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

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Silver Crusade

I know this varies from person to person. But from the guides i've seen and if 3.5 was any indication. Most campaigns generally tend to end at around level 13-15.

Any farther then this is when campaign balance goes down the tubes and you have to send gods at the party to keep them challenged, So generally it's not even worth thinking about what feats and stuff your character has past level 15.

How much truth is in this?

In my experience, games don't even normally go past 8-10, and a game being played at level 20 is either an anomaly or a one-shot that starts at level 20 as well.

I've had one campaign (Savage Tide) get us to level 20 in 30 years of playing. I've had some level 15+ stuff but it was generally one-shots or starting at high levels. So no, I don't really worry about levels 15+ since the campaign will usually end before we get there.

I don't think I've ever been in a campaign that went from 1 to 20. A couple of adventure paths took us to 17, but that was as high as I've even gotten. We haven't played any of the paths that are designed to go to 20.

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Never since 1st edition AD&D 25+ years ago. We ran from Homlet to Queen of the Demonweb Pits once.

I've got a pretty good track record for my home games going to level 20 (from 1st or 3rd level up). I find it really only happens when the players are very invested in their characters and the world around them, not just in the story. I often tell my players that we'll keep playing until they get tired of the game and we'll start a new one.

The longest campaign I ran was from level 3 to level 28. As for the other DMs in our group, I have yet to reach level 20 myself in one of their games.

Parts of our group have played together for over 30 years, so we're a bit of an anomaly. When TSR came out with the Champions and Masters editions of the Basic Set, we played them (using 1e rules) quite a bit so we ran a lot of over-the-top high level games.

In 2e I ran a homebrew Forgotten Realms game that capped out in the high teens iirc.

My 3e/3.5 campaign ran into the high teens as well. I don't think that one made it to level 20, though.

Two of the last three campaigns I have played in (one was 3.5 the other was Pathfinder) both ran to 20. The most recent was a Carrion Crown campaign that we extended to get to 20.

So, yeah, our group has experience with high level games and we have enjoyed them. I can't say that I've run a high level game in ages, though.

Lantern Lodge

A group I played with in high school got to very high level, around 20ish. But that was back in the AD&D days and we played every lunch time and a half day each weekend.

My adult evening group has several characters in late teens, but we typically jump around in level with a stable of characters and rotating GMs. That group has been playing for more than twenty years. IT is a 3.x group though.

Aside from that I've had a PBP I ran that went up to around 11th. And I've seen some APs that finish, or get to similar levels.

One of the nice things about PFS is that you don't need to keep one group together to get a good amount of play out of a single character. Though gameplay typically stops around 12.

So it can happen, but these are all the exceptions. Most games in PBP seem to not even last a single level. My experience with APs is a little better - probably due to less GM workload.

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber


Closest I've seen a campaign get is 1-17, and that was a Rise of the Runelords run.

Points out that he's been playing since the Red Box in the early 80's...

Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

We went from level 1 to 20 (and mythic tier 1 to 10) when I ran Wrath of the Righteous. I do not expect it to happen again anytime soon.

I do also have a level 20 PFS character that played most everything from level 12 up with the same group of people. It's not quite the same thing, however.

I've never actually played that character at level 20, either.

I once played a character (AD&D) over27 levels, but that was with 3 separate DMs, so no single 20 lvl campaign, and I've never played anything over lvl7 since 3rd ed came out.

In the past 39 years, approximately a third of my campaigns (15 to20(have gone to level 20 or above. It honestly depends on what we intended to do from the start. I've never had a problem being the GM for a high-level group, so we do it quite often.

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Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Never, in my 40 years of gaming. Prior to 3rd edition, the highest level PC for whom I GMed was 13th level and it took him 3 years of biweekly play to get there.

In 3e and Pathfinder, many of my campaigns hit the high teens, but the highest was 17.

Honestly, I sorta lose interest once they become super heroes.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Never yet, but I hope to correct that someday. Closest we got was about 16th level in Reign of Winter.

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Once, only ever once. And it was terrible. I hated it, and never want to play that high again. Casters can do too much. I prefer stopping around 14th level, 16th level at the latest.

The Exchange

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I have played five campaigns into the 20s. Two homebrews, three published.

Honestly, it wasn't worth the headaches as DM. Running high level games is a nightmare in Pathfinder (and 3.5 before it)

In recent years, we've had two campaigns just peter out.

Part of the trend of seeing not much action at the high levels is the fact the adventure paths don't go that high themselves. They used to, back when they were published in dungeon magazine. But now they cap out in the mid teens more often than not.

Now we have shifted to 5th edition but still run Paizo adventure paths. We've had some experience into the mid teens for character level and it's a far easier system to run. Which means we're likely to finish this campaign. I'm running iron Gods and will push the levels for it out to 20.

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Only times I've seen it was when the arc of the campaign was deliberately aimed towards Epic/Mythic play so you need the PCs to be powerful enough to kill a God or a Demon Lord or whatever.

Personally never, but Ièm in an AP (way of the wicked) that promisses lvl 20. We will see how far we go, we just went through a nasty tpk lvl 9 and because of coincidental cancellations we havent played since (summer...). Highest Iève gottem was 15th levelled to 16, but never played.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Not counting D&D computer games, I've had one character hit 20th level. Most of my campaigns peter out before that due to the desire to try something different.

My current game has been running for years and was originally intended to hit 20th level, but I added the mythic rules and it feels like things are going to wrap up around 18th level/8th tier instead.

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IME never. The highest level from 1st was a D&D 3.0 campaign which reached 15th.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Probably about 1 in 20 games that start at 1st level make it to 20th level in the groups I play in. Some of them don't make it past 5 or 10. 20 is definitely a pretty rare occurrence though, especially if we're starting at level 1. It's a little more likely to occur in games where we start out at level 7 or higher, but generally it's hard to keep a consistent group of players for longer than 12 levels worth of play.

I have run two Paizo Adventure Paths, and I continued one of them to 20th level. It was Rise of the Rulelords, which went from 1st to 17th, though my wife ran it for the first 7 levels. I followed it with The Witchwar Legacy module to get them to 18th. Then I began a quest where they would return the Runeforge to the prime material plane to get them to 19th. Stopping a 20th-level high priest of Lamashtu in Nidal got them to 20th. They had one adventure at 20th level: an evil party of 19th- and 20th-characters had conquered Xin-Shalast while they were in Nidal and they had to free it again.

My second Paizo Adventure Path was Jade Regent and that one just naturally ended at 17th. The situation changed too much for the PCs to continue adventuring.

My 3rd adventure path, Iron Gods, is in the 6th module with the characters at 14th level. The players could finish that campaign at 15th level, but they said they want to continue with their characters after Iron Gods. I will have to invent something.

The highest I ever reached as a player was 13th level.

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Highest level I've ever been was 17th. So, never.

All the way to 20? once

most campaigns ive been in hit 17-19 though, and ive been in about a dozen?

Liberty's Edge

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Never. We made it to 17th a couple of times.

After 12th, it's pretty hard slogging for us. Sometimes we push on -sometimes we don't.

20th? Never; not even once.

The Exchange

One of the issues is time, obviously.

We average about three sessions per character level. We play weekly, though we miss quite a few due to real life. So let's say we get 35 sessions a year.

So to get to level 20 it takes about sixty sessions, or in our current time bracket, about 1 and 3/4 years of play.

Many groups don't survive that amount of time, again due to real life getting in the road.

Also, DM burnout at high levels in this play system is a very real thing.

And then just general loss of interest in the story after such a long period of time. Many gamers play for the joy of something new to discover. It's why the modularity of Pathfinder is so successful. So players often get to,a point where they say "I want to try something different!" That can kill a campaign as well.

In AD&D, we played in games that were in the 15-20 range. It involved a GM that knew what he was doing and a good imagination. I seem to remember some modules from that time that required characters to be in that level range.

In Pathfinder, we ended Second Darkness at 15th level and the current Runelords game is supposed to go to 18th. Once again, the GM is very good and we just had a fight with a Linnorm dragon. It wasn't strictly on the map, but he put it in there.

I seem to remember reading somewhere around here that a well run dragon could be that enemy that a high level party fears. So it doesn't have to be just gods.

I got to lvl 12 once and died, most games over past 2 decades have gone to the 5-10 range when they fall apart...

In a multitude of campaigns in 35+ years I've only seen 3 actually hit 20+ after starting at 1st.

It's a very definite rarity.

2 were homebrew, taking over 2 years each to reach 20. Once as a player and once as the DM.

The other was my RPGA Living City character who reached 23rd after the very last module at the very end of Living City play and took a little over 6 years (1998 to 2004 give or take if now distant memory serves). Never actually got to play him at 23rd, 'only' 22nd.

Several other characters and campaigns reached upper teens.

Takes a absolute ton of system mastery and time on the part of the GM to prepare and run campaigns at high levels. One of the biggest hurdles is the amount of sheer work required by the GM, the number of monsters dwindles down to essentially zero as you get into the early 20's and there are few adventures written for characters at that level so it becomes an enormous time investment since the DM is basically creating nearly everything from scratch.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Never yet for me, been playing since 1984.

For Pathfinder, I ran Second Darkness, and the party were TPK'd in the final fight, where they were about level 14ish, IIRC (6 players for most of the AP). They did manage to save the world, though. Except for Kyonin, anyway.

Shadow Lodge

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Never. What is fun at low-level slowly morphs into a horrid grind of calculating your taxes.

In fact, Pathfinder E6 (see also P6Codex) is starting to greatly appeal to me. (And if I ever ran again as a GM, I would very definitely incorporate the Players Roll All Dice/Raising the Stakes system.)

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

My group played Mummy's Mask to completion (17), and a home game to 16th (Tier 10). By the time 7th level spells roll around, things start to get either A) way too easy, or B) still too easy but it takes forever to kill.

Both games didn't track XP, which helped because I leveled them at milestones.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Never. And now I know which thread I need to send the "Paizo please make more campaigns that go to level 20 or modules for levels 18-20" people to ;)

I don't think I've seen a Pathfinder game go beyond 14 (lately 10 seems to be my group's cap). We do have a 1E/2E/3E homebrew that's well beyond 20, but it's an ages old campaign that's played maybe once per year.

Dark Archive

I think the highest I've got was level 11 when I was booted out of the game for being the newb, introverted, autistic, and/or gay. The rest of the party managed to reach level 20 and got to the end of Shackled City.

Right now I'm at level 10 in the Way of the Wicked adventure path. We just finished book 2 and this adventure path goes up to level 20 in book 6.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Level 20 is mostly theory crafting and to show off the occasional level 20 npc (if you somehow want to rub it in the face of your PCs).

In my experience only played level 20 once in 3.5 and it was for an one shot.

Highest level I ever reached in PF is level 18 (this campaign had been going for a long time).

Most of the games that I run as a GM ends around level 14-15.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

When I was much, much younger and playing 1st or 2nd edition D&D, yes. I could reach level 20 in those days of Jr. High / High school when summer meant you could play D&D every day with friends.

These days, unless a group starts at high level, level 20 is out of reach. As busy adults, we can have a group play once a month. Even if we level after each session, that's 19 months just to reach the goal - almost two years.

Of course, this assumes one grinds from level 1 on up. I find it best just to know that levels change the game feel, to start and end play at whatever level the plot requires, and don't worry about grinding through "beginner" levels or leveling past a point when the plot is endangered by higher level class abilities.

The big factor for grinding through levels is time. In a few decades, once I retire, I'm sure I could play to 20th level in a few months again as I would have the time to play every single day. For now, not so much.

Very infrequently over the last 38 years. Mostly people just get tired and retire that character to move on to new ideas and new adventures.

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

4 pathfinder campaigns run 3 went to level 20 1 (RoRL) to level 16. Never had a mechanical problem except with Wrath of the Righteous and that was the mythic rules not the normal level 20 characters.
In 3.5 played in level 1 to epic campaign, al of this with at most weekly sessions

I've GM'd 1 campaign from lvl 1 to 20 - it took 26 months of weekly sessions about 5-6+hrs - WotR, and I've been playing D&D & PF for about 9yrs - towards the end of WotR, it was mine and a couple other players determination to reach lvl 20 MT10 and finish the campaign that kept us going, none of us really liked it that much - too much rocket tag - it also took me about 2-5hrs to translate each NPC's statblock into macros for Roll20, so I was constantly battling to keep ahead of where the PCs would get to the next week. It's possible I'll get to play to lvl 20 in a few years as we're planning to play HV/HR after I've GM'd CoT and the GM who's gonna GM HV says he's gonna add stuff to it at the end.

Made it to 23 once in 3.5. Life makes long-term games very difficult. In fact it was life that finally killed that game too.

Silver Crusade

In my experience? Once. Have played at 20th more than that, but there was only one time we went from 1 to 20.

Its hard to say whether or not more people would hit 20 if the adventure paths actually went that far. Ive noticed a few posts about how they ended at 15 or 17 because thats where the AP ended.

Our zeitgeist game is about to hit 20 too, which will make it the 2nd 20 ive managed

We had a 3rd Ed (not 3.5. 3rd) Age of Wyrms, i think, go into Epic, maybe 23, but we were getting like a level per nite sometimes.

Some of my AD&D and OD&D PCs got very high. (but I have been playing quite sometime)

But 3.5 We got to 18th once. That is where I found the "caster/martial disparity" really exists and then some. 9th level spells are BIG game changers. Shape change- wow. They can do everything a martial can.

Pathfinder? RotRL got to 15th.

My current game is 13th.

No PF game hit 20.

Exactly never. When you get past level 12 or so, the game becomes all but unplayable (IMHO) because of how unrestrained magic is.

In the thirty years of gaming I've only had one that went to the low 20's, and that was a 3.0 game.

I think it takes a combination of interest by both the player and GM. Quite often the GM I play with will loose interest in the game before I do.

Zhayne wrote:
Exactly never. When you get past level 12 or so, the game becomes all but unplayable (IMHO) because of how unrestrained magic is.

My current game and my RotRL campaign would beg to differ. But I did see that when the casters got 9th level spells.

I would say, maybe around 3 times, have I been in a campaign that went to level 20 or beyond.

Most of them seem to end somewhere around the level 15 mark (+/- 2 levels).

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Zhayne wrote:
Exactly never. When you get past level 12 or so, the game becomes all but unplayable (IMHO) because of how unrestrained magic is.

I've made it up to 20th level in a 3.5 game consisting of a wizard, two clerics, and a rogue. We avoided much of the standard high-level caster insanity by playing extremely unoptimized characters, to the point where my wizard literally prepared random spells at the start of each day.

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