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D&D 3E
I hear a lot of talk about how high-powered campaigns or rules can… 
23rd-Jul-2006 07:58 pm
I hear a lot of talk about how high-powered campaigns or rules can destroy the fun of the game and that sort of thing. My question to gamers is: how? What problems do you see in having too much power? Let me add; ignore the obvious idea of characters being more powerful than villains. I assume that a high-powered campaign would be balanced between players and between characters and opponents.
24th-Jul-2006 12:26 am (UTC)
methinks it's when the threat of death is removed... when it's just when hacking on things and then they fall like kobolds in the wind that the fun runs out... there's no excitement. it's just cheating at yahtzee at that point.

this is fun occasionally... it lets the players get their agressions out; but if it's an every session occurance, the spice is gone.

24th-Jul-2006 03:24 am (UTC)
That plays more into the idea of imbalance in my opinion. I balance the options between the players and make sure that they face actual challenges in their opponents.

In a sense I really think the real difference is in the imagination. I would try to keep the balance there and the players would be facing the same "odds" but they are picturing the difference between tossing 3 magic missiles at a couple of kobolds and trying to figure out a gambit that would take out a group of mindflayers without getting their brains sucked out.
24th-Jul-2006 12:26 am (UTC)
I'll start with the obvious one. As you get into the really high level effects, you start getting a lot of "save or die" situations. And the other side of that, ok, you blew the save, no problem, the cleric does a quick ressurect and you keep fighting. All the conflict turns into "who fails to save and doesn't have a way to come back from getting killed first" situation. And the whole "the villan is suceptible to X, ok, we stock up on X" and the villan crumbles like a 43rd level cardboard box. Plus all the bizarre twisty permutations that keep the adversary coming back when the players thought they had him dead forever by all the rules.

And, how many villans can a world support that are capable of opposing your party of godslayers? If there was another demon lord capable of opposing the PCs, why didn't the last world dominating demon call for help when he saw he was up agains a foe with the PC glow?
24th-Jul-2006 12:59 am (UTC)
Well, that's what other worlds are for
24th-Jul-2006 12:53 am (UTC) - I think you misunderstand the idea;
I assume that a high-powered campaign would be balanced between players and between characters and opponents.

That's now what is meant. You're thinking about a high level campaigne where everyone is of high level. A high powered campaign is one where the characters are much more powerful than the opponents.

Technically there is nothing wrong with it.. But it gets boring just walking into combat, letting the barbarian go into rage, and using his superior cleave to level an army of 300 approaching orcs in a single round (great cleave or superior cleave or something liek that allows you to take a 5 foot step and then another attack.. if you cleave on that attack, you get to again take a 5 foot step and have another attack, etc etc until you take a strike and don't kill something in that one hit.).
24th-Jul-2006 02:01 am (UTC) - Re: I think you misunderstand the idea;
That is when the DM is supposed to step up and make NPC villians that are step for step a challenge for the PC's. That way, there is always somoene around that is just as powerful as they are, exploiting the PC's weaknesses with their own strengths. It is a lazy DM that blames the PC's because they are too powerful. It is a lazy DM that doesn't come up with a proper challenge for them and lacks the imagination and will to actually make their PC's sweat.
24th-Jul-2006 02:12 am (UTC) - DM's Creedo
Something I read on another board a long while back, that I hold to and believe perhaps answers your question: "I can not give you assurance of life, for you must have challenge worth merit. I can not give you assurance of death, for you must have hope."

If the party is too powerful, it does simply become too easy. Life is about the challenges we overcome, and the "assurance of life" means there is no challenge. Perhaps put it in the context of video games: cheat codes are great fun at first, but once you've beaten the game what use is it? Giving players too much power will actually make them enjoy the game less.
24th-Jul-2006 03:26 am (UTC) - Re: DM's Creedo
While I really, really dig credo, I think I'd like to frame it or put it on my gamebag, it's still really only the question of imbalance between player and opponent. Would that problem be resolved with new, more dangerous challenges or nemeses?
24th-Jul-2006 02:12 am (UTC)
Let me add; ignore the obvious idea of characters being more powerful than villains.

Well, that's about it really.

In some high-powered games, the PCs end up being so beyond what they are dealing with (challenges which are wrongly deemed appropriate for their level) that it isn't fun anymore. That's pretty much the only problem as far as I know.

There is a different feel to a high-powered or high-level game (assuming the encounters are properly balanced) than a "normal" or even low-powered game. This isn't good or bad, just different. Some people enjoy one or the other. There is nothing wrong with this. Just make sure that the entire group is in agreement about what kind of gaming style they like.
24th-Jul-2006 02:15 pm (UTC)
The opposite is also a drag. It's no fun to die every session.
24th-Jul-2006 03:12 am (UTC)
I have a bunch of issues with high level play (my group having hit 14 recently and close to 15 now).

1 - Save or die becomes the common case.

2 - The balance knife edge gets much sharper. If the enemies fail their save, they all die. If the PC's fail a save or two, they're half dead. Where's the fun in that? I had a fight recently where an enmy spell caster killed 2 of the 7 players in the opening round, just due to luck. Not fun.

3 - Balance. At upper levels you're using that many more rules and pwoers and whatever. Which means more chances for either broken spells/feats or things that combine to be just insane.

4 - GM headache. It also gets a huge amount more of a pain to run a high level game. At lower levels, the PC's can optimize, but you can always smack them with something larger (orgers, giants, whatever). At upper levels, optimized PC's can just walk through so much more. Unless you really understand what you're doing and spend a huge amount of prep time, you just can't keep up with the PCs.

Now, some of these would be solved (for me) by a smaller group (we're 7 players) or less optimizing players (we've got a WotC freelancer, a player who used to run a game shop, and another player with too much free time to read books. :). With all of that, upper level play is a lot less fun.
24th-Jul-2006 03:33 am (UTC)
Agreed, with all that seidl said.

What I find that is somewhat of a catalyst to the high level balance problem is that in most instances of D&D, the game is built around battles and fighting. Few actual role playing/story reprecussions are used in high level instances. Maybe because higher level = bigger world effecting reprecussions that would make a DM work for his/her title (and possibly have a spasm ^.^; ).
24th-Jul-2006 03:17 am (UTC)
There's a lot more to balance than just hero vs. villain.

Spellcasters, for example, become much stronger than nonspellcasters at high levels (ergo, you have an inbalance between classes). Damage becomes less important (more death effects and a lot, lot less damage depending on what weapon you're using). How many ranks you have in skills becomes relatively insignificant (1 per level isn't going to make much of a difference, while bonuses from stats (or simply magical items) can more than make up for lack of ranks (of feats, even)). Just a few examples.
24th-Jul-2006 02:19 pm (UTC)
See, i don't agree. By the time a mage gets a "Save or Die" spell, almost everyone you're going to kill has a save that's through the roof, whereas a greatsword to the face with 15 points of power attack while enlarged and wearing a belt of Giant's strength is still a helluva lot of damage.
24th-Jul-2006 05:14 am (UTC)
high level even when balanced seems to allways turn into save or die or just heroes and villans whittling down each others rediculouse hitpoints for hours on end. it gets old in my opinion. plus keeping a group together when they are all pretty much the most powerfull people around gets tough,and starts making less and less sence. some people love high level play. I personally get really bored when we spend an entire gaming session fighting one monster ,stop playing and then resuming the same fight the next week.at that point you kind of hope to lose just to put you out of your misery
24th-Jul-2006 05:18 am (UTC)
You don't have any desire to take on some really powerful villain or something? How high is too high for you?
24th-Jul-2006 01:55 pm (UTC)
At super high levels you might as well be playing Exalted
24th-Jul-2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
never heard of that
24th-Jul-2006 04:40 pm (UTC)
I've played three games that have made it to high level. One ran from low to high (and eventually went epic), the other two ran from low to medium/high and then went epic when the GM wanted to mix it up.

Most of the problems were described above, but I'll go game-by-game.

The First Game
* Party levels got skewed, so the range was 18-26 by the end of it. Once we hit around level 14, the game balance went haywire. While the few of us that retained our characters the entire game were fairly balanced, anyone making a new character could take poor early game choices that lead to quicker end-game benefits without having to struggle through the lower levels.
* The GM could not sufficiently challenge this finely built machine, and the party blew through encounters like crazy. Non-combat encounters were the only hindrance, but since this group had a few smooth talkers (who had characters with excellent social skills) and a pair of strong problem solvers (who were, appropriately, playing wizards), they generally were only a speedbump in our road to xp and phat lewt.
* Once the party reached ninth-level spells, the game got out of hand. Everything degenerated into a save-or-die fest, and fights no longer felt drawn out. The fighter and paladin would hit everything, but the rogue would struggle to land hits. The fights took HOURS due to the number of dice being rolled, but in game they were over in a matter of seconds.
* The Hide Life spell proved to be the bane of our existence. Every PC had it eventually (a few people picked up Use Magic Device ranks after I got a scroll of this and used it) and suddenly all of the NPCs had it. We pretty much had to stock up on scrolls of Wish or Mordenkainen's Disjunction, which sucked.
* At epic level, things got stupid. Either the fights were ridiculously easy (ground-bound creatures while we were flying) or ridiculously hard (make DC58 will saves, Mr. Fighter).

The Second Game
* This game was doomed from the start, so it may be a poor example. My archer was built for ranged attacks, and we had a pretty disgusting melee druid setup, among other things. Using third-party books (Quintessential Fighter and Quintesstial Elf did most of the damage) also hurt this one.
* Once we hit mid-range, fights were over quickly. Our group of four dropped 48 pirates with relative ease (the 49th surrendered), and we one-rounded the captain with some brutal critical hits. The dice liked us, so this didn't help.
* The GM ran an epic level game with some strong foes, and played them smart. Our damage output was just far too high.
* We started approaching fights with a coin-flip: Heads, we win the fight. Tails, we actually run the fight.

The Third Game
* This game started out fairly tame, and stayed that way until we hit level 15 or so. At that point, people started coming into their own, and like the first game, a couple of replacement characters were finely tuned killing machines.
* Damage appeared to be very hit or miss. My damage output averaged out to be pretty ludicrous against targets subject to sneak attacks/critical hits (due to my class ability spread) and pretty tame against targets immune to both. We're talking fistfuls of d6s in the former versus 1d6+4.
* I missed one session, wherein the other (now mostly min-maxed) PCs took out a group of very high level NPCs with little damage.
* The next session was due to be Epic, but I showed up late in the session (due to working) and found out the GM had decided to stop running the game due to some serious one-rounding of encounters designed to force us to run.

In closing, the problem with high-level games seems to be that the only people that will ever hit high-level are the power hungry, who min-max their characters to the point of ludicrousness.

Comparing epic NPCs to level 15 PCs in my group generally denotes that the PCs are far, far, stronger, but we're all a bunch of power gamers (not necessarily munchkins, we just make refined and highly efficient builds).
25th-Jul-2006 04:32 am (UTC)
you bring up a good point. its hard to get players on the same track goal wise. if you have 2 players who are all about the detectave work and roleplay side of gaming and 2 who min max there charicters out it gets broken faster. unfortunatly this has been a consistant problem in every game i have ever played. and in our games if you cant keep up with the power gamers your going to most likely die"i tend to lose at least two charicters by 15th level" and making a new pc at that point of course you tend to build a bad ass its so easy.
we are playing the first game in a long time where roleplaying is outweighing combat and are only third level at this point and its hard. we get our asses handed to us constantly, noone is playing a tank in this one and there is allot of plot development. this is the first game in a long time where the entire party has had to run from a fight and its the most fun i have had in years. there are no brutes in the party our toughest pc is a ranger,we have no fighter so we have to use stratagy ofer brute strength "and a little thing called weapon finess" and i find it way more challenging than fighting a cr 25 pit demon .
but thats just me
25th-Jul-2006 02:22 am (UTC)
Nobody seems to be hitting on my issues with high levels.

Whilecombat balancing is certainly an issue, my problems all stem from arranging a world economy that can suppost billion gold transactions, populations and geography that can supposrt level 60 wandering monsters, and storylines that can interest people into those levels. It also means you have to be prepared from the start, or sooner or later the PCs will notice that they've gotten stronger than everything around them, yet challenges keep appearing that were never around at lower levels.

It's doable, and it is very rewarding, but there are challenges. Game logic strarts to fray and you need to take up the slack with your own brain.
25th-Jul-2006 02:31 am (UTC)
I do gold a little differently. Not according to the gamebook tables, not so much wealth. From encounters. 60th level is a bit high, but I have a lot of 15-20th level npcs and a handful that go from 20-50th level. No monsters that high.

I have a campaign that's set up for a long term plotline with 3 demons that have CR20+ at the endgame.
26th-Jul-2006 05:02 am (UTC) - Not just raw damage...
High level (13+) spellcasters have access not only to Teleport (which breaks many, many games), but also [Limited] Wish, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion, Plane Shift, Polymorph, and a host of powerful divinations. Many PCs also begin to build up their own organizations (guilds that they head, cities that they govern, cults that they lead, etc.) and develop strong political alliances. All of those are very difficult to work around, as PCs can get just about anywhere and learn just about anything, as well as mobilize huge numbers of followers. Well, it's not so much of a problem if you're one of those DMs that drops rocks on PCs whenever you get pissed. ;)
27th-Jul-2006 06:40 am (UTC) - Re: Not just raw damage...
divinations are a pain in the ass. i limit them in my games.
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