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Consider for the moment, looting the bodies. After all, the second half of an encounter, after "kill monsters" is "take their stuff."

At low levels, monsters encountered generally have little or no treasure. A few copper or silver pieces, a small gemstone here and there; the goblin chieftain might have a +1 mace, which when you're first level is an exciting find. But if you've got a party of 10th level characters, say, fighting giants, and they go through a normal on-level encounter, the commensurate treasure reward is somewhere in the thousands of gp; suddenly even the trash monsters are just these enormous piñatas full of gold pieces, waiting to be smashed open and have the loot come pouring out.

Why is this? Well, because high-level heroes need high-level gear, which is made incredibly expensive to keep it out of the hands of low-level heroes and thus muck up the game balance (beware the 2nd level fighter with a +5 battleaxe). And also because, depending on the particular group, why would you go through the risk of daring the demilich's Tomb of Gotchas if there wasn't the possibility of walking away with a diamond the size of your head at the end?

This leads to situations where you're fighting grunts wearing +2 chainmail and carrying vorpal swords, not only to bump up their threat level against the heroes, but also so that if defeated, the loot they drop can be taken back to town and sold (because the heroes are still wearing the +3 mithral plate they got from that last dragon's hoard, so they might as well sell the +2 chainmail). But of course, that requires there can be somebody in town who has 1,000 gp to buy the +2 chainmail ... but that person is probably a 5th level expert/noble (in 3.x) or even a 0-level character (in previous versions). So ... dang! Why are we wasting our time with these giants? Let's just ransack the town! Ack! That means the merchant has to have some way of countering 10th-level Chaotic Troublemaker PCs ... but if the merchant (or their bodyguard) is all that, why aren't they out there stomping the giants?

And so on.

Of course, the most popular and time-honored way of dealing with the issue is "Don't look behind the curtain." Establish an unwritten agreement (or even a written one if you like) with the players that This Is the Way the World Works, and that you'll continue to provide the monsters and treasure as long as they agree not to go ransacking the campaign city or otherwise turning the setup against itself.

Another possibility is to continually move the campaign city to a higher and higher bracket ... from the Village of Hommlet to the City of Greyhawk, from the City of Greyhawk to the interdimensional city of Sigil -- where people on the street do routinely carry vorpal swords because the economy is just that huge. Personally, while I see the value of this idea as a problem-solving tool, I hate it from a storytelling perspective. Planescapey stuff makes my teeth itch and is completely the kind of fantasy I never want to touch with the proverbial 10' pole.

My personal favorite way of dealing with it is "never go above 10th level," but certain corners of the gaming table are chafing at that prospect. ;P I have been observing LotRO to see how it copes with "super-high level characters in a generally low-level world," but honestly I don't think it's done that good a job. Outside of the instances, it's still okay and mostly-resembles Middle-earth, but you start going on those end-game raids, you might as well leave Professor Tolkien at the door because nothing in there makes sense from a storytelling point of view. It's all game mechanics.

That doesn't even begin to deal with high-level cheese like the good ol' "scry'n'fry" teleporting ambush and character death-and-resurrection being an expected part of the adventuring day. But I'll get to that rant later...

-The Gneech


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, c'mon. Scry'n'fry is a perfectly acceptably technique, because if you're high enough level to be the target of someone who can pull it off and you haven't got defences from it, you *deserve* to be melted by a group of wizards who probably didn't even have to actually teleport to you physically to do it. No jury in the world would convict them.
Feb. 16th, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
Mostly because they're afraid of being melted by self-same wizards.
Feb. 15th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
So, your party ransacks the town - and are now wanted men, and you make them realize there are CONSEQUENCES for such actions.

Or you point out that their alignment suggests they wouldn't do that.

Also, usually when you get higher level, you can introduce more ways of travelling, so instead of trying to sell that mace at the nearest small town, you'll teleport back to a major city to dump it off for cash, or spell components, or something.
Feb. 15th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
Being wanted men isn't much of a consequence when nobody other than characters of your own level can touch you!

My own players are not generally "ransack the town" types, I'm speaking more theoretically. :)

Feb. 15th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
But there are *always* bigger fish in the pond. Always. There has to be, or you have this problem you describe.

"You want to be jerks? Okay, fine. You've ticked off the reclusive arch-mage of the Adamantine Tower. He summons twenty 30th level demons and gives them your name. They all attack at once. You die. Now can we not be jerks?"
Feb. 15th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
B..but that's powergaming!

Okay, ROLL to not be curbstomped :)

Feb. 17th, 2010 08:44 am (UTC)
Ehhh ...
I don't generally recommend using a player's chosen alignment as a leash. Instead, I suggest keeping track of their actions and secretly assigning them a new, suitable alignment. There's no need to tell them about it. They'll find out soon enough when suddenly they can't enter a prominent holy temple because it's been warded against chaos, or they start losing spells or class abilities dependent on alignment, or that lawful cleric's "Hammer of Judgement" spell starts doing more damage than it used to do.
Feb. 15th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
flashguardian13 has a great way to deal with that. The guards at our main city are quite high level indeed, as the city was founded by former campaign heros. They don't go out because now they are busy running the city, and in the city, open displays of power (which includes waving magical items around, I've learned) and use of weapons for other than defense is strictly illegal. Unless you want to spend time in a Kender-proof dungeon, you're not going to go around the city raiding.


Edited at 2010-02-15 04:25 pm (UTC)
Feb. 17th, 2010 08:47 am (UTC)
Yeah, for my latest game (which is kinda on a permanent hiatus), I designed a city called Freehold. Freehold is a city built by adventurers for adventurers. As such, it has a naturally high population of heroes and villians of a modest level. The city is run by a council of retired adventurers who know how to deal with adventuring upstarts, and the common resident has also learned ways of dealing with troublemakers. But that's just an example of "making a bigger, more powerful city."
Feb. 15th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
One of my old DM's used an "Adventurers Economy" system, selling unwanted magic items to lower level parties, while buying from higher level parties. Trying to sell to non adventurers usually got offers of oxen and turnips.

There is always someone higher level. If a party is ransacking villages, the news will eventually escalate to someone who can and will deal with them.
Feb. 15th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
And this inevitably leads to "Rocks fall, everyone dies," right?

I like the no-going-past-10 rule. Beyond that, everyone is a superhero.
Feb. 15th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
Keeping powerful characters in line is an art. Especially in a way that the guy on the other side of the table can feel is fair.

Ransacking the town has always been a no-no in my campaigns. It doesn't seem so at first. You can probably get away with pillaging the village that is asking you for help.

But what happens after that is interesting. Sure, some sheriffs will eventually be sent by the lord. And they can probably handle that. But there will be no toys for them. Be it an excuse of enchantment that their stuff falls apart when they die or whatnot.

Very quickly, in addition to the original campaign they will find themselves hunted. And bear in mind the most powerful fighters cannot truly handle a large mob. Nor can they eat when no one sells them food. Or gives them aid with the massively leveled mages from the city-on-high are tracking them down.

Have a campaign or two where they become hunted, have their equipment worn and are starving and facing whole armies after them ... and they will think twice next time.

But I agree on the general precedent. Though I think it's less of a leveling problem than it is of a good vs evil balance problem in the game. There are far far too many rewards for being evil in the D&D system and far too restrictions for being good. Why else is it everyone sneaks a "chaotic" in their otherwise good character.

In some ways that's why grey-area plots play better. IE: The heroes are called in to save the village, they try but everyone dies, and they are blamed for it, etc. With good gamers that can work.

Also, never underestimate the power of a raven going "oooh..shiney" and stealing that magic wand when no one is really watching.
Feb. 15th, 2010 09:02 pm (UTC)
Items need recharging, which is difficult. Items wear out. Items become crocked (from overuse). Items get stolen.

Characters go missing in dungeons, and finding and rescuing them takes a whole nother quest. And they come back naked and having lost some levels by system shock.

Or that's a side effect of resurrection.

Effectively, at over 10th level, things happen to you.... Unless you learn to leave some of your montehaul stuff at home. Or unless you give up some of your own stuff or levels to rescue your friends.

Or unless you voluntarily retire from active adventuring. "Have I got enough gold pieces to build my own castle?" -- "Well, figuring X gold pieces make one gold brick...."

Feb. 15th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
The way I handle it [and I've been reffing since 1973 ^_^] is that [a] the world my campaign takes place on is very old and decadent. Nobility are given longevity [which - if used - acts as a nigh failsafe birth control], so they live a LONG time and can be reasonably expected to have good items, levels and the means to train/hire very competent t/h/u/g/s ... guards and the like.

I decided that enchanting 'normal' items to +1 or +2 is not that difficult and can be done by competent mages - and even non-mages who use the right ingredients - eg artisan dwarves and elves. However +3 or better weapons or other enchanted items [armor, protection items] require more difficult and either rare/expensive components - or a sentient life being used to fuel the magic. [And the quick n dirty means, using lives, makes magic - but cursed - weapons.]

So The adventurers will usually get +1 and +2 weapons by level 4 or 5 ... and then get more from opponents and take them to the Mage Guild, temples, merc guildhall to try and sell or trade them to get better weapons. They find out about the cursed items ... and some will trade for them [for very mixed results] - but I've noticed that the more careful players begin saving their items to trade an eventual huge pile of them ... several levels worth of them ... for a really -good- item - or use the items in trade for consumable items, like 'raise dead' oils, 'restoration' potions, or to get 'longevity' potions potions for themselves. [as just a few examples]

I also have lots of extra equipment charts and indulge in their urge to spend entire gaming sessions doing nothing but shopping. They buy all sorts of clothes, boots, accessories - in rare and wonderful fabrics and colors - that they wear proudly [until it gets blown up in a fireball ...] Letting them get fancy sheathes and weapons belts, sealskin backpacks and tents [costing in the hundreds of gp] - and possessed of a +1 or +2 to items STs are in high demand. ... and so shopping is a -wonderful- way to help players expend their gold ... and don't even get me started talking about luxury accomodations, bath houses, fine dining, entertainment, transportation and the myriad of things I've had my decadent culture devise.

But it might be a good idea to think of offering your players fantasy equivalents of those things available in real life. ... and charging for them. TV? A large gem of seeing enchanted to show the capital's playhouse.
Stereo systems? Hired bards
Snazzy cars? Really good horses, or fantasy beast transport upgrades with precious metal tooling and the finest padded leather used in the saddles ....
Feb. 16th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
This is something 4e does pretty well. Your enemies don't need to be equipped with +2 vorpal swords to be a threat at higher levels. They simply have the inherent abilities/bonuses to be a threat. If you want one to have the weapon, they can. The whole "package" concept helps avoid "selling treasure we don't want." Of course, that doesn't do much to alleviate the "Finding a vendor who can afford to buy a +2 vorpal sword" issue, if they don't want it though.
Feb. 17th, 2010 08:42 am (UTC)
On that note ...
Not all equipment earned through adventuring is actually useful. Robe of the Archmage, for example, is keyed to specific alignments. It can't be used by the party, and no merchant is going to want it even if they can afford it, since the only person with any desire for such a thing would be another evil wizard, someone who'd be more likely to slay all the heroes outright and just take it from them instead.
Feb. 16th, 2010 04:39 am (UTC)
Well, I'll pass on the comment about sooner or later the locals will stop dealing with (if not actively sabotaging) a party that turns on them. Though that might could be a plot hook. Come up with a NPC hero party that is doing it and your heroes have to come along and hunt down the trouble makers. Maybe even have the others analog the heroes enough that the players are being mistaken for the villains. Bring in bounty hunters that are going after every group with a barbarian and spell caster in its group.

Lemons into Lemonade, Gneech.
Feb. 16th, 2010 05:04 am (UTC)

Does anyone even play Dungeons & Dragons anymore.. even in the old traditional board game format?
Feb. 16th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
yes, james-nicoll.livejournal.com for one. me too.
Feb. 16th, 2010 07:04 am (UTC)
I miss Dark Sun - you were level 9 and you were DAMN HAPPY to find an actual *metal* sword. You really had to scratch like a bastard to get even mediocre gear by other D&D worlds' standards, and most of the time you couldn't wear it anyways because the whole planet was a burnt out desert cinder with an angry red fireball for a sun- major heat issues.
Feb. 17th, 2010 08:51 am (UTC)
My thoughts
I used to game with a good friend whose method for solving this was often quite simple. In his world, any person you aren't supposed to attack can automatically kick your ass, town guards are all high-level spellswords, and all other NPC's were pretty much second level from birth.


It's neither realistic nor creative, and just makes the players feel small and pathetic in an overpowered world, degrading the impressive skills they should possess in comparison to the general public.

Alternatively, you can use this as a plot device! Take the game in a new direction for a while, letting the players have their way. Robbing towns and cities may even give the players a GOOD reputation with certain criminal organizations such as thieves guilds and rebels against the local government. Now they're working for the bad guys and dodging the law! But if the players try the same "might is right" tactics on the criminals, the players will quickly find themselves out of friends with plenty of enemies to make up for it. Or perhaps the criminals end up turning on the players in the end ... then what?

With great power comes great responsibility. Your players are responsible for their actions in-game. Here are a few ways to remind them:

As Mg4h wrote: "There are always bigger fish." The world the players play in is ALWAYS larger than any single group of heroes can handle, regardless of level. If the players want to go down the road of lawbreaking, they'll have to contend with local law enforcement, sullied reputations, and bounties on their heads, just like a real criminal would. They won't be able to hold out against the law enforcers forever. If you need to, just wait until the heroes have exhausted their strength against a powerful monster and are resting to recover, then have a lawful band of bounty hunters dash in and catch them with their pants down.

There's no need to drop a 50th level elder dragon on their heads ... just find a way to cool off their ego and make them realize that no matter how high of level they get, there will always be challenges and powerful forces to put them in their place. Adventurers are still human. They must still eat, breathe, and sleep. They age, and their gear wears out with time.

Keep their powerful hands busy. As the party gains in levels, it should only get HARDER as they go. Resurrection, planeshifting, powerful magic items, mountains of gold, powerful monsters, widespread reputations and fly spells are all staples of high level gaming. Don't cheapen these abilities by ignoring or eliminating them. USE them. Throw around increasingly fatal attacks. Offer quests that take the heroes to other planes. Make them have to contend with would-be high level thieves intent on robbing them of their treasure and equipment. Perhaps on an exotic quest, one of them contracts a rare and fatal disease with only one cure ... one that is both rare and very expensive. In short, think EPIC!
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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