Why is Epic Tier so easy? Encounter Difficulty Scaling Problems

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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?

Yes.

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.  
Level 1:
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:

Level 1:
N: 160 hp
N+1: 200 (+25% hp)
N+5: 360 (+225% hp)

Level 10:
N: 520 hp
N+1: 560 (+8% hp)
N+5: 720 (+38% hp)

Level 30:
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.

Level 1:
N: 1d6+5 (42.5)
N+1: 1d8+5 (47.5) (+12% damage)
N+5: 2d6+5 (60) (+41% damage)

Level 11:
N: 2d8+10 (95)
N+1: 2d10+10 (105) (+10% damage)
N+5: 4d4+14 (120) (+26% damage)

Level 24:
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.
I'd be curious to see how damage output scales ala the new MM3 damage formulas.
If you look past the plot and the voice acting, Metroid: Other M was an okay game. Not a great game, but an adequate one. Not using the Metroid item collect jingle though? That, was a mistake.
I'm a big fan of 'the big boss dies when drama says he should, or when the players are tired of the fight.'  It's been a while since I actually tracked hit points for boss monsters...
As you get more options, the disparity between an Optimized PC and a non optimized PC increases.

So say...

             Optimised  Not  Difference
Heroic       20           15      5
Paragon    40           30      10
Epic           80           45      35

So yes there's a problem with epic, they balanced around the low end.

guides
List of no-action attacks.
Dynamic vs Static Bonuses
Phalanx tactics and builds
Crivens! A Pictsies Guide Good
Power
s to intentionally miss with
Mr. Cellophane: How to be unnoticed
Way's to fire around corners
Crits: what their really worth
Retroactive bonus vs Static bonus.
Runepriest handbook & discussion thread
Holy Symbols to hang around your neck
Ways to Gain or Downgrade Actions
List of bonuses to saving throws
The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

I've done a very rough damage calculation (based on MM3) and I'll edit it into the original post.

@mellored: The balance problem you mention is based around an on-level monster. So for a level 30 character, the level 30 monsters are balanced (toward a low optimized PC). That's not my point at all. My problem is that IF you use monsters of higher level than the PC's, then epic tier monsters don't significantly get harder. A level 1 character that fights a level 1 monster is going to have a particular level of balance - and I would say that that balance is (largely) kept, so that a level 30 character against a level 30 monster will feel at least reasonably similar to the level 1 fight.

However, the problem is that a level 1 character against a level 5 monster has a far harder time than against a level 1 monster.. but the level 30 character who fights a level 35 monster won't notice any signficant difference than when he fights a level 30 monster.

So if the DM tries to make fights harder by using higher level monsters, he simply will fail. There won't be any major change in the difficulty. (Major as compared to the change in heroic tier)
I think there is another component to this as well.

Optimized PCs are more than just the PCs. They are run by experienced *players. By paragon level, *players* are used to each other and their individual PCs. They know how to work together. They've been using the same combinaiton of powers, magic items, and allies with only a few changes to master at each level.

The DM, on the other hand, is constantly having to learn a new set of characters (the monsters). He has to master new powers, new abilities, and new combinations of creatures. Agaisnt an experienced group of *players* there is almost nothing  in a "balanced in capacity" encounter the DM can use that will maintain a "balanced in delivery" challenge.

Simply upping the level of the encounter is insufficient. More power for the DM to use does not equate to more challenge presented to the PCs. It is likely that a more powerful encounter will simply result in a TPK rather than a more effective challenge. (Switching to a bazooka in a gun fight doesn't help with the aim. Just the damage output when you hit.)
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I think there is another component to this as well.

Optimized PCs are more than just the PCs. They are run by experienced *players. By paragon level, *players* are used to each other and their individual PCs. They know how to work together. They've been using the same combinaiton of powers, magic items, and allies with only a few changes to master at each level.

The DM, on the other hand, is constantly having to learn a new set of characters (the monsters). He has to master new powers, new abilities, and new combinations of creatures. Agaisnt an experienced group of *players* there is almost nothing  in a "balanced in capacity" encounter the DM can use that will maintain a "balanced in delivery" challenge.


THIS

I found that by late paragon, when I DM i tend to pick creatures that have a certain powers, first because I know my PC's well enough to know what will hinder them, and second because it lets me use familiar tactics. Part of the fun with being a DM is that you get to experiment with monsters and encounters. I still encourage that but make sure your encounters have a baseline as to what monsters should be able to do.

For example: Our party has an Archer Ranger. I have to make sure I have an enemy controller, artillery, or leader with ranged attacks capable of affecting the ranger. I want to mix things up I sometimes use a lurker who can sneak up behind the ranger or maybe some very mobile skirmishers able to get to the ranger. Either way I have to make sure in my encounter checklist that I have something to deal with the archer.  
I've played through 2 epic campaign arcs, 20-30. We use dungeon delve decks since we opt out using a DM. The encounters we generate are, on average, of the hard level catagory. I have found in our games that standard difficulty encounters, even if you throw five straight ones at the pcs, are to easy. Hard encounters tax the players abilities and after the second they need an extended rest.
We allow one extended rest per level in delving. Epic was the hardest tier for us as far as pc fatality was concerned. As a DM, my one and only, we are nearing epic. I throw everything at them. Brutes/Soldiers four levels higher than the party level should nix the issue of too easy.
Caveat: I've never played Epic. I've only done up to low Paragon so far.

I think the underlying problem is that people assume it has to be all about the monsters, when 4th Edition has made it so much easier for it to be about traps, skills, hazards, and environments as well. Looking at Dungeon Delve, which gives pretty good cross-section of encounters at all levels, I see traps and skill challenges at every tier, and in Epic there are some really crazy things. If there's a flaw, I think it's just that the DMG doesn't exhort DMs enough to use all their options at every tier.

Changing how monsters work could probably fix the perceived problems, and that's probably what's going to happen, but it looks to me (who, again, has never played Epic) as though the tools to challenge players are there but are not being used. If I'm off base, please tell me.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I was having this same discussion with my players.

We came to the conclusion it's the "action economy" At epic, with all the items and powers that allow players to act two to three times more often than monsters.

There are many immediate powers that allow attack rolls between monster turns. Not to mention interrupts that also steal monster actions. "That hit me, oh no it didn't"

Every re-roll power is basically the same as a free attack. Initially the first miss would be counted as one attack, that missed. Getting a re-roll is the equivalent of a standard action. And You get that standard action before the monster can act.

Stuns and dominates abound at epic, and steal a monster's standard action. On an elite or solo they steal 2-5 monster's actions.

Combine with action points and the players, in an important battle, can get the equivalent of going 3-4 times in first two rounds compared to the monsters, half of which are stunned or debilitated by blind/weaken etc.

All in all, players have an action advantage against monsters. In Epic, they get to act about twice for every once a monster gets to act during it's lifetime. Depending on power and item selection (more interrupts, re-rolls, stuns) this could go up to 3-5 times per monster action.

On solos it's even more exaggerated, because if the solo is stunned, 5 players get to go while 5 monsters don't get to go and the monster's action points aren't enough to restore the balance.
I think that a big part of the problem later is that players not only just get bigger numbers, they get better powers.  Now, this sounds really obvious but bear with me.  At lower levels, your powers are rarely battle-changing in nature.  They usually give smaller bonuses (also partly because your stat mods are lower, so their relative value is less at heroic when a power provides a +stat mod rider), and they also have limited effects.  

As you get higher up (mid-late paragon and beyond), Team PC starts to get some truly powerful effects, and frequently on an encounter power basis.  They get things that not only do damage, but stun as an encounter power.  It is exceedingly rare that a monster can do anything about stun until end of next turn, even quite a few solos cannot.  Also stacking up to-hit penalties (Getting into -8 or more) effectively makes a monster unable to hit.  And that is just a "control" effect; warlords get Hail of Steel every encounter, rangers can do more and more attacks, I think you get the idea. With this plethora of powerful abilities on top of more optimization room via PPs, EDs, feats, items, etc., Team PC can frequently simply kill several monsters instantly (if they follow the normal guidelines), and/or nullify them for a round or two.

Given this pattern, I have often seen fights of even level essentially be level - 1 or 2 after round one because players can shut down or kill a lot of team monster much more easily at later levels because of the nature of their abilities, not just the numbers attached to them. PCs, especially optimized ones with experienced players behind them, can have a lot of frontloaded power that essentially is extremely difficult to reasonably withstand by something of even level, and with good focus fire, several monsters worth of encounter budget simply get wiped off the face of the encounter, often without acting (meaningfully).  

How do you solve this?  Sadly, it is fairly hard to do so in an official way other than to release more deadly monsters (MM3, which I thoroughly love!), or just increase encounter XP budgets as you increase level.  I personally have been lowering monster HP and increasing damage/control effects, and raising the numbers of monsters.  The net effect is that some of the statuses like stun, daze+push, -8+ to hit affect a smaller percentage of the monsters in the encounter, so while they are still effective, they may take out 1/9 monsters each instead of 1/5.  Plus, it lets PCs kill more things, and people like to kill things, so my players seem to be enjoying it as well.
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The answer we've found in our groups (all the various DMs use it when they're at the head of the table) is not to bother with experience.  Instead of budgeting monsters out so that the party reaches their next level at a certain time - and thereby leaving the encounters to be cakewalks - encounters are designed to be challenging without regard to how much xp they should be giving, and level ups are put at good story points, roughly 10-12 encounters apart. 

When you free yourself from the endless cycle of challenging the players with more stronger monsters and the challenges just resulting in the players getting better faster, it's not too hard to challenge the players.  It did take a bit of convincing for some of our players to accept that even though in a given level they're fighting well more than the amount of monsters required to reach the next level, that they would still be rewarded commensurate to their actions.  When the players realized that levels would be handled as storyline awards and that they were still going to level up at roughly the same rate, the added challenge of bigger and more difficult encounters became something that everyone enjoys.
In theory, the lack of HP gradient can be taken over by a status-effect gradient.  In practice, it isn't.

In order to maintain a HP gradient to be nearly uniformly steep, you need an exponential curve to HP.

Let's imagine a different D&D game, where HP did scale exponentially.

Next, lets imagine that level 1 characters have 20/24/28/32 HP for fragile/medium/tough/warden-tough HP (that allows a medium-large die of damage to do about 1/4 of your HP).

If we assume non-damage effect attack/defense parity with level increases (ie, players non-damage based powers grow in strength at the same rate that monsters do), and we balance soley off of HP damage and attack/defence boosts...  and we attempt to keep the same XP curve...

1: Each level is a +1 bonus to attacks/defences for monsters.
2: A monster 4 levels higher than you needs to be as effective, in total, as two even-level monsters.
3: Monster HP and Damage grows by Kx every 4 levels.
4: Things are balanced at level 1.
5: The number of rounds to kill an even-level player remains constant.

I'm going to assume you hit on a 8+ against even-level monsters, and they hit you on a 12+, and you both do rougly double damage on a crit of a 20.  A more complex model can be created later.

We have a fight against 10 even-level monsters, and a fight against 5 level+4 monsters.

My goal is going to have the 5 level+4 monsters do the same damage against you as the even-level monsters do before they die.

For simplicities sake, we'll have enough damage to kill 2 even-level monsters for 2 rounds, then fall to 1 even-level monster per round.  Half of the monsters will go first.

10 even-level monster model:
Round 1: 5 monsters attack, 2 die, 4 monsters attack.
Round 2: 4 monsters attack, 2 die, 3 monsters attack.
Round 3: 3 monsters attack, 1 dies, 2.5 monsters attack.
Round 4: 2.5 monsters attack, 1 dies, 2.0 monsters attack.
Round 5: 2.0 monsters attack, 1 dies, 1.5 monsters attack.
Round 6: 1.5 monsters attack, 1 dies, 1.0 monsters attack.
Round 7: 1.0 monsters attack, 1 dies, 0.5 monsters attack.
Round 8: 0.5 monsters attack, last one dies.

Total monster attacks: 5+8+6+5+4+3+2+1 = 30.

If an even level monster does D damage on a hit (and 2D on a crit), given the hit rate of the monsters 30*((D*.45)+(2D*.05)) = 15*D damage is dealt before the 10 even-level monsters die.

5 level+4 monster model.  Now, players where hitting the monsters on a 8+ on even-level monsters: on level +4 they need a 12+.  They still crit on a 20.

If before their damage was X per hit, they did .7X damage per round (and double that on the first two rounds).  Now they are doing .5X damage per round.  The level+4 monster is taking 5/7th the damage of the level+0 monster, just from the defence boost.  As the monster has K times as many HP, it takes 1.4*K times as long to kill the level+4 monster.

A round of level+4 monster attacks hits on a 8+.  So if a monster 4 levels higher has Kx the HP and damage, they do .7*K*D damage per attack round (where D is the damage-per-hit of an even-level monster), or 1.4*K times the damage-per-round of an even-level monster.  (the 1.4 is from the attack bonus).

I'll start with the assumption that a level+4 monster has about 40% more HP.  1.4*1.4 = 1.96 =~ 2.0, which is the XP value of a level+4 monster.  And then I'll simulate, then adjust.

Round 1: 2.5 attacks, 1 dies, 2.0 attacks.
Round 2: 2.0 attacks, 1 dies, 1.5 attacks.
Round 3: 1.5 attacks, 1 bloodied, 1.5 attacks.
Round 4: 1.5 attacks, 1 dies, 1.0 attacks.
Round 5: 1.0 attacks, 1 bloodied, 1.0 attacks
Round 6: 1.0 attacks, 1 dies, 0.5 attacks.
Round 7: 0.5 attacks, last one bloodied, 0.5 attacks
Round 8: 0.5 attacks, last one dies

This is a good sign -- the same number of rounds of combat.

Total attacks: 18.5.  Damage is 1.4*D per hit, 2.8*D per crit.  .60 hits per swing, 0.05 crits per swing = 0.84*D + 0.14*D = 0.98D per swing average.

Times 18.5 is 18.13*D damage dealt to party.

This is higher than the previous case, where the party took 15*D, by about 21%.

Iterative improvement: monsters have 25% more HP, and deal 25% more damage, after 4 levels.

Round 1: 2.5 attacks, 1.14 dead/3.86 alive, 2.0 attacks
Round 2: 2.0 attacks, 2.29 dead/2.71 alive, 1.5 attacks
Round 3: 1.5 attacks, 2.86 dead/2.14 alive, 1.5 attacks
Round 4: 1.5 attacks, 3.43 dead/1.57 alive, 1.0 attacks
Round 5: 1.0 attacks, 4 dead/1 alive, 0.5 attacks
Round 6: 0.5 attacks, 4.57 dead/0.43 alive, 0.5 attacks
Round 7: 0.5 attacks, all dead

16.5 attacks.  1.25*D per hit, 2.5*D per crit.  0.60 hits/swing, 0.05 crits/swing.
.88D damage per swing, times 16.5 attacks, is 14.44*D damage.

That is pretty much on the nose. 

So every 4 levels, you need a 25% boost in HP and damage to have about the same amount of threat, from raw damage, to the party.

Tough PC hp also follows this curve.  To keep things simpler, I'll work out what your HP "should" be at level 10, 20 and 30, then we'll do a linear interpolation between them.
1: 28
10: 46
20: 81
30: 141

We then do linear HP between these points:
1-10: +2 HP/level
11-20: +3.5 HP/level
21-30: +6 HP/level

There is a problem here, as we lack the granularity for even HP-level for fragile/medium/tough/warden-tough PCs.  So we'll do a pass and multiply HP by 1.5.  This gives us the following table:
For PCs:
                        PCs<br />        Fragile    Medium     Tough     OMG-Warden<br />1         28        35          42         49<br />2-10    +2/level  +2.5/level  +3/level   +3.5/level<br />11-20   +3/level  +4/level    +5/level   +6/level<br />21-30   +5/level  +7/level    +9/level   +11/level

And for monsters: (the /L here is per-level in the range.  So a level 1 Fragile monster has about 42 HP).

                 Monsters<br />        Fragile   Medium      Tough<br />1-10     39+3/L   52+4/L      65+5/L<br />11-20    69+5/L   92+7/L     115+9/L<br />21-30   119+9/L  162+12/L    205+15/L<br />31+     209+15/L 282+20/L    355+25/L
This then informs our damage charts for PCs and monsters:


PC striker damage-per-hit target will be 1/2 of a medium monster's HP.
PC non-striker damage-per-hit target will be 1/3 of a fragile monster's HP.
Monster low damage will be 1/4 of a Fragile PC (1/6 of a tough PC).
Monster standard damage will be 1/4 of a Tough PC (1/3 of a fragile PC)
Monster high damage will be 1/2 of a Fragile PC (1/3 of a tough PC).
Monster OMG damage will be 1/2 of a Tough PC (3/4 of a fragile PC).

The below ranges are average damage per hit expressions.
The low value is for the lowest level in the range, the high for the highest.
                      PC           |          Monster<br />          non-striker    striker  | Low     Standard   High     OMG<br />1-10      14-23          28-46    |  7-12    11-17     14-23    22-35<br />11-20     25-40          50-81    | 12-19    19-30     24-38    38-60<br />21-30     43-130         87-141   | 20-32    32-52     40-63    64-104</pre>

Hmm.  I'm sort of surprised that works, and leads to a somewhat reasonable range of damages.  HP at level 1 are a bit high, and medium-tough PCs in heroic get 1/2 a HP per level (which sucks), but otherwise it sort of works.

Ah shucks, the board doesn't use uni-form fonts for code blocks.  Sigh.  Lets see if I can fix this.

I'll be honest, I haven't done any 4e epic DM'ing yet, just heroic to mid-paragon
(for 2nd and 3rd Ed. I DM'ed all levels of play)

But sincerely, all the math aside, is it really that hard to judge these encounters? Come on.

As a DM, you look at the party mix
1) Good/Bad Damage capability? Is it Melee/Ranged? Out of turn Actions? AoE?
2) Good/Bad defenses?    Anything that particularly stands out?
3) Good/Bad controller aspect?  Zones/Marking/Forced Movement/Status effects
4) Good bad durability?    HP, THP, leader buffs, surges, saving throws?
5) Miscellaneous tricks?   Your utilities like movement, skills, teleports, diplomacy even...

There's no reason to put long-winded calculations into everything. Just take a look at past experience with your group, do a little research into your groups capabilities (1-5) and then look at your monsters (1-5)

Comparing monsters for your encounters a TRUCKload easier in 4e than it was in other editions.

Using the encounter levels AS A GUIDE, and throw in some monsters.
A) Choose your terrain....
B) Choose some monsters (generally on a theme to match the terrain)...
C) Look at the monster powers.
     Do they hit any particular defenses where the PC's are strong/weak?
     Do they favour the chosen terrain?
D) Look at the group capabilities 1-5, and skim over the monsters for the same requirements
E) If happy, stop here. If not, return to point A)

'Random' encounters (which aren't as random as they used to be) should be fights that go either way. PC's could clean up, or accidentally stumble onto something nasty (and possibly use aforementioned utilities to avoid the confrontation).

Tailored fights should be tough, with specific monster powers selected to target weak PC defenses
- If group is ranged, hit them close
- If group is melee, hit them at range (with blocking terrain
- If the wizard is a key strategic figure in recent encounters, find a nice poisonous lurker to hit that low fort.
- etc
- etc

If it's all too easy, either up the encounter level, or just don't let them rest. They'll run out of surges and dailies eventually...and then the fear will set in.
Note: I'm infamous for not letting PC's rest even after 7-8 encounters.. even though some were 'easy fights', the PC's only used their powers sparingly (very few novas/dailies) as they didn't know when they'd next be able to recover their big attacks.

This is Dungeoncrafting 101.

WHO CARES about the math?! You're the DM. Tailor your encounters to suit....




Caveat: I've never played Epic. I've only done up to low Paragon so far.

I think the underlying problem is that people assume it has to be all about the monsters, when 4th Edition has made it so much easier for it to be about traps, skills, hazards, and environments as well. Looking at Dungeon Delve, which gives pretty good cross-section of encounters at all levels, I see traps and skill challenges at every tier, and in Epic there are some really crazy things. If there's a flaw, I think it's just that the DMG doesn't exhort DMs enough to use all their options at every tier.

Changing how monsters work could probably fix the perceived problems, and that's probably what's going to happen, but it looks to me (who, again, has never played Epic) as though the tools to challenge players are there but are not being used. If I'm off base, please tell me.



This. Also, I have found my own DMs have a flaw of throwing 1 big encounter(maybe 2) where, we as characters know we can usually unload the kitchen sink on the baddies. Perhaps more extensive dungeon crawls, with less options to rest(take away the short rest if need be) should sap the party of their strength a bit and make the Final Encounter epic again.



This. Also, I have found my own DMs have a flaw of throwing 1 big encounter(maybe 2) where, we as characters know we can usually unload the kitchen sink on the baddies. Perhaps more extensive dungeon crawls, with less options to rest(take away the short rest if need be) should sap the party of their strength a bit and make the Final Encounter epic again.




I have noticed this problem as well. A great way to fix the 'players throw everything out in the first few rounds of encounters' is reinforcements. Ready an n+5 or slightly higher encounter, but only throw an n+1 or n+2 worth of monsters into it initially. Add the rest of the monsters on round 2 to 4. They engage after the characters have already nova'd and busted a lot of their status effect powers, yet the monsters you add miss a few rounds of attacking. This is similar to short-rest denial, but feels more natural.
Hidden or invisible monsters are also great for this, especially if you simply have a monster 'mysteriously do more damage' then announce towards the end of the first or second round that 'A bolt whizzes past your head, you have no idea where it came from, but it certainly didn't seem friendly'. Preventing the party from knowing exactly what they are fighting is very very powerful.

On the other hand, long adventuring days, where the party knows that they are being worn down are very good at creating a perception of difficulty. It is nice for the party to finally confront that villain with only a couple of surges and no daily powers left. It feels more desperate and forces the party to hoard resources. I would love to have nearly every adventuring day come down to this, but it is a little brutal on the players.

Also, coup de gras. when things are going south for team monster, there is nothing like a coup de gras which puts a player a few points from negative bloodied to make things feel desperate for the players. It doesn't actually add to the difficulty of encounter, but it adds to the perceived difficulty.

I think what I am trying to say is that encounter design doesn't need to be so much about difficulty, but perceived difficulty. Make the players think things are more desperate than they are and the players will feel challenged, even if they really aren't being pushed that hard.
I think one problem of scaling at epic tier (and even late paragon) is also that the damage dice multiplier (how many W's or dice) is not relevant enough, so that all kinds of multiattacks and area attacks take precedence.

This is not really related to the encounter balance problem as described in the OP, but it could be a part of the issue in regard to power selection at epic tier.

For instance:

5W power vs. a single target that does something like knocks prone vs. a burst power that does 3d6 and that does the same.

5W vs. 3d6 seems big on paper because it might be 5d12 vs. 3d6 (average of 32.5 vs. 10.5). However, static bonuses on damage go sky high at epic tier. I think most characters have minimum of 15 damage bonus (+4/+5 weapon, +7 ability score, a feat giving +3, some item bonus) and with buffs that goes really high (30's, 40's). Hitting a single target a single time can be a lot less effective just because of that. Besides, you might miss your single shot. If you hit even two targets with your smaller dice attack or a single target twice, you are almost guaranteed to come out ahead in damage. 5d12 vs. 3d6 is about the most extreme difference between a single hit vs. blast/burst.

Compare for instance hail of steel to a fighter's big attack that does 5 or 6W. With a 5 man party, the hail will do 5 basic attacks. The damage output with minimum static mods is 10W (or 10dice) + 5 x 15. That is 10W+75. The big hit from the fighter will do 6W+15 in comparison. The difference in static mods is 60, which equals more than 9d12! With a group wide +6 damage buff (Common enough), the difference increases by 30.

I am not sure if that is intentional (leaders dealing radically more damage compared to other non-strikers, but it sure happens a lot.

Getting multiple damage rolls is just a bit too effective in comparison. Does not really matter how you get them. I think single target powers should be doing even more damage, or have some kind of accuracy boost - otherwise they are just eye candy, not really useful in actual play. Nerfing burst/blast or multiattack is quite difficult without making it really radical (and not likely that it would actually work well).

I really don't have much of a solution for this, just experience from games (Some at epics)
EPIC tier requires work on the DMs part to keep things challenging.  I haven't used a stock monster in a while.  Usually it needs tweaked a little bit so that it is not a pushover.

Usually that means messing with the damage dice.  The To-Hit mods I find to be perfectly fine where they are now. 

If you are running pre-gen modules or are using monsters from the MMs make sure you

A) know your party's statistics.  That means their defense scores plus their to hit mods.

B) evaluate the monsters and slide the numbers as needed to bring them back inline for what would be an appropriate challenge for the characters at their level.

The July damage changes are the first thing that should be done.  Afterwards, if you are using elites or solos, make sure that they are getting enough attacks and actions in.
There was a long time that everyone complained that the attack bonus progression was "broken" in 4e... level 1 characters needed a 10 to hit on average, but by level 30 needed a 14 to hit on average.  Everyone whined and complained and then WotC came out with the Expertise feats to "fix" the broken math.

Now everyone thinks that Epic tier is too easy.
It is not a good thing to have difficulty go up in the form of increased monster defenses (e.g. pre-expertise hit rate). You should be able to land blows against even level opponents with around 50% chance. That is not really the issue. The issue is that the monsters need a boost to their action economy and/or damage to be a threat.



@The Yakk:

That is an awesome calculation of non linear hp.  I like that a lot, and I might just have to steal something like that for my games.


To everyone who says:  'Tailor to suit your game and do whatever works, especially using different things besides monsters!'   We do that.  All DM's do.  What I'm specifically concerned about is the fairly new DM who isn't 100% sure about what he's doing (perhaps he's never played epic before?), who goes to try to make say 3 epic encounters.

The new DM wants an easy encounter, a semi easy encounter, and an epicly hard encounter for the level 24 party.

So, looking at the DMG he chooses:  
Encounter 1 will be a level 24 encounter.  He picks 4 level 24 monsters, a level 24 trap, some super cool terrain (including lava and a reverse gravity pit), designs some very cool narrative and story-line pieces for the encounter.  The monsters have abilities designed against the party that he has come to know.

He ends up with a fairly easy encounter, that everyone loves.  Everything is right as rain!

 Encounter 2 will be a level 25 encounter.  He picks a level 25 elite, and 2 level 25 standards, a level 25 hazard (that he does play appropriately), and he has the encounter take place on a floatin cloud that has acid rain spots everywhere.  The storyline also makes an appropriate entrance, and the monster abilities are still customized against the party.
 The party manages to avoid the hazard and the acid rain, due to storyline; the DM sighs, but it's all good.  But for some reason, even though the monsters are level 25, they end up being easier for the party to kill than the previous encounter.  (Because of the HP/Damage scaling problems)
 This encounter was easier than the previous one - the DM shrugs it off as being because the party skipped the hazard.

Encounter 3 will be a level 29 all out boss fight.  He picks a level 28 Solo, 2 level 27 standards, and 2 level 29 minions for confusion.  The abilities are still custom tailored abilities based on things the DM know will cause problems for the party.  The fight takes place on the astral sea, with portals everywhere, and obnoxious bizarre twists in normal physics that makes it very hard for non-inhabitants to move or fight.

The party has problems with the environment, the Solo gets in a good hit; then the party get lucky, and wipe out the enemy in very short order.  
The problem?  Even though the fight was designed to be really high level, the extra AC means nothing when a leader can add good +to hit bonuses for 1 round; and the extra hp doesn't help at all because percentage wise it's the same thing.  The fight wasn't hard, because higher level monsters DONT require more effort to kill for an epic level party (even in paragon the problem is noticeable.)  

A level 25 party fighting 10 level 25 monsters will probably have a much harder time than the same party fighting Tiamat, simply because of monster HP/Damage scaling problems, which are exacerbated by the DMG encounter difficulty guidelines.
We will have to see if the monster vault clears up some of the issues epic has.
Personally, I've had a fine time with epic but there are some valid points stated in this thread.
It is not a good thing to have difficulty go up in the form of increased monster defenses (e.g. pre-expertise hit rate). You should be able to land blows against even level opponents with around 50% chance. That is not really the issue. The issue is that the monsters need a boost to their action economy and/or damage to be a threat.







That depends on the issue.  If the issue is that the monsters are too weak because they are getting hit all the time, then adjusting their defenses so that is not the case is certainly legitimate. 

It's no different to me than upping their damage is. 

Now most of the time I usually only up their damage and actions since their defenses are usually fine.  However, if the party as a whole is hitting 60 - 70% of the time always, then to me the monster defenses need to come up a couple points.
It is not a good thing to have difficulty go up in the form of increased monster defenses (e.g. pre-expertise hit rate). You should be able to land blows against even level opponents with around 50% chance. That is not really the issue. The issue is that the monsters need a boost to their action economy and/or damage to be a threat.



The party has problems with the environment, the Solo gets in a good hit; then the party get lucky, and wipe out the enemy in very short order.  
The problem?  Even though the fight was designed to be really high level, the extra AC means nothing when a leader can add good +to hit bonuses for 1 round; and the extra hp doesn't help at all because percentage wise it's the same thing.  The fight wasn't hard, because higher level monsters DONT require more effort to kill for an epic level party (even in paragon the problem is noticeable.)

Emphasis added, but I'm not sure how these two posts can exist in the same thread without a catastrophic explosion. There are other posts about powers that grant rerolls and then there's the fact that the target is probably granting combat advantage. Yeah, ideally you don't need a specific class or specific items in order to be effective (or to lack a specific class or specific items to have fun). I just don't get all the hubbub about attack bonuses in the face of this. But that's the world we're in right now.

I'm still not seeing any mention of skill challenges in combat. You might beat the solo and still lose the encounter. And avoiding a hazard due to storyline? I'm boggled.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Shouldn't fights in epic tier be a bit easier? I mean, by that point in time the PCs are demigods... they are supposed to feel like they achieved some sort of power. One of the worst things in an RPG is when it feels like everything is always perfectly scaled to your level, thus making it feel like you never level at all.
One of the worst things in an RPG is when it feels like everything is always perfectly scaled to your level, thus making it feel like you never level at all.

If "everything is always perfectly scaled" that is a DM-flaw, not a system flaw (at least in D&D).

The DM is responsible for varying the level of the encounters to prevent this. The game explicitly suggests this. Encounters are recommended for as high as Level+4 encounters (more challenging), and nothing prevents Level-X encounters (less challenging).

Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
@Centauri:

First, the two posts that seem to cause an explosion:
They don't, because he's talking about base attack bonus, and I'm talking about nova powers.

Second:  Avoiding a hazard due to story:  Story: You're going into a freezing elemental plane.  Hazard:  Some sort of super freezing hazard.  Avoidance:  The party went to a super-alchemist and bought 1 time 'immune to frost' potions.  (And the DM thought they were going to use them against the super freezing boss, not the trap.  Should it happen?  Maybe not.. but I've had players skew things on me too many times; and I was trying to off-hand provide examples of actual play vs pure math theory, which I tend to obsess over a little too much.) 
Shouldn't fights in epic tier be a bit easier? I mean, by that point in time the PCs are demigods... they are supposed to feel like they achieved some sort of power. One of the worst things in an RPG is when it feels like everything is always perfectly scaled to your level, thus making it feel like you never level at all.



No.  You should be fighting other demigods.

4th ed is indeed scaling with your level.  That's how it is designed.  Some love it.  Others hate it.

If I'm level 24 and I'm fighting a level 24 enc it should be as hard as if I'm 5th level fighting a 5th level enc.

If I'm level 24 and fighting a level 29 enc it shoudl be like I'm level 5 fighting a 9th level enc (hard).
Shouldn't fights in epic tier be a bit easier? I mean, by that point in time the PCs are demigods... they are supposed to feel like they achieved some sort of power. One of the worst things in an RPG is when it feels like everything is always perfectly scaled to your level, thus making it feel like you never level at all.



No.  You should be fighting other demigods.

4th ed is indeed scaling with your level.  That's how it is designed.  Some love it.  Others hate it.

If I'm level 24 and I'm fighting a level 24 enc it should be as hard as if I'm 5th level fighting a 5th level enc.

If I'm level 24 and fighting a level 29 enc it shoudl be like I'm level 5 fighting a 9th level enc (hard).



Except, obviously, you are wrong... or this thread would not exist. The math is not scaled so a level 5 fighting a level 9 encounter is the same as a level 24 fighting a level 29 encounter, and if it was I don't think I would like the game. I like what 4e has done. I think it is a nice combination of scaling the math of the game to level, so that the game continues to work at all levels better than the earlier editions did, while also subtly upping up the ratio of player power vs. non player power in order to make the PCs feel like they are actually advancing.

So, as I said, I don't think I agree that it is a problem that epic tier is slightly easier than earlier tiers of play. I think that is probably how it should be...
One of the worst things in an RPG is when it feels like everything is always perfectly scaled to your level, thus making it feel like you never level at all.

If "everything is always perfectly scaled" that is a DM-flaw, not a system flaw (at least in D&D).

The DM is responsible for varying the level of the encounters to prevent this. The game explicitly suggests this. Encounters are recommended for as high as Level+4 encounters (more challenging), and nothing prevents Level-X encounters (less challenging).




You fight encounters between level +4 and level-X from all levels. So, the fact that you can do this at higher levels doesn't change the terms of my statement. If level + or - X feels the same from level 1-30, the game is perfectly scaled. At this point, leveling doesn't feel like an actual advancement or achievement. That is lame.

Which isn't to say I don't want things to scale with level at all. If that was the case the game would get boring. But it seems to me that despite epic tier being easier, it is still far more of a challenge than higher tiers of play were in earlier editions of the game. So it seems to me that epic tier is a nice middle ground between "the game gets easier" and "the game scales to your level."

I may be wrong. Maybe more play at epic tier will change my mind. But this is how things look to me right now...
@Cyber-Dave:

The problem that I'm trying to illustrate with this thread is that a level 16 party that is optimized can take on a level 23 encounter, and decimate it.  Of course, that's an optimized party.

But by mid-epic (say.. level 24), most non-optimized parties will decimate n+4 encounters (making them feel like level n or n-1 encounters).  Which means that instead of fighting 10 average/easy encounters to go up a level, the party ends up fighting 2 or 3 average/easy encounters.. and goes up a level.

I'm not saying the party shouldn't be gaining in power; but when the DMG says that a level n+4 or n+5 encounter is going to be hard for your entire career, and it simply is NOT in epic.. then there is a problem.

Tangent:  I personally think PC power comes in the form of supreme ability to survive + immediate actions (and to a lower level, in multi-attack/aoe powers).  These abilities simply don't exist at the same level in heroic tier; and so because you get to do so many more things, and thumb your nose at the DM so many more times, you feel powerful.  However, by staticly ensuring that monster hp/defenses/damage go up, the monsters COULD still provide a very good challenge (and do it invisibly, so that the party, by having a monopoly on certain types of powers as listed above, still feels vastly more powerful than they were in heroic).  Right now, those static numbers simply aren't reflected in the monsters.  And so all encounters end up feeling like level n encounters, regardless of the xp budget used (except in those rare occasions that a DM feels like simply throwing tons of level n monsters against the party.) 
Freakin wizards board eating my post twice.

Summary:

The game was designed, at least according to the DMG and from the designer notes, to scale with the party.  Some people like it.  Others hate it.

The game breaks down at epic level because of poor monster design.  This is partially fixed by monster manual 3 and new damage expressions.

If you want easy-mode in epic tier, you are welcome to that.  I do not think the game was designed to be easier at epic tier than the other tiers.  I find no evidence that this is the case.  In fact I read contrary to that belief, that the game was designed to scale with your party, both in designer notes and in the DMG encounter building chapter.

It doesn't take much tweaking to bring the party back in line with the monsters by adjusting damage and the action deficiencies of monsters.  And once done, the game once again scales with the party level.
Note that CO builds are well outside the design-specs of 4e.

Sadly, non-CO builds are also well outside the design-specs of 4e, because without using some CO you end up with a character that does abysmal damage.

I suspect the core problem is that powers didn't scale fast enough.

Level 1: (L+2 monster has ~48 HP)
[W]+Stat+Secondary at-will
2[W]+Stat+Secondary encounter
5 encounter no-daily fight: ~60% * (7[W]+6Stat+6Secondary), plus 25%*([W]/2) crit, damage

Level 30, low charOP: (L+2 monster has ~280 HP)
2[W]+Stat+Secondary+Enhancement+Item+3 at-will
4[W]+Stat+Secondary+Enhancement+Item+3 encounter (usable at-will)
5 encounter no-daily fight: ~60% * (20[W]+6Stat+6Secondary+75), plus 50%*(4[W]+6d8) crit damage

At level 1, your [W] might be d10, and at level 30 d12 high crit.  At level 1, your stat is +4 and secondary +3, while at level 30 it is +9/+8.

Level 1: 23.1[W] damage + 25.2 static + 0.6875 [W] crit
Level 30: 78[W] damage + 106.2 static + 13[W] crit + 18 crit dice

Divide by a level+2 monster's HP:
Level 1: 1.03 total = 0.50 [W] + 0.53 static
Level 30: 0.77 total = 0.33 [W] + 0.44 static+crit dice

You can see how the relative importance of the damage dice on the power falls off at higher levels.  If you then apply moderate charop to boost the level 30 up to the same relative DPR as a level 1 character, static+crit dice double the size of your [W] dice, and this is on a character using a 4[W] encounter power.

Now the same level 30 character then selects some CO-approved powers -- hurricane of blades, for example.  They then pick a destiny that lets them spam it.

8[W]+4Static per round with .4 crits at +4[W]+6d12+12 damage per crit (including the max of the 2[W] as a +[W] damage).

Static is 9 (stat)+6(enhance)+6(item)+3 (feat) = 24, for a total of 96 per round (times accuracy).
[W] contribution is 52 (one half your static, on a 8[W] encounter power!), times accuracy.

With 60% accuracy, this is 57.6 DPR from static, 31.2 DPR from direct [W], ~10.4 DPR from [W] crit, 15.6 from crit dice, and 4.8 DPR from static crit boost.

598 damage over 5 rounds, or 2.14 times the HP of a level+2 opponent.

See the gap issue?  (then again, I picked an encounter power from a striker class whose striker oomph comes from kick-ass powers)
I do think the key should be that leveling is consistent. If the DM and players want an easy epic tier (simulating dimi gods handling normal challenges) they can use a lower level encounter. If they want to expierience demi gods facing other demi gods they can use even level encounters and if they want to experience demi gods clashing against greater Gods for a chance at immortality they can use above level encounters.

In other words: I'm not sure what the word "level" even means if not a measure of difficulty and power.
Note that CO builds are well outside the design-specs of 4e.

Sadly, non-CO builds are also well outside the design-specs of 4e, because without using some CO you end up with a character that does abysmal damage.
Show


I suspect the core problem is that powers didn't scale fast enough.

Level 1: (L+2 monster has ~48 HP)
[W]+Stat+Secondary at-will
2[W]+Stat+Secondary encounter
5 encounter no-daily fight: ~60% * (7[W]+6Stat+6Secondary), plus 25%*([W]/2) crit, damage

Level 30, low charOP: (L+2 monster has ~280 HP)
2[W]+Stat+Secondary+Enhancement+Item+3 at-will
4[W]+Stat+Secondary+Enhancement+Item+3 encounter (usable at-will)
5 encounter no-daily fight: ~60% * (20[W]+6Stat+6Secondary+75), plus 50%*(4[W]+6d8) crit damage

At level 1, your [W] might be d10, and at level 30 d12 high crit.  At level 1, your stat is +4 and secondary +3, while at level 30 it is +9/+8.

Level 1: 23.1[W] damage + 25.2 static + 0.6875 [W] crit
Level 30: 78[W] damage + 106.2 static + 13[W] crit + 18 crit dice

Divide by a level+2 monster's HP:
Level 1: 1.03 total = 0.50 [W] + 0.53 static
Level 30: 0.77 total = 0.33 [W] + 0.44 static+crit dice

You can see how the relative importance of the damage dice on the power falls off at higher levels.  If you then apply moderate charop to boost the level 30 up to the same relative DPR as a level 1 character, static+crit dice double the size of your [W] dice, and this is on a character using a 4[W] encounter power.

Now the same level 30 character then selects some CO-approved powers -- hurricane of blades, for example.  They then pick a destiny that lets them spam it.

8[W]+4Static per round with .4 crits at +4[W]+6d12+12 damage per crit (including the max of the 2[W] as a +[W] damage).

Static is 9 (stat)+6(enhance)+6(item)+3 (feat) = 24, for a total of 96 per round (times accuracy).
[W] contribution is 52 (one half your static, on a 8[W] encounter power!), times accuracy.

With 60% accuracy, this is 57.6 DPR from static, 31.2 DPR from direct [W], ~10.4 DPR from [W] crit, 15.6 from crit dice, and 4.8 DPR from static crit boost.

598 damage over 5 rounds, or 2.14 times the HP of a level+2 opponent.

See the gap issue?  (then again, I picked an encounter power from a striker class whose striker oomph comes from kick-ass powers)



Actually this shows the design flaws of a + to roll system coupled with exception based design.  It is the system that makes the game so popular.  Also the fact that creatures become less of a threat by late heroic adds to the 'fun!', but really is a major hinderance.
PCs versus creatures starts off like:

player


creature
by Paragon it's

player


creature
then finally by Epic it's:
player
creature

We have gone through 3 monster manuals and in each one there has been changes to the creatures to try and make them a semblance of an actual threat.
Are they an actual threat?  Not really.  The Dm has to tweak or completely rewrite the creatures to make them feel 'threat worthy'

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/20.jpg)

I do think the key should be that leveling is consistent. If the DM and players want an easy epic tier (simulating dimi gods handling normal challenges) they can use a lower level encounter. If they want to expierience demi gods facing other demi gods they can use even level encounters and if they want to experience demi gods clashing against greater Gods for a chance at immortality they can use above level encounters.

In other words: I'm not sure what the word "level" even means if not a measure of difficulty and power.

Levels bring a linear increase in most individual things. PC's enjoy multiple things that increase more or less linearly: hp, defenses, power damage, ability scores, additional feats. In addition, your feats and powers get better (not only getting more feats of similar power, or more powers with linear damage increase. This leads to PC power increasing really steeply at teh epic levels as a sum effect of many things.

Monsters tend to increase more linearly than PC's. They have some powers, no feats, no items (usually), thus they fall behind.
To make level scaling work properly, you'd have to make some kind of monster boost that increases faster than linearly. Not an easy thing to do.

And level 5 party vs. level 9 party is almost facing an enemy of double their level. A level 25 party vs. 29 level monsters is only seeing 20% or so more hp etc. so it is obvious that the scaling is not "fixed" over the levels.

Im not understanding why DMs cant just scale up the encounters a bit until they reach an acceptable level. Theres no reason to be married to the xp system. Just add a monster or two until you reach the desired level of difficulty. You could even plan your encounters to have a few adds that you may or may not throw in as the battle progresses. After a few times doing this you should be able to judge how the party is doing vs what youve thrown at them and adjust your future encounters accordingly.
1. Pc's who feel wronged.

2. Organized events (LFR) can't do it.

3. Dm shouldn't have to cover for a bad system.
The essential theme song- Get a little bit a fluff da' fluff, get a little bit a fluff da' fluff! (ooh yeah) Repeat Unless noted otherwise every thing I post is my opinion, and probably should be taken as tongue in cheek any way.
1. PC feelings don't affect my out of game concerns.
2. That is not a concern for the vast majority of players.
3. That's what DMs have been doing for 30+ years.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I think it's terrible that the "easy" official fix to make encounters more challenging simply doesn't work in epic. That's a serious design flaw. The job is already challenging enough for the DM. Sometimes you really just want to use the simple fix instead of coming up with some ingenious solution every single time. How often have you been in the situation as DM (in heroic and perhaps paragon) where you needed to upgrade (or downgrade) an encounter on the fly? Not having this option as DM sucks big time.
I think it's terrible that the "easy" official fix to make encounters more challenging simply doesn't work in epic. That's a serious design flaw. The job is already challenging enough for the DM. Sometimes you really just want to use the simple fix instead of coming up with some ingenious solution every single time. How often have you been in the situation as DM (in heroic and perhaps paragon) where you needed to upgrade (or downgrade) an encounter on the fly? Not having this option as DM sucks big time.

I don't think it's terrible. I think Epic is not just D&D turned up to 30, I think it represents advanced play, at which lots of old ideas aren't going to work anymore, or not work the same way. I guess I'm ultimately not too concerned if Epic play doesn't work for everyone, but that's not to say that I wouldn't like to see more official advice.

I know people read these boards, and I know that some changes I'm not fond of have come about as a result, so here's me saying:

"Wizards of the Coast, I'm not playing in Epic yet, but I'd like to one day and I'd like that tier of the game to be a challenge for my players (who will be of advanced ability by that time). In order to keep the game fun for all of us, I'd appreciate further advice on how to do that. I do NOT want more changes to monsters and feats and powers, or other rules. I would like to know how YOU make your Epic-tier games fun, while still sticking to the published encounter guidelines. I assume it has to do with giving monsters more of a "home-field advantage" with traps, terrain, hazards, skill challenges, and the like, but it would be great to see that in an official work (which I'd most likely buy). If you do NOT stick to the published encounter guidelines, please state that as your advice. Thanks, and keep up the good work."

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

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