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View Full Version : Why does the world need to explode at Epic levels?



DeAnno
2011-08-15, 01:20 AM
When characters go Epic, it almost seem like the rules they've been playing by for the past 20 levels go out the window. BaB and saves stop scaling normally, classes stop getting spells per day for gaining levels, gear has a weird capping mechanic where above a certain bonus everything is 10x more expensive, and Epic Spellcasting comes out of nowhere and installs itself as an even more abusable system than normal spellcasting.

I've been having some thoughts about trying to normalize some of this madness to make Epic levels less radically different from the rest of the game. Characters, especially optimized ones, would still become extremely powerful, but that power would be at least growing in the same broken geometry we already understood from 1-20, instead of an entirely different and new broken geometry. I was thinking of trying to use or revise some rules similar to this (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=37410) and combine them with spell charts like the following for casters:

High Level Wizard Spellcasting Slots
{table=head]Level|8th|9th|10th|11th|12th|13th|14th|15th

19th|3|2|1|-|-|-|-|-

20th|3|3|2|-|-|-|-|-

21st|4|3|2|1|-|-|-|-

22nd|4|3|3|2|-|-|-|-

23rd|4|4|3|2|1|-|-|-

24th|4|4|3|3|2|-|-|-

25th|4|4|4|3|2|1|-|-

26th|4|4|4|3|3|2|-|-

27th|4|4|4|4|3|2|1|-

28th|4|4|4|4|3|3|2|-

29th|4|4|4|4|4|3|2|1

30th|4|4|4|4|4|3|3|2[/table]

The idea would be to try to stick to the same established patterns the game already has (BaB, Saves, Casting) whenever possible, and where there is an utter dearth of content (example: things to fill high level spell slots) try to improvise in the fashion of the Epic Metamagic thread.

This would probably be a relatively big project, augmenting a lot of the ELH content that exists and trying to standardize some sort of epic content for ToB, Incarnum, and other popular mechanics not covered at all in the ELH.

Is there any interest in it?

Ziegander
2011-08-15, 01:54 AM
I have to say, in some messed up, half-crazed way, I'm interested. A community-driven rebuilt Epic Level Handbook? Count me in.

eftexar
2011-08-15, 02:01 AM
Well it does sound interesting, but it seems like it would grant tons of epic spells. If you want to fix epic spell progression without all that work though try this:
All spell DC change to a DC of 10 + 1/2 caster level + relevant modifier.
Caps on spells may be exceeded once your caster level reaches level 21, but spells progress at half the normal rate beyond their caps.
Epic spells are not available.

Edit- Or were you considering completely rewriting the epic handbook? even so, i would still suggest the change to DC and to spell caps.

DeAnno
2011-08-15, 02:28 AM
Well it does sound interesting, but it seems like it would grant tons of epic spells. If you want to fix epic spell progression without all that work though try this:
All spell DC change to a DC of 10 + 1/2 caster level + relevant modifier.
Caps on spells may be exceeded once your caster level reaches level 21, but spells progress at half the normal rate beyond their caps.
Epic spells are not available.

Edit- Or were you considering completely rewriting the epic handbook? even so, i would still suggest the change to DC and to spell caps.

For clarity, I'd definitely be completely trashing anything that was part of the "Epic Spellcasting" Spellcraft DC system. As for Save DCs, that is a problem with using only metamagic effects to fill high level slots, but save DCs are pretty messed up by level 20 in any case so that might be tricky to handle.

Is your idea to rebase all save DCs in 3.5e on half caster level? Honestly I like the idea of having a set saving throw DC for all your spells a lot, and from my experience in high level play moderately optimized Saving Throws typically totally outstrip all but the most outrageous save DCs, so a significant boost to the already awful DCs of low level spells shouldn't be game breaking. It might sorta go beyond the scope of the project though.

EDIT: CL boost cheese actually might cause problems with this, but it already causes problems with Blasphemy so it isn't like that can of worms isn't crawling about already.

Maraxus1
2011-08-15, 04:23 AM
I can speak for the BAB and save progression:

The die system of D&D works in that way, that the difference of two values matters, not the ratio.

Thus, in order to never hit (except nat. 20) an AC 80 creature, you only need an attack 60 creature. If you keep on going on like in the first 20 levels, then you easily get to the point, that: Good attack = Full level; Bad attack = Half level:
And the AC 80 creature gets always hit by the good attack of 80 and never by the bad attack of 40. ... But sadly also never by the average attack of 60, unlike it's supposed to be.
This is why, from the point of Level 20 on, when the good attack of +40 hits the AC 40 always, the average attack of +30 hits it half the time and the bad attack of +20 misses unless it gets circumstantial bonuses, from that point on attack and AC are supposed to move up at the same speed, so that the 100% - 50% - 0% constellation is kept.

The system as it is has not managed that perfectly. For multiclassed characters with different BABs, the question in which order they took the levels suddenly becomes even far more important then before (even including the 1st level quad-skills and full HPs thing). But a good system to replace it should consider this.

Oh and Epic spellcasting really sound ugly.

Ashtagon
2011-08-15, 04:35 AM
Higher level caster spell slots should exist for the purpose of allowing metamagicked high level spells only.

As others have noted, the BAB gulf doesn't need to reach any wider.

The issue of which order a character takes their class levels (1st level for skills, then the first 20 for epic limit caps) should be fixed so that order is no longer relevant. rogue 1 / fighter 19 / wizard 20 should be the identical twin of wizard 20 / fighter 19 / rogue 1. This "levelling order" issue needs to fix BAB, saves, and skill points.

DeAnno
2011-08-15, 04:36 AM
Its true that the difference and not the ratio is what matters, but in the first 20 levels its the ratio and not the difference that happens. A Sorcerer and a Fighter start out only 1 (or 5%) apart in terms of attack rolls, but by level 20 they're 10 (50%) apart. I'm not saying that scaling in 3.5e... works, for lack of a better term, but various factors tend to mitigate this as the levels go on, and preserve sanity.

For example, the Sorcerer is often making attacks vs Touch AC, and that probably scales more than twice as slowly as AC. Of course, the Fighter also might have various to hit bonuses he found under the couch cushions, making him win in the end, or maybe the Rogue has really hard time keeping up and has to make hard decisions, but at the end of the day the cobbled together idea of BaB at least is consistent, if not particularly fair or well designed. Classes deal with the weird and wacky effects of scaling BaB and saves for 20 levels of their careers, there is no reason they should suddenly stop dealing with them at 21.

Also, Full BaB and Save progressions are typically extremely overvalued by classes (look at what the Ranger pays to get his full BaB compared to the Druid's 3/4; heck, look at what the Monk has to deal with to get its perfect saves), and taking away that relatively slow scaling advantage (compared to all the other stuff that's happening as you level) seems really unnecessary.

Tenno Seremel
2011-08-15, 04:57 AM
Saves themselves suddenly became good for everyone at epic levels currently, which in turn means that anyone who relies on spells that allow a save is going to be hurt. Even if you use DC of 10 + 1/2 caster level + primary ability modifier save DCs will improve about +1 every 8 levels from stat (aside from initial boost) All characters will gain +4 to all saves by that time.

Noctis Vigil
2011-08-15, 05:19 AM
I see things I like and things I question here. Let's start with the like category:

I really like the idea of BAB and save progression continuing as normal for your class at epic levels. As was said, your character picked his "job" and lived with the consequences for 20 levels, and there's no reason this should stop because he gained a 21st level. It would certainly make RPing more interesting (and making GMing challenges to the party easier at higher levels).

As far as the things I question:

While epic spells indefinitely need work, I'm not sure scaling them is the way to do it, although I do like the idea of continuing to gain spells as you level. It always confused me that suddenly you just stopped getting spells out of the blue. However, I think magic as a whole would need a retooling if you went that route, including a whole new homebrewed epic level spell compendium for anything past 9th level. You'd need to scale the spell's power as you gained levels, as well, an interesting task since most the epic spells in the epic handbook are terrible guidelines to go by.

All in all, there's good stuff here, and I'm more than willing to add my two cents again if you'd like more help with this.

Ophiel
2011-08-15, 07:21 AM
Epic spellcasting system was already remade by dicefreaks. It was posted by Dante & Vergil here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=136711).

137ben
2011-08-15, 09:54 AM
There's a reason progression slows down at epic levels. Some of this is explained in sidebars in the ELH, some of it is not. If saves continued increasing at the same rate, eventually a "good" save would mean you only failed on a natural 1, and a bad save would mean you only save on a natural 20. BAB continuing to increase would mean fighters eventually get 20+ attacks per round, only a few of which actually have a chance to hit. If anything, the slowed progression at epic levels PREVENTS the world from exploding.

Tenno Seremel
2011-08-15, 11:19 AM
If saves continued increasing at the same rate, eventually a "good" save would mean you only failed on a natural 1, and a bad save would mean you only save on a natural 20.

Which in turn means that eventually you will fail only on a natural 1 because all saves are now good.

137ben
2011-08-15, 11:31 AM
Which in turn means that eventually you will fail only on a natural 1 because all saves are now good.

No, save DCs increase at LEAST at the rate of 1/2 monster HD, so the DCs will increase faster than the "bad" saving throws, which only increase at the rate of level/3.

DeAnno
2011-08-15, 02:22 PM
This is an unreasonable fear, as it doesn't happen if everything continues to scale normally. Save DCs do scale at 1/2 level for Supernatural abilities, but bad saves don't just scale at 1/3 level. They also scale due to resistance bonuses to saving throws.

Wealth in Epic levels, according to the MiC, seems (at very rough inspection) to be scaling quadratically, just like the prices of Resistance gear, which is bonus^2*1000. If we assume the fairly ridiculous 10x price expansion is lifted, and that an NPC character is spending 1/5 of his wealth on his resistance item, then we go from SQRT(76) ~= +7 at level 20 to SQRT(114) =~ +11 at level 30. This is 4 Resistance bonus per 10 levels!

This means over the course of 10 levels, just from a bad save and resistance bonuses, a save will grow by about +7, which is more than the +5 that save DCs naturally scale. If anything, my main worry is that following the patterns set out by the game make save DCs get overwhelmed eventually, as they have few things designed to boost them.

As for the Dicefreaks Epic Spellcasting system, maybe its great, I don't really know enough about Epic Spellcasting to tell the difference from standard ELH. But it isn't the same 3.5e that we've been playing for the last 20 levels, it's riddled with all these mysterious Spellcraft DCs just like the ELH one.

The lack of content for 10th level and up slots is distressing, and I think this will probably also tie into our problems with save DCs. Advanced metamagic was one partial solution for it that I liked, but probably would need to be severely reworked from that post to be reasonable when people are getting that many slots. Homebrewing 10th level and up spells from the ground is tempting, because it would follow in the same established patterns the game already had. However, it requires an infinite amount of unique content to be complete, and a very large amount of unique content to be even a decent patch for 10 levels. Also, it would obviously be totally difficult to balance properly, since there are no hard and fast guidelines for what a spell of level X does.

Another idea I had is that you might gain a 9th level slot and a 1st level slot (or a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th) instead of a 10th level slot, but this would still be a big departure from the first 20 levels as well.

EDIT: Used NPC wealth chart by accident, but this brings up the point that WBL scaling is about the wonkyest thing ever, and probably needs to be addressed somehow. I think the scaling should probably be made quadratic and normalized to WBL at 20, which is 760k, so that way all the bonus items depending on a square would have their bonuses scale linearly with level. Slowing this down could help us address some of the save DC issues in a fairly non intrusive way (making bad saves scale equally with save DCs).

Tenno Seremel
2011-08-15, 02:36 PM
No, save DCs increase at LEAST at the rate of 1/2 monster HD, so the DCs will increase faster than the "bad" saving throws, which only increase at the rate of level/3.

If you only fight monsters, that is. Foes with class levels does not seem to have such a blessing.

EDIT: Oh, well, with +1/2 HD option they do, right.

DeAnno
2011-08-15, 03:09 PM
I did out some math involving Save DCs, WBL, and Saving Throws

Lets assume we live in a world with no Epic Caps on Gear, everything scaling normally, and Resistance items have their price changed to 2000*B^2 (from 1000). This is necessary because as is characters will invest crazily more than a +5 bonus in their save item before level 20 if it gets uncapped (no optimizer would tell you those are anything but ludicrously underpriced at 1000*).

Assume that WBL will scale quadratically after level 20, so gear bonuses will all progress at the same rate they have been over the last 20 levels forever.

Over the first 20 levels, an average character with a vanilla scaling save DC will maybe have gear sorta like this:
760k total:
13% (100k): Primary Ability Enchancement bonus (+5 to save DCs/Attack Rolls)
14% (108k=36k*3): Saving Throw Ability Enhancement bonuses (+3 to saves, AC)
13% (98k): Resistance Bonus Item (+7 to saves)
5% (36k): AC enhancement bonus Item (+6)
4% (32k): Deflection bonus Item (+4)
2% (18k): Natural Armor bonus Item (+3)
48% (368k): Random useful/strange other investments

So assuming the world hasn't broken due to some other random effect or combination of effects (a bad assumption, but if it broke in a number of ways it might cancel out!):

To hit vs AC: At Full BaB, you gain +20+5+2.5(stat boost)=+27.5 to your attacks, and defenders gain +3+6+4+3=+16 to their AC. This means poor BaB is all that's necessary to scale with a basic investment defender (many defenders will have enhanced shields, huge natural armor, other broken stuff). This doesn't really mean much because AC is so easily fungible, but its vaguely reassuring.

Save DCs vs Saving Throws: The save DC, if based on 1/2 level or something similar, has gained +10+5+2.5(stat boosts)= +17.5
A bad save gains +6+3+7= +16
A good save gains +12+3+7= +22

With normal PRCing those save numbers will tend to be 2-4 higher even than that. So we see even with Resistance bonuses doubled in cost, Save DCs still will scale only with absolutely bad Saves. Since the caster can choose which save to target, this is probably a good thing, and as long as we can somehow preserve 1/2 HD scaling on most important categories of saves I think we'll be ok.

Morph Bark
2011-08-15, 04:08 PM
Well it does sound interesting, but it seems like it would grant tons of epic spells. If you want to fix epic spell progression without all that work though try this:
All spell DC change to a DC of 10 + 1/2 caster level + relevant modifier.
Caps on spells may be exceeded once your caster level reaches level 21, but spells progress at half the normal rate beyond their caps.
Epic spells are not available.

Edit- Or were you considering completely rewriting the epic handbook? even so, i would still suggest the change to DC and to spell caps.

If you want to do that, I would instead make the DC 1/2 caster level + spell level + modifier. 1/2 caster level is already 10 anyway at the start and this way the DCs of higher level spells are still higher than those of lower spells.

Maraxus1
2011-08-15, 04:15 PM
Well, obviously, in the past-level 20 game is supposed that save DCs go up by 1 per two levels, too.

Hm, I just tried to lay out a rough system to improve the state and got a better understanding for why thinks are like they are in the process.


I really like the idea of BAB and save progression continuing as normal for your class at epic levels. As was said, your character picked his "job" and lived with the consequences for 20 levels, and there's no reason this should stop because he gained a 21st level.The point is, that they don't stop.

A fighter will still invest most of his time learning how to better hit stuff. The mage will continue to invest very little of his time in this area and the thief average.
The learning necessary to still hit a level 40 appropriate monster on level 40 a solid 95% is supposed to be high, however, while the learning necessary to hit the monster 50% of the time on level 40 (when you already had a 50% chance to hit a level 20 monster on level 20) is supposed to be average, while the the learning needed to keep your hit chance for level-appropriate monsters at 5% from level 20 to 40 is supposed to be low.

I can live with this premise. The bad point is, that mechanically, this is an increase by the same number.
And while this in itself is only bad in so far as it is against the intuition of "I'm having a steady progression upwards" this becomes really bad, if the wizard now decides: "No, I want to move over and spend more time learning how to hit things." or the fighter decides that he wants to spend less time on this subject.
For the wizard-turning-fighter, this should mean, that although he will never overtake a fighter-staying-fighter, the difference in chance to hit a level appropriate monster should decrease. However, in numbers this means that through his weapon training, he needs to get a greater numerical bonus then the fighter.

*sign* one really needs to find a random number generator for your home gaming table, that - unlike the common die, that produces equal-distributed random numbers - produces normal-distributed random numbers. ;)

DeAnno
2011-08-15, 04:30 PM
For the wizard-turning-fighter, this should mean, that although he will never overtake a fighter-staying-fighter, the difference in chance to hit a level appropriate monster should decrease. However, in numbers this means that through his weapon training, he needs to get a greater numerical bonus then the fighter.


Not to sound like a laissez faire economist, but the wizard will take care of that himself. If he was interested in being a fighter in the first place, he probably invested a lot of his wizard resources into hitting things in some manner (Wraithstrike, Polymorph, Greater Invisibility, the list goes on). This means that as a Wizard 20 he had every opportunity to already be good at hitting, in spite of his poor BaB. What Fighter levels do is they allow him to retain his skill at hitting with less "outside" investment from spells, feats, and gear.

To belabor the point, the geometric scaling system already works. Fighters get Full BaB and Wizards get half, because if a Wizard wants to hit things the spells he gets from his half BaB levels help him do it. A wizard 20 that wants to hit things is not disadvantaged, and if he switches to Fighter at 21 he should get no more or less BaB than is normal for a Fighter.

If anything, the Fighter and other full BaB classes are the ones that fall behind, since BaB tends to scale more slowly than outrageous tricks from spellcasting.

I know the ELH does a lot of handwaving about why BaB and Saves need to stop scaling and the world has to end and everything needs to be turned on its head. I'm just saying they're all wrong and panicked for no reason: things may already be shaky, but they've been that way since level 10 and they aren't getting any worse.

Yitzi
2011-08-15, 04:48 PM
*sign* one really needs to find a random number generator for your home gaming table, that - unlike the common die, that produces equal-distributed random numbers - produces normal-distributed random numbers. ;)

That's actually quite easy: Get a z-test table, and then just roll d100 or d1000 and apply the table.

Or you could simply use 3d6 instead of 1d20 for a decent approximation.

Maraxus1
2011-08-15, 06:33 PM
Yitzi: Yeah, Gurps ftw. :smallbiggrin:




Anyway, I just made a list of AC by CR for all monsters with CR 20 and up from the SRD. The trent is only vague but the best linear approximation I found is:

Armor class = 17.5 + ( 1.113 * CR )

So, Epic monsters get about 1.1 points of armor class per level. I guess with that a fighter with Full BAB forever will soon hit with all iterative attacks.

Of course, if you are redoing the whole epic level rules, the epic monsters could easily change to fit into the new picture.


Hm, I have never played epic levels. ... Actually I have never even played Level 17+ because seriously, that's where the balance goes to die. Levels 5 to 14 are much better. Once DMed a group with around 7th or 8th level spells. Almost killed them in the second encounter because I used a simple Druid NPC and they were not really optimized.

With that in mind, yes, it definitely would not matter, if there was a monster, that the fighter hits with his first attack and has 10 points to spare on a rolled 2, and that at the same time, the mage has no chance of hitting without touch attacks at all. I also heard the rumor, that, as epic levels go up, you quickly get a collection of immunities (one or two elements, mind effects, critical hits, ...) it hardly matter who can hit who with a sharp piece of metal.
Saves seam a little more important, the characters often need not to worry about AC or parts thereof but the Save DCs they will have to beat are all the same. And here you really can compare the saves of the characters. If one player has a +30 save and the other character has a +10 save, then the DM will have a hard time to find a DC that is interesting for both of them. :smallsmile:

Ophiel
2011-08-16, 05:08 AM
I wonder if anyone noticed that epic monsters don't change their BaB nor saves progression after 20 HD.
Force dragon (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/dragonEpic.htm#forceDragon) from srd has its BaB equal to its HD.
Winterwright (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/winterwight.htm) has 32 HD. Being an unded it has low fortitude and reflex saves and good will.
If we would follow epic rules made for players it should have
Fort +16 (+6 from 20 HD +6 from 12 HD over 20 +4 from epic fortitude), Ref +20, Will +24.
Instead it has Fort +14 (+10 from 32 HD+4 from epic fortitude), Ref +18, Will +24.
I know it would be a bit crazy to threat PCs, NPCs and monsters it completely the same way, but I believe thy should follow the same basic rules.

DeAnno
2011-08-16, 05:23 AM
I believe its stated somewhere in the ELH that Epic Monsters get normal BaB and save progressions. I think that if this effort got put together, Epic Monsters might need a bit of a retool as well, or at least a CR reevaluation.

I think a reasonable expectation is that in high levels, most monsters of the same CR should have save DCs such that Bad-Save characters have a middling chance of making the save and High-Save characters pretty much always make it. Ideally, well designed monsters would be able to attack multiple saves and AC so that it could choose what ability had a decent chance of hitting specific characters (If you have three good saves and good (touch) AC, you deserve not to be hit).

In a sense, in Epic Levels a good save progression becomes a very soft "immunity", such that it takes more investment for a player or monster over all of its levels to have its save DC keep up with a good save progression. Compared to keeping up with a Bad Save, a Good Save gains +1 of ground every 6 levels. That means a "Good" Save DC must somehow gain +1 of ground every 6 levels by means of feats, magic, class features, or whatnot. If something like "Improved Ability Focus" was implemented for +1 per feat (probably with some cap based on HD), a monster could spend half its feats to promote one attack to the point where it was dangerous for good save characters (and more or less auto-hit bad saves).

Glimbur
2011-08-16, 05:29 PM
I wonder if anyone noticed that epic monsters don't change their BaB nor saves progression after 20 HD.
Force dragon (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/dragonEpic.htm#forceDragon) from srd has its BaB equal to its HD.
Winterwright (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/winterwight.htm) has 32 HD. Being an unded it has low fortitude and reflex saves and good will.
If we would follow epic rules made for players it should have
Fort +16 (+6 from 20 HD +6 from 12 HD over 20 +4 from epic fortitude), Ref +20, Will +24.
Instead it has Fort +14 (+10 from 32 HD+4 from epic fortitude), Ref +18, Will +24.
I know it would be a bit crazy to threat PCs, NPCs and monsters it completely the same way, but I believe thy should follow the same basic rules.

A counterpoint to this is that PC's typically have much better gear than monsters do. They also are more likely to have extensive buff routines: in my experience DMs are less willing to use buffs than PCs are because DMs have many monsters and many encounters, while PCs have generally one character each and can use the same buffs for each encounter (besides situational buffs).

Yitzi
2011-08-16, 10:25 PM
I wonder if anyone noticed that epic monsters don't change their BaB nor saves progression after 20 HD.
Force dragon (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/dragonEpic.htm#forceDragon) from srd has its BaB equal to its HD.
Winterwright (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/winterwight.htm) has 32 HD. Being an unded it has low fortitude and reflex saves and good will.
If we would follow epic rules made for players it should have
Fort +16 (+6 from 20 HD +6 from 12 HD over 20 +4 from epic fortitude), Ref +20, Will +24.
Instead it has Fort +14 (+10 from 32 HD+4 from epic fortitude), Ref +18, Will +24.
I know it would be a bit crazy to threat PCs, NPCs and monsters it completely the same way, but I believe thy should follow the same basic rules.

It's not a PC/NPC/monster distinction, but a class/racial HD distinction. Racial HD are not affected by the epic bonus rules, as per DMG p.207 (sidebar).