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Absolutes: Part 4

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I had an email a few days ago from a DM asking for some advice on how to speed up combat in their epic game. My response got me thinking that I probably should have an advice column here on the website. Something that people can read without having to sift through potentially hundreds of posts on the forums. I'll make this something of a catch all for epic gaming advice, so if you have any suggestions or questions for the column, either email me or reach me on the forums.

List of questions answered so far:

  1. How can I speed up Epic Combat?
  2. How can I speed up Epic Character Creation?
  3. My game doesn't seem Epic enough, how can I make Epic mean EPIC?
  4. What can I do to change Magic Item Pricing?
  5. Epic Attack Bonus doesn't make sense, should I revert to Base Attack Bonus?

Question #1: How can I speed up Epic Combat?

While tales of epic heroes or gods battling for hours or weeks on end may seem appropriate, it doesn't make for a great roleplaying experience. Ideally you want most combats resolved in four or five rounds. So on top of simplifying combat as much as possible, you want to roughly parallel hit point growth with damage dealing.

Have a Single Attack Bonus for Iterative Attacks: Change to a single attack penalty/bonus (depending on your point of view) when using multiple attacks rather than a staggered attack penalty. Normally a 20th-level Fighter will have a base attack bonus of +20/+15/+10/+5, instead I suggest lowering the BAB on all attacks by 5 for every additional attack after the first.

e.g. A 20th-level Fighter making four attacks that round would have a base attack bonus of +5 for each of the four attacks.

Remove the Need for a Confirm Critical Roll: If someone rolls a critical hit, just let it stand. This probably means your PCs could have a slightly tougher time from really weak enemies (since every hit on a '20' will be a crit), but who are we kidding, they probably all have immunity to crits already.

Use Improved Critical and Improved Critical Multiplier feat chains (from Ascension): When your fighter types are scoring critical hits on a 15-20/x4 with a longsword, or 18-20/x10 with a scythe then battles will be resolved much quicker.

Employ Virtual Size Category Rules (from Epic Bestiary: Volume One): Basically, for every 15 points of strength above the average (Medium Average = 10) increase the base damage by x1.5, x2, x3, x4, x6, x8, x12, x16 etc.

e.g. So 25 Str (medium) would increase 1d6 to 1d8 (x1.5), 40 str would increase 1d6 to 2d6 (x2), 55 str would increase 1d6 to 3d6 (x3) etc.

Question #2: How can I speed up Epic Character Creation?

Using the official rules, epic character creation can take up too much time.

  • Limit Characters to four epic items/artifacts. See the answer to Question #4.
  • Trade feats upward (6 feats = 1 divine ability or 1 feat package).
  • Use Automatic Metamagic Capacity to determine magic spells instead of the Improved Spellcasting feat (from the Epic Level Handbook).

Question #3: How can I make Epic mean EPIC?

One of the problems with the current epic rules is that they are merely continue on from where they left off rather than offering anything new and exciting. To counter this I suggest the following:

Use Metamartial Maneouvres (from Ascension): Metamartial combat requires no feats, you simply tell the DM what you want to do, the DM tells you the Attack Penalty (listed on the table) and you roll the dice to see if you hit (and then roll the opponent's save, if applicable). Options include stunning an opponent, tripping, knocking them out, pushing them backwards, blinding them, killing them, throwing them, making multiple attacks, making melee attacks against foes out of range, having melee attacks cover an area of effect and many others.

e.g. Player: "In one fluid motion I want to snap my opponent's spine then throw his ragdoll body at the archer 40 feet up on the castle wall, knocking him backwards off the parapet".

DM: "Okay, thats a total of two attacks (-5): a death attack (-30) on the first foe, a mighty blow (-15) on the second; to knock them backwards. Thats a -50 BAB penalty on both rolls and you'll need a 40 strength to throw the first opponent that far".

Make Metamagic Double-Double=Quadruple: Instead of the paltry double-double=triple rule used in the official rules. Try double-double=quadruple instead. This way, spellcasters will be able to do some seriously epic things like teleport a city, place an entire continent under temporal stasis, create a sun, summon a black hole, cause an entire race to become extinct, explode planets, evaporate the oceans, travel back in time, shrink a country and basically anything you can think of. See also Automatic Metamagic Capacity.

Give Immortality a Try (see Ascension): Immortality is much more than flashy powers (although there are plenty of those), it also opens up new avenues of roleplaying as immortals try and expand their influence over mortals through proxies and clerics. Giving them responsibilities and problems they cannot simply solve through brute force.

Question #4: What can I do to change Magic Item Pricing?

Ignore epic magic item prices altogether: Instead, allow PCs four (maximum) signature epic items/artifacts. These will grow in power as the PC grows in power. To determine the current power of each artifact use the following formula:

ECL ÷ 2 = Total enhancement bonuses for epic items which are: bonus squared x 10,000 GP value (such as armor, belt’s of strength, bracers of armor, cloaks of resistance, shields etc.)

e.g. The demon prince Baphomet (39 HD) with full equipment would be ECL 69. So his bracers of armor are going to be 69 ÷ 2 = 34 (round fractions down) total enhancement bonuses. In this case simply bracers of epic armor +34.

ECL ÷ 2.8 = Total enhancement bonuses for epic items which are: bonus squared x 20,000 GP value (such as amulets of natural armor, rings of protection, weapons etc.)

e.g. The greater god Odin (118 Class Levels) with full equipment would be ECL 198. So his greatspear Gungnir is going to be 198 ÷ 2.8 = 70 (round fractions down) total enhancement bonuses. Typically half this figure is enhancement bonus and the other half is made up of weapon special abilities. So Gungnir could be a +35 holy power (8), unerring (25) greatspear of distance (1) and returning (1).

For items that are not necessarily measured in terms of bonuses (such as an Amulet of the Planes or a Rod of Rulership) simply determine the GP value of the item by working out the cost of one of the above item types.

e.g. A +23 weapon would cost 10,580,000 GP (23 x 23 x 20,000).

Question #5: Should I revert to Base Attack Bonus Progression?

Epic Attack Bonus (EAB) doesn't make a lot of sense, especially considering for some reason it doesn't apply to monsters. Reverting to Base Attack Bonus (BAB) should work fine, however, I would draw your attention to what to do with Iterative attacks (answered in question #1).

Also it may seem that using BAB, Fighter types will quickly be able to hit anything on a 2 or better. But remember to apply the new rules for iterative attacks and integrate Metamartial Maneouvres. That way Fighters won't be content to use 'vanilla' attacks and will probably try and add some metamartial flavour.

Unless stated otherwise, all content © 2001-2007 Craig Cochrane. All rights reserved.