played for viewing? There aren’t a whole lot of TTRPG content out there, the ones that are there are of D&D and Critical Role which is also just D&D.
I do get to learn how to run some max level games from them of D&D but it’d be nice to see others too.

It says that when invoking Precognition, you can ask something pertaining to an ‘Event’.
Which I thought meant you could see through the distant past and future with Precognition as well, like actual divination I guess. Since Event, in a literal meaning means something that happened in a period of time. Maybe something that will happen in a future period of time.

But you did say that I as the GM have the final authority on Precognition and that is very useful and important to know going forward.

I get what you’re trying to say but I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this.
10 individual enemies!?!? I am not running combat with that many creatures! 1 round’ll take nearly an hour to complete even with the techniques I use to speed combat!
[make 1 attack roll and it applies to all enemies of the same type instead of individually rolling for each of the enemies, its for each enemy type instead.]
Anyway, this was an unimportant response, moving on.

Oof. You got me there… I did pretty much say in the original comment that I do indeed doubt this philosophy and way of thinking.
The rest of what you say makes sense. My background as a game developer/programmer is holding me back. Limitations and disabling player abilities is something I should accept as a tool I have in my belt as a GM.

Yeah… I’ve seen enough shonen battle anime to know of the problems faced with power scaling when the story is simply a back and forth of increasingly 1-upping the opponent with bigger guns until the series ends up becoming something else than the original show the people originally loved.
However it seemed the inevitability for me… Especially with a campaign set to last as long as I have planned.
But that’s me talking and giving bad advice. I should try to be a better GM and incorporate more story…!

To end this off, I just remembered something, another one of my many troubles about high level play.


It isn’t what you think.
My problem isn’t that combat is uninteresting and overly long and tedious.
Actually most of the combat once the player’s characters reached level 7 only takes an average of 1-3 rounds.

My problem is that…
they. roll. so. much. advantage. dice.
It’s insane…! How am I supposed to deal with something like this!?

Ever since I saw the rules I knew high level characters would get to roll lots of dice for their attacks but oh wow… It’s a lot of dice.

So here’s one of the player’s characters… She’s your typical barbarian archetype.
Rage, Axe, and spends their daily livelihood just in their undies.

So… Regarding what this character has, I’ll only talk about the important stuff that actually adds to her advantage dice during her attack rolls.
Starting with her equipment, she has a hard earned dual wielded Great Axe with the extraordinary property of Deadly 3. She has a ring which has a persistent Bolster 8 effect to her Might attribute, her main attribute used for attacking, but even before she gained that ring, the supporter always cast Bolster to her anyway the moment they woke up and maintained persistence on the boon until they slept once more.
As for her feats, she has Battle Trance, Destructive Trance, Attack Specialization III (Great Axe), Combat Follow Through, Combat Momentum, and Multi-target Attack Specialist II (Melee)
Her primary attribute used for attacking is Might which is capped out at 9. Meaning she rolls 1d20 + 3d10.

So, taking all this into account, in 1 round, in a single attack roll, the Barbarian rolls this much advantage:
+1 from dual wielding
+3 from deadly 3
+3 from Bolster
+3 from Attack Specialization
+1 more from Battle Trance
that totals up to 11 whopping advantage dice!!!

Take into account destructive trance and that means its pretty much guaranteed all of those d10’s will explode on a 9 or 10, the d20 can be a 1 and she could still get a high roll!
My player is unnaturally lucky too! It’s not loaded dice or any tricks like those either, nearly third of the 14d10’s that they roll is always a 10!

With Multi-target Attack Specialist, she can hit 2 targets in 1 round without suffering a penalty! And should she knock at least one of them down to 0 hit points, she gets another major action to attack once more, and move action to move if there are no more targets within melee distance!

Taking all those into account, in merely 1 round, this barbarian could mow down and decimate a baker’s dozen worth of foes that are supposed to be a challenge to her.
A Level 10 NPC baddie with the high end of the recommended HP and Defense would be taken down in merely a single blow! Their only hope is if they have infinite damage resistance to Forceful!

Okay, so the enemies didn’t die and now it’s their turn.
They have a chance at actually doing something! But soon they’ll realize their only option from the very beginning has only been to run, and if that fails, to beg for forgiveness.
They roll their damaging attack!
An Energy based attack that targets their Guard!
1d20 + 3d10 with advantage 5!!!
It’s a 31!!! HAH! Does that hit!?!?!?!?
WHAT!? They have a Guard score of 43!?!?
The other defenses are the same story… Should they hit, it only deals 3 points, and they have 57 more to go…
The Barbarian also has defensive reflexes and battlefield retribution, so even when they attack, it is still HER who gets the final laugh and deal the finishing blow.

I’ve been thinking to put less emphasis on combat on the next few sessions when our next campaign arc begins as to challenge the player out of his comfort zone.
I set out and planned that the next campaign arc will be a political intrigue as the players try to unite 8 warring kingdoms to rally and fight against 1 supreme evil who threatens to destroy the land and end all life.
But when combat does arrive… It’s one sided…
How can I keep combat challenging, nay! Engaging for my players anymore when they can do insane stuff like that!?

My Player Characters actually have good synergy with each other and covers for each others weaknesses and enhances their strengths mainly and only in combat though.

If an enemy has resistance to forceful, no problem, their ally will blast them with entropy instead. And vice versa in the case of immunity to entropy.

Obviously I can’t just give everyone resistance to forceful as that would make no sense. And if I gave the opponents resistance to all of their possible attack types… Well that would be unfair. And if I keep doing it, it’ll get boring…
What does one do with such a scenario!?

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The book shows NPC level 20, only b/c with a party of 4 level 10s, that’s how to balance, the player characters are soft capped at level 10


Seeing the Reading boon, that is more for past events.

Advantage has diminishing returns, after 5 or 6 it matters very little. But yeah, with high level, especially if you going past 10, it might very well become basically binary on success and failure.


Those rules only pertain to NPCs and the levels beyond 10 are there to make the calculations for high-level encounters work. None of that is meant for PCs because as Sam mentioned, OL is designed to be played up to level 10 PCs, from there on all bets are off in terms of balance.

From the description of the boon: “You peer into the future to gain insight into a course of action, an event, a person, or a place. Examples of this boon include a fortune teller…

So I think that should make the intention of the boon a bit clearer.

Let’s get to your current question:

3 rounds should probably be the median for most combats, at least by the basic design of the system.

Statistically, that’s overkill, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Let the player have that and instead design encounters that turn their strengths into problems that need to be solved. So, for example, create enemies through which they can shred easily but whenever they strike or destroy the opponent, they face consequences. May the opponent be an acidic blob that spills acid all over the place when struck or a clockwork that blows up at the finishing blow, create encounters that demand the players to adapt instead of throwing higher numbers at them.

At high-levels you need to become more creative with your encounter design and dig deeper into the bag of tricks to challenge and surprise them, so I would advise to running fewer encounters per session on average, but with more bells and whistles, to keep them on their toes.


As I’m personally approaching the OL equivalent of higher tier play (level 7 - 10), I was intrigued by this thread. Ultimately, I’ve come to agree @VanGo and @Great_Moustache on most everything that has been discussed so far.

The only thing I’d like to add from personal experience is that it’s a lot easier to approach OL when using a more narrative approach. I tend to focus on how to make things meaningful (read, traumatic and personal) for the players’ characters.

Each campaign “season”, which usually lasts 3-4 sessions of 4 hours each (as we found ourselves having rather busy schedules and rarely get to see each other in person due to geographical distance), has me focusing on one particular character in the group that I want to have some significant impact on or to give some memorable experience to. And the most significant moments for these characters happen at the “finale” of that “season”.

So far it’s worked out for me! I think part of the reason I went this route was 'cause of getting inspired by Critical Role as a show :sweat_smile:

By relying more on a personal, narrative angle, each XP point, each level, really feels like they’re growing and improving and learning more of their world. So from that point of view, level 10 is more than enough to have a fulfilling campaign to end on! :smile: