For a while I have been disenchanted with the whole process Epic Destinies.

If something is your destiny, it doesn't really feel right for a player to be able to choose it.

I do recognize the difference between player and character, however I still feel choice of a destiny seems clunky.

Furthermore, my players often choose Epic Destinies based solely around optimization, with roleplaying constructed as a result of the choice after the fact.

Also, the players tend to have a significant shift in the way they play their character just because they got to level 21.

As a result, I've been trying to create some house rules to remedy this that goes something like this:

For Epic Destinies, based on the way the players play their character, the DM would choose an epic destiny for them.

This process takes time, and the choice will slowly be forshadowed throughout paragon tier, with the culmination being at level 21.

The players will be aware of this rule, and so they can try to play their character in a fashion that they believe will lead them down a path of their choice.

If a wizard is constantly interested in teaching others or learning about the Allspell for example, I, as the DM, would select the Archmage Epic Destiny well in advance to level 21.

This will not only be based around roleplaying but also what quests they take part in and the people they help or hinder.

My question then is what the pros and cons of this style of house rule are. Furthermore, if you have an addition to the rule that fixes a con, please give it, along with an explanation for how/why that fixed the con (or improves a pro). Thank you!


2 Answers 2


To restate the problem as you see it:

  1. You do not like the players selecting (even for the characters) something called a destiny;
  2. You want to select the destiny based on a lengthy legacy of role-playing decisions;
  3. You want the mechanical effects to adhere to the GM decision of destiny.

I have some observations:

  1. I have once played in a game with a similar mechanic. (It was a modified version of something not 4e or even D&D, so the details are not important.) What I learned from that exercise is relatively simple: You must be blindingly clear and unwaveringly consistent in what it is that you expect to see from the player in exchange for epic destinies. You may even want to give level-by-level status reports or something similar.
  2. You may feel this is the first step away from the role-playing aspect and back toward mechanical concerns. This is so. But this is also fair, because there is a mechanical concern at play for the player. You've removed that from his control and substituted it for your own, telling him effectively, to trust you to interpret his actions both fairly and correctly. If you do not, there will be justifiable anger.
  3. Specific to 4e (with which I am quite familiar, separately) you also need to be prepared for players to say, "Enh, I'm not interested," and not bother. Or, what will you do if they try but are not consistent enough for your standards? Deny them the Epic templates? What if half the group is up to snuff, but the other half isn't? Likewise, if this is now role-playing dependent, are the various mechanical requirements still in play? Why?
  4. Honestly, if the idea of choosing a destiny is the biggest driver, here... don't think of it as a destiny. Think of the word destiny as just as much of a "skin" as some other constructs like hit points or whatever.

In summary: I sympathize strongly with your desire to see more role-playing driven choices, but making player mechanics subject to your evaluation of their role-playing is dicey-- especially their long-term role-playing-- because a very large pitfall is a mismatch of expectations between you and the players.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Would like to add a partial addition to this (without making it some partial answer). Many times, like your observation 1, I as DM have tried to construct frameworks that link roleplaying to game rules. Often these were in D&D related to playing alignment "correctly". Luckily I never imposed them on my players, I always spotted in enough time that the big flaw is that I would be sitting in the role of judge and gatekeeper of my friends' playing style. At best, you could open it up to a group discussion, so instead of DM subjectivity, players discuss good matching options. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 3, 2016 at 14:07

The effectiveness of this rule will depend on your players acceptance of it.

Seems obvious at first, and in theory is a simple one to solve. Like you said players are aware at the begining and can play their character accordingly.

Breaking this down, you have decided to make Epic Destinies a meaningful and integral part of character development. So where do you call the begining (as this is when you'll make players aware of the rule)?

Two options, level 1/11

Starting at level 1, I would base this off the destiny idea. Build it into their back story. Were they born under a particular star sign or some other cosmic event? Were social structures already in place or crumbling to allow they to assume their destiny etc?


- A very involved character with good direction for development.

This is perfect for your storytellers and actors (player archtypes in the D.M.G). A chance to explore a rich backstory and forge someone memorable while (IMO) capture the essence of a fantady character. Destined for greatness.

- Lots of potential plot hooks

Need I say more


- A very involved character.

This takes a desicated player. One willing to put the time and effort into building a character from the top down. Almost requiring creating the character at least level 21 and reverse engineering.

- Forced character development from an early level.

If you reverse engineer a character it might take the fun out of leveling up. Knowing what feats/powers/skill increases you are going to take and knowing how powerful a character you are going to become.

So to address the cons we could start at level 11.


- Players won't have to think too hard to create their characters

They will be able to make low level characters and not worry about the choices they are making. There will be a chance to retrain later

- This will keep the early levels free for development

It will give your players a chance to get a feel for their characters and not force their hand in roleplaying which might lead to a more "natural" choice in paragon path/epic destiny.


- Still forcing their hand

You won't be able to get away from this. At some point they will have to make a decision based on a choice that could be a long way off.

In my experience as a DM and as a player what I have found is that any time a GM says

I will decide x based on how you play your character

will lead to a salty taste in a players mouth. Unless they are 100% sold on the idea

So as opposed to making it a house rule (as cool as it sounds) it is better to work with your players. Discuss their characters with them, find out what they want and above all else leave all character decisions to them. In doing this you could offer to select their destiny for them instead of just telling them you are. This will lead to greater player acceptance of your decision to make epic destinies meaningful as opposed to just arbitary choices.


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