D&D 4th Edition Epic 4e play: the system makes it too easy for PCs to hit, instead of too hard.




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  1. #1

    Epic 4e play: the system makes it too easy for PCs to hit, instead of too hard.

    Hello fellow gamers!

    I’ve recently made the jump to Epic levels (the campaign started at 6th level), and I am very glad that I have not allowed either Weapon or Implement expertise to be taken by my group’s characters. I posit that these feats are, in fact, not necessary in the game. In practice, the math works more to the advantage of the PCs than is at first glance readily apparent.

    I have the experience my 21st level group often hit equal level opponents on a natural 4 on a d20. Allowing the expertise feats, this would mean hitting equal level opponents on a 2. The stats of the characters that can do this and some additional explanation on why this happens so often is in the comment below. The summary: the characters are quite close to being optimized, though I would not call them all fully optimized.

    A 21st level creature has 35 AC (for instance Elder Deathmask Dragon, or Dark Naga, or even Drizz’t ). AC is slightly higher at 37 for soldiers, and lower at 33 for brutes. Hence, a +25 to hit would hit the designers’ goal of allowing the PCs to hit on a 10.

    My group’s hybrid fighter/warlord has +25 to hit. This is with an 18 STR, every ability point increase in STR, and a race with a +2 STR (Dragonborn), and using a +4 longsword.

    My group’s human paladin has +27 to hit. He had a 16 Base strength, raised by 2 because he’s human, every ability point increase in STR, Demigod for +2 STR, and a +5 fullblade. Once per encounter, he gets Certain Justice from his paragon path at +4 to hit, and of course he has Action Surge.

    The rogue in our party is probably the most optimized. A 26 DEX Halfling, with rogue weapon talent, and the daggermaster paragon path. He has a +26 to hit normally (with a +4 dagger), but with back against the wall, and 90% of the time a way to get combat advantage that round (with Nimble Blade feat to give him +3 instead of +2), it is often +30. Sometimes he also manages to attack non-AC defenses. As a deadly trickster (Epic Destiny), he also has three rerolls per day, which of course is also a big increase in the chance to hit.

    The elven cleric is no worse off with a maxed wisdom, Chosen of Corellon as his Epic Destiny, and a +5 holy symbol. He has a +24 to hit, but of course attacks non AC defenses which (I have just checked in the adventure tools) are usually around 32 (though admittedly sometimes get to be as high as 37). The elven accuracy reroll also helps him hit.

    However, the drop that fills the bucket is all the buffs, debuffs, flanking, etc. On average, a PC will either have an additional 2 or 3 point advantage (either an enemy debuff or a party buff, or combat advantage from flanking or other inflicted conditions). Sometimes these stack and the shift goes up to 6 points, basically, a +2 power bonus to hit from a daily power, a -2 to defenses from an at will power on the creature, and combat advantage (which for the rogue is actually a 7 point shift instead of a 6 point shift).
    To me, having equal level opponents be hit on a 2 is undesirable. In fact, even n+2 encounters are complete cakewalks for our group nowadays (which might be worth a thread in itself). If your party is anything resembling optimized (ie. all PCs started with an 18 or 20 after racial modifiers, and raised their main attack ability every chance they had), I strongly recommend you do not allow the expertise feats.

    What I would like to hear though, is whether some DMs really needed their PCs to have these feats? Or, from those people that allowed them, have they noticed that your PCs now hit perhaps a bit too easily?
    Last edited by Ravellion; Sunday, 3rd January, 2010 at 05:09 PM. Reason: I was fidgeting with the quote, sorry.
    "The best advice I ever got was from an elephant trainer in the jungle outside Bangalore. I was doing a hike through the jungle as a tourist. I saw these large elephants tethered to a small stake. I asked him, 'How can you keep such a large elephant tied to such a small stake?' He said, 'When the elephants are small, they try to pull out the stake, and they fail. When they grow large, they never try to pull out the stake again.' That parable reminds me that we have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past." -Vivek Paul

 

  • #2
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    Magsman (Lvl 14)

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    While it doesn't really take away from your point, I get a +26 to hit for your paladin, unless there is another bonus.

    21st level = +10 to hit.
    16 str +2 for race +2 for demigod +6 for levels to 21st = 26 strength = +8
    +5 fullblade = +8.


    However, your monster numbers are right on the money, 35 AC is also the number I get.

    Could you tell us what kind of powers that are giving you the +2-6 shift in your numbers, many people have often wagered that powers are the missing link to make up for the math deficiency so it would be good to see.
    Last edited by Stalker0; Sunday, 3rd January, 2010 at 05:20 PM.
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  • #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Ravellion View Post
    To me, having equal level opponents be hit on a 2 is undesirable.
    My experience of Epic tier play was that fights feaured less combatants and therefore those combatants were of higher level.

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    Having just spent the last two sessions playing a high level game of missing more than half the time... I envy your party. Not only do they have two leaders, but apparently those leaders actually hit with attacks that lower defenses / give bonuses. Our poor cleric wants to cry often as not.

    We usually need between 7 and 12s to hit. With expertise. There was one combat I needed a 6 to hit (with combat advantage), though... didn't stop me from missing 7 times (4 3s, 3 4s... sigh).

    I will say that it is by design that a rogue hits, much like an avenger. Especially one that starts with a 20 Dex and uses daggers. Can't get easier to hit than that.

  • #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Snoweel View Post
    My experience of Epic tier play was that fights feaured less combatants and therefore those combatants were of higher level.
    Interesting. So you are talking 1 to 3 opponents? I have done this, but found it too dissatisfying due to powers like Sleep, Dismissal and Certain Justice, among others, that either lockdown or greatly reduce the effectiveness of an opponent. With 5 opponents, that's 20% of the encounter summarily defeated. With 3 opponents it is 33% (or when it is one solo and two standards, it can be 70% *shudder*). More of these kind of powers are on the way for my PCs, from what they have shown me, which worries me, because it often makes possibly interesting fights boring.

    I do agree that I basically always make encounters be n+3 nowadays (edit: and the PCs still hit very easily). That does go against the DMG stated encounter design recommendations though (good thing that they are only recommendations ), so what does that mean for the statement "the math works in this edition" or the community counter reaction in the first few months after launch "no it doesn't! PCs are at a disadvantage"?
    "The best advice I ever got was from an elephant trainer in the jungle outside Bangalore. I was doing a hike through the jungle as a tourist. I saw these large elephants tethered to a small stake. I asked him, 'How can you keep such a large elephant tied to such a small stake?' He said, 'When the elephants are small, they try to pull out the stake, and they fail. When they grow large, they never try to pull out the stake again.' That parable reminds me that we have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past." -Vivek Paul

  • #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Stalker0 View Post
    Could you tell us what kind of powers that are giving you the +2-6 shift in your numbers, many people have often wagered that powers are the missing link to make up for the math deficiency so it would be good to see.
    Ok, I'll focus on increasing the chances for the party to hit only.

    The cleric has these. Most of them are low level.
    Spiritual weapon gives combat advantage for the entire party against one target.
    Bless gives a +1 power bonus to hit.
    Hymn of resurgence gives the hit enemies in the blast -2 to defenses. Additionally any enemy hit before the end of the cleric's next turn will be knocked prone (this works great with the easily hitting rogue), allowing the power to indirectly grant combat advantage on top of that
    Hallowed ground give a +2 power bonus to hit and defenses when in the zone.

    The paladin only has the following (he mostly increases the party's defenses and damage, or reduces teh monster's to hit):
    Bless weapon for a +1 power bonus to hit

    The rogue (Bard hybrid):
    Slayer's song will make every opponent hit by the Rogue/Bard give away CA for one turn. The song lasts the entire encounter.
    Rhyme of the blood seeking blade will reduce an enemy's defenses by 4 as an imediate interrupt on a missed attack of an ally.
    Knockout. One enemy knocked ubconsious.
    Stunning strike. Stuns for one turn.
    hide in plain sight. Rogue remains hidden and hence constant CA.
    No escape. Knocks the enemy prone.

    The warlord/fighter has...
    furious smash (which he hardly uses) to give +4 to hit (CHA bonus) for the next one attack against the enemy he hit.
    Villain's menace. Potentially a +2 power bonus to hit and +4 to damage against one opponent for an entire encounter.
    Settling the score. +2 power bonus to hit against one opponent for an entire encounter.
    "The best advice I ever got was from an elephant trainer in the jungle outside Bangalore. I was doing a hike through the jungle as a tourist. I saw these large elephants tethered to a small stake. I asked him, 'How can you keep such a large elephant tied to such a small stake?' He said, 'When the elephants are small, they try to pull out the stake, and they fail. When they grow large, they never try to pull out the stake again.' That parable reminds me that we have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past." -Vivek Paul

  • #7
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    Other than combat advantage (which I think a lot of people just assume anyways), you're not actually giving out a ton of buffs.

    If you're doing N+3 level fights, your ACs should mostly cluster between about 36 to 40, so your paladin should need between a 10 to 14 to hit base. +2 for CA makes that 8 to 12. Even with an extra -2 to defenses consistent that's still 6 to 10. That's still notable, and that's even with taking an epic destiny to catch up +1 to hit.

    The rogue will pretty much just be hitting of course. If you look at 1st level he was doing it then too, though - +9 to hit, +12 with CA, going against Reflex with Piercing Strike looking for... 13s and 14s.

  • #8
    Quote Originally Posted by keterys View Post
    Other than combat advantage (which I think a lot of people just assume anyways), you're not actually giving out a ton of buffs.

    If you're doing N+3 level fights, your ACs should mostly cluster between about 36 to 40, so your paladin should need between a 10 to 14 to hit base. +2 for CA makes that 8 to 12. Even with an extra -2 to defenses consistent that's still 6 to 10. That's still notable, and that's even with taking an epic destiny to catch up +1 to hit.

    The rogue will pretty much just be hitting of course. If you look at 1st level he was doing it then too, though - +9 to hit, +12 with CA, going against Reflex with Piercing Strike looking for... 13s and 14s.
    Well, there's situational to hit modifiers (Elven accuracy with Elven precision, action surge) and some powers having a fixed to hit bonus right in the power (Certain Justice), and a power or two that target non AC defenses fo the martial characters. All these little things add up. I also forgot to look at paragon path powers, so there might be one or two buffs or debuffs in there too. Edit: I forgot Astral Seal, which the cleric uses with reckless abandon.

    What I do know, is that giving the expertise feats to my players would make the combats even easier. They do not even break a sweat now! And the ranges you just posted for N+3 fights are totally acceptable for N+0 fights, IMO, so that really made me wonder why the feats in question were designed in the first place.
    Last edited by Ravellion; Sunday, 3rd January, 2010 at 06:33 PM.
    "The best advice I ever got was from an elephant trainer in the jungle outside Bangalore. I was doing a hike through the jungle as a tourist. I saw these large elephants tethered to a small stake. I asked him, 'How can you keep such a large elephant tied to such a small stake?' He said, 'When the elephants are small, they try to pull out the stake, and they fail. When they grow large, they never try to pull out the stake again.' That parable reminds me that we have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past." -Vivek Paul

  • #9
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    Astral Seal would definitely make a big difference, too, yes. That's one of the most effective at-wills for aiding party attacks.

    There are quite a number of things wrong with the math, that become more obvious as you get higher level. They're generally less glaring than a lot of problems that afflict various game systems so it's harder to see them and consciously account for them. I mean, the human mind is not prepared to comprehend a +/- 1 modifier over the course of play. It was a lot easier to notice when, say, in the first round half the party died from full hp.

    One problem is that monsters don't deal enough damage and succumb too easily to certain tactics, while generally getting tougher than there's any need to be. This leads to PCs having an easier and easier time as they get higher in level.

    The PC FRWs also get out of sync with monster attacks, such that monsters can trivially hit the PCs with non-AC attacks, unless things like penalties to attack and such come in.

    The PC attack bonuses do actually trend slightly downwards, but only slightly mind. Remember that we're only talking a difference of +2 to attack - you might not even notice the difference in your own game. Even Astral Seal on its own almost effectively gives Expertise to the entire group.

    Players are also drawn to ways to get other bonuses - Demigod epic destiny being one of the more popular methods for another +1. Some groups will see problems. Others won't. In some groups it also depends on the length of the combat and type of creatures fought. If you're a level 24 party fighting a lvl 27 Sorrowsworn Dread Wraith, you're looking for party level +19 AC to hit it in melee effectively and party level + 17 for reflex range attacks. A 24th level cleric might have +24 base vs Reflex with a radiant ranged attack (+12 level, +7 stat, +5 enh), but that means he needs a 17 to hit it and turn off its regeneration. Even with -4 to defenses and CA, that just gets it down to an 11 for a 50/50 split. If you added in expertise, that'd make it a 9, which is still a 40% chance of missing. And if any of those things don't happen - CA, either of the two defense reducing powers, etc... then you're back up in double digits. Your paladin from earlier in a similar situation would be only +2 better than the cleric at hitting, so still looking for 15 default, 7 with the best of possible buffs.

    Look at low level characters for a bit - they're not actually intended to miss that often. That trend repeated at epic is hardly momentous. Your cleric at 1st level with astral seal needs a 7 to hit. The paladin needs a 6. That drops to a 5 and a 4 if the cleric's already hit with astral seal.

    Seeing those results duplicated at epic is, well, expected. What's not expected is how much survivability increases with level, rather than decreases.

  • #10
    Quote Originally Posted by keterys View Post
    Seeing those results duplicated at epic is, well, expected. What's not expected is how much survivability increases with level, rather than decreases.
    Hmmmm... fair enough. That makes a lot of sense really. Doesn't mean I have to like it, but it makes a lot of sense .
    "The best advice I ever got was from an elephant trainer in the jungle outside Bangalore. I was doing a hike through the jungle as a tourist. I saw these large elephants tethered to a small stake. I asked him, 'How can you keep such a large elephant tied to such a small stake?' He said, 'When the elephants are small, they try to pull out the stake, and they fail. When they grow large, they never try to pull out the stake again.' That parable reminds me that we have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past." -Vivek Paul

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