I know this is rather subjective, yet I'm curious about your experience. We're considering switching to Pathfinder from DnD3.5, partly because we've always found problems with the playability of the higher levels of the latter. (The mechanics got a bit complicated, stuff hard to keep proper track of, powers too strong and so on.)

So, how easy is it to play Pathfinder at higher (let's say, 8+) levels in your opinion (compared to DnD3.5, primarily)?

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this is worth it's own answer, but worth noting: Pathfinder makes core classes more attractive at high levels, making them competitive with prestige classes for small and interesting new features, so that players are slightly less likely to come up with some complex mishmash of different classes. \$\endgroup\$
    – RMorrisey
    Jul 10, 2011 at 23:01

4 Answers 4


There are no meaningful differences between high level play in 3.5 and Pathfinder. I find Pathfinder to be more fun and have some better designed bits such that it's 10% cleaner than 3.5e in general at all levels, but there's nothing specifically to address higher level play, so it'll just be 10% less of a PITA once you get to those levels.

In my group's experience, about level 12 is the last level where the fun to work ratio stays on the friendly side. We've run up to level 16 but were happy to stop there.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would agree with this statement. My group has played up to level 20 in one campaign and level 16 in the other. While we play using a VTT which makes the math more manageable and spell tracking easy, it doesn't make the rules any easier. I personally don't want to play any game that goes beyond 12th level due to the slogging encounters from looking up rules and how they affect certain situations. \$\endgroup\$
    – NeoFax
    Jul 26, 2012 at 12:06

Based on rules analysis I'd say the following things.

  • Pathfinder does nothing to alleviate the number of spells you need to track as a high level caster.
  • Pathfinder does not reduce the large numbers and amount of math needed at high levels.
  • Pathfinder does marginally simplify some of the individual spell rules. In particular XP costs are gone.
  • Pathfinder does reduce the complexity of advanced combat maneuvers often seen at high level (trip, grapple, etc).

In short, the biggest issues don't go away, but there are some small improvements.


In addition to what's been said here, it should be added that Epic (20+) level play does not work at all in Pathfinder. The half page in the core book on this subject is not very well thought through.

v3.5, on the other hand, offers it's own Epic Level Handbook which has more detailed rules on how to proceed beyond level 20. Though it could be argued that these rules don't really work that well either.

To sum it up I'd say v3.5 works a notch and a half better than Pathfinder for Epic play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Epic level play in 3.5 is an entirely different game ... \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    May 7, 2012 at 12:32

Well, actually with the removal of numerous save-or-die spell, or the change on some of them (wail of the banshee now deals 10 damage every caster level, and so on) it's much more manageable. Spell-tracking has always been te bane of high level spellcaster, and it will continue to be so.


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