Level Comparisons


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Just been giving it some thought and I wanted to put levels, abstract as they are, into some sort of context. For example, level 1 is your average joe shmoe, level 6 is a veteran general of many wars, level 10 is a hero out of myth, and 20 is a demi-god.

Does that sound about right? Anyone got any more examples?

Silver Crusade

It depends hugely on the campaign world and on how rare high level characters are.

In Golarion high level characters really aren't all that huge a deal. Any city (at least one featured in the last books of Adventure Paths :-) :-)) have literally dozens of characters and beings who are level 10+.

Things are also, of course, incredibly inconsistent. The low level modules and scenarios have the highest level character in a town be maybe level 5. But the higher level modules will have a castle in the wilderness where the chambermaid is a level 9 witch :-) :-)

I've built some of my own campaign worlds in the past and one of the most important decisions for me has been to come up with demographics that will result in a world that I like. But I care about consistency a whole lot more than Paizo :-). (Not a slam at Paizo. Their audience doesn't care about consistency either. They produce what their audience wants and that is a good thing).


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I assume that 50% of people make it to the next level. So 1/2 the population is 1st level, 1/4 is 2nd level, 1/8 is 3rd level etc. So if you're 7th level you're in the top 1% (1/128).

Shadow Lodge

I agree that it depends on the campaign world, though your examples sound reasonable for most higher fantasy settings.

The Legend Lore spell does define level 11 as Legendary.

Calibrating Your Expectations by the Alexandrian sets a baseline relative to our world: even a 2nd or 3rd level person would be considered exceptionally skilled, and 5th level represents the pinnacle of real-world achievement.

More detailed quotation:
Almost everyone you have ever met is a 1st level character. The few exceptional people you’ve met are probably 2nd or 3rd level – they’re canny and experienced and can accomplish things that others find difficult or impossible.

If you know someone who’s 4th level, then you’re privileged to know one of the most talented people around: They’re a professional sports player. Or a brain surgeon. Or a rocket scientist.

If you know someone who’s 5th level, then you have the honor of knowing someone that will probably be written about in history books. Walter Payton. Michael Jordan. Albert Einstein. Isaac Newton. Miyamoto Musashi. William Shakespeare.

So when your D&D character hits 6th level, it means they’re literally superhuman: They are capable of achieving things that no human being has ever been capable of achieving. They have transcended the mortal plane and become a mythic hero.

In a previous thread on the topic I posted the following:

My current campaign world looks like this:

NPC Classes:
Level 1: Journeyman (or apprentice for PC class)
Level 2-3: Expert / Local Significance
Level 4-7: Master / Regional Significance
Level 8+: Grand Master / National Significance
**However most level 8+ NPCs have PC classes
PC Classes:
Level 1-2: Expert / Local Significance
Level 3-5: Elite / Regional Significance
Level 6-9: Master / National Significance
Level 10-14: Grand Master / International Significance
Level 15+: Legendary / Historical or Interplanar Significance
**I felt I needed to break up the 11-20 tier

Local Significance - Important within a small settlement or a small group within a larger settlement. The sheriff in a small town, head of a troupe of performers, senior priest/ess of a minor church in a city, minor officers in a large military.

Regional Significance - Important within a larger area or major settlement. Captain of the watch or senior priest in a city, senior member of a druidic circle, moderate officers in a large military, popular bards, local heroes.

National Significance - Important within a small kingdom or a province of a large empire. Kings, dukes, provincial governors, merchant princes, national champions, royal wizards or chaplains, heads of large magical or bardic colleges, high military officers.

International Significance - Important within several kingdoms or an empire. Emperors or their champions, generals of vast armies, high priests of world religions, founders of arcane or military orders.

Historical or Interplanar Significance - Saints, demigods, founders of dynasties, characters who redraw maps (and perhaps reshape continents.)

This is based on the idea that the world doesn't cap at level 5 like ours does, it should take a few extra levels before someone reaches historically notable skill, and the levels before 5 will likewise be slightly less notable.

Silver Crusade

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Weirdo wrote:

.

Calibrating Your Expectations

For the record, many people (most certainly including me) vehemently disagree with that article.

The rules are VERY contradictory in terms of how they impact on world building. That article ignores that contradiction and just takes one set of data.

That article basically assumes that the best artist/scientist/whatever in our modern industrial civilization with 10 odd billion people is far, far, far worse than the best bard/wizard/whatever in some pissant little city of 20,000 in a pre industrial society that barely has the printing press.

Some of us disagree with that conclusion :-).


Moonclanger wrote:
I assume that 50% of people make it to the next level. So 1/2 the population is 1st level, 1/4 is 2nd level, 1/8 is 3rd level etc. So if you're 7th level you're in the top 1% (1/128).

I like the smoothness of the exponential curve. Since a 2nd-level character is 1.414 times as powerful as a 1st-level character, and a 3rd-level character is twice as powerful as a 1st-level character, we end up with the average power level being 1.7 times as powerful as a 1st-level character. ( 1/2 + sqrt(2)/4 + 2/8 + 2sqrt(2)/16 + 4/32 + ... = 1.707 )

pauljathome wrote:
Things are also, of course, incredibly inconsistent. The low level modules and scenarios have the highest level character in a town be maybe level 5. But the higher level modules will have a castle in the wilderness where the chambermaid is a level 9 witch :-) :-)

Pretty much this. Opuk0's description matches up to the 1st-level modules, and such a distribution of levels creates towns of people with reassonable levels of skills.

Therefore, when the player characters reach 10th level, they are stronger than any foe found in an ordinary town. This could mean that they abandon the ordinary parts of the world and go to ancient haunted ruins or faraway mystic lands to adventure. But fun still remains in towns and cities, so instead the modules change the underlying world and make supposedly ordinary towns and cities more challenging. The PCs encounter 6th-level town guards instead of ordinary 2nd-level town guards, the captain of the guard is a 10th-level heroic figure rather than a 5th-level veteran, etc.

I had a weird case in my Iron Gods campaign a few months ago. The PCs entered the city of Starfall in the 5th module, Palace of Fallen Stars, for 13th-level characters. They had been adventuring under false names to avoid the attention of the hostile Technic League, based in Starfall and full of 10th- to 14th-level technowizards. They entered Starfall incognito by reverting to their real identities, which had been 1st-level characters seven months ago. Most people thought they still were beginners. The PCs hung around with the low-level residents of Starfall. Therefore, they encountered a city with the beginning distribution of levels, where most residents were 1st level, streetside temples had a 3rd- or 4th-level cleric, and the thieves guild was full of amateurs. Nevertheless, a few blocks away they could stumble across a CR 12 random encounter or request an audience with the 15th-level barbarian king.


Levels in Pathfinder are quite nonsensical, and should not be treated as physics or tied directly to particular tiers or levels of achievement.

Like many things, it only works if you don't think too hard about it. Similar to anything relating to an economy, really.


pauljathome wrote:
Weirdo wrote:

.

Calibrating Your Expectations

For the record, many people (most certainly including me) vehemently disagree with that article.

The rules are VERY contradictory in terms of how they impact on world building. That article ignores that contradiction and just takes one set of data.

That article basically assumes that the best artist/scientist/whatever in our modern industrial civilization with 10 odd billion people is far, far, far worse than the best bard/wizard/whatever in some pissant little city of 20,000 in a pre industrial society that barely has the printing press.

Some of us disagree with that conclusion :-).

Pathfinder's leveling system is designed to create adventurers. It falls apart for other professions. We can create realistic low-level NPCs if we ignore weird details. For example, Albert Einstein modeled as a 5th-level expert by The Alexandrian would also have several highly skilled hobbies because his high intelligence would give him an excess of skill points. And Einstein's BAB would equal that of an experienced (2nd-level) soldier.

At 7th level, my Iron Gods PCs started investing in businesses in their hometown of Torch. The fighter/investigator character wanted a crafting workshop outfitted with the best mundane devices available. Since I told the player that Golarion was limited to 16th-century Earth technology, he started researching the most advanced tools from 16th-century Europe and China, such as waterwheels and furnaces. He found gadgets invented, for example, in Italy in 1593 and wanted it in his workshop. I told him that the remote town of Torch in barbaric Numeria was not that advanced. But he had a high Knowledge(engineering) skill bonus equal to The Alexandrian's 5th-level Einstein's bonus in Knowledge(physics). By The Alexandrian's standards, he could have invented all that himself.

Also, at 10th level the PCs in my Jade Regent campaign entered the Ruby Phoenix Tournament, which is essentially the Olympics of the Tien Xia continent of Golarion. It is an adventure for 11th-level characters, so the PCs were a little below level. Nevertheless, they won the tournament fair and square. In other words, 10th-level 20-point-build PCs can win Olympic gold medals in multiple areas.


For what it's worth I don't sweat demographics. NPCs have the levels and stats I require them to have - they are transparent to characters anyway. No-one in-world knows what level another person is, they just are.


A normal joe-schmoe is a level 1 in an NPC class that isn't warrior
A trained soldier is a level 1 warrior.
A veteran soldier is up to a level 8 warrior.

NPCs with PC class levels are as rare as hen's teeth. Levels above 8th do not exist (E6 rules, 'cept I go to 8).


Zhayne wrote:
NPCs with PC class levels are as rare as hen's teeth. Levels above 8th do not exist (E6 rules, 'cept I go to 8).

Does that mean that the temples have no priests with cleric powers, that paladins don't belong to a formal organization, that wizard schools don't exist, that monasteries of unarmed-strike monks don't exist either, that thieves-guild gangs are full of people who cannot sneak attack, that barbarian tribes contain no barbarians, etc.?


Nothing unreasonable about that. Why shouldn't a temple have priests who preach but have no magical healing powers? Why shouldn't paladins be rare? Wizards apprenticed in secret, monasteries full of monks who pray and don't punch anyone, thieves who are basic thugs and the occasional lock-picking expert, barbarian tribesmen who are simple warriors...


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Opuk0 wrote:

For example, level 1 is your average joe shmoe, level 6 is a veteran general of many wars, level 10 is a hero out of myth, and 20 is a demi-god.

Does that sound about right? Anyone got any more examples?

Paizo thinks a general is a level 11 Fighter.

A Pirate King is level 15.

Cavalry in armies are level 6.

Here's the link to the main list if you want to peruse it.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Nothing unreasonable about that. Why shouldn't a temple have priests who preach but have no magical healing powers? Why shouldn't paladins be rare? Wizards apprenticed in secret, monasteries full of monks who pray and don't punch anyone, thieves who are basic thugs and the occasional lock-picking expert, barbarian tribesmen who are simple warriors...

It is a reasonable world, much like our own in medieval times, but less suited for adventuring than the world in the Paizo adventure paths. The players cannot necessarily stop at a temple for healing, and they have less access to new spells and magic items because Adepts have a very short spell list.

Furthermore, paladins would be rarer than rare. The paladin in the party would be the only paladin of his or her god. That is a huge responsibility. The local druids would be experts in nature lore who simply call themselves druids but have no mystic connection to nature. The ranger in the party would seem especially druidic to them. The wizard would have been the apprentice of an expert or an adept rather than a wizard, so he would have not be able to copy spells from a master's spellbook. The bard would learn his songs from minstrels and have to figure out how to add the magic to them himself.

The PCs would be so different from the locals that it would be as if they came from another world. The PCs do not have to wait until 10th level to be regarded as heroes out of myth; instead, that will be evident as early as 2nd level. Sure, a 6th-level veteran warrior can kick the butt of the 2nd-level fighter, but the warrior would notice something special about how readily the fighter mastered combat feats.

I already tilt the playing field in favor of the PCs by giving them a 20-point attribute build, by arranging level-appropriate encounters for them, and by letting them level up after only ten challenging encounters. Letting them play classes that no-one else can match on top of all those advantages would feel unfair to me. My players woul not like it either, because they want to earn their victories.


Honestly, that more toned down style works better in games that are less full-on gonzo than Pathfinder, and have a narrower power scale.


Mathmuse wrote:
Letting them play classes that no-one else can match on top of all those advantages would feel unfair to me.

Most NPCs aren't enemies; they're just people. Monsters are the big threat (and the occasional villain with PC levels). If there are level 13 clerics around providing spellcasting services, then a few monsters shouldn't provide much of a threat to civilization. But if the PCs are the only heroes around, their job is that much more important, and they can't count on anyone backing them up.

Letting players feel like heroes from day one sounds desirable to me.


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

Why not go back to the source? Look at the original D&D level titles...

A 4th-level fighter is a "Hero".

And take it from there.

We used to assume that most peasants and townsfolk were zero-level. DD3.0, DD3.5 and PF now have the concept of NPC classes, so those folks now have levels of their own.

The responses in this thread show the wildly variable nature of character levels in the world, which is far more closely linked to the expected character level of PCs in a given chapter of an adventure path than to any objective notion of level-based demographics.

IMHO, PCs are supposed to be heros - meaning that they need to be several cuts above the populace. But they also need to be challenged by equally superhuman arch-enemies and their high-level minions. So at the end of the day NPC levels are whatever the DM needs them to be.


Mathmuse wrote:
Zhayne wrote:
NPCs with PC class levels are as rare as hen's teeth. Levels above 8th do not exist (E6 rules, 'cept I go to 8).
Does that mean that the temples have no priests with cleric powers, that paladins don't belong to a formal organization, that wizard schools don't exist, that monasteries of unarmed-strike monks don't exist either, that thieves-guild gangs are full of people who cannot sneak attack, that barbarian tribes contain no barbarians, etc.?

In order ...

1. Usually. The main temple in the capital city (or major religious site) might have an actual cleric or two. Adepts are more common, but still, you're looking at maybe 1 per reasonably sized town.
2. Paladins are banned in my games, so the question is moot.
3. Wizards are more of a classic master-apprentice setup than any formalized school. Not enough people have the smarts to graduate from such a school, much less the money to afford tuition, and considering the power of wizards, most governments wouldn't allow that great a concentration of power anyway.
4. Shao-lin style martial monks aren't a thing in the game.
5. Yes. Most of 'em are just experts or aristocrats.
6. Generally, yes. There might be a couple here and there, and those are the ones who are the ones whose exploits and abilities are considered 'legendary'. Your Genghis Khans, for comparison.

To me, PC levels mean someone is special. The kind of person you watch growing up and think 'he's going places, he's going to accomplish great things' (maybe not great in a positive way, of course).


Omnius wrote:
Honestly, that more toned down style works better in games that are less full-on gonzo than Pathfinder, and have a narrower power scale.

E6 rules my friend, E6 rules.

Shadow Lodge

pauljathome wrote:
Weirdo wrote:
Calibrating Your Expectations

For the record, many people (most certainly including me) vehemently disagree with that article.

The rules are VERY contradictory in terms of how they impact on world building. That article ignores that contradiction and just takes one set of data.

That article basically assumes that the best artist/scientist/whatever in our modern industrial civilization with 10 odd billion people is far, far, far worse than the best bard/wizard/whatever in some pissant little city of 20,000 in a pre industrial society that barely has the printing press.

Some of us disagree with that conclusion :-).

I think the worldbuilding issue is less to do with the assumptions made in the article and more to do with how having a larger portion of higher-level characters would affect a world.

Namely, if most cities contain characters that can do things that surpass the best individuals in our modern industrial civilization, then the world isn't likely to look like our own pre-industrial past - or at the very least it isn't likely to stay that way for long.

For example, it's possible to make a character with +20 to Survival as early as level 7 (7 ranks + 3 class skill + 3 skill focus + 2 self-sufficient + 5 Wis). By level 10 you don't even need to be that invested in the skill (10 ranks + 3 class skill + 6 skill focus + 1 Wis). Such a character can reliably make a DC 30 Survival check, allowing them to track a person over bare rock with a coat of fresh snow over the track (20 hard ground + 10 fresh snow = DC 30). This is without any tools or magic! If a tracker of such skill can be found in a city of 20,000 people, it becomes a lot harder for fugitives to lose themselves in the wilds.

Similarly, if the average soldier is higher level and thus better able to climb or jump than our soldiers, then walls and trenches would need to be more impressive in order to serve as credible obstacles. Of course, you'd probably also have better-skilled artisans to make these walls...

If there are more people in this world than in ours who are capable of solving the most difficult scholarly questions of their time, then knowledge can progress more quickly.

It's just a question of whether you want a more "realistic" world where most people are of low level (and very few if any are above level 5) or a more "superheroic" world with higher level inhabitants.

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