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Why Epic Levels are Absolutely Necessary


I am very pleased to see that the discussion on this topic has received an epic amount of attention. I must respectfully disagree with my distinguished colleagues who have argued against epic levels.

In a recent editorial, we were offered numerous examples and hypotheticals concerning the prospective problems with high level combat. The central point that I took away (and I am paraphrasing here) is that you can’t do challenging combat for high level characters without using either an army of bad guys or a stupid-powerful boss monster. There are obvious and indisputable problems with both of these proposed methods, but I believe that there are other options besides these two. This unnecessarily narrow list of options is an excellent illustration of the mindset problem as I see it in the community. As a group, we still have blinders on. Like a farm horse we trudge away at the same speed and in the same direction all the while following the same formula. Rather than develop and change and grow we plunk away all trying to recapture the spirit of what has been done in the past. This is not the way to maintain a growing, vibrant community.

Things that don’t grow will decay and die.

Things that grow will change.

Change is painful (work).

The key for us is to stop trying to make high level adventures like larger sized low level ones, and start making them like high level adventures. We must strike out for new territory, because that’s where the growth and the change can be found.

One author said “Another way to make a challenge a group of level 20's is by making a level 50 dragon, give him 50 in each stat, 5000 hit points, equal AC and about ever special attack in the game. But is this seriously needed? Why not rebuild the same adventure for some level 12 characters with a normal dragon as the big bad end boss?”

I respectfully disagree with this argument. It is not the same thing to play a level 12 adventure as it is a level 20 adventure. Is there no difference between level 4 play and level 12 play? Of course there is. It’s a whole ‘nother ballpark.

The AD&D universe is one of limitless possibility, why do we insist on squatting in the mud with the kobolds when there are new planes of existence to explore? Maybe a king hires you to explore a new plane of existence where all the creatures and things are made out of geometric shapes? Perhaps the player can get involved in a war between the circles and the squares? Maybe a mod for level 20 players where they are granted land by the king? They have to clear it of monsters, plan and build a stronghold, then rule, tax and defend it in the king’s name. Have you ever had to put down an insurrection or revolt? Have you ever lead one? How about a good Githyanki adventure? Trust me, this stuff beats the hell out of the ‘Who am I’ bug hunts that are being made now.

Another issue that was brought up is the problem with realism: “…How realistic is that? High level characters are rare. Second edition D&D supplement "Dungeon Master Option: High-Level Campaigns" (that means: level 14 or higher) even illustrates how very legendary high level characters are. Only one in six million people will make it to level 20. So having an evil castle full of level 20 guards to challenge the player is very unrealistic…”

I’m not a rulebook stickler, as I see it if an idea works and you have fun with it and it doesn’t hurt anything, go ahead and use it. Although I am not privy to most of the changes that have occurred with the D&D game since the late 80s, I do remember reading in the Dungeon Master’s Guide about ways to import Boot Hill (Old West Gunfighter RPG Game) and Gamma World (Sci-Fi RPG) characters and weapons into D&D worlds. The DMG encouraged world builders to use their imaginations and take their campaigns where they needed to so that the story could be told, even if that includes Gamma World ray guns. I think that if you are making a module for high level characters, it’s okay to make everyone much more powerful than you would in a level 12 module. I think that Gary Gygax would agree with me on this, and he created the D&D game.

Unlike my distinguished colleagues who have written against it, I do think that the NWN toolset and universe can support epic levels. In fact I would suggest that the community and Bioware can support them rather well if they go about it in the right way. It’s time to stop raiding the past and strike out for new ground.

Another NWN expansion without epic levels would be like a guy going back to a high school party the year after he’s graduated. Bioware, don’t be that guy.


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