Starting at Level 20?


Wrath of the Righteous


So my group wants to start this, and weve just hit level 20 after RotRl (Had to play with the exp a bit there) and I'm wondering, how ould I go about staring this FROM level 20. Monsters and Exp are easy enough to fudge, but Loot seems like its going to be a problem. not everyone the world is going to be carrying around a +5 Vorpal Longsword, or any such thing.

Anyone have any ideas?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Have the characters play the children or siblings of the Runelords heroes and start over at 1st level. Because let's face it. Four 20th level heroes would look at the Balor, say "You're not killing OUR Dragon!" and then nuke him. And they might very well succeed.

There's nothing wrong with starting with new characters. Heck, they could even take their old characters and start over at 1st level. It could give them an opportunity to take their characters on a different path than before.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Actually... that particular Balor would wipe the floor with a group of non-mythic 20th level characters.

I'm not sure what his final CR will be yet... but it'll be around CR 25.

The Exchange

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James Jacobs wrote:

Actually... that particular Balor would wipe the floor with a group of non-mythic 20th level characters.

I'm not sure what his final CR will be yet... but it'll be around CR 25.

That could explain how your 20th level characters meet their match, if they want to continue playing the same characters they can try to fight the balor in an impossible fight. Have him basically never run out of hitpoints or have a ridiculous DR, you can play it up. Let it go a few rounds before having him just nova them with his Deity-ending death ray of destruction and as they lay their dying. Instead of finishing them off have him just "sap" them of their power effectively a negative level drain effect-esque. This could be a good tie in because now their motivation is to get their power back.

Just my 2 copper on how I'd play out your situation.


Tangent101 wrote:
Have the characters play the children or siblings of the Runelords heroes and start over at 1st level. Because let's face it. Four 20th level heroes would look at the Balor, say "You're not killing OUR Dragon!" and then nuke him. And they might very well succeed.

Or whack him with a Banishment spell strong enough to boot him back to the Abyss, at least (unless he's like Treerazer). It's do-able for a wizard (at 20th level, get one of the party to start with a Wish/Miracle spell debuff of -9 to saves, maybe a second debuff from Bestow Curse or the like, and then a DC 31+ Banishment; it might be enough to remove him from play temporarily).

But could you rewrite the scenario to allow for the battle between the dragon and balor to be essentially over already when the PCs actually get there? It'd be less about saving the dragon and more about getting vengeance or justice for it.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Actually, Codanous has a rather nasty and delicious idea here.

So let them. Have them be there. Have them attack the Balor. Have the Balor go several rounds with them, turning them into mincemeat. Let the Balor kill them. And then have them wake up as they see their magic and power leached out of them, and in the grasp of the Balor.

He can laugh at them, and then cast them into the pit before slamming it shut.

The end result? The PCs start at 1st level with their beginning stats, with absolutely no equipment at all. They will find four bodies (or maybe five) in the pit, along with the NPCs... and can loot those corpses and then start working on how to get out of there.

Admittedly the PCs may hate your guts for doing this. But it lets them play their characters still.


Alleran wrote:

But could you rewrite the scenario to allow for the battle between the dragon and balor to be essentially over already when the PCs actually get there? It'd be less about saving the dragon and more about getting vengeance or justice for it.

That is the kinda stuff Im going for. They want to continue with paizo cuz they like the structure (wierd?) and the stories are very cool. Plus they got their 20th level fun stuffs. I can jerry-rig battles pretty well using things like Alleran mentioned. but again its more the LOOT that puzzles me

every random demon doesnt have a royal treasury worth of gold in his pocket.

President, Jon Brazer Enterprises

You might want to check out the Book of Beasts: Legendary Foes. This monster book was designed to challenge high level payers. It might be what you are looking for to challenge your high level party as they gain mythic tiers.

[/shameless plug]

Liberty's Edge

Playing this as a group of 20th level characters, eschewing levels and simply gaining tiers could be pretty cool. I don't really have any suggestions for adjusting encounters or treasure, but it sounds like a neat idea.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

You know... I mentioned the "losing levels and starting at 1st level" concept to one of my players. He was so aghast at the concept that I swear I had a shoulder devil laughing into my ear.

So I suppose the alternative is to kill off the entire 20th level group using a swarm of demons and the uber-Balor, and then have them roll up fresh 1st level characters who were at ground zero and saved by the dragon.

For some reason after typing that I hear something sobbing in my other ear. Odd, that.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tangent101 wrote:

Actually, Codanous has a rather nasty and delicious idea here.

So let them. Have them be there. Have them attack the Balor. Have the Balor go several rounds with them, turning them into mincemeat. Let the Balor kill them. And then have them wake up as they see their magic and power leached out of them, and in the grasp of the Balor.

He can laugh at them, and then cast them into the pit before slamming it shut.

The end result? The PCs start at 1st level with their beginning stats, with absolutely no equipment at all. They will find four bodies (or maybe five) in the pit, along with the NPCs... and can loot those corpses and then start working on how to get out of there.

Admittedly the PCs may hate your guts for doing this. But it lets them play their characters still.

Let each 20th level PC make a 1st level squire/apprentice/torchcarrier to go on this epic journey to the Worldwound. Have the 20th level PCs fight the Balor while the 1st levels hangout somewhat under the dragon's protection. Slaughter the 20th level characters. Then they can start over as their 1st level characters. That would truly drive home how dangerous their quest is.

But seriously, have them make new characters and start at the beginning.

-Skeld


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

Actually... that particular Balor would wipe the floor with a group of non-mythic 20th level characters.

I'm not sure what his final CR will be yet... but it'll be around CR 25.

Really? CR 25 seems very doable for a level 20 party. Does he have something that makes him especially powerful against non-mythic characters?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Mechalibur wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

Actually... that particular Balor would wipe the floor with a group of non-mythic 20th level characters.

I'm not sure what his final CR will be yet... but it'll be around CR 25.

Really? CR 25 seems very doable for a level 20 party. Does he have something that makes him especially powerful against non-mythic characters?

Depends on the party, the setup, the skill of the players, the skill of the GM, and more... but strictly by the rules, the expectation is that a CR 25 encounter is a tough one for a 20th level party.

And yes...

Spoiler:
...part of the reason he's so powerful is that he's mythic himself, in fact. He'll be statted up in the last adventure.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Depends on the party, the setup, the skill of the players, the skill of the GM, and more... but strictly by the rules, the expectation is that a CR 25 encounter is a tough one for a 20th level party.

*Warning, nitpicking*

Yeah, but those standards are applied universally across each level, and in practice it doesn't often work that way. I mean, take Shattered Star, for example. The CR difference between the party's APL and final encounter gradually increases over the six adventures, ending with a APL + 5 CR fight. And that's likely an encounter at the end of the day when resources are lower; if players are expected to beat that, I'd think a level 20 party would be able to give a CR 25 enemy a run for his money, so I wouldn't say they'd automatically get destroyed or anything.

Then again...

Spoiler:
If the Storm King requires mythic power to beat, then there is no way a non-mythic party would be able to stop him if that's how they start the encounter.

And there are probably enough other demons running around Kenabres to make the fight even more challenging :)

Silver Crusade

You could try doing a layered gestalt. They start taking levels in another class on a "non-stacking, take the better of each" system. Use mythic ranks on the monsters to buff them up, and beef up traps and environments to maintain challenge. Since class levels aren't stacking (strictly speaking), their APL doesn't advance on a 1:1 ratio, and difficulty doesn't need to scale very quickly.

As for loot and gear, they shouldn't need drastically more treasure to keep up with the challenges. They should only need new gear appropriate to their new gestalt class levels (the same 1-20 as before). Therefore, the treasure gained, although greatly reduced in rate from their previous adventure, keeps up with their new needs (not wants) as set by the challenge increase of the encounters and their new class abilities.

That's what I'd do at least. It will require a great amount of GM intuition and winging it either way, to the point where an entire answer to your problem can't be provided by anyone who isn't in your gaming group.


I think the ability of high level groups to easily handle high encounters varies a lot from group to group. The people I play with would probably die hortobly :P.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Well, a normal party having finished Runelords and with the treasures of Karzoug including several minor artifacts COULD give a certain Balor Lord a run for his money. If he was alone. He's not. He's attacking with a number of high-CR demons and can easily summon more. And while the 20th level PCs could likely take on a swarm of CR 17 demons... having four or five CR 17 demons, a CR-20 Summon from the Balor Lord, and the CR 25 Balor Lord himself piling onto the PCs at pretty much the same time?

Well, they're there to destroy the city. The fight alone likely would succeed in that.


Tangent101 wrote:

Well, a normal party having finished Runelords and with the treasures of Karzoug including several minor artifacts COULD give a certain Balor Lord a run for his money. If he was alone. He's not. He's attacking with a number of high-CR demons and can easily summon more. And while the 20th level PCs could likely take on a swarm of CR 17 demons... having four or five CR 17 demons, a CR-20 Summon from the Balor Lord, and the CR 25 Balor Lord himself piling onto the PCs at pretty much the same time?

Well, they're there to destroy the city. The fight alone likely would succeed in that.

This sounds like exactly the sort of thing you need to kick off a high-level Mythic campaign. Not only are the PCs there to help with the Worldwound, but they get introduced to a whole new level of power.

And wrecking the whole city in the fight? That sounds more than acceptable. You want a big set piece to kick off the campaign - putting the players into a knock-down, drag-out fight with some of the real heavy hitters.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

What's the point?

Your characters aren't going to level up anymore. They're stuck in that point in time. And while they'll get Mythic Tiers... actually, will they? Why would they? They're 20th level characters. Why would anything in these campaigns that doesn't happen off-screen threaten them? I mean, a level 5 cleric? Scary. Really. The second and third APs are for level 5-7 and 8-10 to get the first four Mythic Tiers. But how will the encounters be Mythic if the characters can sneeze in the general direction and overcome their foes?

For all my grousing about the Traits, this is another aspect. There are Mythic Traits... that a Runelords player wouldn't have. Why should these characters gain Mythic abilities? Hell, they took out Karzoug. They brought a city of giants to heel. Why would THEY get Mythic Powers to "help out" in a situation where they're overpowered?

The Second AP has the group commanding a small army to take back a city that the Demons overrun decades back. Four 20th level PCs would likely be able to do this on their own without help.

So in short, either this is an utter cakewalk... or you have to do such a massive rewrite of the game that in the end you're better off just making your own adventure for 20th level characters.

Retire the Runelords characters. It's time for new heroes to rise.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Actually levels 6-9 and 9-12, but otherwise right on.


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Offhand, I'd have to agree with others who say it would require some substantial rewrites, but on the other hand, it sounds like it could be a really cool idea.

I'd run with the idea of the PCs being elsewhere in the city- running around, saving the citizens, trying to prevent the worst of the atrocities to city and people alike. Then have them get hit with the images of the attack by the Storm King that took place elsewhere, and work from there. Have them gain their first Mythic tier by the end of the adventure.

Again, you're going to have to adjust all the encounters along the way, but it sounds like you're mostly okay with that concept.

As for rewards, a couple of thoughts come to mind. Ask your players what kind of rewards they'd be looking/hoping for for such high level characters. They already know they won't be leveling any more (aside from Mythic tiers), so presumably they're okay with that. The downtime rules would be a great alternative to actual physical rewards; the gp they'd earn could be spent on retraining, or upgrading magical items, or building buildings and things (Kenabres will need a lot of upkeep after the Storm King's attack). They could be earning influence and perhaps even doing some sandbox-style kingdom building- these are the movers and shakers of your Golarion now, after all, so they could certainly be setting up a power base in a very war torn and shattered land.

Maybe rather than treasury-worth loot that is being carted around by demons and other enemies (not very practical, I agree), you can translate that sort of gp value into BPs for building, or other such influence.

They might be just as happy with those sorts of rewards- not necessarily tangible (although, again, gp can be spent in a lot of different ways) but perhaps just as fulfilling.

I'd be very interested in hearing more about a campaign run this way. If you go for it, please keep us informed as to how it goes/went. :)


Tangent101 wrote:
And while they'll get Mythic Tiers... actually, will they? Why would they?

Because a mythic trial doesn't have to be a set of CR-appropriate combat encounters? If that's all mythic trials were, I'd think something had gone extremely wrong in the design process.

Some rewriting would absolutely be needed, but I don't see the sky falling. If the GM is willing and the players are eager, then the campaign can, or dare I say should, be modified to best fit the needs of the gaming group.


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I really like this idea, playing Wrath of the Righteous as top-tier, experienced adventurers on the verge of becoming mythic characters in the world.

I'd imagine there would be a heavy amount of rewriting of the AP. Instead of having the PCs start off a level 1 bystanders, your players should be thrusted to the forefront of the new Worldwound war, taking positions of leadership or simply being powerful agents that major events will revolve around.

What I would do is this:
- Reserve item rewards for mythic encounters, or where they would make sense (monster hoard, lost treasure, etc.)
- Focus on non-tangible rewards: earning fame and prestige from their acts to use to lead or influence the crusaders against the demons, claiming territory from the demons, build points/reousrces to build armies/settlements to fight against demon armies, capital/goods/services for PCs' personal projects (I'd use Ultimate Campaigns for a lot of these).

For encounters:
- Not worry about the small fry; focus fights with the captains/generals/leaders of the demons, or their high-level agents.
- Use mass combat: have the PCs lead armies against the demons. Defeat means loss of territory, loss of people and resources.
- Hit what the PCs can't easily protect. Have demons target population, refugees, destroy buildings and settlements.
- Have multiple encounters at the same time. By which I mean, the demons are hitting 5 targets at once, but the PCs only have resources to defend 2-3 of them when they happen.
- Design problems that can't easily be resolved by hitting things or casting a spell. Play up the corruption (both natural and demonic) that is among the crusaders. Have different factions of the crusaders opposing each other over plans and limited resources. Have the PCs work hard to gather support from the demoralize populace.

The NPCs:
- If you want to use the NPCs already present, like Anevia, Horgus, and Irabeth, bumped up their importance inthe world. Have Irabeth be a senior knight and leader. Horgus is one of the leaders of Kenabres. Anevia leads the crusader scouts and is famous for her successful high-risk forays into demon territory. Similar roles as they are written, but on a grander scale.

The first module:
- Rewrite the adventure to be the Battle of Kenabres. The PCs should be at the forefront of the the Kenabres defences, and focus on battles with demon captains and their entourage.
- However, I would have the major players of the invaders (generals, Khorramzadeh himself) be unbeatable without getting some mythic tiers. Throw in some nascent demon lords to knock around the PCs. Show them why they need to get more powerful beyond what they are to have a fighting chance against the demons.
- Overall, Kenabres should fall, and the focus of the PCs should be a fighting retreat, with the goal being saving as many people and resources as they can. Use those resources later to help throughout the campaign.
- Use a battle point system (like the one in Council of Thieves). Each encounter rewards battle points of varying amount depending on how well the PCs do. At the end, tally them up, and determine how much the PCs saved as they retreat from Kenabres.

Hope these ideas help!


I think it is a great idea. Get everyone to play their favourite PC's from the APs they have done and turn back the terrible tide.


Another idea for encounters that I just thought of while reading Kain Gallant's post; the Troop subtype could also be used to create (or recreate) some of the encounters so that they would be suitable challenges for high level PCs. Imagine swarms of low-CR demons attacking en masse; or small divisions of enemies charging the meager numbers of PCs.


Something else that occurs to me; if your characters have done Rise of the Runelords, they've probably already picked their campaign traits. While they certainly aren't a requirement of the AP, you might consider either modifying their existing traits so that they can benefit from the Trait "boons" in this AP, or allowing them to select a new campaign trait from those in this module and incorporating it into their existing character backgrounds; either using events/people they already have established for the roles, or "discovering" new events in their past that relate to this AP itself.


Also, the more I think about it, the more I think retraining would be something I'd definitely allow. Players might find that what worked in the RotR AP might not be as effective in this one against the different foes they might face. Allowing retraining gives them something to spend earned gp on, gives them a continuing sense of mechanically building their characters (which, face it, is one of the most fun parts of playing an RPG), and thematically fits the overall goal; as they focus their efforts more on a different purpose, they condition themselves to better handle its challenges. Their 20th level characters may end up looking very differently at the end of WotR than they did at the end of RotR, but they still maintain their established histories, personalities, etc, and it was still something of an organic process reaching their current builds.

Silver Crusade

Not to derail this topic.. but "You could try doing a layered gestalt."

What the heck is gestalt, ive heard the term around these forums before, but never in person and none of my fellow gamers know what it means.


Klokk wrote:

Not to derail this topic.. but "You could try doing a layered gestalt."

What the heck is gestalt, ive heard the term around these forums before, but never in person and none of my fellow gamers know what it means.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/gestaltCharacters.htm

http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2o71e?Gestalt


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Klokk wrote:

Not to derail this topic.. but "You could try doing a layered gestalt."

What the heck is gestalt, ive heard the term around these forums before, but never in person and none of my fellow gamers know what it means.

Basically a sort of "play two classes at once" character, comes from the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana book (or maybe some edition before already had the concept, but that's from where I've seen it). It's normally used if you have very few players and want to even out the power differential.

Silver Crusade

Nice, is there something for those with too many players that need to weaken things :)

Liberty's Edge

I like this idea and think I will use it with my group and their shackled city characters.


I think the main problem you'd get with trying to run this at 20th level is not that you'd need to bump up the encounters by a huge amount, but that the PCs have abilities (divination, teleportation, etc) that will break the story wide open. I've not read any of this AP, but if it's anything like the rest, it just won't work.


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

I don't want to ruin your fun, but this doesn't seem like a good idea. Your players will just blast through all the problems, without so much as a scratch. And draining their powers making them start over from first level would likely just annoy them, if they really want to play the same characters again, just start over from first level with the same characters, they may find their characters change with the adventure.

The Exchange

I'm kind of surprised nobody suggested this one yet...

Have your players generate low- (not necessarily 1st) level characters who are employed by the Discoverers of Xin-Shalast; say, each player could be an agent trained or hired or distantly related to one of the other PCs from RotRL. Run them through the first leg or two of the AP until they're convinced that the only way the world has a chance is for them to turn things over to the only people they think have a chance. You might still have to beef up things for a while in the AP, but at least the 20th-level mega-characters wouldn't be yawning as they annihilated entire species of CR 1 enemies.

A sub-set of this possibility, depending on whether "mythic tiers" are something just being discovered in the AP - which I haven't read - would be for the new guys to discover how to get access to this power, and share that knowledge with their 20th-level patrons. Once the 20th-level PCs discover there's greater power to be had, they'll probably sign up just for that. (Saving the world is just gravy.)

Silver Crusade

it is an event that causes the mythic-ness to occur, perhaps because the low level characters are tied to the 20th mega characters you could have the mythic-ness flow into them using your storytelling skills. Its really not written to happen like that at all, but if your players are that stubborn, you may have to do it and they do not make it harder. show them how much of a cakewalk it is for themselves. give them the option at adventure 3 or 5 to start an appropriate level character, maybe your players just want to play diablo, the path isnt like that from what ive read. but maybe they just want to kill stuff and not really risk dying.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I say sic the Balor on them after it kills the dragon. And have the Balor have reinforcements. And don't show any mercy at all. Be completely and utterly evil. After they probably drive off the demons, ask if they want to do a cakewalk from this point on, or start with new characters.


Have them advance into epic levels. Beef up the monsters too.

Sovereign Court

@ Effendoor

JUST SAY NO ...


Go for it effendor. The players should be Centre stage, so if you are willing to put the effort in I see no reason why it shouldn't be a success. Look forward to reading any play reports.


This *isn't* a bad idea.

That said it also *isn't* Wrath of the Righteous. This would require a rewrite on such a massive scale that it would be a completely different campaign. It's not like you can just switch out all of the encounters for level appropriate ones and call it a day.


What about a bit of reincarnation?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Actually, this would be doable. Maybe the crystals have abilities that can be broadcast to underlings, upping their power levels by a substantial amount, making them a challenge for level 20 characters. Maybe they aren't all that rare, putting a few into the hands of "lieutenants" and such. Perhaps being close/in range negatively affects how magic works, well, mortal magic anyway, causing teleports, divinations, and such to falter. Yeah, doing this wouldn't be all that hard really, bit of work on the boosts and you're in there.

As to loot, well, you're hosed. They need to forget about the loot carrot, after all, they're already level 20. At this point they aren't thinking about the next score, they need to put their eyes on the real game.


Effendoor wrote:

So my group wants to start this, and weve just hit level 20 after RotRl (Had to play with the exp a bit there) and I'm wondering, how ould I go about staring this FROM level 20. Monsters and Exp are easy enough to fudge, but Loot seems like its going to be a problem. not everyone the world is going to be carrying around a +5 Vorpal Longsword, or any such thing.

Anyone have any ideas?

I strongly feel it would be best if you read the last 3 adventure paths to get some ideas and then made up your own campaign in response to your players incursion into the world wound.

Also there is no xp, tell them there is no more xp gaining the only way to advance is via the trials.

I am not sure about the loot. How does it work with mythic rules?

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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Losing levels often feels worse than starting over, at least with the groups I have personal experience with. So with that in mind, how about this:

Scrap book 1, have Apovonicus (sp?) infiltrate another Wardstone keep through some chicanery. The group, en-route to Kenebras, is able to learn of this plot, and save the Wardstone, facing up with the Marilith and her task force. Relatively short dungeon adventure, just to get things started

The beginning of Book 2, replace with the "Long Walk". Having defeated one of his powerful servants, Deskari marks the group with the "Locust Mark", a powerful curse that prevents restful sleep and serves as a dimensional anchor. Only the Sword of Valor can break this curse, forcing an arduous trek through the worldwound. The group must weigh every hitpoint lost and every spell cast in order to reach Drezen. Once there, they meet up with the scattered survivors of the original expedition (the NPCs, essentially), and proceed with the final assault on the citadel.

Run book 3 with somewhat beefed up monsters mostly as written. Their moment of Ascension comes when they destroy the Worm that walks, and are bathed in its foulness.

From there on out, continue pretty much as written. Add some mythic trials if required, or otherwise decide that the pick of 2 APs worth of weapons outweighs the disadvantage in mythic tiers.

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