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We Don't Need No Epic Content


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Jim Groves wrote:
Lincoln Hills wrote:

Well, that's true enough and fair enough.

Of course, looking at it from the perspective of a 'mythic rules' game designer, all these posts objecting to Epic Level are actually useful market research. We're pointing out the drawbacks and pitfalls, thus giving the designer a good idea of what needs to be done and what needs to be avoided...

And likewise, that is also very fair. It does identify where the problems need to fixed, and that's important, even vital, to ever making it work. So I am not condemning that sort of feedback, and certainly one reason why this thread is important.

And when it comes right down to it, if folks are absolutely unwilling to spend money on the product no matter what- it is important to know that too.

I'm just sort of saying, "Before you say 'never, never, ever'; could we have some sort of proposal? So that you know what you're turning down?"

In my daydreams, I'd like to see Paizo do some sort of mission statement about mythic rules. As in, "this is what we envision them doing, and these are the goals we have in developing them, and this is where we hope to end up. What do you all think?"

That way people would be saying yes or no to something being proposed, rather than just the memory of something old that was once disappointing.

Does that sound fair?

Like a pre-playtest phase?

Sounds pretty fair. Also innovative and cool.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Jim Groves wrote:
And when it comes right down to it, if folks are absolutely unwilling to spend money on the product no matter what- it is important to know that too.

It's a valid point. The problem is, it forces Paizo into second-guessing.

"Does this person really mean they'll never ever purchase rules for above-20 play, or do they mean they hate the ELH version and would get something that was cool but not ELH?"

On other words, does "no" mean "yes?" Or does "no" mean "no?"

Furthermore, if "no" really truly does mean "no," that certainly is one non-customer of rules for above-20 play. So they can either develop above-20 rules, completely ignoring that person's opinion, or they can decide that there's too many strikes against above-20 play and abandon the concept altogether.

Jim Groves wrote:

I'm just sort of saying, "Before you say 'never, never, ever'; could we have some sort of proposal? So that you know what you're turning down?"

In my daydreams, I'd like to see Paizo do some sort of mission statement about mythic rules. As in, "this is what we envision them doing, and these are the goals we have in developing them, and this is where we hope to end up. What do you all think?"

That way people would be saying yes or no to something being proposed, rather than just the memory of something old that was once disappointing.

This, I think, is the key to the whole thing. Because as I see it, there isn't a set of mythic rules, there's multiple sets of mythic rules.

Making up terminology on the spot (*grin*) I'll call them (A) Mythic Adventures, (B) Immortal Adventures, and (C) Divine Adventures.

I run a "mythic adventures" campaign. Sure, the PCs have obscene levels, but there's still "us" and "them" as far as the gods and greater powers are concerned. It's just standard play at a crazy power level.

An "immortal adventures" campaign would be at the point where the boundary starts getting crossed - when the PCs actually are the equivalent of Heracles, or Elric, or Gandalf ... creatures that really, truly aren't mortal any more, yet aren't quite gods.

And then there's that last stage, when the characters have crossed that boundary. At that point you're dealing with the rules from The Primal Order, the 3e Deities & Demigods, or Craig Cochrane's Immortals Handbook: Ascension; i.e. rules for actually playing divine creatures.

But I see it as a progression. First Mythic Adventures comes out. Eventually Mythic Adventures lead to Immortal Adventures, so Immortal Adventures comes out. Finally, Immortal Adventure leads to the next stage, so Divine Adventures (a really dull name) comes out.

Others see it differently, I'm sure. Your original post, in my opinion, was essentially advocating jumping directly to Immortal or Divine adventures, while I see Mythic Adventures as a crucial stepping stone from the core 1-20 rules to rules that go far above and beyond.

One thing I do expect is for the mythic rules to "break the rules" far more than the ELH did. By refusing to break any rules, it caused much of the pain that players and DMs felt. See Sean's essay on absolutes, which very closely mirrors my feelings on the matter.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

gbonehead wrote:
Your original post, in my opinion, was essentially advocating jumping directly to Immortal or Divine adventures, while I see Mythic Adventures as a crucial stepping stone from the core 1-20 rules to rules that go far above and beyond.

Great reply BTW. Good discussion.

Just let me add, I'll put my money where my mouth is. Set aside my original post. I'm prepared to be open minded about everything (except just say "no" altogether).

Your interpretation of mythic rules as a stepping stone to immortal and divine level play sounds really interesting.. and a good place to start.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jim Groves wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
Your original post, in my opinion, was essentially advocating jumping directly to Immortal or Divine adventures, while I see Mythic Adventures as a crucial stepping stone from the core 1-20 rules to rules that go far above and beyond.

Great reply BTW. Good discussion.

Just let me add, I'll put my money where my mouth is. Set aside my original post. I'm prepared to be open minded about everything (except just say "no" altogether).

Your interpretation of mythic rules as a stepping stone to immortal and divine level play sounds really interesting.. and a good place to start.

Certainly a wonderful place to start. I'm fully entrenched in the "yes to Mythic Rules" camp. Honestly...as James already said, these rules may or may not work. Still, we need to try; just outright saying "no" because of the sins of the past isn't how to handle this.

I don't know....I get tired of these threads, because since someone doesn't like "X", that means everyone doesn't like "X" and therefore, "X" shouldn't be introduced. Yes, I already see people using the reverse as a defense, but I'm going to say it right now - not everyone wants "X" and not everyone is against the addition of "X". If Mythic rules are given a fair and honest chance and they don't work, then fine; at least it was given a fair chance. However, it makes me sad that no one wants to give this a chance.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Merlin_47 wrote:
I don't know....I get tired of these threads, because since someone doesn't like "X", that means everyone doesn't like "X" and therefore, "X" shouldn't be introduced. Yes, I already see people using the reverse as a defense, but I'm going to say it right now - not everyone wants "X" and not everyone is against the addition of "X". If Mythic rules are given a fair and honest chance and they don't work, then fine; at least it was given a fair chance. However, it makes me sad that no one wants to give this a chance.

Don't be so sure nobody wants to give it a chance. I have a strong suspiction that the Paizo folks are going to stay amazingly quiet on the issue until they have something concrete to put forth.

James Jacobs is a huge advocate for mythic rules (and the origin of that term), and if I recall properly, his desire is for it to be a "capped" set of rules that goes from something like levels 21-36 (or whatever matches that D&D Expert Set cap that people are fond of).

In any event, there are many who are staunch advocates for above-20 rules, so I think something will be done ... it's just hard to say how soon.


gbonehead wrote:


Don't be so sure nobody wants to give it a chance. I have a strong suspicion that the Paizo folks are going to stay amazingly quiet on the issue until they have something concrete to put forth.

James Jacobs is a huge advocate for mythic rules (and the origin of that term), and if I recall properly, his desire is for it to be a "capped" set of rules that goes from something like levels 21-36 (or whatever matches that D&D Expert Set cap that people are fond of).

In any event, there are many who are staunch advocates for above-20 rules, so I think something will be done ... it's just hard to say how soon.

I'm all for having a hard cap; just not at level 20. 36...I could accept that. I know James is a big advocate for Mythic Rules, and I agree with you gbonehead - they probably will stay quiet until they do have something concrete.


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In my opinion we already have epic content. It's called levels 11-20. Just look at the types of spells you get and and the kinds of monsters you fight above 10th. It's pretty damn epic already!


Arikiel wrote:
In my opinion we already have epic content. It's called levels 11-20. Just look at the types of spells you get and and the kinds of monsters you fight above 10th. It's pretty damn epic already!

This has been mentioned. Others are disagreeing and consider 1-20 base characters, and 21+ to be epic(fill in other word as needed).


I'm in the camp that 1-20 is base, with 21+ being epic.

I'd love to see what Paizo can do to make epic play fun and balanced where it's predecessor wasn't.

Howver, I'd also love to know how you could run a current epic/mythic campaign and keep the monsters from getting stale. Is it just adding class levels to things, or using a lot of 3PP?

The Exchange

I think my best advice, Ashenfall, would be to turn away from combat (heresy!) and take more inspiration from various 'blockbuster' movie plots. For some reason* such movies almost never amount to a fair fight between hero and villain - although bear in mind that divination magic can short-circuit at least three-quarters of those plots, so you may have to adapt them a bit.

*Hint: If a movie were only 15 minutes long, people would feel ripped off.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Arikiel wrote:
In my opinion we already have epic content. It's called levels 11-20. Just look at the types of spells you get and and the kinds of monsters you fight above 10th. It's pretty damn epic already!

Yep, play at levels 11-20 can be pretty epic. That's why I virtually never, these days, use the word "epic" to describe play at levels 21+ ... to short-circuit all those clever folks who say just that, and to short-circuit all the people who immediately rant about how broken the D&D 3e Epic Level Handbook was. Note that I'm not saying I agree (I don't), I'm just avoiding the word "epic" for those reasons.

I'm anxiously awiating rules for play at levels 21+, as are a fair number of other people. That is something we don't have, and saying "play at levels 11-20 is epic" won't change the fact that we don't have rules for levels 21+ (other than the suggestions on pp406-407 of the core rulebook).

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I use the term 'Eternal' instead of 'Mythic'. Mythic implies the past, and legendary in times gone by.

Eternal implies you're going to last forever into the future..unless you get killed. Basically it takes age out of the equation, ladles out the eternal youth, and onwards things go, mortals that are living forever.

Immortal is a step past that, in that you can't actually be killed without some terrific force designed expressly for that purpose. You'll reincarnate, be reborn, reconstructed, heal up, whatever. You can be defeated, but not killed...sort of like all those greek monsters of legend.

Divine means you are no longer technically finite. Killing you would require some absolutely tremendous forces that would fundamentally alter the campaign. THe death of Aroden DESTROYED FATE. As fallout. And knocked Golarion off its metaphysical axis.

Just different scales.

I'm a very firm advocate that any character reaching 21 gets Eternal Youth as basic structure. Spellcasters get to live forever, but Melees can't defy death? Bah. It's both ways in the legends.

==Aelryinth

Dark Archive

I'd like to see Paizo's take on 'epic' rules, whatever name they decide to give it. I'd like to see a good 1/3 or more of the book these rules are printed in to be just that topic. In that same book, I'd like to see at least 1 chapter or more on the subject of high level play (12+), and how to manage it. I'd also like to see 1 chapter or more on alternative campaign/game styles, such as a reprint of the full kingmaker rules.

This book would be more like a "campaign guide" than an "epic level handbook".

That's what I'd like to see, personally.

Lantern Lodge

i vote no to the level 21+ rules if they mimic the ELH. if they were closer to the Tequilla Sunrise Version, that is fine.

Star Voter 2013

I figure that the PF guys will have a more balanced approach and 21+ will be great.

Still waiting on my Turbo Dragons though.

Dedicated Voter 2013

Jason Beardsley wrote:

I'd like to see Paizo's take on 'epic' rules, whatever name they decide to give it. I'd like to see a good 1/3 or more of the book these rules are printed in to be just that topic. In that same book, I'd like to see at least 1 chapter or more on the subject of high level play (12+), and how to manage it. I'd also like to see 1 chapter or more on alternative campaign/game styles, such as a reprint of the full kingmaker rules.

This book would be more like a "campaign guide" than an "epic level handbook".

That's what I'd like to see, personally.

just for the record ELH already had advice for high level play and in my consideration are pretty good

Dark Archive

edduardco wrote:
Jason Beardsley wrote:

I'd like to see Paizo's take on 'epic' rules, whatever name they decide to give it. I'd like to see a good 1/3 or more of the book these rules are printed in to be just that topic. In that same book, I'd like to see at least 1 chapter or more on the subject of high level play (12+), and how to manage it. I'd also like to see 1 chapter or more on alternative campaign/game styles, such as a reprint of the full kingmaker rules.

This book would be more like a "campaign guide" than an "epic level handbook".

That's what I'd like to see, personally.

just for the record ELH already had advice for high level play and in my consideration are pretty good

Not sure if you're trolling, but there's literally no advice for high level play (12+), as the entire book is about "epic" levels (21+).

Grand Lodge

Kain Darkwind wrote:


As gbone said, I want a 20+ level ruleset. I have no issue generating stories and adventures for my players utilizing said ruleset.

And I'm no stranger to using an epic ruleset to its fullest. I'd just prefer to utilize a great one designed by Paizo than the poor one from WotC.

If I'm not mistaken, Kain Darkwind is being modest when he says "I'm no stranger to using epic ruleset to its fullest." I recall Kain as a major contributor to the old epic forum threads on WOTC's pre-4th Ed web site and a presence at Dicefreaks where Epic rules the day.

In any case, I hope there is a way for a new ELH or other level 20+ source book to be published without raiding resources from other projects or forcing everyone in this community to adopt epic level content in their game.

Personally, a Pathfinder ELH is a product that I would purchase in a heartbeat, but I can also understand why someone else might be content with the current scope of the game.

Dedicated Voter 2013

Jason Beardsley wrote:
edduardco wrote:
Jason Beardsley wrote:

I'd like to see Paizo's take on 'epic' rules, whatever name they decide to give it. I'd like to see a good 1/3 or more of the book these rules are printed in to be just that topic. In that same book, I'd like to see at least 1 chapter or more on the subject of high level play (12+), and how to manage it. I'd also like to see 1 chapter or more on alternative campaign/game styles, such as a reprint of the full kingmaker rules.

This book would be more like a "campaign guide" than an "epic level handbook".

That's what I'd like to see, personally.

just for the record ELH already had advice for high level play and in my consideration are pretty good
Not sure if you're trolling, but there's literally no advice for high level play (12+), as the entire book is about "epic" levels (21+).

No, I'm not trolling, is true the chapter 3 Running Epic Game provide advice that work very well for level 12+ or at least that is what I think, particularly The Epic Campaign sub section

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

I think what people are looking for when they ask for advice for high-level play is something they're likely not going to get. Note that the term "high-level play" means something different to virtually everyone who uses those words, and no amount of advice is going to remove the amount of work involved.

The ELH has excellent advice, as do many of the threads on these boards. But even with all of that information, there is absolutely no substitute for experience.

Extremely rare is the GM who can pick up a new system, peruse the rules, and then run a high-level or high-power game in that system. Pathfinder and it's daddy 3.5e are no exception, and no amount of advice is goint to change the need for some realy experience running games before trying something as challenging as running high-level games.

Doesn't mean I'm not looking forward with great eagerness to above-20 rules from Paizo. I am. But no matter what is in those rules, there will be nothing there that makes an enjoyable and smooth-running high level game easy.

Running good high-level games is hard. Hell, playing in good high-level games is hard. Don't let anyone fool you about that.


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I have to admit I am -extremely- disappointed by Paizo's decision for its next product of the RPG line. I'm sorry but... a folio? Really? I mean, those products have always seemed to me like the "filler" in a product line, sort of what a producer publishes when they just don't have an idea of what to do next.

Like it or not, there are a lot of people who want to see rules for content past level 20, and I think they have waited long enough. I mean... Three bestiaries, books for ultimate combat/magic and advanced races... Everything has come out that could possibly be considered more important for lower level content. I certainly hope we don't see a Bestiary 4 or a Psionics book before we see an epic level handbook before we see an epic book, or I'll lose hope.

I know it's a difficult book to produce - the ELH is proof of that. That's probably one of the worst RPG books ever made. The epic level magic system was a joke, the monsters were ill-conceived and balanced. The whole system needs to be redone from the ground up, not just adapted, balanced and revised like lower level content was. I therefore understand where the difficulty lies... But still.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber

I love the idea of Mythic play, but I can't see how Paizo could pull it off mechanically.

Play testing the 12 hour four round battles would take years.

I'd be content at this point if they'd just publish more content for 14-20, but even that's a stretch based on every thread that cries out for it.

Something about high level adventures and content being poor sellers, consistently, over like ten years of publishing material for the 3.x systems.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Squeatus wrote:
Something about high level adventures and content being poor sellers, consistently, over like ten years of publishing material for the 3.x systems

I don't dispute that at all, but I wish I knew why that was true based on evidence that was not anecdotal. Why is that true?

I have a few ideas, but having posed the question, I don't want to immediately skew any potential replies with my theory.

So without delving to the mythic rules that don't exist yet, why does existing high level adventures sell less than low level content? What are the things you like less about it?

Shadow Lodge

Well, considering that the "anecdotal" evidence is from quotes by Paizo employees...

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Kthulhu wrote:
Well, considering that the "anecdotal" evidence is from quotes by Paizo employees...

Of course, but respectfully, I believe that you misunderstood the question. Read my post again, I don't dispute the fact that low level adventures sell better. That was accepted by me as a given. As far as I'm concerned that can be accepted as a fact in order for us to move the conversation forward. (And I'll do you one better, Vic Wertz very recently made that remark).

Nevertheless, I asked 'why' that is true. Not 'if' it is true.

Because that's what actually interesting to me. And if we understood the reasons better, then we would have a better idea how to make high level adventures that people enjoyed more. (Note: I'm still staying out of mythic for the moment, because that would be discussing the problems of something that doesn't exist yet).

And I'm selfishly asking as a freelancer too. I may have to write a high level adventure one day, and I'm curious what makes people enjoy low level adventures more than high level adventures.

Finally, in respect to my use of the word anecdotal- all replies to my question could be taken as anecdotal evidence.. so don't put too much emphasis on that. I'm just trying to side-step rhetoric, or agenda, and just trying to get right at the issues. I don't want anyone to feel they have to defend why they like something or why they dislike something else. I really just want to know what the problems with higher level adventures are - to understand them better.

Shadow Lodge

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Well, I think I can answer some of the "why?"...at least from my viewpoint. Others can (and almost certainly will) disagree. But they're wrong and I'm right. :P

1. The d20 system begins to break down beyond level 12, so by the time you get to level 21+, it's become a rather unplayable mess.

1a. The game pretty much becomes a question of making sure you win initiative and blast the other side out of existence before they can blast you out of existence.

2. Lots of people lose interest in their characters before they make it to the 21+ levels. The "fun zone" is pretty much levels 5-12.

PS: All of this is my opinion. Feel free to disagree...however you should be aware that you are wrong and I am right should you chose to disagree. :P

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Kthulhu wrote:
PS: All of this is my opinion. Feel free to disagree...however you should be aware that you are wrong and I am right should you chose to disagree. :P

No, no.. I'm true to my word. I invited your opinion, so I'm not going to ambush and attack it. I am, however, going to ask some more questions to understand you better.

But.. I steadfastly insist that we're talking level 12 to 20 here. I won't discuss the issues of the ELH, or Mythic Rules that have yet to be written.

First, about winning initiative? So you think the outcome of combat encounters are strongly determined by what happens in the very first round? This interests me, because I've read other comments that combat is too long and drawn out, which seems contrary to that. Again, I'm not saying you or 'they' are wrong, but I'm getting a feel for what dynamic is taking place. If an outcome is being strongly swayed one way or another, is that an indication of a lot of damage being done in one early round? Or Saving Throws that are too difficult, or effects that are too punitive? Give it some thought, or give me some examples if you can. If someone comes on the attack, I'll tell them to tone it down. I want the conversation not the "board battle".

Secondly, why do you think the players fall out of love with their characters? This may sound hokey, but are their role-playing needs not being met? Is there something wrong with their goals, objectives, or stories that just cease to be fun any more? Are they just fatigued with their characters and are itching to try something new? I noticed you singled out levels 5-12 and not levels 1-4. Try this as a thought exercise; what is better about 5-12 than 1-4? In answering that, it might be revealing with what is going on at 12-20.

And folks, this is just for Kthulhu- jump right on in! Let's just avoid telling people that they're wrong, and start asking why they feel that way!

Star Voter 2013

Excellent talking point, though I do wonder if it should have its own thread…

From my experiences I’d say that there are several factors which add together to bias the levels you generally see published modules succeed at:

#1 Player & GM skill requirements – lower level of play generally requires less skill for either the players or the GMs to pull off. Lower level characters have far fewer resources or “tricks” to draw upon than characters who have achieved higher levels. Play is simplified and tends to be more “linear” at lower levels. This is both good and bad, but does generally mean that most lower level encounters will show the same general experiences for everyone who runs through them. The differences at lower levels between fully and not at all optimized characters are well within each others “play range”. On the other hand, because of the nature of extremely low level characters (1-4), I think that players tend to gravitate towards slightly higher play so that play doesn’t seem QUITE so repetitive (because after you’ve played 20 1st Level fighters, it definitely SEEMS like you’ve played them all). Especially with feats and feat chains, higher level play (and I use the term extremely loosely for purposes of this discussion) means more options which many folks translate to mean more interesting characters.

#2 Prep & Go potential – One of the main selling points for canned modules is that they require less work for an already over-worked GM, who may have less time or inclination to build their own encounters. The ease of quickly “rolling up” lower level characters and playing off the cuff games is one reason that published encounters sell at all. The more complex the character generation requirements are (and more work for the players) or the understanding required of the GM (and more time / effort) for the GM, the less useful the encounter is for GMs that like to run “on the fly encounters”. Not that all published modules sell based on this, but those who don’t primarily sell due to …

#3 “ReSkin” Potential – many GMs will buy encounters to re-skin to their own personal campaigns and use as filler between content that they’ve already written / developed / converted from other sources. Good maps, new items, spells, or campaign-setting specific info can all assist in helping sell a module to a GM that normally only runs “house games”.

#4 Player Usefulness – percentage wise, there are way more players than GMs and content that can appeal to a wider variety of folks means that a publication can sell more copy. Of course, it’s considered bad form for a player to read a module before they play through it, but I’ve seen several modules used as reference materials years later by players who were referencing items or spells they acquired in a specific encounter.

-TimD


Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Maps, Modules, Tales Subscriber

In our group it's that we get bored (with the campaign or with the characters). We prefer starting at level one (since characters created at mid-high levels always end up a little stupidly one-dimensional when we don't) and after we've played for a year or so the DM gets a new idea or one or more of the players gets sick of playing a mage and wants to try a fighter or something.

Another barrier I see is that our group is terribly bad at rules mastery and that is a big issue in PF. A sub-optimal 1st level character is still going to do passably against ELs 1-3 but a sub-optimal 10th level character is (in our experience) going to get wiped out by a 'by the book' level-appropriate encounter. Therefore it's frustrating (or too much work for the DM) given that our absolute best PCs would probably be labelled sub-optimal by anyone with familiarity with the system.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Jim Groves wrote:
And folks, this is just for Kthulhu- jump right on in! Let's just avoid telling people that they're wrong, and start asking why they feel that way!

Well, since my take is that above-20 play is great (and that discussion is something you specifically want to keep off the table), I don't have much to say :)

I do think that high level modules get progressively more difficult, in a large part because my take is that the higher level the party, the more the challenges must be tailored to that party ... and the less satisfying a module will be to a party that falls outside the sweet spot for that module.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber
gbonehead wrote:
I do think that high level modules get progressively more difficult, in a large part because my take is that the higher level the party, the more the challenges must be tailored to that party ... and the less satisfying a module will be to a party that falls outside the sweet spot for that module.

Maybe if this can be tackled somehow, and there can at least be a few successful "one size fits most" modules, you'd have more people hitting the level 20 ceiling.

If you can get more people on the verge of mythic rules (i.e. nearing or at level 20) without hitting that "complete breakdown of the game" wall, things start looking better for a post 20 rulebook.

Star Voter 2013

Honestly After around lvl 14 or so Any written module or AP would need to be very open as to threats and such since by this point it is impossible to predict what abilities the thousands of parties running would be capable of.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Sorry folks! Still listening- will reply Tuesday!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

gbonehead wrote:
I do think that high level modules get progressively more difficult, in a large part because my take is that the higher level the party, the more the challenges must be tailored to that party ... and the less satisfying a module will be to a party that falls outside the sweet spot for that module.

I agree with this. A generic CR 18 monster fighting four 18th level groups, played by different sets of players, will likely have four very different outcomes. One group may kill it in one round, another may be TPKed by it, another may skip the encounter entirely, and the last will have a 4 hour slog where they barely win. The capabilities of high level characters vary so much from group to group that it's really hard to predict how any challenge will actually go - which makes designing published adventures problematic at best.

My own high level (15+ or so) adventure design process works like this:
1. Devise an impossible-to-solve plot
2. Explicitly rule out any solutions that I can think of, ever
3. Throw it at the party. They are powerful and resourceful, and will think of something cool that I have not.

I freely admit this method requires a lot of improvisation, but it generally works pretty well. But I see no real way to turn this into a published module where a harried GM could just grab it and go.

"The system just doesn't work past 12" is patently false, as there are many groups that have a great time past 12, and not "despite the system." But, high level play is much harder, and I would also venture that you have to more ruthlessly enforce the social contract of "don't be a jerk at the table" at high levels as well, but that is true for almost any game with an advancement system after a point.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber
ryric wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
I do think that high level modules get progressively more difficult, in a large part because my take is that the higher level the party, the more the challenges must be tailored to that party ... and the less satisfying a module will be to a party that falls outside the sweet spot for that module.

I agree with this. A generic CR 18 monster fighting four 18th level groups, played by different sets of players, will likely have four very different outcomes.

<snipped>

The capabilities of high level characters vary so much from group to group that it's really hard to predict how any challenge will actually go - which makes designing published adventures problematic at best.

Is there any more likelihood that the challenges will fit the party if the expectation is that they've been following along for an entire campaign (like an AP) where there's a chance to "shape" PC's along the way?

Is there any way, without seriously bloating stat blocks and encounter descriptions, to design encounters which have a few contingencies? (e.g. "If the party doesn't come up with a solution for this tactic/ability/hazard, this happens")

Not something that accounts for everything possible, which is where I think a lot of the people who think the game "breaks" post 12 are coming from, but just...one or two things you can see will either roast a party or make it a complete cakewalk, and offering one adjustment for those.

Or do you just write it with the assumption that high level parties are going to skip and/or trivialize certain encounters or be destroyed by others if the GM doesn't adjust for their group and try to write something that doesn't make one of those outcomes a foregone conclusion?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

This is has been some good discussion!

Folks,

I'm hearing that wide variance and unpredictable combinations of PC abilities can really complicate high level adventures.

(Is that a fair summation in one sentence? Please correct me if I'm wrong, or if you have a different opinion!)

Is there anything that could be done from a design standpoint to help with that?

Could one solution be even more stringent design towards covering the four basic PC groups? (Tank, Skill Based, Arcanist, Divine?) So that an adventure always requires a healthy mix to ensure success?

We're supposed to do that now, in theory, but I know from my own experience that practically speaking some adventures adhere to that principal more than others.

By really emphasizing that in high level adventures, would that help at all? Re-emphasizing teamwork, and making sure overall encounters require a mix of abilities?

Maybe I'm just grasping at straws, but I'm curious about what GMs feel would make a balanced high level adventure.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think there are more than the "4 basic" groups you've listed in just the core rulebook. Add in APG, UM, & UC classes and I think few groups align with the classic 4 tropes you've identified.

So no, I don't think that would help. To address the issues of high/epic-level adventure design, you have to address the core system, power curve, abilities/powers, etc. And if you're going to have to address/modify/rewrite that much stuff, you're no longer playing the game you started with.

Which brings us back to the view many hold of "no thanks on epic content".

Star Voter 2013

Jim Groves wrote:
I'm hearing that wide variance and unpredictable combinations of PC abilities can really complicate high level adventures.

I'd agree with that one-sentence assessment.

As far as solutions, much of that would depend on how far out of the box the thinking could go...

If Paizo wanted to try something akin to an AP, but for higher level play (though likely with a much slower production schedule to keep them within line of sight of sanity), that would probably be ideal. Especially if it were similar to some of the earlier AP's with PreGens, as it seems few people have any experience with high level play at this point. Taking either iconics or something similar from an earlier AP into Epic (or whatever we're calling post-20 play this week) and showing their evolution as well as high level tactics for both the players and the DM in a player's guide would probably mitigate much of the initial headache, but probably not be worth the effort for a single adventure.

Likewise, the "web enhancements" that Paizo did (does?) might also help, but would require more resources.

In short, high-level play requires more resources, both from an in and out of play perspective, than lower level play. This makes producing quality product for higher level play even more challenging.

-TimD

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

BPorter wrote:
I think there are more than the "4 basic" groups you've listed in just the core rulebook. Add in APG, UM, & UC classes and I think few groups align with the classic 4 tropes you've identified.

I understand that. Its hard for me to articulate at what I was getting at in asking that question, but at the root of it I was trying to understand why an encounter might be over in one round, specifically in a high level adventure where hit points would be higher.

One thought that occurred to me is that the creature might be vulnerable to a class attack that can deal a lot of damage a single round. I.e. the martial class or spellcaster that deals a lot of damage in Round One. If a threat required a synergy of attacks it might mitigate that. I.e. the nature of the high level threat has to be different on some level.

Of course, sometimes the right combination of powers and abilities just falls into line. That happens at every level of play, and there's nothing wrong with it. However it shouldn't be happening a great deal.

I dunno. :) I'm trying to understand.

BPorter wrote:
Which brings us back to the view many hold of "no thanks on epic content".

Sure, and I respect how you feel about it. Its just a conversation ender. There's really nothing to be said in response.

But since discussion doesn't really cost anything, or hurt anything, and I don't represent a drain on Paizo's resources, I don't see the harm in talking about it with anybody interested in exploring solutions or identifying problems.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

TimD wrote:
If Paizo wanted to try something akin to an AP, but for higher level play (though likely with a much slower production schedule to keep them within line of sight of sanity), that would probably be ideal. Especially if it were similar to some of the earlier AP's with PreGens, as it seems few people have any experience with high level play at this point. Taking either iconics or something similar from an earlier AP into Epic (or whatever we're calling post-20 play this week) and showing their evolution as well as high level tactics for both the players and the DM in a player's guide would probably mitigate much of the initial headache, but probably not be worth the effort for a single adventure.

Let's just stick to 12-20th level. I think its detrimental to the cause to speculate on what happens after 20th level, since it doesn't exist. For my part, I'm willing to concede that the WOTC effort doesn't work, but that's also why I avoid spending any time talking about it.

On topic: it sounds like what you're saying here Tim is that the high level experience needs to be tailored to the group in a more specific way. Do I have that correct?

Or that the amount detail and explanation spent on a high level encounter needs to be greater? For example: a rule of thumb (I believe established by Erik Mona) is 500 words per encounter on average (exceptions allowed). Would/could a high level encounter be improved with more explanation and contingencies for the GM?

Or a combination of both?

TimD wrote:
In short, high-level play requires more resources, both from an in and out of play perspective, than lower level play. This makes producing quality product for higher level play even more challenging.

Good discussion, but let me ask this- what kind of resources would make it easier to run and play? Explanation? Maybe some sort of printable matrix to help keep track of certain variables from round to round?

We're just brainstorming and spitballin' here, so no Paizo resources are being lost. I'm curious about what specifically could be done to make the experience easier for GMs and Players.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think that the need to tailor to a specific group only grows as you increase in level. However, I think the bigger issue is that for many players and GMs, the kinds of things that they've been enjoying for levels 1-12 are what drew them to the game in the first place.

Once things like overland travel, chases, castles, dungeons, cities, etc. (y'know all the classic fantasy RPG tropes) become diminished or insignifant due to PCs power curve, the game and the campaign itself changes -- often in a fashion that is no longer as much fun.

Some folks like planar travel, slaying deities, etc., but many don't. Many players feel more heroic when they defeat the big bad despite having the deck stacked against them. Many want to be the hero where will, skill, determination, or luck carried the day even against the opponent who was more powerful.

For many GMs, the enjoyment fades when encounter design moves from making things that are cool, setting-consistent, a follow-on, etc. and feel like every encounter has to be built with a "how do I counteract X" mentality, especially in light of the time required to develop those high level encounters.

Fundamentally, and Pandora's Box is already open, it's the game's magical power curve that ultimately works against high-level play. FLY is a 3rd level spell. RAISE DEAD is a 5th level spell. RESURRECTION doesn't even hit the high-water mark. And unfortunately, if the BBEG of the campaign is throwing around 7th, 8th, or 9th level spells the power at their disposal makes PCs scratch their heads as to why they weren't stomped on at levels 1-12.

Let's take Star Wars as an example. By any account, Jedi Knights are higher-level characters. Yet despite the Emperor's power, there are limits to what he and Vader can accomplish with the Force. They still have to rely on the conceits of the setting. Luke goes from farmboy to Jedi -- a PF-like player evolution. Yet Eps IV-VI all have gun fights, lightsaber duels, space battles, etc. The style and approach of the campaign is consistent regardless of the main characters' or villains' power levels.

PF (& D&D) doesn't support that nearly as well due to the escalation of power creep via magic.

The only way that is going to change is if you flatten the magical progression from an exponential curve into something closer to linear. And that's very unlikely to happen. Some folks would throw an absolute fit at the thought that TELEPORT gets bumped to a 7th-level spell or FLY, RAISE DEAD, etc. get revised upwards in the spell-level definition.

Without that, however, I don't think you can really change the problem with high-level play. (Same issue exists with assuming magic-items are a must-have.)

BTW, D&D has always had this problem. It's just in its earlier incarnations, they did a better job of recognizing and codifying the differences (Basic-Expert-Companion-Immortals, etc...)


Quote:
. And unfortunately, if the BBEG of the campaign is throwing around 7th, 8th, or 9th level spells the power at their disposal makes PCs scratch their heads as to why they weren't stomped on at levels 1-12.

Why he would unless you are trowing to them the same bbge for like 15 level straight. To play a high level campaing you need to start thinking differently. Maybe 'till now the party was busy with something else, and only now they have started hampering the bbeg plans. Or maybe the bbeg himself wasn't always level 17, but he gained experience along the party from his own adventures/plans. Or other two thousand different explaination. Here lies the problem of why people doesn't want to deal with high level. Because the do not want to have to use their brain too much.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dekalinder wrote:
Quote:
. And unfortunately, if the BBEG of the campaign is throwing around 7th, 8th, or 9th level spells the power at their disposal makes PCs scratch their heads as to why they weren't stomped on at levels 1-12.
Why he would unless you are trowing to them the same bbge for like 15 level straight. To play a high level campaing you need to start thinking differently. Maybe 'till now the party was busy with something else, and only now they have started hampering the bbeg plans. Or maybe the bbeg himself wasn't always level 17, but he gained experience along the party from his own adventures/plans. Or other two thousand different explaination. Here lies the problem of why people doesn't want to deal with high level. Because the do not want to have to use their brain too much.

Instead of the jackassery snark, maybe you could insult a bit less...

Some people like having a villain be prominent throughout a campaign. It was an example, not a commandment. The point has nothing to do with "wanting to use their brain less".

You are, however, reinforcing the problem I ID'd upthread. At a certain point, the campaign has to change -- and change dramatically. Some GM's like the way the campaign changes. Some players are ok shifting focus away from the game world to the planes or what not.

Others aren't. Some want to encounter new challenges & new adventures without having to abandon everything they've been playing through and enjoying for levels 1-12 (or 1-15, or wherever you feel high-level kicks in).

As I noted above, in terms of countering high-level magic, encounter design takes increasing amounts of "how do I counter/compensate for player's ability X". As a GM, I'm fine doing that to a point, but when that becomes the bulk of my GM prep-time, I'm losing interest as a GM.

I'd rather "use my brain" towards other aspects of GM-ing. Creating plots, locales, encounters, NPCs, etc.

Shadow Lodge

If you want the villain to be prominent throughout the campaign, you have several choices:

1. Have him work mainly through agents until the PCs actually attain a level high enough that they warrant his personal attention. After all, the first level characters starting out in Age of Worms didn't square off against Kyuss immediately...

2. As Dekalinder pointed out, you can have them progress while the PCs do. Nothing says that someone who's a 5th level villain when the PCs are 1st level has to STILL be 5th level when they reach 15th level. He's been out earing XP as well, just evilly. Maybe he's 20th level when the PCs reach 15th level.

3. Maybe the guy that the PCs took down that they THOUGHT was the BBEG wasn't actually him...he was just a decoy by the real BBEG. For this strategy, I generally think of the Hobgoblin in Spider-Man comics. The original Hobgoblin's identity was a secret for a VERY long time...during which several other Hobgoblins, usually believed to bhe THE Hobgoblin, were unmasked....allowing Roderick Kingsley to work "behind the scenes" for a while.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Good people, lets not attack one another.

If we disagree, let's explore where and why we disagree. Let's ask "why" or offer "how".

I admit to optimistic hope for managing high level content, but we're never going to learn anything from each other by calling each other dumb. Nobody likes being treated that way.

Respect each other.

(catching up on posts now)


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kthulhu wrote:

If you want the villain to be prominent throughout the campaign, you have several choices:

<snip BBEG suggestions>

Again, the issue isn't how to include the BBEG throughout the campaign. The issue is that the power level reaches a point where the game fundamentally changes, sometimes with campaign/setting/world/game-breaking impact.

The BBEG scenario I cited was one possible symptom/example of the impact high-level play (RAW) can have on a campaign, characters, and playstyle; it was not the problem.


Monkeygod wrote:

Well, it's nice that you guys don't want epic content, but I didn't want firearms or a gunslinger and yet we have them.

I also don't really want as much Lovecraftian Mythos in Golarion.

I agree (except the lovecraftian mythos, I enjoyed the look on my parties face the first time I said the word Cthulhu)

All the content that Paizo produces is yours to choose to use or not use. If you don't wanna use it, don't. obviously people do want it, so they're making it. It's like saying, "well, some people didn't want a 4th edition bestiary since we already have enough monsters so we decided not to make one."

the whole point is that the game is constantly expanding and giving the players and GM's more options to work with to create new stories. There's only so many times you can fight an owlbear before you just wanna fight a few bearowl's, you know?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

BPorter wrote:
Some folks like planar travel, slaying deities, etc., but many don't. Many players feel more heroic when they defeat the big bad despite having the deck stacked against them. Many want to be the hero where will, skill, determination, or luck carried the day even against the opponent who was more powerful.

Okay BPorter, I'm not trying to cherry-pick your posts, but I am trying to narrow down the symptoms a little. If I assume something wrong, call me on it. This is not meant to be adversarial.

So what I'm hearing in the paragraph above is the encounters are some how no longer stacked against them. That somehow will, skill, determination, or luck has been removed from the encounter.

Part of the problem I'm having is that we're speaking in broad generalities. That's not criticism, but I'm going to try again, so be patient with me.

What's happening there that the encounters no longer hinge on determination, will, skill, or luck?

Does it just come down to one action on the part of the enemy, with a predictable and necessary response from the PCs? Because I would think with more options the nature of the fight would be more varied (albeit it more complicated).

I'm definitely not telling you that you're wrong. If you say its not fun for you- I believe you. I'm just trying to isolate quite specifically why its different.

BPorter wrote:
For many GMs, the enjoyment fades when encounter design moves from making things that are cool, setting-consistent, a follow-on, etc. and feel like every encounter has to be built with a "how do I counteract X" mentality, especially in light of the time required to develop those high level encounters.

This makes sense. So in homebrew games it becomes more time consuming to design encounter because the enemies have to be tailored to the group. Which requires the GM to really understand the PCs, and design accordingly. I can appreciate the time investment. I freelance but I run APs just like everybody else, for time reasons.

But stock (or rather Bestiary) high level enemies don't work well against most groups? You need to tailor more than just a few special NPCs?

BPorter wrote:
Fundamentally, and Pandora's Box is already open, it's the game's magical power curve that ultimately works against high-level play. FLY is a 3rd level spell. RAISE DEAD is a 5th level spell. RESURRECTION doesn't even hit the high-water mark. And unfortunately, if the BBEG of the campaign is throwing around 7th, 8th, or 9th level spells the power at their disposal makes PCs scratch their heads as to why they weren't stomped on at levels 1-12.

I'm not sure I follow this part. It sounds like a "suspension of disbelief" problem.

BPorter wrote:
Let's take Star Wars as an example. By any account, Jedi Knights are higher-level characters. Yet despite the Emperor's power, there are limits to what he and Vader can accomplish with the Force. They still have to rely on the conceits of the setting. Luke goes from farmboy to Jedi -- a PF-like player evolution. Yet Eps IV-VI all have gun fights, lightsaber duels, space battles, etc. The style and approach of the campaign is consistent regardless of the main characters' or villains' power levels.

Your example makes sense, but don't you see the PCs personal abilities, as well as those of the villains- also somewhat constrained just like those of Luke, Vader, and the Emperor? Most APS have ramping power levels, but even in Rise of the Runelords, ultimately the world isn't going to end. Rather, one nation might "begin" to be systematically conquered by a powerful individual. I'm paraphrasing James Jacobs there. The world doesn't end if the PCs fail, but the political landscape is going to change dramatically - not unlike when House Thrune came to power.

This sort of sounds more of a symptom of crappy storytelling rather than something being wrong with the game. That high level stories are not being presented well.

BPorter wrote:
Without that, however, I don't think you can really change the problem with high-level play. (Same issue exists with assuming magic-items are a must-have.)

Well, we've talk a lot about the fact that a problem exists, but I've seen much less discussion about trying to alleviate it. So while it may seem like a lost cause, I'm not prepared to write it off.

Thank you though! You're engaging the discussion, and I appreciate your time and thoughtfulness on the topic.

(and you have another post following this one...)

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

BPorter wrote:
The issue is that the power level reaches a point where the game fundamentally changes, sometimes with campaign/setting/world/game-breaking impact.

As a supporter of high level play, I don't disagree with this statement. I think it's a good thing, a positive about the system. I like how level 3 plays differently than level 10 which is different from level 17.

I will humbly suggest that in my experience if your adventure design goal is "how do I counter ability X?" that it's no wonder you dislike high level play. Trying to do that would frustrate me as both a GM and as a player. The GM gets frustrated when the players think of a loophole that wasn't covered, and the players get frustrated that none of their cool toys work. What's the point of being high level if you don't get effective use out of that awesome stuff?

I think a better way is to design high level adventures so that the PCs need ability X to even progress. And ability Y, ability Z, and so on. But, the problem with trying to design a published high level adventure is that you have no good idea what X, Y, and Z even are.

An example might be, instead of trying to think how to prevent your players from using greater teleport, you require the spell to even get to the adventure location. Maybe the location is deep inside a mountain with no entrances. Maybe there is no fresh air in there either. Perhaps the area map is so complicated that find the path is needed to get to where the party wants to go, and so on.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Jim, I appreciate that you're trying to solve the issue from a giving-the-GM-better-tools approach. It's valid and certainly can't hurt.

What I'm talking about with the magic power curve introducing a game-changing shift at high-level play isn't really about a suspension of disbelief. Rather, it's that many years ago, powers/spells were added to the game in the context of "this was a problem in the dungeon at this level so here's something that mitigates it now that you're more powerful". Raise Dead being a 5th level spell for example, is a game convenience. We're not talking resuccitation, we're talking about restoring life to the dead and it's a mid-tier spell on the 0-9 scale.

The impact to the game only escalates as level increases. There's also a weird imbalance in terms of power. Planar Binding is a high-level spell, yet it's a classic fantasy trope. Yet by the time a PC can cast Planar Binding, they've got access to whole mess of other magic that is giving the GM fits.

And unfortunately, while better GM-tools can help high-level play, they'll never address the underlying issue. That would require a rework of the system from the ground up.

The overland journey or sea-voyage is classic fantasy material. Yet once teleports, pocket dimensions, and spontaneously-created shelters are available, it's largely made irrelevant. It starts to impact how the PCs approach everything and then the questions start like "why doesn't guild/kingdom/NPC X do Y?". The encounter-design required for high-level play becomes a game of Gotcha! as I described upthread.

I'll give you another example to go along with my Star Wars one. In the Dragon Age video game series, there are Laws of Magic that magic must adhere to. Now, as a player, I realize a lot of those laws exist to constrain actions to what the game can render. However, they also reinforce the conceits of the setting and the gameplay desired. PC power increases & new challenges arise, but the game doesn't "jump the shark" just b/c I hit a particular power level. For example, one of the laws dictates (going from memory here) that a law of form must be followed -- equivalents to FLY and TELEPORT don't exist. If I want a caster to fly, they need to take the form of a creature that can fly.

High-level PF & D&D doesn't work this way. I can come up with just about any effect, and I can justify it's existence by virtue of "it's more powerful than X but less powerful than Y". Unfortunately, the bar was established way back in the day when someone thought it was ok for FLY to be a 3rd level spell (as an example). Multiply that out to level 15 and you get the idea.

If I've been running a campaign in Magnimar & Varisia since level 1 and my players are invested in the city, it's NPCs, etc. and are loving it, I shouldn't have to adjust the scope and scale of the campaign because my heroes are quasi-demigods that are so powerful they can no longer be bothered with or challenged by the campaign that got them there.

So high-level play suggestions & aids? Bring 'em on.

Epic-level stuff that will exacerbate the issue or evolve into a completely different animal? No thanks.

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