Epic D&D: The standalone game

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WotC guys, since you’re looking at new and different directions to take D&D, I thought I’d chime in and tell you what I’d like to buy from you.


I want a simple, direct-entry (meaning you don’t have to play through 20 levels to get there), Epic D&D game.  Let me explain. 


I have wanted to play in the epic tier for years, ever since getting the Epic Level Handbook back in 3E.  I have grand epic plots burning a hole in my brain.  I have the gargantuan dragons, the colossal red dragon, Orcus, and various other epic tier miniatures that I have waiting to use.   I have books describing these fantastic planes and beings that reside in the epic tier realms that I can’t even consider playing with because my D&D group gets together once a month and it will take my group way too long to get to the epic tier the normal way.  Even if I were able to get a campaign, or start a campaign, at epic tier, the characters are too complex and invincible, the monsters are not challenging enough, and I would have to do way too much tweaking of rules to make adventures challenging and fun for everyone (including me).  This opinion is based on the various blogs and forum posts I’ve read of others who have attempted to play in the epic tier and have shared the problems inherent in that tier. 


So, I believe the solution is to create a separate game altogether.  Right out of the gate, the characters are playing through epic adventures, fighting epic monsters and gods.  I’m envisioning something like how Gamma World was done – a separate, but compatible game system with 4E, simplified so that starting characters have manageable character sheets and aren’t weighed down by 20 levels of baggage, but powerful enough to take on gods, primordials and the like.  Maybe even building in quirky new mechanics using cards (again like in Gamma World) to make it even more Epic. 


Make this game for me and I promise I’ll buy it!  I promise.

at epic tier, the characters are too complex and invincible, the monsters are not challenging enough

Curious: would this still be the case if you used just the original PHB for character creation?

Wouldnt it just be as easy to take the heric or paragon tier and just flavor everything to the epic tier?

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

I'm... kind of... confused...

Why not just start at level 21? 
Salla, on minions: I typically use them as encounter filler. 'I didn't quite fill out the XP budget, not enough room left for a decent near-level monster ... sprinkle in a few minions'. Kind of like monster styrofoam packing peanuts.
I would like them to publish a DMG for epic tier full of advice on how to challenge characters. I admit that I have myself problem there even with the updated MM3-style monsters.
Having thrown heroic tier out of my life (it's simply too over done, and I've played for so very long, and I don't get to play all that often anyway), I'm one of the one's who has looked at the flaws of epic tier.  Most of the flaws can be found in basic assumptions of monster creation.  As a note: PHB only characters still wreck epic tier (as the wizard and the ranger are two of the most powerful classes in the game, and they really haven't benefited a huge amount from all the splat books; although they have certainly benefited - but compare to say the warlock and the paladin, and they simply haven't seen the same level of benefit).

The primary flaws of monster creation come in two forms: 

First, the numbers.
Monsters, especially in heroic tier, were designed so that you could easily grab a monster that wasn't the same level as the characters, and that monster would give a good challenge based on how different the levels were.  A level 6 monster vs a level 3 party is a significant challenge.

In epic tier, this is simply not the case.  Level scaling is completely shot - hit points of monsters of different levels are NOT significantly different, compared to how much damage the party is dealing out.  Differences in attack bonuses means very little; either the PC has low defenses, and is going to be hit easily by all epic monsters, or the PC has specialized in defenses, and it will take a huge level difference to account for the defenses (to the point that often level 35 monsters cannot reasonably hit a level 27 PC who is specialized in defense).  Differences in defense scores is even worse; epic tier characters have many different ways to get temporary boosts to thier attack bonus; using up lots of powers altogether can easily result in the party getting temporary bonuses of +10 or higher to hit, and since the party has so many players, they can repeat this more than once per encounter.

(I've posted specifics on some of these problems in the past; if you're interested, I can show exact math, but the details aren't as important as the overall concept.)

Second, the powers of monsters.
For two reasons, monsters are created with a fairly default style of powers.  They get at-will attack powers, some kind of big attack power, and some kind of rechargeable attack power.  They often get some kind of passive bonus if a fairly simple condition is fulfilled (like more damage with CA, extra attacks against immobilized, etc).  The first reason for this style of power creation is, again, heroic tier.  In heroic tier, PCs don't have that many choices - so monsters don't need that many choices in order to counter them.  This works for the entire heroic tier - and then the monster manual expands this to the other tiers in the mistaken assumption that what works already will probably keep working.  The second reason monsters have this style of powers is for simplicity - the DM might not ever use this kind of monster before or after this particular encounter - having to learn a different style of power make-up is not the easiest thing to do.  Worse, the DM is in charge of several monsters, who might all have different power combinations - if the power STYLE is complicated, then the DM is probably going to just disregard entire segments of the power choices (I know I did when I first encountered high level demons in 3.5 as a DM).

In epic, this style of powers does not work, because the party has so many different tricks up their sleeves.  They can teleport, use many immediate reactions and interrupts, have all kinds of status effects they can hand out - and because there are 5 of them, they can usually do almost everything, all the time.  Monsters simply can't withstand the sheer variety the party can dish out - and if the party is specialized in something (say, Alpha-Striking), then (because they gave up everything else) they are so incredibly good at that thing, that normal monsters again, simply cannot compete.



Overall the basic problem is that characters gain combat ability exponentially (not actually, but far more than linearly), whereas monsters are always approximately the same thing, except higher level.  So PCs aren't significantly challenged.



The next thing that is a serious problem is the actual scale.  In heroic, a 12x12 room with interesting obstacles is probably so big that the entire combat field won't get used.  In epic, a 12x12 room could probably be filled by one single attack from the PC's - and the PC's could easily move much farther than that.

So to get a good 'epic' battle, you need an epic setting.  A simple random on-level encounter should probably take place over an entire small building, or floor of a large building - not one room of that building.    Of course, this requires VASTLY more preparation, since you are still expected to do just as many encounters as you were in the heroic tier - and even more, just like in the heroic tier, significant chunks of your battlefield won't get used - but now, that unused portion is much much larger.




To actually fix these problems:

My suggestion is to cut the number of expected encounters in about 1/3.  If you planned on having 10 encounters at level 21, don't.  Have 3 instead.  And make them all truly epic encounters.  Take the 10 encounters you were planning on using, and simply combine them.  Do NOT use higher level monsters wherever possible - an on-level monster is still worth it's experience value, but higher level monsters almost never are.  If you want to use a particular monster, modify it to be the parties level.  DO use giant crazy combat areas (that's one of the advantages of only having 3 encounters! - you have more time to make a proper epic combat).  DO use skill challenges to simulate other combats - but don't make them serious combats (perhaps they have to fight 1000 soldiers 10 levels lower than them - skill challenge!). DO modify all your elite/solo monsters - give each and every one of them lots of fancy tricks (especially especially especially defensive tricks - remember that numbers are against you; so giving them tricks to stay alive is the only thing that can help your monsters); but keep ALL the tricks simple and easy.  Use regular monsters out of the monster manuals like you used to use minions.  Remember that you are only doing 3 encounters, so your xp budget per encounter is going to be MASSIVE - so throw 8 regular monsters (straight out of the book) into each encounter.  Since you aren't modifying them, they'll still be really sucky; but since you know they are treated like minions, you don't care!  (You probably even want to modify them so all their attacks are flat damage numbers, not rolled, just like minions).  Elites and solos become the new 'standard' monster.  And overall you'll have a much more entertaining experience, where the party actually will be challenged and scared - and since each combat gets so much more of YOUR time devoted to it, it will be much more memorable.

I think you guys are missing my point.  I CAN run an epic tier game by starting at 21st level, but characters are so bloated with powers, feats and magic items by this point that running a game in this tier is difficult at best and a pain in the @$$ at worst.  I recently use the CB to create 21st level Essentials characters and the simplest one had 6 pages, the most complex one had 9 pages.  REALLY??? How the heck is a game supposed to run smoothly when a character sheet is 6-9 pages long??? 

I actually think D&D would be better as three separate games: a heroic game, a paragon game and an epic game.  I wrote a couple of blogs about it already, so I'm not going to rehash that here (you can read about them here if you are interested), but my main desire is in an epic tier game that is just as easy to create characters and run as the heroic tier is.  I don't think that is too much to ask.

DM_Nel, I have 2 problems with this:

First:  I can make an epic level 30 character on the back side of a napkin while at a restaurant, without any books available to me.  I do it regularly.  6-9 pages seems too large to you?  Well, the 2-3 pages a level 1 character is (using the D&D character builder) seems FAR too large for me.  Come up with your OWN system for a character, that tells you what YOU want to know; not the mish-mash of 'everything' that the character builder hands you because it doesn't know what you want and so it has to guess.  If you fix the thing that makes it complicated, it won't be complicated.

Second:
If you successfully build a system such as the one you write about in your blog one of two things will happen:
Either your level 11 Weapon Master will feel NO different than a level 1 Fighter
OR
Your level 11 Weapon Master will be more complicated than a level 1 fighter.


Now, you might like a level 11 Weapon Master that feels no different than a level 1 Fighter - but then again, you might want a different feel.

My analogy is something like: Borderlands vs Diablo 2.

In Borderlands, your character shoots, and uses a special action skill, and punches/slashes.  That's it.  If you are level 5 or level 50, those are the options available to you.  Getting higher level only allowed you to increase the damage per attack, and resist more damage per attack.  But if I take out the numbers, there is NO difference.

In Diablo 2, your character has 3 skill trees; as you gain levels, you gain access to 1 skill per level.  Each skill tree has 10 skills, and each skill has 30 levels.  At level 5, you can.. attack, or use 1 (maybe 2 but probably not) special skills.  At level 30 you'll never use a 'basic attack' again; instead, you'll drop fireballs, fire breathing hydras and leave trails of fire everywhere you run.  At level 60 you'll drop fireballs, firebreathing hydras, huge orbs of ice and lightning bolts.  At level 90 you'll do all of the above and whenever an enemy hits you 12 different effects will happen including blasting them with lightning, turning yourself into a werewolf and healing yourself.  Even without worrying about numbers, my character FEELS different.


D&D 4e (currently) is more like Diablo 2 than Borderlands, with respect to how you character feels when it plays.  Whether or not that is better is obviously personal opinion, but I cannot think of a system where you can both keep a super simple character at all levels AND not have the character feel the same at higher levels.  But I can say that D&D 4e HAS successfully kept a very simple character creation process throughout it's career (unlike D&D 3.5, where I made a level 50 character that literally took 11 pages of an Open Office page to write everything down, and I had to literally scour every single splat book in existence just to make sure I hadn't forgotten something that would make a HUGE difference to the character's ability to function in combat)


Additionally, if you get your DM to allow inherent bonuses, you actually can create a level 30 character that is almost exactly the same size as a level 1 character; choose a Slayer, add a paragon path, and an epic destiny, and since the DM chooses any non common items, and you don't need (almost) any common items since you have inherent bonuses, you quite literally won't have anything else to do.   Other classes come close to this simplicity, with varying degrees of complexity up until you use a PHB deva Wizard who gets 4 spells every time a normal character chooses one.  So D&D 4E will allow you to do exactly what you'd like to do, including in terms of complexity, as long as you are willing to look at a more restricted set of choices.  To me, that indicates far more compromise than any other game system I have yet seen.

Finally: You could be right.  There might be a way to make Epic D&D standalone where I could play a character who I had just played from levels 1-20 in D&D 4e and still have some feeling of continuity, while allowing all classes to be simplistic, and yet feel like they were epic versions of their previous selves.  I would even be super interested in trying to design such a thing (as I have dabbled in game creation).  If you have any particular suggestions, I would be interested in exploring them with you.


Edit:  Another point, which I probably should have started with:  Even if Character Creation is time consuming, I would think that gameplay is the more important point - and if you know your character, it shouldn't matter if you have a back of a napkin, or a 6-9 page character sheet, you ought to still know what is going on (and why you chose those abilities and in which situations you'll use them), similar to an experienced MMORPG player who doesn't find himself overwhelmed, even though a level 60 character has many many more choices than a level 1 character.
Consider running a "skills only" Epic game where everything is a skill challenge. Lets you get really creative and narrative. The most awesome Epic things aren't weapon attacks or basic spells anyway. Epic is in the story, not the mechanics.

It's perfectly possible to make a level 1 Fighter feel like the most Epic creature to walk the earth, if you shift the world around him (and make his enemies level 1 Giant Dragons and such)
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Consider running a "skills only" Epic game where everything is a skill challenge. Lets you get really creative and narrative. The most awesome Epic things aren't weapon attacks or basic spells anyway. Epic is in the story, not the mechanics.

It's perfectly possible to make a level 1 Fighter feel like the most Epic creature to walk the earth, if you shift the world around him (and make his enemies level 1 Giant Dragons and such)



Sure and most enemies minions (played not so strategically) ... though I would want the character to be level 5 or so - then I could wedge in more minions
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

While waiting for Wizards to (or not to) make this system for you, consider taking away all the level scaling (for the HP to damage balance).  Depending on the maturity level of your players, some 'prevention' effects work well also.  My group has toyed around with enemies doing attacks to cut off encounter or daily power use (save ends, end of next turn, mostly) and that helps a lot (for the 21+ play).  Some players might react 'throw-dice-across-room-and-ripup-character-sheet' on you, but if your group likes a firm challenge, it should help a bit.  And the character doesn't lose any feel from how 'awesome' it is through these means, they just come to realize there's always something stronger ;)  I believe (its been a while) but the only level scaling I allowed to function was healing effects (to match enemy damage).

As far as quick creation, most powers are 'replace' with a couple extra utilities yeah?  I wonder why the character sheet would jump 6 pages over a handful of feats, 5 class features, and 2 utilities...  That seems odd, granted.
I wonder why the character sheet would jump 6 pages over a handful of feats, 5 class features, and 2 utilities...  That seems odd, granted.



The Online Builder's character sheet is 3 pages before you even get to the powers. And then magic items add extra pages beyond the powers.
RS: 60/60 CS: 60/60 RotS: 60/60 U:60/60 CotF: 60/60 BH: 60/60 A&E: 51/60 TFU: 53/60 LotF: 37/60 KotOR: 37/60 CW: 26/40 IE: 31/40 JA: 17/40 G@W: 7/40 DT: 7/40 Good trades with: Lily_Wan, creme_brule, suki_jedi_apprentice, Ephant_Mon
Ahh, gotcha.  I've never actually used it (other than to get to the background selection screen, since they aren't on the compendium).  Thanks there.
While waiting for Wizards to (or not to) make this system for you, consider taking away all the level scaling (for the HP to damage balance).  Depending on the maturity level of your players, some 'prevention' effects work well also.  My group has toyed around with enemies doing attacks to cut off encounter or daily power use (save ends, end of next turn, mostly) and that helps a lot (for the 21+ play).  Some players might react 'throw-dice-across-room-and-ripup-character-sheet' on you, but if your group likes a firm challenge, it should help a bit.  And the character doesn't lose any feel from how 'awesome' it is through these means, they just come to realize there's always something stronger ;)  I believe (its been a while) but the only level scaling I allowed to function was healing effects (to match enemy damage).

As far as quick creation, most powers are 'replace' with a couple extra utilities yeah?  I wonder why the character sheet would jump 6 pages over a handful of feats, 5 class features, and 2 utilities...  That seems odd, granted.



If you really wanted to strike epic fear into your players, you could always re-implement level drain  That'll be sure to go over well!
Are you complaining about complexitiy?  Or about balance?

Complexity grows as you level.  = just reflavor lower level stuff to epic.

Balance get's worse as you level.  = You may have to ask your players to tone/adjust a little.  (and it's still WAY better then 3.5).

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.

Are you complaining about complexitiy?  Or about balance?

Complexity grows as you level.  = just reflavor lower level stuff to epic.

Balance get's worse as you level.  = You may have to ask your players to tone/adjust a little.  (and it's still WAY better then 3.5).




As far as balance, I wouldn't ask my players to change a thing.  I would warn them as they got more powerful that it is harder for me to make a fair fight for them, so they may face unfair odds.  As a DM, if players are making balance difficult, I always lean towards unbalancing against the PC's rather than making encounters too easy.  The group of them thinking outside of the box can come up with a solution to any encounter.
Are you complaining about complexitiy?  Or about balance?

Complexity grows as you level.  = just reflavor lower level stuff to epic.

Balance get's worse as you level.  = You may have to ask your players to tone/adjust a little.  (and it's still WAY better then 3.5).




As far as balance, I wouldn't ask my players to change a thing.  I would warn them as they got more powerful that it is harder for me to make a fair fight for them, so they may face unfair odds.  As a DM, if players are making balance difficult, I always lean towards unbalancing against the PC's rather than making encounters too easy.  The group of them thinking outside of the box can come up with a solution to any encounter.

It's not balance between PC/DM.  It's easy enough to add a few monsters, or a wall they all hide behind, or a magic circle that hurts living creatures.

It's balance between PC's that becomes an issue.  When one guy overshadows another, then things get unfun for someone.

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.


WotC guys, since you’re looking at new and different directions to take D&D, I thought I’d chime in and tell you what I’d like to buy from you.


I want a simple, direct-entry (meaning you don’t have to play through 20 levels to get there), Epic D&D game.  Let me explain. 


I have wanted to play in the epic tier for years, ever since getting the Epic Level Handbook back in 3E.  I have grand epic plots burning a hole in my brain.  I have the gargantuan dragons, the colossal red dragon, Orcus, and various other epic tier miniatures that I have waiting to use.   I have books describing these fantastic planes and beings that reside in the epic tier realms that I can’t even consider playing with because my D&D group gets together once a month and it will take my group way too long to get to the epic tier the normal way.  Even if I were able to get a campaign, or start a campaign, at epic tier, the characters are too complex and invincible, the monsters are not challenging enough, and I would have to do way too much tweaking of rules to make adventures challenging and fun for everyone (including me).  This opinion is based on the various blogs and forum posts I’ve read of others who have attempted to play in the epic tier and have shared the problems inherent in that tier. 


So, I believe the solution is to create a separate game altogether.  Right out of the gate, the characters are playing through epic adventures, fighting epic monsters and gods.  I’m envisioning something like how Gamma World was done – a separate, but compatible game system with 4E, simplified so that starting characters have manageable character sheets and aren’t weighed down by 20 levels of baggage, but powerful enough to take on gods, primordials and the like.  Maybe even building in quirky new mechanics using cards (again like in Gamma World) to make it even more Epic. 


Make this game for me and I promise I’ll buy it!  I promise.



    I'd suggest you find joy in Heroic/Paragon instead. 
    You have already agreed the game is superior at those levels.  Why chase this illusion?  All that is really done is to add a zero or two to the score.
    We also have the "What next?" problem.  You use those gargantuan and colossal figures one time and then they are dead.  So what do you fight now?  So you are much better off fighting orcs so you can move up to hobgoblins and then to orges and giants, and ....  The pleasure is in the journey, not in the goal.
    It seems that a lot of people want to play epic because it is higher level, but this is a reason that WOTC should not make it easy to play epic.  They can get you to play and pay all the way up to epic, where you eventually figure out this epic stuff is boring and go away.  Putting you in epic right away just hurts them.
    So you and WOTC are betting off working your way slowly up to epic levels.  There is really no loss if you never arrive.

While waiting for Wizards to (or not to) make this system for you, consider taking away all the level scaling (for the HP to damage balance).  Depending on the maturity level of your players, some 'prevention' effects work well also.  My group has toyed around with enemies doing attacks to cut off encounter or daily power use (save ends, end of next turn, mostly) and that helps a lot (for the 21+ play).  Some players might react 'throw-dice-across-room-and-ripup-character-sheet' on you, but if your group likes a firm challenge, it should help a bit.  And the character doesn't lose any feel from how 'awesome' it is through these means, they just come to realize there's always something stronger ;)  I believe (its been a while) but the only level scaling I allowed to function was healing effects (to match enemy damage).

As far as quick creation, most powers are 'replace' with a couple extra utilities yeah?  I wonder why the character sheet would jump 6 pages over a handful of feats, 5 class features, and 2 utilities...  That seems odd, granted.



If you really wanted to strike epic fear into your players, you could always re-implement level drain  That'll be sure to go over well!



Level drain is evil-incarnate... I like it ;)
I'm also in favor of reflavoring level 1 as level 21. I actually considered basing a campaign around this. The PCs would level up to 30, slay a powerful being, and then the other gods, in fear of their power, strip them of their memories in the River Lethe. They find themselves in Hades with no memories of their former selves. Part of the game would revolve around them finding out what happened to them.

Mechanically, they would be level 1, but with some custom themes that give them some cool powers to reflect that even without their memories, they are still powerful beings (so damage would be scaled down but you could give them powers like flight that are normally reserved for later). I'm also going to give them use rituals/practices of any level (since they already hit level 30). They would face epic enemies that would be adjusted to their level. Demigods, lesser deities, epic monsters, and other powerful creatures would be heroic tier. Paragon tier was going to be the greater gods (main ones like Zeus, Hades, Thor, Odin, Cronos, etc). When they hit epic tier again, they would have surpassed all the gods and would face elder beings that were older than time itself.

You could take the same idea but of course cut out the first part of the campaign (skip them leveling to 30 the first time) and compress the latter part all into the heroic tier. Demigods and legendary heroes are low-level, lesser gods and such become mid-tier, and at level 10 they are facing the most powerful deities in the universe.
Owner and Proprietor of the House of Trolls. God of ownership and possession.
You could also use a completely different game system. 

If you want to stick with d20, you could try running a fantasy Mutants and Masterminds campaign. Set it Power Level 10 (standard super hero power level), and you can easily get a pretty epic level feeling game without all the madness of 3E or 4E D&D play.

If you don't mind steering away from d20, you could use a game like Savage Worlds or a FATE game like Legends of Anglerre. You could easily set one of these games in a D&D world. Building monsters in these games is fast and easy, so coming up with stat blocks for D&D epic tier monsters would be fairly painless. Building Characters in these games is also fairly fast, so it wouldn't be a big issue for players to start with Epic Style characters, and you'll never run into the problem of the 9 page long character sheet.

D&D can be a good system for certain kinds of stories/play styles, but there are a ton of great games out there. I recommend looking around a bit and finding the right tool for the job. 
Actually, we did a similar thing with the Geist (Whitewolf) system when it came out, but then again that whole campaign is themed around something becoming nothing and starting from scratch again.
A major problem with epic:

Very few individuals are interested in/play/buy epic stuff.  WOTC doesn't really see a point in supporting it.  Have you noticed that 4e epic support has disappeared since Essentials came out?  That's not by chance.  They don't see anybody playing at those levels. 

Personally, I really like the concept of Epic play (and I appreciate the concept of the Epic Destiny, one of my favorite things about 4e), but they aren't seeing the money in producing it, which is really sad but there it is.

I agree, an entirely different style of game is more appropriate for Epic.  After all, a 4e character at level 29 doesn't play that differently from a 9th level character.  You have your dailies, your encounters, and your at-wills.  They do different things, but it's not like your power at 29 blows up a game-world mountain and slays an opposing army.  It just kills a monster whose stats say "level 29" on them.  An actually Epic game should deal with concepts on a different scope, not just renamed dungeon-crawling.  It begs for a more...abstracted game. 

Concepts of interest- mass battle, plane/stronghold/kingdom building, mighty works of magic.  It could be run with similar rules concepts, but instead of fighting five monsters, your powers affect 500 monsters, and the DM runs unit/gaggles/hordes of 100 at a time.  Or, perhaps you enjoy the Sim-RPG style of game.  Magically create a world and rule and defend that thing Populous style!

The challenge with this sort of thing is that it's hard to translate that sort of experience to the cooperative tabletop RPG environment. 

You should go talk to the Paizo people, they've been talking about this for awhile, even though they aren't close to hammering out what this "actually Epic" game would be.  They agree that it shouldn't be just more of the same ol' same ol', though. 
I have indeed played in a campaign that got to the 23rd level, and epic play can definitely be more interestign even on the small tactical scale.

There are paragon paths, epic destinies, more action points, cooler magical items and the occasional artifact. The monsters have more interesting effects.

Since this was our first foray into epic play, we really did just play Heroic style adventures with suped up powers and razzle dazzle. And we were fine with that: it was fun to watch our characters do the amazing things about which we dreamed when we began.

As far as battling gods and stuff, you do not need elobarate mechanics for that. I have done that in much lower powered systems: it is simply the setting for a story. Mutable fluff in gamist parlance.
Member of Grognards for 4th Edition
  They do different things, but it's not like your power at 29 blows up a game-world mountain and slays an opposing army.   


Sword mage has a power which allows you to launch an attack against every enemy in sight.... well if most of the world are minions ... a few buffs and thats pretty damn close to slaying an army.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I regularly DM 4e epic tier games using pretty much rules as written and have a lot of fun doing it. The only thing I really mess with is monster design. I give them extra powers, extra damage and a slight boost to hit depending on the party composition. Encounter design is the trickiest part. First of all, I never use any monster less than an elite. Elites are almost minions at epic tier. All solos need to be given some sort of trait like action recovery (on the newer dragons). This means that dazing and stunning still hurts them, but it doesn't shut them down totally. Autodamage auras seem powerful at first but the PC's have so many ways to heal it isn't a reliable threat. I prefer to jack up monster damage and expand their crit range. Monsters will hit like a freight train, but the PC's can pump out so much damage and healing that it feels more like the threat they faced at level 1 (battles can be swingy and uncertain, with a lot depending on the dice).

In a typical encounter I'll often use 2 at-level solos and 4-6 at level elites. That may seem like a lot but the PC's can burn through them in no time. It's quite shocking until you get used to it. BUT, the cool part is that the PC's play like f-ing demigods. It really does feel like epic play in a way that no other edition of D&D has yet captured. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that these characters are truly EPIC.
I'm also in favor of reflavoring level 1 as level 21. I actually considered basing a campaign around this. The PCs would level up to 30, slay a powerful being, and then the other gods, in fear of their power, strip them of their memories in the River Lethe. They find themselves in Hades with no memories of their former selves. Part of the game would revolve around them finding out what happened to them.

Mechanically, they would be level 1, but with some custom themes that give them some cool powers to reflect that even without their memories, they are still powerful beings (so damage would be scaled down but you could give them powers like flight that are normally reserved for later). I'm also going to give them use rituals/practices of any level (since they already hit level 30). They would face epic enemies that would be adjusted to their level. Demigods, lesser deities, epic monsters, and other powerful creatures would be heroic tier. Paragon tier was going to be the greater gods (main ones like Zeus, Hades, Thor, Odin, Cronos, etc). When they hit epic tier again, they would have surpassed all the gods and would face elder beings that were older than time itself.

You could take the same idea but of course cut out the first part of the campaign (skip them leveling to 30 the first time) and compress the latter part all into the heroic tier. Demigods and legendary heroes are low-level, lesser gods and such become mid-tier, and at level 10 they are facing the most powerful deities in the universe.




Did something similar in my previous 3.75 game (so-named because I used mostly 3.5 material with a lot of modification on my part). The party began as 1st level characters then began a quest to find a set of vials which contained their memories or previous lives. They'd just gotten to 20th level and realized they had once been deities (or at least god-like) when the campaign came to a crashing halt with the real-life death of one of the players. None of us have the heart to continue. But had it gone on, the characters would have been knocking heads with the deities from various Material Planes of existence as they went about claiming vengeance against those who had cast them down in the first place (the party this time around was mostly evil with one or two "less evil" types in the group) AND setting about finding their own world to create. Although fun, I found putting things together for these higher levels to be rather chore for 3.5 (and figure it likely similar for 4e as well). I'll not be running another epic game for awhile. But they can be amusing.

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