I've seen a lot of people ask about epic level characters in D&D. I have played a lot of D&D from 1e to 5e with only a short dip into 4e, which was so different (not necessarily bad, just different) that I don't really consider it a "D&D". In every single edition (except 4e which we didn't play long enough), characters reached levels where the respective game masters gave up. They could no longer craft interesting adventures.

Plain combat doesn't seem to be a problem with epic levels, I played computer games back in the early 90s that already got that fine by just limiting the whole gameplay down to combat.

Skill challenges could simply go up. For every epic level rogue there can be crafted an epic level lock.

But with all the utility power that pure casters get, we could not craft adventures that were challenging yet not totally overboard. All the challenges of lower levels suddenly become something you solve with a spell. And while it's still a challenge if only the wizard can fly for a few minutes to maybe get a rope over a chasm, if at higher levels the whole party including henchmen can fly for days on supernatural steeds, the challenge is gone. All walls are passable, all mountains easily circumvented, all mundane enemies easily slain, every weather condition easily changed, every thought and alignment easily scryed, masses of people charmed at no cost.

For our groups that meant that for the DM to craft an interesting adventure that was more than "go get him and whack him", suddenly normal people had immunities and protection we could not have afforded at level 10 and natural anti-magic fields were abundant. It got more ridiculous the farther we went until the DM gave up and called for new, less advanced characters.

I was brought to D&D by the Dragonlance series of books and I do remember the parts where the mage, having attained some sort of epicness, challenges the evil goddess. But apart from challenging a god, what adventures do you play? How do you challenge players with that much utility power?

PS: I do play a lot of other systems and those that have very powerful characters also have very powerful constraints. D&D doesn't seem to have such constraints, there is nothing in the rules keeping you from actually using your powers to it's full extent.


closed as too broad by wax eagle, Joshua Aslan Smith, Chuck Dee, okeefe, Wibbs Oct 16 '14 at 16:46

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is really broad. D&D is 5 or 6 almost completely different games that share some basic similarities (mostly in setting and fundamental basic mechanics). Trying to craft a challenging encounter for 4e is going to bay different from 3 or 5 (and 3 and 5 should be quite different as well). There is no objective criteria by which to judge this subjective question. It's simply too broad. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Oct 16 '14 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not looking for an encounter. I'm looking for an adventure idea. A problem to solve, that is resistant to wishes. I'm not interested in details like "page 112 of splat book 5 says this door is wish-resistant", but a much broader view. If that makes people happy I can add a 3.5 tag, but everything that only works for 3.5 is not really what I'm looking for. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Oct 16 '14 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Too broad/fishing for discussion. You need to write in a lot more requirements to fit your problem for it to be a solvable answer that fits the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Oct 16 '14 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt the problem is that this problem isn't specific. This is a problem you face, but not an answerable one. You have to make a first effort at trying to solve it and come back when you have trouble. You can't just say "epic is hard, help" you have to say "epic is hard, I'm having trouble figuring out XY and Z, help me solve my problem" \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Oct 16 '14 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ This should be tagged with a specific edition (probably 3.5 from the description). The utility capabilities of epic characters varies wildly from edition to edition, and some editions don't even have a concept of "epic". \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Oct 16 '14 at 17:10

All walls are passable, all mountains easily circumvented, all mundane enemies easily slain, every weather condition easily changed, every thought and alignment easily scryed, masses of people charmed at no cost.

All of these things are extremely mundane. When you're dealing with Epic characters, you need a proper Epic setting, with proper Epic opponents, and something Epic hanging in the balance.

A stone wall simply doesn't keep anything out anymore. A regular mountain simply isn't an obstacle. A storm isn't a problem, and a mass of humans isn't a threat. You'll need something better. Bigger. Properly Epic.

So the goal is to shape a setting so mind-bogglingly amazing that the players won´t even know where to start anymore in their approach. Just pulling something randomly together here...

The setting is an ancient battlefield, where before proper history a war was fought between the residents of and a defending force of . Although the battle is long ago and nobody even remembers the places' location, let alone the reason the battle was fought, it's effects on the world linger on.

The outbursts of magic that were thrown around have stuck around, tearing and warping the fabric of reality until it came close to snapping. For thousands, maybe tens of thousands of years, a maelstrom of magical energy has been swirling in that place.

But now, it is time to remember, because bad omens are seen around the planes. Something terrible is happening, somewhere. At the center of the old battlefield, in a fortress forged of pure magic, where walls can shift without warning, automated defenses kill indiscriminately (long since reached the point where they consider anything hostile), and even regular dimensions barely still apply, so much magic has gathered that it's threatening to pull a hole straight through time itself. And if that happens, the whole multiverse will fall apart.

Clearly that cannot be allowed to happen, so now the PCs have to figure out how to find a place whose location not a living thing knows, how to reach a place hidden far outside the common planes of existance, find a way through a battlefield so loaded with magic that any spell cast might come alive, find their way through a fortress you can't even map, let alone navigate, to find at its heart the very essence of magic coming alive. And all the while all the ancient and incredibly powerful beings that once fought the war wander around as undead, spectral, or magically animate versions of themselves. And under huge time-pressure, because a magical storm randomly throws around spells (level 6+, because you can assume none of the others have a chance or hurting them) around the entire plane, and they get stronger with every passing hour, until they tear about the whole universe.

Let them bring their utility magic, teleporting spells, and every magic item they can get their hands on. They'll need them.

(I intentionally do not even include any kind of feasible solution to this problem. They're Epic, let them come up with a suitably Epic way of dealing with this whole mess.)


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