So how crazy and complex does the game get at high levels?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

1 to 50 of 54 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

I am fairly new to the game and have played around with my group and on my own on some low level adventures. I notice as I look through the rule books and Bestiaries that at higher levels the # of attack rolls and the amount of dice for damage rolls can get pretty ridiculous. The spells and FEATS seem to be a lot more complex and time-consuming as well.

Does this bog the game down quite a bit? Waiting for one player to roll 4-5 attacks and then roll dozens of dice for that damage seems like it would make combat take forever. Honestly, it seems like the game gets a lot less fun at higher levels as the attacks, FEATS, and spells get fairly complex and complicated.


King Stag wrote:

I am fairly new to the game and have played around with my group and on my own on some low level adventures. I notice as I look through the rule books and Bestiaries that at higher levels the # of attack rolls and the amount of dice for damage rolls can get pretty ridiculous. The spells and FEATS seem to be a lot more complex and time-consuming as well.

Does this bog the game down quite a bit? Waiting for one player to roll 4-5 attacks and then roll dozens of dice for that damage seems like it would make combat take forever. Honestly, it seems like the game gets a lot less fun at higher levels as the attacks, FEATS, and spells get fairly complex and complicated.

Well it is a matter of preference. I my own opinion, yes, the complication of the game at higher levels, does make it less fun.

I don't think rolling dice for several attacks is the problem. Rolling all attack rolls as one, is an easy way of speeding it up. Different colors for different iterative attacks.
Whether new or old, I strongly suggest having written down the attack bonusses (and damage bonusses) for those combinations of feats you most often uses. It really help making calculating attack rolls and damage rolls faster.

That being said, I thing weird special abilities and people spending time finding spells (or not being sure what they do) is a worse reason for bogging the game down.

You put significance to the feats as something especially time consuming. It in not my experience as such, given that most tend to be used all the time, granting fixed bonusses.


dotting for interest


HaraldKlak wrote:
King Stag wrote:

I am fairly new to the game and have played around with my group and on my own on some low level adventures. I notice as I look through the rule books and Bestiaries that at higher levels the # of attack rolls and the amount of dice for damage rolls can get pretty ridiculous. The spells and FEATS seem to be a lot more complex and time-consuming as well.

Does this bog the game down quite a bit? Waiting for one player to roll 4-5 attacks and then roll dozens of dice for that damage seems like it would make combat take forever. Honestly, it seems like the game gets a lot less fun at higher levels as the attacks, FEATS, and spells get fairly complex and complicated.

Well it is a matter of preference. I my own opinion, yes, the complication of the game at higher levels, does make it less fun.

I don't think rolling dice for several attacks is the problem. Rolling all attack rolls as one, is an easy way of speeding it up. Different colors for different iterative attacks.
Whether new or old, I strongly suggest having written down the attack bonusses (and damage bonusses) for those combinations of feats you most often uses. It really help making calculating attack rolls and damage rolls faster.

That being said, I thing weird special abilities and people spending time finding spells (or not being sure what they do) is a worse reason for bogging the game down.

You put significance to the feats as something especially time consuming. It in not my experience as such, given that most tend to be used all the time, granting fixed bonusses.

So if a group is well-prepared, knows where to find their spells and how their feats and abilities work, they should still have pretty smooth combats?

I am coming from a position of ignorance. I am a long time super hero RPG player where your character is always the same. I have played D&D off and on since the early 80s but we never went higher than 5th level or so. As I look ahead to 10th level and on it seems intimidating.

Silver Crusade

It's not the damage or number of dice as harald said, but just the sheer number of things you can do once you get higher level spells and feats.

When you are trying to keep track of like 8 buffs, and 4 different conditions, while the casters are doing all sorts of crazy things like creating walls and turning the ground to mud and lifting all the enemies into the air, then yah, it gets complicated.

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

It does. Althogh the thing that bogs combat down the most, in my opinion, is there from level 1. Attacks of Opportunity.


With some players things slow down DRAMATICALLY. With other players, not so much.

You can usually tell who will fall into which group very early. Someone who has to do the math on what their attack bonus is every round, evne when they are just repeating the action they did the previous round, is giong to slow the game down far more later than they do early. The guy who is paying attention and identifies what his action is as soon as his initiative is called isn't normally going to slow the game down much later, even if he ends up with a crazy number of attacks and dice rolls.

One of the things that I do when the situation allows (and with GM permission), is roll all my dice BEFORE my turn based on what I EXPECT to be able to do during my turn. If things change drastically, I use the dice already rolled as much as possible, in the order they were rolled. The current character at level 11 will have 6 attacks per round during a non-Hasted full attack action, plus potential damage form a two-weapon rend. Without energy damage dice, that's potentially 13 dice rolled (and numbers added to them). I roll the dice, line them up, do the attack math, (roll any critical hit threat verification rolls required [and potential additional damage dice]), and then walk through the series of attack rolls when my turn is called. If the attack misses, I pick up the damage dice. Totalling the damage actually dealt is then also pretty quick.

Yes, it is VERY easy to get stuck considering all of the options until you build up some experience as a player. Evaluating the situation and making a decision is the part where most players really consume more time than everybody else would like for them to . . ..


I've found that the problem with high level play is that barring specific "screw your escape plan" scenarios, it becomes almost impossible for a group of monsters to kill a party, or for the party to kill a group of monsters. There are too many defenses, too many ways to escape. Scry & Die is a common terminology for high level play, because the game can quite easily become an arms race between divination, teleportation, and ambushes vs Dimensional Anchor and Mind Blank (or other defenses).

All this does a lot more to lessen my group's fun of high level play more than an increased number of die rolls.


I am running a TT Kingmaker game that just finished the 3rd book (12 hours dungeon delve through BBEG's lair.

At the higher levels, so long as the players are organised and know what they are doing, then I can't really see why the players would take super long to get things done. The worst of it can come when they are buffed, as that can sometimes change modifiers and distances. Haste is a very obvious part of that.

I have a 9th level cavalier that regularly does 3 digit damage on a charge (I think 237 damage is the personal best for his character). It makes BBEG's that don't have 1000+ HP more or less redundant, but makes for a fun game. Especially when using hordes against the party. Its no good doing huge levels of damage when you only need two or three points to take down a monster.

Basically the higher the level play, the more abilities that function, the more organised not only the GM, but also the players need to be. Nothing else to it really.


High level play made me implement a couple of house rules:

Healing does 5/dice+lv rather than Xd8+lv. This speeds up the post combat wand affair.

I also ask the fighter for his bonus damage to figure out when he automatically has killed something, rather than have him roll out all his 5-8 attacks and calculate how horribly he mangled the enemy.

I use programs to roll the various spells/attacks that deal more than 10dX, to speed up that noise.

I also have a table rule: If you do not know what your ability/spell does, I make a call. If it is wrong, too bad. Correct it next time. I am not spending 10 minutes digging in books because a player has not done his homework.

Also, learn how 2 basic math. 1d20+27+1(haste)+4(bard)+2(Good hope) is not rocket science. It is Dice+34. Having this go slow is a pet peeve of mine, especially considering I play with people in their early 30s.

Sovereign Court

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I think player experience is major in this. If players play through the levels, the complexity increases gradually. Starting directly at high levels would be far more bewildering.


Do dice rollers like the Dicenomicon become a must?


King Stag wrote:
Do dice rollers like the Dicenomicon become a must?

Never.

Some people like their electronic toys. Others like the feel of dice in their hands and the clatter on the table.

It is a personal preference thing, not a requirement.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

One thing that I've implemented in all levels of play is to keep spellcasters and summoner-types from bogging things down:

You can only summon creatures for which you have a concise, printed stat block available. Digging through the bestiary is not an acceptable option. If you want to show up early and have me print off some of your favorite summons, I'll be happy to oblige.

HeroLab has been a huge help in that department. Pick out your summons, apply the appropriate celestial/infernal/etc template to it, print a combat stat block, and done.

With regards to Dicenomicon; I love that program, and it is my go-to app for large dice rolls during play. It also seems to be just as arbitrary as real dice, ruining my day at the worst times, and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat just when the GM though we were all going to die.


This has always been a sore spot for me. Even in pre 3.x this happened. 3.x and later Pathfinder just have even more of a "load" past 10th level (or wherever you draw the line, I've always thought teleport was the dividing line).

A lot of people on these and other boards say it isn't bad at higher levels.

This hasn't been my experience. Things just take longer to resolve at higher levels. The problem isn't really combat options. It's all the modifiers that come into play. One dispel magic can cause you to have to do a lot of refiguring.

Stuff like opportunities of attack are always with you. I wish now they weren't in the game.

And as always, even with guys that have played a long time, at times you still have to refer to the handbook. Heck it's been 30 something years now, and I'm still not sure exactly how contingency works.

(Before anyone jumps in on this, I have a LOT of questions about this spell. At this point though I'm just not interested in spending a lot of time debating it)

I can also say that a lot of us have played games with spells used incorrectly for a long time, or thought house rules were the rule.

Even with experienced guys I've seen them still refer to the handbook to find a new wrinkle maybe in that spell, even while playing if something occurred to them.

I think high level play is broken in more ways than one. Some of the spells for sure, but also in all the stuff you basically have to do.

I know some people are going to say if you can do math it is not a problem. Everyone I've ever played with can do basic math. The problem is forgetting some modifier that might apply or has changed, and the sheer number of little calculations you have to make constantly.

I haven't said much about teleport and all the other problem spells. That is still there. For a long time though, I have preferred earlier versions of this game.

If I get my way when I play it is Rules Compendium, or maybe 1e or some other system I want to try but can't get people to buy into. The older you get the more stuff you have going on, and it seems like people don't want to bother learning a new system. In college you might play 2 or 3 times a week. When you get married and have kids sometimes it turns into once ever two months.

Some people are more into it even in their 40's, but that's my 2 cents anyway.


King Stag wrote:
Do dice rollers like the Dicenomicon become a must?

No, but a decent sized box top such as a puzzle box usually is to keep the inevetable dice storm from rolling off the table where the pugs can eat them.


I think it's a good idea to write up combat sheets, listing common attack routines, including bonuses and their sources.

That way, players don't have to count up their morale, competence, sacred, enhancement and rubber chicken bonuses every time they fight.

I know one player that had a small card with all his ranger's attacks written down, including differing attack bonuses in point blank, and against each favoured enemy, with deadly aim and without. There were about eight lines of things.

Scarab Sages

My own peeve about high level play is people who play spellcasters who have trouble managing their spells.

At high level play I think it's even more important to keep combat mobile and include weird environmental effects - avoid static full-attack slugfests.


Brotato wrote:

I've found that the problem with high level play is that barring specific "screw your escape plan" scenarios, it becomes almost impossible for a group of monsters to kill a party, or for the party to kill a group of monsters. There are too many defenses, too many ways to escape. Scry & Die is a common terminology for high level play, because the game can quite easily become an arms race between divination, teleportation, and ambushes vs Dimensional Anchor and Mind Blank (or other defenses).

All this does a lot more to lessen my group's fun of high level play more than an increased number of die rolls.

What works poorly for your group as fun might be pretty darn amusing for another group. So, it's not really a problem in general but a problem for a specific audience when we have two (or more) groups of players that need to be satisfied with the same system.


I find it gets incredibly complex.

Attack and damage rolls are pretty bad, but spell complexity is insane.

GMing a high level wizard is a crash course in WTF-itude.


You can get kind of wonky with countermeasures.

Honestly a smart thing to do is to never fight when the odds aren't in your favor, if you have a choice.

If this were real life and I were some kind of outsider with teleport, you can darn well bet if I saw 4 adventurers in front of me the first thing I'm going to do is teleport and assess the situation at my leisure.

Well unless they are wearing something like scale armor or leather armor.

An intelligent outsider surely knows this is the mark of a level one adventuring party. Anything but no armor, chain shirts, breastplates, or plate means you have rookies on your hands.

And if you were an intelligent outsider and wanted to get feisty, if you can cast cleric spells, the first one to cast is spell immunity dimensional anchor.

Heck an item with that, with the specific immunity to that spell would be invaluable to an outsider. I bet all the smart ones are pumping them out.


it's an exponential growth with a base around 1.2 (multiplied by a constant, perhaps around 5).
thus a round that would take 6 (5(1.2^1)) seconds with lvl 1, would take 5(1.2^20) 200 seconds at lvl 20.

Good luck playing epic campaigns!


I believe ti is more complex and thus could be an issue for some groups.

For me, many have hit the nail on the head. Players and GMs who are nto ready will slow things down quite a bit. I like to have a cheet sheet with as many situations prcalculated out. Two hand fighting with and without my magical weapons, one handed only, etc.

I will also say I have been in one group that seemed to always restart around 14th to 16th level because they began to feel it was no longer fun after that. On the other hand I played in a group that elected to keep going to 30th.


Out of combat, spell casters get a lot of magical solutions tp problems such as information gathering and travel.

In combat, I've found Pathfinder faster to run than D&D 4th Ed. It helps having players adept at using their character's abilities, and not dithering when it is their turn to act.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

If you prepare properly, number of attacks is not a significant issue. My highest level play has been online, where dicebots help a lot.

The things that really blow up the time for me are:


  • Lots of spell effects in place. That means tracking lots of durations, and a dispel can cause a lot of recalculating.
  • Breadth of options. While my fighter at 19 pretty much has just "full attack" as his option (with "how much do I power attack for?" because it's 3.5), those with many options, primarily the spellcasters, can get very bogged down trying to figure what they want to cast this time. Planning ahead is good, but sometimes that last action can make you rethink entirely. And the more options you have, the worse this gets.
  • Controlling multiple characters. While we only tend to control multiple PCs if we're subbing in for a player who couldn't make it (max 1 per session; otherwise we cancel), this slows down things a lot. Worse than summons, because we're generally not used to playing that character. Any additional creatures in play slow things down, though.
  • Uncommonly used rules come into play more often. This is sometimes to add interesting elements to a fight... but it requires pulling out a chapter you haven't read in months.
  • Comparatively complex rules interactions.

The worst combat I ever played was at level 18, with a party of 6, facing an NPC party of 5 or 6, in an arena game, where there were also a dozen elementals, and tentacles were popping out of rifts. That single combat took at least 3 full sessions to complete.


The game is not difficult at high levels: rather it's the bad/weak/noob player that is the problem.


PhelanArcetus wrote:
•Breadth of options. While my fighter at 19 pretty much has just "full attack" as his option (with "how much do I power attack for?" because it's 3.5), those with many options, primarily the spellcasters, can get very bogged down trying to figure what they want to cast this time. Planning ahead is good, but sometimes that last action can make you rethink entirely. And the more options you have, the worse this gets.

This is called Decision Paralysis.

Interesting factoid: It's the reason there are not 50 different types of Hamburger Helper. Seriously. HH used to have something like 50 option. They found that with more options sales actually decresed significantly. Part of HH marketing is the "fast and easy" concept. Apparently if finding which box their family liked was too complicated then mothers wouldn't buy any. When HH limited it's selections to about 10-15 sales increased dramatically.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I guess my next question is, what level(s) do most people tend to stop at?

At what point do most groups say, "let's start over" or "let's stay here for a while"?


Tiny Coffee Golem wrote:
PhelanArcetus wrote:
•Breadth of options. While my fighter at 19 pretty much has just "full attack" as his option (with "how much do I power attack for?" because it's 3.5), those with many options, primarily the spellcasters, can get very bogged down trying to figure what they want to cast this time. Planning ahead is good, but sometimes that last action can make you rethink entirely. And the more options you have, the worse this gets.

This is called Decision Paralysis.

Interesting factoid: It's the reason there are not 50 different types of Hamburger Helper. Seriously. HH used to have something like 50 option. They found that with more options sales actually decresed significantly. Part of HH marketing is the "fast and easy" concept. Apparently if finding which box their family liked was too complicated then mothers wouldn't buy any. When HH limited it's selections to about 10-15 sales increased dramatically.

Funny you say that.

With the arcane bond feature, a wizard can cast any spell in his spellbook once per day without it being prepared.

So in any given situation a wizard may need to look through his spellbook and consider whether a spell he hadn't prepared might be the one to alter that situation.

Theory and occasionally in practice fine. But it can also lead to what you just mentioned frequently.


Personally, I've written out a sheet with all of my character's tactical configurations (i.e., with and without a shield, wielding different weapons, mounted or not, etc) along with which bonuses come into play or not. Each session on a separate sheet I keep a record of which buffs and debuffs are in play and their types. Even playing a 9th level mounted character with tons of options and lots of attacks I rarely take more than a few seconds to resolve my round.

Which is good because that leaves our casters more time to argue over rules with the GM.

hot tip: Have your casters write out their spells on cards and have all their summons' final statblocks written out in advance. As a GM delegate the looking up of rules to another PC who has just taken his turn while you continue to run the game.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber
hustonj wrote:
King Stag wrote:
Do dice rollers like the Dicenomicon become a must?

Never.

Some people like their electronic toys. Others like the feel of dice in their hands and the clatter on the table.

It is a personal preference thing, not a requirement.

For the two weapon fighting dwarven paladin samurai (3.5) we wrote a custom iphone app that let him toggle bonus for holy, axiomatic and bane, as well as smiting. Plus misc buffs, just to control math time


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

I wasn't even thinking full on Decision Paralysis so much as just dealing with the complexity of the situation.

My decisions are generally trivial (as a 3.5 fighter type who didn't specialize in any maneuvers, basically nothing but normal attacks is worthwhile), but the tactical situation can be pretty complex, especially given the sorts of crazy things the DM throws at us. (I do sometimes have to ask questions for the DM, as well as remind him of my wounding weapon; Con damage complicates things.) And I keep my attack sequence fully specified, with a side file for current buffs and such, in which I'll keep the updated sequence. The simplicity of my generally viable options actually led to me forgetting one of my options that's normally not useful in a recent fight. (Might have shaved a round off... if I could have rolled in the double digits for any attacks that fight.)

The fact that a large combat (6 PCs) at high level can take a long time before it gets back to you can easily lead to a player losing track of the situation, requiring him to ask questions to figure out what's going on. Of course, he shouldn't be zoning out like that, but the longer the delay between his actions, the more likely it is.

Layered defenses can also contribute to major slowdown. There are some custom spells in this, but I recall when the DM attacked our ur-priest. Because he was packing mirror image, displacement, and a second, custom miss chance spell, just resolving a single attack was a big pain.
Same with situational abilities. Every single time I need to make a save, I need to know if it's against a spell or spell-like ability, because my save bonus is substantially higher against those. And I need to know if the target I'm attacking meets the criteria of my (rather custom) bane weapon, and if it has spells or spell-like abilities. For that matter, I've seen minor slowdown just from characters who aren't used to having damage reduction needing to be reminded to apply it.

I generally make a point of having every single spell of mine have a small writeup which tells me everything I expect to need... and the book & page reference in case we need to see the exact writeup. I wouldn't actually allow someone to play a character who summons a lot unless he came prepared with the stat blocks (adjusted for augment summoning, and so on).

Other things I've seen slow the game down are table-specific. Playing a different game online, with a tool the DM is developing, I spent an entire round trying to place a 40-ft burst. The problem was that his tool didn't let me move the zone, so I had to recreate it every time I wanted to try adjusting the origin point.


King Stag wrote:

I guess my next question is, what level(s) do most people tend to stop at?

At what point do most groups say, "let's start over" or "let's stay here for a while"?

Of the groups I have been in that did did a reset because of the levels two groups went to 20 and reset, one group seemed to reset around 16th, and one group had a hard stop at 15th level.


I just DM'd a level 15-16 adventure, and pretty much all of my players were chaotic. A lot of DMs with players of this high level panic (for good reason) in fear that their players are going to randomly start killing people in cities one day or in general just do something... stupid. Luckily in my case, by very nature of my adventure, I didn't really have this problem. Cthulhu was beginning to wake up and was causing people everywhere to go insane, so toward the end of the adventure most towns were in total anarchy. It didn't really matter if the players wanted to go on a slaughterfest or not. In fact, I had a Shoggoth that would show up as a darkening shadow in the sky over some of the more insane towns and devour the people. So if the players decided to stop by one of these towns to try something funny, they were at risk of encountering one. I was actually itching in excitement as they would approach one of the towns and I would think, "Come on, do it. I dare you."

You also need to keep in mind that at higher levels, players have more resources to screw up your game's content. For example, you might spend hours designing a series of events that is supposed to happen on the way from one town to another, but at higher levels even if they've never been to the new town before, they can get there instantly with a Greater Teleport, bypassing all your hard-worked content. So yeah, as a DM you have to think about these things, be able to improvise, and find ways to work around (or with it). For example, maybe when they get to the other town, you provide a hook to send the players back to whatever they just skipped (a mother and father whose son hasn't returned from the woods, a vital caravan of cargo that hasn't made it into the town yet, etc).

This also includes dungeons / maps that you design can be exploited too... high STR characters with adamantine weapons can pretty much just cut through walls, high level spell casters can Phase Door through walls, divine casters can pretty well scry on every room in a building, etc. Especially at higher levels, players WILL throw a wrench in the gears by using their resources. I have a DM friend whose high level players ended up all flying (through magic) to the top of this tower in the sky that he had planned for them to work their way up through. He spent hours designing the rooms, and they just flew right up to the top where the final boss was waiting.

Moral of the story: the higher level your players are, the better of a DM you have to be. :p Plan on your players messing with your content, be ready with counter measures, and prepare to improvise.


King Stag wrote:

I am fairly new to the game and have played around with my group and on my own on some low level adventures. I notice as I look through the rule books and Bestiaries that at higher levels the # of attack rolls and the amount of dice for damage rolls can get pretty ridiculous. The spells and FEATS seem to be a lot more complex and time-consuming as well.

Does this bog the game down quite a bit? Waiting for one player to roll 4-5 attacks and then roll dozens of dice for that damage seems like it would make combat take forever. Honestly, it seems like the game gets a lot less fun at higher levels as the attacks, FEATS, and spells get fairly complex and complicated.

How crazy it gets depends on personal taste. How time consuming it gets depends on the group and how well they know the rules also. If you don't have to constantly look things up the game goes a lot quicker, but I will admit that high level combat still takes a lot longer than low level combat normally.

Many people roll the attack and damage rolls at the same time. Being organized also helps a lot especially if someone like to summon monsters.


If you want to get an idea of how crazy things get, read this campaign thread on the enworld forum:

Pharamne's Urn

This thing has been running a long, long time (since 2001?). It used to be called Tales of Wyre. Chock full of things like binding demons in prisons deep in the heart of the planet and all kinds of cosmic things.

It honestly gets boring after a while, but it is an example of a high level campaign that has lasted a long time. Just as a note, I haven't read it in years. Mostin the Metagnostic, a wizard, naturally churns through everything, including the scenery. If memory serves I think he could have played this campaign solo.

No primary caster does much of anything in this campaign unless it has changed a lot in the past few years.

And I promise you the guys playing in this game know the rules quite well.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

In an effort to no reiterate (too much) what people have said before, here is what I feel:

I have run several games in the level 15+ range and enjoyed each of them significantly. A lot of people say the game breaks down and so on but I disagree. It really is all dependent on the group and style of play.

i have found the following things make the game run very smoothly and enjoyably at all levels.

1. Prepare ahead of time. This has already been said, but at high level (12-15+) there are a lot of different options, as a player just write your different options down so you don't have to do the math when your turn rolls around and get into this habit at early stages because even a 6th level ranger can slow the game down. This also goes for the GM. if you have several monsters with tons of options figure out what they will do on a round by round basis ahead of time and write it all down. This way you're not sitting about trying to figure out what one of 400 different spells and special abilities your CR 27 demigod will use to annihilate the party this turn, as well as contingencies like what will that CR 27 demigod do when the party whips out their sphere of annihilation?

2. Roll the dice efficiently. this is another that already got mentioned but bears repeating. Roll your dice ahead of time if you can so you are ready when your turn rolls around. Also, roll attacks and damage at the same time so you know what is what. Use different colored dice and you can roll all of your attacks and damage in a single swipe (this is how I do it).

3. Manage spells. Another that has already been mentioned, but know what your spells do before you try to cast them. When your turn rolls around it is not time to leaf through the book to know what happens when you summon a fiendish advanced giant dire weasel of doom.

4. Get rid of the minis. People love minis. People swear by minis. I hate them with a passion. If I want to play a miniatures wargame, I will play a miniatures wargame. Seriously, if you want your combat to become more exciting and take about half the time, get rid of the mat and see. When I started doing this the game sessions started to become considerably more interesting. I found that this also allowed me to drop many of the movement based attacks of opportunity such as threatened squares and whatnot, which also sped the game up considerably.

And my favorite...

5. The countdown. Oh how my players hate the countdown... Combat is a chaotic, confusing, and stressful thing. if you don't believe me go to a biker bar and punch some random guy in the face. You'll see what I mean. When it becomes a player's turn I ask them what they are doing. If they do not answer me in a timely manner I begin to count backwards from 10. If they still don't answer me I assume they are delaying their action. If they still don't figure it out by the end of the round I give them another opportunity to act. If they still stammer they lose their action and the next round starts.

All in all though, I find high-level play every bit as fun as low or mid-level play. Everyone is different, some people start all their games at level 3, some people stop their games at level 12. Just play the game and see what you like best.


EATERoftheDEAD wrote:
5. The countdown. Oh how my players hate the countdown... Combat is a chaotic, confusing, and stressful thing. if you don't believe me go to a biker bar and punch some random guy in the face. You'll see what I mean. When it becomes a player's turn I ask them what they are doing. If they do not answer me in a timely manner I begin to count backwards from 10. If they still don't answer me I assume they are delaying their action. If they still don't figure it out by the end of the round I give them another opportunity to act. If they still stammer they lose their action and the next round starts.

THIS. Seriously, I've read this entire thread and have been wanting to make this suggestion while reading all the comments. Real-life combat is hectic and there's no place for a hero to pull a Hamlet. If I were to GM, I would actually probably start counting down from 5 and make them Delay if they're not ready (unless they ask a question). I imagine it would also make everyone pay attention more and the combat more intense.

I usually put the PCs' info on index cards and track Initiative through those. So when a character delays, I simply set the card aside until they're ready.


sunbeam wrote:
If I get my way when I play it is Rules Compendium, or maybe 1e or some other system I want to try but can't get people to buy...

From my own cursory glance at it, I think you may want to take a look at Castles & Crusades. It starts from 3.x's foundations and generally streamlines the system from there. It relies more on DM fiat and avoids 3.x's tendency to codify and quantify every situation. You can try out their free Quick Start rules there.

I personally would be interested in seeing if someone could take what's in the Beginner Box and find a way to make high-level play less complicated, based on the Beginner Box's foundations. Someone has already made Beginner Box versions of the all the core and base classes. Perhaps one could throw out all the spells that buff and debuff, shorten the lists of options (feats, spells) considerably. Personally, I am considering banishing certain spells such as Raise Dead and Teleport for a future campaign.

I echo what people say above about thorough preparation and doing a lot of the arithmetic ahead of time. That, and having a GM who has a great grasp of the rules and is prepared to just make a tentative ruling and move on.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
EATERoftheDEAD wrote:


4. Get rid of the minis. People love minis. People swear by minis. I hate them with a passion. If I want to play a miniatures wargame, I will play a miniatures wargame. Seriously,...

This is one I disagree with myself.

Why? Because I spent quite a while playing an online game with no minis, no whiteboard.

Basically what happened was that at least once a round, more often, in fact, someone would start his turn by saying "where is X?" Trying to figure out if they were close enough to reach the target, if they could full attack, so on. I know I died once because of dealing with this; I misunderstood positioning and the enemy's reach, took a 5-ft step back, cast my spell, and then ate a full attack next round because it wasn't clear to me that I needed to move further away from that foe to prevent it being able to 5-ft and attack.

This also put the onus on maintaining the position of every creature entirely on the DM. At one point at least he was maintaining ascii art maps, both so he could keep track of things accurately, and so he could share it with us.

Now granted, a lot of this becomes a non-issue if you play fast and loose with positioning & distance. But if you want to track that, minis and a mat of some sort make a huge difference.


As pointed out above player and DM organization can help a lot. One thing I didn't see mentioned was color coded dice. If you have extra dice sets you can roll them all at once. The blue dice apply to the first attack, the red to the second, etc. Another thing is planning ahead so that when it is your turn you already know what you're doing.

For me the game hits it's prime in levels 5-9 or so. Play is still pretty streamlined, but the players have a decent selection of options.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber
Kthulhu wrote:
It does. Althogh the thing that bogs combat down the most, in my opinion, is there from level 1. Attacks of Opportunity.

3.5 (and thus PFRPG) barely involve any mechanic to keep combat the slightest bit tactical, AoO are one of the few mechanisms their are to prevent people from willy nilly moving around the field of battle, letting actual combat strategy not instantly degenerate.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

King Stag wrote:

I am fairly new to the game and have played around with my group and on my own on some low level adventures. I notice as I look through the rule books and Bestiaries that at higher levels the # of attack rolls and the amount of dice for damage rolls can get pretty ridiculous. The spells and FEATS seem to be a lot more complex and time-consuming as well.

Does this bog the game down quite a bit? Waiting for one player to roll 4-5 attacks and then roll dozens of dice for that damage seems like it would make combat take forever. Honestly, it seems like the game gets a lot less fun at higher levels as the attacks, FEATS, and spells get fairly complex and complicated.

I ran a lengthy high level campaign a few years ago. We started 3.5 and converted to Pathfinder halfway through, when the characters were around 16th level. Campaign ended around 19th level (they leveled to 20th technically but that was at the end of the campaign).

Rolling attacks and tracking feats are not time consuming, but you need to use a few simple tricks like having the players roll their attacks all at once (i.e., "blue d20 is my first attack with my sword, purple and white are my 1st and 2nd offhand attacks with my dagger").

With tracking class abilities--hopefully you are playing with a group who are experienced and capable as they are playing experienced and capable adventurers. The big expectation is to hope and ensure your players know their character's abilities inside and out. They don't have to know the whole game, but they do have to know their characters. And that should even go without saying.

Sure, some spells can get complicated, but that is a problem at all levels. Look at the length of the text of dispel magic--and that's a 3rd level spell. Look at how many cross references you have to make with any polymorph spell. That's a huge mess. It's a problem with the game, but it doesn't slow high level games much more than low level--yes you get spells in more frequency but again you also all should know your stuff well enough to resolve disputes quickly.

Where things do slow down, I found, are
-- Trying to keep track of monster abilities as a GM. Rather than make monsters powerful in simple ways (more HP, etc), the designers tend to just add on lots of abilities. Spell like abilities are common and the worst because it requires a lot of cross referencing between books.

-- Keeping track of a lot of modifiers--terrain, bonuses, buffs, debuffs--there's a lot more of these at high levels than low levels

-- Annoying as time eating abilities like DR and SR which stop to cause you to have to do extra math between rolls (DR) or make extra rolls (SR). This is especially annoying as often players succeed on SR checks and find ways around DR so it just becomes a speedbump you have to track but still often ultimately has no real impact on a fight. I've been brainstorming ways to replace these things with stuff that's easier for the GM to track that still challenges the players (without requiring gear or feat taxes, which DR and SR also do).

In the case of things that DO slow down, there are ways to mitigate much of these things.

1. Is to download and use Kyle Olson's combat manager. With initiative tracking, monster, spell, and feat, and ability look up all in one place, it dramatically speeds combat at any level, let alone high level.

2. Write everything down where everyone can see. This is where using a battle grid is awesome, 'cause you can just jot down terrain bonuses or spell debuffs/buffs right on the board itself. A friend of mine also bought a cheap dry erase board at a dollar store and uses it to write stuff down with so that anyone who needs to see it, can.

3. Review encounters ahead of time and take note of what might be hard to track in the heat of combat. Spell stuff out on notes if you need to. And if you see something that looks like it will be a roadblock, don't be afraid to change it. You see a complex spell-like ability that will take you forever to look up the spell and use effectively--and thus be less likely to use the ability at all? Swap it out for an easier spell or ability, or give the monster some extra gear instead. Especially at high levels, PCs shouldn't expect cookie cutter monsters anyway, so the variance is just fine.


Umbral Reaver wrote:

I think it's a good idea to write up combat sheets, listing common attack routines, including bonuses and their sources.

That way, players don't have to count up their morale, competence, sacred, enhancement and rubber chicken bonuses every time they fight.

I know one player that had a small card with all his ranger's attacks written down, including differing attack bonuses in point blank, and against each favoured enemy, with deadly aim and without. There were about eight lines of things.

This what I do as player and a GM. I'll list out attack with feats, class features, and all possible combos. This quite larger on an Inquistor I was playing but it was quick to reference. Kind of pain to update when you level up though but it makes game play so much easier. I also do this for monsters when I GM. I tend to just put the common attacks like a line with Power Attack and some buff.


What bogs down the game at high levels can bog it down at all levels. Players and DM's not being familiar with the bonuses and mechanics of their attacks. Having to recheck AC's constantly, not having the spell that you wanted to cast in mind ahead of time, and not really being all that familiar with the spell list for the monster / character.

In high level play there are ways to speed things up. One such thing that I did was to introduce Gamemastery's Critical Hit and Critical Fumble decks. Instead of watching the player fumble with some basic math we instead draw a card and determine what happens on that attack. Another thing is that I will describe the attack they do, or the monsters do, for the players as you can see the deer in headlights look when they are asked for the description of the attack (not a tactic for all groups).

When it comes down to it, at the high levels you just need to be a bit more cognizant of things, brush up on the rules that will matter in that session, and make sure to work a tiny bit harder to make everything have a solid flow to it.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

2 people marked this as a favorite.

We're close to wrapping up a campaign that's been going since 2006, and the level of the players is insanely high.

Can it bog down? Sure, especially when the spellcasters don't have their act together. For the past year or two, if a caster doesn't know what they want to do, I delay them; I even say "okay, you delay to figure out what you want to cast."

And it is very player-based - some players don't clog the table at all, while others are heinously clog-worthy.

In any event, sure, there's more math and stuff, but another reality of high-level play is that often the math doesn't matter quite as much. If you're kicking at something like +60 to hit against an opponent with an AC less than 50, it really only matters whether you roll a 1 or a 20, not whether your bonus is actually +58 or +16.

Likewise, it doesn't matter if all the skills are correct to the point, etc. It's best going for approximations when building a monster that will only "live" for one combat anyways - I'd rather spend a half hour than 2 hours when it will only last 15-30 minutes in game anyways.

The same comment about accuracy goes for saves, and damage, etc. Even if your damage is off by a handful and you happen to take a creature to 3 hp instead of -2 hp, odds are pretty damn good it's going down anyways when each PC is dropping 500hp of damage per round.

So, part of high level play is letting go of uber-attention to detail. 1 hp doesn't matter at level 40. Neither does 1 point of AC, or +1 to hit. What matters is knowing at the grand scale what you're trying to do.

The last game I hand waved an entire combat with four fire monolith necromentals (CR 21 apiece). Sure, I could have wasted a half hour of game time, but it's not like there would be any question about what would happen, and there was no point other than saying "you run into a few of those undead elementals you ran into a while back, but they're not really any problem to dispatch," and moving on with the game.

In my opinion, the biggest problem people have with high-level play is focusing excessively on the combat. A good game isn't about combat, it's about plot, and there has to be a plot worthy of high-level play that the encounters fit into.

Sure, you need to come up with crazy opponents when you're the GM, but the most important thing is for there to be a purpose, because when PCs are that powerful yet don't have purpose, it can get dull really, really fast.


Regardless of PC levels if everyone at the table is paying attention, prepared for their turn, have an excellent working knowledge of their PC's abilities, and can do simple math then combat is smooth. My group of 7 conqured the STAP finale very well (at one point our group could muster 41 iterative attacks per round when hasted), and my other group handled the SCAP finale equally well and both of these are high level scrums.

It really helps when you've played your PC from 1 to "X" so you can ease into the higher level abilities and spells. I dont think they're anymore complicated, they just see alot less use so player familiarity is substantially less.

High level play is also heavily effected by PC group / battle size.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The main problem I have noticed are option paralysis ( especially for non-spontaneous casters ) and buff stacking. Both bog down the gameplay, because some people have problems deciding what to do when presented with so many options and/or have problems keeping track of all the running buffs on them ( which is annoying as hell for me as a GM. "Oh, I missed" "Hey, did you remember buff X,Y and Z?" "Oh, seems I hit!". I am pretty sure some of those hits were simply because of doubly counted buffs... ).

Does that mean I want a more simplified system? Not really, 4E showed the dangers of too much homogenization. Although a "temporary buff limit" on characters would probably be an interesting idea to implement.


magnuskn wrote:

The main problem I have noticed are option paralysis ( especially for non-spontaneous casters ) and buff stacking. Both bog down the gameplay, because some people have problems deciding what to do when presented with so many options and/or have problems keeping track of all the running buffs on them ( which is annoying as hell for me as a GM. "Oh, I missed" "Hey, did you remember buff X,Y and Z?" "Oh, seems I hit!". I am pretty sure some of those hits were simply because of doubly counted buffs... ).

Does that mean I want a more simplified system? Not really, 4E showed the dangers of too much homogenization. Although a "temporary buff limit" on characters would probably be an interesting idea to implement.

This is one of the reasons I favor Boots of speed and spell storing items. It lets the characters activate their own buffs without having the caster have to calculate everything every time.

Also, I suppose if you had a wand weilding familiar you could just have the first few rounds maped out. R1- Haste R2 - whatever, etc

Effectively the same thing, but without really having to worry about it.

Liberty's Edge

PhelanArcetus wrote:
This is one I disagree with myself.

Everyone has their own preferences, obviously. I can absolutely see why this would become an issue in an online game as you described.

So allow me to elaborate. I still map for the players so they have an idea of their surroundings and basic positioning and such, but I don't do anything close to a 1" scale or have minis down that move around the area. The map lets them see what's going on without counting squares and really losing the immersion in the scene. A player will look at the map and know they are 'over by the door' and the bad guy is 'in this area' (usually signified by a pencil dot on my drawing). Players will then, instead of counting squares and determining difficult terrain and so on, ask me simply 'can I close and still attack?' To which I will look and say, 'yeah sure, you vault over the table and land in the orc's face. Make your attack.'

It really speeds the game up and keeps the players in the moment but I still give a visual reference so they aren't completely confused. This also allows me to drop some of the movement based AoO bringing them about to the level of AD&D, which also speeds the game up and keeps it exciting.

The Rot Grub wrote:
THIS. Seriously, I've read this entire thread and have been wanting to make this suggestion while reading all the comments. Real-life combat is hectic and there's no place for a hero to pull a Hamlet. If I were to GM, I would actually probably start counting down from 5 and make them Delay if they're not ready (unless they ask a question). I imagine it would also make everyone pay attention more and the combat more intense.

5 would be hella rough. lol 10 usually gets even my distractable pokey players to pay attention.

In relation to this I have also put an end to them strategizing among each other in the midst of combat, limiting their talking to a handful of words. Now it's all 'get behind him!' instead of 'you can move around there, get the high ground and make a flanking attack. Oh, use your crossbow and don't forget to heal.'

1 to 50 of 54 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / So how crazy and complex does the game get at high levels? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.