This past Tuesday, the group ran through the final chapter of Legends of Shadow World. Unlike the back to back nature of the first four chapters, the group was able to return to Eidolon, rest, heal and gather resources for the final task. They felt prepared and more optimistic…until the mission briefing. Apparently even a group of 50th level PCs can feel apprehension!
Once again the group had to undertake a long journey, handle adverse environment conditions and then run the gauntlet of several smaller challenges. The final encounter was against the mob boss so the party was able to shift to known RM combat strategies of a PC group fighting a singular, powerful foe (over level 100). Generally superior numbers is a huge advantage in RM combat, but this was a very powerful adversary and two of the PCs were killed during the battle. It felt truly epic and the players all had a great time–in fact they wanted another run through the battle just to see if they could win without any party kills.
Without giving away the details, this encounter was actually the starting premise of the whole exercise: to build a 50th lvl adventure. Once I had the end drafted out, I just needed to create a narrative to lead the players to the final battle. But as I was writing it, and then testing it, I wanted to use the adventure path to test various aspects of high level gaming. Each chapter was meant to combine difficult terrains or environments with varying opponents. Unlike lower level adventures, there was much less reliance on regular skills to solve challenges–at 50th lvl, skill bonuses are maxed out and make most actions automatic or the group has spells that can tackle the problem. Normally I would want a more well rounded adventure, but this was intended to be a tournament style to played with pre-gen characters in short 2-4 hour sessions.
Some final thoughts:
- There was a learning curve–I had to modify much of the chapter 1, half of chapter 2, a lot of chapter 3, a bit of chapter 4 and almost nothing in chapter 5. I’ll be getting additional feedback from the other two playtest groups but I’m pretty close to a finished product.
- I don’t know how 50th level characters would work in a prolonged, ongoing, campaign but they work great for stand alone adventures. The players really enjoyed roleplaying these known personalities but weren’t so invested in them that getting killed was a problem.
- High level creatures that have a lot of spells or special abilities give GMs a wide range of tools to play with. It becomes even more important to plan out spell usage when casters have hundreds of spells. I like to list out 10-15 spells with contingencies as a GM combat guide. That, plus special abilities and magic items should be enough choice for most battles.
- I’ve always preferred running low level adventures. Even small achievements seem significant and there is a real progression of power and abilities up to 10th lvl. However, I think I’m converted! High level adventures are different but a blast. Basically the player gets to use all the abilities and spells that were just a distant promise at lower levels!
- Information. At 50th lvl, the PCs should have access to quite a bit of hidden world info but in the framework of a short tourney adventure I didn’t bother with a “data dump”. When needed, I provided needed information in the game, but I didn’t want to ruin our regular SW campaign with world secrets. One of the PCs is a Loremaster after all! One of my players did ask for information that I suspected would be useful in the other group.
- High Fantasy. One of RMs greatest appeal is the granularity and grittiness of the system but with high level groups there needs to be a certain amount of hand waving. Travel is simplified when you have a Navigator that can Jump, a cleric that can create food and water, significant healing abilities and for all practical purposes, unlimited wealth. But RM grittiness manifests back into the game during combat and tactical level events. Even at high levels, fighting in burning lava, violent Essaence Storms, no/low gravity or sub zero temperatures requires resources and changed combat strategies. You can’t hand wave away non-breathable air!
- Herbs & Power Points. I’m going to increase herb allocations to the PCs. I think its one of the simpler ways to adjust game balance compared to the more involved process of changing the #/power of encounters. I think Peter does the same thing with runes & 1-time items in his campaign. I rarely allow instant herbs for use during combat, but it makes a huge difference after encounters in group resource management. Although I’m sticking to RAW RMC, I am using SW crystals as power storage (more of a magic item than a rule change). PCs can replenish PPs via these objects but I think they had too many PPs. I never felt they were being strategic with their usage and I like casters having to weight spells against their PP cost.
- Mass Combat. Still pondering this and I think I need to pour through War Law again. I have a handful of ideas on more 50th lvl adventures but need a good process for handling armies and mass groups. I know it’s doable, but it feels like a different game when you do it. There is a thread on this at the RM Forums that I’m keeping an eye on.
I’m looking forward to getting this adventure out there–I only wish I had artwork and professional layouts to punch it up a bit!