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I mean, it’s already an explicit part of PF1 PFS, and admitted implicitly in several APs. And maybe there is guidance to be found in old AD&D 1e, that had its ‘name levels’ once you got around 9-12th level. This would take some pressure off the devs to make the game sing at ‘higher levels.’ It would require a game that took a much more measured and leisurely pace up the level scale, which isn’t to everyone’s tastes...
Of course, maybe there is a bigger population of players who play past 12th level, in which case I’ll shut my big yap...
Incidentally, I’m sad the welcoming and civil tone that used to exist here seems to be missing lately...
One of the things we're trying to accomplish with the new edition is "make high level play smooth, fun, and reasonable" since in PF1 it really wasn't (which was why so many games ended right before 7th level spells come into the picture.)
Yeah - I realize that. And here’s an option for solving that problem, especially since there are so few occasions where that sort of high level play seems to occur.
Implicit within your reply, though, is a valid point: you want to play at those levels and you want the game to work there. Fair.
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The stated goal of making high-level play a thing - with the dream of possibly having epic-level play added in as an optional sourcebook at some point - is a big draw for wanting PF2E to succeed.
Back in the bad old days of unbalanced D&D3.0, we ran an epic level campaign. And despite all the flaws and gaps, it was a blast. We still treasure the lessons we learned - don't leave bored fighters alone in a room for hours with a cursed altar while all the smart folks research things; diplomatic relations are distinctly frostier if you turn the lead negotiator's bonded mount into a chicken; and there is more than one way out of an exploding space station full of angry drow.
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Stories in which people accomplish things befitting of high level characters are really satisfying: Close the Worldwound, break off Ravounel as an independent nation, thwart a Great Old one, prevent the resurgence of a Runelord or the Whispering Tyrant, put an end to eternal winter, fend off an army that has invaded your homeland, etc.
So making it possible for more people to experience those stories is a positive thing.
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There has been a thread or two suggesting this already, but the devs have stated that this is not a change they are interested in making - 20 levels of progression are almost definitely here to stay.
Sure, but just because they'll still take up space in the book doesn't mean they will suddenly be used more.
Smoother high level play seems at odds with the high level options.
Is it clean? They're pretty consistent with the rest of PF2.
Are the options interesting or even useful? Not particularly.
Take the ranger's 18th level feats, for example: Shoot everything in a 10' radius with one arrow. At -5. (Whee. Lots of 18th level threats fill a 10' radius alone). Elsewise, make a snare that has an even lower DC than the default ones. Yeah, ancient dragons and demon lords won't even notice that.
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The impracticality of high level play is one of PF1's major issues. One way to deal with it is to decide to stop the game at mid levels, but if I were a designer, I would find that option depressing. For a game developer worth his/her salt, this issue is a challenge to be tackled head-on.
Besides, there's a business aspect to it. I remember reading somewhere that the high level chapters of the APs don't sell as well as the first couple of installments. So, as a company, you want to make high level play interesting.
The trick is of course to keep it playable, while making it exciting. PF1 failed at the first of these goals, and not every class succeeded at the second: Remember how often a class capstone looked boring and/or weak. So, this is one of the most difficult tricks to pull off in PF2.
Every campaign I've run in PF1 (barring the rare occasions I've run an AP, I mostly make my own campaigns) has been levels 1-20, so yeah I'm all for good high level play. I love seeing a party go all the way from the bottom of progression to getting their capstone and having the big finish (usually saving the world in general. That's where my campaigns tend to end up. I'm that guy. Also 90% chance the final boss will include at least one dragon but that's neither here nor there).
But yeah, seeing stuff polished is great. That was a big problem I have in PF1, making proper challenges for a full high level party. There's so much variance and jank that usually unless I just give it arbitrary numbers based off of my understanding of my party and the game system (which is something I absolutely started doing in my latest PF1 campaign and it's worked great, kinda funny considering that's how PF2 monsters are) challenges were usually either steamrolled or they were practically oneshotting characters. Or a foe would be no threat or moderate threat to one character but absolutely lethal to another due to the massive variance in whatever the monster was targeting (AC and HP, a specific save, CMD, whatever). Shining example of that was a boss I made for a 10th level party that was able to do nearly half of the frontliner's HP in an attack but I accidentally took the low Con Sorcerer from full HP to actually dead because I didn't realize he had such bad HP (that actually ended up sending his character down a new path but that's neither here nor there).
It has taken me actual YEARS to learn to challenge my PF1 parties well with any sort of consistency and that usually involves a lot of homebrew or personally building player race enemies. PF2 so far has seemed to have the appropriate amount of challenge baked right in which majorly impresses me. Our battle experiences in DD so far through chapter 4 have gone great. (Though my party avoided over half the fights in The Lost Star and almost every fight in The Mirrored Moon by being smart. XD The final fights of both were still good and the other two chapters tested out different manners of challenge well.)
...well, that was a long way to say I like high level play and love seeing it polished. As an aside I LOVE some of the PF2 capstones. I feel like they could definitely use tweaking on some though. Like I don't see a Cleric ever taking Metamagic Channeler over a level 10 spell.
Also on the note of high level play, one of the things I've loved about PF2 (along with most of my group) is the balance. The super jank and cheese crazy stuff you could do in PF1 is fun for a while but most of us have gotten a little tired of the shenanigans which is why the polish of PF2 is such a breath of fresh air. Not to say we don't love PF1, both will likely have their place in the future with us, but loving PF2.
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I've noticed a few sorts of people when it comes to talks of higher level play. I won't summarize them all, but just a few of the common view points I've seen that I think are worth bringing up when talking about "Should we just stop the game at level X instead of 20?"
1) The habituals: these folks stop their campaigns at around a particular level (let's say 12 just to put a number on it) because that's where they stop their campaigns, has been for years (or decades) and will continue to be. No amount of alteration to the rules, whether it's smoothing out the bumps of continued progression like PF2 is trying to do (and D&D5 tries to do), or cutting progression down to a drizzle after a particular as the AD&D-era did, will change these people's campaigns: they will always end at level 12, because "that's just when campaigns end."
2) The hopefuls: these folks, for a variety of reasons including but not limited to "I used to be able to play to whatever level I wanted back in the day, and everything worked fine", are looking for a system that un-does the damage to higher level campaigns that the 3.x/OGL janky math skeleton did to the game. Some of them want a continued sense of progression for however long they wish to play the character, and others want indefinite length of play above all else (even if it means going back to a system of character improvement ratcheting down to nearly nothing bit by bit as levels rise).
Why do I think those are the most interesting groups to consider when bringing up the question of when the official rules should end the game? Because there is a clear way to satisfy both - continue to let the habituals ignore higher-level content in the core books as they are already used to doing (and, evidently, happy enough to keep doing), and try to find a way to satisfy at least some significant portion of the hopefuls because doing so will bring in product purchases that might not exist if you decide "let's just stop the game at an equally arbitrary, but earlier, point than level 20."