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Thursday, 20th May, 2010, 09:53 AM #1
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
Epic-Tier, or High-Level Gaming and You
Have you played in an Epic-Tier 4E game or other High-Level experience?
Have you run a game for players of such a god-like level?
What lessons can you pass down to someone prepping to run such a campaign in fall 2010?
(I'm planning on running 4E E1ľ3, but will be modifying as I see fit before the players even begin to generate their characters. We are all experienced gamers, including 4E though not at Epic-Tier.)
What do you like and dislike about high-level play, epic-tier 4E in particular? Has anyone had a good experience with this?The Meloran Gnomes are a fey people that historically lived along the banks of the Melora River and two of its tributariesŚthe Heart and Knife RiversŚapproximately 150 leagues west of Fallcrest in the present-day Nentir Vale. Speakers of Gnomish, an Elvish dialect, the people developed a settled culture in contrast to that of more nomadic gnome tribes in the Great Plains region. They established permanent villages featuring large, round, earthen lodges some 40 feet in diameter, surrounding a central plaza. Primitive industry, agriculture, and trade with the bisonmen were key to their daily life.
Approximately 15,000 strong at their peak, a plague outbreak has reduced their numbers to approximately 125.
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Thursday, 20th May, 2010, 04:27 PM #2
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Ya, it can be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. It can get silly and stupid but can also be rewarding.Have you run a game for players of such a god-like level?
Don't start at that level. I found it seems to always work better for the players and DM if the levels are earned and then the DM has a lot of past adventures and plots to draw on to make the campaign. The books have challenges so that makes that part of the game easier.What lessons can you pass down to someone prepping to run such a campaign in fall 2010?
Thursday, 20th May, 2010, 04:30 PM #3
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
And it's much easier on players when they slowly develop their options over the 20 levels prior and therefore understand their sheet better. It'll be far easier on the group if it doesn't take 20minutes for someone to figure out what action to take and which conditional modifiers apply and all the other jazz that applies.
Thursday, 20th May, 2010, 04:39 PM #4
Scout (Lvl 6)
Our group is about to reach 27th level.
I can tell you:
Well built PCs can be tough to challenge.
A well built group that synergizes well makes it even harder to challenge.
The DM should not go easy on the group - the players have a vast amount of abilities and can generally get around almost anything.
From what I have read in other threads, the E modules may be a little too easy on the players - basically apart from a few encounters the fights aren't all that challenging. I personally can't vouch for this as I have not played/DM'd the modules.
Use terrain to the DM's advantage - it can turn an easy fight into a difficult one.
Some PCs have at least 1 or 2 extremely high skills making it an auto success for that check in skill challenges (which is OK BTW, just be aware that exists).
In my experience, straight up melee fights are not much of a challenge for my group any more - you need to be more creative in designing encounters with enemies at various ranges and altitudes.
Expect a lot of conditions on PCs/monsters.
Having said all that, 4e high level is still the most playable and least preperation intensive of any edition as far as I am concerned so that is a big bonus.
Thursday, 20th May, 2010, 05:05 PM #5
Superhero (Lvl 15)
I was going to write an extensive post, but Markn pretty much covered all the highlights.
PCs can be really effective in Epic. But the game is still playable, and you can always throw harder fights at them if they need a challenge. Especially as epic PCs pick up more and more 'return from death' abilities, don't be afraid to make them use them!
Now, most games do benefit from having 20 levels of experience with the characters before reaching epic. Diving straight into things will probably be rough at first. Use the character builder if you can, or simply try to make sure everyone has their bonuses clearly figured out.
As it is, Epic offers the chance to truly be heroes, to fight amongst the gods themselves and really join the mythology of the game. Embrace that, let the PCs accomplish the impossible, even while putting them through hell (possibly literally)... and you've got the recipe for a damn good game.
Thursday, 20th May, 2010, 06:50 PM #6
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
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Friday, 21st May, 2010, 04:45 AM #7
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I ran 3e from 1st level, using just the PHB, to 25th, with the Bo9S.
It's my experience that players who grow in levels lack the same pure power than a character built for high levels but wind up being far more flexible and ultimately more effective, especially if they level up together.
Friday, 21st May, 2010, 04:33 PM #8
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Actually that's a good point, if you start at level 21 you can easily pick options that really only come into their own at high levels, but would've been very difficult to get to that point with. A lot of broken elements tend to have that, "this build sucks at levels 1-20, but at epic it does 1000 damage/round" type situations.
Monday, 24th May, 2010, 02:16 AM #9
Magsman (Lvl 14)
Instead, I think high-level stories are ideally suited for one-shot games in which players get to be the awesome heroes of legend. The problem is that high level rules are so complicated that they are poorly suited for the type of game for which I'd use them.
I've considered trying to create high level one-shot characters based on the companion rules, but with power powerful abilities. For example, I might use paragon encounter powers for at-wills, use daily epic powers instead of encounter powers and give each PCs a silly-awesome per-adventure power comperable to wish level magic. I'd hope that the characters would even out to the right level of power, but with fewer (yet more powerful) abilities to worry about.
Monday, 24th May, 2010, 07:56 AM #10
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
I haven't run Epic-tier D&D but have run Rolemaster campaigns with PCs in the mid-to-high 20s.
In story terms, my advice would be: don't restrain your players. If they want to conquer kingdoms, or challenge deities, let them. It should be taken for granted that they are among the most capable, impressive and admired (or notorious!) mortals in the land. Prosaic concerns (travel, food, aquiring 50' of rope) should pose no obstacle.
The above advice won't work if you have players who are mostly interested in a power fantasy, rather than in exploring mythic-level play. I don't have any experience with GMing high-level power fantasy, and so can't give any advice.
My own view would also be to avoid too much emphasis on settings like Sigil or (depending how it is presented) the City of Brass, which reproduce all the tropes and pedestrian concerns of Heroic tier play, but with extra numbers and bigger swords to make them a challenge for high level PCs. I think this undermines what is enjoyable about high level play, namely, that the stakes and the backdrop are very different. (Looking at the Planes Above, for example, I'd emphasise the Dominons over the Outer Isles - the latter look too Sigil-y for my taste).
Mechanically, I'd echo what others have said - don't hold back! Unlike Rolemaster, 4e has somewhat robust encounter-building tools, but by all accounts well-build and played Epic-tier PCs are pretty strong. Make them use those abilities.
Some high-level scenarios from my last RM game included:
Flying across the oceans looking for an island containing a portal to the land of the dead. The portal was guarded by a powerful acid-breathing dragon, its offspring, and many trolls, all under water and shielded by illusions. The PCs fought draconic offspring and trolls, and ended up sneaking past the main dragon through its underwater lair and into the portal.
Travelling into the land of the dead and coercing one of the record-keepers of the judgement halls into giving over information about the fate of various mortal souls.
Trapping the Ordainer (a sort of Asmodeus/Demogorgon hybrid), another lesser demon king, and a lesser aspect of Tharizdun inside a dead star which the PCs helped to reignite.
Restoring a dead god to life by having a simulacrum of one of the PCs take the god's place fighting an endless battle in the Void.
I'd also add - I think that it helps the mythic stuff resonaate if the players are actually invested in the values at stake. If the plot is about them fighting a god, give them a reason to fight that god - for example, the god or his/her servants might do something that not just the PCs, but the players, regard as unfair or improper. In my high level RM game, the players were determined to change things - bring the dead god back to life, trap other gods and so on - regardless of the dictates of karma, and their dislike of the lords of karma had been built up over many sessions where they found themselves on the other side of karma's dictates (eg befriending a banished god, preventing a fellow PC who had wrongly escaped from heaven being sent back to face judgement, etc).
I think the 4e myths have plenty of room to do this - the Raven Queen can be a cruel god of fate, for example, and Erathis and Ioun have all sorts of schemes going on which might get a response from your players.
I don't necessarily agree with all of those who say "start from 1st", but I would at least use some initial sessions to build up some of this stuff. I doubt that it will be enough to say to your players "Here is some backstory - now care about it!".