Planning for high level play...
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  1. #1

    Planning for high level play...

    Some boardmembers have consistently raised the issue of either changing the campaign focus at high levels to a political one, or the difficulties in presenting high level challenges.

    This has me musing over the following question:

    What ways can the structure, setting and NPCs of the campaign facilitate high level play, and set the seeds for it at low level?

    Surely it is easier to settle into high level play when the political issues, factions and demands have been hinted at from the start of the campaign. Perhaps the PCs get a whiff of them even at low levels ("Dungeon Tax? What 2-bit lord is applying a Dungeon Tax?"), become somewhat involved by middle levels ("It says, 'By Royal Decree, the Dungeoneers of Moorvale are conscripted to fight for their kingdom at the Battle of Durmeyer'"), until they are finally movers and shakers themselves at high levels ("Your majesty, as diplomatic representatives of Moorvale, we suggest that if you move the remnants of the headquarters of your Assassin's Guild out of Moorville, the barony will find little need to secede from the realm").

    Likewise, high level can require high level challenges - and rather than Great Wyrms and 20th level spellcasters appearing out of the blue when the DM needs adversaries of that power level to challenge the characters, perhaps the seeds of these challenges should be sown early ("According to this manuscript, the Witch-Prince of Fell Harneth and his legion of devils still reign in the Underdark beneath our very feet. I wonder if we'll oppose him one day.")

    These are my thoughts so far. If anyone has some suggestions on how to build the facilitation of high level play into a setting and campaign structure from the beginning, or how to set up the foundation for such challenges, I'd be interested to hear them.

  2. #2
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    Depends on how I go about structing things. Let's take something simple shall we, say Hollowfaust.

    In it I run a simple "find a few corpses get a few coppers" to keep the attacking people happy, while at the same time, developing the RP aspects through use of intermidaries and/or having the Pcs meet with some members of the guild. In the background, I mention the fact that Hollowfaust has been seiged before. I have them run into a few sutak at around...3rd level. I also introduce them to Glivid Autel as they journey into the Hornsaw, since they live there along with other foul little beasties. Then at higher levels (say like 6th-8th) I get one of them to join up in the hierarchy of Hollowfaust, especially if one of them is a wizard. (Sorcerers are tolerated but they can't specialize) So I get them to be trained and accepted...and they learn of a plot to help the Sutak sneak in to seige the place. What they DON'T find out, is the sutak have made alliences with BOTH Glivid Autel (promising them fresh corpses) and some High gorgon to help seige Hollowfaust. The Pcs don't find out about this until 12th-14th level but by then we are taking MAJOR armarda. Their job, help protect Hollowfaust and find a new guardian since their main defender, the Bonewrack, has been rendered useless through great treachery. Thus they are sent and find a dying dragon...and tada! New Draco-lich!

    That help any rounser?

  3. #3
    That help any rounser?
    Yep, that's pretty much exactly the kind of thing I'm referring to. Foreshadowing and laying the foundation for high level adversary.

    It seems to me that the nature of high level challenges is such that they are helped significantly by some foreshadowing or prominent and obvious history in the public eye, because things don't often reach the necessary level of power, influence or importance overnight - and while keeping a low profile. I guess this is why many DMs rely on a enemies from another plane or from the distant past in order to fuel the need for powerful threats.

    Relating back to another recent thread, it seems interesting to me that I can't recall much "this is the kind of thing high level play should probably be focusing on" outside of discussions in the Companion and Masters oD&D boxes - but there might have been some in one of the Players Options books and the intro to Throne of Bloodstone as well, though. Might have a look in the DMGs and see what they have to say on the topic when I get home.
    Last edited by rounser; Thursday, 30th May, 2002 at 06:51 AM.

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    No idea rounser, but I imagine that the ELH will HOPEFULLY answer some of these questions. Course that will be while.

  5. #5
    No idea rounser, but I imagine that the ELH will HOPEFULLY answer some of these questions.
    The new edition of Birthright might offer up some political options too.

  6. #6

    Re: Planning for high level play...

    What ways can the structure, setting and NPCs of the campaign facilitate high level play, and set the seeds for it at low level?
    This came up in the "Status Quo vs. Designed Encounters" thread awhile back. Luddite had quite a bit to say:
    In my fisrt adventure, the NPC who gave the players their first "quest" was a mid-teens "General" of the Royal Army. And I also hinted that the current King of the Country was an Epic Level character, about to die and transend in to Godhood. My Players were level one at the time.

    The idea is to make sure the players know that there are powerful things out there. So when I do throw a small detachment of Level 7 Fighters from the Royal Army, they won't be surprised.

    This also explains why the players don't see "big" things where they are right now. They have been in areas guarded by the Army. They would of delt with anything that was a big threat in that area. So for now the Chracters run in to small encounters that don't warrent a full military respoance.

    For example. One are of my world is a Hilly and low Mountians area were many giant type creatures exist. [ ogres, trolls, hill giants and larger ]. The party has run into ogres and one troll. But each encouter in "out of the way" places that was not patrolled and they threat was small enough that the Military did not send any resources to take care of. (There is an open bounty on some creatures in the area, so that entices younger groups to hunt and take care of the "smaller" giants)

    Last aventure, I had the players meet the Arch-Villan in a socail encounter. I told them that he was at least level 15 and had his own army. Fortunately the villan does not see the party as a threat yet. In fact he kind of finds them useful....for now.

  7. #7
    Hi rounser,

    If you have the long-term campaign plot and major NPCs mapped out from the beginning, it's pretty easy to engineer the proper foreshadowing into the game, and to have them either meet or become aware of the major players along the way.

    For a more free-form campaign, I think the best bet is to liberally sprinkle NPCs and news items throughout the game sessions, especially early on. It's easy enough to bring these plot elements back into the game at a later time, and 9 times out of 10, the players will never be able to tell that you didn't have everything planned out that way from the very beginning anyway. The trick is to be very generous with these potential plot hooks from the very beginning of the campaign, so that later on you don't have to look like you are reaching to bring back into focus 1 of the (only) 3 plot hooks you threw out earlier.

    It sounds like you have a pretty good grasp of these campaign techniques already, though.

    Cheers,

    -War Golem

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