I have a set of players whose characters I think are great, unique, and powerful. I dont find it hard or impossible to balance around, but they hit way above their weight class. They are a group of 3, and I have found that enemies with CR between 10-12, are essentially fodder for them. I have thrown groups of 6-8 equally(ish) CR creatures at other parties of more players and have had really difficult fights. However this group over the course of one session of combat running through a dungeon, destroyed 40+ enemies, often fighting in large groups at a time. For a lark, I decided to calculate xp they would have earned using the by the book rules. Each player character would have earned 240,000 exp. For a level 11, this is more xp then they have ever earned, and is enough to kick them straight to 13 almost 14.

If you were using traditional xp rules, is it really normal for such massive amounts of xp to be gained if a party is able to tear through such a vast amount creatures? Even in the example above, if I used less but stronger creatures, the xp would wind up being similar as the higher CRs are worth exponentially more xp. If you use these rules, how can ensure you can provide a challenge, without over-awarding xp?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Its normal for PCs to get a lot of XP if they fight a lot of encounters. Generally, the issue is that the GM is providing types of foes that they are well-suited to fighting. We have various different questions that cover how to make challenging encounters without raising the CR of the foes. Do these answer your question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cellion
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question? How do you make an encounter actually match its CR level? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ While it addresses some concerns, I do not feel like it matches it fully. I think part of the problem arises with very well constructed characters. Using pfmetrics.com's character benchmarks, Several characters have multiple stats with well over blue rating for their level. One can hit 40+ac, very high saves, and very high damage and to hit bonuses. Coupled with strong magic, this lets them demolish almost anything that matches their CR unless it is very very specialized. Furthermore, The other characters are similarly optimized, just in different areas, and cover for eachothers shortcomings. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not a dupe, IMO. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 20:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that the linked questions - which discuss how to raise difficulty without raising XP budget - don't answer the question, could you clarify exactly what you're asking for? It seems like you both want to stick with the as-written XP rules, don't want to use the suggestions in the linked posts to make things more challenging without raising CR, and don't want to give too much XP. Those are mutually exclusive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cellion
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


Overpowered characters will level up more easily and quickly if you stick to the standard XP rules, but there are ways to slow them down

Sometimes, your players will have brought characters that are statistically well beyond the assumptions of the game's core rules. The core rules just aren't set up to handle such deviations, and it isn't only the XP rules that fail to adequately serve the GM and the players well. Here are several tools I've personally used in the past to modulate the meta pace of the game. Each option requires player buy-in. Many players like leveling up quickly and being overpowered. So you would want to use these only if everyone agrees that they'd like the pace of leveling to be slower.

  • Change to a slower XP track - If player characters are leveling up too quickly, you can adjust the amount of XP it takes to level up. The Slow experience track for example requires 50% more XP per level than the standard track.
  • Implement restrictions on character builds - Although some of the most powerful and busted character options can be found in the core rulebook, the most overpowered character builds typically dip into a variety of sources in order to access stackable bonuses and unexpected synergies. Restricting these options can lower how badly the player characters outclass equal-CR foes, and reduce how much XP needs to be dedicated to each encounter.
  • Adjust the types of encounters - Create encounters where the difficulty doesn't come from the types of foes fought. A room of civilians to protect, a strict time limit, a mid-combat puzzle... there are many options that don't have a CR cost to them.
  • Use monsters that punch above their weight class - Pathfinder's CR system is poorly tuned at best and outright nonsense at worst. There are monsters at each CR that are total pushovers while others are much more fearsome.
  • Apply templates and mythic ranks to the monsters the group fights - Many templates increase CR by 1 or 2 while dramatically increasing how difficult a foe is to fight. The same is true for mythic ranks. Two ranks of mythic on the right monster more than doubles its capabilities, while increasing CR by 1.

Ultimately however, the easiest solution is to not follow the standard XP rules. You can use milestone leveling, where you level the group up after specific significant encounters or when they accomplish an important goal. Or you can reward XP in the amounts and frequency that you see fit, rather than the amounts indicated in monster stat blocks. Whatever works best with your players, what they enjoy most and best fits the pace and experience you want, is the right solution.


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