Power Levels, World Order, and Verismilitude


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Because while most leaders arent the smartest or best fighter, they might be really bluffers (high cha). Also as soon as you add level to the mix weak leaders are sorted out via death, magic, or a series of diplomacy and bluff checks basically being "hey friend give me the castle/a ruling position/etc."

Otherwise, remember that the ruler/rulers need to actually manage the kingdom. If they are not smart, none combatant, not charismatic, and/or not high level enough, the kingdom will eventually fail; just like a company would fail if the boss doesn't know what he is doing.


Back in the high fantasy days kings would have been some of the biggest, strongest and most well trained fighters around in the best equipment.


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While ideally that’s true, even a cursory review of real historic leaders will quickly reveal that’s just not the case... inept leaders abound. Like chronically inept leaders put on their respective thrones for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability, strength, intelligence or charisma.


Liegence wrote:
While ideally that’s true, even a cursory review of real historic leaders will quickly reveal that’s just not the case... inept leaders abound. Like chronically inept leaders put on their respective thrones for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability, strength, intelligence or charisma.

But the scale of the differences isn't the same. It's not possible to reach the same levels of personal power and ability as in a PF setting. You get inept leaders in the real world, but you don't have others who can so effortlessly manipulate or control them.

Mind you, you're likely to have inept leaders in the fantasy world as well - bad at running the country, but with personal abilities that make it hard to remove them. And hard for more skilled advisors to control them from behind the throne.

Plus any PF rulers who inherit their thrones can be justified as having at least moderate levels by virtue of being raised with the best of training.


Yes and one such inept leader led to the French revolution, and/or getting themself killed by "allies" in other places.

Also earth has always been seen as relatively low level, barring the occasional genius (high level high ability). So it's easier to remain as a ruler even with low scores, it helps that IRL people are not as willing to start dethroning if you have enough military, decent economy, or are simply too hard to reach.


Filthy Lucre wrote:
Well, I'm looking at this from the perspective of how the rules interface with my game world - not official Paizo/Pathfinder/Golarion. So I imagine a ruler to essentially be a 1st level NPC who has inherited his right to rule by birthright.

Is Jeff Bezos a 20th level Rocket Scientist?

Is Barak Obama (or insert your own president here) a 20th level Army Marine?
Is Elon Musk a 20th level Engineer?
Is Christy Wyatt a 20th level Cybersecurity Enforcer?

Or do these people have other qualities (say, money) that allows them to be a leader instead of a doer?


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Liegence wrote:

Without getting too deep into politics and ... uhhh ... ability... suffice to say certain powerful world leaders are not the smartest, or the best fighters y’know?

Why would we think levels and magic would change that?

because a leader who can't deal with dragons isn't going to have a country for very long.


Draco18s wrote:
Filthy Lucre wrote:
Well, I'm looking at this from the perspective of how the rules interface with my game world - not official Paizo/Pathfinder/Golarion. So I imagine a ruler to essentially be a 1st level NPC who has inherited his right to rule by birthright.

Is Jeff Bezos a 20th level Rocket Scientist?

Is Barak Obama (or insert your own president here) a 20th level Army Marine?
Is Elon Musk a 20th level Engineer?
Is Christy Wyatt a 20th level Cybersecurity Enforcer?

Or do these people have other qualities (say, money) that allows them to be a leader instead of a doer?

No, but there aren't 20th level people here. That makes a difference. (And we don't run on a system that levels everything up at once - you can often max out single skills or sets of skills without getting better at other things.)

Obama didn't start from money, but he was a persuasive and charismatic leader. In a PF world, he'd be easily beaten in an election by a higher level character with better skills. Or just manipulated once he won because his social skills weren't sufficient.

It does seem like PF2 handwaves some of this by not building NPCs with PC rules and just assigning skills - at least for those not intended for combat roles.


thejeff wrote:
Liegence wrote:
While ideally that’s true, even a cursory review of real historic leaders will quickly reveal that’s just not the case... inept leaders abound. Like chronically inept leaders put on their respective thrones for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability, strength, intelligence or charisma.
But the scale of the differences isn't the same. It's not possible to reach the same levels of personal power and ability as in a PF setting.

Yet that coin has two sides.

Consider this question in our world: why do people wish to rule?

There are many reasons out there, but perhaps the oldest of all is that with authority comes power. For all those furthering an agenda, seeking to do the public good, or any number of other motives, there exists and perhaps always will those who primarily yearn for power. Because in the world we know, human limits sharply constrain individual power. How many average adults can an elite soldier, champion boxer, martial artist or such independently defeat in combat? 3, 4, perhaps half a dozen? With no ambushes or other advantage save for the weight of numbers, it doesn't take much of a mob of common people to fight and kill the strongest human alive. In a world such as ours, the effective strategy to accumulate power is drawing others to your leadership, placing their strength under your command. This is why hierarchies are such prevelant and enduring group relationship structures, and also the basis of democracy.

But what if that wasn't so? What if the optimal strategy for acquiring power was focusing on developing one's own abilities above all else? If a single person at peak capability could overpower thousands of normal people like, say, a Pathfinder character?

We can take the allure of rulership for granted because its foundations are relative constants in our world. Of course people want to rule! It's cool to be in charge. Yet if you take that away, and then strip out the glamour, how many would actually want to?

Consider the people reading this thread. Who here would want to have the responsibilities of a major corporation's CEO, like Jeff Bezos, for example? The schedule, the decisions, the administration. In most healthy structures of power, and to a lesser extent at times even in more corrupt ones, being in charge is hard work. If it isn't even the best way to gain power, why bother?


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

This is a fantasy game. To worry about verisimilitude when building a world with dragons and elves is a bit silly.

It's best not to wander off into political discussions of real-world issues on the Paizo boards.


CrystalSeas wrote:

This is a fantasy game. To worry about verisimilitude when building a world with dragons and elves is a bit silly.

It's best not to wander off into political discussions of real-world issues on the Paizo boards.

This is also true.

We have high level people ruling kingdoms so that PCs don't easily kick them out and takeover. Except when we've got low level rulers as part of the plot.


I can easily see why not all of them are. But i think quite a few should be after all. With the DMG new rules for non-combative npcs it should become a bit easier to create high level npcs who aren't level 20 wizards instead gaining bonuses when bluffing or negotiating.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I know I'm retreading old ground, but I love this topic.

Levels are an abstraction. All they confer are the potential of a character to overcome or be overcome in an encounter when the encounter takes place. Since D&D 1e, we've already had to look past the odd fact that a 1st level 800 year old elf can become level 10 by his 801st Birthday in a well paced campaign. Was he just slacking off those for 800 years? Did he never have to kill a rat?

XP and levels are all cumulative, especially in 2e. You don't have to sit down with pencil and paper and make sure a 20th level caster overcame at least 20,000 XP worth of encounters. Creatures are no longer bound to character creation rules like they were in prior editions.

And a leader's most important trait is their ability to unite powerful people. Being able to exist as a living contract between those who administrate and defend your country is more important than your ability to administrate or defend it. The king might be a Moderate 2 noble because he is the son of a man whose best friend is a Severe 14 threat Spellcaster and a Severe 17 threat Warrior who both know the other would be terrible administrators. Being able to negotiate between the powerful is itself a powerful skill, even if the circumstance bonus is merely on account of your last name.

After all, most countries are one devastating civil war away from being annexed by their neighbor (usually Cheliax).


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One of the interesting series I've read is "The Experimental Logs of the Crazy Lich", which is a series that thoroughly explores the issues of vastly varying powerlevels in a setting where lvl 1 farmers and CR 30 dragons exist in the same world.

The work heavily relies on D&D 3.5's open source content for various races. However, it also blends it with the xianxia genre (high magic fantasy Chinese genre that has plots that can be summed up as "A single player murder hobo campaign" with power level systems, loot, etc). I like the series since many chapters start with a seemingly unrelated lecture about the world (political systems, magic, races,etc)... which then gets tied back into the plot based off how the protagonist has gotten himself into a new ridiculous mess.

Short answer- The megalevel empires would either be ruled by powerful creatures, or the crown would be supported by such creatures (as seen in Cheliax; on a less evil note, it might be a lvl 20 wizard that doesn't want his homeland made into a toy). Small nations mostly get by simply by not being important enough to take over (although they might be looted every so often).

There might also be power struggles between high level existences that would lead them to counter eachother's attempts to get good footholds (such as devils sabotaging demonic attempts to create another world wound). For threats that spread rapidly from a small starting location- such as an undead horde- pretty much every major power has long had preparations to dog pile them the instant they show up so they don't have a chance to snowball.

Dark Archive

I kinda cringe at mention of that series, besides it being isekai(and web fiction that will probably get adapted into novel/manga/something eventually because apparently adapting is cheap enough that everything that has readers gets adapted), it had some gross stuff to it iirc and if I didn't mix it up with another one.

That said, what would happen is completely up to the setting and what writer wants.


CorvusMask wrote:

I kinda cringe at mention of that series, besides it being isekai(and web fiction that will probably get adapted into novel/manga/something eventually because apparently adapting is cheap enough that everything that has readers gets adapted), it had some gross stuff to it iirc and if I didn't mix it up with another one.

That said, what would happen is completely up to the setting and what writer wants.

Fair enough. I will say that it is refreshing that it starts a few centuries after the guy got there. To the point that, before the plot even starts, he has gone from "paladin chosen by god" to "mad necromancer seeking revenge" and back around the moral curve again. You are more seeing an old hat of the world that just happens to know pop culture references.

In general, the tone often switches from serious crisis situation and climatic battles to "your friend at the table making IRL jokes about tropes" and odd ball characters butting in. You should generally approach it less like a fantasy work, and more like you are sitting in someone else's less than serious campaign session.

In terms of grossness... ok. Yeah. Beifeng the "overly friendly" ranger. I get it. I would say 'oh, there is more to it than that'... but Beifeng is kept around. In fact, a lot of high level existences are "Gentlemen" that are more preoccupied with their stupid personal hobbies than taking over the world. That dracolich might have avoided attacking the kingdom because he was more interested in collecting antiques from an fallen elven empire he saw in his youth.


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Just looked up this Crazy Lich story as it sounded like my dream genre, only to be crushed-ly disappointed as the only way to read to the end was to know Chinese, my bane language... (still can't figure out the 4(6?) accents, which made me give up classes on it)


Lucas Yew wrote:
Just looked up this Crazy Lich story as it sounded like my dream genre, only to be crushed-ly disappointed as the only way to read to the end was to know Chinese, my bane language... (still can't figure out the 4(6?) accents, which made me give up classes on it)

There are translations for 75% of it so far, and the translation is still going at a good clip (likely done within the year). My problem is that the largest collection of translated chapters is on a site called Webnovel. Which has "Free to Play" mechanics. You can mostly get 2-3 chapters a day if you use all of the available daily tokens, and this novel tends to have nice chunky chapters.

A bit sad that most chinese webnovels translations get put onto that site. It is hard to get more than 1 or 2 novels you can read consistently at once.

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