Epic Play? You Actually Got That Far?

alt textEpic play may seem out of reach for the typical D&D campaign that starts out at level 1.  So why don’t we see more D&D 4e epic play and support?  Here’s what I told Dungeon’s Master in their excellent The Future of Dungeons & Dragons – Part 2 article:

Wizards is just now starting to talk about releasing and supporting more epic content.

I think it’s a simple pacing and practicality thing – combats, and by extension, sessions and leveling take so long in 4e, that it takes several months if not *years* for a typical campaign to hit and conclude in epic play.

The default, out-of-box game should not be this slow. Especially not these days with all the entertainment choices and technology we have.

So why don’t we see more epic play and support?  Because we never get there!

Combat Duration

I’ve talked a lot about the time-consuming nature of 4e combat since Leonine Roar started, and the lack of epic play and support is yet another consequence of its overlong 60 minute average duration.  A four-hour session that includes just a couple of non-minion standard or hard encounters often take a long time to resolve.  Now if everyone’s have a good time and the DM’s eyes aren’t rolling to the back of his head from all the interruptions (curse you, out-of-turn action slowdown!), then that’s cool.  But that’s more the exception than the rule. 

Leonine Roar has many articles and ideas on how to save time here, as the balance of flavor and story or crunch is one of my biggest careabouts here.  From cutting back on or cutting out immediate actions to using more minions, you’ll find plenty of advice here with a simple “faster combat” or similar search.  Or maybe a dance?  Actually, searching is more useful, stick with that!

Leveling Pace

You may not think about it, but in real time, it’s taking forever just to reach epic play in a typical D&D game.  Twenty levels at a normal pace of around ~3 sessions per adds up to an inordinate amount of time alone: 60 weeks! 

The simple fix?  There’s two.  Either level faster (double or triple XP, or leveling every X sessions in an XP-free system), or start at epic tier.  That’s right, fire up your collective imaginations and create 21st level characters.  And then just go!  Rule, destroy or save the multiverse!

Single-tier campaigns are a real-life-friendly option in 4e, so go ahead and set up and play some.  Schedule 10-20 weekly games over just 3 to 5 months and everyone wins.  And it may be the only practical chance you get to see and finish an epic campaign, too.

The Digital Age

A slow-advancing game does not make for a great fit in today’s digital “I want it and can have it now” age.  Wizards has a real chance to step up their game with digital tools right now, but given their track record, let’s just say my faith is a bit shaken. 

The fact remains, however: make D&D more digitally friendly and robust, and it can only improve the play experience and grow the hobby.  That’s right, more people playing, more epic tier play, and smoother games. 

Smoother games.  Smoother.  Games.  Epic play is especially complex, rules-wise.  Turns are long because of it.  Digital support simply becomes a bigger help the higher the level of play.

Your Epic Feedback

How often do you play in the epic tier?  What are your biggest challenges in getting to or actually playing in or running epic tier games? 

What do you think of epic play right now?  Is it fun, or does it bog down too much?  What do you do to keep your epic games’ mechanics manageable and pace awesome? 

And what’s your favorite tier of D&D 4e play?  What would it take and what would you change to make epic tier your favorite?

 

2 Responses to “Epic Play? You Actually Got That Far?”

  1. Gargs454 says:

    Good point about the length of the campaign. I agree that leveling the “traditional” way takes a really long time. My current campaign has been going for a little over two years now I believe and the PCs are just about to hit 14th level. Part of this is due to only playing every other week (and missing several sessions to boot) but a lot more has to do simply with the amount of time it takes to get through encounters (both combat and roleplay).

    Personally, as the DM, I’m loving paragon tier right now. I think the PCs really get a chance to take off in terms of character power, and the monsters get a lot more tricks up their sleeves and as a DM I feel as though I have a little more room to work with in terms of powers and abilities to give to the monsters. I haven’t yet played Epic Tier, so I can’t really comment on it in terms of how well I like it other than that I am very much looking forward to taking my campaign there. So, as of right now I would say that paragon tier is my favorite, though to be honest, I had plenty of fun in heroic as well.

    • Kilsek says:

      Welcome to Leonine Roar, Gargs, and thanks for your comment!

      Yes, many players and DMs feel paragon tier is that sweet spot of D&D 4e play: great monster variety and design plus powerful but not quite yet super-heroic characters. DMG2 is an outstanding rescoure in particular as it includes a ton of fleshed out paragon campaign ideas.

      The latest thing I’ve tried to combat the real-time duration of a campaign is even-levels-only leveling. Considering those are typically the levels with more mechanical changes (i.e. attacks, skills, defenses), it’s working well so far. And kills less trees! :)

      Good luck and keep having fun in your campaign! I hope epic tier is also a blast for you once you get there.

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