Epic Play

I've been thinking about Epic D20 play, since it's something I've always wanted to try. In theory.

Part of my "thinking" has included looking through some epic-level play handbooks. The problem that I'm quickly seeing is in the attack stats. You've got to hit bonuses of, like, +77 or +123. The problem here is that the spread is too high: either you're going to be hit every time, or you're going to miss every time. That's lame.

The damages are also really annoying: 12d6+50? Who wants to roll that kind of damage? You're supposed to be playing, not doing math.

I still like the setting. Extraplanar travel and epic-level creatures are both super-cool. But the System breaks down at those level. You've gotta switch System to something more appropriate, once you get there, or the game will devolve quickly. Or so I hypothesize. And the fact that I've only ever heard of one epic-level game, ever (and the stories were always about how broken it was), suggests that most people seem to agree.

And, no, I'm not interested in Scion. ; )


r_b_bergstrom said...

Sarah played in an Epic game for a couple sessions, till the GM flaked out on everyone. I helped her make a bunch of flash cards with the pertinent data for her best attacks, powers and spells. There was a lot going on, but it was manageable. She enjoyed it, but her GM just wasn't up to the task, and he scrapped it for a lower-level campaign a couple weeks later. Point being, the following is based on a lot of reading and analysis, but no actual Epic play on my part...

The hit bonuses and other differences between PCs aren't a severe as you're envisioning them.

Starting at 21st level, you stop getting attack bonuses and save bonuses based on class - instead everybody gets them at the same rate, +1 per 2 levels, if I recall correctly.

So, the differences between classes are at their maximum when the characters hit 20th level, and then they stay at that plateau.

Sure, there's access to bigger magic items to potentially enhance that gap a little, but the GM controls the pace of that. (If memory serves correct) it's perhaps another 5 points difference if the fighter has the best magic item in Epic and the Wizard has nothing new.

As long as the players are within a level or two of each other and you're not rolling treasure up randomly, you'll end up with a decent balance and few situations where one PC clobbers while the other feels ineffective.

I don't think you'll see +77 and +123 in the same party.

What you do get is situations where the fighter has 4 attacks in the round - his first hits unless it's a "1", the last only hits on a "20" . The GM ends up feeling like there's no point to rolling for half his attacks, but the player still wants to do his thing just in case he scores that random critical hit that should-not-have-been.

+77 and +92 in the same party would be possible, though, which is still pretty harsh. Anytime one PC has a 85% chance to hit but the next has only a 15% chance, it's gonna feel pretty lopsided.

I suspect it also takes fairly experienced players to make Epic work. PCs have so many options, feats, and spells that information paralysis could creep in.

What Silence said...

Ha! Interestingly, I hadn't even considered player imbalance. I was thinking of the monster encounters.

It strikes me that the range of monsters that have a workable to-hit range for the party is fairly minimal. As the GM, you would have to do some serious doctoring just to get all the encounters in the right range.

But, more to the point, the numbers themselves are unusable. +77? Really? Really?!? 12d6+55 damage?

r_b_bergstrom said...

+77 would be the primary attack roll of a fighter somewhere between level 40 and 45. Since Epic play starts at 21, and things are balanced to level up a character once every 3-4 sessions, you're looking at a very small portion of Epic games (so a small portion of a small portion of D&D games) that would ever get to level 40.

More representative of actual Epic play would be +30 to +40 on attack rolls. +35 and +50 could both end up in a party.

r_b_bergstrom said...

As to the 12d6+55 damage, I've got no counter-argument. Yes, I think that's a horrible number of dice to roll.

But you'll notice the +55? That's what's different between Epic and non-Epic D&D. There's spells 12th-level characters can cast that do 12d6 damage. Adding +55 to that is no big burden to that math.

Epic play adds less complication-per-level than non-epic play does. If you can handle level 23, you can probably handle level 73. The same can't be said for the variances in complication between level 3 and 13.

r_b_bergstrom said...

Of course, very few people (or campaigns) can handle level 23.

r_b_bergstrom said...

I've often wanted to try it, but have always shied away.

It's probably way too complicated for my health - my GMing style would result in all sorts of crazy legwork and careful pinpoint balancing. I'd work myself into the ground.

Far better for me to stick to less tactical (and less fiddly) systems.