What's wrong with Epic Tier and how do we fix it?
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  1. #1
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    What's wrong with Epic Tier and how do we fix it?

    Hey all, Vayden here. Big 4e fan, love the game, etc. I've run two heroic tier campaigns, and am running a low-paragon tier and and a mid-epic tier one at the moment, for two very different groups. I've played in 2 paragon campaigns and 3 heroic ones, with 3 different DMs.

    I think it's safe to say I know the game pretty well at this point, and I feel pretty confident in saying I'm a damn decent DM at all times, and quite good occasionally when I hit a good riff. And I love the game at heroic and low-paragon - it takes a tiny bit of tweaking here and there (see my Grindspace thread: http://www.enworld.org/forum/d-d-4th...rindspace.html), and it certainly doesn't do everything, but by and large it's a dream to run.

    That being said, my experience with Epic play so far has been unbelievably frustrating for me. The monsters have so many hit points that even 6-7 players doing 30-90 damage a hit take forever to drag down a big monster, the monster's defenses make them extremely hard to hit unless the characters are A) lucky or B) working like a well-oiled machine (which you can't rely on all parties to pull off). However, the monsters don't really pose much of threat because their attacks do such meagre damage in comparison to the player's hp/healing/temp hp stockpile of tricks.

    Now I'll admit that the party for the epic campaign is a bit defense oriented, and definitely not the most skilled group of players I play with in terms of tactics. Still, everything I've tried so far just turns into the monsters slowwwwly trending towards 0 hp while the party waltzes along - I haven't even knocked one of them unconscious yet in 7+ encounters, and I've racked up 2 TPKs and 3 almost TPKs in the heroic/paragon games I've been running (not that TPKs are necessarily your thing - just letting you know that my DMing style tends towards the brutal).

    My conclusion is that the monster math does not level correctly in order to maintain that nice level of drama that 4e combat provides at all of the other levels I've played it at. However, I know I'm not as mathematical as some of the minds on these boards, so I come looking for assistance. My initial thought is to lower all defenses by 1 for 21-25 level monsters, and 2 for 26-30 level, to reduce all hitpoints by 1/3 to 1/2 depending on the monster, and to flat out double all monster damage. Does that sound good to the math gurus?

    Anyone else playing Epic and feeling the same way? How are you approaching it? Am I wrong? Help me out here - I want to make these combats match the high expectations the rest of 4e has given me.

  2. #2
    What monsters are you using? Epic level monsters seem to be more hit and miss in design tbh. One thing I believe should have been changed from the start is the x5 hp of solos on paragon and epic instead of x4 as is in heroic; reversing that seems a rather harmless trick. Also the problem with one-shots or games that start at high levels is that players never got to learn to cooperate. I think this is a big reason why that group makes combat seem even more grindy than usual.

    Also pet peeve with epic level characters: too many dice! Especially when you get a critical the players need to roll so many dice it is not even funny. I have not played at epic yet, but I expect players would be forced to buy a lot of extra dice to speed the game up.

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    So far . . . Marilith, Hezrou, couple of other demons/devils, Greater Flameskulls from Winter of the Witch, lvl 28 Blue Dragon, lvl 23 Vampiric Dracolich, lvl 29 Dragonborn Annihilator from Draconomicon, lvl 26 Lich Vestiges, and a handful of others. The dragons attacked as a pair and got steam-rolled, the Annihilator attacked with about 15-20 vestiges, and neither side really got hurt at all, and everything else got mulched up pretty quickly.

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    Actually, the parallel thought I was having in this thread might bear on the matter EN World D&D / RPG News - Powered by vBulletin

    Specifically - what if you gave the epic creatures bonus damage on a crit (like the PCs get bonus damage on a crit)?

    If they have the power equivalent of a +5 or +6 weapon 'factored in' to their abilities, why not give them a bonus +5d6 or +6d6 damage on a crit (perhaps making it d8's for Brutes or Lurkers)?

    Obviously not the whole solution, but perhaps part of a solution?

    Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Plane Sailing View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    Actually, the parallel thought I was having in this thread might bear on the matter EN World D&D / RPG News - Powered by vBulletin

    Specifically - what if you gave the epic creatures bonus damage on a crit (like the PCs get bonus damage on a crit)?

    If they have the power equivalent of a +5 or +6 weapon 'factored in' to their abilities, why not give them a bonus +5d6 or +6d6 damage on a crit (perhaps making it d8's for Brutes or Lurkers)?

    Obviously not the whole solution, but perhaps part of a solution?

    Cheers
    I like that idea Plane. Consider it stolen. Another idea one of my friends instituted for all levels of play is giving minions more damage - take their flat damage and add a die to it - d6, d8, d10, whatever fits the circumstances. (He actually added 2d8 - those were some scary minions, let me tell you.)

    PS - I think your link is broken.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Plane Sailing View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    Specifically - what if you gave the epic creatures bonus damage on a crit (like the PCs get bonus damage on a crit)?

    If they have the power equivalent of a +5 or +6 weapon 'factored in' to their abilities, why not give them a bonus +5d6 or +6d6 damage on a crit (perhaps making it d8's for Brutes or Lurkers)?

    Obviously not the whole solution, but perhaps part of a solution?

    Cheers
    Speaking from my experience with 1st edition, the fact that the monsters didn't follow the same rules as PC's generally didn't matter that much at low levels of play. In particular, because the monster HD progression was highly compressed at low levels - incremental improvements at 1/2 HD, 1-1 HD, 1 HD, 1+1 HD, and 2 HD - low HD monsters tended to do a good job of keeping pace with low level PC's. A 2 HD monster had a THAC0 comparable to a 5th level fighter (sans magic items which at that level weren't that significant anyway).

    But as the PC's progressed in level and power, the fact that the monsters (mostly) didn't have ability scores and other things PC's had increasingly hampered the monster, not necessarily just because the players might have found a way to progress their ability scores but so many of their magic items granted the characters bonuses the monsters simply didn't have. A 16 HD monster had THAC0 inferior to a 16th level fighter (sans magic items), and when you factored in magic items, strength bonuses and the like it was just no contest.

    Eventually, the fact that the PC's were high hit dice monsters that also had +5 (or more) to hit, +5 (or more) to damage, +5 to saving throws, bonus hit points per hit die, and so forth easily overwhelmed even the mightest monster in the monster manual.

    By late 1st edition, when I was beginning to be frustrated with 1st edition at every level of play, I started granting attributes like Str and Dex to every monster just to keep some sort of parity between the players and their foes over a longer range of play.

    If there are abilities that the PC's are consistantly gaining that doesn't have some parallel in the monsters stats, then that's definately a problem. In 4e's case, the PC's have been gaining feats and magic all along the way. I don't know alot about 4e, but it seems like enhancing your critical was a big portion of both, so it seems to me like criticals is an area a gap would open up that escaped the design team. I wouldn't be surprised if there were others.

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    Plane Sailings link should be fixed here

    ...and I like the idea of using the Monster Magic Threshold as a way to add damage to the critters crits!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    I don't know alot about 4e
    Okay.
    but it seems like enhancing your critical was a big portion of both
    Crits are not that important.
    so it seems to me like criticals is an area a gap would open up that escaped the design team.
    Considering your self admitted lack of knowledge about 4e, can you see how comments like these seem biased and based on nothing more than a dislike of 4e?
    I wouldn't be surprised if there were others.
    Since you obviously don't know alot about 4e (by own admission), why is that?
    Last edited by Jack99; Sunday, 1st March, 2009 at 09:15 AM. Reason: edited for clarification

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    I think you're reading a bit much into Celebrim's comments. He's simply pointing out how PCs outstripped the monsters in 1e and throws out the possibility of extra crit damage for monsters (already mentioned by PS) as one potential issue of difference.

    The low damage of monsters is something that I've noticed before. I recall that the MM errata boosts the damage output for a bunch of creatures, but I don't remember exactly which ones. But also if you look at the table of monster damage output by level in the DMG, many if not most of the creatures in the MM fall well short of the suggested low end damage for their level. And there's nothing in the DMG or MM to explain this discrepency. In theory an attack that just did damage would be around the high end, damage + minor rider would be around the middle range, and damage + strong rider would be at the low end... or apparently not, but we aren't clued into the details of the monster design process.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spatula View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    I think you're reading a bit much into Celebrim's comments. He's simply pointing out how PCs outstripped the monsters in 1e and throws out the possibility of extra crit damage for monsters (already mentioned by PS) as one potential issue of difference.
    Sorry, but I disagree.

    The low damage of monsters is something that I've noticed before. I recall that the MM errata boosts the damage output for a bunch of creatures, but I don't remember exactly which ones. But also if you look at the table of monster damage output by level in the DMG, many if not most of the creatures in the MM fall well short of the suggested low end damage for their level. And there's nothing in the DMG or MM to explain this discrepency. In theory an attack that just did damage would be around the high end, damage + minor rider would be around the middle range, and damage + strong rider would be at the low end... or apparently not, but we aren't clued into the details of the monster design process.
    Yes. I agree that damage on some monsters is probably on the low side. But giving them a bonus on crits won't do the trick, THAT is my point. Crits are simply too little a part of a monsters overall damage for such a change to have the desired effect. Now, it's a fun rule, and I have even thought about using it myself for a while (but I am not houseruling until the first campaign is over), but it's not the way to go IF there is an issue with the epic tier.

    Regarding that, I do not see why (mathematically) there should be one, but I am reserving judgement until we (as in my group) have actually played a real campaign in the epic tier.

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