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What are some reasons people might start at level 1?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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I should note that I was emphasizing the fact that I was talking about the game aspect of PF. Stories and such is even more subjective. But I don't think anyone will reasonably argue that the low levels are less complex and less deep on mechanical level. Which in turn means lesser variation.(also lesser changes between similar things two handed barbarian and fighter are pretty much the same at the earliest levels, in how they are played.) And that means that you are more likely to exhaust all the options that hold interest to you.

Also I do not play published adventures, I never grasped why people claim that is the part paizo is good at, because to me they seem mediocre at best, and waste of paper they were printed on at worst. I can understand why people use them, I certainly have gotten way less time for my hobbies as I gotten older, but even average GM can create a homebrew that is leagues beyond any published adventure, because it is customized to this group of players and characters.

If I want to play something of lower power level I choose a system that is actually good at it. Runequest handles the more grounded power level fantasy worlds beyond what PF is cabable.

Regarding the 1st vs. 3rd swingyness from above. Yeah it ain't even close. Compare actual numbers and it is easy to see. Two handed weapon wielder(STR based) is likely going to have AC 17(before race comes to it at least) at 1st level. Deinonychus has 2 talons +5 (1d8+2), bite +5 (1d6+2), foreclaws +0 (1d4+1), pounce, stealth +15 and charge distance of 120ft(60ft on surprise round). So even against the melee beat stick, even being fairly average it will likely kill them in surprise round followed by 1st round full attack. And because it has +6 initiative it has a fairly decent chance of doing all of this before anyone has a chance to act. Not to mention what happens if it attacks someone that is secondary melee character or even worse one of the squishies. I don't think it is quite as bad at 3rd level VS CR 5.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Sir Thugsalot wrote:
The troll? ...3rd-level fighter has been chewed up halfway but is still in the game, but then he eats 25 at once on a couple hot rolls. His eyeballs go XX and he's done.

A 1st level fighter that has taken a hit is in the same boat. A cheetah is CR2 and will claw/claw/bite him down to neg Con if he's not at full.


Sir Thugsalot wrote:
Hrothgar Rannúlfr wrote:
However, we often modify level one characters to have more hit points, to make them more durable....
In my experience, 1rd-level characters tend to be a lot more durable than, say, 3rd-level characters. Few into-level opponents can flat-out kill a 1st-level PC by dropping them to neg-CON on anything except a confirmed crit. 3rd-level? GM drops a troll in for claw/claw/rend and, oh dear....

Hi, Sir Thugsalot,

I agree, however, the players still find it quite scary, entertaining, and fun. Giving the PC's more hit points gives me the option of increasing the number and/or the CR of opponents.

Recently, I ran a party of 12 1st level characters through an older module (The Lost City). Even though they had triple max hit points for 1st level, they ended up fleeing in fear from the Sunken Pyramid after finding enough supplies to continue their journey to the Keep on the Borderlands. I was surprised how terrified the PC's seemed. The extra hit points helped them survive. I am convinced that several would have died had they not had the extra hit points.

Scarab Sages

I think you're plenty strong for a lvl 1 compared to commoners, it's when you compare a lvl 1 character with higher level character it start getting odd. How in your backstory you might have undergone a decade off adventuring leading to you being lvl 1, yet 2 years later you're lvl 5.

Stuff like that is the odd part, not that a lvl 1 can die to a crit.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Wultram wrote:
I should note that I was emphasizing the fact that I was talking about the game aspect of PF. Stories and such is even more subjective. But I don't think anyone will reasonably argue that the low levels are less complex and less deep on mechanical level. Which in turn means lesser variation.(also lesser changes between similar things two handed barbarian and fighter are pretty much the same at the earliest levels, in how they are played.) And that means that you are more likely to exhaust all the options that hold interest to you.

Yeah ok, but as I'm one of those people that feel that the importance of game system for the game experience is largely exaggerated anyways, I don't care about that aspect. I agree that is less complex, but to me, that means that I have more time for the interesting part of the game.

And that's another reason why I prefer to start at level 1. This way, your character grows with experience, and while you add complexity with new options at higher levels, it's a slower process as if you start at those levels and add all the complexity at the same time. For me that's a big factor to have fun with my character because at the moment I feel that mechanics take away a large chunk of my time, I immediately lose any motivation to play that character (or as the GM, run that game) any further.

And that has nothing to do with published adventures vs. homebrew, though I might seriously disagree with you on the ability of the average GM to build something that is actually comparable to what Paizo is doing. Might be a matter of my personal approach.

But it might explain why I do my best to stay away from Runequest. ;)

Shadow Lodge

wraithstrike wrote:
That is a corner case. Most trolls are not hitting a fighter 3 times in a row, and taking him down.
They don't have to hit three times, just twice (the rend damage is automatic after that). So, it's not a corner case, and I've seen multi-attack monsters splick low-level PCs at least a dozen times.
Quote:
To find out the true survival chance its best to use the most likely scenario.
Wrong. The "less likely scenario" will, with sufficient adventuring, inevitably mount a formidable probability. For example, an event with only a 5% chance of occurring will have had a 40% chance of occurring after ten encounters.
Quote:
The troll is also a EL+2 encounter. If we put a level 1 character up against a CR 3 creature the chance of dying is higher.

I wasn't talking about 1st-level characters versus trolls, but 3rd-level PCs. Nobody's "playing up".

At 1st level, PCs fight opponents who are generally weaker than them in every regard (weak strength, armed with daggers or clubs, etc). By third level, the PC has picked up 10-15hp and better AC, but not much else. Monsters, however, have tripled in capacity, and motor right through those extra hp in a heartbeat.


KahnyaGnorc wrote:
Anarchy_Kanya wrote:
For us it's when we want to have an adventure with child PCs. An average adult in our games is at least 3rd level, 1st lvl is for children and 2nd for teens.
A small child that is fully proficient in dozens of weapons, various shield types, AND fighting in a wide array of armors?

Yes?

Quote:
1st level is actually a far cry from the tabula rasa that some seem to portray it as.

Didn't say it was.

Liberty's Edge

Sir Thugsalot wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
That is a corner case. Most trolls are not hitting a fighter 3 times in a row, and taking him down.
They don't have to hit three times, just twice (the rend damage is automatic after that). So, it's not a corner case, and I've seen multi-attack monsters splick low-level PCs at least a dozen times.
Quote:
To find out the true survival chance its best to use the most likely scenario.
Wrong. The "less likely scenario" will, with sufficient adventuring, inevitably mount a formidable probability. For example, an event with only a 5% chance of occurring will have had a 40% chance of occurring after ten encounters.
Quote:
The troll is also a EL+2 encounter. If we put a level 1 character up against a CR 3 creature the chance of dying is higher.

I wasn't talking about 1st-level characters versus trolls, but 3rd-level PCs. Nobody's "playing up".

At 1st level, PCs fight opponents who are generally weaker than them in every regard (weak strength, armed with daggers or clubs, etc). By third level, the PC has picked up 10-15hp and better AC, but not much else. Monsters, however, have tripled in capacity, and motor right through those extra hp in a heartbeat.

The point some are trying to make is that you don't have to wait that long for creatures who can tear through HP. A dire ape is a similar challenge to first level characters as a troll is to third level characters according to the CR system. It also has a bite, 2 claws and rend. It does 29 damage on average compared the trolls 37. 29 damage is a lot more compared to first level characters HP than 37 is to a third level character.


I always start at level 1, because my players are system proficient. Because they are system proficient, they know how to make builds that render CR irrelevant past level 7.
(I'm looking at you, 15d6+60 x1.5 fireball sorc).

However, most of the really game breaking parts of most builds doesn't come online for quite awhile. If you can survive to that level, then fine, have fun using it. You also feel like you've earned it more if you actually get there.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I like starting at the "call to adventure" and then progressing through the journey.


i wonder if anyone has ever run a campaign at level 80+


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Lady-J wrote:
i wonder if anyone has ever run a campaign at level 80+

That poor demented soul.


Almost all of our adventures start at level 1, but some of them start us off as Young Characters using the rules from Ultimate Campaign (+2 Dex, -2 Str, -2 Con, only NPC classes, only 1 trait. At adulthood, retrain into PC class, select 2nd-3rd traits and drawback.)

Definitely feels more organic starting off as an untrained young adult who is thrust into the life of an adventurer through whatever circumstances.


The "untrained young adult who is thrust into the life of an adventurer through whatever circumstances" does start to feel artificial when every single time it happens, it simulatenously happens to three to four other nearby people who are also "untrained young adults who is thrust into the life of an adventurer through whatever circumstances".

Shadow Lodge

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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
i wonder if anyone has ever run a campaign at level 80+
That poor demented soul.

How does that even work?

GM: "Roll for initiative."

PC: <toss><add modifiers> "...174, I think...."

GM: <dryly> "It's a squeaker, but you go first."

PC: "Quickened Time Stop. Delayed Blast Universe. GTFO to another plane."

GM: "OK, you blew the universe up. Now what?"

PC: "I make a new one, filled with only the things I like."


Your missing about 40 other quickened maximized 10th level spells. Not to mention the -instant- summoning of armies of dragons.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Your missing about 40 other quickened maximized 10th level spells.

Nope. Sure, a level 80 can cast quickened 35th level spells (such as Mass Permanent Dominate Greater God, Mass Greater Unlimited Wish and Illusion-That-Grants-A-Flanking-Bonus), but casting three quickened spells in a round? Impossible at any level!


Matthew Downie wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Your missing about 40 other quickened maximized 10th level spells.
Nope. Sure, a level 80 can cast quickened 35th level spells (such as Mass Permanent Dominate Greater God, Mass Greater Unlimited Wish and Illusion-That-Grants-A-Flanking-Bonus), but casting three quickened spells in a round? Impossible at any level!

Lol see your forgetting the first quickened action was to make 13 duplicates of yourself that have almost all of your casting ability.


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Sir Thugsalot wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
That is a corner case. Most trolls are not hitting a fighter 3 times in a row, and taking him down.
They don't have to hit three times, just twice (the rend damage is automatic after that). So, it's not a corner case, and I've seen multi-attack monsters splick low-level PCs at least a dozen times.
Quote:
To find out the true survival chance its best to use the most likely scenario.
Wrong. The "less likely scenario" will, with sufficient adventuring, inevitably mount a formidable probability. For example, an event with only a 5% chance of occurring will have had a 40% chance of occurring after ten encounters.
Quote:
The troll is also a EL+2 encounter. If we put a level 1 character up against a CR 3 creature the chance of dying is higher.

I wasn't talking about 1st-level characters versus trolls, but 3rd-level PCs. Nobody's "playing up".

At 1st level, PCs fight opponents who are generally weaker than them in every regard (weak strength, armed with daggers or clubs, etc). By third level, the PC has picked up 10-15hp and better AC, but not much else. Monsters, however, have tripled in capacity, and motor right through those extra hp in a heartbeat.

First of all it is a corner case. Most parties can take on a CR 5 monster and live. At worse someone might die. A CR 3 fight is more likely to kill an entire level 1 party. So since the CR 5 fight is more survivable the fighter dying in a corner case.

In case you don't know what corner cases are they are thing that is less likely to happen. Now if people in your groups are dying to CR 5 monster at level 3 and that is the norm that is a weakness with how people play. Don't confuse "how the game is" with "I need to get better at combat".

Also I NEVER said anything about trolls against 1st level characters. I know you were talking about 3rd level characters vs a troll.

And I am not wrong. We are not talking about multiple encounters. Stop trying to move the goal post, and even if you want to say "after enough fights there will be a tough encounter" that level 3 party is better equipped to take it on than a level 1 party is.

My counterpoint was that you were wrong because putting a troll(CR 5 aka EL+2) against a 3rd level fighter is a more survival encounter than putting a level 1 fighter against a CR 3 monster(EL+2).

So therefore level 3 is not more dangerous than level 1.


Deighton Thrane wrote:
Sir Thugsalot wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
That is a corner case. Most trolls are not hitting a fighter 3 times in a row, and taking him down.
They don't have to hit three times, just twice (the rend damage is automatic after that). So, it's not a corner case, and I've seen multi-attack monsters splick low-level PCs at least a dozen times.
Quote:
To find out the true survival chance its best to use the most likely scenario.
Wrong. The "less likely scenario" will, with sufficient adventuring, inevitably mount a formidable probability. For example, an event with only a 5% chance of occurring will have had a 40% chance of occurring after ten encounters.
Quote:
The troll is also a EL+2 encounter. If we put a level 1 character up against a CR 3 creature the chance of dying is higher.

I wasn't talking about 1st-level characters versus trolls, but 3rd-level PCs. Nobody's "playing up".

At 1st level, PCs fight opponents who are generally weaker than them in every regard (weak strength, armed with daggers or clubs, etc). By third level, the PC has picked up 10-15hp and better AC, but not much else. Monsters, however, have tripled in capacity, and motor right through those extra hp in a heartbeat.

The point some are trying to make is that you don't have to wait that long for creatures who can tear through HP. A dire ape is a similar challenge to first level characters as a troll is to third level characters according to the CR system. It also has a bite, 2 claws and rend. It does 29 damage on average compared the trolls 37. 29 damage is a lot more compared to first level characters HP than 37 is to a third level character.

Exactly what I was saying.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Milo v3 wrote:
The "untrained young adult who is thrust into the life of an adventurer through whatever circumstances" does start to feel artificial when every single time it happens, it simulatenously happens to three to four other nearby people who are also "untrained young adults who is thrust into the life of an adventurer through whatever circumstances".

It's called Graduation, and it happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Your missing about 40 other quickened maximized 10th level spells.
Nope. Sure, a level 80 can cast quickened 35th level spells (such as Mass Permanent Dominate Greater God, Mass Greater Unlimited Wish and Illusion-That-Grants-A-Flanking-Bonus), but casting three quickened spells in a round? Impossible at any level!
Lol see your forgetting the first quickened action was to make 13 duplicates of yourself that have almost all of your casting ability.

Oh yeah, the old Maximised Multiverse-Collision Sentient Solid Mirror Image trick. I house-ruled that out of my game; otherwise it throws off game balance past level 70 or so. It also made things easier for the Paladin, who objected to the way the spell destroyed thirteen entire universes every time it was used. (To which the Wizard replied, "Don't be so superstitious; there's nothing special about the number thirteen. Besides, at the level we're operating at, it's a small price to pay for the greater good. And the Cleric can cast Infinite Atonement any time you want for a trivial 2,500,000gp component cost.")


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Matthew Downie wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Your missing about 40 other quickened maximized 10th level spells.
Nope. Sure, a level 80 can cast quickened 35th level spells (such as Mass Permanent Dominate Greater God, Mass Greater Unlimited Wish and Illusion-That-Grants-A-Flanking-Bonus), but casting three quickened spells in a round? Impossible at any level!
Lol see your forgetting the first quickened action was to make 13 duplicates of yourself that have almost all of your casting ability.
Oh yeah, the old Maximised Multiverse-Collision Sentient Solid Mirror Image trick. I house-ruled that out of my game; otherwise it throws off game balance past level 70 or so. It also made things easier for the Paladin, who objected to the way the spell destroyed thirteen entire universes every time it was used. (To which the Wizard replied, "Don't be so superstitious; there's nothing special about the number thirteen. Besides, at the level we're operating at, it's a small price to pay for the greater good. And the Cleric can cast Infinite Atonement any time you want for a trivial 2,500,000gp component cost.")

-_- Still not impressed.


Good thing about level 80 is: You can easily hunt down mythic creatures, take their stuff powers and therefore bend the rules even further.

Scarab Sages

Sir Thugsalot wrote:
Wrong. The "less likely scenario" will, with sufficient adventuring, inevitably mount a formidable probability. For example, an event with only a 5% chance of occurring will have had a 40% chance of occurring after ten encounters.

I'm baffled by this. As a GM I'm not even 5% likely to pit a group of 1st level characters against a Troll (or similar). Why would I have become 40% likely to do it after 10 encounters?

I would still understand how likely such an encounter would be to kill 1st level characters, and how little it would do to make my game any fun for the players.


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SheepishEidolon wrote:
Good thing about level 80 is: You can easily hunt down mythic creatures, take their stuff powers and therefore bend the rules even further.

Oh, I don't use Mythic rules in my level 80 campaign. I think they're overpowered.


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rdknight wrote:
Sir Thugsalot wrote:
Wrong. The "less likely scenario" will, with sufficient adventuring, inevitably mount a formidable probability. For example, an event with only a 5% chance of occurring will have had a 40% chance of occurring after ten encounters.

I'm baffled by this. As a GM I'm not even 5% likely to pit a group of 1st level characters against a Troll (or similar). Why would I have become 40% likely to do it after 10 encounters?

I would still understand how likely such an encounter would be to kill 1st level characters, and how little it would do to make my game any fun for the players.

Not 5% "pit a troll against 1st level characters", but 5% of that claw/claw/rend going off and killing someone.

It's particularly obvious in published scenarios that a lot of people play through - PFS for example. Where most people beat a particular encounter with ease, but a small minority have at least the one instant fatality from a critical hit or something.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
The "untrained young adult who is thrust into the life of an adventurer through whatever circumstances" does start to feel artificial when every single time it happens, it simulatenously happens to three to four other nearby people who are also "untrained young adults who is thrust into the life of an adventurer through whatever circumstances".
It's called Graduation, and it happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year.

It's called "waking up in the morning" and it's been happening to me for decades...


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
It's called Graduation, and it happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year.

I was not aware graduation suddenly created adventurers in teams of four, especially when a giant number of settings don't have "Adventurer Schools".

There is a very big difference to "just finished training" and "four people all who just finished training around the same time, all of which ending up with PC class levels instead of NPC class levels, being in the exact right spot to need to start adventuring, each with different skill sets, and there not being level 2 characters anywhere nearby that aren't hostile despite the fact the settlement rules make it ridiculously hard for that to occur in most instances". It's ridiculously contrived, which is fine sometimes. But too often and it feels really really artifical and dumb.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Man, you only have four? We sometimes get five or six or even seven.


Milo v3 wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
It's called Graduation, and it happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year.

I was not aware graduation suddenly created adventurers in teams of four, especially when a giant number of settings don't have "Adventurer Schools".

There is a very big difference to "just finished training" and "four people all who just finished training around the same time, all of which ending up with PC class levels instead of NPC class levels, being in the exact right spot to need to start adventuring, each with different skill sets, and there not being level 2 characters anywhere nearby that aren't hostile despite the fact the settlement rules make it ridiculously hard for that to occur in most instances". It's ridiculously contrived, which is fine sometimes. But too often and it feels really really artifical and dumb.

Well, they don't have to all have finished training* at the same time. They could just have been hanging around doing their normal life thing until the call to adventure happened.

And there are often higher level characters around, but they're doing their own thing.

Yeah, it's somewhat artificial, but so are all the conventions that allow the game to work. In context of this discussion, it wouldn't be any less artificial if they always happened to be 3rd level.


thejeff wrote:
Yeah, it's somewhat artificial, but so are all the conventions that allow the game to work. In context of this discussion, it wouldn't be any less artificial if they always happened to be 3rd level.

Technically, you could roll the start level of each PC, such as 1 + 1d3. Might make a more interesting start for veteran players. The difference will diminish over the course of levels and at some point the GM could put everyone on the same XP amount.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

When I graduated we formed a party of four and went on an adventure. I just assumed that's what everyone did.


Quote:
Man, you only have four? We sometimes get five or six or even seven.

tbh, I'm lucky if I can get a group of three rather than only one or two. But I expect (and hope) that my group isn't the standard :P

thejeff wrote:
Yeah, it's somewhat artificial, but so are all the conventions that allow the game to work.

Yeah, which is why I say it's fine generally, and that my only issue is that it feels artifical if it happens too often.

Quote:

In context of this discussion, it wouldn't be any less artificial if they always happened to be 3rd level.

If your starting at level three, you can have some of the party have adventured together before. You can have some of the party to have just awakened their power. You can have people in the party who have previously only adventured on their own.

You can give the group some history beyond just "they were friends before they adventured" or "group of randoms who happened to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time".


I rarely start a character above 1st level. I think its been years since I have.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Milo v3 wrote:
Yeah, which is why I say it's fine generally, and that my only issue is that it feels artifical if it happens too often.

One of my favorite ways to shake things up is "you're all traveling on a caravan and OH S&%+ BANDITS ATTACK" as the opening scene.

But yeah, most of our APs have involved discussing how our characters know each other ahead of time.


thejeff wrote:
Milo v3 wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
It's called Graduation, and it happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year.

I was not aware graduation suddenly created adventurers in teams of four, especially when a giant number of settings don't have "Adventurer Schools".

There is a very big difference to "just finished training" and "four people all who just finished training around the same time, all of which ending up with PC class levels instead of NPC class levels, being in the exact right spot to need to start adventuring, each with different skill sets, and there not being level 2 characters anywhere nearby that aren't hostile despite the fact the settlement rules make it ridiculously hard for that to occur in most instances". It's ridiculously contrived, which is fine sometimes. But too often and it feels really really artifical and dumb.

Well, they don't have to all have finished training* at the same time. They could just have been hanging around doing their normal life thing until the call to adventure happened.

And there are often higher level characters around, but they're doing their own thing.

Yeah, it's somewhat artificial, but so are all the conventions that allow the game to work. In context of this discussion, it wouldn't be any less artificial if they always happened to be 3rd level.

Let's look at how four Adventure Paths explain a thrusting a group of four untrained young adults into an adventure. I chose these four APs because I played or ran them.

Rise of the Runelords: The four people were attending a festival in the town of Sandpoint when goblins raided. Presumably, people of many levels fought the goblins. Sheriff Hemlock recruited the higher-level volunteer adventurers to take to the road, left the town guard at their duty stations, and asked the four 1st-level volunteer adventurers to remain in town and help out.

Serpent's Skull: A shipwreck leaves many people stranded on an isolated island. Most of those people are barely able to fend for themselves. The four 1st-level adventurers are the castaways with the courage to try to rescue everybody.

Jade Regent: Near Sandpoint again, goblins raided a caravan by suprising them with fireworks. The 5th-level proprietor of the local adventurers' tavern recruited four 1st-level customers to help her deal with the goblins. I have no idea why she chose low-level characters; maybe she was in a mood to teach newbies.

Iron Gods: The torch atop Black Hill, powered by buried alien technology, had gone out. Five expeditions of more experienced adventerers had entered the caves to find the cause, and only the third expedition had returned. The town wizard was in the last expedition. The town was willing to pay four idiots, I mean newbie adventurers, to try again, this time with the simpler goal of finding the wizard. Campaign traits can set up these people as friends of the wizard.

In the real world, we send professional soldiers or police officers to deal with problems. That level of realism would eliminate adventuring parties completely. So long as we are making excuses why adventurers had to solve the local problem, we can add excuses why 1st-level adventurers were the only people available. As the above examples show, we can provide variety in the excuses.

Milo v3 wrote:
You can give the group some history beyond just "they were friends before they adventured" or "group of randoms who happened to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time".

My wife and I once created a backstory for our pair of 1st-level heroes, starting them out in mundane professions of leatherworker and soldier, becoming a team to hunt animals for hides, and now ready for dungeon delving as alchemist and cavalier. In the first session, the GM told everyone that we had been rounded up as penniless vagrants and transported to a distant colony. That was an extreme case of the GM sabotaging the backstories, but in general, a generic backstory is less likely to be crushed under the GM's background for the adventure.

For Iron Gods, I held a session zero where everyone could coordinate their backstories, but I still ended up with one player whose brooding loner had no backstory beyond previously working for the wizard and another player who wanted a few weeks to write an epic. The other two players added some interesting twists to the background of Torch.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:


In fact most of my backstory gets written as I make it up at the table.

For example wrote:


Me: "I approach the barkeep, do I know him?"
GM: Yeah, you've been a regular here long enough that you know his name is Macress.
Me: "Hey Mac, the usual, put it on my tab. How's the wife?"
GM: Mac pours you a mead. "The wife says this is the last one I'm putting on your tab. Your settlin' up tonight friend."
Me: "That's the same thing you said last week. Anyone interesting in? If you can get me a line on some work then maybe I can settle that bar tab."
GM: Make a diplomacy check. Mac is indifferent towards you because of the Bar tab.
Me: Fair.
See that, backstory, and the GM didn't need to read through a page of prose, or generate anything particularly customised towards my character to create a connection.

Sorry to hijack but just as an aside... I WISH my players would run like this. Most of the time my players either just say "I make a Diplomacy check to Gather Information" or simply roll the skill check and then say "Diplomacy... 26. Are there any people in the tavern that have work for an adventurer?" I love banter and playing the roles of my NPCs, but my players prefer old school video game like mechanics. I should have word bubbles or text boxes...


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:


In fact most of my backstory gets written as I make it up at the table.

For example wrote:


Me: "I approach the barkeep, do I know him?"
GM: Yeah, you've been a regular here long enough that you know his name is Macress.
Me: "Hey Mac, the usual, put it on my tab. How's the wife?"
GM: Mac pours you a mead. "The wife says this is the last one I'm putting on your tab. Your settlin' up tonight friend."
Me: "That's the same thing you said last week. Anyone interesting in? If you can get me a line on some work then maybe I can settle that bar tab."
GM: Make a diplomacy check. Mac is indifferent towards you because of the Bar tab.
Me: Fair.
See that, backstory, and the GM didn't need to read through a page of prose, or generate anything particularly customised towards my character to create a connection.
Sorry to hijack but just as an aside... I WISH my players would run like this. Most of the time my players either just say "I make a Diplomacy check to Gather Information" or simply roll the skill check and then say "Diplomacy... 26. Are there any people in the tavern that have work for an adventurer?" I love banter and playing the roles of my NPCs, but my players prefer old school video game like mechanics. I should have word bubbles or text boxes...

To be honest, "Gather Information" is supposed to abstract hours of poking around, chatting to people and listening for rumors. I'd really hate to play that out. Dozens of little mini conversations the vast majority leading nowhere before you get the one clue you need.

I'm all for playing out actual meaningful conversations, but that would drive me nuts.


Sir Thugsalot wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
i wonder if anyone has ever run a campaign at level 80+
That poor demented soul.

How does that even work?

GM: "Roll for initiative."

PC: <toss><add modifiers> "...174, I think...."

GM: <dryly> "It's a squeaker, but you go first."

PC: "Quickened Time Stop. Delayed Blast Universe. GTFO to another plane."

GM: "OK, you blew the universe up. Now what?"

PC: "I make a new one, filled with only the things I like."

each class would still be capped at level 20 so each character would have 4 classes minimum, and i'm pretty sure even a dex based build couldn't even get to 174 initiative and at that level the martial caster discrepancy would be less imo

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
thejeff wrote:
I'm all for playing out actual meaningful conversations, but that would drive me nuts.

I can relate to both of you. Some of my most memorable experiences at the game table came from us being so much into our characters that we just stopped for a moment to think about the adventure at hand, and about being goal-oriented regarding the plot. When we actually played out the rest at the inn or the travel from point A to B. So I cannot help but love it when that happens in an organic way and everyone at the table is fine with it.

But yeah, eventually you will want to return to advancing the plot and if (like in your example, you have to actually play out those 4 hours of gathering information before you get the clue, it can get boring very fast.

I really appreciate though, when it happens at the start of an adventure or a campaign. I remember running an Age of Worms Eberron conversion when I had written (together with the respective players) a short prelude for any character based on their backgrounds and when we actually played out some points of their story before we even began running the first adventure. This way, it took us a while before the party ended up at the entry to the Whisperin' cairn, but the reward was that every character had already made connections, there were already some story threads going on, and more importantly, that every player already cared about their character in a way I've rarely seen at the start of a game. So in my mind, that was really worth the effort, even when most of it had nothing to do with the AP at hand.


WormysQueue wrote:
thejeff wrote:
I'm all for playing out actual meaningful conversations, but that would drive me nuts.

I can relate to both of you. Some of my most memorable experiences at the game table came from us being so much into our characters that we just stopped for a moment to think about the adventure at hand, and about being goal-oriented regarding the plot. When we actually played out the rest at the inn or the travel from point A to B. So I cannot help but love it when that happens in an organic way and everyone at the table is fine with it.

But yeah, eventually you will want to return to advancing the plot and if (like in your example, you have to actually play out those 4 hours of gathering information before you get the clue, it can get boring very fast.

I really appreciate though, when it happens at the start of an adventure or a campaign. I remember running an Age of Worms Eberron conversion when I had written (together with the respective players) a short prelude for any character based on their backgrounds and when we actually played out some points of their story before we even began running the first adventure. This way, it took us a while before the party ended up at the entry to the Whisperin' cairn, but the reward was that every character had already made connections, there were already some story threads going on, and more importantly, that every player already cared about their character in a way I've rarely seen at the start of a game. So in my mind, that was really worth the effort, even when most of it had nothing to do with the AP at hand.

one of my gms was in a campaign were one of the party members rolled a 47 for diplomacy to get into a town that has closed its gates and don't normally let people in and the character just yelled "47 diplomacy" at the guards and they let them in


Lady-J wrote:
one of my gms was in a campaign were one of the party members rolled a 47 for diplomacy to get into a town that has closed its gates and don't normally let people in and the character just yelled "47 diplomacy" at the guards and they let them in

So when was it revealed that this fortified "town" was a mental institution?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I hate level 1 as GM. It feels like spoon feeding the characters experience to get them to level two. Even the APs feel that way though they do try to spice up 1st level a bit. The adventures really don't get started till level 3.


M1k31 wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
one of my gms was in a campaign were one of the party members rolled a 47 for diplomacy to get into a town that has closed its gates and don't normally let people in and the character just yelled "47 diplomacy" at the guards and they let them in

So when was it revealed that this fortified "town" was a mental institution?

never they were at a long and boring part of a module and the gm really just wanted to forward the plot


Lady-J wrote:
each class would still be capped at level 20 so each character would have 4 classes minimum

That just sounds like 20th Level Wizards with extra hitpoints.


voska66 wrote:
I hate level 1 as GM. It feels like spoon feeding the characters experience to get them to level two. Even the APs feel that way though they do try to spice up 1st level a bit. The adventures really don't get started till level 3.

That spoon-feeding experience is not caused by 1st level; rather, it is caused by the players being scared of a single misstep and playing their PCs as tiptoeing around the dungeon. I am currently experiencing it with my 14th-level Iron Gods party, and I had experienced it with them at 6th level, too.

At 6th level, in the Lords of Rust module, the locals in Scrapwall were intimidated by the Lords of Rust gang. That gang had absorbed half the other gangs in Scrapwall and their reputation was at an all-time peak. The players believed the hype and wanted to reach 7th level before encountering the Lords of Rust. But the planned encounters that would provide the XP to reach 7th level were the encounters with the Lords of Rust. Sigh. So the party dithered around with random encounters, instead, until I forced the issue by the Lords approaching them.

At 13th level, the boldest player, my wife, persuaded the party to jump ahead to the 6th module, The Divinity Drive. They reached 14th level in combat to create a safe niche for themselves, and then they found ways to avoid combat. I dropped clues that something awful was going to happen soon, and my wife noticed the clues and forced the party into detective work to uncover the evil plan, but they still haven't done anything to stop it.

As for the Adventure Paths not really getting started until 3rd level, that depends on what counts as getting started. The 1st module provides background material to understand the setting and hazards, but its encounters seldom relate to the final boss of the 6th module. Fewer than half the encounters in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th modules relate in any way to that boss, either.

Liberty's Edge

It's helpful to think of an AP as at least 3 different games. Levels 1-5 are far closer to a survival game, where a lot of tactical decisions are based on "could I get killed doing this?" For a lot of folks, that's part of the fun and, I theorize, that's where some of the rationale for E6 types games comes from.

5-14 (maybe 13, maybe 15, YMMV) is what a lot of folks (including, I suspect, a lot of the folks who hate 1st level) are thinking of when they say "Pathfinder." It's not impossible to die, but it doesn't come easy. Magic flies thick and fast, but doesn't utterly rewrite encounters or the landscape. Adventurers resemble really competent people, though at the upper ends, you start to see...

15+ starts to tread into Superhero territory. Flying, teleporting, earth-shaking folks challenging the lords of heaven and/or hell, depending on your proclivities. One of the biggest design traps I've seen people fall into is building a high-level adventure like it's a mid-level adventure plus. Single bad guys increase the "rocket tag" problem, since they can likely wipe out any individual PC, but aren't going to last five rounds against a party.

So why play 1st level? Because the survival thing interests you. Because you don't necessarily even want to have a brute force option and are willing to risk the continuance of the story in the interest of pushing that particular narrative button. There are other reasons - maybe it's part of an adversarial GM/Player paradigm, though that's not really my cup of tea.

TL;DR - all depends on your playstyle.


I hate beginning anywhere else for an actual campaign. Those low-levels are the funnest. Especially, with new players. For one offs with experienced players its sometimes fun to just play an mid or high level PC

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Lady-J wrote:
one of my gms was in a campaign were one of the party members rolled a 47 for diplomacy to get into a town that has closed its gates and don't normally let people in and the character just yelled "47 diplomacy" at the guards and they let them in

Doesn't sound like a game I would want to partake in.

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