For.. quite a long time now, DM's (and players) have been making threads about how paragon and epic tier characters can't be challenged.
Many people say 'use different encounters' 'ban certain abilities' 'be creative' 'modify the rules to suit your particular party'. We all know these common answers - answers which can be very useful and intelligent.
But is there an underlying problem, within the core system and the way it is presented?
Encounter Difficulty vs Experience vs Risk for the party.
Anyone who has DMed knows that the xp budget for creating encounters is awesome. It's simple, flexible, and it works regardless of what level the party is! It's great!
And most of those people look in the DMG and see this particular passage:
'An encounter of level n is fairly simple. Level n+1 or n+2 is harder. Level N+3 or N+4 is a good challenge. Level N+5 should test your party to it's limits.'
Those DMs then go and test this out in the simplest environment there is: Low Heroic. And the system works. The DM then tests that a level 1 party vs a level 1 encounter of 5 level 1 monsters is about the same challenge as a level 30 party against a level 30 encounter of 5 level 30 monsters. (It is about the same challenge - fairly easy, regardless of your parties optimization) - The guidelines are great!
Then paragon and epic tier rolls around, and encounters aren't hard, and problems arise.
So let us look at these guidelines again.
N: 500 xp
N+1: 600 (+20% xp)
N+5: 1250 (+250% xp)
Level 10:N: 2500 xp
N+1: 3000 (+20% xp)
N+5: 6000 (+250% xp)
Level 30:N: 95000 xp
N+1: 115000 (+21% xp)
N+5: 235000 (+250% xp)
Works perfectly (as mentioned above).
But the problem comes from the HP/Damage added to the encounter.
When using this budget, IF one always uses monsters of the parties level, REGARDLESS of the encounter level, then the HP/Damage budget actually matches the experience budget. But, if a DM uses 5 monsters of the encounter level instead look at the following chart based on HP:
N: 160 hp
N+1: 200 (+25% hp)
N+5: 360 (+225% hp)
N: 520 hp
N+1: 560 (+8% hp)
N+5: 720 (+38% hp)
N: 1320 hp
N+1: 1360 (+3% hp)
N+5: 1520 (+15% hp)
A level 1 party fighting 5 monsters of level 6 has to kill 225% MORE hp than if fighting 5 monsters of level 1.
But a level 30 party fighting 5 monsters of level 35 only has to do 15% more damage than if they were to fight 5 level 30 monsters.
So at level 1, an n+5 level encounter is INCREDIBLY difficult. At level 30, if the encounter is designed to not have 10 monsters in it, then the supposedly 'super difficult' encounter, is in fact almost exactly the same as the 'average' encounter.
The damage chart follows a pattern very similar to HP - which means at level 1, the party is going to take a much higher amount of damage fighting level 6 monsters than if they fight level 1 monsters.. but a level 30 party will take virtually the same damage.
Here is a very rough damage comparison chart: Note that it's hard to do properly because monsters scale every 3 levels, not every level, but it's ROUGHLY +1 damage per level of the monster. At level 1, adding 1 damage adds a lot. At level 30, adding 1 damage does virtually nothing.
N: 1d6+5 (42.5)
N+1: 1d8+5 (47.5) (+12% damage)
N+5: 2d6+5 (60) (+41% damage)
N: 2d8+10 (95)
N+1: 2d10+10 (105) (+10% damage)
N+5: 4d4+14 (120) (+26% damage)
N: 4d8+14 (160)
N+1: 4d8+15 (164) (+2.5% damage)
N+5: 4d8+18 (180) (+12.5% damage)
(Other factors, like monster to hit and monster defenses, DO scale properly compared to xp).
Since in heroic tier play, sending in many monsters, OR sending in higher level monsters both result in very difficult encounters, DMs learn that the DMG guidelines for difficulty ALWAYS work.
But in Paragon, and Epic, the guidelines simply do NOT work. One can easily design a level 40 encounter for a level 30 party, by pitting them against 5 level 40 standard monsters; and assuming the party has the correct nova power (anything that grants them a suitably high attack bonus for ONE round), their nova will probably be just as effective against the level 40 monsters as it is against the level 30 monsters.
Thus, to be truly difficult, encounters with an xp budget above n MUST always use more monsters of the parties level, and never EVER use higher level monsters. Or else the party simply won't face the same sort of challenge that they did in heroic.
And whoever heard of 'big bosses' who were the same level as the party?
The DMG guidelines need to be revamped.