How often does a campaign go to level 20 from your experience?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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I believe, I'd have to say never. In the early 80's we might have done so with the black boxed set, but we were pretty fast with the rules. I believe we had a campaign hit close in the early 90's. I had a homebrew campaign that was meant to hit 20, but the group fell apart around 19th. Had another one stop at 17th, but plan to pick up back up if I can write up a decent continuation for Rise of the Runelords.

And I currently have a campaign at 18th, with plans to go to 21st just to see how those capstone abilities play out. I'm tempted to write up some mythic stuff if the group wants to keep going.


I've rarely seen it.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Even the one campaign I played in 3.5 through 30th level only started at 15th, so it doubly doesn't count towards the original question.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I've been playing d20 systems (i.e. D&D 3, D&D v.3.5, and Pathfinder) since 2000, and I play in or GM multiple groups, most of which play weekly. In that time, I've played in exacty one game that went to level 21 (D&D v.3.5).


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I may have to take my Giantslayer group to level 20 if we finish and decide to play Ruins of Azlant next. I want to have all 6 books of our next AP in hand, including the pawns, before starting, which may necessitate some filler material between the 2. We'll get to 17/18, however, in Giantslayer alone. What to do to get there, however, is a puzzle since high-level pre-generated content is very limited, and I'm not confident in my abilities to create my own.

Sovereign Court

1st Edition -All the time, but we were kids and played very loose with the rules

2nd Edition- Never. Had a ToEE campaign go to 15th, another to 12th, and played in several that would get to around 11 or 12 before petering out.

3.0/3.5- Same thing, most campaigns ended between 11-13th level

Pathfinder- Ran Age of Worms up to 23rd level, Played in a Runelords to 15th before we were TPK'd by Karzoug, Finished Serpents Skull as a player at 16th.


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20th? Never. Low-mid teens max, and that's for any version of the game I've played in 30 years.

This is probably why I chuckle at character build arguments debating class capstone abilities.


I ran RotRL to 18th. I think some made it to 18th. That was the closest. But it looks like a fun ride.


In 2ed never.

In 3.5 I ran a Forgotten Realms Campaign from Level 1 to Level 37.

I then ran an Age of Worms Campaign through 24th also set in the Realms.

My current campaign is slated to cut off at 17 or 18 is also FR set in Waterdeep.

My next campaign is an evil Campaign that starts in Zhentil Keep Pre TOT. I plan to run that till 21 or 22.

I had a buddy that ran the 3.5 Dragonlance campaign in Age of Mortals to level 21.


I've played since white box D&D in 1974 and neither I nor anyone I've played with has hit top level in any of my numerous campaigns. I've hit 17th level a few times though, all with wizards (AD&D, 3.5, and Pathfinder).


In the words of James Hetfield.


Only once in over 2 decades of table top gaming.


I've seldom reached level 12 or more, and never in the course of a single campaign, let alone 20...

Dark Archive

The only games that I've played or ran that are lv20 started that way; with only one exception, when I very first started GMing, I levelled up my players by 2 levels each session, so they got to play lv20 just before the game just devolved to utter madness

Liberty's Edge

It depends on what level you start the game.

(If you do a one shot letting your player be all eladrin kings and queens the answer is immediately)

But, given a normal progression, consider that in the 13 years in wich I've been playing It happened only once with a long term campaign.
The players started at level 5 if I remember and one of them managed to arrive at 23.
We called that the "Infinite Adventure" and we played it (setting in a world that me and another player-master created) more or less 2 per mounth, with from 2 to 10 hours sessions for 6 years.
Consider that, paradoxically, it's much more difficult, in my experience, to create an epic and fun and immedismative atmosphere at height levels: if at level 2 is heroic even to climb a mountain and to move a tree from the road, at height levels, when if you are a barbarian you can kill a gigant with a fart and with a world if you are a wizard there are few challenges able to enthusiasm you, and you risk to loose realism and so coherence and so immedesimation if every idiot you find at the corner of the street it's a Balor. And the trouble is that if the carachters still live in a Material World you can't popolate it with 10 level fighters soldiers and 12 with level rogues all the taverns and brothel. But, of course, for long term campaigns your PG can't pass all the time in the Orcus tower or so on and it is a problem when they are interacting with other people, because being over power Ovviously makes you fell good, but for a while, than starts feeling annoying. So, in my experience (unless it is a brief campaign, with characters starting at an already higth level) don't go at Hight levels if it is't good equilibrate campaign, equilibrate characters, if you don't have proper challenges but that neeed not to be ridicouols (every month an army of undead rise to destroy the kingdom) and, most of all the so difficoult challenges must be part of the same plot and same chain of events, because is not probable many monsters/ villains of 20CR are casually appearing one independently from the other.
This specially if you are masterizijg by your own without any done-adventure.
Do it just if you are an expert master.
Cause the satisfaction can be great if you are a very good and expert master, but if you are not... Wait you make more experience with low level adventures


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Never. Not once.

My players and I think the "sweet spot" is 7-12.

I was in an AD&D campaign back in the '80s where we got to 18th level, and that's the highest level PC I ever worked up from L1.

None of my campaigns in the 3.x era have ever gone over L16, and very, very few have gone that high.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Most of our campaigns go to 20th, or slightly beyond.

It doesn't matter if it's Runelords, or Tsar, or Wrath, or Hell's Rebels, in each we exceeded 20th. Three of those ended up with at least one mythic tier as well.

Council of Thieves ended when the adventure did. Second Darkness died in book 3.

Basically, there's so much awesome game available at high level that it's a shame to miss it. Especially when 1st-through-5th-level-bloody-yet-again is right around the corner.


A few times - always right before end battle with BBEG or right after that fight in the "epilogue"- never long enough to really enjoy or abuse the capstones


In almost 30 years... never.


Back in the 80s my group ran the same characters through all of high school. We used a hybrid of D&D and AD&D rules with a bunch of homebrew rules tacked on to go from level 1 to 30+.

In the 90s we switched to mostly non D&D based games like: VTM, Cyberpunk, GURPS, Pendragon, Shadowrun, RIfts etc. with a little bit of 2e adventuring from time to time that never went past level 10.

More recently I have played mostly Pathfinder and so far only one campaign out of six that we have started went from level 1 all the way to level 20.


Once. Though as a caveat we started at level 20 and it was a one shot.

Basically put... Level 20 is highly rare...
15+ is very uncommon
1-10 is the most common.


I have personally ran 3 games that went from 1-20 for pathfinder (designed them so they would) and I have ran 2 games in 3.5 that went from 1 to 20 and one from 20-30 (I had to improvise a lot epic is weird.)


Mid to high teens many times. Twenty I think twice, in a rather long gaming period.


I know level 20+ only from DnD computer games, there it's a matter of a few days of intense play. In contrast, the PnP campaign I joined 4 years ago made it to level 6 a while ago. Meeting only every 1-3 months has drawbacks, d'oh.

The two campaigns I GMed so far made it to level 9 and 7. I plan for level 20 for the current one, but this would need two more years of life not (seriously) interfering. Hmm.


Never been in one yet..... had 2 sessions at level 19


Not often enough I guess I would say, especially given the nice capstone abilities out there now for PF.

I've been playing since the late 70's, and I think I've had only 3 campaigns go from 1-20th level. Though I have an 18th level campaign now that should last until 20th level, so that will make 4 I guess.


Not very often. Most campaigns seem to wrap up around 16th. Reign of Winter AP (which I played in) and Mummy's Mask AP (which I ran) last year were both stretched out allow the players to reach 20th because we don't get to do it very often.


Pathfinder made it a few times from 1 to 17/18
BECMI to level 1-27
Rolemaster level 1-26
MERP level 1-33
5th ed 1-11 (still ongoing)

PF is by far the slowest to play unfortunately. Currently got to 11th in MM and the dungeon at the end of mod 4 is slooooowwww


In almost 40 years, twice.

Never as a player though 8(

The First and still ongoing campaign started in 1983 and has been going on as a "Long Distance Relationship" since. We get together about 4 times a year for a long weekend to continue. Currently the group is sitting at 20-23.

The Second was a freaking freight train.... took off running and in 2 years playing 3 times a week reached 19-20 and then Life kicked us all in the nether regions. Jobs, Kids, Women, Boys, yadda yadda yadda... you get the idea.

I play in a group now that the other GM runs APs exclusively and when they end, the campaign ends 8( It's one of the reasons I have a hard time getting attached to the NPCs/Story Lines as they are all on a spiral the to Bin of Games Past. YMMV

More APs that run to 20 Please!

Shadow Lodge

The only time I've played level 20 so far was a one-shot.

I think we mostly wrap up between levels 11 and 14 - home campaigns, not APs.

Acquisitives

Put me in the 30 years gaming, never once to 20 club.


*Gives Kyron the secret handshake*


Wow, so many people that have never gone the whole way to level 20 from the start. I just don't even ... I feel really lucky with my group.


I suspect a lot of people lurk this thread glaring enviously at the people whose games go this long without horrible cataclysmic failure and or complete lack of group.


Almost never. I don't think most GM's even want to do it. I did it twice as a GM. Every other attempt was stopped by people moving or schedule changes.


wraithstrike wrote:
Almost never. I don't think most GM's even want to do it. I did it twice as a GM. Every other attempt was stopped by people moving or schedule changes.

I'd like to run it but even with extensive GM experience I find it very hard to come up with scenarios, encounters and environments that aren't run roughshod over by the powerful characters. Presumably because it doesn't happen often enough to get experienced at running such high level games.


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Eryx_UK wrote:
I'd like to run it but even with extensive GM experience I find it very hard to come up with scenarios, encounters and environments that aren't run roughshod over by the powerful characters. Presumably because it doesn't happen often enough to get experienced at running such high level games.

I've run a few high end games, and I can tell you that the players will almost always manage to find a way to tear through your encounters like wet tissue paper. I've found the key to challenging them is throw in more than just monsters as threats. Don't give them just one target. Give them several, and make sure that you set up traps and other obstacles in places where the battle is going to be predetermined.

Another method is to layer encounters that use the results of one fight to influence another. Using a fight that drains a level or two from a player to weaken them for the next fight is a favorite tactic of mine. Sure, they could heal the level fairly easily, but the point is to MAKE them use their daily resources, not to crush them entirely. That's the BBEG's role.

Grand Lodge

The only game I've ever played in that went to 20th level or beyond was back when I was in grade 8 or 9 playing the BECMI system. (getting close to 30 years ago)

It was a lot easier to do when we played every day after school

Silver Crusade

DeathlessOne wrote:
Eryx_UK wrote:
I'd like to run it but even with extensive GM experience I find it very hard to come up with scenarios, encounters and environments that aren't run roughshod over by the powerful characters. Presumably because it doesn't happen often enough to get experienced at running such high level games.

I've run a few high end games, and I can tell you that the players will almost always manage to find a way to tear through your encounters like wet tissue paper. I've found the key to challenging them is throw in more than just monsters as threats. Don't give them just one target. Give them several, and make sure that you set up traps and other obstacles in places where the battle is going to be predetermined.

Another method is to layer encounters that use the results of one fight to influence another. Using a fight that drains a level or two from a player to weaken them for the next fight is a favorite tactic of mine. Sure, they could heal the level fairly easily, but the point is to MAKE them use their daily resources, not to crush them entirely. That's the BBEG's role.

When it comes to high end play I generally tend to make things more narrative rather than rules reliant. Just the resource management alone at 20th level can grind the game waaaaay down. Won't work for every group, because not everyone likes it, but it's worked well the times I've done it.

dwayne germaine wrote:

The only game I've ever played in that went to 20th level or beyond was back when I was in grade 8 or 9 playing the BECMI system. (getting close to 30 years ago)

It was a lot easier to do when we played every day after school

Word, as I get older it gets harder what with jobs and families. The one time I played a game from 1 to 20 was on deployment, where no one had families to worry about and no one could leave.


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wraithstrike wrote:
Almost never. I don't think most GM's even want to do it.

As a GM and player, I definitely don't want to.

For me you could rip out everything after level 16 and I would be very happy.


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I do believe if more APs went all the way to 20 more players would hit it. Seems like there's plenty of players who've finished more than 1 adventure path. one more module in an AP given where most end would likely bring the party to 20.

Seems likely if there was a module a gm could run that got em there a lot of the challenges of running for 17+ groups as a non-pathfinder-omniscient GM could be handled.


Ryan Freire wrote:
I do believe if more APs went all the way to 20 more players would hit it.

If more APs went to 20, I would play less APs.

Ryan Freire wrote:
Seems likely if there was a module a gm could run that got em there a lot of the challenges of running for 17+ groups as a non-pathfinder-omniscient GM could be handled.

Not really. The problems of high level play aren't ameliorated but having someone else write the adventure. The problem is that at high levels 9th level casters can solve problems trivially, and while as a GM I can stop that from happening I have to be very heavy handed to do so.


Claxon wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
I do believe if more APs went all the way to 20 more players would hit it.

If more APs went to 20, I would play less APs.

Ryan Freire wrote:
Seems likely if there was a module a gm could run that got em there a lot of the challenges of running for 17+ groups as a non-pathfinder-omniscient GM could be handled.
Not really. The problems of high level play aren't ameliorated but having someone else write the adventure. The problem is that at high levels 9th level casters can solve problems trivially, and while as a GM I can stop that from happening I have to be very heavy handed to do so.

Well I disagree with your take on this, i havent had MANY campaigns get all the way to 20 but ive done it twice (almost 3 times now, 2 or 3 more sessions), it can remain challenging, even with a bunch of 9th level casters.


Claxon wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
I do believe if more APs went all the way to 20 more players would hit it.

If more APs went to 20, I would play less APs.

More APs being written for high levels doesn't mean other APs wouldn't still be written, nor would it undo the many many many APs that already exist which cater to lower levels...

Why must people act as though one group getting what it wants actively impinges upon another's ability to do the same, surely there is room for both.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Why must people act as though one group getting what it wants actively impinges upon another's ability to do the same, surely there is room for both.

Because he is logically correct. If they release a 20 level AP, the number of APs has increased while the number of APs he will play has not.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Why must people act as though one group getting what it wants actively impinges upon another's ability to do the same, surely there is room for both.
Because he is logically correct. If they release a 20 level AP, the number of APs has increased while the number of APs he will play has not.

Conversely, a line drawn at playing only at level X or lower is whats known as a personal problem. The lower the line the more adventures you have available already by comparison since the # of published adventures shrinks the higher the level of party.

Realistically though, damn near every adventure path i've seen has "Ideas for carrying on past the end of this path" A solitary module or pair of modules that expands on those for levels 15-17+ isn't pissing in anyone elses cheerios. As long as AP's are given a break point at their usual spot where "the campaign is over...unless" everyone could probably be happy.

The Exchange

Ryan Freire wrote:

I do believe if more APs went all the way to 20 more players would hit it. Seems like there's plenty of players who've finished more than 1 adventure path. one more module in an AP given where most end would likely bring the party to 20.

Seems likely if there was a module a gm could run that got em there a lot of the challenges of running for 17+ groups as a non-pathfinder-omniscient GM could be handled.

This may be true, but I think more players would just realise how hard and time consuming it truly is.

DM time investment goes up dramatically at high levels, even with pre written games. You have to know how all the feats work, all the spells and work with environment and plot. That's in order to do justice to the monsters and NPCs in a battle.

I remember spending hours prepping to run three or four encounters at high level just getting my head around all the abilities of the bad guys. It's really difficult.


Not counting level 20 one-shots, the highest level I've ever made it to is 17. The character is still live and the campaign is still going, but I strongly suspect we've got only one more session before reaching the end of the campaign, so another level seems unlikely.

I'm currently GM'ing for a soloist who is now level 17 mythic tier 7, and I plan to take it to 20/10 just so that we can say we've done it. But honestly, doing so required introducing a fair bit of new story elements. The original story concluded 2 levels ago.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Ryan Freire wrote:
Realistically though, damn near every adventure path i've seen has "Ideas for carrying on past the end of this path" A solitary module or pair of modules that expands on those for levels 15-17+ isn't pissing in anyone elses cheerios. As long as AP's are given a break point at their usual spot where "the campaign is over...unless" everyone could probably be happy.

Except for Durgon probably, as I suspect his objection is that he wants to play all of the AP content but refuses to play any content that goes too high. So he refuses to start any such AP.


I've played since the original release of chainmail.

Never.

Once, did a theoretical calculation of the XP necessary to make it to 20th level. Due to the rules on dividing XP by your level AND by eliminating XP if you were too many levels higher - it was actually possible to kill everyone on Oerth and not have enough experience to level to 20 as a magic user.

On top of that - the game is unplayable at high levels. I've sen a mid level summoner cast 40+ monsters at slightly higher than mid levels.

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