Hints for High Level DMing


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Dotting. Fantastic thread. Passed it along to all my fellow players and the GM of my group. Can't wait to help implement as many of these suggestions as possible into our current kingmaker game!


I have a tip that is situationally useful:

Give the PCs a Mysterious Macguffin

This can help if you need to wing it, for the story's sake or to prevent a tpk. I was GMing a group of seven PCs around 10th level in 3E and four PCs failed their will saves against a mind flayer's mind blast in an APL-2 encounter with two mind flayers. It became a difficult encounter, with seven PCs managing nine failed will saves by the end. I had the two mind flayers argue with each other until enough PCs recovered to prevent several PC deaths, and afterwards the group brainstormed what I could have done as DM in that situation. We came up with "give the group a mysterious item, and in a potential tpk situation one opponent takes the item and runs rather than killing the PCs." This bit of deux ex machina has some flexibility, a never-before seen opponent could show up, kill the original opponents, grab the item, and run off (conveniently not killing the PCs). Or it can be worked into the story if the group hits a dead end in an investigation. Having a mysterious item in your back pocket (or a PC's back pocket) is a nice option if deux ex machina is called for.

Liberty's Edge

Cool stuff here, worth dotting!


DOT


Dot.


Dotted. Some very good advice in here!


.


strayshift wrote:

Fate is a powerful tool.

CuChulainn must obey a request from a Druid, even though it leads to his death. Oedipus's father ultimately cannot avoid his fate. There is no reason why great heroes (the pcs) cannot be bound by prophesy or fate.

The AD&D 2nd edition Complete Fighter's Handbook presented several role-playing archetypes, and there was one - The Doomed Champion - that was more intriguing to me than any of the others. Basically the character knows despite all his best efforts he doomed to die (due to a curse, prophecy, disease, take your pick). He still fights for good, but the fate hangs heavy on him. I've always wanted to try this one out, but haven't had the right opportunnity.


Good stuff here, I'll be coming back


dot

Sovereign Court

Dot


Matthulu wrote:
dot. this is a great thred btw

Out standing ! great idea. There is always a "cost" collateral damage.


Read Sepulchrave's Story Hour.

Then read the accompanyin ENWorld threads with stats for the PCs and NPCs.

Custom build your NPCs and upgrade demon lords a lot.

Embrace the Vancian Casting quirkiness.


I find high level play is more a about choices and consequences. The question then become not if the players can do something but should they do it.

The problem is having consequence the players care about. If you use the lower level to immerse the characters in the setting then they begin to care about it. Then consequences that impact the setting have an impact on the player decisions at high levels.

I find it's hard to get players invested to this degree though. The Ultimate Campaign book sure helps though.


I'mma have to dot this.


*blink*


Dotting. Oh, man, there's some stuff here I've gotta keep in mind next time I GM above single-digits.


Great thread.

Dot.


There are some good high level adventures out there, so check them out.

Invest in connecting the PCs/players with the world. Not starting at super high level helps but it can be done from scratch too. Having dependants/loved ones or enemies and connections in the world helps.

Worldbuild large organizations and running them as entities gives new powerful forces to ally or contend with.


A normal person/average guy is not a first level NPC. Those are adolescents at best.

Average guy NPCs are level 2-5 though seldom optimized. (Indeed few people should be min maxed/optimized).

Check out this thread for thoughts on NPC leveling and some quick NPCs too.

This helps buffering/offsetting PCs are super special why don't they curb stomp the world problems


Dont fetishize balance in encounters!

Have a wandering monster table/random encounters and more encounters per day but lower EL in general or adequate EL but lots of enemies. Use high EL encounters sparingly.

Read the Alexandrian article on encounters and balance... and also this one


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High level play is more sandboxy as PCs are better able to derail pre planned adventures. Also as players have more agency they can and shoulb be able to change the campaign world to a significant degree.

So read up on Sandbox play. For example here

Silver Crusade

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This thread's recent re-activity makes me want to contribute again. I had to wrack my brain for good advice.

"Sub-Zero? Now Just Plain Zero!"

Past a certain point, heroes are going to be fighting NPCs and baddies who are a little below their level. A 14th level party might end up dealing with like a few 11th level drow fighters in an encounter for example.

The part we overlook is that those 11th level guys? They're somebodies. They aren't just more orcs or generic foes. They're a big deal. Make a point of them being a big deal.

They aren't just '11th level tower shield specialists' they're the 'Order of the Walls of Dis' specially trained soldiers from Dispater's own elite guard.

When the heroes put them down they don't feel like they're dealing with scrubs, and it makes them realize they're fighting threats and foes worthy of them bragging about.

Bad Guy Has Better Things to Do
or
Getting Orcus Off His Throne

High level baddies earned their position. They weren't just born as level 17 mages. They had to train and work for it.

They do stuff. They get out and forward their plans (and at high levels this means reacting to the party a lot).

The evil overlord they're dealing with in a high level campaign shouldn't just sit in the Castle of Impregnability and watch as they rip through his plans, kill off all his minions and kick over his garbage cans.

A villain has to work for a living. Villains who get out and do things while the party is doing things gives the appearance of an equal opponent, and someone who's activities have to be countered. It again, helps with the verisimilitude angle too because it shows that the bad guy and his high level minions don't just sit around waiting for encounters with the PCs.

Go A Little Nuts

Just a little. Let the party see some of the ridiculously amazing things that only they could survive or deal with.

Odd template combinations, odd but interesting settings.

For example, my 15th level guys are making their way through a bad area (tm) and encountered a cult that was led by a dread mummy awakened ankylosaurus cleric and his awakened juju zombie allosaurus fighter-guards. They made short work of him, but an armored ankylosaurus dressed up like a pharaoh trying to kill them is something they'll remember and something you can't really efficiently get away with at lower levels.

Sovereign Court

dot'd

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

here to dot.


Lots of very good ideas here. In particular the combo of "everyone gets leadership for free - but you need to *use* it to actually benefit" combined with Kingdom building rules.


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Peter Stewart wrote:
Scrogz wrote:


A Character is a Character, Not a Stack of Numbers
A character that spends all their time on a fast time demiplane is aging twice as fast as everyone else around them.

Don't be afraid to penalize your characters for acting out of character like this. The character isn't going to die of old age during your campaign, but they might advance to the next age bracket if they're aging twice as fast.

Hitting the next age bracket brings bonuses and penalties: -1 Str, Dex & Con to represent losing that youthful vigor, and +1 Int, Wis and Cha to represent the extra knowledge & experience of having lived in the real world.

A character who spends all their time sitting alone in their home-made dimension isn't likely to become more wise because of it, and you can bet your bottom dollar their social skills are going to suffer. The average spell-caster likely won't care about the loss of physical stats, and will be looking forward to the bonuses they get from aging. Having them hit that milestone and miss out on the +1 Cha bonus might encourage them to get out more.

Likewise, if your character is role-playing their character spectacularly well, you might go the other way. A character who lives on a farm in their downtime likely wouldn't take a -1 to Str or Con at middle age.


Dotage...er, I mean dottage.


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Quite a bit of good advice in and linked from this thread. Thing is, a lot of this is stuff that should really be done before high levels as well as at high levels. Which leads me to believe that more practice designing good high level campaign chapters would lead to the design of better low and mid level campaign chapters.


Here is some advice on how to deal with plot-shaping spells like teleport, divination ecc. The TLDR is

Focus on the destination, not the jurney
This is in sharp contrast with the common say, but in high level of plays, the characters have means to skip the middle man, be it a three day march for travelling or a 5 day gather information subquest. So don't bother with it. Think about what comes next.

one other from my old bag of tricks that helps mitigate the first one is

Losing is bad, that doesn't mean winning is good
No, i'm not talking about paladins here.
Somethimes, winning a fight is just a given. That is, unless picking the fight is not the right idea in the first place. Spice up thing by giving your player an easy target to pick off, only to reaveal that killing him was a bad idea. The idea behind it is having the player second guess their informations and devote more time into deeper resarching their targets, giving you more opportunity to craft subplots and backstories. Bad guys working against other bad guys are perfect for this.


Spook205 wrote:


Its in the sewer.. Don't we have people for this? OR That CR is below my opportunity cost.

Let the player be the guy hiring adventurers.

Put them in a situation where they have to contend with a bigger issue, but have a smaller objective that is 1.) Distasteful and...

This can also be a great opportunity to keep the campaign from getting stale: generate the lower-level characters, assigning them to your players (Yes, Bob, I know you always run blaster-casters. Try the Rogue.) and run it as a one shot side game. If the players like it, keep them around.

In our Kingmaker game, I strongly suspect that some of my players like the cohort-only sidequests I've added more than the main adventure...


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
mellowgoth wrote:
Spook205 wrote:


Its in the sewer.. Don't we have people for this? OR That CR is below my opportunity cost.

Let the player be the guy hiring adventurers.

Put them in a situation where they have to contend with a bigger issue, but have a smaller objective that is 1.) Distasteful and...

This can also be a great opportunity to keep the campaign from getting stale: generate the lower-level characters, assigning them to your players (Yes, Bob, I know you always run blaster-casters. Try the Rogue.) and run it as a one shot side game. If the players like it, keep them around.

In our Kingmaker game, I strongly suspect that some of my players like the cohort-only sidequests I've added more than the main adventure...

Excellent thread necro. This one is a quality read.

On the note of "cohort quests," the All for Immortality arc for PFS has some great use of leadership as a high-level responsibility/perk. Sending teams to take care of little things in a way that benefits your party is a nice way to reinforce the leadership role you fall into at the 12+ level of play.


Chemlak wrote:
Don't let the players dictate the pace.

I tend to go the opposite direction -- design the adventure so that the players almost have to take the initiative and dictate the pace themselves, because following the railroad will get their PCs killed.

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