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Reaching level 20


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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In reading posts and guides I have noticed that many pcs do not reach level 20. I was wondering what might be the greatest cause of this?


Tarrasque. Its all fun and games til the avatar of destruction wakes up.

Andoran

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Gaming group break-ups.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

vonklinen wrote:
I have noticed that many pcs do not reach level 20.

Why should they?


Malfus wrote:
Tarrasque. Its all fun and games til the avatar of destruction wakes up.

I dunno, but I laughed when I saw his Will save. Just going to require some magic to get past all those effects... and banishment.

Cheliax

Death and Dismemberment.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

For some people it is because the game is not fun anymore at those high levels. I am one of those people. Highest our group has even been is 13th level.

I think TPK's and loss of interest in a campaign would be other reasons.

Silver Crusade

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

D&D becomes fugly cumbersome past level 15 or so, making it more of a chore and less of a fast-paced action game.


lower levels are more fun
game groups break up
there is no epic content yet, and people want something to look forward to

and bestiary 1-3 has lots of good reasons.


It's hard to keep a campaign going for so long. I only ever played all the way from 1 to 20 once - back in 3.5 - and it took us two years, playing every week. Few groups can manage that kind of consistent commitment.

Also, most official Paizo APs seem to stop at 16 or so.

Grand Lodge

Corlindale wrote:

It's hard to keep a campaign going for so long. I only ever played all the way from 1 to 20 once - back in 3.5 - and it took us two years, playing every week. Few groups can manage that kind of consistent commitment.

Also, most official Paizo APs seem to stop at 16 or so.

What he said. If you want pre-made, professionally written content, none of it goes higher than level 18 at the greatest. Making your own is just as good, but it gets tougher and tougher to keep people interested, to keep everything going so long and still make sense, to think it through (remember, you'd have to operate on the idea that the players will actually remain and continue playing until level 20 to design something like that, and the likelihood they'd get bored is high).


I love high level content. Though I will admit it takes an exceptional DM to make it work. I've been privelaged enough to have played with a few over the years.


as a player, i enjoy RP more than combat, and I think those are easier challenges to make at higher levels


I guess I'm lucky but about half my games make it to 19-20, we've also done some starting high and getting epic games but I feel that starting low is tons of fun. You wont find many level 20's pulling out crossbows or doing something crazy because they have more then 3-4 spells a day. getting up there even with fast progression takes a lot of time and many groups get board of the game or break up before then. Plus it takes skill and much book keeping to run encounters when players can stop time and bend the laws of physics. but it's fun if someone can pull it off. if you want to play ask you group, I'm sure there are 3.5 mod for high level players that you could use.

Andoran

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I've played more 1st level characters than 20th level characters. I need to fix that.


We generally don't like the game much past 12th level. We have finished a couple APs and made it to 16th but we all were ready to start anew by that point and just wanted to say we finished.


Lack of decent rules to advance past level 20 seems to be the main reason to me.

Most campaigns I've been in end around level 20 to 25 using the rules specified in the Core Rulebook. Anything more than that requires a lot of work to make new and better "Mythic Level" feats.


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personally, reaching level 20 i'd be content staying there for a while and finishing up character goals and engineer the end to the campaign


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Some potential reasons:

- There's far more published material, adventures-wise, for lower-level stuff. Things peter out around the mid-teens.
- People eventually start to tire of doing the same thing - playing the same characters, playing the same sort of campaign, etc. While this fatigue can take hold anywhere, it has a sort of attrition effect on campaigns.
- While PF's sweet spot is much wider than 3.5's, things start to get a little wonky in the mid-teens, mathwise. The difference between "good at x" and "bad at x" tends to grow as levels rise, meaning you get more scenarios where things have no chance of working or no chance of failing. That's not fatal on its own, but contributes to fatigue.
- The game - with some exceptions - tends to get more complicated as levels go up. There's just more stuff to keep track of. Again, this isn't fatal on its own, but contributes to fatigue.
- While volatility is present at all levels, I personally, as a DM, find it easiest to design and run encounters that are appropriately challenging at around levels 3-12. That's past the point where characters are so fragile that it's easy for things to go south in a hurry, but before there's so many options and so much to account for - plus so many Save-or-suck options available, although that's a problem at any level - that fights turn kind of rocket-taggy.
- Even if the odds of something super campaign-derailing happening are constant with level, the odds that something super campaign-derailing will have happened by a certain level rises with the number of levels.
- Higher-level campaigns are somewhat more imposing for new players to join (due to accumulated complexity and relationships), making it harder and harder to replace players lost to attrition as a campaign goes on.

I've run just a single campaign to level 20 in Pathfinder (and none in 3.5), and towards the end it did feel like there was sort of a sense of obligation about the whole thing more than anything else.


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Gorbacz wrote:
D&D becomes fugly cumbersome past level 15 or so, making it more of a chore and less of a fast-paced action game.

Agreed. Encounter design and the plenitude of incredibly powerful magic options can make story design vacillate between the tedious, the uninteresting, and the impossible. The mechanics of a tactical challenge are super unwieldy. And we don't have elegant systems for stuff like wars. When we were 12, we could spend time on the bean counting and not much mind. Not so now.

Andoran

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Meh, roll all melee characters and you hardly have to count anything but HP.

Silver Crusade

We have just finished running Serpents Skull and I can't wait for these characters to go on for their next adventure. We've all stabilised on lvl 17 and have been permitted a slight rebuild, then it's off to Mythic land!
We were bloody powerful by the end of it, but we still had moments where we all very nearly got ganked...
The only really cumbersome thing I found about high level adventures is when there's a dozen or so summoned creatures running around doing their thing. That and keeping track of the health of the 56 degenerate serpentfolk that the Hound Archon ranger just took on single handedly*

*My proudest moment yet :)


High level play can be fun, but it's so different from low level play that it just isn't even the same campaign. I mean, if you really enjoyed levels 1-6, what are the chances you'll enjoy 16-20, considering it's almost completely different?

Really, to play from 1-20, you almost need a group wholly composed of people who like the playstyles of being unknown underdogs, powerful humans, anime characters, and world-shattering superheros. I've found that most people have just one or two of those modes that they really enjoy far more. This leads to groups finding a sweet spot and tending to play more in that range, in my experience.

Also, high level DnD is very hard to DM well.

"Do I win initiative? I do? Awesome. We win."

or

"Oooh. Those are some low initiative rolls. The bad guys go first. You all die."


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Meh, roll all melee characters and you hardly have to count anything but HP.

I can tell you from personal experience that this actually works. The last homebrew campaign I ran went from 1 to 20 and things were pretty easy to keep track of the whole time, probably partly because the party consisted of a Barbarian, a Ranger, a Monk, a Samurai, a Magus (a caster, but not of the complete reality bending variety), and a Monk/Rogue.


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I am lucky to be in a group that has played roughly 40 times a year for the last 10 years, that said we started kingmaker Oct 2010 and have not started book 4 yet, level 10 behold the RP.

Previous to that we completed Rise of the Rune Lords, level 18, roughly starting upon the release of book 3 until August 2010, and two home brew campaigns before those that ended at 18th and 14th respectively.

However the cat daddy to me is the low-magic campaign my buddy runs that we have averaged maybe 15 sessions a year. We started in 2005, and are currently level 10.

Honestly, if you are running something that long, and reach a "conclusion", your players will often be ready to retire characters, and very unwilling to risk their death on random level 18-20 stuff just to "cap out".


Malfus wrote:
Tarrasque. Its all fun and games til the avatar of destruction wakes up.

The Tarrasque seems very similar to Anguirus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anguirus


It takes a lot of dedication and luck. It also takes gamers and GM's that enjoy playing past level 13 or 15 which is where many GM's and/or players stop enjoying the game due to how powerful characters(PC's and NPC's) can become.


I usually get too annoyed by magic around level 12~15. I've run one campaign to 20~21 and it went fairly well, but high levels are usually too ridiculous.

I did run a no-spells campaign to level 10 about a year ago to great enjoyment though, so maybe I'll try revisiting that to level 20 some day.


I don't care for high-level games with clerics, druids, sorcerers, or wizards (or other 9th-level spell casting classes). 0-6 and 1-4 classes are okay; their spells are not (generally speaking) all that powerful and reality warping (except for summoners, which are not allowed in my games anyway).

High-level games (16+) are a lot more fun when everyone gets to do their part. Full casters who can control and limit themselves make that game fun. Full casters who try to play God and end each encounter with a single spell are not fun.

Master Arminas


darth_borehd wrote:

Lack of decent rules to advance past level 20 seems to be the main reason to me.

Most campaigns I've been in end around level 20 to 25 using the rules specified in the Core Rulebook. Anything more than that requires a lot of work to make new and better "Mythic Level" feats.

Richard Leonhart wrote:


there is no epic content yet, and people want something to look forward to

These are the two main reasons why we haven't gone back to Pathfinder since our last campaign back in October.

We have yet to play a game where we DON'T reach level 20, but without that "Post 20" content, we're finding our interest slowly fading. That really bums us out, because of 1) all the money we've invested into this game and 2) we really happen to like Pathfinder (Post 20 rules and Psionics being the only two things we do miss, but DSP put out a decent Psionics book, so all we're missing is that Post 20 book).

Andoran

Malfus wrote:
Tarrasque. Its all fun and games til the avatar of destruction wakes up.

Sure if you're going to get upset about that whole "Mines of Bloodstone" Incident...I mean it did say "Deadly" on the cover. :-)

Seriously though, post 18 it devolves into:
- "Hey you know what we should do? Let's descend into the lowest layers of the abyss and STEAL the wand of a demon prince just for SnG's!!!"
- "Sure that sounds like something we can pull off! He's gonna be SOOO angry!"


So people's experiences are that the current rules for character levels beyond 20 don't work very well?

Andoran

AvalonXQ wrote:
So people's experiences are that the current rules for character levels beyond 20 don't work very well?

My personal experience is that it's less to do with the "rules" and more do do with: "How do I engage the players.", you're quite literally forced to throw Angels, Demons, Avatars of Destruction, etc. at the PCs. Telling a compelling story with people who have the abilities of minor deities becomes somewhat challenging, unless you go into a "War on the gods establish a new pantheon" direction.


I've noticed that a lot of players have a hard time changing tactics dramatially after around 12 or so levels of being used to certain things working all the time. Same goes for gms too, myself included, they fall into a kind of pattern most of the time and it can get stale quickly.
It can be an incredible ammount of work to design interesting encounters for high level pcs. Also, trying to hide a villans evil plots can be very hard with all the info gathering magic available to even mid level characters.


AvalonXQ wrote:
So people's experiences are that the current rules for character levels beyond 20 don't work very well?

They don't work well for most people. When Balors and Pit Fiends become "common encounters" it is really hard to challenge the players, and there is a spell or magic item to get by almost any other problem a GM can come up with.

The highest I ever ran a game to was 22, and while the players enjoyed it I had to pull more behind the screen magic than I would have liked.


AvalonXQ wrote:
So people's experiences are that the current rules for character levels beyond 20 don't work very well?

For our table? Yes...they don't. Engaging them for me is no trouble; I can do that. We just need the rules to help supplement that.


I think a lot of challenges would have to be basically 'you win' encounters just to let them enjoy reaching the pinnacle of power


vonklinen wrote:
In reading posts and guides I have noticed that many pcs do not reach level 20. I was wondering what might be the greatest cause of this?

Beyond many of the things already said, there is an ouroborosian effect where publishers don't put out a lot of high level material so GMs who want to run high level games write their own material and then since they write their own material they don't buy high level material so high level material doesn't get published so they have to write their own....

And generally, based on my personal experience, it can be hard for a GM to prepare for a high level game. I ran a high level game for 2 and a half years. It didn't quite reach 20 (although the PCs would have gained 20th level had the campaign continued). I did not encounter the nonsense people usually say happens at high level games -- PCs did not "break the game" or "break combat"; combats did not become interminably long (or at least no longer than combats at low or mid levels); I did not find myself at wit's end because I knew the PCs could teleport or whatever (indeed, I considered their gaining certain abilities as hooks for more possibilities as to how the adventure could happen).

But I found it hard and time consuming to design high level NPCs to challenge (or even just interact with) the party, and generally design encounters that not just challenged the PCs but were interesting (i.e., not the same old high CR boss fight over and over). I was challenged to design my adventures to be very open ended, because I knew there were any variety of ways the PCs might encounter or resolve things. The latter was difficult--but ultimately interesting and rewarding. The former was just tiresome and frustrating after awhile.

But even with its rewards, it takes a lot of work and prep, and that's something not all GMs have. Now, if there were material that helped GMs deal with the challenge of running high level games....

But then we get back to the snake eating its own tail.

Cheliax

I ran a 2 1/2 year game from level 1 - 42 and they became Demigods at the end using the Epic rules and deities and demigods books. Was it hard to DM, yes. Was it fun for the players immensely, we still talk about all the crazy stuff their PC's did 5 years later.

The rules above level 20 are pretty much what you make of them. The Epic book is so off balance, the creatures being either way to hard for the CR or way underpowered. That being said how many PC get to take on a Full grown Force Dragon while attempting to wield Thors Hammer and Odins Thunderbolt, with an angry Asgardian Troll (Kurse) w/the Belt of Kurse and his Half-White Dragon Rocs w/Cloud Gaint riders seeking to gain the weapons during the confusion of the battle. You can literally throw anything at the PC you can think of and if you love to build NPC (which i do) its alot of fun for the DM.

Can, as a DM, you keep track of all the PC abilities... no, heck most of the PC's couldn;t remember half the stuff they could do at those levels.lol

It takes alot of the DMs time to get ready for a single encounter but what we found out is that alot of the time encounters were very fast compared to levels 10-15. The abilities are so powerful that either they wiped the encounter or they got wiped.

One of the most fun they had at level 27 was taking out an Orc Village. Nothing special about the village just about 700 level 1-6 NPC's. They decided they just wanted to wade into the local Bully Orc tribe village and teach them a lesson. It took about 5 rounds for them to kill or chase off the entire village and it was no challenge but they had alot fo fun doing it.

All in All It was very enjoyable for the entire group.


vonklinen wrote:
In reading posts and guides I have noticed that many pcs do not reach level 20. I was wondering what might be the greatest cause of this?

DM Burnout.

It takes a huge amount of preparation to challenge level 20 characters for very little return as a DM. Characters are so powerful at lvl 20 that they make monsters into a joke. Unless you are willing to argue with your players constantly denying them access to magic items they want, spells, and the like, the game becomes so much in favor of the players that it is pretty much a joke to run the game. Most DMs get so fed up with it, they either quit running the game or go way overboard and kill the characters. I've seen both many times.

A single great wyrm red dragon against a lvl 20 party is pretty much dead meat fairly quickly if you stat it and run it as the book recommends. It's breath weapon is defeated by fire resistance and powerful cleric healing. It's spells are beaten by the same. It's melee attacks pale in comparison to what the fighter, barbarian, or other melee class deals. It really has very little chance of lasting more than a few rounds against a lvl 20 party. A CR 23 Red Dragon becomes like an ogre against a lvl 2 party.

It's a very unrewarding game to DM at high level. Unless you have a DM and players that committed to some greater story that is still interesting to both sides, why give yourself a headache trying to run a high level game stacked heavily in favor of your players?


What if they had to fight NPCs who were kind of their mirror images, that could be cool

.


I have been running into many of the same problems everyone else is talking about. I have ran several higher level campaigns. At one point I sent 3 great wyrms vs a team of 5 twentieth level pcs and it was game over for the dragons. Currently I ran an encounter against a CR 17 creature and the pcs were 14th and they won. But the players have always had fun with it.


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vonklinen wrote:
What if they had to fight NPCs who were kind of their mirror images, that could be cool.

Indeed. I did it to my players once and it was a blast! Easiest fight I ever ran. Here's why:

I did absolutely nothing.

The party consisted of five players (a sorcerer, a cleric, a paladin, a rogue, and a bard). All had just reached 20th level. The party had come off of a hiatus from their previous adventure and met back to finally explore the abandoned stronghold of their nemesis.

Pretty standard dungeon crawl at first, with threats that they could easily handle.

That was when they found the Mirrored Rotunda. Mirrors covered every square inche of the room, and after they entered, all of the doors closed--with mirrors on the interior surfaces. And then their evil counterparts stepped out (the paladin's counterpart was an anti-paladin). The room being dimensionally locked so teleporting away wasn't an option.

I let the players tell me what they were doing, and, by golly, their duplicates did the exact same thing! I even used their rolls on initiative, attacks, and saves. For example, the sorcerer threw a finger of death at the duplicate rogue, and his counterpart did exactly the same thing on half-a-second later; acting on the same Initiative number, but as if their Dex was one lower for that purpose only. That's the only thing that saved them--that slight delay between when the party acted and then the duplicates. It was the toughest, most bitter fight of their careers--and I didn't have to roll a single die or make a save, or look up a spell. They did it all to themselves!

They prevailed after a bitter and hard fight. And they loved the challenge and having to move and think fast to overcome their foes! Which were in fact their very own selves! I haven't done it again, because it could get real old, real fast--but for that one occassion, it was epic.

High level play is what you make of it--just like lower level play.

Master Arminas


I've worked up to 18th level once (3.5, not PF) and I'm glad I did. It was a blast, casting spells whose entries I had only read, and not used, for a decade or more. But on the whole, the game has a magic only found in the early levels that is wanes in the mids and is gone after that.


Going OT, but the best take on "fight your own mirror image" is STILL as done in one of the Slayers OAVs.... that WOULD be fun to throw at players someday...


DeathQuaker wrote:


I ran a high level game for 2 and a half years. It didn't quite reach 20 (although the PCs would have gained 20th level had the campaign continued).

I still say we should've leveled up at the end. I mean, we stopped the legions of Hell from taking over the world. That's not worth a level anymore? :)


I worked up to 19th level with my 4e group (I was present from 11-19, but they started from 1)

We were planning to go to at least 21 for Epic, but decided to start a PF module instead.

Reasons:

-Overbulky high lvl characters. Combats were very slow as a result.
-Lack of good rp from 4e due to 'skill challenge' system.
-Overly railroady.

I was really hoping to get to Epic because I wanted to make that kind of character, but I'm glad we started Kingmaker because that's been much more fun.


The one thing I've noticed that has ground most high level games I've played in to a crawl is players gaming the system to get more actions per round. At least one of those games had one player trying to bring in a ridiculously multiclass character having a mount, multiple animal companions, a cohort from leadership, an improved familiar, _and_ a group of hirelings, and still trying to argue for letting his cohort have yet another slightly smaller army following him. If I remember correctly, this led to a house rule allowing only one follower in combat per player character. I went one step further in trying to help speed things up and stopped bringing my one cohort into battle completely, maintaining that as he was fully trusted, he was staying back at the castle running the city.

Grand Lodge

Malfus wrote:
Tarrasque. Its all fun and games til the avatar of destruction wakes up.

.

.
There are at least 7 ways to kill the avatar of destruction:
Seven Ways to Kill the Tarrasque


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Gaming group break-ups.

This. Or players getting tired of their characters. Or the campaign getting too complicated.

Or any combination of ennui in its myriad forms.

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