Epic vs Better

The recent talks about the importance of levels and class in D&D got me nad my group to thinking about progression.  More importantly, what level progression ment for each class and in each edition.

I have played every version from AD&D to 4E, including some spinoffs like Pathfinder (our current implentation of choice).  The fantasy realms that these systems allowed our DM to create and us to fill were always lands of grand destinies and heroric quests.  However, often times as we worked our way up the level chart, things began to get less and less epic and simply "better."

The feeling of one's character becoming more epic was always a core need of mine for D&D.  I remember spending hours and hours looking over spell lists for my wizard, trying to find the most awesome thing I could add to his spellbook over the course of the next few levels.  Remember the thrill of casting Fireball for the first time? This applied to other classes too, of course.  Getting that second attack as a fighter, or finally being able to blast an army of undead as a cleric were truely great moment.

With the later editions of D&D, much of the feeling of becoming more EPIC at higher levels was replaced with simply getting "better."  No real new talents are unlocked, you simply are better at doing what you've been doing.  This was especially bad in 4E, where the vast, vast majority of powers at higher levels were simply tweaked versions of what you had at lower levels.  "Ooo, my ranged attack gets an additional d6 of damage. Hurray."  I never had the desire to look ahead at the new powers.

With 5E I really hope the designers swing back towards the epic feeling of level progression.  I want my characters to become awesome pillars of might in the their respective areas, not just better version of what they started out as.
Have you played 4e at Epic?  Because it really doesn't sound like you have.

Epic characters can come back from the dead on their own power, Turn critical misses into critical hits, teleport every single round of a fight, regenerate their daily powers at such a rate as to be using one practicaly ever turn.  Epic in 4e is truely EPIC.  And not just for Wizards, Clerics and Druids either.  For most classes getting up into the high levels in older editions was lame, in 4e martial characters get as much love as magic ones. 
The best Epic system I have seen so far (and with that I do not mean perfect, actually it was far from perfect but cool, original, and interesting) was in 2e Dark Sun (Dragon Kings manual), with Wizard slowly transforming into Dragons or Avangions and casting world altering spells, Fighters gaining huge armies, Priests becomeing Elementals (and casting world altering spells), etc...   

In 3.5e the Epicness was definitely there too (I loved the magical items and uber golems), but I disliked the open-ended level system, as well as the do-what you want spells; I would have preferred just pre-made spells, and levels to stop at a certain definite point. I am not commenting about game-balance, but Epic feel, and certainly all classes deserve to be pampered in a balanced way.

In 4e, honestly, I felt the Epic feeling had completely gone. My impression of the game was that what had existed in 20 levels in previous editions was now diluted in 30 levels. Epic destinies somehow tried to save the situation but unsucessfully (that is, in a way that was hundreds times less epic than in previous editions).    

For 5e I hope that gameplay at each of tier of the game will have a different feel so to keep the game interesting, and a return of the epicness level of the 2nd and 3rd edition but with a more balanced approach.  

Note: When I say balanced I mean mechanically balanced, but with loads of variety, that involves every class being able to do stuff in an unique way.

PS: Bring back my Golems!!!  
IMAGE(http://www.forum-signatures.com/wizard/Sigs/2010/final1329876348159.jpg)
Have you played 4e at Epic?  Because it really doesn't sound like you have.

Epic characters can come back from the dead on their own power, Turn critical misses into critical hits, teleport every single round of a fight, regenerate their daily powers at such a rate as to be using one practicaly ever turn.  Epic in 4e is truely EPIC.  And not just for Wizards, Clerics and Druids either.  For most classes getting up into the high levels in older editions was lame, in 4e martial characters get as much love as magic ones. 



I'll admit I haven't played much at the Epic tier in 4E, but this feeling is one of the reasons I stoped playing 4E.  I always felt like I was getting better, but in a very limited, incremental, measured way.  Were there really powers that you really looked forward to? "Only 100 more XP until my character can do X!!!!!"

I did like that all the classes got more equal love.  A 20th level fighter in older versions wasn't always the awesome figure we'd expect.

On the more basic level though the tier idea provided small jumps in the progression line, where as previously it was more of a curve.  Though the curve usually seemed to rise sharply at early levels and level out at higher ones.  Diminishing returns and all that.  It would be interesting to see if they could get the curve to rise more sharply as levels increased.

the one thing wotc needs to do is get rid of EPic rules altogther and by that I mean............. wait for it.......... any minute now.......... just change the name

EPic blows


go back to just simple high level rules or mythic , legendary domething but Epic blows   
a mask everyone has at least two of, one they wear in public and another they wear in private.....
The best Epic system I have seen so far (and with that I do not mean perfect, actually it was far from perfect but cool, original, and interesting) was in 2e Dark Sun (Dragon Kings manual), with Wizard slowly transforming into Dragons or Avangions and casting world altering spells, Fighters gaining huge armies, Priests becomeing Elementals (and casting world altering spells), etc...   

In 3.5e the Epicness was definitely there too (I loved the magical items and uber golems), but I disliked the open-ended level system, as well as the do-what you want spells; I would have preferred just pre-made spells, and levels to stop at a certain definite point. I am not commenting about game-balance, but Epic feel, and certainly all classes deserve to be pampered in a balanced way.

In 4e, honestly, I felt the Epic feeling had completely gone. My impression of the game was that what had existed in 20 levels in previous editions was now diluted in 30 levels. Epic destinies somehow tried to save the situation but unsucessfully (that is, in a way that was hundreds times less epic than in previous editions).    

For 5e I hope that gameplay at each of tier of the game will have a different feel so to keep the game interesting, and a return of the epicness level of the 2nd and 3rd edition but with a more balanced approach.  

Note: When I say balanced I mean mechanically balanced, but with loads of variety, that involves every class being able to do stuff in an unique way.

PS: Bring back my Golems!!!  



I will admit to not having played 2e Darksuns epic stuff, In fact I was little more than a child getting my first taste of the game when 2e was current.  However I do have to say that Epic 3/3x was majorly unsatisfying.  For the most part past level 20 in 3.5 the game atrophies, you don't really get any cooler.  Also being a martial character who is entierly dependant on their magic gear to function is totally not cool IMO, any idiot with +10 magic gear, boots of teleport and a cloak of invisibility is going to be a badass, it isn't the fighter who feels special at that point.

I really don't get what problems you guys had with 4e epic.  What could you do in older editions that you couldn't do in 4e.  I mean my fighter killed gods, outran shooting stars, climbed the sides of raging cyclones and wrestled dragons into submission.

The original post sounds somewhat off-base in terms of 4e. The powers in the paragon paths are pretty cool, for example, and the epic tier destinies have some crazy powerful abilities. Not to mention the culmination of 4e epic destinies is supposed to be the equivalent of becoming immortal (or at least immortalized) through some final, epic adventure. 

So I honestly don't get the original poster's complaint about 4e powers just being "better" versions of lower level powers, but hey, that's his opinion I suppose.

[...] I do have to say that Epic 3/3x was majorly unsatisfying. For the most part past level 20 in 3.5 the game atrophies, you don't really get any cooler.  Also being a martial character who is entierly dependant on their magic gear to function is totally not cool IMO, any idiot with +10 magic gear, boots of teleport and a cloak of invisibility is going to be a badass, it isn't the fighter who feels special at that point.

I really don't get what problems you guys had with 4e epic.  What could you do in older editions that you couldn't do in 4e.  I mean my fighter killed gods, outran shooting stars, climbed the sides of raging cyclones and wrestled dragons into submission.



Well, aside from the uber-powerful magic items (that went beyond a simple +x bonus), 3/3.5 had also some quite powerful Golems you could craft, and uber-spells that completely change the face of the game....that is if you are a spellcaster. 

As for the 4e, I'm not saying that it wasn't Epic nor that it didn't let you do Epic stuff, but coming from the 2nd edition, I can only tell you that things felt scaled down, by a lot.

I mean, could you, following the standard rules in 4e, craft a Gargantuan Adamantine Golem with 100 HD, magic immunity, DR50/+7 (and with its own actions), on top of all your Epic Magic Items (like ring of energy immunity, among other Golems you had crafted along the way) and on top of your world changing spells, on top of your level 30 Wizard? I guess not.
IMAGE(http://www.forum-signatures.com/wizard/Sigs/2010/final1329876348159.jpg)
I guess we just have different defintions of Epic.  I see epic as characters being able to do epic things themselves.  It seems like characters making epic things is part of what does it for you.  For me having a big golem doesn't really excite me because anybody with a golem would be that awesome.
I have to admit, I agree with the OP. I always had that feeling on epic levels of 4e. But I didn't know how to define it up until now. Becoming better, instead of epic is a really good way of putting it. Sure, you got the epic destinies, and they were neat and cool, but nothing like 3e epic powers and levels you could really look forward to. But I do agree that fighters needed something extra special back then, that helped define them, besided the magic gear (which was pretty awesome btw).
In a few levels' time, my 4E swordmage is going to learn how to change into a massive dragon. The Thief of Legend Epic Destiny allows the character to steal a victim's memory of childhood, the colour of their eyes, or steal their own soul back from the afterlife. The Dark Wanderer destiny allows the character to literally walk their way back from death. When a Feyliege dies, their future self steps back through time to finish the fight in their stead.

I admit that not all Epic Destinies are this awesome, but they certainly give me the feeling you seem to describe, that next level I'm going to be able to do something amazing.

[Edited for spelling] 
I guess we just have different defintions of Epic.  I see epic as characters being able to do epic things themselves.  It seems like characters making epic things is part of what does it for you.  For me having a big golem doesn't really excite me because anybody with a golem would be that awesome.



I think you misunderstood me. I don't think being Epic means just making (or having) epic stuff, it's also about having new epic abilities and having epic stats (hp, damage, etc). [I am talking exclusively from a game mechanics point of view, not from a RP one].
 
In 3/3.xe you do have all three parts (well, at least spellcasters do) while in 4e you don't have the really epic "objects", while the epic abilities are shared by all classes (which is good) but don't feel as Epic as in previous editions (mostly because you only get them at level 30, and even then they are not on par with their 3e counterpart).


EDIT: Made some clarifications.
IMAGE(http://www.forum-signatures.com/wizard/Sigs/2010/final1329876348159.jpg)
I guess we just have different defintions of Epic.  I see epic as characters being able to do epic things themselves.  It seems like characters making epic things is part of what does it for you.  For me having a big golem doesn't really excite me because anybody with a golem would be that awesome.



Well, I agree with you, I was just pointing out the difference between 3/3.xe and 4e (and why it felt so different).

3/3.xe allows you do to epic stuff (I am, again, talking spellcasters here) & gives you really big toys, in 4e well...no big toys.



Though 3.5 epic levels are not really meant to be played, for me. It's just a showcase of really big guns (for casters, stupid fighters are stupid). Pure and simple power creep at his finest.

Yeah, you can destroy the world with a sneeze, big deal. I can play with exalted and be that powerful at the beginning of the game. There are no rules for actual epic acts, epic drama, epic moral dilemma or whatever, just really big guns. It's basically like playing GTA with infinite ammo and infinite health, burn the world and do what you like, maybe you can even come up with a story in the middle, why not?

To be fair, 4e epic levels are no really much better, but at least they are playable. The epic destinies and immortality at level 30 are also pretty good ideas, at least the rules lead naturally to an exit with a bang for the PCs.
Though 3.5 epic levels are not really meant to be played, for me. It's just a showcase of really big guns (for casters, stupid fighters are stupid). Pure and simple power creep at his finest.

Yeah, you can destroy the world with a sneeze, big deal. I can play with exalted and be that powerful at the beginning of the game. There are no rules for actual epic acts, epic drama, epic moral dilemma or whatever, just really big guns. It's basically like playing GTA with infinite ammo and infinite health, burn the world and do what you like, maybe you can even come up with a story in the middle, why not?

To be fair, 4e epic levels are no really much better, but at least they are playable. The epic destinies and immortality at level 30 are also pretty good ideas, at least the rules lead naturally to an exit with a bang for the PCs.



You are quite spot on about 3.5e and 4e epics, I pretty much see them in the same way.

Unfortunately, as far epic acts, epic drama, etc..goes, you don't really need to be in the Epic levels to have those, you could even have those at low levels, given an inventive DM. Just think, the Lord of the Rings, the world's fate in the hands of a bunch of classless hobbits....

Nevertheless, I personally like Epics (not that I am a power gamer or anything, cough, cough..) so if they are to be in the game let's make them, well, truly Epic.  
IMAGE(http://www.forum-signatures.com/wizard/Sigs/2010/final1329876348159.jpg)
the one thing wotc needs to do is get rid of EPic rules altogther and by that I mean............. wait for it.......... any minute now.......... just change the name

EPic blows


go back to just simple high level rules or mythic , legendary domething but Epic blows   



looks like dnd next is in really good hands

A little clarification:

I'ts not that you couldn't become super epic and awesome in later editions, it's just the pace to get there was different.  The 4E tiers were nice when you made the jump to cross into a new tier, but within the tier it was the same plodding advancement.  To that end the jumps seemed a little artificial, almost like getting the new powerful magic item rather then real character advancement. 

The other editions had similar issues, of course.  Even my current 12th level Pathfinder Barbarian feels like he's getting diminishing returns each level. Sure, being able to do upwards of 100 damage in a round is awesome and legandary, but at 13th he'll probably be able to do 105. (Not that doing damage is the only measure, of course, but it can serve as a good example.)  The whole curve leveling out thing again.

While I hope the high level mechanics in 5E scale well to a good level of awesomeness, hopefully the guidance for DMs on how to impart that feeling in the story is well supported too.  After all, what good is the ability to slay a god if the DM never lets you confront one?

A little clarification:

I'ts not that you couldn't become super epic and awesome in later editions, it's just the pace to get there was different.  The 4E tiers were nice when you made the jump to cross into a new tier, but within the tier it was the same plodding advancement.  To that end the jumps seemed a little artificial, almost like getting the new powerful magic item rather then real character advancement. 

The other editions had similar issues, of course.  Even my current 12th level Pathfinder Barbarian feels like he's getting diminishing returns each level. Sure, being able to do upwards of 100 damage in a round is awesome and legandary, but at 13th he'll probably be able to do 105. (Not that doing damage is the only measure, of course, but it can serve as a good example.)  The whole curve leveling out thing again.

While I hope the high level mechanics in 5E scale well to a good level of awesomeness, hopefully the guidance for DMs on how to impart that feeling in the story is well supported too.  After all, what good is the ability to slay a god if the DM never lets you confront one?




The real problem is that D&D, any edition, just don't "get" epic play right. Maybe 4e did something about it with the immortality thing at level 30, but it's really just scraping the surface, and it's an endagame thing (and it's blatantly ripped off from The Shadow of Yesterday, but ssssh :p).

At epic levels, D&D just load you with a lot of big guns and fancy toys. You can do a lot of things with them, sure, but then? It does not really go any deeper. Having big powers is just the first half of the bargain, epic stories are generally of the "With grat powers comes great responsability" kind, the problem is not applying those powers (Superman will win any direct confrontation), the problem is when applying those powers, when it's right or wrong, if the means justify the ends, if the humanity deserves to be saved or not ecc ecc.

D&D does not do any of these things, and these things are the most important part of having epic powers. Without these things, we just have superpowers and nothing meaningful to do with them (saving the earth every week gets boring after a while).

Having guidelines on how to recreate this kind of drama is welcome, but having actual rules that push in that direction, it's better. 
A little clarification:

I'ts not that you couldn't become super epic and awesome in later editions, it's just the pace to get there was different.  The 4E tiers were nice when you made the jump to cross into a new tier, but within the tier it was the same plodding advancement.  To that end the jumps seemed a little artificial, almost like getting the new powerful magic item rather then real character advancement. 

The other editions had similar issues, of course.  Even my current 12th level Pathfinder Barbarian feels like he's getting diminishing returns each level. Sure, being able to do upwards of 100 damage in a round is awesome and legandary, but at 13th he'll probably be able to do 105. (Not that doing damage is the only measure, of course, but it can serve as a good example.)  The whole curve leveling out thing again.

While I hope the high level mechanics in 5E scale well to a good level of awesomeness, hopefully the guidance for DMs on how to impart that feeling in the story is well supported too.  After all, what good is the ability to slay a god if the DM never lets you confront one?




The real problem is that D&D, any edition, just don't "get" epic play right. Maybe 4e did something about it with the immortality thing at level 30, but it's really just scraping the surface, and it's an endagame thing (and it's blatantly ripped off from The Shadow of Yesterday, but ssssh :p).

At epic levels, D&D just load you with a lot of big guns and fancy toys. You can do a lot of things with them, sure, but then? It does not really go any deeper. Having big powers is just the first half of the bargain, epic stories are generally of the "With grat powers comes great responsability" kind, the problem is not applying those powers (Superman will win any direct confrontation), the problem is when applying those powers, when it's right or wrong, if the means justify the ends, if the humanity deserves to be saved or not ecc ecc.

D&D does not do any of these things, and these things are the most important part of having epic powers. Without these things, we just have superpowers and nothing meaningful to do with them (saving the earth every week gets boring after a while).

Having guidelines on how to recreate this kind of drama is welcome, but having actual rules that push in that direction, it's better. 



I dont think this is something that can really be reinforced in the rules. This is probably something the DM needs to deal with as its so situational


In regards to 3.5, are you talking about epic as in up to level 20, or epic as in post level 20, epic handbook.  If you're talking about the former I can see your point on non-caster classes, however if you used the epic handbook, non-casters got some pretty crazy supernatural like abilties.  It's been a long time since I picked it up, but I remember rangers being able to shoot arrows with no penalty at anything they could see, barrage every target inside of normal range, and so forth.  On top of that, these weren't daily or encounter powers, they could do these things at any time.  It actually felt like a real distinct transition from being an extremely skilled regular guy to a super-hero of sorts.

I will agree that spellcasters essentially went epic much earlier, based solely on the power of their higher level spells.



Specifically this was geared more towards the core levels (1-20) as opposed to supplimental levels through high level expansions. 

Again, it isn't so much that there are awesome legendary things to be done at high levels, but on the march through all the levels to get there things typically go from getting more awesome fairly quickly to simply getting better level to level. 

Granted, each class typically has a jump to unstoppable force at max level, but I think that going from 18th to 19th should feel like a greater jump in realtive power/strength/epicness then going from 4th to 5th.  Or at least the same.

I'll use the wizard example again.  The feeling of finally getting Fireball (Wiz 3) after using Flaming Sphere (Wiz 2) is fantastic.  This feels like a far more power-gaining moment then replacing Finger of Death (Wiz 7) with Power Word Kill (Wiz 9). 

How can we ensure the advancement in higher levels feels as great and rewarding as it does at early levels?


In regards to 3.5, are you talking about epic as in up to level 20, or epic as in post level 20, epic handbook.  If you're talking about the former I can see your point on non-caster classes, however if you used the epic handbook, non-casters got some pretty crazy supernatural like abilties.  It's been a long time since I picked it up, but I remember rangers being able to shoot arrows with no penalty at anything they could see, barrage every target inside of normal range, and so forth.  On top of that, these weren't daily or encounter powers, they could do these things at any time.  It actually felt like a real distinct transition from being an extremely skilled regular guy to a super-hero of sorts.

I will agree that spellcasters essentially went epic much earlier, based solely on the power of their higher level spells.



Specifically this was geared more towards the core levels (1-20) as opposed to supplimental levels through high level expansions. 

Again, it isn't so much that there are awesome legendary things to be done at high levels, but on the march through all the levels to get there things typically go from getting more awesome fairly quickly to simply getting better level to level. 

Granted, each class typically has a jump to unstoppable force at max level, but I think that going from 18th to 19th should feel like a greater jump in realtive power/strength/epicness then going from 4th to 5th.  Or at least the same.

I'll use the wizard example again.  The feeling of finally getting Fireball (Wiz 3) after using Flaming Sphere (Wiz 2) is fantastic.  This feels like a far more power-gaining moment then replacing Finger of Death (Wiz 7) with Power Word Kill (Wiz 9). 

How can we ensure the advancement in higher levels feels as great and rewarding as it does at early levels?



I get what your saying, simply put the game tends to be front loaded on coolness factor, or after about level six (in 3rd) everything after is just more powerful versions of what you already have or in fourth you have a similar problem where at level 1, level 11, level 21 you get a big jump but afterwards the power curve evens out.

I don't really agree with that feeling on 4th but I can see it with 3rd, but that has more to do with the placement of spells, simply put the first set of the "cool" spells shows up at the 3rd level of casting the teleporting, flying, and polymorphing etc.  Honestly I would prefer a consitent level of rewards at each level.

I know this is dated.  But as a owner of an Immortal character from Wrath of the Immortals, I never really could get into AD&D 3 or anything after that.  The entire system changed to much for me to care.

As for the Epic characters, I don't really see the point, since my understanding that high level characters were already supposed to be near godlike in their abiliteis anyway.

The entire Epic rules appear to mimic the powers of characters in comic magazines or video games.

Labeling it "Epic" seems to be a gimmick to get more money out of you, when the entire rules could actually be used play characters when they become gods.

I noticed on other message boards some posters will even compare Epic character to that of Immortals from the Immortal game set, which is ridiculous.

If there was to be a comparison, Epic level characters would be Exalted level if they were to exist in D&D Mystara worlds.   Even then such powerful magic items that exist in Epic Campaigns or most other AD&D campaigns just don't convert/exist in D&D.  For example no magic  weapons can ever be more than +5.  So there are no +10 Double handed swords.  Second mortals (or even most Exalted beings) cannot create artifacts.

I think creating a system of rules probably meant to play gods, and renaming it Epic to play cosmically powered mortals, is just a gimmick and nothing more.
I remember spending hours and hours looking over spell lists for my wizard, trying to find the most awesome thing I could add to his spellbook over the course of the next few levels.  Remember the thrill of casting Fireball for the first time? This applied to other classes too, of course.  Getting that second attack as a fighter, or finally being able to blast an army of undead as a cleric were truely great moment.



Read that again.  Casters got amazing fantastic spells (that rendered higher level games unplayable, but I'll admit they were cool).  Fighters got ... another of the attacks they already had.  At least in second edition, they could make both attacks while moving, without an extra penalty to hit, but even then, that's the most direct example of "not epic, just better" that I could possibly think of.

Yeah, 4e epic spellcasters weren't as amazing as high level spellcasters in 2e or 3e... but in exchange they don't render high level play impossible to actually take part in, either.  But the things a 4e fighter or rogue or the like can pull off at epic levels?  It blows the 'just another attack' or '3 percent better on thief skills' right out of the water.

Yeah, a lot of epic destinies were terrible or just drab.  And the vast majority of feats, paragon paths, items, and powers weren't worth the time it took to read them.  But option glut was a problem in every edition of D&D, especially since wizards took it over, and there is absolutely no reason to expect that to change going forward.

Once you do sift through to the cooler or funner or better content, epic 4e blew the equivalent from previous editions for non-casters right out of the water.  And while didn't amaze like pre-4e epic casters did, it was, again, actually playable at the table.  Just barely, mind.  Lack of playtesting anything beyond 3rd level, like the failings of option glut, has also plagued every version of D&D, with predictable results.  But I'll take 'barely playable' over 'completely unworkable' any day.


Don't get me wrong, I miss high level caster shenanigans from earlier editions as well.  I still bust out my 3e books every now and then just to build characters, because its funner for me to do than building 4e characters.  But when it comes to actually sitting those characters down at the table and playing them in an honest to god game with other people?  Yeah.

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