Massive epic tier encounter help

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My group and i have been playing D&D nearly 10 months now, each taking their turn at being DM (halfway through our 3rd campaign) and in the process have come to fall in love with some of our characters.

So as a treat i thought up the idea of bringing all our favorite characters together for one massive encounter, While still having a story line that fits in with all the different campaigns.


Story wise, i'm fine.


Encounter level not so much.


For the difference in some of the characters levels, i'm simply going to bump all of the PC's to LVL 21. 

But because i have only done one campaign as DM before (and that was from a published adventure), and haven't even dealt with paragon tier yet, plus the fact that their are going to be 10 player characters, i feel i've bitten off more than i can chew.

Obviously i want the encounter to be challenging and exiting, so maybe simply use monsters higher in level than they are, but i don't wan't to go overboard, and decimate them (I have a back up plan if TPK, but don't want it to come to that.)


Any one have any basic rules of thumb for encounters like this?

DM campaigns - (1)

R0-D1 - Warforged Warden - lvl 7

Urdnot Grax - Minotaur Barbarian - lvl 15

A 10-player epic encounter would be quite the undertaking.  I've run 12-player games, but not at that level.  I've run 26th level encounters, but for only 5 or 6 players.


You might just want to pick a lower level to standardize everyone on.  10, 11, 12 and 16 are particularly nice 'high' levels, IMHO.


Anyway, Epic characters tend to have a /lot/ of daily resources so they can handle very challenging singe-encounter scenarios.  One epic level, single-encounter scenario I ran consisted of a level+2 Solo (with more powers than any three typical solos), 3 level-1 standard controllers, 4 at-level standard soldier swarms, and 46 minions - vs a party of 6.  It was 175k exp encounter compared to the standard at that level, 54k exp.  Oh, and it was under water.


You still want to avoid using individual enemies too far above or below the party's level, but you can go crazy with the exp budget.  With 10 players, multiple solos might be perfectly reasonable, for instance.  


Things that are helpful to keep in mind at low-epic:


  • The PCs will be able to put a lot of conditions on the monsters, so solos and elites need action-preservation traits more than ever.  Ways in which they can continue to act or attack (albeit in lesser ways) even when stunned for instance.  Even standard monsters might have something minor to when 'locked down' - and minions coiuld possibly have some sort of 'dying attack' power.
  • As in Paragon, PCs have lots of interrupts or reactions.  These can really derail the flow of the combat, especially with 10 players, any of whom might jump into the middle of any action.  One DM I know, at paragon & epic, has a house rule that if you interrupt a turn to use such a power, and choose not to, the interrupt action is /lost/ - so players will think twice about piping up every time they /might/ want to react to something.  That might be unfair for players mostly new to Epic - just give yourself /lots/ of time to get through the encounter.
  • Epic characters can very easily have a lot of resistances to typed damage, possibly somewhat high resistance (20+), so untyped damage or damage with two or more types (you use the lowest resistance) is likely to be more fearsome than single-typed damage.  
  • Even at low epic, it's possible a PC might have a get-back-up-from-death (or at least dropped) power, and the leaders should certainly have a lot of healing, so don't be shy about unloading or focusing fire.  Leading with huge attacks is a good way to establish a tough challenge and get players to cut loose with their dailies - if you haven't just told them up-front that it's a single-encounter scenario.
  • Crits are a major factor in Epic combat.  Crit-fishing builds are particularly brutal, able to crit on a 19 pretty trivially, quite possibly on an 18, and managing to get multiple attacks or re-rolls to further enhance their chances.  Monsters don't crit so often or so brutally, so they need reasonably high damage to make an impression.

Things that can be helpful with big parties:


  • Don't bother with initiative, or have everyone roll initiative first thing and seat themselves around the table in initiative order, so you can just go around the table, with all the monsters going when it comes round to you (yes, that means all your monsters going on one initiative - which can be brutal, as they coordinate their actions and pile onto a particular character or set off combos).
  • Though it should be obvious, do point out to the next player that they're 'on deck' so they can think about what to do on their turn.  It's tough, because the whole combat can change complexion on every turn.
  • Don't let a player spend too long debating with themselves what to do (or taking advice from other players).  Perhaps have everyone designate a 'default' at-will that they use when they're flumoxed, just to keep things moving (note that this can really cut into fun & effectiveness, so use it as a last resort).
  • Do budget /plenty/ of time for the session, avoid having a hard stop time.  Don't pick a night when several players will 'turn into pumpkins.'
  • Run your monsters in like groups, and think of 'standard' tactics for them so they can be resolved quickly.  If your tweaking monsters, make their powers dramatic and potent, but quick to resolve.
  • Use chits, rings, or the like to track conditions on the mini of the affected creature.  You can even track hps this way with numbered chits.
  • Use painted minis for PCs and tokens for medium-sized/humanoid monsters, so you don't confuse monster & PC minis (in a big encounter, surprisingly easy to do). 

Anyway, that's what I can think of for now.  Good luck.  Tells us more about what you come up with or how it goes.  Sounds like an interesting challenge you've got yourself.  ;)




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Simplify the hell out of your monsters. Use inherent bonuses, give away a free expertise feat, and dont allow players to start w magic items. This will speed up things tremendously. Use a ton of minions for easy tracking on your side. Gradually add more monsters if you are worried about difficulty level.


Here are some tips on simplified 4e monster creation; these ideas are partially based on my experience running Epic tier games.


If you plan on using pre-MM3 monsters, try using these tips for adjusting them on the fly to save work time.


Finally, my zine deals with high level 4e play exclusively; you might find some other ideas in there that you like:


Good luck!



Make the encounter about something other than killing the characters. Give the monsters a goal that they can accomplish even if the characters never get a scratch and that can't be counteracted once complete even if the characters kill all the monsters.


Then make that goal something any monster, even a minion, can complete with three rounds of effort.


The classic is a ritual. Someone's working to complete it. If you kill them, someone else will work on it. They have to be in a certain location to do it. At the end, something massive happens in the world, but the characters themselves are not directly harmed.


I encourage you to brainstorm with your players so that the goal, the means to complete it, the means to prevent it, and the effect it causes are something everyone will enjoy. Even failure should be interesting, and move the story forward, rather than ending it. Unless this is the end. Once you have success and failure everyone is happy with, you almost can't do anything else wrong.

Good luck.

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

been meaning to let you guys know how the session went, but my computer decided to kind of blow up on me :/

But anyway...the encounter...was somewhat of a disaster.

I severly underestimated the time needed/ time taken per round. and the power epic level PCs. Also i managed to lose my 'DM' file the day before hand, so i had to try and remember the majority.

We started off with a large cliff side skills challenge, where they had to scale a 100 ft cliffside, with a few ledges they could stand on to break the danger of falling to thier deaths. But to spice it up a notch, i sent some dragons in. that encounter took alot longer than expected, partially because of me forgetting the dragons tactics, and having to pause to read them, and because the Players hadn't played with these characters in a while, so they were trying to remember how to play them themselves.

but i wasn't too worried about this, as i set up that encounter so i could try and judge the scale of difficulty they could manage. 

A few rounds in, i could see that most of the players were getting kind of bored with constantly being knocked down, burnt and bitten, so i had a 'Divine intervention' to help move things along.


Then we moved onto the initial encounter. The one i had been building everything upto. and things were going ok, until we realised what time it was. and everyone was starting to feel a bit sleepy, and how many enemies were left to deal with. It just wasn't going to happen. 
So again i had to speed things up a bit, and bought in my ace. I bought in Orcus himself, Who they were fighting to stop in our very first campaign (Keep of the shadowfell), which i thought was rather fitting.
I had him rampage a bit, killing a few of the other mobs in anger because they had failed to do thier jobs in disposing of the PCs. It was at this point i realised that i forgot to introduce two very important characters, who were mainly there to take the brunt of orcus's 'insta-kill' ability. but i tried to gloss over it, by having them rappel in, but it was kind of too late.

half the PC's had charged in and got pwned. and it was clear there was going to be a TPK. So i wrapped it up, and passed it off as 'just a dream'.

end of session was at 7AM....saying we started at 7PM the night before, we were all kind of knackered.

So yeah. i like to thik i've learnt a lesson from it though. Don;t rush into a massive encounter like thathalf cocked. Finish and have available all prep work.
also, pay more attention to the tips of more experienced DM's, of whom you had initially asked for help from 

DM campaigns - (1)

R0-D1 - Warforged Warden - lvl 7

Urdnot Grax - Minotaur Barbarian - lvl 15

what about a Christening?  Typical fairy tale story King's and Queen have a child.  But wicked witch for some reason wants to steal/curse the child. Your players are hired to provide security.

Hmm.... I'm sure you feel bad enough already, but...


100' cliff face?  There are 10th level utilities that could bypass that - and flying that far at epic isn't too hard to achieve, either.  One of the hardest things about epic is coming up with epic ideas.  


3 challenges at Epic, when it's new to all of you is a /lot/ for one session.   10 players makes everything take much, much longer.  It's not just 'twice as many players, twice as long,' it's worse than that.  12 hours is not at all surprising.  


Losing your notes, really bad luck at that level, too.  Sorry it didn't go so well, let us know if you ever take another stab at it.





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