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Many people complain about high level D&D 3.x play. It can become less enjoyable for both players and GMs because of the huge nest of rules and complexity required for every character, the prep pain of creating high level NPCs and monsters, super slow combats, and the increasingly huge differential between min and max stats/saves/etc. generating swinginess (among others). But on the other hand, you get to do some very mythic things when you are a plane-trotting badass. The concept of very high level ("epic") play becomes contentious because of the love/hate relationship people have with high level play. In my personal experience, the fun to work ratio starts hockey sticking at about level 12.

What are some techniques people have used to make high level play better, more manageable, and easier and more enjoyable for everyone? The effect tends to hit GMs more than players because the player mainly just has to grasp the huge rules complexity of just their character, which they've organically built over time, it is really bad on the GM for prep and hurts everyone by slowing action to a crawl when complex situations come up.

There are of course basic automation steps like "use Hero Lab," but that's required even at lower levels - creating level 8 Pathfinder NPCs is a PITA without it. Once you get to level 16 - ick. Ideas?

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Hey y'all, the question I'm asking is how to reduce complexity of high level D&D play - the answers so far are ranging pretty widely from that point. –  mxyzplk Jul 11 '11 at 20:59

7 Answers 7

up vote 16 down vote accepted

This turned into a rather long rant. Here's to hoping it makes some sense:

TL;DR

  • A boring dice roll isn't worth the trouble. Replace/remove/ignore boring rolls
  • Deputize/offload work to your players
  • Learn to improvise and riff(as a DM especially)
  • Think of the process of levelling up as moulding the game to you and your groups interests
  • Make a clearer distinction between social time, and play time, and allow them both to co-exist at the table.

Addendum:

I find the materials aimed at making large scale battles easier to handle are a good source of techniques, ideas and general mindset to use when handling high-level play (see Combat rules for large battles).


I assume that, generally, if you're getting to high level play, you're already using technology to help reduce the complexity of the game. Use digital versions of books (so you can quickly search through them for references), electronic dice-rollers, and answers to other questions on here.

In order to make high-level play in DnD workable, I try following these principles:

  • High level role-playing goes beyond having high-level characters. It requires high level players, and dungeon-masters.
  • With higher power, comes higher responsibility
  • If something doesn't actually matter, ignore it
  • Understand what makes playing fun, and only do the fun parts

Note 1: This is a collection of ideas that I've seen, or tried, or have heard in discussion with other people. They're presented through the eyes of a DM, and originate in 2nd edition DnD, but I tried to write them so they can be understood and applied to 3.5, and as broadly as possible beyond that.

Note 2: These aren't rules. Don't take them as such. I expect the reader to intelligently take and apply what they find useful, and discard the rest. Experiment, and see what works for you. I take no responsibility if you're blindingly following my advice.

Preamble - What makes playing fun?

You might intuitively know what makes your sessions fun, but not be able to put it into words. You might have been following instructions literally and without much thought to their design, while playing low level game, and enjoyed the effect. Levelling up as a DM, however, requires more than that. Eventually, it gets useful to start to understand how the game was designed, what makes sessions fun, and purposefully manipulate the rules to reach specific results. This is especially important if you want to become efficient at high level play, where you'll be making a tradeoff between game complexity and entertainment. Check out some of the theory behind role playing games for ideas. As a summary:

Different players enjoy different parts of the game. High level play is a refinement of making the game match your players' interests. You'll be focusing energy on fleshing out the game components and details that matter most to your group, and glossing over the rest. DnD has the right components to address many kinds of fun, but keeping them all going is not usually worth it. Some standard categories I'll give ideas for (there are others):

  • Rule management/breaking/optimizing. Some players enjoy looking for original ways to mess with the rules. They may like twinking out their characters, or may enjoy trying to find the most original way to kill a Kobold, or scour the books to find fun hacks to try out on you
  • Setting/Background. Some players are there to hear you describe the world, its inhabitants. They'll want to explore the world, see wonders, have interesting conversations
  • Role playing/drama/acting. Fairly self evident; some players come to the table to act, usually trying to act differently than they do in real life
  • Simulation. Some players enjoy simulations - whether of reality, or of a fantastic system. They value self-consistent, predictable interactions. This is closely related to rule-management, since players here might look to try complex interactions with the world, to test their and your ability to simulate it properly
  • Socializing. Some players are there primarily to hang out with their friends. They'll like to add beer and general banter to the play, and interweave OOC conversations with game play

Generally, I like to measure the effectiveness of a method to remove complexity by two scales:

  • the number of dice rolls it removes.
  • the ammount of off-line work it transfers from DM to players

Dice rolls, in order from most important to remove to least important: on-line roll < off-line roll < pre-determined result, online < pre-determined result, offline < irrelevant to ongoing activity. The ideal dice-roll is one where all players are highly interested in seeing the results - if only one player, or just the DM, cares about it, eliminate it altogether. 1d6? Make it always a 3. 1d20? Always a 10. Attack hits 25% of the time? Have it hit every 4th round automatically.

Transferring work to players can often be natural. Even when it isn't, you can probably talk players into doing work that's directly beneficial to their characters: "The castle you're getting is rather demolished. The architect in charge of repairing it provided you with this rough outline and has a budget of 800k gold to fix it. Please draw in the contents as you would like them, and he'll use that as a guideline when finishing it up". Don't be afraid to even go so far as deputizing players, or even rotating the DM.

Rule Management

DnD powers are framed as legitimate exceptions to rules. As the game reaches higher and higher levels, players accumulate exceptions. Figuring out how to remove the complexity, while keeping the rule-managing types happy, can be an artform, and may sound hard to do.

Some ideas to help with this process, while keeping the rule-mongers happy:

  • Institute a time limit on decision making while online. If anyone takes more than 30 seconds to decide on their next action(s), force a default action and move on. Take the time while others are making decisions to plan for your next action, instead of starting to think about it when it's your turn.
  • Switch to using your phone to roll, say, 40d6. If rolling actuall dice, roll 1d6 and multiply by 40 instead of rolling 40d6 and trying to add. Force an actual 40d6 die roll where it really makes a difference (everyone at 10% hp and dragon about to breathe fire, for example)
  • Encourage players to invent and validate combos offline. Request that the combo be written out on a piece of paper, with step-by-step instructions for all the rolls required.
  • Use laptop(s) and tablets to keep track of characters and their inventory. No character levelling up or other updates during play, unless automated. This includes putting on new magical items.
  • Figure out buff packs in advance. Cast buffs as a package or not at all. Have the players write out the effects of the package on little slips of paper to hand to those affected by the package.
  • Have default numbers to use instead of rolls for rolls which don't matter.
  • Skip over the boring parts. Start fights with everyone at 1/2 hp, for example
  • Trust your players. Let them keep track of what powers they've used, when, when they've recharged. Tolerate mistakes - correct them offline, not in the middle of play. As the players level up on the rules for their characters and followers, have them take responsibility for the related maintenance work. Expose the DMing side of things if it helps you not do the work yourself, and expect the players to play as if they didn't know it if they have to.
  • High level players are supposed to be super-powerful. Or not. Err on the side of letting them succeed/fail, if it helps you not try to spend to much time figuring out the result of an action. Fake it if you have to (roll some dice, sit and look at them for a while, then announce the result).
  • Group henchmen, hirelings, pets, and other npcs, into groups. Ranger has a menagerie of animals following him? Have them all hit as a group, with only one attack and damage roll. Figre out good numbers for it in advance.

Setting/Background

  • Rely on prebuilt settings wherever it makes sense. If a setting is inspired by a book, ask players to read the book before coming. Find video clips of the movie adaptation on Youtube and play those when appropriate in the session.
  • Build out the important components in advance ("The village is small-ish, and is proud of its wine") and encourage your players to improvise the details with you on the fly. There's no need for a bar if the players don't go into one. The mayor's name is irrelevant if no one talks to him. Some automated tools can help with the improvisation, as well as "stock" components, such as pre-figured out bars, mayors, and other characters. In older times, these could fit in a rollodex or set of index cards, to be pulled out at random. Nowadays, use a computer
  • Encourage your players to build out portions of the background and setting for you. At lower levels, this is a matter of choosing character backgrounds (is he a noble? Have him describe his family and its history). Apply some basic improv skills to your reactions (always try to be positive and reinforcing. For example, if a character is trying to look through the window of an improvised bar, instead of saying "it has no window" or "you see nothing" respond with "the barman is asleep on the bar" or "the bar-maid seems to be trying to pick a locked back-door")
  • Learn to improvise and riff; take some improv classes, even. Higher level players are much more autonomous and can travel farther/do more than your low level ruffians. Three days of writing up details of a part of the world could go to waste if your players figure out how to teleport into the evil lair, steal the dragon, and then fighting him on an alternate plane of existence. Being able to improvise the description of the alternate plane on the spot can save you the planning.
  • As players start to, in game, gain stewardship of portions of the world, transfer the game-management parts of the work to them too. Druid is in charge of maintaining a forrest? Give him a map of the forrest and have him figure out exactly what the forrest is going to look like under his stewardship. Even go so far as having the player DM encounters that occur in the forrest and with its inhabitants, if appropriate.

Role-playing/Drama/Acting

This can be the most difficult job for a DM to prepare for, and handle without bogging down a running game. There's a limit to the number of characters a human being can role-play without getting bored/boring. So:

  • Recycle. Most bar-tenders sound the same to someone who has been in dozens of bars - you won't lose much if you role-play them all the same way, with small varations maybe
  • Reward one-sided role-playing. If a player out-does you when role-playing his part, give in-game rewards (whether in xp, gold, or desirable/favorable reactions from NPCs)
  • Encourage inter-player role-playing.
  • Take role-playing offline if there isn't enough in-group interest. Have the role-player write up the story of their role-play after the session (or in advance, if it makes sense), and have them email it to everyone or read it at the next session. Reward them for the work in game, for example by allowing freedom in role-playing NPCs. Trade off work you might be expected to do with creative freedom for the writer
  • Use pre-created characters for inspiration, from movies/books/modules/adventures/auto-generation online tools
  • Role-play offline activities in 1-on-1 sessions. Have the role-player be in charge of buying supplies when getting to a town, and do a chat role-play session for the shopping trip and resulting haggle. Outsource the role-play session if possible. Draft a player as your assistant, running the shop, for example.
  • Ideally, everyone is engaged with every dice roll. That also means each die roll has a greater effect - put more effort into describing the results. A single kobold might hit and do 1d6 of damage. 40 kobolds might storm, kick, bite, trip, yell and produce a disgusting smell as they do their 1d6*40 damage. An elephant stepping on a player might be 2d8 damage, while 15 elephants would be an earth shaking stampede of 2d8*15

Simulation

As levels and complexity increases, decrease the granularity of the simulation. Go up in levels of abstraction, and move to generic rules.

  • Group things together. 15 kobolds attacking? Roll one attack roll for all of them and use their median damage, spread evenly between their targets. Have all attacks hit one common hp pool, and decrease the damage they cause as a % of the hp they have left.
  • Check out the rule-management advice.
  • Grant powers and devices which remove boring simulation. Maybe the food supply mattered at level 1 in your campaign - by level 12, have the players wear rings that keep them nourished at all times. Players are at the head of a small army? Only worry about simulating the food-supply-chain when they're crossing the desert, and then abstract it to "you have 4 days of food left" and "completing this encounter will add 2 days of food".
  • Pre-determine results of upcoming complex situations. Is the armada of ships going to be caught in a storm? Figure out what effect the storm will have on the armada in advance. Determine if the players can do anything, and what range of effects their actions can take. Spend the session deciding whether they succeed or fail at actions where you know the effect in either case, in advance.
  • Only simulate relevant actions. Player bought a caravan and sent it out without accompanying it? You don't have to simulate the trip and market conditions to get a believable result, especially if it's a long trip. If the player is out-simulating you, either use his results, or be ready to improvise exceptions that he didn't account for (the caravan was robbed on the way, the caravan leader is skimming of the top, weather conditions killed 20% of the camels, etc...)

Socializing

At high levels, the risk to the socializer comes from spending large chunks of time at the table, but not engaged with the other players. This risk exists at lower levels, but is exascerbated as the game gets more complex. Either the socializer himself is not engaged, and getting bored, or someone else is not engaged, and the socializer starts pulling everyone towards playing xbox games. Many of the pointers so far help here; the advice below is generic, and good at all levels, but is worth re-mentioning in the context of higher levels:

  • Find an outlet for the social side of things. Plan for intense and focused sessions, and allow for socializing breaks, or plan for before/after time together. Maybe plan for 2 hours of play, giving 1 hour of hanging out before starting, or plan to go out for beers at 10.
  • Increase the frequency of role-play sessions and reduce their scope. Do one round of combat at lunch every day at school, rather than a 1 hour session on Saturday.
  • More complex play requires higher focus from players. Introduce shorter, more frequent, breaks, into the play. Maybe stop for a breather after every round. Ideally, everyone was watching each die roll, and the tension level at the table increased - a break would feel welcome.
  • High-5 all involved when they land a complex cross-class combo. If an action wasn't worth removing or abstracting, from the game, then it's worth hamming up when it happens.
  • Plan for social portions of the session around components of the encounter. Bring out chips and dip when the players get to the boss, for example.
  • Role-play relevant social situations in game. Go as far as LARP, or some emulation of it. For example, plan for the encounter to end with the party attending a royal ball, and, coincidentally, have everyone going out dancing at the local dive after the game.

Overall DMing guidelines

  • Involve your players in the game-management. At lower levels, you were probably the one best versed in the game, and were teaching the players as well as deciding how rules are applied. Plan for this in advance - as players learn the rules more, give them more autonomy in applying the rules as they see fit. Express this in the world, giving them more and more control over what happens at a larger scale, without interference from you. Encourage creativity, improvisation and role-playing as methods for modifying the world and its contents. The ideal level 20 player is one who knows the game and rules well enough to be trusted to DM encounters with low-level ("non-named NPC" types) in his own kingdom. The mage with a dungeon of doom under his tower, should be able to design and run the dungeon with little interference from the DM. If you have to police your players to the point where you watch their dice throws, they're not ready for high-level adventures
  • Cheat only in the right places! Deciding on a dice roll without rolling it is fine and standard. Is your world full of level 15 creatures, though? Most encounters for a level 15 group will be with creatures that are much lower in level. There may not be a need to play out their victory over these encounters according to the rules, but they can still represent a good portion of the time at the table. "You storm the castle. The guards before the bridge take some time to dispatch, and you take (roll d10) 2% damage there." .. etc... "You easily fight your way through the rabble on the last stairwell. You've reached Dracula mostly unharmed. Total damage to you is 11% of your hp off for the lucky strikes along the way, except for Mike who is resistant to crits and only gets 5% off". Allow your players to steam-roll regularly - take a lower level adventure and have them play it solo or in a small team. Let players pair off, with one of them DMing for the other. Adjust rewards if you must (no XP if it's so easy that it's not actually role-played, scale around that to full XP for a full challenge)
  • High level opponents should be equal to the players in power and complexity. If your players are kings, they won't normally be wasting time fighting peasants (they have guards and armies to take care of that for them). A level 60 kitten is only fun once.
  • Reduce frequency of full group together. Instead, meet with and role play sub-groups for sub-actions. The king might go to get reinforcements for his army with his queen, while the high priest is out visiting with his deity's emissary to repay a favor.
  • Incorporate lower-level play into the campaign if relevant. The king might send out his excitable son and friends to get the goblet of ruin, since they need to learn important lessons along the way. Allow players to have multiple, related, characters (that can only be played one at a time). I think Dark Sun used to have a system for doing this.
  • Reward players if they take actions that reduce complexity. For example, the mage might get a night-time visit from a demon, offering to prevent access to all water-based powers and get a 10% increase to fire damage/resistance. The warrior might end up with a god powered shield fused to his left hand, taking away some of his powers in exchange for a bonus to attack and the occasional snake lashing out of the shield to hit an enemy. The Ranger may get a permanent bonus to his dexterity and strength in exchange for losing some members of his menagerie of animals. Look at what your players spend the session doing; if a player is spending an hour looking through his character sheets to cause an in-game effect, find a way to get the same in-game effect without having to go through his sheets, and offer the tradeoff as an in-game god-device.
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Uh, a lot of this is great general GM advice but a lot isn't specifically on point for the question. –  mxyzplk Jul 11 '11 at 20:57
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I have trouble coming up with specific advice, which is also generic enough to apply to all groups. I figured that explaining the principles and giving a few examples is more useful - allowing people to riff off these to address their own interests/groups –  blueberryfields Aug 5 '11 at 15:16

One way is to reduce the size of the party. It is easier to come up with content for 1 or 2 players than 6 or 7. You can create a challenge with less creature and have to deal with less potential. The problem with creating a high level adventure to me has always been if you have a high level cleric, thief, mage, and fighter you have everything you need to do anything with little risk of loss. So eliminate some of that by reducing the party.

Another thing to consider is that when going against high level creatures some of them are going to be able to defeat the party. Part of the adventure has to be figuring out when to fight and having an escape planned. I recommend comunicating this to your players.

You must not pull punches. Remember these players can probably defeat a god given the right rolls and choices. Gods do not roll over and neither do the creatures the party is likely to face. They will run away rather than fight to the death. That is how they got to be powerful in the first place. They are not going to let you find and fight them in their lair either. They will have traps and ambush points. They will take a minor victory(killing or rendering a player unable to participate) and retreat to plan the next attack. And they will flee if they are about to be manuevered into a situation where they are trapped. These creatures value their existence as well.

It is difficult to be a good GM at high levels because you have to consider and think about what your party can do. And plan to prevent that. And when they do something you did not prepare for if you can not counter you have to consider what would the creature do. The only way these high level creatures are going to fight to the death is if they either know they are going to win or are trapped and can not escape. It makes adventuring at this level less rewarding.

So come up with quests that do not require the looting of the lair or the death of the target creature. Maybe a drop of blood or a feather given not taken. Remind the players of the goal when they send creature running with out getting the kills.

The point being that in higher level D&D Adventures look beyond standard combat to make the play more fun. Hit and run tactics combined with puzzles, traps and quests with in quests, spice things up nicely.

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I find that the best way to deal with high level content for any Pencil and Paper game is to organize "Info Sheets".

For example, you make 1 8x11 Double-Sided sheet for each player character that is in the party. On the front, you list the important details like Gender, Race, Class, Health, Resists, etc. On the back, you list the most used/important skills by that player and what they do (dmg and outcomes).

For your NPC's, preparation is a long term goal for each session. the best way to deal with this strife, is too focus on not only 1 game session. Grab yourself a delicious Mountain Dew (or similar beverage), and get chugging away at lots of creatures for your adventures.

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The following is from a blog post of mine.

  1. Roll initiative at the beginning. Take the highest initiative modifier for the enemies and just roll once. Announce the number. Any player character who beats this number can go. Then the enemies go. Then all the player characters go again, in any order. Either by how quickly they can decide, or go around the table. This works because they could delay for another anyway. The only thing that you loose is unconscious and dying characters effectively get to delay as well, but that’s not problem for me. The benefit is that you can just ask “has everybody gone?” and if nobody says anything, enemies go. Plus: indecisive players automatically have more time to decide.
  2. No take-backs for players or DM once the next person has gone. Explain to your players that the DM also makes mistakes, and there will be no take-backs either.
  3. Encourage a caller/leader player. Sometimes a lot of people with a lot of options available to them can lead to indecisiveness. Ask: “so, who’s the leader? who has the most experience? who has the most charisma?” and then start asking them instead of asking the entire group. Make sure your players are ok with that. Make sure players don’t have to announce the obvious stuff. Assume the elf is always searching, the rogue is always sneaking, etc. If you’re benevolent like that, they’ll accept more guidance by a caller/leader player.
  4. Skip over the obvious parts. If the enemies are loosing, have them run away, or surrender, or let players narrate how they finish them off. At higher levels, the obvious parts take longer to resolve using the rules, therefore don’t.
  5. Modify spells that require a lot of die rolling. Entangle or Web are such spells: A lot of creatures get caught in the area, need to save, every round, etc. Agree upon alternate solutions such as “can move as many feet per round as their “strength or escape artist (dex) bonus” and be done with it. Or have one roll for half the enemies, or all the enemies.
  6. Encourage players to write the current bonuses down so that they don’t have to add up effects after rolling dice (avoiding “uh… prayer +1, haste +1, bull strength +2, …). Less calculations while everybody is waiting. I keep getting surprised at how many players don’t do this, overestimating their math.
  7. Let players know the AC of their enemies so that players can pre-roll attacks. The slight advantage gained by characters using Power Attack in the first few rounds is negligible.
  8. If you have some favorite spells or dragon breath attacks, take the average of ⅔ of your dice and write it down. Just roll the remaining ⅓ of your dice at the table.
  9. Use the simplification for multiple attacks suggested by Wulf Ratbane. All iterative attacks now have the same attack bonus and get easier to resolve.

The simplification for multiple attacks works as follows: Instead of the cascading bonuses for current iterative attacks, up to a possible 4th attack at BAB +16, the variant works as follows:

  • At BAB +6, you get a 2nd attack. Both attacks are made at a -2 penalty (instead of 0/-5).
  • At BAB +11, the penalty drops to -1.
  • At BAB +16, the penalty drops to 0.
  • When hasted you get an extra attack using the same penalty.
  • With Two-Weapon Fighting, you gain an extra attack with your off-hand.
  • With Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, you gain two extra attacks with your off-hand.
  • With Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, your penalty for fighting with two weapons decreases by 1.

Statistically, you apparently get similar damage output as current iterative attack rules, except at the corner cases when facing foes whose ACs are extremely high or extremely low relative to your attack bonus. The big advantage – fewer rolls and all bonuses are the same!

You can allow both rules as written and the above simplification at the table. Some players might feel that they’re quick enough at adding things up and they like the rules – no problem. Those that are slow might prefer this simplification.

Worst case (and something I have done) is this: Limit the game to lower levels. Higher levels means rolling lots of dice and doing lots of additions. Depending on your game, that slows players down.

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On that last note (limiting the game to lower levels), I recommend checking out E6. It's pretty much standard D&D from levels 1-6, but after that you stop leveling and gain a feat every 5000xp instead. There's a little more to it than that, of course... there's a thread on ENWorld somewhere with the full details. –  chaosys Jul 12 '11 at 18:44
    
+1 for #1 alone. That's a fantastic house rule, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to adopt it. –  Naetuir May 4 '12 at 16:43

Here are a few quick tips that I've used to speed up high-level play.

Narrate more, roll less. At higher levels, you'll have a sense for inevitable outcomes. Once your bad guy has used his special spell/trick/one-shot-magic-item, he's going to go down or try to escape. Instead of grinding out combat rolls, narrate the end of combat and give the PCs input into what happens. In D&D 3.x, Take 10 on skills as often as possible unless there's a dramatic need to roll the dice (big decision, talking the Duke into lending aid, etc.). The PCs have done their legwork in lower levels, so only have them break out dice for larger stakes instead of the more mundane combats and skill rolls.

Encourage PC Battle Plans. One of the big time sinks at my high-level table is analysis paralysis. High-level PCs have so many things they can do, sometimes it's daunting to look at a spell sheet and have to choose something. If the players can set up battle plans on a quick cheat sheet to give them fewer choices in combat, that'll save some time. Sure, there will be special cases when the full pantry of spells should be checked, but for 80% of combats they'll be going down their standard checklist of Buffs, Items, and Things That Go Boom.

Leave blanks in your monster abilities. High-level monsters and NPCs are a pain to stat up unless you're modifying a standard critter. You've got the idea of what this monster can do, right? Get some basic stats together and stick with that idea for special abilities. For instance, a spellcasting Red Dragon has a pile of nasty attacks, flame breath, and spells through level 3. There's no value in defining each cantrip it can use. As with PC battle plans, design your monsters with a battle plan in mind and leave the rest of the critter under Fog Of War. Chances are you'll never get the chance to use what you didn't stat up. And if you do need something specific to make the encounter more interesting, you can add it during runtime. How many times would your high-level combat be more interesting and challenging if only the bad guy could do X. Leave room in your monster design for the monster to do X during the game if you need to spice things up.

Screw the rules. Trust your gut. This is a more extreme form of "narrate more" above. You know the story you're telling and the game feel you want. If the rules don't support that, ignore them. This goes back to the early D&D idea that all rules are guidelines only. Use Rule Zero liberally in a way that makes a consistent World instead of a consistent Ruleset. If you're going off-script ruleswise, I always make sure to include an in-world explanation for why the rules don't work as expected in this situation. Sometimes the players figure out why, and sometimes they don't bother to try figuring it out.

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I am a newbie GM of a D&D 3.5 campaign. My party and i have been performing my campaign for about 5 months now, and they have recently had the awesomeness of reaching level 20. I have to say, that all of the above people have a good idea.

It should not be just the DM's job to do all the paperwork once things get that high. I myself sometimes alternate my best friend as a Co-DM when it comes to the paperwork and creation of worthy monsters, and in return for his help receives a little more experience on the side, and gets to narrate a session or to if he so chooses.

The key point to simplifying high level play for yourself is this: HAVE FUN AND IMPROVISE!!!!!!!!! Every single one of my players combats is with made up stats. Some of the enemies are even made up. The damage with the ?mark weapon? made-up..... and my players love it, mostly, every now and then, there is one player in my campaign who is a total wanker, but he is border lined to be kicked out anyways.... If you and the majority (9/10 for example) of your players are having fun, then roll with it....

I haven't pulled an enemy from the book for about 7 levels for my characters, and the NPC's? If they are going to be seen again, write the important stuff about them down, or type it in to your Microsoft Word or something. Otherwise, make them, and their interaction up, and above all, above your own feelings of dislike, be fair to each and every player, and let everyone do what they think is fun, if a player wants to walk to another one and punch them in the face because they have had a strong dislike among their characters since the beginning, for god's sake let it happen. Not every character within the campaign is going to like each other and if they do then you have a problem, you are taking away 50% of the variety, and chances to role-play with each other right there....

So as i said above all just have fun, and let the players do as they feel they want to, just don't let them get too far out of control or you will lose them for good.

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@waxeagle Actually, "improvise" is pretty good advice at high levels, because the PCs are usually quite powerful and can handle most threats with ease, and because opponent prep is the part of prep time that increases exponentially with higher levels. You're right, though, that it would be a much better answer for concentrating on that, explaining techniques for making it work smoothly, and elaborating on why improvisation helps and what problems it addresses. Hey, savanahsboi, if you've got a minute could you edit your answer to do that? –  SevenSidedDie May 30 '12 at 17:26

allot of these topics and statement is very true n most usefull. i often play high level champains. and sometime its best to let some people play alittle by themselves before champains setting up their supplies character in game and out.crafting those nasting weapons. deciding what your going to do with your familiar. evenn using your leadership feat and having them scout out a city or area in ? for the event.have them get some play with their character and feats. let them write down their success, failures, and ideas.lets them do some rule looking up n make that complex ring, let them acttuall work that craft into making a house or use some magic n stone to mud n mud to stone to make the wall n fabricate for the house or a makeshift shelter. i mean why not have your friends come up with some creative ideas for those spells n bring them to the table afterwards, even the DM will be allitle happy he does have to sit their for have an hour with peoples request for items or possession.he can just start playing no need to wait 3 hours to setup everyone equipment.the DM could always say if the item in question is unresonable he could modify item, have the item stolen, or it could turn up as treasure.

after being in the game for awhile our DM and players both agreed on a few rolls for instant...max HP on HD for all player and monsters...put those skill points on characters concentration, search, spot.the big things by the time you are epic you dont need many rolls. EXAMPLE my sorcerer/rogue has about 40 ranks in search n concentration. so have your characterr always find things if they ask.you can use the system to your benefit.how many times are you going to fail looking for anything with 30-40 ranks in any area. or have your familiar, humonculus, companaion stay behind and look for things with your subject.let them bring the good to you afterwards... that alwasy leads to a nice bonus at the end, it is less to worry about and dont have to worry about 20-30 minor characters, NPC getting in the way or familiar dieing in combat...so why not let those hard characters go in first for clean up and have those fledgling you hired or inspired with your leadership feat cleanup behind you. they may even keep your excape root cleared for you....

So to make things simpliar in the game have some things automatic for some skil checks, roll when needed. have them work with their characters to take care of the little stuff in the game.the more the characters practice and know about themselve.the easier the game goes If the game goes to quick with the cleric and paladin destroying all the undead i the area, have them play as there stead or minor characters outside defending the campsite.or their cohort protecting their valuable at their house.

what happens to all the stuff you accumulate in the game, some people have lots of hard earned money, magic items,even rare artifacts..you cant carry everything with you. what good is going on a massive campain to obtain some rare items and gold if you come home and a rogue broke in and stole everything. have players make a house setup traps within reason or magic spells to protect their house... let players come up with ideas on what they do with there fortune..have them write everything down n bring the ideas up to the DM...

if everyone is good friends and doesnt cause problems have some play against player roles. i mean how often do some player get jeolus of other players items or rewards, why not have that rogue ACQUIRE that cloak of invisiablity the fighter found, what would happen if he got caught...how often is that rogue going to need that Holy Cross with Regeneration, does he even know it is in the item, the wizard might, or the cleric might remember it is a holy item of his order.is he justified in taking it, fighting for it, stealing it(if it is his orders cross it might not be concidered stealing, but returning an artifact) when not everyone can always play together have the DM sit down with say half the group and they could always visit the characters homes(players not present at time of game) n visit ask of request,n if their not there put some of that neural or evil alignment in play, have them TEST the traps, see what the other player comes up with..did they find anything, was it important.how will that affect their relationship...is it an ongoing sidetask to find those items..a little CLUE(game) for example..have players rewarded for creative ideas, traps, hiding good on the ethereal plain, secret chests,did they leave guards.what are those 200 followers doing with their time.are they being pick on by a guild. when the player comes back to the game and reliase he only has the clothes on his back and has to go on a mission. it will give him some time after the game to come up with other ideas to protect that fortune, or build a castle. i mean 1000 level 1 followers arent much help in combat but can build a small castle for u cheap.maybe lend them some of those items your not using to finish faster. make some money lending items to local crafters for a positive favor and some GP. how ofter do u use that ring of fabricate? why not lend it to an artisan. if he starts making lots of money he might give u some..

I KNOW EVERYONE PLAYS DIFFERENTLY AND HAS DIFFERENT IDEAS BUT LET SOME PEOPLE EXPLORE THOSE IDEAS. GIVE EVERYONE A TURN AT THE WHEEL. THAT GUY THAT JUST JOINED MIGHT NOT GET EVERYTHING EXPLAIN A FEW THINGS TO HIM, HE MAY BE A DM SOMEDAY AND HE COULD BE REALLY GOOD. these are some ideas about the little things in the game that could offer real rewards to your characters. have them think about the little things. it will add to the game and keep the game alive. dundeons only go so far with people. not everyone is smart in some areas but maybe more creative.let everyone keep there own little world alive. it adds more fun to the game and gives more chit chat and bragging rights before or after the game. IT WILL EVEN HAVE SOME NEWBIES COMING BACK FOR MORE, IT KEEPS THE GAME INTERESTING AND ALIVE. i mean not every character is going to be blasting 10 fireballs a day, let people come up with interesting spells and item,

After all that is how this game got started and many adventure created. there is no need to start back at level 1 after reaching level 20. how fare is that.is that the reward for all that hard work..if someone in your party is good at drawing have them make the dungeons, have another come up with some interesting obsticals, have two players bring a list of 15 of their favorite monsters. have everyone bring their WISH LIST of items. then all the DM has to do is pick and choose. it makes the game so easy and everyone gets to have fun putting themselves into the game.

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Welcome, Kyle. Please read our help center. Also, please edit this post to include proper punctuation, grammar, and headings. We're not a forum, and questions should indicate how they address the specific problem of the querent. Answers of this length really do require a brief introduction and section headings. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Sep 1 '13 at 5:31
    
Yeah, I'm afraid this answer is so hard to follow that I don't really understand what it's saying. –  mxyzplk Sep 1 '13 at 15:07

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