Level 16+


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I love Pathfinder. I have but one gripe. Why is there so little material for levels 16+?

Of all the information I have encountered, the only viable answer I have found to date is there appears to be no consumer market for it.

I offer only anecdotally, that about 95% of the gamers in my area are looking for not only level 16+ official material, but even a Pathfinder version of "epic" material.

It would seem that a number of the new 64-page module series could focus on this underdeveloped portion of the system.

Thoughts? I am curious if any Paizo staff can provide any "secret squirrel" statistics around this side of the market. (I ask as a curiosity, NOT as an indictment in anyway.)

Roll often.

Shadow Lodge

Really it boils down to a few things. Paizo is not comfortable writing material that needs to be balanced for a general audience when party's at that level can be so varied. What might be an epic battle for a group without a Cleric or Bard (example) might be a breeze for on with them for example, or straight up impossible if they lack both.

The typical plot twists and gimmicks are less potent at these levels and they go out of their way not to move Golarion along the timeline with changes to the setting.

Generally writing material for this level requires a lot more stat blocks, explanations, and tips for how to change things if the players do _________ instead, and railroading simply does not work so much. Because they are very bound by page count, that means that higher level material requires much more to be packed into it, and something (story or fluff) is going to suffer instead.

They also believe that it will generally be less lucrative that the lower level material, which will have a much wider base of fans willing to purchase it for use. I'm not sure I agree too much with this one, but others disagree.

There where a few other reasons, I can't think of, mostly along the same lines. It's just more difficult to do and means that some other part of the material will suffer.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

IIRC back in the Dragon & Dungeon era, Dungeon issues with high level adventures sold significantly worse than issues with lower-level ones, and that one issue with an Epic adventure was one of the worst sellers ever.


Gorbacz wrote:

IIRC back in the Dragon & Dungeon era, Dungeon issues with high level adventures sold significantly worse than issues with lower-level ones, and that one issue with an Epic adventure was one of the worst sellers ever.

This may be part of it. Paizo did publish the magazine for a while and therefor have a good idea what will sell.

Another fact is that in order to challenge a group you have to have a good idea what a party is capable of. Most campaigns I see typically break up and reboot to a new party sometime in the early teens. Also look at the monster lists in the Bestiaries. The percentage of high level critters that would be a good threat to a level 20 party is pretty thin.


I don't believe for a second that it's because of possible class/group imbalance. They could easily continue to write content for 16+ based on the standard base formula of 4 party members, with 1 fighter, 1 thief, 1 wizard, and 1 cleric. Adjust CR for "standard" treasure for a level 16 party (or adjust by already printed WBL statistics), and you're golden.

The DM is going to put his own spin on things anyways, and it's their job to adjust encounters and CR as necessary for their campaign party.

Point is, there's enough written support to field the products, playtest them, and adjust fire if necessary.

I'm going to put my money on the almighty dollar. They're banking (correctly) that more players want options at creation. They're banking on PFS play and products they support up to level 12 or so.

Fiscal logic plus their storied history through Dungeon and Dragon must be driving this, not anything to do with group balance.

President, Jon Brazer Enterprises

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In my opinion, it is a catch 22. Designers say few players play at high levels so they do not design much at that high a level. But since so little is available at so high a level, few players play there.

To that end, Jon Brazer Enterprises (my company) came up with Book of Beasts: Legendary Monsters, a book of monsters, NPCs, demigods, and traps that start at CR 15 and go all the way up to CR 25 (well, the demigods are CR 28 and 29). The PDF will be available this Tuesday. Limited advanced copies will be at the Paizo booth at GenCon. And wide release will be late August/early September.


The Witchwar Legacy is for a 17th level party. That's the highest level Paizo adventure I know of. I don't know how well it sold, but there haven't been any more, to my knowledge.

Too bad there are so few published adventures that go all the way to 20th. The game is complex and rounds can take forever with so much high level magic and combat going around, but it's a lot of fun, IMO. I was able to play a homebrew that got to 21st, and it was a blast.

I think some people are intimidated by high end play, because 1) it's complicated, and 2) someone has to design their own campaign. That's more than many GMs can handle. It takes a lot of creativity, system mastery, and time they may not have. If there were some modules you could take to get to 20th, I'd want to play them.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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The PRIMARY reason is that low and midlevel stuff simply sells more and sells better. But one way to help us make the decision to print more high level stuff (something I want to do!) would be to let us know.

The tricky thing is that we only do 4 modules a year now, which means that beyond the AP (which is doing 2 adventures a year already that are about 16th level or thereabouts), there's just not a lot of opportunity to do high level adventures.

We actually DO have a pretty good amount of high level content in our campaign setting line though; powerful monsters and high-level adventure hooks and spells and magic items and the like.


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James,

I think we can consider this official notification that some of us want more high level content! (if you didn't have any before.)

I know I'd definitely be interested in some stuff 16+. Those of us that theorycraft mid-level builds for fun would absolutely love to see content to playtest these wild characters out on.

Heck, I'd even be willing to contribute where I can. That would be my dream job to help impact a major undertaking like taking Pathfinder to level 30 (I was a huge fan of the D&D 30 level path and the AD&D epic level stuff).

Liberty's Edge

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Slumbering Tsar goes to 22-23, and it looks great. I start it soon.

Shadow Lodge

I agree. I'd generally rather have higher level material than low level.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Barry Armstrong wrote:

James,

I think we can consider this official notification that some of us want more high level content! (if you didn't have any before.)

I know I'd definitely be interested in some stuff 16+. Those of us that theorycraft mid-level builds for fun would absolutely love to see content to playtest these wild characters out on.

Heck, I'd even be willing to contribute where I can. That would be my dream job to help impact a major undertaking like taking Pathfinder to level 30 (I was a huge fan of the D&D 30 level path and the AD&D epic level stuff).

I've been seeing requests for high level adventures/content for a while, in fact. I'm not the one you need to convince. I'm doing what I can to convince management and the rest of Paizo to produce more high-level content, but letting other folks know is where to go next, not me. Preaching to the choir and all! ;-)


You know, just a few more single-level adventures, perhaps tied to a campaign setting, but not the adventure paths themselves, could work.

Once the party has hit 16th and saved the world from whichever threat was in the AP, and still wants to play, could get a message from Important Person X, asking them to come to location Y.

Important Person X has heard of the party, and needs their help with something no one else she knows of can handle. They teleport, learn of the threat, then go face it at location Z.

I don't know how Witchwar Legacy did, but I bet sales are consistent. I'm sure a lot of GMs use it after the APs, just to have something for their 17th level party, who don't want to just stop at 16th (I never do!).

Comparable modules for single-level adventures all the way to 20th would get used. Think of them as adventures for the jet set elite parties, who can go anywhere and do almost anything. One book = one level, in exotic and deadly places, with challenges they aren't all that optimized for...


They actually have printed another high-level module after The Witchwar Legacy, it's The Moonscar for 16th level parties. An excellent module that I highly recommend to anyone looking for more material for high-level play.

There's also the Adventure Paths, as James points out, in which the final volume of each is quite high-level (16+) so that's 2 additional modules a years. As James says, if we want to see more high level content then buy all the AP Part Sixes to show support (I know I do).

Paizo seems to be absolutely comfortable in designing modules for high-level play. The main issue is that darn catch-22 that others mentioned above.

As for their "take" on epic material, you should check out Mythic Adventures when it comes out next month.

The Exchange

Played Witchwar Legacy with with our high level PFS characters, who are now sitting at 18th level waiting for more play...we're going to retire them with Rise of the Runelords part 6 adaption.

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber

What's the plan for level targets for the four 64-page modules each year? Or is there a plan for level targets?


Continuing my previous post, modular one-level adventures could work.
Perhaps the party has to go to the frozen north, when they're from warmer places. They may have to go to an underwater city, or a treacherous dungeon, laden with traps, deep in the underdark. They may have to go to an elemental plane, or an entirely different planet on a spaceship, then deal with it being underwater, etc.

Important Person X could be a conduit to essential magic items that let them survive in these strange new places.

"An adventure for 18-19th level characters."

20th is special.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

rknop wrote:
What's the plan for level targets for the four 64-page modules each year? Or is there a plan for level targets?

The plan is to do what levels are right for the adventures. That said... we'll usually have a 1st level one once a year because 1st level adventures sell real well, and the RPG superstar adventure will generally be mid-level.


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First of all I would like to say how nice it is to see Dale McCoy Jr and James Jacobs replying from their positions as leaders in the gaming industry; Thanks for your time to customer service. It's people such as yourselves that make rpgs the great experience they are.

Mr.Jacob is there someone specifically the community could direct comments towards. Also, might it possible to create a simple internet query/survey on the Paizo site to gauge interest in high level material?

In my gaming group, or "lodge" (as we geekfully call our location), our most beloved part of the Pathfinder product line are the Adventure Paths and their supporting materials. However, we frequently speak with consternation over their stopping at level 15-17. I have posted previously about this situation and have been given some very clear and reasonable factors around such a choice. I don't think it would be helpful to revisit them here.

On the other hand, I would like to see a post adventure path product, boxed set (I know what happened to TSR), or module. It seems unlikely to me that face cards dedicated to a particular adventure path would create as much player interest as a sold level 15-20 adventure. There is so little created at for these levels, the aforementioned products by other posters not withstanding, there must be demand.

Another thought that crosses my mind would be to create the product as a PDF only at first. My assumption (I know, assumptions make an "ass" of you and "umption"...lol) is that it would be less costly to Paizo and would allow for a cheap measure of interest. Thoughts?

Still, I'd love to just see one product using the full force of Paizo's brilliant creativity (a compliment to you and your staff Mr.Jacobs), and marketed with the full swagger other products receive. I smile just thinking of it.

Roll often.

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber

While printing costs aren't trivial, I strongly suspect that the development cost is really what matters -- that producing PDF only isn't that big of a savings as all that. There's two things. First, there's the development cost. Second, there's the opportunity cost. Several Paizo staffers have said that they don't have any spare bandwidth; doing something, even if PDF only, would mean not doing something else.

Other than Slumbering Tsar, what are the 3pp products that support high level? I know that Little Red Goblin put out Legendary Levels to support 20+. (I don't have it myself; the highest-level game I'm running at the moment is 9, and mostly I run less than five right now!)


This came up before, and many of the posters/GM's here said they their cap for GM'ing is in the 15 level range, basically plus or minus to levels, but many of them also said they prefer to build up to that point. I would not mind starting a group at level 15 or higher, but that is just me however I seem to be in the minority.

An easier way to sell that 15+ level module is to make it part 3 or 4 in a series since GM prefer to start at a lower level, and build up to high levels.

Maybe starting at level 8-10 and trying to build get to somewhere between 17-20 across 3 or 4 modules.

Another idea is to do it as a one time super module, but it would still require paizo to give it a lot of attention, and take away from other products that they know have a much higher chance of selling better.

PS:Some of those 3pp writers are not bad, and some of them have worked with Paizo before.

President, Jon Brazer Enterprises

rknop wrote:
Other than Slumbering Tsar, what are the 3pp products that support high level?

The Book of Beasts: Legendary Monsters comes out tomorrow. It covers CR range 15-29. We are doing previews all week for it at JonBrazer.com.


Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Wrath of the Righteous is going up to level 20/Mythic Tier 10.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

Paradoxically, high-level adventures can be easier to homebrew design for. Enemy stat blocks are exponentially harder to generate, but the adventure concept and design itself can be easier. Come up with an impossible situation and let the PCs figure out how to solve it. Roll with whatever they come up with. Don't worry about negating their high level capabilities--they've earned them, let them walk through the dungeon walls or teleport across the continent to save the day just in time or rest up in their demiplanes. Just remember that at high levels, the bad guys have access to all the same tactics, so they will have things in place to prevent stuff like scry-n-fry.


Tossing my hat in to say that I'd buy the higher level stuff too since this seems like the best thread to do it right now.

I personally love playing higher level PC's and I love GM'ing for them as well. Having some more materials written by Paizo would be very welcomed by myself and my group.


One problem is that all the wizard problems become exposed.

In order for fights to be interesting, both sides have to be able to deal with limited wish, simulacrum, prismatic wall, maze, etc.

A lot of plot hooks kind of fall down when you can solve it by heading to your demiplane where time flows backwards or something


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Count me as another that is hugely interested in high level play. Modules for levels 18+? Gimme. Adventure seeds for "impossible" quests? I'll take that. More monsters suitable for high-level play (particularly non-Large-or-bigger)? I'd snap that up in a second. (Dale will see me buying from him in the very near future.) Advice on dealing with the perils and pitfalls a high-level party can deliver? I literally couldn't buy it fast enough.

Why? Because I have a party that I GM for who started out in AD&D 2E in 1991, and have been converted through 3.0, 3.5, and now Pathfinder. And we all still love playing them. They are currently at level 20, but there are still stories to tell. We recently started using the Mythic playtest rules to allow them to advance further. They've just settled down and created a small kingdom (thanks for Ultimate Campaign, by the way! Couldn't have come at a better time) and are learning to deal with the necessary diplomatic side of things. However, due to the difficulties involved in presenting sufficient challenges to the party (what can't a bard with Perform (Oratory) at +51 and Versatile Performance do with Diplomacy?) we've recently (last week) swapped characters to a group of 1st level "apprentices" while the high-level characters are off elsewhere for a while. This was actually a tactic on my part while I prepare enough challenging details to continue the high-level adventure. I need all the help I can get.


Brian Welcher 26 wrote:
I love Pathfinder. I have but one gripe. Why is there so little material for levels 16+?

If you asked me (and in doing so disregard the more qualified respondents upthread) it's because 16th-20th are really "the villain levels."

A perfect endgame for a campaign, IMO, is 16th-17th level PCs fighting the campaigns over-arching villain, a 20th-level somethingorother. c.f. Rise of the Runelords.

I plan on my next campaign incorporating Mythic and going much further. But the reason you don't get much support in publication is because, well, topping out at 16th is a really nice spot.

The Exchange

I disagree with the notion that "building for a fighter/cleric/rogue/wizard party" can accurately allow for the very large imbalances that missing one vital role (and, worse in some ways, doubling up on another role) can provide...

But more to the point, I feel that by 16th level, the PCs are becoming active (seeking out villains, establishing their own goals, etc.) very strongly, and by definition pre-fab adventures assume the PCs are being reactive. I suppose one could partly offset this with largely event-based adventures, or an adventure that provides the villain, a maze of agents and intrigues, and recommends various options - in short, the very opposite of a linear, place-based adventure.

Silver Crusade

A decade ago a gamer counted that 95% of 3rd edition adventures were level 13 or below. The question was whether there was a market for high level adventures. I'd say the question was superfluous; the numbers answer that question.

Designer factors likely include:

(1) low-level mechanics are simpler to work with, requiring less effort to generate; high-level contains too much complexity to develop generic but effective challenges to parties with extreme variety of options
(2) high-level does not appeal to the novice or new gamer seeking introduction to the game, and few groups reach high levels; given the time to construct a high-level character and/or effectively comprehend the class abilities, they make poor "one shot" or "starter" adventures
(3) Playtest has to be more time-consuming due to mechanics, and stat blocks for epic foes takes up more space, meaning less content.

In any case market research is the key. WotC put out its market research article explaining 46% of gamers have also DM'd, and DMs purchase 5x the amount of material as those who don't. They didn't reveal the numbers as to surveys detailing what the customers will spend money on, but if there's less profit on a high-level module, it's a no-brainer as to what's going to be printed.

As a personal survey, in 20 years and multiple editions, I've only once run a party from 1st to 20th level (2nd edition), and twice to 16th before stopping. It's not that I don't like the idea of high-levels, but it just isn't easy to get there or run them as "one shot" adventures (especially with the complex mechanics of characters now at those levels).


I'd like some higher level adventures. The type that would be easy to add on to the end of any AP. It seems we finish an AP and end up retiring the characters. My players want to continue to play them, but there is no content to run them through. Running a bunch of disjointed adventures for high level characters isn't very interesting.

Though I have to admit that Pathfinder isn't very well-designed for high level play. The game becomes far too easy for the players as they have defenses for everything and do so much damage that no single monster can stand against them for more than a round or two, not even dragons.

Sovereign Court

16+........no thanks! I am running Carrion Crown and my Players are level 12. We just started book 6 and I cant wait to get it over with.

Hope they throw you high level fans a bone sooner or later though.


Charlie Bell wrote:
Paradoxically, high-level adventures can be easier to homebrew design for. Enemy stat blocks are exponentially harder to generate, but the adventure concept and design itself can be easier. Come up with an impossible situation and let the PCs figure out how to solve it. Roll with whatever they come up with. Don't worry about negating their high level capabilities--they've earned them, let them walk through the dungeon walls or teleport across the continent to save the day just in time or rest up in their demiplanes. Just remember that at high levels, the bad guys have access to all the same tactics, so they will have things in place to prevent stuff like scry-n-fry.

^^^^

This as well.

While I would love to see increasing support for high-level Pathfinder, in a worse-case scenario situation I can always just design my own high-level plots and adventures. When I don't have pre-made material to draw from, I just run high-level campaigns the same way I run campaigns for Scion or Exalted.

Still, I would love to see more support material and I am eager for the day when this might be possible.


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All of the level 15+ games I've been in have been largely homebrewed down to their core. And I think that's not necessarily a bad thing. I can see how people want to play really powerful characters and make use of those class features that only come up at the VERY end. There are capstones for classes that never see any use simply because not a lot of people play to that level. How many of you have played a bard and got to use Deadly Performance? Who here got to benefit from Greater Spell Access with a high level magus? Even learning 9th level spells, as major an event as that would be for any class, is rarely addressed in many games as the adventurers never reach that kind of power by a longshot.

I'm not saying that we should be handing out that kind of power left and right, but if we want to reach those levels, there should be the option, right?


I also support more high level stuff I Want more adventures
and I would like a guide for high level play like the new guide that is coming out for into to the game


I'd like to add my support for 16+ level adventures from Paizo. Two of my favorite all-time published adventures, Bastion of Broken Souls and A Paladin in Hell, were high level. I enjoy writing up homebrew campaign material and adventures, but reading through a great high level adventure makes it easier to write your own adventures. And Paizo's 3E adventures paths Shackled City, Age of Worms, and Savage Tide ran to level 20.


I imagine there's not a lot of High Level adventures because its very difficult to write a scenario. At this level, Casters can turn the game into situations of "Did you think of X? Yes. How about Y? All there in the stat block. What Q and P and Z? .... No. Well that was fun, Gary just solved the plot.

All buildings have to be scry locked, have measures to prevent ethereal entry, never ever make them out of stone, or wood and heaven forbid you put any building on the ground. Bad guys plans can't be foiled by their minions being turned against them and that One Ring needs another way to be destroyed that Teleport can't solve (or Mage's Disjunction if you'd prefer not to travel 25% chance to end the plot ain't half bad). Basically trying to write a scenario for high levels requires a lot planning and thought to prevent it from coming down like a house of cards and so scenarios become increasingly pigeonholed.

Can it be done? Absolutely! But it works best if you know the precise group a high level scenario is being aimed at.


I'm also very much interested in seeing more support of any kind for the higher levels. Getting Mythic this year is a great start, though!


The big thing that I think cuts at the sales numbers for 16+ material is the fact that the system really doesn't work well at those levels. 6th-8th level is really about it's peak, and more than a couple levels outside that, the math doesn't play nicely. APs can get to level 16+, because they're what the entire campaign has been building up to, but if you don't have that foundation, there really isn't much of a benefit to playing higher level modules, which means there isn't much of a reason for them to put that stuff out.

Now, if Mythic is a success, and it manages to get the feel of highly powerful characters without the pitfalls of high level charachters, such that you can play mechanically 8th level characters, which feel like they're 18th or so, then I'd consider picking up some Mythic Modules, but I can't say I'd ever purchase a high-level module.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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"The System Doesn't Work"
No.

I have ran a level 14-19 game over the course of a couple years. I also ran a mythic playtest one-shot with 20th level characters. The system worked just fine for me. The hardest part wasn't game balance, it was simply encounter design, because NPCs had a lot of spells (and this is before stuff like the NPC Codex came out). I also found it hard as GM (but not impossible or game-destroying) to keep track of monsters' abilities when they had gazillions. I think often high CR monsters are designed by tacking on more and more abilities rather than making them really, frighteningly good at a few things, and that is a flaw in the game's creature design. It is especially problematic because while a monster may have 20 options for what he can do with his turn, he still only gets one turn per round (mythic rules where there's ways to give big bads an extra turn per round really helps).

It's not imbalanced, at least in my experience. It's just a lot of work.

I've often asked people who say "the system doesn't work at high levels" what happened in their high level adventures that made them think this. The answer I usually get is the sound of crickets chirping. By all means, if there are good experiential stories that illustrate this issue, I want to hear them.

"High Level Adventures Don't Sell"
There's a bit of an ourobosian issue here:

- When a game system come out, the focus is on lower level stuff, especially to support new players -- and this is a good strategy. GMs who, early-ish on, want to run a high level game, or are running a fast paced game that gets into high levels quickly, have no materials to support them...

- So GMs who want to run high level games design their own adventures and material....

- So when developers do get around to designing high level adventures, the GMs who'd most likely want them have already developed their own stuff, which may not work with the adventures the developers develop (For example, IIRC I was toward the end of my campaign when Moonscar came out. Unfortunately I had absolutely no use for and no way to build in what was basically a space adventure in my existing campaign.)...

- So then since not many people buy the adventures, developers think they don't sell, so GMs who want to write high level campaigns design their own stuff....

This is why I think the solution is a guidebook to designing and running your own high level campaigns, rather than just publishing modules.

If there are modules, they should probably be more a sandbox/story hook compilation rather than a linear module, which indeed doesn't work at all for a high level game.


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I almost think 16+ materials need their own format.

They're too cumbersome for a continuing adventure path, and any thorough treatment would seem to be too much for a traditional-sized Paizo module. Full disclosure, I've never read the Witchwar Legacy, so this may be untrue!

If I had to imagine an 18th, or 19th, or 20th level adventure product, it would probably be more like a campaign setting sourcebook. Ninety-eight pages detailing the tactics and powers of a high-level threat, including a map of its stronghold and potential contested sites and its countermeasures to obvious high-level tactics (the so-called scry-n-die).

Such a book should contain adventure seeds, sure, but in the high level game conventional adventure hooks are a lot harder to write in a generic way. As a GM, I'm confident I can dream up a reason for the players to infiltrate a hellknight citadel, what I really need to know is who is in it, and what happens to the poor fools who think a handful of high-level spells will make it a cakewalk.

It seems like this might be the direction some of the Campaign Setting books are headed. If so, I look forward to that.

If I may suggest something, I think any such book should include a very comprehensive section on how high level spells interact with the adventure sites. Some adventure modules (Iron Medusa, and that one in Jalmaray whose name escapes me) already have a little spell section, but I'm talking about a thorough treatment. Even if this section simply restates or clarifies certain parts about the spells, that's a boon... most groups don't know the details on high-level spells half as well as the low-level ones.

Knowing how an archmage or powerful organization plans countermeasures for its powerful enemies is the best possible use of space in the book. I'd like to dispense with prose for that function, and have a simple spell lookup appendix of 5-10 pages or more. Go ahead and include non-spell tactics, like stealth and frontal assaults as well, but we all know what GMs need the most support with.


Quaker and Lincoln think alike, it seems.


Icyshadow wrote:
Quaker and Lincoln think alike, it seems.

4 minutes apart, we must have been typing at the same time. :-P

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

I also support more high level stuff. I'm hoping mythic and Wrath of the Righteous will scratch some of that itch. Having run several campaigns in (ranging from 1e to PF) up to 21+, first I want to agree with this:

Charlie Bell wrote:

Paradoxically, high-level adventures can be easier to homebrew design for. Enemy stat blocks are exponentially harder to generate, but the adventure concept and design itself can be easier. Come up with an impossible situation and let the PCs figure out how to solve it. Roll with whatever they come up with. Don't worry about negating their high level capabilities--they've earned them, let them walk through the dungeon walls or teleport across the continent to save the day just in time or rest up in their demiplanes. Just remember that at high levels, the bad guys have access to all the same tactics, so they will have things in place to prevent stuff like scry-n-fry.

The hard part is building adversaries. I think there is a fundamental difference in adventure design at high levels, just like there is a difference in design between 1st level and 10th. My method of designing a high level adventure is this:

Brainstorm impossible things.
Think of every way I can conceive to solve the problem and shut it down somehow.
Throw it to the PCs, watch them solve it in no time.

It's a little tongue in cheek but it gets the point across - high level stuff should require stupid degenerate crazy tactics to deal with, not just negate all the PCs cool toys. But that requires a very good knowledge of your group's exact capabilities, which is really tough to do in module form.

I think a guidebook to level 16+ play would be a good idea. I'd also like a list of "epic plot hooks." Things like, "a tear in time is slowly comsuming the world and replacing previously known areas with bits of the past and future." How do the PCs fix it? That's not the GM's job to figure out at high levels. Throw it at them and see what they do with it.


Rulebook line High-level Guidebook would be nice.

Campaign Setting line dedicated to big-name villains and their organizations would be better.

I don't feel as much of a need for the former as the latter. Luckily, I see something akin to the latter on the release schedule, so I'm pleased.

President, Jon Brazer Enterprises

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The Book of Beasts: Legendary Foes is now available for your high level games.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Evil Lincoln wrote:
Icyshadow wrote:
Quaker and Lincoln think alike, it seems.

That seems appropriate, somehow, based on our monikers.

Quote:


4 minutes apart, we must have been typing at the same time. :-P

It is indeed interesting we come to some similar conclusions. Your outline for the guidebooks is a lot around what I was thinking too. Even if they didn't do a full 98 pager on it I think something like that would be the direction to take.

Quote:


Rulebook line High-level Guidebook would be nice.

Campaign Setting line dedicated to big-name villains and their organizations would be better.

I really can't see why there couldn't be both. And the former WOULD be important as I think there's a fair amount of those GMs who DO like to run high level games also tend to be the kind of people who like to homebrew their own settings. A Golarion-free guidebook would be welcome, therefore.

But absolutely something more fluff-based with organizations and maps and everything could also be extraordinarily useful, and it would probably also attract players looking for ideas and fluff to read as well as GMs needing some adventure assistance.


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Icyshadow wrote:
Quaker and Lincoln think alike, it seems.

Count me in the same boat. I wholeheartedly agree on Lincoln's take for high-level product design. And Deathquaker's rebuttals are spot-on, IMO.

WARNING, LONG DISCUSSION INCOMING:

The system works fine at levels 16+. The issue isn't with the game, it's with the paradigms of GMs who keep trying to adapt low to mid-level story structure to high-level play. There is a large paradigm shift that occurs (or should occur) once you hit high-level play where major elements of encounter design and plot design function differently. Now, I'm not saying the fundamentals of storytelling should change, on the contrary, the basic truths of good storytelling and plot design (and most of the dos and don'ts) are unchanged. Same as if you're an author writing street-level crime thrillers or a dramatic saga about Norse Gods - the basics are always the basics. However, the framework utilized to tell these stories (or modules in the case of adventure design as being discussed here) needs to be adapted to meet the style and needs of high-level play. That's always been the biggest hurdle since 3rd edition started.

I've always utilized a multi-tiered framework for designing homebrew adventures which is based around the concept that the themes and style of different levels of play undergo paradigm shifts at various plateaus of power. For me, these shifts occur at 7th, 11th, 15th, and 20th level. Now, for the lowest three tiers of play (1-6, 7-10, and 11-14) it's mostly the mechanics and themes that change but the actual adventure module format continues to work fine through all three of these tiers.

An example of a story-mechanics paradigm shift that occurs would be the use of natural disasters and how they're utilized as a storytelling device. At Tier One (Levels 1-6) the use of natural disasters serve as a plot device - tornadoes and avalanches that must be avoided as shelter is sought out or as "acts of god" in which the characters must deal with the tragedy of the aftermath. At Tier Two (Levels 7-10), natural disasters are now encounters and obstacles to be triumphed over sometimes with great difficulty but obstacles which can be faced head-on nonetheless. At Tier Three (Levels 11-14), natural disasters should no longer be used as storytelling device to threaten single parties (that role should now be reserved for extreme environmental effects and "unnatural" disasters such as a magical spellstorm or some such) but should now be used on an increased scale of widespread devastation (an 80-mile-wide flood is no more a threat to a Level 13 party than a 1-mile-wide flood of the same force) which puts the party into the role of immovable-object meeting unstoppable-force in order to save a large city or region from natural destruction.

Now the example above doesn't directly deal with the issues of storytelling for high-level parties but I first wanted to illustrate my design philosophy of storytelling paradigm shifts. With the above, though the purpose of natural disasters changes as an adventure tool between the first three tiers, the way in which such events can be written into a module doesn't really change from one tier to another -the standard adventure format works just fine in each of these cases (for reference, see any of the natural disaster encounters Paizo has worked into their APs over the years from Shackled City all the way to Reign of Winter).

However, once you get to the last two Tiers (at Levels 15 and 20), not only do the ways in which encounters are utilized change but also a good deal of the format for design philosophy itself changes, at least for me. Though that doesn't mean I agree with Anzyr above - Paizo has proven on many occasions (Spires of Xin-Shalast, The Witchwar Legacy, The Moonscar, Dead Heart of Xin, and the last two or three parts each of Shackled City, Age of Worms, and Savage Tide) that the standard adventure module format absolutely can and does work for the highest levels of play when the authors know what they're doing. Yes, sometimes you might need to use scry-locks or teleport-locks and the like, but a lot of the time (most of the time) you don't (or shouldn't) need to do that. Relying on such contrivances most of the time just speaks to bad plot design or a lack of story innovation. Again, not saying it should never be done - sometimes it's right for the story and the sign of a good module author is one that knows the difference between the right time and the wrong time.

All that being said (and I do apologize for the length of this post), I do agree greatly with Evil Lincoln that an overhaul (or at least a slight adjustment) of the format of how high-level design is handled in general for modules might actually finally help break the vicious cycle of supply vs. demand issues for high-level content. Paizo's Mythic Adventures is certainly one way in which high-level design philosophy is finally being addressed and innovated upon but it's a horizontal solution (though one I am very much looking forward to). There still needs be something for just straight high-level play as well. Again, Paizo's authors and freelancers are certainly aware of this which is why the high-level modules they do publish so often work, as high-level design concepts (such as the ones Lincoln suggested above) find their way into Paizo adventure modules in small doses: such as how Spires of Xin-Shalast is much more "sandboxy" than the previous modules in RotRL, or how the final dungeon is designed in Dead Heart of Xin compared to the previous dungeons in Shattered Star, or how the assault on the "Big Bad's" lair is handled in the last couple modules of Savage Tide. If that style of design philosophy could be carried forward on a macro-level for high-level play and adventure design, in general, I think it could change how high-level content is positioned in the industry, both on a marketing and product design level.

For a few years now, I've actually been meaning to write some kind of gaming. . . essay? Thesis? Design column? I don't know what you'd call it, but regardless, some form of written extrapolation on this subject and my take on "Level Tiers or Plateaus" and "Storytelling Paradigm Shift" but I've never really decided on the platform or delivery vehicle on which my discussions should take place, nor whether I'd even have an audience for such things. I suppose my overly-long diatribe above is a slight microcosm of said essay. Though it I were to ever do such a thing it would be much better formatted than my above writing which I'm sure is just quick stream-of-thought in quality.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Evil Lincoln wrote:
Brian Welcher 26 wrote:
I love Pathfinder. I have but one gripe. Why is there so little material for levels 16+?

If you asked me (and in doing so disregard the more qualified respondents upthread) it's because 16th-20th are really "the villain levels."

That pretty much nails it for me. Many times when I'm reading the high level spells in the old First Edition Players Handbook, it has struck me that Gygax only intended the real high level stuff to be used by NPC's, either the Big Bad Wizard and/or the EHP as we used to refer to his clerical counterpart, or the very very rare helpful NPC, who'd just as quickly bow out of the stage and leave the player heroes to get their job done.

Liberty's Edge

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I'd like to see an occasional module that's actually done like Part 6.5 of an Adventure Path.

Basically, take an Adventure Path, and write a module that's designed to be run after the completion of Book 6, but can also be run on it's own.

By tying it into an existing Adventure Path, it may help increase sales, and it may fit in better with a higher level campaign that's spent most of a year running through an Adventure Path in that particular setting.

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