True Epic Level

www.theweem.com/2012/02/20/i-want-to-mov...

I completely agree with this blog post about approaching epic tiers as a whole separate character sheet. From my first experience of epic play as a DM, 4e simply breaks down. A level 21 solo brute (Which even had updated stats, it was a Dark Sun Creature) did not even cause the players to lose a healing surge, and the consequent encounters barely scratched them (maybe 2 healing surges spent for 3/4 of a surge lost) even when I threw a level 24 encounter at level 21.

I could go on about how 4e breaks down at epic tier, but the aforementioned blog sounds both badass and a good solution to this problem: how to do you make the players more than mortals with a challenge still presented to them. I would love it if previous mortal abilities simply didn't stack up to epic creatures.

WotC obviously did not do much play-testing or scrutiny beyond paragon tier by release. I don't blame them, probably 70% of games are in heroic tier, about 20% in paragon and 10% in epic (just estimating these numbers with no hard data), so it makes sense to make sure the parts played most work the best.

So here is my thought: what if epic tier was omitted at first? At first that thought might seem revulsive, but in reality a game played even starting at level 11 takes a long while to hit epic tier. By my clock at least a year. During that time, they can develop modular epic destinies in the manner described above. Once WotC sees how the game plays at mid-high paragon, they can open up epic tier rather than committing early when they may not entirely understand how their own system works.

Just food for thought. 
I love the idea, but based on where 4e puts its power levels, I'd call what he's describing post-epic.  More like demigod level, or fully ascended.  I love the idea, but not for level 21. 

Still, he's right about the idea that at higher levels you should play differently, not more of the same.  I'd love it if I could replace all of my heroic level spells which a generic "awesome magic" power which lets me get away with a wide range of whatever the hell I want.  Like you know how prestigitation is this broad purpose spell?  I want an epic version of that which can casually knock aside low level minions.  Because I -can-

I don't want my warrior to have a few high level powers which give him bonus damage and a status effect, i want him to be told "So, here's your basic attack, and any time you succeed, pick from the list of status effects."

They should still be mortal though.  A presense that movies mountains is flat out divine.  I'm ok with that too.  I'm fine with gods doing balance with their portfolio of power, batting out in an abstract system which has only one interaction with lesser morals, namely "you lose."
Yeah, I remember seeing one of the epic tier feats for a wizard being magic missile is now a minor action 1/round. Stuff like that defines epic level. I will admit I had a anti-climactic experience with epic level and the game broke down to players not using half their powers due to overwhelming choice and monsters simply not competing with them on exception-based rules. An example is a psionic epic destiny that can no longer be dazed and stuns become dazes. Sooooo, what epic level monsters have been adjusted for that? None of them have abilities that can bypass that.

Beside the point, what he proposes is a cool idea. 
I'd like to see 20th be Epic Level, in the singular.  At that point, the mechanics of the game bend to your players will.  Every item you hold is the max version of it.  The blog post talks about immortality, then at 20th you become immortal. 

I always saw 20th level as the goal, not the end, but the goal.  When supplemental and 4e expanded that it felt pointless to me.  4e in particular just stretched the good out, it wasn't 10 extra levels of awesome, lol, it was 30 levels of watered down.  So what is the goal?  PC retirement or epic awesomeness?
in my experience, having run games with Xp totals > 40,000,000 in the AD&D party and some of the PCs with Xp totals > 10,000,000, and at least one Immortal in the game, it seems like the characters with the power to self enhance, through magic or whatever were more likely to cling to levels 21-40+, while the people who really had nothing better to do than kill stuff were better off put into some sort of ancilliary position or retirement, or ascended, which didn't always make much sense.

The bottom line is,

<--Fighter/barbarian---ranger---Rogue---paladin---bard---cleric---psionicist/wizard--->

With the fighter types less likely to have use for high level, and psionics/magic being more or less open ended. This is of course an AD&D perspective, but it illustrates the more like a god a class can already become, the less "become like a god" they will need separate rules for. I know that's an awkward way of putting it, but its true.

At level one, it doesn't matter, but at level 15-30+, it does. At low level, keeping things simple and smooth is the way to go, but at high level with stuff like ascension and godlike power, perhaps it's time to take off the kid gloves and get more serious?

I don't think a separate character sheet is needed, and in fact think that makes people feel like they are turned into NPCs or retired. When you drastically change the rules on how characters work, they feel left out and are less likely to interact, even with characters very close to their power scale.

I'm not saying 'smash mountain' should be a 3d8+Str attack that destroys 100 lbs of rock per level (which would take millions of years to smash a mountain), but i am saying you need to keep the core mechanics open enough to handle these epic beings.

When 25 strength was godlike, the system worked. But when we found out about immortals and moving planets and planes of existence, the mighty 25 seemed more like what 4e characters would associate with a 4 or 5.

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The Rules Cyclopedia was a few years before my group picked up AD&D, so I've never played it, but I was wondering how they handled adventures for immortal/diety characters? 


In my mind one of the big issues with playing as dieties is that in a lot of ways it isn't D&D anymore.  What would an "adventure" consist of?  If gaining and maintaining followers and shaping worlds is now your concern, I doubt your diety character would be crawling through too many dungeons (more likely would be creating dungeons).  The game would seem to change from encounter based, where your character is primarily involved in multiple scenes strung together to form a campaign, to systems based, where your character is primarily involved in managing expansive systems that keep the source of divine power flowing and serve as an outlet for divine will.  It's like going from Diablo to Civilization - totally different game. 

Granted some people may like this progression, but I'm not sure if I'd call it D&D. 


The Rules Cyclopedia was a few years before my group picked up AD&D, so I've never played it, but I was wondering how they handled adventures for immortal/diety characters? 


In my mind one of the big issues with playing as dieties is that in a lot of ways it isn't D&D anymore.  What would an "adventure" consist of?  If gaining and maintaining followers and shaping worlds is now your concern, I doubt your diety character would be crawling through too many dungeons (more likely would be creating dungeons).  The game would seem to change from encounter based, where your character is primarily involved in multiple scenes strung together to form a campaign, to systems based, where your character is primarily involved in managing expansive systems that keep the source of divine power flowing and serve as an outlet for divine will.  It's like going from Diablo to Civilization - totally different game. 

Granted some people may like this progression, but I'm not sure if I'd call it D&D. 





Since the D&D game came out, there's been many "play god" video games. Going as far back as Populous and Act Raiser, God of War, Black & White, and many super hero games. Even the Japanese art game Okami is based on the goddess Amaterasu.

What makes D&D itself is the idea that you have two letters in the title both starting with "D". What makes it dungeons & dragons is having a maze or prison as the dungeon, and a dragon or terrible obstacle. You could just as easily make "Deities & Demigods" the epic form of D&D, like the immortal rules, and still call it D&D. It's not like anyone would care.

At any scale, D&D is a resource management game. As you level, you get spiffy titles and more resources to manage. That's the theory of responsibility and promotion. I'd easily point out a 20th century General is just as horrifying as most gods you could name - there's little difference between the Brahma - astra and a Nuclear Missile. It's true though that some people can't handle nukes in their game - they always write about them like its a taboo, but it doesn't make them a less valid example. Fist of the Northstar is a power level most games can't handle, yet it's a fun thing to watch.

A mechanic as simple as Damage Reduction can turn 100 attacks into 100 points of damage, I'm rather surprised people can't scale this stuff.

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There were three adventure modules published for the original BECMI Immortals rules.


IM1: The Immortal Storm - A planehopping collect the items quest, including visits to New York City and Chicago.
IM2: The Wrath of Olympus - A rescue mission to free other immortals imprisoned by demons of entropy.
IM3: The Best of Intentions - A lighthearted search of a missing immortal; includes an Olympics style scenario.

All three of the above adventures were written for novice level immortals.  No other adventures dealt with the immortals rules that I know of. 

The Wrath of the Immortals boxed set, published as a supplement to the Rules Cyclopedia updated and revised the Immortals rules.  Although it contained the immortals rules, the included adventure was designed for normal characters.

All around helpful simian

Actual the old Wizards product The Primal Order has a neat take on epic or god characters.
Actual the old Wizards product The Primal Order has a neat take on epic or god characters.



Outstanding product, thank you for the recommendation! 

Handling epic characters has always been troublesome for me, and I disagree that running a deity campaign is a matter of the same resource management as a normal campaign, if you are using rules where deities are qualitatively different than mortals. Mortal campaign resource management involves optimizing abilities within a clear set of boundaries. Your character does damage, has defenses, etc, and the goal is to maximize the numbers. In a deity campaign with rules like those suggested, these same boundaries don't apply. In a campaign where your deity-character can do ANYTHING, it fundamentally changes the approach.

I'm hardly saying that this is BAD, but when looking at how Wizards is going to handle epic level, at some point you have to draw the line to say this is no longer the same type of game as lower levels.

So perhaps instead of trying to incorporate epic rules, they should simply provide a progression to a different game set, depending on what the gaming group wants to play (uber characters, empire management, philosophical paradox tackling, etc).

whenever I try to design rules for psions, I am stuck in this precarious position of having to deal with scale and god like beings and scenarios. When I look back to the fiction sources for relief "they aren't really that bad, are they?" only to find the contrary "Yep, they are that bad. Here's a scene from a 1960s novel where a 20-something human psionicist disintegrates a whole swat team, vehicles and all, in the space of 1 combat round"...

So I understand that for most people the scaling thing is going to be crazy. Luckily, I've learned a few tricks.



  • Level is about linear

  • Attack bonuses are linear

  • Penalties are linear

  • magic bonus equivalents are inversely geometric

  • multiple attacks are inversely geometric

  • range is logorithmic

  • area effect is logorithmic

  • mass is logorithmic

  • damage is geometric

  • permanent, instantaneous, and persistent effects are high level

  • concentration, round/level, slow casting time are low level

  • limited duration/effect rituals, research, and expendable items are mid level

  • lasting rituals, research, inventing are high level


Linear is stuff like +1/+10/+1Hit Die/+1d6 per level. The units are pretty solid and reliable, and don't tend to break the game until they start to exceed the dice mechanic. When they start doing that, it is better to use an inversely geometric bonus. An initiative based on rolling low on a 1d6 is going to snap at a bonus of 5 points. When trying to roll high, Linear bonuses are more appropriate than Inversely geometric.

Geometric is like level squared, pyramid bonuses, and so forth, so you might see something like 1-6 damage at level 1 and 100-400 damage at level 20. It's a kind of progress that allows you to keep up with higher values, but not necesarily exponential values.

Inversely Geometric might be something like, as you get geometrically more powerful, such as going from a few dozen to several hundred Spell points or PSPs, you can go from a +1 to a +5 enchantment or eqiivalent. This is especially useful when you don't want a linear bonus/cost ratio. Another example might be noticing you go from needing 2000 XP for a level to needing 20,000, to needing 200,000, over about 4-5 levels, but you are only getting +1 more per category:

Earned XP      Magic Weapon Created
8,000               +1
40,000             +2
200,000           +3
1,000,000        +4
5,000,000        +5

This kind of process, of making bonuses exponentially harder to get to as the bonus increases, helps prevent people from running around with +50 or +1000 weapons and so forth. That's particularly useful since Armor Class units are extremely small for what each increment represents. A 10 point Armor Class difference is not the same as a 10 point difference in Hit points, for instance. Multiple attacks are also set up this way, otherwise you end up with a character doing hundreds and thousands of attacks and it becomes unmanagable. Only Temporal/Matrix effects, Exotic Futurist weapons (machine guns, lasers, and trick shooters), and Over powered Martial Artists should be approaching these values, and at an exponential cost (and probably a significant portion of their resources or special abilities).

logorithmic bonuses are geological time, astronomical scale, pebbles, mountains, and planets. They are the difference between using a telekinesis spell on a Rabbit and a Titanic Monster. The Rabbit probably weighs 2-18 lbs. The Monster probably weighs several million or more. Even a dragon's weight is measured in several Tons. The range to the sun is about 500 times the speed of light, but the range to the nearest town is 10 million times closer. Yet you could be trying to safely teleport or summon something the size of some guy, like a meteor, and that would be well under 1000 pounds, yet if you tried to disintegrate the town, it might be a billion times more mass to target.

The problem people run into in high level games is the inability to realize logorithmic values are largely just fluff. A cubic foot of fire can kill one target, while a fireball can kill 10-20. Yet the Fireball's 20' radius (about a house) takes up 33,000 cubic feet. It does not do 33,000 times the damage and sure as heck doesn't kill 33,000 people. That's why logorithmic numbers don't have to do logorithmic damage or have logorithmic bonuses to hit, to succeed, etc.


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