PF - more fun pre-12th level or post-12th level?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


There seems to be a sweet spot right around 7th-11th level or so when casters and martial types are of relative effectiveness enough so that one simply can not live without the other, and the combination of sorcery and steel seems ideal... at lower levels, full casters are so gimped as to be almost unplayable, and at higher levels the wonders those same casters can perform make martials seem almost superfulous. At least, in my exprience...

So having said that, if you had to choose between a 12 and under campaign or a 13 and over campaign, which option would you choose and why?


For me, by far pre-12th, pre-9th or 10th maybe even, enough so that my next Pathfinder games will be E7 variants. For my games I like low level most for the the ease of use and the fact that the characters can be powerful beings in the world but still feel like people who have to worry about mere mortal problems like travel, or being overwhelmed by lesser opponents. I've never liked games where the PCs were massively more powerful than an ordinary person, like superhero or exalted games, so for me and my preferences low-mid level is my option of choice.


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I think the game is safe to play until 8th level or so, but you should really slow down with the XP if you get close to 10th and still want to continue playing.
After that, the game becomes one of demigods devastating everything in their path. I have no personal interest in those kinds of fantasy world and rather keep it to the 4th to 8th range, were things are still more mundane.


I can only speak for 3.5 personally. I have found the pre-10th levels more entertaining (and easier to DM) than the latter ones.


Define fun.

A game where everyone gets a chance to shine and wonderous things are a rare glee: 1-10th.

A game where chaos and wacky powers allow you to reshape the universe at a whim? : 11th-20th.

Different games, different glee.

I love a good dungeon crawl, but I also love planning an invasion of hell intended to be 10 rounds long, tops. Maybe 20 if Asmodeus passes all 3 SODs.


Definitely pre-12th. Much like the other posters, I think 12th is probably too high. Around 7th-8th level for me is when the game still holds a balance between power and playability. Agree with Yora.

My biggest concern with the game at higher levels is simply the sheer number of hours of combat between rests I have to put my gaming group through before I can even threaten to run their resources low. That, and spells start becoming game breaking (or game breaking spells of lower level become problematic due to high spells per day). At 7th or 8th, a short but tough fight can wear the PC's down. At 12th+, to start wearing down smart PC's just takes dozens of rounds and usually takes careful DM planning against go to spells that seek shelter.

It's also really nice in lower levels where magic items themselves are unique and interesting in and of themselves and PC's are looking for utility and not necessarily the next numeric increase for their gear.


I really like high level games. It does take longer to get through a round, but it's still fun to me.

Liberty's Edge

Somewhere in there it almost becomes a different game...or it can. I love the lower to mid-level stuff...but I'm also a huge fan of the great epic style...Elric is one of my favorite (anti)heroes...it's a more difficult game for the DM, compensating for the incredible powers...and the players really have to know their stuff...but it can make for a very interesting game...though few make it that far, most petering out before they get there.


I believe it depends on the Group of PCs. For instance...

I have a group that is well prepared, well versed in their Characters Abilities (Most of them, anyways) and think well on their feet.
~ 12+ is where they start to make GMing a joy for me, grand plans and all that jazz, don't ya know.

I have another group that is way more casual, not versed on all the rules, they really just like the 'feel' of the game.
~ 6 - 8 before they get bogged down in numbers, feats and rules.

I personally enjoy all the levels of play. I currently have a group running in the 19-23 range in a game that has been going on since the early 90s. World Sculpting in progress anyone?

No matter what levels you enjoy....

Have Fun Out There!!

~ W ~


I think, overall, 2nd through 12th or so are the best levels. However, in my 1st to 20th campaign, the upper levels were a blast and I would totally do it again. Some people complain about the complexity, but I love all the wild things that would happen. I'd have players banging their heads because they couldn't figure out why a divination wasn't working; I'd be chuckling because there was running water in the way, or the target was on another plane. They used scry and gate to assassinate a lieutenant; when they tried the same thing on the lich boss, they just alerted him to their presence and got attacked themselves.


Definitly Pre-Level 12.
Pathfinder has (like DnD) a problem at higher levels. The difference between mid level chars (~10) and low level (3) is too large.
Which creates a problem in balancing a believable social/economic system in the world. (Why are there bandints in a country with at least 1 level 10+ char, this char would normally kill a whole bandit camp within one round. Or the bandits are so strong that they could easily take over the land (which is guarded by standard NPC guards (level 2-3 warriors)).


Tryn wrote:

Definitly Pre-Level 12.

Pathfinder has (like DnD) a problem at higher levels. The difference between mid level chars (~10) and low level (3) is too large.
Which creates a problem in balancing a believable social/economic system in the world. (Why are there bandints in a country with at least 1 level 10+ char, this char would normally kill a whole bandit camp within one round. Or the bandits are so strong that they could easily take over the land (which is guarded by standard NPC guards (level 2-3 warriors)).

Why is a bandit party expected to be all low level NPCs? Why is it that if they are strong, that the NPC guards are push-overs? In my worlds bandits can be higher levels and so can the guards - they often are. There is not set 'this is the top level you will find for a given X".

While I prefer 5-10th level as a sweet spot, I have no problems playing to 18th level though. I find the lowest levels 1-3rd the least exciting for players and GMs. I refuse to play past 20th, though, my one experience in Epic play was not so enjoyable.

The Exchange

The high/low question is partly tied into certain aspects of magic. For instance, if you as a GM want death to be a meaningful and frequently final end, low-level play backs up that notion. If, on the other hand, you're comfortable with a world where death is a momentary "time out" and heroes (and villains!) get their 10th resurrection free, then the high-intensity save-or-die of high-level campaigns can be fun in a Chinese-wuxia kind of way. It can be more frustrating for the GM, however, since opponents take a lot longer to stat up and yet are more likely to die in the first round than they have been since about 2nd level.

Similarly, the game before teleportation is rife with journeys. Distances matter and economies function (in a shaky, gold-piled-on-every-countertop kind of way). Once your PC group has access to instant travel, the entire game switches to a very location-based kind of play in which politics and personal vendetta have more significance. The players get to play with various toys low-level characters can only dream of, and it's a different kind of play.

A campaign centered on non-spellcasters slows the transition somewhat, while a campaign with nothing but spellcasters accelerates the shift. I'd agree that in the usual mixed party 11th-12th level is about the swinging point, but your mileage may vary.


The most fun levels are generally 6 - 14 or thereabout. Low levels are boring and have been done to death, to the point where a game starting at level 1 is practically an automatic "skip" when choosing to join. High levels are really cool but unfortunately so complex that combats are agonizingly slow to resolve and there's a lot of buffs and penalties flying around to keep track of. The middle levels are the sweet spot where you're accessing those interesting feats, getting into that prestige class, getting the really flashy spells, etc...

Scarab Sages

I prefer 12 and lower, with characters in the 7-11 range having most of their class defining abilities.

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