The rules are the problem for high level play!


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Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

I said this in another thread but it really belongs as a separate topic so here goes: all the reasons that high level content hasn't been as popular as low- and mid- level content are valid. The rules, as they stand today, are hamstringing writers, gaming companies, DMs and players after about 12th level.

So, please, produce some alternate high level rules. I'm not even talking about epic here. Provide a set of 'Pathfinder High Level Fast Play' rules mods, design tips and DMing advice for adventures from 13th to 20th level.

Things like:

1. Limiting the number of buffs active on a creature simultaneously. Keeping track of the 20 buffs on Kharzoug when I ran RotRL was painful. Too painful.

2. Lumping large numbers of attacks in a round into a single attack with super high to hit and damage mods. Watching a lvl 17 dual wielding ranger, hasted, make his ungodly number of attacks, some on a favored enemy and some not (so the bonus' had to figured differently) is beyond painful. Its torture for the player, the DM, and the rest of the gaming group.

3. Limiting the information in a stat block to only that which is critical to an encounter. The rest could be pulled from the sample NPCs in the PF core rulebook if needed. I don't care that the NPC spent skill points on Craft (weaponsmithing). Tell the reader (presumeably the DM) up front that not all skills, feats, whatever are not listed, only those likely to be needed in the encounter.

4. Use averages for dice rolls involving large numbers of dice. Nobody that I know really enjoys rolling 20d6 and adding it all together. Provide a guideline that says 'large numbers of d6s result in a 4 on each die.' Use the same idea for the other dice types, of course. Its not mathematically true (a range from 1-6 should result, over a large sampling of an average of 3.5 but who wants to multiply that?) but its fast and convenient and balanced if the bad guys are playing by the same rules as the good guys.

5. Its been said before in numerous advice columns about high level gaming and here it is again: don't create adventures that stop high level players from using their powers, create adventures that REQUIRE high level powers in order to complete them! Don't worry about 'oh nos....what if the players use xxx power/feat/skill etc. to get around this encounter?'. Instead: REQUIRE high level powers/feats/skill checks/spells etc. in order to reach or complete the encounter.

6. Show examples of cool ways to highlight high level PCs' prominent position in their corner of the world. One of the downside of low level adventures is that the PCs are, by and large, chumps. They've got no game (yet). High level PCs are the rock stars of their world. High level adventures should be as much about ego stroking the players and their characters as they are about big fights. Obviously, no published adventure knows the specifics of anyone's campaign, but a high level adventure could offer cool suggestions for showcasing certain common high level situations (running a keep, a temple, wizards' academy, a thieve's guild, a ranger lodge, a druid circle, etc.). Get the players (and the DM) excited about high level adventures, not dreading them, for Pete's sake!

7. Etc. etc.

Oh, and PLEASE don't implement the above with the same mechanics that 4th edition did or we'll hate it. Just saying....

The DnD 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder rules cover 20 levels. Since 2000 I would guesstimate that the range for most published adventures is 1-12 (maybe 7th level spells scare people, I don't know). THAT IS 40% OF THE GAME THAT IS (relatively) UNTAPPED! Could you imagine the financial windfall that would result from creating a set of optional high level rules that remove the roadblocks from high level gaming and (gasp) actually make it fun for people!!!

Pathfinder, as a game, is evolutionary. Paizo, as a company, could be revolutionary if it changed the status quo and started changing people's minds about what is possible and fun with high level adventuring.

But it can't be done while operating under the handicaps of the current 3.0-based ruleset.

The other option is you'll have to hear us gripe and complain about no high level content forever.

Good gaming to all


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Please note that I am not trying to be sarcastic or insulting in my responses. If it comes across that way, please accept my apologies.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
1. Limiting the number of buffs active on a creature simultaneously. Keeping track of the 20 buffs on Kharzoug when I ran RotRL was painful. Too painful.

I dislike this idea. It penalizes players and NPCs. There are better ways of keeping track of buffs, as well, a lot of PCs and NPCs at high level have items that give them those buffs.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
2. Lumping large numbers of attacks in a round into a single attack with super high to hit and damage mods. Watching a lvl 17 dual wielding ranger, hasted, make his ungodly number of attacks, some on a favored enemy and some not (so the bonus' had to figured differently) is beyond painful. Its torture for the player, the DM, and the rest of the gaming group.

I do not agree. This would make fights a lot more "swingy", you either take a huge amount of damage, or no damage (and the damage we are talking about could kill in a single hit of this type).

What is the problem with rolling multiple colored dice? In my high level campaigns, the players (and the GM) roll multiple dice, attack rolls and the damage dice, at once, so they can determine which hit and for how much damage at a glance.
Ex: The red D20 and D8 are for the first longsword attack, the orange set the second, the blue set the third, etc..

Players (and GMs) should have precalculated a lot of this information. I have my own version of character sheets where all of these variants are listed. It helps speed play.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
3. Limiting the information in a stat block to only that which is critical to an encounter. The rest could be pulled from the sample NPCs in the PF core rulebook if needed. I don't care that the NPC spent skill points on Craft (weaponsmithing). Tell the reader (presumeably the DM) up front that not all skills, feats, whatever are not listed, only those likely to be needed in the encounter.

Again, I disagree. It would be fine to do so if there was no chance of the NPC responding to the actions of the players. Often, NPCs get away or modify their approach based on the PCs actions. If they stat blocks do not contain all of the NPC info, then it is left to the DM to figure out how many skill points left, what skills to spend them in, etc... as a lot of modules are bought due to a lack of time (and/or lack of creative writting skill), I feel that the "condensed" stat block would be defeating the purpose of buying a module/adventure.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
4. Use averages for dice rolls involving large numbers of dice. Nobody that I know really enjoys rolling 20d6 and adding it all together. Provide a guideline that says 'large numbers of d6s result in a 4 on each die.' Use the same idea for the other dice types, of course. Its not mathematically true (a range from 1-6 should result, over a large sampling of an average of 3.5 but who wants to multiply that?) but its fast and convenient and balanced if the bad guys are playing by the same rules as the good guys.

I feel that your suggestion would also remove some of the fun for players (both the high of a really good hit, or the groan for those minimal damage hits).

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
5. Its been said before in numerous advice columns about high level gaming and here it is again: don't create adventures that stop high level players from using their powers, create adventures that REQUIRE high level powers in order to complete them! Don't worry about 'oh nos....what if the players use xxx power/feat/skill etc. to get around this encounter?'. Instead: REQUIRE high level powers/feats/skill checks/spells etc. in order to reach or complete the encounter.

This is a tricky one. By requiring certain powers/feats/spells, you can make the adventure unplayable by certain groups. DM "ah, no one has the spell XXXX, then you have just failed in your mission. Please roll up new characters" (this is not fun for anyone).

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
6. Show examples of cool ways to highlight high level PCs' prominent position in their corner of the world. One of the downside of low level adventures is that the PCs are, by and large, chumps. They've got no game (yet). High level PCs are the rock stars of their world. High level adventures should be as much about ego stroking the players and their characters as they are about big fights. Obviously, no published adventure knows the specifics of anyone's campaign, but a high level adventure could offer cool suggestions for showcasing certain common high level situations (running a keep, a temple, wizards' academy, a thieve's guild, a ranger lodge, a druid circle, etc.). Get the players (and the DM) excited about high level adventures, not dreading them, for Pete's sake!

If people are having problems running high level adventures due to the amount of detail that they need to handle, why do you think having a wizard who runs/own an academy with potentially hundreds of NPC wizards of multiple levels, will help?

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
But it can't be done while operating under the handicaps of the current 3.0-based ruleset.

I do believe that it can be done by tweaking the 3.5 base ruleset. Part of the Pathfinder mandate is to be backwards compatible. If there were large rule changes after 12th level, then a large amount of previously published material would no longer be compatible.


Mistwalker is seconded by me in all acounts.

High Level campaigns and adventures are a little more tricky, yes, but nothing that some previoous preparation cannot compensate. I've played lots of high level games even in second edition when tracking spells and buffs and itens was WAY more difficult and although combat situations took a lot of time it was really fun, as it is supposed to be now.


Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:


4. Use averages for dice rolls involving large numbers of dice. Nobody that I know really enjoys rolling 20d6 and adding it all together. Provide a guideline that says 'large numbers of d6s result in a 4 on each die.' Use the same idea for the other dice types, of course. Its not mathematically true (a range from 1-6 should result, over a large sampling of an average of 3.5 but who wants to multiply that?) but its fast and convenient and balanced if the bad guys are playing by the same rules as the good guys.

Or maybe just reduce some dices and turn then into fixed numbers, like instead of 15D6 to 5D6 + 35.


Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:


1. Limiting the number of buffs active on a creature simultaneously. Keeping track of the 20 buffs on Kharzoug when I ran RotRL was painful. Too painful.

There's an optional rule from the Beta that limits buffs and defensive spells cast on a single character or creature to 3. My players and I call it "The Rule of 3".

It works great. Really eliminates a lot of book keeping at high level ( and mid-level as well for that matter.). And my players think it adds an element of tactical thinking to their spellcasting.

It's just a great little rule all around. I highly recommend it.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Mistwalker wrote:
Please note that I am not trying to be sarcastic or insulting in my responses. If it comes across that way, please accept my apologies.

I take no offense at any of your comments Mistwalker. They are all valid points. However, what are your suggestions to a) coax publishers into creating more high level content and b) make high level gaming more fun and easier to play? The 'off the top of my head' suggestions in my original post were meant to spark additional ideas. What frustrates me is the gaming community just sitting back and living with how things are with d20 rules and high level play. I want to see positive changes.

As far as backwards compatibility...that's only a positive with lower level play (1-12), because that's what the majority of the adventures were published for. Its not a major concern for high level play when there were only a limited number of adventures written for those levels. Also, please note that I am referring to optional guidelines for high level play. Those choosing to do so could certainly continue to use the core rules.

Stating that PF is backwards compatible with higher level 3.0/3.5 is not something to shout to the masses. Its an issue to be addressed.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Most of the issues brought up by the OP are mitigated by the DM and players using a good set of tools. When I say "tools," I'm mostly talking software or similar (like Excel). I know not all groups have access to a laptop at the table, but it's a huge help when you talk about the above issues. There are plenty of freeware applications that can address these issues and if you don't like what you see, you can build your own tools.

-Skeld - maybe helpful; maybe not.


The idea that the style of gaming should change at higher levels is not a new one. It's been around since the boxed sets of the 80's, where they envisioned high level characters as the "movers and shakers" of the realm, rarely if ever participating in "Dungeon Crawl" type quests.

In a realistic game world (I know it's an oxymoron for FRP, but bare with me), high level characters WOULDN'T have a lot to do most of the time. Who would want to live in a kingdom beset by Huge Ancient Red Dragons, Illithid with 15 character levels, and other such threats on a regular basis? Who could even survive? It gets unbelievable after a time that such threats exist on a regular basis.

That leaves a few options open.

1. Have the HL PCs go into semi-retirement, only coming into action on the rare occasion they are needed (and the DM has time to thoroughly set up a good HL adventure).
2. Send them off to adventure across the planes, etc. This one doesn't alieviate the rules in question in any way, so only DMs who have figured out how to handle high levels will bother taking it.
3. Have adventures happen over a greater span of time in-game; once again, not a big help with the rules unless the DM actually splits up the RL time by playing less often (drag) or running a lower level game in between (see option 1).

If options 2 or 3 are taken (or another one I haven't mentioned), there are several good suggestions mentioned by the previous posters on how to make DM-ing high level more efficient. Essentially, a DM who wants to run high-level can improve smoothness of play by being ultra-organized before-hand.


Skeld wrote:

Most of the issues brought up by the OP are mitigated by the DM and players using a good set of tools. When I say "tools," I'm mostly talking software or similar (like Excel). I know not all groups have access to a laptop at the table, but it's a huge help when you talk about the above issues. There are plenty of freeware applications that can address these issues and if you don't like what you see, you can build your own tools.

-Skeld - maybe helpful; maybe not.

I long for the day when a PnP RPG can include four small electronic devices that link up and handle all of the number crunching and private messaging. We could really get down to business then.


Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:

I said this in another thread but it really belongs as a separate topic so here goes: all the reasons that high level content hasn't been as popular as low- and mid- level content are valid. The rules, as they stand today, are hamstringing writers, gaming companies, DMs and players after about 12th level.

So, please, produce some alternate high level rules. I'm not even talking about epic here. Provide a set of 'Pathfinder High Level Fast Play' rules mods, design tips and DMing advice for adventures from 13th to 20th level.

Things like:

1. Limiting the number of buffs active on a creature simultaneously. Keeping track of the 20 buffs on Kharzoug when I ran RotRL was painful. Too painful.

2. Lumping large numbers of attacks in a round into a single attack with super high to hit and damage mods. Watching a lvl 17 dual wielding ranger, hasted, make his ungodly number of attacks, some on a favored enemy and some not (so the bonus' had to figured differently) is beyond painful. Its torture for the player, the DM, and the rest of the gaming group.

3. Limiting the information in a stat block to only that which is critical to an encounter. The rest could be pulled from the sample NPCs in the PF core rulebook if needed. I don't care that the NPC spent skill points on Craft (weaponsmithing). Tell the reader (presumeably the DM) up front that not all skills, feats, whatever are not listed, only those likely to be needed in the encounter.

4. Use averages for dice rolls involving large numbers of dice. Nobody that I know really enjoys rolling 20d6 and adding it all together. Provide a guideline that says 'large numbers of d6s result in a 4 on each die.' Use the same idea for the other dice types, of course. Its not mathematically true (a range from 1-6 should result, over a large sampling of an average of 3.5 but who wants to multiply that?) but its fast and convenient and balanced if the bad guys are playing by the same rules as the good guys.

5. Its been said before in numerous...


Mistwalker wrote:
What is the problem with rolling multiple colored dice?

People may not want to go having to buy dice to have enough colors. Or they could be playing online where you don't have dice colors.

Just trying to provide some perspective.


SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Or they could be playing online where you don't have dice colors.

That's easily solved. Invisible Castle. A (quick and sloppy) example of rolling more than one die at a time with IC: here.


If you're playing online, it's fairly straightforward to roll dice in different sets.

EDIT: Ninja'd


SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Mistwalker wrote:
What is the problem with rolling multiple colored dice?

People may not want to go having to buy dice to have enough colors. Or they could be playing online where you don't have dice colors.

Just trying to provide some perspective.

I know in our high level games, we just don't have enough dice to go around for some rolls.


Bikis wrote:
SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Mistwalker wrote:
What is the problem with rolling multiple colored dice?

People may not want to go having to buy dice to have enough colors. Or they could be playing online where you don't have dice colors.

Just trying to provide some perspective.

I know in our high level games, we just don't have enough dice to go around for some rolls.

I've settled for "average" on a lot of rolls for the sake of time. I'll admit that it's a time-saver, but isn't as exciting as the random effects of real rolls.

Rolling 25d6 at once, while satisfying, can be disappointing, or the dice go all over the place and have to be scooped up, picked up off the floor, etc., then you have to count them up while everybody waits.

For most intents and purposes, average is fine. If the player really wants to try to do more than average damage, he can roll it. Sometimes, though, he ends up with less than average. Enough so, that most of the time we don't bother.


I've never experienced that, but then we play Warhammer Fantasy and Shadowrun as well, so there are multiple dice cubes of d6s (36d6) floating around the table. You don't usually toss more than a handful of any other die size in my experience. I can see where it'd be a problem for someone who didn't have a use for 36d6, though.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Mistwalker wrote:
What is the problem with rolling multiple colored dice?

People may not want to go having to buy dice to have enough colors. Or they could be playing online where you don't have dice colors.

Just trying to provide some perspective.

Well, I was mostly trying to point out that there are ways to speed up the dice rolling with multiple attacks. You don't need to roll D20, see if you hit, then roll damage dice, repeat. Even if you only have a single set of dice, you can roll the to attack and damage dice at the same time.


Rules for High Level Play encompass a lot of different aspects of the game that become more warped as levels increase. A full attack at level 1 is far more complicated than a full attack at level 15. As well, the way characters move in the world(using teleport and other transportation spells), the way they interact with NPCs, buy gear, the skill bonus' they are able to acquire (and therefore knowledge they have access to), and many other changes make running and playing in high level games a bit more complicated.

DM's and players have to work together to come to a consensus about how to go about running higher level games so that they go smoothly. Simply going turn by turn isn't as efficient when characters are rolling upwards of 20 dice to determine success and failure per turn.

Here are some things my group has done to speed things along:

1. Know your character, and know your allies' characters
What bonus' affect your attacks, how your spells work and interact with each other, what buffs you have active, and what situational factors are at play are critical to keeping the game moving. Know what spell your going to cast before you cast it. Stopping the game to look up a spell and adjudicate can be time-consuming.

2. Trust. You have to trust the DM, and the DM has to trust you. No fudging. No cocked dice. Know your character and that the numbers are legit. Not only that, you need to know how the other characters in your party operate so you can cross-check them when things happen. 10 eyes are better than 2.

3. Pre-rolling. In our games you roll your attack before your turn. This just became necessary once some characters got to 5 or more attacks per round. Knowing where you are in the initiative is key to this. Before your turn (most of the time right after your previous turn just ended) you start rolling your attacks and the damage and write them down. Once your turn comes up, you check your attacks with the DM to see if they hit, then you total the damage. Sometimes we just make the AC of mobs known, so when your turn comes up you just tell the DM how much damage you deal.

4. Primarily core. We generally limit a character to 1 splat book. The addition of other rules that few at the table may be familiar with makes it more difficult to determine outcomes once something comes up. Having to explain how a new feat or spell works multiple times when you cast it can bog things down.

That's all I've got for now.


Zurai wrote:
I've never experienced that, but then we play Warhammer Fantasy and Shadowrun as well, so there are multiple dice cubes of d6s (36d6) floating around the table. You don't usually toss more than a handful of any other die size in my experience. I can see where it'd be a problem for someone who didn't have a use for 36d6, though.

The problem usually comes when multiple people need the dice.

For instance:

A two-weapon fighter with haste or a speed waepon at level 16 has nine attacks. If his weapon is fiery and bane and he has two weapon rend, he's using 28d6 per attack if he uses them all at once.

So if he hits with every attack lets say, he's using the majority of the dice pool in one go. If there's another fighter, mage, or mob for the DM using d6's in play, then they have to wait till 28d6 is rolled, counted, then passed on till they themselves can roll their attacks.

Which is why we use dice rollers a lot.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
However, what are your suggestions to a) coax publishers into creating more high level content

Part of the coaxing is being done by this thread and other similar threads, where the designers at Paizo can see the interest in high level games. The follow up would be for those who want to see them buy them when they come out. And the finally would be to constructively critique them to help improve the product.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
b) make high level gaming more fun and easier to play?

One of the things that I think that would help for this is for those of us who like high level play, put out a "High Level Play for Dummies" style product. Perhaps a Wiki page.

I have found that there are a lot of good ideas and ways to make high level play easier, but those ideas are not circulating very much.
Ex: Have characters automatically delay if the player has not been paying attention and has not decided what they are going to do on their action.
Ex: The free spell cards that Caedwyr is working on. The mages select the spell cards for the spells that they have memorized, have them handy so that if they need a quick reminder, they don't have to look it up in the Core book.
Ex: Those with multiple attack with variables (power attack, favored enemy, bane weapon, etc...) have all the variables worked out ahead of time, so that in the fight, they only have to add the appropriate number to the attack roll.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
The 'off the top of my head' suggestions in my original post were meant to spark additional ideas. What frustrates me is the gaming community just sitting back and living with how things are with d20 rules and high level play. I want to see positive changes.

Well, here is where I say "you should put your money where your mouth is" :)

By that, I mean that if several of us work out a lot of this (and someone will have to take the lead on it - probably someone with better IT skills that I), there is a good chance that Paizo will use what we come up with.
As an example, jscott991 was not happy with the lack of population numbers in the campaign guide and has started coming up with those numbers. James has stated that if the numbers look good to Paizo, they may end up as the "canon" numbers.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:
As far as backwards compatibility...that's only a positive with lower level play (1-12)

Backwards compatibility has to work for both lower level and high level play. While there are not many books and adventures out there for high level play, there are some.

Actually, all of the APs go to 15 to 17th level (or there about), so would seem to reinforce the need for backwards compatibility.


I really like the idea that you never roll more than 5d6. I'd probably give everyone (NPCs included) a +4 for every non-rolled die.

10d6 fireball = 5d6+20
15d6 cone of cold = 5d6+40

I like it! 5d6 is easy to roll and easy to count. Chances are I'll never get this one to fly at my table though. There's something about picking up 15d6 and obliterating all of the miniatures on the table as your dice scatter everywhere that people just can't resist.


I agree. Above level 12, 3.5e-based D&D starts the sucking. I've never played a character past level 16 and have never wanted to. Both save-or-dies and to-hit/damage numbers escalate way past the relevant defenses. Major boss combats go two rounds if you're lucky, or if you find all kinds of hand-wavey creative ways to give the bad guy real high SR and DR (the APs take this route). You don't use 90% of your spells or abilities because there's just not the rounds to do it in.

Fix me!


Save-or-dies don't exist any more, for the most part. Also, I've had plenty of extended high-level combats without having to resort to excessive DR and SR -- and I play standard villains vs gestalt characters. The only thing I usually do is maximize hit points on anything but pure minions, and that's to compensate for the gestalt, not to compensate for high level play.


I feel your pain, and it was probably one of the biggest contributing factors that lured me to 4E. That system does a lot to address those issues.

Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:

I said this in another thread but it really belongs as a separate topic so here goes: all the reasons that high level content hasn't been as popular as low- and mid- level content are valid. The rules, as they stand today, are hamstringing writers, gaming companies, DMs and players after about 12th level.

So, please, produce some alternate high level rules. I'm not even talking about epic here. Provide a set of 'Pathfinder High Level Fast Play' rules mods, design tips and DMing advice for adventures from 13th to 20th level.

Things like:

1. Limiting the number of buffs active on a creature simultaneously. Keeping track of the 20 buffs on Kharzoug when I ran RotRL was painful. Too painful.

2. Lumping large numbers of attacks in a round into a single attack with super high to hit and damage mods. Watching a lvl 17 dual wielding ranger, hasted, make his ungodly number of attacks, some on a favored enemy and some not (so the bonus' had to figured differently) is beyond painful. Its torture for the player, the DM, and the rest of the gaming group.

3. Limiting the information in a stat block to only that which is critical to an encounter. The rest could be pulled from the sample NPCs in the PF core rulebook if needed. I don't care that the NPC spent skill points on Craft (weaponsmithing). Tell the reader (presumeably the DM) up front that not all skills, feats, whatever are not listed, only those likely to be needed in the encounter.

4. Use averages for dice rolls involving large numbers of dice. Nobody that I know really enjoys rolling 20d6 and adding it all together. Provide a guideline that says 'large numbers of d6s result in a 4 on each die.' Use the same idea for the other dice types, of course. Its not mathematically true (a range from 1-6 should result, over a large sampling of an average of 3.5 but who wants to multiply that?) but its fast and convenient and balanced if the bad guys are playing by the same rules as the good guys.

5. Its been said before in numerous...


Bikis wrote:


The problem usually comes when multiple people need the dice.

For instance:

A two-weapon fighter with haste or a speed waepon at level 16 has nine attacks. If his weapon is fiery and bane and he has two weapon rend, he's using 28d6 per attack if he uses them all at once.

So if he hits with every attack lets say, he's using the majority of the dice pool in one go. If there's another fighter, mage, or mob for the DM using d6's in play, then they have to wait till 28d6 is rolled, counted, then passed on till they themselves can roll their attacks.

Which is why we use dice rollers a lot.

Are we really suggesting here that the impediment to high-level D&D/Pathfinder games that is most worthy of our time to complain about it and/or resolve it, is that we can't bring enough dice to the game table?

That's the #1 burning high-level issue on your mind?


I think the main problem with high levels is that it's inherently very swingy, and very hard to produce a balanced encounter for all groups.

An encounter that would be a total wipe for one 20th level party is quite likely to be a cakewalk for a different party of the same level - it's nigh-impossible to create challenges that are going to be appropriate for all (or even most) groups of a particular level, and so creating an adventure for high-level characters is much more party-specific and requires a lot more work on the part of the DM - you can't just pick up a sample encounter and use it verbatim.

High level play is amazing when run by a good DM, and utterly horrible when run by a bad one, and I don't think publishing a bunch of specific encounters would help the latter group at all.

IMO, a good product for a 16-20th level adventure would probably not include specific combat encounters at all. Rather, it would include setting details, plot arcs, sidequests, noncombat challenges, and leave designing party-appropriate encounters up to the DM.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Jabor wrote:

I think the main problem with high levels is that it's inherently very swingy, and very hard to produce a balanced encounter for all groups.

An encounter that would be a total wipe for one 20th level party is quite likely to be a cakewalk for a different party of the same level - it's nigh-impossible to create challenges that are going to be appropriate for all (or even most) groups of a particular level, and so creating an adventure for high-level characters is much more party-specific and requires a lot more work on the part of the DM - you can't just pick up a sample encounter and use it verbatim.

High level play is amazing when run by a good DM, and utterly horrible when run by a bad one, and I don't think publishing a bunch of specific encounters would help the latter group at all.

IMO, a good product for a 16-20th level adventure would probably not include specific combat encounters at all. Rather, it would include setting details, plot arcs, sidequests, noncombat challenges, and leave designing party-appropriate encounters up to the DM.

Just for a point of clarity, I ran an Epic Level game from levels 21-37 before it ended. It ended not because of problems with the rules, but because the challenges were so hard to find. Most of the encounters I ran would have been cakewalks for a lot of groups, yet were about perfect for my group. I never even noticed most of the complaints before, so I agree totally with the above statement.


DM_Blake wrote:

Are we really suggesting here that the impediment to high-level D&D/Pathfinder games that is most worthy of our time to complain about it and/or resolve it, is that we can't bring enough dice to the game table?

That's the #1 burning high-level issue on your mind?

Did you read my post directly above that, the long one, with words? There are a lot of challenges to high level play to be dealt with, not least of which is the difficultly of multiple large dice rolls.


Cydeth wrote:
Jabor wrote:

I think the main problem with high levels is that it's inherently very swingy, and very hard to produce a balanced encounter for all groups.

An encounter that would be a total wipe for one 20th level party is quite likely to be a cakewalk for a different party of the same level - it's nigh-impossible to create challenges that are going to be appropriate for all (or even most) groups of a particular level, and so creating an adventure for high-level characters is much more party-specific and requires a lot more work on the part of the DM - you can't just pick up a sample encounter and use it verbatim.

High level play is amazing when run by a good DM, and utterly horrible when run by a bad one, and I don't think publishing a bunch of specific encounters would help the latter group at all.

IMO, a good product for a 16-20th level adventure would probably not include specific combat encounters at all. Rather, it would include setting details, plot arcs, sidequests, noncombat challenges, and leave designing party-appropriate encounters up to the DM.

Just for a point of clarity, I ran an Epic Level game from levels 21-37 before it ended. It ended not because of problems with the rules, but because the challenges were so hard to find. Most of the encounters I ran would have been cakewalks for a lot of groups, yet were about perfect for my group. I never even noticed most of the complaints before, so I agree totally with the above statement.

I'll voice my tentative agreement on that line of logic as well. Although I'd point out that some of the more important tools/rules to manage high level play could also come in other forms. For example if an encounter turns out to be a mismatched cakewalk reduce the EXP grant. The exception would be a party who that actually took time to prepare for the encounter to make it a cakewalk, that's good planning.

The big issue in finding challenges at high levels vs lower levels is that the PCs can simple do more, and do it better. The only limitation is on the number of actions they can take in a round (and I do thank Pathfinder to using more of the Swift Action to keep 'free' action stacking down, it forces resource use choice, which is itself a challenge).

IMO it all really comes down to resource depletion. If the PCs aren't really expending resources then challenges aren't working.

I'm also all for using averages and statistical probability on large volume die rolls. For example PC this going to be pin-cushioned by masses flunky archers from on high (thinking of specific popular movie involving scantly clad men), there really isn't a good reason to roll all 200+ archer shots and all the variable damage die. Just assume that there will 1 roll of each value on a d20 per 20 archers, and just use the average damage values.

Wasn't it even recommended back in the 3.5 or maybe 3.5 DMG to just give up rolling if you need that much random generation?


Jabor wrote:


IMO, a good product for a 16-20th level adventure would probably not include specific combat encounters at all. Rather, it would include setting details, plot arcs, sidequests, noncombat challenges, and leave designing party-appropriate encounters up to the DM.

Exactly.


Bikis wrote:


I know in our high level games, we just don't have enough dice to go around for some rolls.

You have gamers passing on a genuine excuse to buy more dice?

What I'd give to be able to justify my dice habit... *shakes head*


Not too keep pushing 4E, but from my experience in 3E high level play you need to use some of the more 4E encounter design philosophies. For instance, if in 3E you use a band of 4 giants as a high level encounter there is a good chance that your party will trash them with ease (especially if they have a chance to "buff" up for the encounter and get up in the air). Firstly, with all the magic available they can likely scout out the encounter first if they choose and then pepare, go in and kick as with spells and the like. Fire giants have no way to counter their magic, so they will be at their mercy.

I found that when I was running Savage Tide at high levels I had to know the party very well. I knew their tactics and what spells and items they could pull out that would turn an encounter into a cakewalk. I found that the fights that were challenging were the ones that used multiple opponents with a variety of abilities/roles (ie. ones that can cast spells, ones that can dish it out in melee etc...). As it turns out this is the same kind of encounter design strategy that 4E has embraced is in now essentially the default. Even if you don't like the 4E system, I think that these strategies can be very useful in 3E.


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Frogboy wrote:
There's something about picking up 15d6 and obliterating all of the miniatures on the table as your dice scatter everywhere that people just can't resist.

I would submit that picking up and rattling a handful of dice with the anticipation of some massive number is one of the "thrill points" of a session and is a plus of gaming, not a minus. Other people have (in other threads) frequently suggested just taking averages, or standardizing on one sort of die type for damage, or whatever, but for me, I *like* having different shaped dice and having to use different ones in different situations and I *like* both getting to roll a handful of dice, and feeling the tenseness when the DM picks up a big massive pile of d6's and says, "you get a whiff of sulfur in the air a moment before a massive WHOOSH! sound erupts" <rattle rattle rattle> [big ass pile of dice hits the table] <count count count> "crap I'm dead".

For me, *that* is D&D.


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P.H. Dungeon wrote:
Not too keep pushing 4E, but from my experience in 3E high level play you need to use some of the more 4E encounter design philosophies.

Agreed. 4E is not *all* bad and I have lifted a few things for my games. I just wish it wasn't *mostly* bad (flame-bait sorry).


Dave Young 992 wrote:
Rolling 25d6 at once, while satisfying, can be disappointing, or the dice go all over the place and have to be scooped up, picked up off the floor, etc., then you have to count them up while everybody waits.

We don't experience this problem due to the invention of a device known as a 'box'.

We use dice trays.
-Campbell


P.H. Dungeon wrote:

Not too keep pushing 4E, but from my experience in 3E high level play you need to use some of the more 4E encounter design philosophies. For instance, if in 3E you use a band of 4 giants as a high level encounter there is a good chance that your party will trash them with ease (especially if they have a chance to "buff" up for the encounter and get up in the air). Firstly, with all the magic available they can likely scout out the encounter first if they choose and then pepare, go in and kick as with spells and the like. Fire giants have no way to counter their magic, so they will be at their mercy.

I found that when I was running Savage Tide at high levels I had to know the party very well. I knew their tactics and what spells and items they could pull out that would turn an encounter into a cakewalk. I found that the fights that were challenging were the ones that used multiple opponents with a variety of abilities/roles (ie. ones that can cast spells, ones that can dish it out in melee etc...). As it turns out this is the same kind of encounter design strategy that 4E has embraced is in now essentially the default. Even if you don't like the 4E system, I think that these strategies can be very useful in 3E.

As 3E'er and ex-4'er I know 4e's strengths, and there are things I do like, but the most important things to me are not present. To much was sacrificed in the name of balance. I dont care if the classes are not balanced. I just want options, lots and lots of options.....long rant....... I will also admit I am very particular about who I game with. I dont want to have to use game rules to keep a player in line. I expect him to behave at the table.

I dont have a problem with high level combat in 3.X. I do however realize it may take more preparation to make sure your NPC's don't get smacked around depending on the party composition.


nexusphere wrote:
Dave Young 992 wrote:
Rolling 25d6 at once, while satisfying, can be disappointing, or the dice go all over the place and have to be scooped up, picked up off the floor, etc., then you have to count them up while everybody waits.

We don't experience this problem due to the invention of a device known as a 'box'.

We use dice trays.
-Campbell

They still bounce out. I used to use a cake pan, but it took up too much space with all the other stuff already on the table. A larger table isn't an option for me.

Scarab Sages

I found the same difficulty continually coming up with suitable combat challenges once the party got towards a certain level.

One thing that does help a great deal, at least in my case, was the characters' connections to their world. For example, one player who wanted nothing to do with having a stronghold or leading armies, ended up becoming the ruler of this one kingdom, because to NOT do so, would allow a very unsavory alternative on the throne. So he became king for the good of his country so to speak. In doing so, he roped the rest of the party into being his support team, and eventually the wizard annexed a large section of adjoining wilderness, which became a small county of its own. Then when they went to war with a neighboring country, the cleric and paladin of the group ended up running the adjoining kingdom, as it became a vassal state type setup. I would say 95% of all the challenges facing the group during this time were political and diplomatic. You cant just polymorph an adversarial nations ambassador if you don't like what he is saying for example, though the wizard did get away with it once. Fireball and # of attacks a round don't feed four villages when an area is suffering from drought, but the druid in the party suddenly gets to show a whole other side of his power. You get the idea. I know not everyones group wants to go in this direction, but trust me, this one didn't either. They did enjoy being there for the most part, although there were many times they left their followers running things and went on a straight dungeon delve, because "it made things so much simpler" as the king used to say. It did make for one of the most memorable campaigns we had ever had, perhaps because it was so different.

This is one of the reasons I am so looking forward to the River Kingdoms AP.

While I know this does not directly address the issue of "swingyness" at high levels, its my suggestion of an alternative way to make things less swingy, get your party involved in high level world interactions, with far reaching consequences. If you piss off a city ruler at 15th level and ruin your reputation somewhere, who cares really, however if you are the ruler of another country, now you just started a war, with far bigger fallout.


Dave Young 992 wrote:
it took up too much space with all the other stuff already on the table. A larger table isn't an option for me.

My group has the same problem. Pretty cramped area with no real extra room to roll large numbers of dice.

Liberty's Edge

Bikis wrote:
Dave Young 992 wrote:
it took up too much space with all the other stuff already on the table. A larger table isn't an option for me.
My group has the same problem. Pretty cramped area with no real extra room to roll large numbers of dice.

Use the law of high numbers : rolling 20d6 is extremely likely to give you a result of 20x3.5=70. Thus you could rule that rolling 25d6 is essentially the same as rolling 5d6 and adding 70 to the result.


Dr. Johnny Fever wrote:


2. Lumping large numbers of attacks in a round into a single attack with super high to hit and damage mods. Watching a lvl 17 dual wielding ranger, hasted, make his ungodly number of attacks, some on a favored enemy and some not (so the bonus' had to figured differently) is beyond painful. Its torture for the player, the DM, and the rest of the gaming group.

4. Use averages for dice rolls involving large numbers of dice. Nobody that I know really enjoys rolling 20d6 and adding it all together. Provide a guideline that says 'large numbers of d6s result in a 4 on each die.' Use the same idea for the other dice types, of course. Its not mathematically true (a range from 1-6 should result, over a large sampling of an average of 3.5 but who wants to multiply that?) but its fast and convenient and balanced if the bad guys are playing by the same rules as the good guys.

A good computer die roller can solve both of these problems. Many people find that computer die rollers ruin the game, but I find that it keeps the game moving, and reduces the focus on mechanics. I have often thought it would be nice to have a small box that could sit on a game table and produce randome die results. I wounder if there is a market for such a thing.

Another trick for big rolls (i.e. 20d6) is to roll 1/2 or 1/4 the number of dice and multiply the results by 2 or 4. Easy math to do in your head and gives pretty close results to rolling the full 20 dice. (Way more fun than fixed results, and I think better than the xd6 + Y approximation) If you have a fist full of dice this can be resolved in 1 roll.


Mistwalker wrote:

Ex: Have characters automatically delay if the player has not been paying attention and has not decided what they are going to do on their action.

Ex: Those with multiple attack with variables (power attack, favored enemy, bane weapon, etc...) have all the variables worked out ahead of time, so that in the fight, they only have to add the appropriate number to the attack roll.

Add to this,

Ex: Group those massive d6 damage rolls into '10s'. 6+4 is a 10, 5+5 another 10, 2+4+4 another 10. Boom, 30 points. Makes the totaling of those Disintegrate spells go amazingly fast.

Ex: Get an egg timer or a stopwatch. Players have a set amount of time to take action or get forced into a Delay.

And the colored dice mentioned help a lot as well. Red 1, White 2, Blue 3. SET the order you use and DON'T change it so everyone knows which colr is which for your character. (It helps even more when every one uses colors as similar as possible.)

Most importantly, PAY ATTENTION! If you know what's being done by the rest of the party you should have a good idea of how you can be most effective when it comes around to your go again.

Having recently played in a high level campaign, I can say with absolute confidence that following these 'guidelines' speeds up combat immensely. But then again, that was with a pretty awesome group of players, and not every group is going to rock as hard as we did. ;-)

Liberty's Edge

Andy Griffin wrote:


Another trick for big rolls (i.e. 20d6) is to roll 1/2 or 1/4 the number of dice and multiply the results by 2 or 4. Easy math to do in your head and gives pretty close results to rolling the full 20 dice. (Way more fun than fixed results, and I think better than the xd6 + Y approximation) If you have a fist full of dice this can be resolved in 1 roll.

Sadly, this is not correct statistically speaking, since you are multiplying the deviation too.

In other words, you will get far more extreme results with your method than you would by rolling 20d6.

For example, rolling 1 on each of 5d6 (thus getting a result of 5 on 5d6) is a (1/6)^5 probability.
By your rule, getting a 20 on 20d6 has the exact same probability, while in truth it is a (1/6)^20 probability which is far far less likely to happen.


The black raven wrote:


Use the law of high numbers : rolling 20d6 is extremely likely to give you a result of 20x3.5=70. Thus you could rule that rolling 25d6 is essentially the same as rolling 5d6 and adding 70 to the result.

We just average it now. Quick and easy.


If you want to watch the excitement of a combat die, than watching a math impaired player attempting to role 9 attacks for a hasted two weapon fighter will do it. You'll probably be jamming a pencil in your eye by the end of his turn.

The OP is right- the rules are the problem for play over 9th level. There are plenty of things about 4E that I don't love, but it beats dealing with the pain of trying to run and balance a high level 3E game. If pathfinder could have actually addressed these issues in an effective way I would likely be interested in it, but as it stands I don't think it does. It captures the flavor of 3E great, but other than tweaking a few things and making the base classes more interesting it doesn't really do anything IMO to deal with the underlying flaws in the system, which is why I'm playing 4E and not bothering to pick up pathfinder (I did buy the pdf though, so I have read through the book). It's unfortunate because I much prefer paizo's adventures, and I like a lot of the flavor of 3E- it's just the underlying system is broken. I respect wizards for having the guts to see that there game wasn't built on a solid foundation and that if they were going to put out a new system they needed to build again from scratch. The house that paizo built is pretty, but it uses the same busted foundation that 3E is sitting on, and once you start putting parties of higher than 9th level PCs in it, you'll start to notice the cracks pretty quick- especially when you're the dm.


That's funny, because I've run several campaigns that have gone past 9th level (and played in a campaign that went to epic levels) and not had any significant problems. Maybe I've just got the best group of players ever. /shrug


Zurai wrote:
That's funny, because I've run several campaigns that have gone past 9th level (and played in a campaign that went to epic levels) and not had any significant problems. Maybe I've just got the best group of players ever. /shrug

+1


wraithstrike wrote:
Zurai wrote:
That's funny, because I've run several campaigns that have gone past 9th level (and played in a campaign that went to epic levels) and not had any significant problems. Maybe I've just got the best group of players ever. /shrug
+1

+1 more.


P.H. Dungeon wrote:
If you want to watch the excitement of a combat die, than watching a math impaired player attempting to role 9 attacks for a hasted two weapon fighter will do it. You'll probably be jamming a pencil in your eye by the end of his turn.

There's your problem, stupid players. Don't play with people who can't do simple addition and you won't have these problems.

You talk about the 'busted foundation' of 3e, but near as I can tell from my 1e game and the 3.p games I'm running, there is no busted foundation - just the result of scaling. 1e addresses this by higher lethality, and pathfinder reins in some of the most serious abuses and problems of high level 3.5 play.

But it's still D&D and D&D is still rolling dice and adding single digit numbers together. D&D is paying attention, and prerecalculating your abilities.

I see you mentioned 4e. If that's what you're playing - they why are you posing about it in a pathfinder high level thread. If I wanted fisher price color coding, and high level play that was just the same as low level play along with all the other things that make 4e so far from the game I've been playing for 25 years and love, well, I'd be posting on a different message board.
-Campbell


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Zurai wrote:
That's funny, because I've run several campaigns that have gone past 9th level (and played in a campaign that went to epic levels) and not had any significant problems. Maybe I've just got the best group of players ever. /shrug

I suspect it's more about time available both in the game and before it. It seems to me that 3.5 takes a lot of effort to construct balanced encounters for high level play. It also takes more time to get through a battle with four fifteenth level characters and their opponents than four first level characters, no?

Neither of those are a significant problem if you have lots of time, but for people with hardly any time to prepare or play - it can leave you empty to only get halfway through a battle in your one gaming session of the month. It's also harder to see the benefit of all that DM prep time, given the story doesnt progress very far during the combat-heavy sessions.

In a session or campaign with not much combat, it isnt as much of an issue. But then it doesnt really matter what system you're playing, in my experience. The non-tactical side is pretty much the same across most RPGs with only minor, mechanical differences.

(All imo, of course).

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