Problems with high level play


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Vidmaster7 wrote:
High level PF is like any level 1st edition D&D in that one bad or good roll could end a combat immediately. It's very rocket tag but with prep work. So you go well I know they are gonna fire a rocket at me but I have my protection from arrows but they know I will have that up so they will probably napalm me but I have fire shield which means I will be hit by disintegrate most likely but I have volley ready and ofcourse they will too so it will be 50/50 who gets nuked. This has always been high level play to me so it's what I expect however I wouldn't mind for it to be less rocket taggy.

So like a casual game of 4D chess then.


Pumpkinhead11 wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
High level PF is like any level 1st edition D&D in that one bad or good roll could end a combat immediately. It's very rocket tag but with prep work. So you go well I know they are gonna fire a rocket at me but I have my protection from arrows but they know I will have that up so they will probably napalm me but I have fire shield which means I will be hit by disintegrate most likely but I have volley ready and ofcourse they will too so it will be 50/50 who gets nuked. This has always been high level play to me so it's what I expect however I wouldn't mind for it to be less rocket taggy.
So like a casual game of 4D chess then.

Hmm yeah fairly accurate. That was my low-mid to high level 1st edition D&D experience. Also my experience with D&D 3rd edition high-high level play.

Shadow Lodge

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Vidmaster7 wrote:
High level ... rocket tag

Everytime I see people talking about rocket tag in high level play it's always them damn casters causing it, even in your example it's wizards prepping just the right offensive and defensive spells. Hell I remember the time I personally caused a case of rocket tag and ended an encounter before the enemy even had a chance to act, good ol' phantasmal killer.

Hopefully spells have been wrangled in the new edition. From memory in the play test the Save or Die spells now need the enemy to critically fail to die, so that's a step in the right direction.


Oh yeah a fighter in D&D 1st editon was great until the wizard came into power then it was all about magic.

At low levels figther could be a bit rocket taggy in that they tended to kill and be killed with in one strike for a little bit, but it wasn't as guaranteed as high level casters.

The way to survive and I had a 14th level fighter in 1st which is like a 20+ toon in 3rd the trick was to get as many magic items as you could to help you survive the doom magic.

Shadow Lodge

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Vidmaster 1st edition wrote:
At low levels figther could be a bit rocket taggy

that's not rocket tag, that's rusty dagger shank town, which also seems to be alleviated a bit by getting a racial hit points plus your class hit die.


Yeah Hp has increased signifiantly in later editions which I approve of. I think Zeuz the god had only like 3-4 hundred hp back in 1st. Tarrasuqe had maybe around 2-3 hundred I think as well. so more helps for sure.


Skerek wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
High level ... rocket tag

Everytime I see people talking about rocket tag in high level play it's always them damn casters causing it, even in your example it's wizards prepping just the right offensive and defensive spells. Hell I remember the time I personally caused a case of rocket tag and ended an encounter before the enemy even had a chance to act, good ol' phantasmal killer.

Hopefully spells have been wrangled in the new edition. From memory in the play test the Save or Die spells now need the enemy to critically fail to die, so that's a step in the right direction.

The martial version of it is generally pounce-based. Oh what a shame, the target was eviscerated.


A certain barbarian and bat team comes to mind.

Shadow Lodge

Cyouni wrote:
Skerek wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
High level ... rocket tag

Everytime I see people talking about rocket tag in high level play it's always them damn casters causing it, even in your example it's wizards prepping just the right offensive and defensive spells. Hell I remember the time I personally caused a case of rocket tag and ended an encounter before the enemy even had a chance to act, good ol' phantasmal killer.

Hopefully spells have been wrangled in the new edition. From memory in the play test the Save or Die spells now need the enemy to critically fail to die, so that's a step in the right direction.
The martial version of it is generally pounce-based. Oh what a shame, the target was eviscerated.

I don't mind martial rocket tag as much as it was generally a specific build or feat that made it viable, compared to the baked in abilities of a wizard/sorcerer.

Vidmaster7 wrote:
A certain barbarian and bat team comes to mind.

Didn't that team require the x3 damage from the lance pounce to trigger on every attack to be stupidly OP rather than just regularly OP? I remember a dev saying it shouldn't work because the bonus damage from the lance/spirited charge is from the momentum from the charge put into the attack which is lost after the first strike.


Yeah that was really only the tip of the ice berg really he also sundered spells and could charge up to thousands of feet to get to his target and had a perception that made sure he saw you first. so basically you could walk into his kill zone and boom dead before you knew what happened. I think someone still has a build that works for him even without RAGELANCEPOUNCE.


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Pumpkinhead11 wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
High level PF is like any level 1st edition D&D in that one bad or good roll could end a combat immediately. It's very rocket tag but with prep work. So you go well I know they are gonna fire a rocket at me but I have my protection from arrows but they know I will have that up so they will probably napalm me but I have fire shield which means I will be hit by disintegrate most likely but I have volley ready and ofcourse they will too so it will be 50/50 who gets nuked. This has always been high level play to me so it's what I expect however I wouldn't mind for it to be less rocket taggy.
So like a casual game of 4D chess then.

Honestly from my experiences with PF2 Playtest high level play, things aren't nearly as rocket taggy. I mean fights do tend to still be over in just a few rounds but I think more would be very long combat, and rocket tag is like just a round or two anyway. PF2 PT high level play tends to be a bit longer, and it's more a sense of a quick and often brutal struggle to get an upper hand and then bring your opponent down rather than anything that normally constitutes rocket tag. I've personally quite enjoyed high level PF2.

And casters certainly don't seem to roll out the rocket tag either, likely due to the fight-enders usually requiring crit fails. The closest thing to rocket tag in PF2 PT I think is that multi target blast spells are VERY effective if you have more than a couple enemies to nail. If you've got a bunch of foes lower level than you or foes about equal in number and power to your party then blasts do some serious work if you don't have countermeasures (Resist Energy and ESPECIALLY Shadow Siphon work wonders, Master proficiency in the applicable save works wonders, and the generally higher HP of characters makes everyone stick around longer, plus in-battle healing to stave off a loss is quite effective).

All in all PF2 high level still feels very strategic and fun to me and seems to avert rocket tag quite well.


Edge93 wrote:
Pumpkinhead11 wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
High level PF is like any level 1st edition D&D in that one bad or good roll could end a combat immediately. It's very rocket tag but with prep work. So you go well I know they are gonna fire a rocket at me but I have my protection from arrows but they know I will have that up so they will probably napalm me but I have fire shield which means I will be hit by disintegrate most likely but I have volley ready and ofcourse they will too so it will be 50/50 who gets nuked. This has always been high level play to me so it's what I expect however I wouldn't mind for it to be less rocket taggy.
So like a casual game of 4D chess then.

Honestly from my experiences with PF2 Playtest high level play, things aren't nearly as rocket taggy. I mean fights do tend to still be over in just a few rounds but I think more would be very long combat, and rocket tag is like just a round or two anyway. PF2 PT high level play tends to be a bit longer, and it's more a sense of a quick and often brutal struggle to get an upper hand and then bring your opponent down rather than anything that normally constitutes rocket tag. I've personally quite enjoyed high level PF2.

And casters certainly don't seem to roll out the rocket tag either, likely due to the fight-enders usually requiring crit fails. The closest thing to rocket tag in PF2 PT I think is that multi target blast spells are VERY effective if you have more than a couple enemies to nail. If you've got a bunch of foes lower level than you or foes about equal in number and power to your party then blasts do some serious work if you don't have countermeasures (Resist Energy and ESPECIALLY Shadow Siphon work wonders, Master proficiency in the applicable save works wonders, and the generally higher HP of characters makes everyone stick around longer, plus in-battle healing to stave off a loss is quite effective).

All in all PF2 high level still feels very strategic and fun to me and seems to avert rocket...

I'm glad to hear that.


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Edge93 wrote:
If you're looking for a system that's tamer at high levels, 5e -might- be for you. Numbers in that game go up WAY slower and it results in a dynamic when even a high level party can be threatened by a significant number of low level enemies. You get stronger abilities and MUCH stronger spells as you level, which means some builds and classes definitely can dominate large numbers of weaker foes, at least to a point, but there are still ways to make more modest threats a threat still.

I'd like to point out that 5e isn't really better when it comes to magic making for gonzo plots. The bounded accuracy flattens the powercurve from a numerical standpoint, but outside of combat the spells are more plot breaking than the spells in the playtest. For example, casters get fly a level earlier in 5e, and both fly and invisibility last for 10 minutes out the box. Dimension door lets you carry another person, and teleport only takes 1 standard action to cast. The concentration mechanics mean your caster can't fly and be invisible at the same time in a fight, but combat isn't usually the big problem with plots breaking down.

If you want to avoid such shenanigans but still play with the mechanics of PF or D&D your best bet is capping your level.


jquest716 wrote:
So funny story, my old campaign got to level 20 it was amazing but here is the thing story and RP comes from a dedicated DM and players. Players who become dedicated to caring for NPCs and the world around them which would make games more RP intensive. Also, I don't think the OP issue lies with the game but more with those playing with them. In my said level 20 game our bard died because an NPC who they had known and cared for since early on had poisoned their dinner. The bard failed their save and that was it, dead. It came out that the NPC's family had become thralls to a high level vampire and to save them she had to take out the bard. In the end the NPC died, her family died, and the vampire died. But again that came from the DM spending the time to seed the NPC into our campaign the player building a friendship and all of us being invested in the world. Its a two way street, as a player you gotta help the DM and as a DM you need to help the players. Also we only play bi-weekly so that gives our DM time to really work on the game.

What prevented their resurrection?


swoosh wrote:

Isn't the obvious solution to this just to not play high level campaigns?

Not liking the paradigms of high level play is fine, but this seems completely avoidable by not engaging in that kind of content in the first place.

I think that is ignoring what the OP is desiring though. They like the level / character mechanical progression and would like the core gameplay loop to continue into later levels without everything collapsing.

Personally I doubt it will be nearly as bad as it was with PF1e in high level play. But I won't know for sure until I get the book.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Edge93 wrote:
If you're looking for a system that's tamer at high levels, 5e -might- be for you. Numbers in that game go up WAY slower and it results in a dynamic when even a high level party can be threatened by a significant number of low level enemies. You get stronger abilities and MUCH stronger spells as you level, which means some builds and classes definitely can dominate large numbers of weaker foes, at least to a point, but there are still ways to make more modest threats a threat still.

I'd like to point out that 5e isn't really better when it comes to magic making for gonzo plots. The bounded accuracy flattens the powercurve from a numerical standpoint, but outside of combat the spells are more plot breaking than the spells in the playtest. For example, casters get fly a level earlier in 5e, and both fly and invisibility last for 10 minutes out the box. Dimension door lets you carry another person, and teleport only takes 1 standard action to cast. The concentration mechanics mean your caster can't fly and be invisible at the same time in a fight, but combat isn't usually the big problem with plots breaking down.

If you want to avoid such shenanigans but still play with the mechanics of PF or D&D your best bet is capping your level.

invisibility lasts for an hour+ IIRC, and tiny hut is a level 3 magnificent mansion.

5e is a decent system, but it doesn't do what PF2 does to try and fix caster disparity, it's better than PF1, but that's not really saying anything.


I'll be honest, I've only had one character reach a high level. We got all the way to level 18 before the campaign came to an end. But I was starting to get a little tired of playing the same character by around level 14. But I didn't want to just switch out to a different one because I'd be starting THAT character at the same high level and be fully optimized already. So it could still feel a little boring. I'm looking forward to my next campaign where I can pick a character I haven't played and see how they grow.


The Gleeful Grognard wrote:


I think that is ignoring what the OP is desiring though. They like the level / character mechanical progression and would like the core gameplay loop to continue into later levels without everything collapsing.

Balance is one thing but he's talking about the fundamental paradigm of high level play itself being his problem. He doesn't like the idea of high level characters, so avoiding that content seems to make the most sense by far.


I just think when you get into higher levels, the power you get severely limits roleplay, and you are mostly facing monsters.
Go to desert kill some huge demon, and that's it, a safari, no politics, no danger on the streets unless you make some dragon ball z super sayan thugs. Someone stabs you with a dagger in the neck in a dark alley, no biggy its just a d4

I just think a for RPG with leveling system days are over, at least for me
If nobody played shadowrun which is a good example of horizontal character progression, you basically dont level, there is no levels, every skill, feat, stat, or spell has cost in experience points that you can buy any time.
When you are facing a bigger threat, equivalent of a dragon, you need a right weapons and tools to defeat it, rather then just becoming a captain America by leveling. System like this makes those kobolds, thugs, and bandits you fought when starting out relevant through any stage of the game.
...and its just silly to hire a lvl 1 party to clear out kobolds, when you can hire a flying mage that could exterminate them in 50 mile radius in couple of hours. From a world immersion perspective there wouldn't be a kobold alive when first person in the world reached level 10.
Its just to gamey


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Ok, how does being a high level mean your campaign can't use non-combat scenarios or that power won't let you RP? In my last game, the entire campaign was eventually leading up to us killing several ancient chromatic dragons that threatened the continent. We were level 17 and there were only two of them left - Red and Green. The party is highly optimized for dragon slaying. But instead of killing Red, we made a DEAL with him! He and his red dragons leave the cities alone, we leave them alone. That was a matter of an RP solution to what could have been just another fight encounter. You could argue that we went out to face a monster, but that was the story of that game. One could easily have a completely non-combat Pathfinder campaign if that's what they wanted. Heck, there's probably at least one module that has a story leaning that way already.

A high level does NOT limit the ability to roleplay.


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(A game is only as limited as the players' creativity and their power/wealth/influence level).

The same campaign can have a group be an evil robot/construct empire, a band of Robin hood like thief, a seafaring journey through the continents, a dungeon crawler, a political murder mystery, a city building simulator, a rocket/starfaring adventure, etc.


I'm currently DMing a 2yr Gestalt Evil Campaign and we're lvl 10 atm, but we're planning to go all the way to lvl20 (or even higher if they want). I actually prefer high-level play because you can make the challenges absolutely insane. The party has a counter to everything in the game by that point, so it's fun and rewarding to watch them try to get through it all.

One thing that I like doing to keep things fresh is to have faster-than-normal leveling. Like, we level up every 4-5 weeks (on a leveling schedule of approx. 20 levels in 24 months) as opposed to experience based leveling. We also have a great group with awesome attendance, and we usually have 5-6 hour sessions, sometimes 7-8 hour sessions if we're in the middle of a fight.

Maybe it's just a matter of perspective though. I like lower and mid level games too, but I personally have more fun with lvls 16+. Most builds come to fruition around lvl 12ish, but lvl 16+ is where you get to see the really fun stuff :)


duje wrote:

I just think when you get into higher levels, the power you get severely limits roleplay, and you are mostly facing monsters.

Go to desert kill some huge demon, and that's it, a safari, no politics, no danger on the streets unless you make some dragon ball z super sayan thugs. Someone stabs you with a dagger in the neck in a dark alley, no biggy its just a d4

...

Let's use my most recent campaign, in the Iron Gods adventure path, as an example of the need for roleplaying at high levels.

In the 5th module, Palace of Fallen Stars, the PCs entered the city of Starfall to gather information on Silver Mount, the local name for the mountain topped with the crashed starship Divinity. They wanted to avoid the notice of the hostile Technic League, a group of wizards higher level than the party supplemented alien technology and headquartered in Starfall. They made a choice unexpected by the module but in character for them: they left their high-level gear and alien technology behind, resumed their true names instead of the cover names they used in adventuring, and walked into Starfall without making a fuss. They roleplayed the module instead of fighting their way through the module.

Of course, they could not completely avoid fights. One potential informant at the illegal night market got into a fight with a Technic League captain. The module intended for the party to fight the captain, but no, that would break their cover. Instead, a common tanglefoot bag thrown from hiding delayed the captain enough that the informant could escape. The whole module was like that, with the party roleplaying simple solutions rather than brute power or using high-level abilities in secret to accomplish their goals (spoilers at Inconspicuous PCs Unmotivated in Palace of Fallen Stars. Slow and steady roleplaying solutions are unfortunately slow.)

If someone had stabbed a PC in the slums of Starfall with a puny 1d4 weapon damage and 1d6 sneak attack damage, then the PC's hit points would have been barely touched. But the PC would have bluffed to pretend to be hurt to maintain his or her disguise. That would still have been dramatic--not the threat of death but the threat of discovery.

In the 6th module, The Divinity Drive, they took the opposite approach. They revealed their full abilities to the archvillian Unity in the starship Divinity and asked for a job as repair crew. Unity knew that he could not trust them, but he could squash them like bugs at will and the ship needed repairs and his old friend Casandalee vouched for them, so he hired them. And Unity was very impressed by the work they accomplished, which made him more powerful and advanced the schedule on his evil plan. Yet when the party finally turned against Unity, after figuring out his plan and its weaknesses, half of Unity's minions sided with the party. The heroes had befriended them through roleplaying as coworkers.

The module had intended the party to fight their way through the starship to Unity's command center, finding mostly enemies to kill and a few weak allies on the way. Instead, my players were able to roleplay a new solution because their characters had awesome high-level skills.

When the characters are low level and have the same abilities as any local caravan guard or temple cleric, then their roleplaying falls into standard solutions. At high level, when their abilities or recent experiences are unique, the roleplayed solutions become delightfully creative.


The whole game is about facing dangerous monsters and at high level they are even more so. Everything is a matter of life and death. I don't have a problem with it, nor should anyone that organically leveled to that point in the game. By then, you're acclimated to teleporting and other strangeness.


Just because high level content isn’t played all that much doesn’t mean it isn’t used.

Every book I brought I brought because I was interested in the high level stuff. I have theory crafter over 30 level 20, Mythic 10 characters with full personalities and back stories.

The high level stuff is part of the fun. A big part.

I don’t get to play much at all D&D isn’t big wear I a, and when it’s played it’s mostly 5e. I am sure I am not the only one who enjoys these high level options even knowing I may never play them.

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