Legends of Shadow World Pt 4. The Plains of Despair.

Due to a vacation it’s been a few weeks since out last session playtesting our “Legends of Shadow World” tourney series for 50th lvl characters. Last night the group reconvened for Chapter 4: “The Plains of Despair” (or alternatively The Fortress of the Dread Lord).

Narrative wise, it felt a bit broken; the PC’s got killed or beaten badly in Chapter 3 and the few weeks off disrupted the story line. However this is playtesting, so the group was brought back to life, I doled out some moderate damage, adjusted hits, PPs and item charges etc and sent them on their way through a Portal.

This one was tricky for me–while the main encounter is between the PC’s and a small group of powerful creatures there is also this “army” that the players could confront. How do you handle 5 PCs versus thousands of soldiers? Combat mechanics aside, the good news is that all those cool high level spells in Spell Law, the ones that affect 1 target/lvl or large AoE, come in REAL handy!

The PCs actual triumphed in this one, maybe a bit too easily. Unlike the others, this Chapter ends with a victory–the group retrieved the artifact they had been chasing. Now the players get to return home, get a break and then head out. Chapter 5 ties up all the threads and puts the group in direct confrontation with the mastermind behind it all.

Now that I have run 4 chapters I can start processing issues around high level adventures. This was one of the intents of this project. Some issues and questions I am hoping to resolve:

  1. How does RM combat work between high level opponents? Is it the same as low level since high OBs are offset by high DBs, buffs, and parrying?
  2. Spells. Do spells scale appropriately or do some high level spells break the game or aren’t effective enough?
  3. Do spellcasters really have an advantage at high lvl vs pure arms users?
  4. How do you design challenging encounters for those levels?
  5. How do players roleplay a 50th lvl character? Especially iconic personalities like Navigators and Loremasters?
  6. What types of opponents are effective?
  7. What types of environments can the players handle?
  8. Do high level characters lend themselves to Rolemasters gritty “low fantasy” mechanics?

I’m collecting feedback from my other two playtest groups and hopefully have meaningful data I can post soon!

5 thoughts on “Legends of Shadow World Pt 4. The Plains of Despair.”

  1. I’m not sure if any game system is truly well developed for high level play. There is such a lack of material that I don’t think it’s been very well playtested.

    D&D went up to Masters/Immortals. The first had only five adventures; the second only three. AD&D had H1-4. That’s largely all I know of for high level adventures under those systems, or indeed many following them. I’m reasonably sure 3.x and Pathfinder have some rulebooks aimed at L20+, but not much in the way of adventures.

    There’s simply a dearth of available material to base high level play on. Your current playtests may well account for a significant proportion of what is available.

  2. With higher level games I have always found the PP multiplier to be a real game spoiler. At low level a third level character with 3xPPs per level and a x2 multiplier seems reasonable enough. A total of 24PPs gives the character more staying power. Advance the character to 20th level and you end up with 20×3, 60 PPs x2 so 120 PPs and the most useful spells are probably still under 10th level and many of them under 5th level. We have gone from more staying power to bottomless well of power.

    In addition by 20th level it is entirely probable that the caster would have more than a x2 multiplier if the standard treasure generation tables are used so the problem becomes amplified.

    Bolt on the various methods of storing power through runes for example and resource management of PPs is irrelevant.

    I look forward to your feedback as I have a couple of high level adventures I would like to write up for your project.

    1. Good point about resource management. The challenge becomes then not so much being able to cast a spell, but trying to remember all the ones you have! It might just be a case of the challenges changing into different challenges though: there are so many ways opponents can mess with you — since they too have a massive range of spells — that you can struggle to try to anticipate/predict them all.

    2. I have to parse some data–I wrote down PP/HP attrition during each battle among some general notes.

      In general, it didn’t feel different from running lower level campaigns. Skill bonuses are incremental after 10th lvl and spells only scale up slightly (using RM Spell Law) through 50th. The various “True” versions of spells (1 target / lvl) are cool but not really that beneficial unless you are fighting dozens of opponents.

      DnD and other systems have a much more significant power curve from 1st to 15th lvl. However, I don’t mind that Rolemaster didn’t feel Epic–it makes it more grounded than the “hand wave high fantasy” that needs to occur in other systems.

  3. I would echo Eg’s point that none of the major systems were particularly good at high level play. DnD 4e tried to make it more viable by having three tiers (levels 1-10, 11-20, and 21-30, with the latter tier ending with demigodhood), but even in 4e, the majority of the modules were for lower levels. And some people argued that the game became broken at higher levels. We definitely experience it in our group: our party was quite well optimized, and we found the Tomb of Horrors so easy that it almost got boring.

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