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There seems to be an issue in pathfinder, when the party levels and gains power at almost an exponential rate. The power level raise from 3.5 has made it so non-power gamers can kill strong stuff a little sooner. After level 14 or so it's basically a crazy reality defying race to the end of a campaign (especially in high fantasy games). As a player in the last campaign, I really really enjoyed level 12 to 20. However, that time period was very short (3 months) in comparison to the painfully long (12 months) level 1-11 stage. My campaign is very young, so I know it's not a problem for now.

Is there any tricks to shorten the boring phase and increase the more fun level 12 to 20 time period that I can employ as GM?

I've attempted fiddling around with the experience chart but that caused much more problems than it solved. I've started my campaign at level 3 so people can have fun as level adjusted creatures within reason. We just got to level 4. I understand the whole "Turn into a strong hero through many trials" thing but it gets so boring as a GM sometimes.

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I am surprised. I generally feel that 3-8 is a great range, and everything turns totally insane after L10 or 12 if you have a players who know the system. –  Mala Feb 26 at 20:49
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You could consider ignoring experience entirely and awarding new levels when you feel it is time or when the story benefits from it. –  TimothyAWiseman Feb 26 at 20:57
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Some questions first: What problems has "fiddling around with the experience chart" caused? Why are you not starting at level 12? And what do you players think about it? –  Cristol.GdM Feb 26 at 21:20
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The experience chart in relation to how much monsters give was a complicated relationship. Judging by the numbers it looked like the Paizo people had attempted to keep the monsters so that you could have 2-3 encounters per day. Cutting some levels short made the pacing awkward. So, basically chopping off or adding experience was a lot of math to create more problems. –  Julia Feb 26 at 22:08
    
The players are mixed about the higher levels so I'm going to still do the little levels too. Just going to speed it up a bit. –  Julia Feb 26 at 22:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 19 down vote accepted

If the EXP system isn't working for you, throw it out all together and hand out levels as you see fit. This can be done after x number of sessions or after some in game adventuring milestone.

My group has done this for a while and have never had a problem.

Pathfinder eliminated XP costs that DnD3.5 had so the only time XP is an issue will be when the party is of mixed levels (which is something I try not to have in the first place).

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So much less math! Why didn't I think of this earlier? :P –  Julia Feb 26 at 22:18
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My First DM would just arbitrarily give us level ups whenever he felt like we'd done enough. –  Mooing Duck Feb 26 at 23:36
    
I might offer up geek-related.com/2014/02/02/… as a detailed look at this approach's merits... –  mxyzplk Feb 27 at 12:40
    
Note that this method does slightly complicate the process of determining how much treasure to give out, if you are still trying to stay to system-expected values (which is a good idea if you're running published adventures, much less important otherwise). Hardly prohibitive, but it is something to be aware of. –  Matthew Najmon Mar 5 at 0:15

Well, first off ask your players what they enjoy. If they like the high tiered play as much as you, then there's nothing actually wrong with just starting at level 12. Or level 20. The epic rules are there for a reason after all. Go ahead. Enjoy!

If you are committed to starting at low level and want to ramp up faster, you can hand out experience differently than the books tell you. For example, figure out what they should get from killing that thing, and multiply it by five. Or throw regular XP out the window- My first D&D campaign, we couldn't figure out how the XP rules worked, so we just leveled up at the end of each session. Since none of us were into magic item crafting or spells with XP cost, we didn't have any problems. If you do use crafting rules, just award them a little more XP than it would take to level (say, 110%) and let them figure it out.

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Assumptions

I'm going to take for granted that (for you and your group):

  • Levels 1-11 are less fun, and should go by faster
  • Levels 12-20 are more awesome, and should take up more of your group's time

These aren't universally held opinions, but they're easy enough to design for. Here are a few options:

Consider skipping lower levels altogether

There's no rule that says you have to play through lower levels first. I've had a great time starting into the final module of an AP, despite not having played through the earlier modules.

That said, let's say you want to play through the earlier levels...just more quickly. In that case...

Ignore XP & instead level when appropriate to the campaign

You could of course fuss with multipliers or advancement tracks, but it sounds like you already know the pace you're going for. In that case, XP is only a distraction. If the players like it as a proxy of "I'm XX% of the way to the next level", you can always end an encounter saying, "Good work, that brings you 60% of the way to 7th level."

The potential problem that this opens up is that published campaigns make certain assumptions about what level the party will be at certain points, which brings me to the next point.

Control the difficulty of encounters

For the sake of argument, let's say you decide you want 2-3 encounters / level from 1-11, and 6-8 encounters / level from 12+.

Look at the CR of the encounters in the adventure. If the party's level is climbing faster than the designer intended you'll start to eclipse the CR of the encounters. At that point you have two main choices:

  • Beef up the difficulty of the encounters, OR
  • Skip ahead to the more difficult ones

Typically, if the encounter is needed for the story (or just plain too cool to skip) I'd do the former. Otherwise, if it's not a challenge for your group and you're more interested in the challenges that're coming later, go ahead and skip it.

In the end, YOU as GM get to set the pacing (of levelling and of encounter difficulty) that works for you and your players.

Have fun!

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Me personally, as a gm you get to choose and set the pace of the game based on the allotment of exp you give out. If your game is running too fast or too slow, to hell with the chart and you decide what the experience should be worth. The chart is there to help give you a baseline as to what the normal expected exp should be, not a set in stone this has to go this way or fun is not obtainable.

But to answer your bolden question of tricks to shorten low level and slow down high level that all depends on the grandeur of your encounters. If you set your low levels with multiple massive encounters or long drawn out dungeons they will level up fairly quickly, especially if you add additional experience based on any sort of role play or clever decisions made to make some of the fights easier or harder. Depending on your setting these events the characters go through at low level could cause them to be more well known in your world. They could be loved, hated, or even feared, but in the end their combined power could be known and there may be fewer people willing to test their mettle. Which in turn could provide for smaller or even fewer encounters the players themselves don't choose to make their own.

The cool thing about those higher levels isn't lets see what so and so wants us to do or we have to defend the town from goblins again, its being able to be like, you know i want a lot of magical items and i don't want to pay for them do i a: rob the magic shop and the mage who runs it seek revenge, b: attack the dragons lair in hopes for gold plus magic items, or c: go after the lich who has been bothering the town for months anyways so then it is a win win. Granted yes i may have underplayed higher levels and left alot out but in the end when you get to higher levels the risks may be huge but it is all in how you set them up. For example the mage who runs the shop might be connected to a much larger group who has much of their dealing in the astral plane and decide to steal the party members to a different plane of existence and oops no body in the party has a way to get back, better start trying to figure a plan. It's all in what kind of campaign you wish to run and what kind of game your players are looking to play. Sorry if i rambled, but i hope this helps.

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Hey man, please consider starting to use paragraph breaks and such - I basically get a headache and stop reading your answers partway through. –  mxyzplk Feb 27 at 12:44
    
yea sorry my bad. its a crap habit that i need to break –  Smurfy Feb 27 at 17:15

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