Taedium Edax Rerum

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Limit Break

Posted by Doug on May 3, 2009

Your players have fought every listed encounter group in the Monster Manual, plus all the solos….plus everything from the Draconomicon, and the Dungeon and Dragon magazines, and the other splatbooks, and the homebrewed stuff you made…and the homebrewed stuff you found on the internet.  The PCs have all passed the 1,000,000 experience point mark a long, long time ago.  You’re at the point in your campaign where the well-intentioned Dungeon Master’s Guide recommends ending the campaign, and starting anew, but nobody in your group wants that.  They want to keep going.  The thirty-level limit of the Fourth Edition just rankles them; they want to reach level 31, 32, 33, 40, 50, 60…

Well, I suppose one way to deal with this situation is for the Dungeon Master to simply follow the advice of the  DMG and say “Sorry, level thirty is it.  New campaign!”

This post is not about that option.

This post is about the option where the DM says, “Okay, let’s.”

As far as how much experience a PC would need to reach 31st level, this is half an extrapolation of the pattern in the existing experience-point-per-level tables, and half a wild guess, for the pattern doesn’t quite fit 100%.  If it was me, I would go with something like this:

Level Experience Points
31 1,200,000
32 1,450,000
33 1,750,000
34 2,100,000
35 2,500,000
36 3,050,000
37 3,650,000
38 4,350,000
39 5,150,000
40 6,150,000
41 7,350,000
42 8,750,000
43 10,350,000
44 12,350,000
45 14,750,000
46 17,950,000
47 21,450,000
48 25,950,000
49 31,450,000
50 37,950,000
51 45,450,000
52 55,450,000
53 67,950,000
54 82,950,000
55 100,450,000
56 120,450,000
57 145,450,000
58 175,450,000
59 210,450,000
60 250,450,000

But how would one level up past level 30?  The Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition scales pretty well.  First off, let us explore the options for continuing that do not require creating new material out of whole cloth.

For example, the level bonus (which applies to defenses, attack rolls, skill checks, initiative, and so on) is still one-half your level (rounded down)—at 31st level it would still be +15; at 40th level, +20.  PCs still gain a set number of hit points per level, based on their class.  They still gain a feat at the first level of each tier (1st, 11th, 21st, 31st, 41st, and so on) and at every even-numbered level.

Many feats a character would already have scale regularly—for example, the Toughness feat grants 5 extra hit points at each tier.  In the fourth tier (levels 31 through 40), it would grant 20 extra hit points.  In the fifth tier (levels 41 through 50), it would grant 25.  Weapon Expertise starts at a +1 bonus, then increases to +2 at 15th level and +3 at 25th level; it does not take much imagination to say it would continue to increase to +4 at 35th level, and to +5 at the 45th.

Expanding powers like the cleric’s healing word would take only a little more effort.  A level 1 cleric can use healing word twice per encounter, as a close burst 5, and allows the target to regain an additional 1d6 hit points. At the sixteenth level, they can use it three times per encounter; to expand the power into the trans-epic tiers, just say every fifteen levels, it can be used one more time per encounter, so that at the 31st level they can use it four times, and then five times per encounter at the 46th level.  The size of the close burst increases to 10 at the 11th level and 15 at the 21st level—basically, at the start of each tier, the size of the burst increases by 5, so it would be close burst 20 at the 31st level, and 25 at the 41st level.  At the sixth, 11th, 16th, 21st, and 26th level, the additional hit points healed increases by 1d6; it would thus go up to 7d6 at 31st level, 8d6 at 36th, 9d6 at 41st, and so on.

Ability scores?  Well, the pattern so far is +1 to all six abilities at the first level of each tier, and +1 to two different abilities at the 4th, 8th, 14th, 18th, 24th, and 28th levels.  This, too, is easily continued: +1 to all six abilities at the 31st, 41st, 51st level and so on; +1 to two different abilities at the 34th, 38th, 44th, 48th, 54th, 58th levels and so on.

Simply put, relatively uncomplicated extensions of the existing patterns would take us partway.  But what about encounter, daily, and utility powers?  The patterns begin to become less clear here; “arbitrary decisions” is the modus operandi here.  First let’s consider utility powers: you gain a new utility power of your level (or lower) at the 2nd, 6th, 10th, 12th, 16th, 22nd, and 26th levels… Disregarding the one gained at the 10th level, I would say the pattern is that the PC gains a utility power at the 2nd level and every ten levels thereafter and at the 6th level and every ten levels thereafter, so why not let them gain one more utility power at the 32nd, 36th, 42nd, 46th, 52nd, 56th level, and so on.

Encounter powers: you start with one at 1st level, you gain one at the 3rd, 7th, and 11th levels, then you replace one of the four you know with a higher-level one at the 13th, 17th, 23rd, and 27th levels.  You never gain more than four encounter powers from your class; you reach the maximum at only the 11th level.  Well, this isn’t a hard thing to extrapolate: at the 33rd, 37th, 43rd, 47th, 53rd, 57th levels (and so on), you can exchange one of your existing encounter powers for an encounter power of your level or lower.

Likewise with the daily powers: you max out at four daily power from your class at the  20th level, but you  can exchange daily powers at the 15th, 19th, 25th, and 29th…just extend the sequence: 35th, 39th, 45th, 49th, 55th, 59th…

Now, at-will powers all jump up by one die (for powers with a fixed die type) or by 1[W] (for weapon-based powers) at the 21st level, twenty levels after you first gain them…why not say that they increase once again at the 41st level, and then again at the 61st level?  For example, the cleric’s lance of faith deals 1d8 + Wisdom modifier damage to start, then increases to 2d8 + Wisdom modifier damage at the 21st level, then 3d8 + Wisdom modifier at the 41st level, then 4d8 + Wisdom modifier at the 61st level.  Righteous brand deals 1[W] + Strength modifier damage to start, then increases to 2[W] + Strength modifier at the 21st level, then 3[W] + Strength modifier at the 41st level, then 4[W] + Strength modifier at the 61st level.  Not too difficult.

Encounter and daily powers would also increase, but when?  Why not at the first level of alternating tiers?  Thus, at 31st level, sunburst would deal 4d8 + Wisdom modifier damage to each enemy in the burst and godstrike would deal 8[W] + Strength modifier damage; at the 51st level, they would deal 5d8 + Wisdom modifier and 9[W] + Strength modifier damage, respectively.

One possible course of action is to simply allow the player to gain more encounter and/or daily powers, but the reason why the number of powers is limited is because an excess of powers is unwieldy for a player…then again, we’re kicking reason to the curb here.  So, allowing the player one extra encounter power and one extra daily power per tier seems about right.  An alternative is to simply allow the player to designate one  (or more) encounter or daily power, and be able to use that power twice in a given encounter or day.

Of course, in order to have something comparable to the paragon path and epic destiny (which expand the PC’s class features in the paragon and epic tiers), we would have to start creating totally new material, a “fourth tier apotheosis”, a “fifth tier portfolio” or whatnot.  This is truly “terra incognito”, and will require much more thought than the previous expansions did…but as a quick idea:

Perhaps a player can take additional paragon paths or epic destinies at higher tiers: for example, a 31st-level cleric/radiant servant/eternal seeker could pick the warpriest path, and gain its benefits throughout the fourth tier (extra damage action, warpriest’s strategy, warpriest’s training, and battle cry at 31st level; battle favor at 12th; warpriest’s challenge at 16th, and battle pyres at 20th).  Then at 41st, said cleric could take the demigod epic destiny (and gain divine spark at 41st level, divine recovery at 44th, divine regeneration at 46th, and divine miracle at 50th).  If extra paragon paths and epic destinies were allowed, they would not be used in conjunction with the extended acquisition/replacement of utility, encounter, and daily powers given above.

All of the above could be done without really adding anything new to the game; this quick fix would allow a party of adventurers to continue to gain in power (if not variety) well past the epic tier.  Of course, the challenges the party would face would have to be dialed up considerably.  Really: in the epic tier, powers that are usable “once per day, when you die” are not really that rare.  For these levels of gameplay, Orcus—the  most challenging challenge in the entire Monster Manual—would be little more than a speedbump*, and the PCs would have the suspension to take it at 70 mph.

Virtually every monster would have to be custom-built: simply leveling up existing monsters would suffice for the lower half of the fourth tier, but once the PCs start getting ever closer to level 50, the monsters would need to be able to take things to the (literal) next level.  The PCs will have gone beyond being godlike: they would soon become more powerful than the gods (Tiamat, the first true deity I’ve seen statted for 4E, is only a level 35 solo).  Maybe they really become gods themselves—the fourth tier equivalent of a “paragon path” or “epic destiny” might be their “divine portfolio” or something.  At each level beyond the 30th, there would have to be brutes for them to face off against, and soldiers, and artillery, and skirmishers, and lurkers, and elites, and solos, and minions (nevermind the minions.  Come on, epic-tier minions were silly—powerful enough to devastate the countryside, and they died instantly from quite a few paragon path features) and, yes, minions (just give them some abilities that neutralize the insta-kills and make the players actually have to spend an action on them, and they would fill out battles nicely, just like they do in the lower tiers).

The guidelines in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for creating monsters would scale, to an extent, but trans-epic tier monsters would need staggeringly powerful—and carefully worded—powers to pose a threat.  They would need “cheap” abilities like healing, heavy-duty regeneration and/or resistances, flat-out immunities, auto-hitting abilities, and so forth…basically, as the PCs become more and more monstrous, the monsters they face will need to become more and more…PC-esque (for lack of a better word).  Even with all that, the monsters would have to have elaborate tactics in order to force the PCs to expend a significant fraction of their resources  (healing surges, daily powers, action points, consumable items, and the like) before the monsters died.

Simply put, what I hope to have shown with this treatise is that removing the thirty-level cap from the Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition is not an impossible task, but merely complicated.  In the end, it would probably be simpler for a group to just retire their 30th-level characters, and start another campaign over from scratch…

But where’s the fun in that?

———————————————————-

*Of course, some argue that Orcus is like this already, with cheesily broken builds and exploits able to take him out with ease under certain circumstances.  But that is neither here nor there.

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