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S Ferguson
June 9th, 2013, 17:14
I've heard it mentioned that it is much more difficult to design high-level adventures vis a vis their low level counterparts. I don't know. I've always found it easier to design quite the reverse as so many things can go wrong at lower levels. I'd be interested in finding out, from the bright minds of the FG community, what they think of this issue (if there is one at all). So:

1) Do you find high-level adventures to require more prep-work and are harder to design?
2) Do you find low-level adventures easier to design and take little prep-work?

Any exposition on this subject would be much appreciated, as would examples of balancing issues or anything else that might come into play.

Cheers (and thanks in advance),
SF

dr_venture
June 9th, 2013, 22:26
I definitely find the high level games harder to GM and prep for than the low level ones. The main difference to me is that there are so many options to consider for the high level games - the players have so many more options to act offensively and defensively. There is a lot more to consider as a GM in order to avoid those encounters where your villain springs his trap, and a character pulls out a magic item or spell or ability you'd forgotten about and squashes your plans right off, and you're left scrambling to make the encounter play out with the drama or excitement you were hoping for.

On the other hand, low level games have fewer variables, so it's easier to balance the encounters and provide the players with an exciting/threatening/challenging experience. There are just fewer surprises, so things tend to more or less play out in the ballpark of what you expected.

Definitely big on the YMMV and IMHO there.

Isamill
June 9th, 2013, 23:20
from past experiance the high level games were always alot harder to create and balance out to make it enjoyable for the both the DM and the players. I agree with exactly what Dr venture has said where the characters either easily overcome the encounter or die horribly and quickly (refer Tomb of Horrors).
Lower level characters can be balanced out more easily where the characters skills make it more important to think out how to proceed more carefully where as higher level characters can spot/dsarm the trap every time, hit the monster everytime etc which leads to characters becoming careless and just charging in knowing that they can defeat pretty much anything in their way.
Nothing better than a group of low level characters fighting a group of fairly easy monsters and then throw in something big and nasty to make them run screaming for their gods, deities, mummies lol

S Ferguson
June 10th, 2013, 21:27
.
Nothing better than a group of low level characters fighting a group of fairly easy monsters and then throw in something big and nasty to make them run screaming for their gods, deities, mummies lol

I know the only time I always scream for my mummies is when I need a cash loan! LoL.

JohnD
June 10th, 2013, 23:45
I've never liked high level adventures. Too hard to plan for, too much to take into account, too many PCs who are essentially walking death platforms all by themselves who don't necessarily need to rely on their comrades/teamwork.

In fact, about 8th level is as high as my campaigns have ever gone, with one exception where the longest term PCs made it to 11th (and most only got to 9th).

Laconiclament
June 11th, 2013, 09:05
Note, the large majority of my GM experience is D&D 3.5. That said, I still agree that high level is harder to plan/prepare and for the same reasons already given. A particular campaign that I ran for two and a half years comes to mind. That game made me permaban warlocks from all future games, come to hate utility casters, and twitch at the thought of a dex tank. Granted, 3.5 is even more octane than classic but it all filters through to the same outcome: too much power/too many variables!

On the flip side of the same coin, my players absolutely LOVED that game, yearned to reach max level, talked about it with frothing anticipation on the days prior to game night, and reveled in my near aneurysms after...yet another...foiled encounter. What I mean is, I guess I just change my intent/perspective as the games progress to higher and higher levels.

At the end of the day, it's all still fun and I regret none of it! :D

S Ferguson
June 11th, 2013, 17:47
:)
I've never liked high level adventures. Too hard to plan for, too much to take into account, too many PCs who are essentially walking death platforms all by themselves who don't necessarily need to rely on their comrades/teamwork.

In fact, about 8th level is as high as my campaigns have ever gone, with one exception where the longest term PCs made it to 11th (and most only got to 9th).

Well in an average weekly game, like the ones we used to play in the 80's reaching high levels was difficult at best. However by then, at least in AD&D you had the planes (Ref: Queen of the Demonweb Pits) and other high level encounters with invulnerabilities to magic. Wights for draining levels, etc.

That cut the spell-slinging down to size (not to mention requiring ridiculous material components for higher level spells - and your still limited to "guessing" what spells you'd need to memorize for the day). And fighter-types have to work in concert to break the walls of high HD creatures - multiple ones at that. These are epic characters so they require epic challenges. MMI, MMII and Fiend Folio, all had the prerequisite encounters already in place. The various modules that came out for AD&D had only a few low level modules, most leading to campaigns. They had a much higher volume of higher level modules, and books such as the Manual of the Planes (or the much more complete articles in the Dragon ('80's Dragon) Guide to the Hells and Hades give the characters something to fight for - though not necessarily in the planes themselves. Deities become far more interested in the actions of their patrons. Quests become far more common.

Basically high-levels = high adventure. The traps don't have to be as simple and can incur a modifier to a thief's pick-lock skill. The characters should also have built their respective strongholds, temples, towers and must take care of that business. War looms on the horizon. Towers can be broken into by other high-level thieves and items stolen. Temples can be desecrated. All have to be done by high level enemies (which the characters are bound to accrue over the course of their careers. Conan aspired to become, and did become, King of Aquilonia with the most powerful army in Hyperborea at his command.

Basically, the high-level character is not a walking tank, but a rules-laden transport truck. The followers fighters or barbarians receive, the acolytes clerics attract and the research into higher level magical spells and the apprentices limits the variables on what these characters can do (it also saps their finances - another adventure hook).

Conversely low level characters are limited by the amount of damage they can do on average and their respective hit points. It's hard even planning encounters, as one poor roll of the dice maims or kills a party member. Also I find less-experienced players (and sometimes long playing members) vying for the spotlight in low level games. There seems to be less cohesion in the group. Also, unlike high level characters, who you know partner well, you can't guarantee the same from low-level parties, where the characters know few spells and possess few, if any, magic items.

Encounters have to be gaged quite carefully in low level adventures as well; you cant throw too many low level creatures (for fear of overwhelming the players) or too few
(not enough challenge). I personally find the balancing of low-level characters much harder than higher level ones. You can't place too many traps or locked doors without checking the chances that the thief can find or pick successfully. I just find it mind boggling when it comes to placing treasure. How will the +3 Sword of Impending Doom affect future combats? How do you plan for, at least what I see, more variables in play here.


Mid-level games I find to be a mixed medium between the two - the characters are strong but not strong enough. It requires less work than low-level games and more work than high-level games.

Just my two cents worth so far. I'd still like to hear more opinions or comments on any of the posts (especially mine :) ).

Regards,
SF

Isamill
June 12th, 2013, 12:53
At High levels none of my players were interested in castles or minions and they were not the roleplaying type and hated city adventures - they were all old school dungeon crawlers with a bit of wilderness and lost civilizations thrown in and loved the challenges that came about by defeating my devious traps and nasty creatures that were in the classic ADnD.
What ever happened to those monsters as I find the newer editon monsters are pretty weak and timid and don't strike fear in the eyes of the players any more - I mean it was always good to watch the characters tremble in fear when a decomposing corpse turns it's baleful eyes upon them and starts slobbering in anticipation of fresh meat and the first touch of its dessicated claws cause the characters legs to turn to jelly and collapse onto the ground in paralysis and then start having a feast on the poor character even though the other members are staring on in horror and morbid fascination as the ghoul is tearing strips of flesh to get at the really tasty bits BWWAAAHAHAHAHAHA

S Ferguson
June 12th, 2013, 15:29
At High levels none of my players were interested in castles or minions and they were not the roleplaying type and hated city adventures - they were all old school dungeon crawlers with a bit of wilderness and lost civilizations thrown in and loved the challenges that came about by defeating my devious traps and nasty creatures that were in the classic ADnD.
What ever happened to those monsters as I find the newer editon monsters are pretty weak and timid and don't strike fear in the eyes of the players any more - I mean it was always good to watch the characters tremble in fear when a decomposing corpse turns it's baleful eyes upon them and starts slobbering in anticipation of fresh meat and the first touch of its dessicated claws cause the characters legs to turn to jelly and collapse onto the ground in paralysis and then start having a feast on the poor character even though the other members are staring on in horror and morbid fascination as the ghoul is tearing strips of flesh to get at the really tasty bits BWWAAAHAHAHAHAHA

It was probably in the name of scientific interest. The party was sent by the U.N. to investigate "cannibal attacks" and didn't know what they were in for...;)

Trenloe
June 12th, 2013, 16:18
What ever happened to those monsters as I find the newer editon monsters are pretty weak and timid and don't strike fear in the eyes of the players any more...
Frog God Games Tome of Horrors Complete has a bunch of high CR nasties - in the old-school mould: http://www.talesofthefroggod.com/tome-of-horrors.html

S Ferguson
June 15th, 2013, 01:28
But remember at higher levels come higher risks. Those monsters may be enough to scare the pants off of your players, but there still has to be an engaging adventure premise. I generally make a few monsters "unique." I guess it's the old school method of "templates." Those dead orcs might come back stronger than ever with a Necromancer behind the scenes. Although This is a one-trick pony, however vamping old creatures can be vastly unique as Gygax mentioned in a few of his articles.

Phystus
June 19th, 2013, 01:47
High level adventures are much more difficult for me, both to write and to GM. As others have mentioned, at high levels it's a lot more likely that some character will have a scenario-breaking ability or item.

But I also find it's harder to know when I've created an encounter that's too tough for the party at high levels. I suspect that might just be a matter of having more practice at lower levels, though.

Just my 2 CP.

~Phystus

S Ferguson
June 19th, 2013, 02:09
High level adventures are much more difficult for me, both to write and to GM. As others have mentioned, at high levels it's a lot more likely that some character will have a scenario-breaking ability or item.

But I also find it's harder to know when I've created an encounter that's too tough for the party at high levels. I suspect that might just be a matter of having more practice at lower levels, though.

Just my 2 CP.

~Phystus

Basically, I find it easier to balance the encounters (you have far more variety at higher levels) to the characters. So what if the wizard can cast horrific fireballs. Shove him up against a fire elemental and that's effectively neutralized. And the encounters need not be physical. At higher levels, characters are expected to use their brains first. Throw in a few cryptic puzzles. I think that most DM's are more afraid of their party's capabilities than necessary. But as you said, it takes practice.