Problems with high level play


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Most of you would agree that playing game from lvls 11+ happens really rare, and besides people quitting because personal matters and game going too long to get to there, not many ones-shots are played either at higher levels.

From my perspective, I am more of a black trenchcoat then pink mohawk player, I like intrigue, planing, avoiding fights by finding alternative solutions if possible, rather then rolling for initiative fight after fight, as that becomes more of a stale dice game then role playing game to me. I like 80-90% of my game to be roleplay, and those 10-20% really lethal/important fights, rather than you are jumped by kobolds, roll for initiative, goblins, roll for initiative...

Now why is this important for high level play, its because you became so epic, that world around you becomes to mundane and harmless, world does not present a challenge, and funny enough only challenge you get are these ridiculous huge monsters that are so abstract to imagine a fight with, as everyone is flying teleporting around, its just a mess, and its just not enjoyable at all.
I think thats the reason why high level play gets so little love, from both kind of players.

What do you think solutions would be?
I think leveling should be more horizontal then vertical, you dont get more powerful, but rather you have more options and tools on your disposal, maybe tone down high fantasy as well?


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I think that might be better accomplished with a different game. Pathfinder has roots in war games, high power fantasy, and mythology it's not going to be well suited to a game that is only 10% combat and where you don't want to fight big world threatening monsters.

I personally like Powered by the Apocalypse systems for less combat heavy stories but I don't know if there is a good Powered by the Apocalypse hack for fantasy intreague. Monster of the Week works well but it's by default set as an urban fantasy, could probably be modified though.


Isnt Pathfinder like fork from DnD?
Wargame would be like war hammer, where you command an army.
I dont have trouble playing a game of pathfinder where we have 1 or 2 fights per session, its just it becomes more difficult as you get into higher levels as world becomes harmless, and you are pigeonholed into playing a safari against weird or ginormous monsters

I think problem with Pathfinder and DnD today is that all that high level content gets used in like 1% of the games, its wasted effort of creators for the most part...


I have similar inclinations towards role-playing over strategy. And I'm sorry I don't have a proper suggestion. I don't think I've ever played or run a game where characters were over level 12. In fact I sometimes impose a level cap for the exact same reasons as you mentioned, although I don't think it will address the issue.

My thinking is that if by some miracle the players survive enough to reach level 10 then consider campaigns that take place in alternate plains of existence. See how they fair in the elemental plane of air, where falling off a skyship is instant death. See what they do in the plain of fire, where in the city of bronze one's resourcefulness more important than one's combat skills. How about the feywilds, where the denizens of the unseele court each represent more than a few threats to the party.

Maybe epic player-characters require more epic worlds where fighting becomes literally a detriment to their progress and where diplomatic/scientific solutions are favorable.

Although I can see this being interpreted by the players as a challenge to just pick more fights and get more loot. I dunno.


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I think the game will work just fine for less combat-heavy games. The one I'm setting up now is very Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild-inspired, in that a lot of it is going to be exploration, survival, and uncovering ruins and things (all of which I'll give XP for, in addition to combat), that kind of thing.

But I like high fantasy, so I wouldn't want to really get rid of it. What you do is take inspiration from bigtime mythological stories and other media. If the PCs are now like gods, cool, get them involved directly in the machinations of the gods as peers, rather than mere uppity mortals who challenge them. Have them take on more abstract challenges. Starvation, wars over resources, plagues, natural disasters (on a vast scale). Have them go to other realms and do the things high-level PCs do. They can still face challenges that you can't just beat up and still need strategy to overcome, such as a league of gods, social upheaval, or that kind of thing.

Even at lower levels, I don't tend to run games that are one fight after another. Not that there's anything wrong with such a game, but what I enjoy most is immersion in a high fantasy world, so I really strive to help bring it to life through exploration, interaction, and so on.


Jesikah Morning's Dew wrote:

I think the game will work just fine for less combat-heavy games. The one I'm setting up now is very Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild-inspired, in that a lot of it is going to be exploration, survival, and uncovering ruins and things (all of which I'll give XP for, in addition to combat), that kind of thing.

But I like high fantasy, so I wouldn't want to really get rid of it. What you do is take inspiration from bigtime mythological stories and other media. If the PCs are now like gods, cool, get them involved directly in the machinations of the gods as peers, rather than mere uppity mortals who challenge them. Have them take on more abstract challenges. Starvation, wars over resources, plagues, natural disasters (on a vast scale). Have them go to other realms and do the things high-level PCs do. They can still face challenges that you can't just beat up and still need strategy to overcome, such as a league of gods, social upheaval, or that kind of thing.

Even at lower levels, I don't tend to run games that are one fight after another. Not that there's anything wrong with such a game, but what I enjoy most is immersion in a high fantasy world, so I really strive to help bring it to life through exploration, interaction, and so on.

exactly, and that where all the fun and jokes are, when you are in a fight you are basically looking at your sheet, adding numbers, looking at your options, while interaction with players and world/DM goes to minimum.

When i said tone down high fantasy, i think all the flying, teleporting, time travel, whishes, traveling to other planes and dimensions should be harshly reduced, stuff like that should be rare, hard to get, and precious, basically a plot hook rather than a form of gameplay.
The way is it now, once you get to that powerlevel you need monsters that can challenge that, and it just becomes to weird


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duje wrote:
Isnt Pathfinder like fork from DnD?

And D&D forked off of a wargame.


Fobok wrote:
duje wrote:
Isnt Pathfinder like fork from DnD?
And D&D forked off of a wargame.

I dont consider a DnD or Pathdfinder a Wargame, Wargame is completely another genre.

Warhammer, Infinity(altho this could be more of a tactics game), historical wargames and so on.
To me wargame or tactics game is a game where you dont have a close attachment to the army or squad you are using, there is no leveling but point buy, nor any kind of social interaction with the world, you are simulating a battle or skirmish on a map against other people in a competitive manner.
Chess is probably oldest wargame in existance


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Actually, D&D really was forked from the wargame of miniatures. The original game was called Chainmail.


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I've run games at high levels throughout 3e, 3.5, and PF1, and the game breaking down at high levels always occured IN combat and less so outside of it.

You can absolutely run games with less combat (and I know that I do, because 4 hours of rolling dice against AC starts to wear on the soul). How does the game break down for you outside of combat? It sounds like you're looking for a very specific game or DM.


Kraege wrote:
Actually, D&D really was forked from the wargame of miniatures. The original game was called Chainmail.

First edition of DnD had some aspects of an wargame, you could build a castle, raise an army and go to wars, but that aspect of that game was almost never used, and was actually poorly done

DnD maybe took inspiration from a wargame, but its not a wargame

Pathfinder or Dnd is basically a PvE game, maybe from DM perspective it is a kinda wargame, but as a DM you dont really wont to kill of players, but rather push the story forward.
If you are going into role playing game thinking its a wargame, then you really like your wargames in care-bear mode :D

Scarab Sages

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duje wrote:
Fobok wrote:
duje wrote:
Isnt Pathfinder like fork from DnD?
And D&D forked off of a wargame.

I dont consider a DnD or Pathdfinder a Wargame, Wargame is completely another genre.

Warhammer, Infinity(altho this could be more of a tactics game), historical wargames and so on.
To me wargame or tactics game is a game where you dont have a close attachment to the army or squad you are using, there is no leveling but point buy, nor any kind of social interaction with the world, you are simulating a battle or skirmish on a map against other people in a competitive manner.
Chess is probably oldest wargame in existance

Pathfinder and D&D certainly aren't wargames now. But Kraege and Fobok are right, D&D had it's roots in a wargame, Chainmail. Gary Gygax's innovation is that you could marry a story with it and give depth to the experience.

If you're looking to tone down high-fantasy, you need another game mechanically. I'd look at the One Ring - (not the 5e version, but the system unique version). Tolkien done right really is a low-magic game. You could also look at the RPG based on George Martin's Song of Fire and Ice. It's another low-magic game. Both would let you focus on the story and intrigue and less on the tactical combat.


JohannVonUlm wrote:
duje wrote:
Fobok wrote:
duje wrote:
Isnt Pathfinder like fork from DnD?
And D&D forked off of a wargame.

I dont consider a DnD or Pathdfinder a Wargame, Wargame is completely another genre.

Warhammer, Infinity(altho this could be more of a tactics game), historical wargames and so on.
To me wargame or tactics game is a game where you dont have a close attachment to the army or squad you are using, there is no leveling but point buy, nor any kind of social interaction with the world, you are simulating a battle or skirmish on a map against other people in a competitive manner.
Chess is probably oldest wargame in existance

Pathfinder and D&D certainly aren't wargames now. But Kraege and Fobok are right, D&D had it's roots in a wargame, Chainmail. Gary Gygax's innovation is that you could marry a story with it and give depth to the experience.

If you're looking to tone down high-fantasy, you need another game mechanically. I'd look at the One Ring - (not the 5e version, but the system unique version). Tolkien done right really is a low-magic game. You could also look at the RPG based on George Martin's Song of Fire and Ice. It's another low-magic game. Both would let you focus on the story and intrigue and less on the tactical combat.

I think shadowrun is also a good example of balanced not over the top RP game, i dont know any pure fantasy game like that, as you bassicaly start as finished charachter, and all the karma(xp) and money you get is basically just to expend your options, at the end of the day no matter how much stuff you did, you are still just as helpless dude in a dangerous world :D


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Part 6 Doomsday Dawn in the Playtest was designed to specifically test intrigue-type scenarios at high level. Sure, there were combats, but most of it was focused around running a heist without anyone finding out what you were up to.

I think it will be quite possible to run RP-first campaigns with the 2e ruleset, but it will be done in the assumed high-magic setting. So many of the solutions will revolve around the use of magic or superhuman abilities of the player characters.

You can probably adapt the system for low magic, but those types of setting work much better at low levels, IMHO.


duje wrote:
JohannVonUlm wrote:
duje wrote:
Fobok wrote:
duje wrote:
Isnt Pathfinder like fork from DnD?
And D&D forked off of a wargame.

I dont consider a DnD or Pathdfinder a Wargame, Wargame is completely another genre.

Warhammer, Infinity(altho this could be more of a tactics game), historical wargames and so on.
To me wargame or tactics game is a game where you dont have a close attachment to the army or squad you are using, there is no leveling but point buy, nor any kind of social interaction with the world, you are simulating a battle or skirmish on a map against other people in a competitive manner.
Chess is probably oldest wargame in existance

Pathfinder and D&D certainly aren't wargames now. But Kraege and Fobok are right, D&D had it's roots in a wargame, Chainmail. Gary Gygax's innovation is that you could marry a story with it and give depth to the experience.

If you're looking to tone down high-fantasy, you need another game mechanically. I'd look at the One Ring - (not the 5e version, but the system unique version). Tolkien done right really is a low-magic game. You could also look at the RPG based on George Martin's Song of Fire and Ice. It's another low-magic game. Both would let you focus on the story and intrigue and less on the tactical combat.

I think shadowrun is also a good example of balanced not over the top RP game, i dont know any pure fantasy game like that, as you bassicaly start as finished charachter, and all the karma(xp) and money you get is basically just to expend your options, at the end of the day no matter how much stuff you did, you are still just as helpless dude in a dangerous world :D

Then check out World/Chronicles of Darkness games. You can build completely Horizontally or Vertically and still be relevant. It’s designed around lethal and quick combat with out of combat solutions being just as viable.


shadram wrote:

Part 6 Doomsday Dawn in the Playtest was designed to specifically test intrigue-type scenarios at high level. Sure, there were combats, but most of it was focused around running a heist without anyone finding out what you were up to.

I think it will be quite possible to run RP-first campaigns with the 2e ruleset, but it will be done in the assumed high-magic setting. So many of the solutions will revolve around the use of magic or superhuman abilities of the player characters.

You can probably adapt the system for low magic, but those types of setting work much better at low levels, IMHO.

I think 2e is a step in a good direction, but then again how proficiency rises with levels, once you hit lets say level 11, you basically became immune all those monsters you fourth at lvl 1, while inother systems they are still dangerous and can kill you, you just have more ways to deal with them


Pumpkinhead11 wrote:
duje wrote:
JohannVonUlm wrote:
duje wrote:
Fobok wrote:
duje wrote:
Isnt Pathfinder like fork from DnD?
And D&D forked off of a wargame.

I dont consider a DnD or Pathdfinder a Wargame, Wargame is completely another genre.

Warhammer, Infinity(altho this could be more of a tactics game), historical wargames and so on.
To me wargame or tactics game is a game where you dont have a close attachment to the army or squad you are using, there is no leveling but point buy, nor any kind of social interaction with the world, you are simulating a battle or skirmish on a map against other people in a competitive manner.
Chess is probably oldest wargame in existance

Pathfinder and D&D certainly aren't wargames now. But Kraege and Fobok are right, D&D had it's roots in a wargame, Chainmail. Gary Gygax's innovation is that you could marry a story with it and give depth to the experience.

If you're looking to tone down high-fantasy, you need another game mechanically. I'd look at the One Ring - (not the 5e version, but the system unique version). Tolkien done right really is a low-magic game. You could also look at the RPG based on George Martin's Song of Fire and Ice. It's another low-magic game. Both would let you focus on the story and intrigue and less on the tactical combat.

I think shadowrun is also a good example of balanced not over the top RP game, i dont know any pure fantasy game like that, as you bassicaly start as finished charachter, and all the karma(xp) and money you get is basically just to expend your options, at the end of the day no matter how much stuff you did, you are still just as helpless dude in a dangerous world :D
Then check out World/Chronicles of Darkness games. You can build completely Horizontally or Vertically and still be relevant. It’s designed around lethal and quick combat with out of combat solutions being just as viable.

I agree its a good example, its just not pure fantasy game, like sword and sorcery


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duje wrote:
Jesikah Morning's Dew wrote:

I think the game will work just fine for less combat-heavy games. The one I'm setting up now is very Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild-inspired, in that a lot of it is going to be exploration, survival, and uncovering ruins and things (all of which I'll give XP for, in addition to combat), that kind of thing.

But I like high fantasy, so I wouldn't want to really get rid of it. What you do is take inspiration from bigtime mythological stories and other media. If the PCs are now like gods, cool, get them involved directly in the machinations of the gods as peers, rather than mere uppity mortals who challenge them. Have them take on more abstract challenges. Starvation, wars over resources, plagues, natural disasters (on a vast scale). Have them go to other realms and do the things high-level PCs do. They can still face challenges that you can't just beat up and still need strategy to overcome, such as a league of gods, social upheaval, or that kind of thing.

Even at lower levels, I don't tend to run games that are one fight after another. Not that there's anything wrong with such a game, but what I enjoy most is immersion in a high fantasy world, so I really strive to help bring it to life through exploration, interaction, and so on.

exactly, and that where all the fun and jokes are, when you are in a fight you are basically looking at your sheet, adding numbers, looking at your options, while interaction with players and world/DM goes to minimum.

When i said tone down high fantasy, i think all the flying, teleporting, time travel, whishes, traveling to other planes and dimensions should be harshly reduced, stuff like that should be rare, hard to get, and precious, basically a plot hook rather than a form of gameplay.
The way is it now, once you get to that powerlevel you need monsters that can challenge that, and it just becomes to weird

I mean, honestly, the "solution" to these high level "problems" is to not play high levels if you don't like this stuff. I don't mean that in a rude way, more matter-of-fact. The high level escalation, getting things like teleportation, planar travel, grander monsters and challenges, etc. is part of the whole POINT of high levels in Pathfinder. The system is DESIGNED to have this escalation, it's not something to fix really. If your group wants high level play without this then making localized changes within your group is fine I'm sure, but it would be a terrible idea to do this to the system itself. Part of the personality of PF high level play is that average challenges and eventually even significant challenges ARE in fact below challenging you. That's when you either see what's next on the food chain of adventure or rest on your laurels and build a kingdom or something. XD

For perspective I am someone who has actually run more than one Level 1-20 game in PF1, and is absolutely ready to do more with PF2, despite the challenges of holding a group that long. ;P

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.

(That said, 5e has its issues. In particular I hear monsters are criticized for not having much in the way of interesting abilities and character customization is found to be too simple or too similar from character to character for the tastes of some, myself included. It's still great for a lot of people though.)


Maybe you can keep the level down like at max lvl 5 and let the players get acess to the more advanced feats in the story, class feats and the other feats in the game to allow more options than power increase.


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you are dime in a dosen my friend :D

Thing is, you had 1 game from 1 to 20, and how many adventures at low level?
Honestly when i see those high level options in classes, i always laugh at myself, like that ever going to be used, same thing with monsters, items and other high level content.
Sure it gets used sometimes, rarely, but thats hours worth of money and time from creators for such niche aspect of these kind of games


Additionally, if you change the +level to proficiency to 1/2 level, 1/4 level, or no level, you vastly widen the span of creature levels that there a party. You just have to be very careful and learn how to build encounters with this in mind because now you can't throw, say, 16 creatures each four levels below the party and have the players still have a shot at winning. They'd get crushed with a lower bonus from level.


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duje wrote:

you are dime in a dosen my friend :D

Thing is, you had 1 game from 1 to 20, and how many adventures at low level?
Honestly when i see thos high level options in classes, i always laught at myself, like that ever going to be used

Generally I make my games one "mission" per level-up. One ruin-delving job, one big mystery solved, one journey through dangerous lands capped with a boss, etc. So each level has roughly asuch time spent on it as any other, though my missions vary in length. (average two sessions per level, sometimes as fast as one or slow as three or four)


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.

(That said, 5e has its issues. In particular I hear monsters are criticized for not having much in the way of interesting abilities and character customization is found to be too simple or too similar from character to character for the tastes of some, myself included. It's still great for a lot of people though.)

I played 5e for some years, currently playing one campaign as well... the game fall apart at high levels, the cracks begin to show at lvl 9 and break at level 11-13, have a reason why the game is mostly played at levels 3 to 12.


Kyrone wrote:
Maybe you can keep the level down like at max lvl 5 and let the players get acess to the more advanced feats in the story, class feats and the other feats in the game to allow more options than power increase.

thats the point, most of us play low level games, because then is still world filled with dangers, cities to explore and so on, once you go at certain threshold it becomes a safary


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Well if you like Shadowrun you can look at its lore related fantasy game Earthdawn. Part of the plot is that magic waxes and wanes. Shadowrun is set in a future where magic is rushing in, trolls and the like began being born, dragons stirred and became CEOs. Earthdawn is set in the past, at a time where magic is dwindling and it was so bad in the past people moved underground.

I really like it because the whole world is infused with magic. Your a ridiculous swordsman? Its because you know that magic of stabbing! Your sword is awesome? Its because you uncovered its name and learned its secrets (you spend xp on bonding with items)


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Malk_Content wrote:

Well if you like Shadowrun you can look at its lore related fantasy game Earthdawn. Part of the plot is that magic waxes and wanes. Shadowrun is set in a future where magic is rushing in, trolls and the like began being born, dragons stirred and became CEOs. Earthdawn is set in the past, at a time where magic is dwindling and it was so bad in the past people moved underground.

I really like it because the whole world is infused with magic. Your a ridiculous swordsman? Its because you know that magic of stabbing! Your sword is awesome? Its because you uncovered its name and learned its secrets (you spend xp on bonding with items)

tnx for sugestion

One other thing that came to my mind as a flaw of game with vertical system like this.

Lets say you want to make world dangerous at higher levels to keep suspension, ok so you are at 11 and walking down the street, thug jumps out and wants to rob you, he is at level 10 so you can have challenge.
But why he is mugging you when he could be killing manticores and hydras :D

Also all of that, i am a warrior and wth my flimsy sword that glows i solo thunder giants and what not just by standing there and exchanging, i still look as normal dude that needs eat, s+*+ and sleep, just doesent hold water from immersion standpoint.


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duje wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:

Well if you like Shadowrun you can look at its lore related fantasy game Earthdawn. Part of the plot is that magic waxes and wanes. Shadowrun is set in a future where magic is rushing in, trolls and the like began being born, dragons stirred and became CEOs. Earthdawn is set in the past, at a time where magic is dwindling and it was so bad in the past people moved underground.

I really like it because the whole world is infused with magic. Your a ridiculous swordsman? Its because you know that magic of stabbing! Your sword is awesome? Its because you uncovered its name and learned its secrets (you spend xp on bonding with items)

tnx for sugestion

One other thing that came to my mind as a flaw of game with vertical system like this.

Lets say you want to make world dangerous at higher levels to keep suspension, ok so you are at 11 and walking down the street, thug jumps out and wants to rob you, he is at level 10 so you can have challenge.
But why he is mugging you when he could be killing manticores and hydras :D

Also all of that, i am a warrior and wth my flimsy sword that glows i solo thunder giants and what not just by standing there and exchanging, i still look as normal dude that needs eat, s!$# and sleep, just doesent hold water from immersion standpoint

On the first, that's when you stop having some things try to rob you. Instead you have high-ranking members of a huge Thieves Guild target you because they've heard of your exploits and know you're freaking loaded. Or members of a powerful Assassins Guild are hired by a leader of an evil country or city who sees you as a potential threat of his rule and they are trying to kill you under the guise of a mugging, as you learn by examining their bodies after.

On the second, ehh, this has some wavering. On one hand, given what the various ability scores represent compared to human standards higher level martial characters logically -should- look the peak of human fitness if not more so. Not everyone goes for that aesthetic though, but I think most who don't aren't bothered my it on an immersion level. I know I never really think about it.

Though for me personally, that partly ties in to another reason. I view the higher levels you can reach in these games as inherently supernatural. Yeah you took down a giant despite simply looking like a remarkably fit human, to me that's an indication of attaining supernatural levels of power and presence. It's not how things work in our world naturally, but that's part of the charm for me.

Not saying your issues aren't legit issues, more that there are ways to work them in high level play and that coming up with ways to do so is just part of the charm of higher-level play, at least IMO.


Edge93 wrote:
duje wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:

Well if you like Shadowrun you can look at its lore related fantasy game Earthdawn. Part of the plot is that magic waxes and wanes. Shadowrun is set in a future where magic is rushing in, trolls and the like began being born, dragons stirred and became CEOs. Earthdawn is set in the past, at a time where magic is dwindling and it was so bad in the past people moved underground.

I really like it because the whole world is infused with magic. Your a ridiculous swordsman? Its because you know that magic of stabbing! Your sword is awesome? Its because you uncovered its name and learned its secrets (you spend xp on bonding with items)

tnx for sugestion

One other thing that came to my mind as a flaw of game with vertical system like this.

Lets say you want to make world dangerous at higher levels to keep suspension, ok so you are at 11 and walking down the street, thug jumps out and wants to rob you, he is at level 10 so you can have challenge.
But why he is mugging you when he could be killing manticores and hydras :D

Also all of that, i am a warrior and wth my flimsy sword that glows i solo thunder giants and what not just by standing there and exchanging, i still look as normal dude that needs eat, s!$# and sleep, just doesent hold water from immersion standpoint

On the first, that's when you stop having some things try to rob you. Instead you have high-ranking members of a huge Thieves Guild target you because they've heard of your exploits and know you're freaking loaded. Or members of a powerful Assassins Guild are hired by a leader of an evil country or city who sees you as a potential threat of his rule and they are trying to kill you under the guise of a mugging, as you learn by examining their bodies after.

On the second, ehh, this has some wavering. On one hand, given what the various ability scores represent compared to human standards higher level martial characters logically -should- look the peak of human fitness if not...

Point i was trying to make, in vertical system if someone in a city, like thieves or thugs can challenge you, they are g~~ d%*n epic and heroic, they are friking heroes that could slay dragons and s%$!, but live in a city as thugs.

So for example in a horizontal leveling sytem, a fighter would not be a sack of health that just shrugs off to thunder and lighting, and can exchange with any Cthulhu monster DM throws at you, he would for example need to procure a balista to hunt a giant, it would give him more depth as master of weapons and war, rather then i specialize in short swods, come at me b@~!!


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I NEVER scale monsters to my party's average level. A random encounter with a their that can take on a party of high level adventures makes absolutely no sense. Sure, if my party is level 12 and they are wandering about town, there is a chance I'll roll an encounter with low level thugs that any one of them can solo. That's fine. They're in a city with normal people, so normal people shouldn't be a threat to them and all they should encounter ought to be normal people (unless they just so happen to bump into a very important NPC randomly). If he party wants more challenging encounters then they will go someplace more dangerous. Or I'll just make encounters with weak mobs more challenging by increasing the numbers or incorporating more strategy.

I can't tell you how annoying it is to encounter random unassuming townsfolk who turn out to be demi-gods once you piss them off. It really breaks my immersion.

I agree that high level adventures who look like ordinary people is kind of odd. But then again, I've never encountered this with seventh level characters and higher in Pathfinder. My level 11 thuggish rogue is decked out in lavish magic apparel that I think actually glows in the dark. Like, I literally purchased magic underwear for him (I think it turns him invisible once a day) simply because it was cheap and I needed to spend my gold. Everything that touched his body was masterwork quality, so he looked like a very, very affluent traveler at worse and a noble at best.

I can't see adventures that are high level looking normal. They're practically freaks of nature. :D


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I'm surprised no one has recommended E6 sub-rule set yet. It seems perfect for what you want to do.

Here's the original thread dating back to DnD3. Here's a Pathfinder conversion of that rule set


I'm the type of player who let the dice fall where they may, not enforcing "acting out" dialogues but rather have the mechanical rules interact with the PC and the in game world so the log of all that happens end up being a more organic "story". And I really like power fantasy, as in casually freaking out the local young dragon with a random display of your power while sleepwalking and making them give up their own treasure in a funny interactive event kind of stuff. It's the main reason why I play a roleplaying game where everything in quantified in an universal metric (Level in D&D and PF's case, CP if GURPS) rather that a so-called "storytelling" game.

On the topic though, if the preferrence of power fantasy problem is cleared, I think that real life time constraints on keeping a long campaign is the main reason why high level games won't last long. If such, why not start the game from a high level (11+) to begin with? Why not slaughter that sacred cow of having to start with Level 1?


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duje wrote:
Point i was trying to make, in vertical system if someone in a city, like thieves or thugs can challenge you, they are g~& d$@n epic and heroic, they are friking heroes that could slay dragons and s%$~, but live in a city as thugs.

The better question is, why would they go and risk dying to try and kill a dragon when they can safely rule a city with an iron fist? Not everyone wants to do good or go out adventuring. A boss of a thieves guild is set for life staying where he is and killing people/adventurers that try and upset their lifestyle.


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Pumpkinhead11 wrote:
duje wrote:
Point i was trying to make, in vertical system if someone in a city, like thieves or thugs can challenge you, they are g~& d$@n epic and heroic, they are friking heroes that could slay dragons and s%$~, but live in a city as thugs.
The better question is, why would they go and risk dying to try and kill a dragon when they can safely rule a city with an iron fist? Not everyone wants to do good or go out adventuring. A boss of a thieves guild is set for life staying where he is and killing people/adventurers that try and upset their lifestyle.

That's just what I was thinking, wasn't sure how to put it. XD

I can never find it but somewhere I heard a scale of thematic escalation by level for PF that I really liked.

Level 1-5 you're doing largely minor stuff, simple adventurers ranging from helping or saving individuals to maybe aiding a whole city.

Level 6-10 you're making a name for yourself and your adventures should be aiding or saving cities, maybe even aiding a whole kingdom or region.

Level 11-15 you're a force to be reckoned with, your adventures are typically on a scale of aiding or saving whole kingdoms, even reaching worldwide scope at the latter end.

Level 16-20 you are a legend, your adventures are typically worldwide or even outright multi/extraplanar in scope.

Something like that. Might bear tweaking in PF2 but I like the model.


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Isn't what you're looking for called Pathfinder E6? Google that.


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Edge93 wrote:


That's just what I was thinking, wasn't sure how to put it. XD

I can never find it but somewhere I heard a scale of thematic escalation by level for PF that I really liked.

Level 1-5 you're doing largely minor stuff, simple adventurers ranging from helping or saving individuals to maybe aiding a whole city.

Level 6-10 you're making a name for yourself and your adventures should be aiding or saving cities, maybe even aiding a whole kingdom or region.

Level 11-15 you're a force to be reckoned with, your adventures are typically on a scale of aiding or saving whole kingdoms, even reaching worldwide scope at the latter end.

Level 16-20 you are a legend, your adventures are typically worldwide or even outright multi/extraplanar in scope.

Something like that. Might bear tweaking in PF2 but I like the model.

5E formalized this into Tiers: 1-4, 5-10, 11-16, 17-20.

The tier breakpoints coincide with spellcasting prowess: you can have 1st level, 3rd level, 6th level, and 9th level spells at those tiers, so adventure authors have some sense as to potential capabilities. Also, because of 5E's bounded accuracy, it's OK to have adventurers intermix within a tier, while PF2's math will want tighter bounds on adventurer levels (so a 5-8 mod with a low tier and a high tier, not 5-10 where the level 10 is +5 better at attacks/AC/DCs than the level 5 character). Neither is better or worse, they're just different.

Scarab Sages

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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.


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One thing about D&D's roots in war games that doesn't get mentioned as much is that, up until 3rd Edition in '99, it was assumed in the rules that PCs would get involved in kingdom building and politics around 9th level.

Now, that's not necessarily gritty intrigue. They become actual movers and shakers in the setting. But if they've been in the shadows for the first half of their career, being able to move out into the light is a nice progression.

Personal power is another reason for NPCs to actually give start-up adventurers the time of day, divinations and improved skills give access to evidence needed to make informed decisions, and teleportation means you can meet face-to-face with contacts anywhere in the world. In a political game, all that power cuts through a lot of non-political time.

Obviously, this can get boring if no-one else in the world has the same level of power, but I've personally found high-power systems lead very naturally into political games.


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Landon Winkler wrote:

One thing about D&D's roots in war games that doesn't get mentioned as much is that, up until 3rd Edition in '99, it was assumed in the rules that PCs would get involved in kingdom building and politics around 9th level.

Now, that's not necessarily gritty intrigue. They become actual movers and shakers in the setting. But if they've been in the shadows for the first half of their career, being able to move out into the light is a nice progression.

Personal power is another reason for NPCs to actually give start-up adventurers the time of day, divinations and improved skills give access to evidence needed to make informed decisions, and teleportation means you can meet face-to-face with contacts anywhere in the world. In a political game, all that power cuts through a lot of non-political time.

Obviously, this can get boring if no-one else in the world has the same level of power, but I've personally found high-power systems lead very naturally into political games.

And now i’m thinking of Log Horizon; when combat becomes trivialized the real issues become the powerful movers and shakers bumping shoulders and creating tangible political issues.

Sovereign Court

ChibiNyan wrote:
Isn't what you're looking for called Pathfinder E6? Google that.

This. In PF2 it might be E8 or E10 but i'm sure it wont be long until folks who like a less gonzo fantasy game find the right place to cap.

Im fine with that myself, because while I believe the folks who like high level gonzo fantasy are in the minority, they make up a big enough group that deserves that style game too.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

Ah, this old chestnut :)

As with Pathfinder, I probably won't switch to Pathfinder 2 from Pathfinder 1 until they have high-level matertial that makes it actually worth the effort to switch.

Didn't switch my home campaign from 3.5e to Pathfinder until the mythic rules came out, and I see something similar happening here.

Note - having played both 3.5e-style epic play and Pathfinder style mythic play, our group has concluded that 3.5e epic play is actually simpler and as a result we liked it slightly more. Before the end of the year I'll be porting the 3.5e epic rules to Pathfinder (right now at both my tables is kicking at around L17.

I'll be curious to see how that conversion turns out.


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My solution to the epic power levels at high level play in Pathfinder is to concentrate on the intrigue, planning, avoiding fights, and finding alternative solutions. The players have fun making plans.

Ruzza wrote:

I've run games at high levels throughout 3e, 3.5, and PF1, and the game breaking down at high levels always occured IN combat and less so outside of it.

You can absolutely run games with less combat (and I know that I do, because 4 hours of rolling dice against AC starts to wear on the soul). How does the game break down for you outside of combat? It sounds like you're looking for a very specific game or DM.

It is as Ruzza says. Combat is the part hard to balance. Despite Scrying, Charm spells, and high Sense Motive rolls, learning about a hidden enemy is always a compelling puzzle. And my players love the careful roleplay of not letting the enemy know that they know about the enemy.

The first Paizo adventure path I ran, Rise of the Runelords for D&D 3.5, had a reputation as a combat grind. However, my party was loaded with information gatherers: a detective-like ranger, a charismatic rogue, a divination wizard, a lyrakien bard with divine connections, a journalist-like dwarf bard, and a enchanter sorcerer (not all at the same time). The heavy hitters were few. Thus, I adopted a habit of letting them use information to their advantage, finding all the secret entrances, learning their enemy's numbers and tactics, talking enemy hirelings into quitting, and making allies of the enemy of their enemy. The players liked outsmarting their opponents more than combat.

For example, in the 6th module, Spires of Xin-Shalast, instead of fighting their way through the giants and lamia, they used their connections among the lamia to start a civil war between the giants and the lamia. Lamia matriarch Xanesha had been a double agent sometimes working for them since a side quest between the 3rd and 4th modules. With the party's help, she made sure the conflct was to her faction's advantage (I had to invent four factions among the lamia to set the stage for this).

Likewise, politics and intrigue became important in Jade Regent and Iron Gods. One does not simply put the lost heir on the throne of Minkai without forging political alliances first. And the party simply walked into the city of Starfall despite being on the Technic League's most wanted list by leaving their high-level gear behind and disguising their names.

Dimension Door is great for leaving a room at the inn without anyone spotting the character. Disguise spells and disguise skill keep the party from being recognized. Fast transportation lets one reach a goal before a messenger with a warning. The roots of Pathfinder might be a wargame, but that simply means that if intrigue fails then the party can always resort to combat instead.


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There are two actual conceptual problem with high-level play.

The first is that the power available without breaking the system and consequently negating 90+% of written adversaries and obstacles forever is far short of the mark set by basically any given high fantasy source of inspiration. It was already true in 3.5, although flexibility mitigated lack of sheer power to an extent, and every iteration since reduced or attempted to reduce powerlevels further. Not only that you can't properly stat BBEGs, I can easily name a good bunch of fantasy MCs without even touching anime, games, xianxia or whatever who are just too strong to be reflected by the current DnD mechanics without trying to squeeze a comparable amount of power juice from blatant exploits.

The second is that both available powers and opponents are all over the place and largely do not follow any clear, intuitive progression. You can equally easily meet a monster who is a big brute with a big stick at 3rd and 13th level, except in the latter case he will be somewhat taller and have better numbers. At the same time creatures who are basically immune to grunts without magical weapons forever and kill by touch appear as early as 3rd level. Some 1st-2nd level spells are straight up better than 5+ level spells, and a ton more would have been if not for artificial restrictions. Etc.

The fact of DnD keeping its main feature which makes it worth considering over any number of low-fantasy systems is absolutely not a problem.


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Landon Winkler wrote:
One thing about D&D's roots in war games that doesn't get mentioned as much is that, up until 3rd Edition in '99, it was assumed in the rules that PCs would get involved in kingdom building and politics around 9th level.

The problem with that assumption is that around 9th level a DnD game starts moving into territory when you no longer need kingdom building or politics, unless the world artificially levels with PC and random grunts forever remain just 3-4 levels behind them. This was already noticeable in OD&D where much of the opponents still threatening to you were straight-up immune to any number of 0-level mooks with non-magical weapons, and since 3.0 it is also became relatively easy to push opponents enough levels below yours off RNG, so that king's men cannot even hit a big bad monster to find that in practice there is not much difference between total immunity and damage reduction which can only be theoretically penetrated on one attack out of 400.


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So one of the interesting tricks you can do with PF2e is you can just limit the proficiency level that you allow in the game. So say you want a less gonzo game you can say players can only get Master or even Expert proficiency max in the game. You can still go up in level, but can't get most of the over the top powers. And you can set a Spell level limit to match that.


Quote:
And you can set a Spell level limit to match that.

I sure wouldn't want to play a spellcaster in that campaign


Justin Franklin wrote:
So one of the interesting tricks you can do with PF2e is you can just limit the proficiency level that you allow in the game. So say you want a less gonzo game you can say players can only get Master or even Expert proficiency max in the game. You can still go up in level, but can't get most of the over the top powers. And you can set a Spell level limit to match that.

Wait, what powers are limited by proficiency? Or are you talking about Skill-Feats? Either way the same result comes about more naturally by just limiting level to a max of 6 or 8; since one of the things mentioned by the OP was high numbers.


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So, this may not be the game for you. I think the point of PF2 is to simulate heroic play. High level characters are Fantasy Super Heroes. So a high level fighter will have a stack of hit points and shrug off blows from giants. So you could cap hit points, proficiency,or feats. At this point however. I wonder if different game would better suit your needs at that point. One approach for high level play for 5e was having level 20 characters and looking at how they did things. They could use meteor storm, but what is the fall out after words. Look at things like where the fights take place and the collateral damage. So a fight may take place, but what is the fall out of destroying half the village killing the giant.


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.

Shadow Lodge

I feel that removing the +level from proficiency bonuses for PCs and rolls/stats for NPCs would help reduce the massive number bloat that will cause these issues in high level play. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if there are official rules for it considering how easy it would be to adjust on the fly, assuming level 0 is the lowest level enemy.


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.

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