Pathfinder 1E Pathfinder Epic

glass

(he, him)
Hi all,

First up, a bit of history. About a decade ago, I was running the Age of Worms adventure path using Pathfinder. We were approaching the final chapter, which involves adavamcing to 21st level before the final boss fight. By that point, the official ELH was two "editions" out of date (3.0 => 3.5, 3.5 => PF1), and was not great even when it was fully current. So in the process of adapting it to Pathfinder, I basically rewrote it (almost) from scratch - I took a few ideas from the original ELH, but almost none of the specifics. After I had written the stuff that was directly applicable the party, the project rather stalled. The was some talk of a sequel campaign continuing into Epic levels, which might have given me the impetus to finish it, but it never quite got of the ground.

Anyway, fast forward to this year. And I am suddenly running and playing APs that also culminate at 21st level (The Sunless Citadel et al and Savage Tide respectively). So I decided take another look at the document. There was a bunch of stuff I was not entirely happy with at the time, and a bunch of other stuff that I have come to dislike since.

The current version is attached below - it is expanded considerably compared with the original version, but is still nowhere near finished. Despite that, I should warn you it is 52 pages. Although that includes a ToC at the start and a bunch of mostly-empty headings at the end - probably not much point in reading past page 44 at this stage. Of course, even that is a lot to go through in one hit, so I am going post a series of posts talking about each section in bite sized chunks.

I was going to get into more detail about my goals in this post, but it is long enough already, so I will save that for the next one.

EDIT: Attached revised version 0.9.1 0.9.2.

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glass.
 

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glass

(he, him)
I was going to get into more detail about my goals in this post, but it is long enough already, so I will save that for the next one.
So, my goals for the original rewrite, and the recent re-rewrite:
  • Make the numbers going up largely automatic, rather than having to spend discretionary resources on it that could be spent on something more interesting.
  • Gradually over time reduce the reliance on the "big six" (well, except possibly weapon and armour).
  • Reduce the fiddlyness (or at least not increase it too much).
  • Be compatible with/support all the first-party and third-party stuff, as well as my own homebrew stuff (including the stuff I am still working on....).
  • Support (as in provide meaningful options for) any reasonable PF1 character type.
I think it mostly achieves the first four - the last bullet point is still a work in progress. For example, there is nothing much for Epic alchemists, and the support for psionics* is kinda patchy.

In any case, next time I will start looking in detail at Chapter 1 - Introduction to Epic Levels.

EDIT: One other goal: To make all the choices made on the way to 21st level matter, but not too much. When I wrote the original version of this document, the PCs in my Age of Worms campaign were already about 19th level, so there would have been no way for them to take account of what was going to be in it in their builds. Even going forward, where that will not be the case, I would rather players focus on what looks fun and/or will keep them alive at the time rather than having to look too far ahead....

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glass.

* Dreamscarred Press's stuff, which I like a lot as point-based magic system, even though it is not exactly what I think of as psionics. One day I would like to come up with an "actual" psionics system for newer games which is more like that in AD&D 2e, but that project is completely unstarted let alone finished. Difficult to support something that does not exist!
 
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glass

(he, him)
In any case, next time I will start looking in detail at Chapter 1 - Introduction to Epic Levels.
After a boring (text only) cover page and a three-page ToC, we finally get to some actual content. There is a bunch of other stuff that I will get to later, but the two main points of this initial chapter is that numbers go up in a handful of specific ways which mostly just happen, and that the stuff you do choose is almost all about feats (spells and even class level are a things, of course, but they are all chosen via feats).

First the numbers: The various pre-Epic progressions (bab, base saves, etc) all stop at 20 class levels. This is something that the original almost got right, with their EAB and ESB - ever widening gaps between "good" and "bad" progressions is not sustainable. The reason I say "almost" is that although the base progressions stopped diverging, they kept the +1 to a single stat every four levels, and also added stackable feats that could diverge them further.

I wanted to stop the divergence completely, and if anything slightly narrow the gap rather than widening it. Therefore, all an Epic character's ability score go up at the same rate (1 point per two levels, alternating between physical or menal). Furthermore, these bonuses do not stack with belts and headbands, so for the first few levels the characters main stats will not benefit but their less valuable ones will - narrowing the gap.

EDIT: Actually, the document was supposed to talk about the ability scores not stacking with enhancement and inherent bonuses, but does not actually. Oops.

Aside from that, Epic character add a +1 to attack rolls and DCs (and CMD) at every odd level, and a +1 to saves and AC at every even level. They also get +1 to all skills at every level. These last three bonuses are also typed (resistance, deflection, and competance respectively) - this is a little bit about narrowing gaps, but in this case more about reducing reliance on items. Any and all caster levels, manifester levels, and initiator levels get a +1 bonus every level.

All of this adds up to 3/4 of a level to pretty-much everything. I have not written the magic items chapter yet, but the idea is that (where applicable) magic items will fill in the remaining one quarter...and suddenly I am remembering something I meant to include in a later section and forgot. But I will cross that bridge when I get to it....

Of more immediate concern, barring any weirdness (or things I have forgotten), the highest a standard character could get in an ability score at 20th level is 36 (20 starting, +5 for levels, +5 inherent, +6 belt or headband). Since the bonuses I am giving at Epic levels do not stack with 11 points of that bonus, it will take around 20 levels before you can exceed that....which might be a bit long to wait. I am fine with a bit of a flat spot after 20 (to give the lesser abilities time to catch up a bit), but that is excessive.

OTOH, I do not want to speed it up too much. With a bab of +20, and EB of +5, and a +5 weapon, that adds up to +43 to hit at level 30 without an epic weapon. Against ACs between 47 and 50 looking at AoN. I will have to have a think about that!

Anyway, next time Feats!

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glass.
 
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glass

(he, him)
stuff you do choose is almost all about feats (spells and even class level are a things, of course, but they are all chosen via feats).
The feats in question are divided into Epic feats (which come in their own slots), and Legendary feats (which come in normal feat slots). Epic character get an Epic feat every level (three at 21st) and a Legendary feat every three levels. Legendary feats are available to anyone with at least 21 hit dice (including big dragons and the like), whereas Epic feats are specifically for characters with 20 actual class levels (by default).


Some of the original ELH feats ended up as Legendary feats, some ended up as Epic feats (either combined, beefed up significantly, or both). And some disappeared entirely. There was not any hard and fast rule for what ended up as which; except that boring feat taxes went bye-bye.

I am going to jump ahead a bit and quote possibly the first feat I came up with ten years ago, which does not exist in the ELH in any form; Epic Class Training:
Epic Class Training [Epic, Incremental]​
Prerequisites: EB +1.​
Benefits: Choose a class in which you have no more than two fewer than the maximum number of levels, or two classes in which they have no more than one fewer than the maximum number of levels. Your class levels increase as appropriate, and you gain the full class abilities and features (except bab, saves, hit points, and skill ranks) of two levels that class or classes.​
For example, a Ftr 19/Wiz 1, taking this feat at 21st level, could not take two levels of Fighter because that would make the Ftr level 21, but could take one level of Fighter and one of something else, or two of any class other than Fighter (including Wizard, of course). As with normal multiclassing, you may not select levels in unchained class for which you already have the standard version, nor vice versa. Similarly, you may not select levels in the same class you already have but with different archetypes. However, the restriction on taking levels in a class and its alternate (rogue and ninja, cavalier and samurai) are waived at Epic levels.​
Instead of two level in normal classes, you can instead take a single level in a wide class, even if you were not previously gestalt. Similarly, you can take a level in a supplementary class and its co-requisite class. However, the character is not otherwise considered gestalt, so for example does not have restrictions on prestige classes.​
Increment: You may take this feat more than once. Each time you do so the EB prerequisite​
increases by 1.​
Special: In some circumstances you can count levels gains via this feat as part of your​
progression for bab and base saves. See Caps & Level Shuffling on page XX.​

This demonstrates a couple of things. The first is; how chunky Epic feats are. Almost two whole class levels (give or take some numbers) is nothing to sneeze at, and that set the benchmark for other Epic feats to try to live up to. Hopefully they mostly suceeded.

Incremental feats are a category of my own invention. I realised quite quickly that any character interested in taking this feat to progress class levels would probably want to take it as often as possible. Which would potential crowd out the other Epic feat choices if that was every level. OTOH, it obviously needs to be takable more than once. Thus, the Increment - every time you take it, they prerequisites go up for the next time. As an aside, it is impossible to have Epic feat slots and not have an EB of at least +1, so anyone who could take this feat at all could not fail to meet the prereq the first time. But to take it a second time, you would need an EB of +2 (ie 23rd level).

This is partly why it gives two levels: Two class levels per feat and one feat every other character level averages out to one class level per character level.

The fact that this allows my gestalt-focused homebrew to be used by otherwise non-gestalt characters is a nice bonus (since none of that existed when I wrote the original version of this feat, it could not be part of the original intent). Apart from that, the the main change from the original version was the bit about waiving the restriction on alternate classes. If you have twenty levels of Rogue, you have probably suffered enough might think that progressing with levels of Ninja is a good way to go, and who am I to stand in your way? The previous version had a seperate feat to allow that, but see above about boring feat taxes....

Finally, the reference back to the introduction for Caps & Level Shuffling: You only get to count twenty levels of classes for bab, base saves, but they do not have to be the first twenty levels. That way, if you are a Fighter 20/Wizard 20, you will have full bab and good Fortitude and Will saves, regardless of which order in which you take those levels. This was supposed to apply to hit points as well, but I realised that not only did I not actually say that, I failed to say anything at all about gaining hit points at Epic levels (apart from a tangential mention under FCB).

The previous version had no extra hp either, although it did have a (boring, feat-taxy, now gone) feat called Epic Defences that every one of my PCs took which did give extra hp. Maybe that was supposed to be the only way to get hp at Epic levels - or maybe it was not, but I forgot to include my players assumed that was supposed to be the only way. I cannot remember now, and I am sure my players do not either.

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glass.
 
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glass

(he, him)
Apart from the new feat types, the first chapter introduces some other new terminologies, but I will talk about them when we come to them in actual use.

Since a couple of the Epic feats can lead to mixing preparing and spontaneous casting in the same class, there is a bit of guidance on how that works. Basically, you can prepare a spell in any given slot or leave it open. If it is open, it can have a spell prepared in it later as usual, or used to cast a spontaneous spell. Stuff like a Cleric’s CLW, can use either slots with spells prepared in them or without.

Epic characters a bit of extra toughness, because it would be annoying if a character you had been playing for twenty levels went down too easily: Advantage* on saves (and an extra bonus if you already have advantage). A wider margin between the hp totals indicating “fine” and “dead”. “Epic Recoveries”, which look superficially like 4e healing surges, although of course they do not act as a semi-hard limit on total healing like actual HSs do. Mostly they are an aesthetic thing, as characters can easily afford to use a wand or two of CLW after every fight.

Epic level character also live a lot longer before they die of old age (without having to spend a feat on it). This is a ribbon in most campaigns, but it could matter in the longest-running of campaigns.


A note about powerful species (ones with racial HD and/or LA, although PF1 does not officially use the latter) says that by default these do not count towards being Epic by default, but then says the GM might decide they do count if doing otherwise would be make a mess of things (for example, if they had PCs in a campaign with widely disparate number of RHD).

Epic character count as Mythic for the purposes of defending against the attacks of and overcoming the defences of Mythic characters, but do not otherwise get any of the benefits of being Mythic (unless they actually are Mythic as well, of course).

Since they only get actual class levels by being taking a feat (and also because 20 levels of doubled classes is probably enough), gestalt stops at 20th level. Because you get two levels at a time, you can still take stuff like my homebrew Wide classes, but you don’t get as many of them. On the bright side, you are no longer prevented from taking things like Mystic Theurge.

Exemplars is some other homebrew of mine, which is outside the scope of this thread.


Tomorrow, I will start looking at the Epic feats themselves. Lets see how many more mistakes I can spot!

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glass.

* In the 5e sense; roll 2d20 and take the better result. Although I do not call it “advantage” in the document.
 

glass

(he, him)
147 views over night, but no posts other than mine! Maybe it is so perfect that nobody thinks they can add anything? (Maybe not.)

Tomorrow, I will start looking at the Epic feats themselves. Lets see how many more mistakes I can spot!
The Epic feat chapter starts with a couple of paragraphs of introduction, and then an woefully incomplete list of the feats in the chapter with brief summaries - I apparently mostly forgot to update this list, as it still has the deleted Epic Defences feat I mentioned in a previous post, but does not have any of the feats I added this time around.

The first feat both in that list and the actual descriptions is Automatic Metamagic. The second feat in the descriptions (but missing from the list) is Automatic Metapower. Both are based on the Automatic X Spell feats from the ELH, merged together. Your existing metamagic feats (and your EB) determine which feats you can apply: The prerequisites include "one or more of" a big old list of metamagic feats - basically all the one I could think of that were not either super-niche or more-of-the-same (so not Empower or Maximise Spell - Intensified Spell sneaked in there but probably should not have done). Whichever feat (or feats) you used to meet the prerequistes referred to as the "qualifying feat(s)" are what you can apply. This is an approach I used a couple of times in this chapter - Epic Crafter does the same thing with Item Creation feats (as well as speeding up your crafting).

This is an incremental feat, takeable every four levels (to a maximum of three times). Each time you take it it applies to another three levels of spells.

Automatic Metapower is basically the same, adjusting for the differences between spells and powers. I called it "Metapower" rather than "Metapsionic" because I rather like DSP's psionics rules, but do not really think of them as "psionic". I cannot do anything about the psionics terminology already embedded in them, but I do not want to add more.

Next up is Blinding Speed. This is closer than most to the original version in the ELH than most in this chapter, which I guess just goes to show how strong haste is as a spell. Rather than five rounds, it gets you five minutes three or more (2 plus EB) times per day. And it is non-magical (or at least it was intended to be - I apparently did not make that clear in the entry). EDIT: Actually it does say so - right at the top it says that it is all Extraordinary.

The downside is that the haste fatigues you for a while afterwards - the only reason I gave it a downside at all is that you can instead make a single extra long move or charge as one of your uses. And obviously move really fast once < move really fast for five minutes, all other things being equal.

The feat ends with a "Synergy" entry, describing extra benefits for having other feats or features alongside this one. In this case, having the Endurance feat or the Tireless Rage feat reduces the fatigue, and having both eliminates it. Automatic Metamagic and Automatic Metapower also had a Synergy entry, but since they were calls forward to feats later in the chapter they would have taken a bit more explaining....and this post is long enough as it is.

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glass.
 
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glass

(he, him)
If my count is correct, there are 28 Epic feats in Chapter 2, so I am not going to go through all of them in as much detail as those first three. Next up is Cosmic Spellcaster, which currently does not do anything: The Benefits section just says "You can develop and cast cosmic spells, see Chapter 6 – Cosmic Spellcasting", and Chapter 6 mostly does not exist yet. Cosmic Spells are (or will be) a reworked version of Epic spellcasting from the ELH.

Unlike in the ELH, they are not the only way to cast spells at Epic levels. After some deliberation, I added some (slightly more normal) Epic-level spells lists (or at least, started adding them). I also decided that different lists for each class did not really make sense given class advancement stopped, and anyway was too much work. So I divided the spell lists by "tradition": Arcane, Divine, Occult, Primal, Psychic. I know that Psychic in PF1 is officially the same thing as Occult in PF2, but they feel kinda different to me. Anyway, the next feat, Epic Arcane Spellcaster gives access to the first of them. Later on in the chapter there are Epic Divine Spellcaster, Epic Occult Spellcaster, and Epic Primal Spellcaster; there presumably should have been an Epic Psychic Spellcaster but I seem to have missed that.

Since both Cosmic Spellcaster and Epic Arcane Spellcaster have it amongst their prerequisites, I am going to skip ahead to Epic Spellcaster. Like Epic Class Training, this is one of the lynchpins of how my Epic stuff works, so I am going to reproduce it in full:
Epic Spellcaster [Epic, Incremental]

Prerequisites: Maximum level in a spellcasting class (or equivalent spellcasting ability), EB+1, Spellcraft 10 ranks, Knowledge (Arcana, Nature, or Religion) 20 ranks, score of 21 in the key spellcasting ability score(s) for your qualifying class.

Benefits: All of your spell slots of 1st level and above move up 1 level, so your existing 1st levels slots become 2nd level slots, your existing 2nd level slots become 3rd level and so on. Your bonus spells for high ability scores are also moved up. This feat can cause you to possess slots of 11th level and above. No normal spells of those levels exist – instead, they can be used for spells enhanced with metamagic feats, or Cosmic spells if you also have the Cosmic Spellcaster feat.

If you have 0-level spells or slots, they are not moved up in level. However, any unmodified 1st level spell may be treated as 0-level spells, and therefore cast at will (preparing casters will need to prepare them in their 0 level slots, just as if they were normal 0 level spells). 1st level spells modified by metamagic feats are not eligible to use this ability, even if their effective spell level has not been increased.

Synergy: If you have the Heighten Spell metamagic feat, all spells you cast treat the level of the slot used for them as the spell level for DC purposes; you no longer need to specifically modify them with that feat.

Increment: You make take this feat more than once. Each time you do so the EB prerequisite increases by 1, the number of ranks of Spellcraft increases by 2 (to a maximum of 20), the ability score requirement increases by 1, and the levels of all you spell slots increases by 1 further level as described in the first paragraph above. Every third time after the first you take the feat (ie fourth time, seventh time, and so on), the level of spells that you can treat as being 0-level at wills increases by 1.

Special: If you have more than 1 qualifying class for which you can meet the ability score prerequisite, you may take this feat more than once at each increment. Each time you do so it applies to a different class.​

This started life as the ELH's Improved Spell Capacity, but it has changed almost beyond recognition. Given that high-level caster tend not to be that short of slots, and lots of first-level slots were increasingly useless at Epic levels, one of the first things I decided was that rather than adding extra levels of slots on the top, it just moves everything up.

The bit about there being no normal slots of these levels is an error - it was true in the previous version, but after I decided to add the Epic spell lists it should have been removed or altered.

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glass.
 
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glass

(he, him)
A few more comments that I meant to include in the previous post, but I had to go do a thing (and anyway it was long enough):
Unlike in the ELH, they are not the only way to cast spells at Epic levels. After some deliberation, I added some (slightly more normal) Epic-level spells lists (or at least, started adding them).
What the ELH called Epic spells take a very long time and a lot of resources to develop, and as such are only suitable for campaigns that remain at Epic levels for a goodly while. Although I have some aspiration of running a full-length Epic campaign, that may never actually happen. What is much more likely to happen though is campaigns that finish at 21st and 22nd level. And certainly in Age of Worms there was no time to develop what I am now calling Cosmic spells during that final chapter. I wanted something that character could buy into and use right away, and (what I call) Epic spells fit the bill.

Obviously, being a fixed list my Epic spells will not scale up indefintely - at the moment they are mostly 11th level, but the idea is eventually to go to spell level 20 (available at around caster level 39)

This is part of why Cosmic spells are still around (kinda). The other part is of course Tales of Wyre.

Epic Arcane Spellcaster gives access to the first of them. Later on in the chapter there are Epic Divine Spellcaster, Epic Occult Spellcaster, and Epic Primal Spellcaster
Having typed them all out like that, they seem a bit long winded (and also a bit too close to "Epic Spellcaster"). I think I might drop the "Spell" and just have them be "Epic Arcane Caster" etc.

one of the first things I decided was that rather than adding extra levels of slots on the top, it just moves everything up.
One thing that the previous post kinda alluded to but did not spell out - unless I change my mind when I actually write Cosmic spells, they use the same slots as Epic spells (and metamagiced normal spells). Partly because the proliferation of spell slots makes things fiddly, and partly because the ELH method of basing it on skill ranks does not really work with skill ranks capped at 20.

As an aside, Epic Spellcaster needs max levels in a spellcasting class, but it does not really care which spellcasting class. It is perfectly for a Paladin 20 to take it to get 5th level slots. If they take it six more times, they will have 11th level slots and qualify for Epic Divine caster and/or Cosmic Spellcaster (as long as they can meet the skill and ability score prereqs). Of course, by that point they are at least 33rd level and will have used almost half their feats on it so it is quite an investment.

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glass.
 
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glass

(he, him)
Anyway, continuing with this thread: The next feat after Epic Arcane (Spell)Caster is Epic Champion. It is one of three feats targetted at divine characters (other than the spellcasting stuff already talked about). The other two are Epic Divinate and Epic Votary.

Epic Champion is primarily for those divine character to like to hit people with bits of metal. It gives a domain for free, and then gives you benefits in the domains you have (there is a big old table - which I just noticed has a mistake in its caption). It also lets you stack levels in qualifying classes for the purposes of Smite Evil, Sacred Weapon and similar.

Epic Divinate is also domain based, but for more castery types. It also gives a bonus domain, and allows spontaneously casting the spells from your domains. Spells you could already cast spontaneously (cure spells for a good cleric, or anything for an oracle) get an extra boost. Effectively they are empowered, but it stacks with actual empowering.

These are an example of what I was talking about in my edit upthread. Neither of them have domains a prerequisite, so you could have just the domain it gives you but you get a bit more bang for your buck if you already have a couple of domains (although if you do, you probably do not have Smite Evil or Judgement levels to stack. Choices matter, but not too much!

I am not entirely happy with the name Epic Divinate, in that I have tentatively assigned it to a homebrew class I am working on. I probably need to change the name of one of them, but I am struggling to think of anything to change it to ATM. Epic Champion OTOH, already had a name changs (although I now notice it still has its old name in the domain table).

Epic Votary will have to wait for next time....

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glass.
 

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