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I was wondering how many epic levels could I say one divine rank is worth. Of course, this is a difficult question to answer with precision, considering that wizard 21 for epic spellcasting is strictly superior to most salient divine abilities, while the salient divine ability Divine Weapon Focus is strictly awful.

But say I wanted to create a system where a character post level 20 could choose to take X divine ranks and Y epic levels. How would I homebrew such a system?

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The system starts to fray around level 10, is only playable to level 15 by the common agreement of the players to consciously and carefully keep things together, and even those agreements start to fall apart by level 17. The entire Epic Level Handbook is basically a lie: the system simply does not continue to function at those levels. My apologies, but you've basically been scammed by Wizards of the Coast. – KRyan Feb 19 '13 at 20:02
@KRyan No offense, but you are posting the same rant on any single question mentioning epic. Not sure how it contributes to the question, especially as it's not really mentioning Epic level balance. – Cristol.GdM Feb 19 '13 at 20:33
@Scrollmaster: Any kind of homebrew system always concerns itself with balance. The question seeks a systematic way to determine the value of epic levels vs. divine ranks, which presupposes the idea that the choice between the two is balanced. This prerequisite, however, cannot met because the Epic system itself is wildly imbalanced. – KRyan Feb 19 '13 at 22:11
I've got to agree that this isn't going to be simple or even possible given only strict math - it's gotta be case-by-case. You might try Mythender and see how you can port your own ideas, though it's a system all it's own. – LitheOhm Feb 19 '13 at 23:24

It is impossible to convert between epic levels and divine ranks in a way that is both systematic and fair.

The reason for this is that neither "an epic class level" nor "a divine rank" is a constant measurement of character power. There is a massive variation to the power contribution of each depending on the specific options selected.

To look at some examples, an Epic Wizard level is an extraordinarily more valuable level than an Epic Monk level. Further, the value of each level/rank depends a lot on the numbers you have already - Wizard 21 with no DR is probably better than Wizard 20 with DR 1. But a Wizard 21 with DR 1 is definitely better than Wizard 22 with no DR.

This is a phenomenon that is present in non-epic D&D 3.5 as well, but epic levels and divine ranks suffer it worst of all. Any system you could use to measure power on this scale would be complicated, wrought with exceptions, and would still depend on GM adjudication.

Ultimately, I suggest handling this kind of an assessment on a case-to-case basis for each of your players.

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First off, just throwing it out there- there is no rules as written way to get divine ranks. (In core, anyway.) Which means we don't have any other method we need to balance with or to use as a guideline.

So, how powerful is a divine ranked character? I would contest the claim that epic spellcasting is strictly superior to salient abilities, and gods get way more than just that. Just pointing it out- one of the possible abilities is "Alter Reality... Benefit: This ability is similar to the wish spell. The deity merely thinks of something and then makes it so. Doing this requires at least a standard action." The ability to cast Wish as a standard action, unlimited times per day, with no XP or materials cost, is somewhat hard to beat. Not saying that epic spellcasting isn't potent. Oh, and there's also the option of Arcane Mastery... Benefit: The deity can prepare any wizard spell that it can cast without using a spellbook... The deity also can invent new sorcerer/wizard spells without researching them." This is still ignoring the other, general abilities gods get. Little stuff, like DR 15, immortality, senses out to a mile away, literally always get a 20 (Though not always a crit, thank heaven for small mercies) on every single roll, and cast Greater Teleport as a spell like ability at will.

This is a small subset of the powers that a character with a single divine rank would have. I'm not sure offhand how many levels a character would have to accrue before gaining one. Offhand, I'm going to go with "Lots" and leave it at that.

However, that doesn't actually answer your question.

First, this should be a quest. Not something your players just get when they level up. They should kill a god, or aid a god tremendously, or save the world twice. Something suitably epic. Then, I would give them all divine rank 0, and increase that rank separately from when they level. Let them keep leveling up as they normally would, but grant them all additional divine ranks whenever they accomplish something particularly impressive. If it helps, a divine rank 1 god has a few thousand mortal worshipers. It works perfectly fine to have the party/pantheon as a whole be worshiped, and gain ranks together, as the pantheon gains followers. Such increases have little to do with a character's level, though they can still use their regular powers as they want, probably augmented with their divine powers. What powers they have is fairly well proscribed by the rules, just not how to increase them.

As for homebrew methods to increase these ranks, here's a few ideas.

  1. Treat each divine rank as a level. (Tracked separately from regular levels.) They only get divine XP for defeating opponents with divine ranks. Use the regular XP/Level table to determine how much divine XP is needed to level up the divine ranks.

  2. Treat each divine adventure as a rank obtained for defeating a higher tier of foes. Have them slowly fight, trick, and connive their way through the older ranks of gods. As each tier of gods falls- they step in to fill the space.

  3. Use the amounts of worshippers as a way to gauge it. Have them (by hook or by crook) find ways to increase the number of mortal worshippers.

Just be aware- challenging these divinely powered individuals is going to be interesting. I'd look at this question for help with that.

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With proper mitigation, Epic Spellcasting can do, well, anything, far beyond the capabilities of the wish spell, as soon as someone qualifies for it. Epic Spellcasting is absurdly broken. – KRyan Feb 19 '13 at 23:43
And from what I can tell, Arcane Mastery would let you make up such spells whenever you felt like it, without needing to research, as long as you had the Int score. I haven't messed around with Epic Spellcasting, but Arcane Mastery can only make that better. (Or worse, depending on how you see it.) – IgneusJotunn Feb 20 '13 at 14:02

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