Favorite level of play in PF1?

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Silver Crusade

I was curious, what is your preferred range for character levels during a game? Say 5-6 levels= a range.

As an example, my favorite area of play is around level 7-13. As I think the PCs feel strong, are fleshed out mechanics wise, but aren't overbearing and all mighty. I dislike levels 1-3 usually.

What about you?

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

7-13 is what I was thinking as a good range. You have enough class abilities and cool equipment to be a heroic adventurer, but things can still be dangerous to you.

I'm not a fan of 1-2, I think 3 is fine. That's when you start getting the good stuff.

It's better than D&D 5e, I don't think you feel like a real character in 5e until about level 5 in my opinion. :-P

Around levels 4 - 10. The character’s class and abilities have come on line, and the combatants are differentiated from the spellcasters, but before you get to the silly levels of rocket tag and being able to ignore all sorts of challenges because ‘there’s a spell for that’.

We’re playing a homebrew at the moment where the characters have reached 13th level, and are at the stage where we are wiping out encounters in a couple of rounds before teleporting back to the pub. It’s still a fun campaign, but the sense of risk isn’t there the way it used to be.

A lot of things come online at Level 8; it’s when 3/4 BAB get their iteratives and qualify for BAB +6 feats; Domain and Arcane School second abilities, and a lot of other class features. Probably i would go with a few levels starting from there.

I prefer 1-20 overall, but if I had to trim it down I'd probably say 10-14, level 10 is when most of the cool abilities start to kick in and your feat trees start to pay off.

I'm a big fan of levels 1-8. Yes, you heard right; I LIKE level 1. The world is full of promise and danger, foes are genuine threats, and things like Disease or Poison are still actual concerns for monsters and PCs alike.

In the few games I've managed to run past this point, play is basically deciding what forms of attack the characters/monsters AREN'T immune to, playing rocket tag until one side collapses/runs away (95% of the time its the bad guys) and should a PC actually receive the Dead condition there's ever-increasing methods of removing it.


Bloodline and Domain and School abilities are in full swing. Bardic Performance and class abilities are easier on action economy. Even your 3/4 BAB classes have their second attack.

This is a good range where spellcasters are really coming into their real power. Magic is supposed to be at the top, and this is where that really starts to happen. But at level 11, even a Wizard is only throwing 6th level spells... which is a fine cap when you just want to enjoy the game. The Wizard is still king, rocking spells of the Bard's highest possible level. At this level, the Bard is rocking spells of the highest level a Ranger can ever hope to achieve. So you still have that established progression/hierarchy.

Your 3/4 BAB characters that are actively involved in combat get their 2nd attack. This is an important step for those that want to pull their own weight in melee. Generally, the plethora of other class abilities more than makes up it, overall, but level 8 is still a noteworthy milestone for 3/4 BAB martials.

And your full BAB classes are nearing their 3rd attacks. Most martial builds are online by this point, despite whatever BS prerequisites your fighting style made you pick up along the way. Advanced training options and Greater Rage are accessable, but not necessarily able to be abused unless the game goes past level 12...

I think 8-11 is a really good balance point that still lets people feel powerful in their own right. After this, it's rocket tag. Magic all your problems away. Nothing survives dude's full attacks anymore. Nobody can spot the Rogue anymore. Skill checks are almost a waste of time. Environmental hazards fail to be hazardous. The world isn't nearly as big and scary after level 12.

While I don't enjoy nonmagical equipment (mundane or alchemical), for me the fun starts at level 1. Not having a class feature for every problem is actually a boon, since it makes us players think instead of yawn and pull out problem solver #27. Success depends a lot on dice luck, so you have to deal with surprising failures instead of just nodding "yeah, of course I make the check". Little bookkeeping and quicker decisions (less options to choose from) keeps the game running more smoothly.

For a while, new interesting options (class features, feats etc.) compensate for the game becoming more cumbersome, but at level 11 to 13 it starts going downhill IMO.

Overall I'd vote for level 1 to 6.

It somewhat depends on the campaign, though. If a GM throws a barghest at a level 1 party, or a sleep casting NPC, or a CR 1 trap dealing 3d6 damage of area damage, fun can be spoiled. Especially if multiple players build for the long run (Dex based melee combatants, many wizards etc.).

I like all levels of play... BUT, if I had to pick a favorite range: 7 - 13. I kind of like that 'lower superhero' or heroic level of gameplay that isnt too far out there. Besides, a lot of fun stuff starts happening at those levels.

I enjoy the low level play where mundane problems are still challenging to the party. I enjoy the mid-level play where travel to exotic realms challenge the party. I enjoy high level play where the party is one of the big movers-shakers of the world, and they have to deal with others like them.

Paizo Employee

7 - 11 for me. Far enough in that your build is fully online and you've picked up any prestige class you might have been interested in, but prior to the game's math breaking down and spells reaching the level of complexity where the majority of battles are won based on initiative and preparation rather than what happens at the table.

For that low level, the world is still big and scary feel... level 3.

Level 3 is important because it allows you to pick up a 2nd feat regardless of your race, class, or archetype. This is where even your bad saves increase above +0, which can be significant. Your class skill bonus makes all the difference, and people (even Fighters) have JUST ENOUGH skills to spend by now to start spreading those ranks out into skills they may want to specialize in.

Those two feats can get you to Bodyguard, or Dazzling Display, or Double Slice, or Furious Focus, or Rapid Shot, or Varisian Tattoo... pretty much exactly what you need to establish your style. The rest is on you, and how you play it.

Level range 1-9 with 5-9 being the 'sweet spot.'

Fifth level spells are the breaking point for me. After that I start losing the will suspend my disbelief. I like grittier, tougher, 'real-life' campaigns where holding onto your own little piece of the world and keeping your own people safe is hard enough. There's no reason to bring liches, space-faring monsters, and Cuthulu tentacle horrors into my efforts to keep the local Baron from running roughshod over the local peasants.

I have run a lot of campaigns over the last 30 years. Only a few have ever gone past level 12.

1-8, though it depends on the class and GM, and somewhat on the players.

Very low levels are obviously dangerous and somewhat random, and some classes don't get anything to make them feel special. OTOH, the RP seems to be more important than the mechanics at very low levels, not least because PCs feel more like real people (especially if they are created to be normal people, not professional adventurers).

From a mechanics POV, 5-10 is probably best, but the top end of this gets into the game-breaking spells and analysis paralysis. Combat can get slow, and PCs can just bull their way through normal NPC interactions.

I think I agree with most of you...

1-2 are fun, you learn how each character is going to act but.... even a wolf can kill you...

At 3, you now have the HP to survive a few hits, level two spells!, And more feats. Things start happening now!

Once you get to 11, and level 6 spells, while fun to blast 20d6 worth of whatever it becomes silly...

I like 1-5, but maybe that’s from the GM perspective. It’s just easier to GM at those levels. My PCs seem to like that classic ‘sweet spot’ of 5-10th level...

4-8 ideally with levels later than that tapering off slowly, but a steep ramp up from levels 1-3 (L1: try to avoid using game mechanics at all).

In some ways, I think 5th level is best: PCs aren’t shackled with the ‘tyranny’ of the full attack yet...

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I enjoy 4-8 too. After (and before too) that I think the disparity between casters and martials become more obvious.

lvl 13-18.

This is your first taste of level 7-9 spells and late game class features, as well as feats like spell perfection and greater vital strike, etc., but most builds will be fully fleshed out by lvl 10-13ish, so these 13-18 levels are done with "fully realized" characters. This is both fun to play as a PC because your character has their entire "kit" available, but this is also pretty fun as a GM, because you can really crank up the heat for Encounter Difficulty. There's less penalties for GM overreach too, because most groups will have Resurrection, Wish, Miracle, all kinds of stuff to counter whatever you can throw at them.

Dark Archive

5-9. Just enough to let quirky builds come online

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Level 15.

Because, unless you're a Solar Oracle, it is the level 95% of builds can access Dimensional Savant without BS retraining shenanigans.

Ryze Kuja wrote:

lvl 13-18.

This is your first taste of level 7-9 spells and late game class features, as well as feats like spell perfection and greater vital strike, etc., but most builds will be fully fleshed out by lvl 10-13ish, so these 13-18 levels are done with "fully realized" characters. This is both fun to play as a PC because your character has their entire "kit" available, but this is also pretty fun as a GM, because you can really crank up the heat for Encounter Difficulty. There's less penalties for GM overreach too, because most groups will have Resurrection, Wish, Miracle, all kinds of stuff to counter whatever you can throw at them.

I admire that you’re willing and able to play/GM at such a high level. I’m intimidated by it, both as a player and a GM.


I enjoy running at silly high levels quite a bit. It lets me throw really absurd circumstances at players. I've been thinking of running a level 20, MR 10 game and what I might do to give it a feedback loop in the absence of leveling up or having much need for common loot.

Otherwise, the whole range of levels is pretty good. I like starting at level 1 because it's the best way to get a good group dynamic going. Level 6-8 are nice because it's where most characters have the core elements of their basic algorithm put together such that they can start to function the way they want to function. Everything after that is just fun expanding on your playstyle.

Dark Archive

I've found I enjoy running higher levels reasonably well. 1) I expect the PCs will end up cakewalking most encounters more or less as published. 2) I try and hunt the stat blocks looking for good power combos and 'try' to kill the PCs by exploiting their weaknesses when I can. My experience is that it is often very unpredictable which encounters they end up struggling with. It usually comes down to a combination of the monsters having an unusual trick that happens to work against that party and or some bad save rolls from the PCs. The PCs making the wrong choice in some cases and triggering multiple encounters is another frequent cause. I'm OK with the balance in that regard as the PCs are supposed to be some of the most powerful beings on Golarion by that time. And tough encounters come just often enough to keep things spicy, while also allowing us to move through a number of speed bump encounters to keep the adventure moving along.

It depends on the character, class, AP/Module/campaign, etc.

Has to be 7 - 11...

Both casters and martials have come alive by this point, but are not yet in the superhero stage

Depending on rules in play.

Normal Pathfinder: 4-12
Spheres of Power/Might: All levels
Path of War: 5-20
Psionics: 2-20

Normal Pathfinder: Most of the fun stuff means this is more like 7-12 but fairly enjoyable 4 and up. For too many characters, it's just not fun not being able to do much of anything. 12th is the max before casters really start to go insane and just invalidate stuff.

Spheres: I can have the shell of the character I want to play right from the getgo and everything up is just gravy. You've got options for not dying immediately to a lucky crit.

PoW: The really neato stuff starts to really come online at 5.

Psionics: Just more compelling to me than base Pathfinder and not as bonkers at high level spellcasting. 1st level is still aids because a lucky crit dumpstering a character you put time and backstory with no chance of revival sucks.

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