Choosing An Epic Destiny Is Harder Than You Think

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 11, 2011

No matter what level my current character happens to be I’m always looking ahead to the next level. Usually I’m looking even farther ahead that that. Every time Wizards releases a new product – be it the next PHB, one of the Powers book, or an issues of Dragon – I scour through it to look for that next great “something” that will help my character become truly awesome. But as the characters in my regular game approach the epic tier I find that even though I’m still eagerly looking ahead at powers, feats, items and epic destinies, the criteria by which I judge those things is really beginning to change.

Usually when I look ahead I’m trying to discover the things that will help my PC the most – and when I say “help” in this context it’s always a number crunch. The feat that will give me the best attack score modifier, resistance or way out of a jam, or the power that will target the most enemies, deal the most damage or instill the most debilitating effects. It’s always a numbers game.

But as I look ahead at the epic destinies that my PC qualifies for, I find that the number crunching suddenly seems less important. Of all the criteria I’m using to decide upon which epic destiny to take for my PC, the numbers have become significantly less important. My priorities as a player have changed.

Maybe the reason for this change is because after 20 levels of combat, and hack and slash I’m ready to go beyond what D&D has given me so far. Maybe after three years of playing 4e I’m ready to really try something different. Don’t get me wrong I’m still very much looking forward to fighting even tougher monsters and kicking some serious butt in the process, but now I want more from the game.

I assumed that choosing an epic destiny would be very much like choosing a paragon path. When I was in that situation for the first time I crunched numbers and that made the decision a lot easier. The paragon path that tallied up the best powers and modifiers was the one I chose. OK, that’s not exactly how I chose a paragon path, but it’s pretty close. Over the following months and years I had many other character reach paragon or even begin play at paragon tier. With just about every PC the decision of what paragon path to take was made easier when I looked at the numbers.

Now my group is only one level away from reaching the epic tier. I’m guessing that by the end of the summer we’ll be there. So I still have a lot of time to pour through the books, sift through the compendium and play around with character builder before I have to settle on a choice. Yet when I began comparing epic destinies I realized that the numbers were not as important as the flavour.

Most epic destinies provide a +2 bump to one ability. From a numbers perspective this is relatively insignificant to my PC. It’s nice, but it won’t really change much. I’ll likely get +1 more to attacks and damage, but little else. With monster having hundreds of hit points that additional +1 damage each round is nothing.

The other common power or ability is healing. Most epic destinies bring a character back to full hit points when they reach 0, or allow them to heal when they’re first bloodied, or grant a crazy amount of temporary hit points. Again, this is certainly nice, but by now I think most characters have a couple of ways to regain hit points and stay conscious. Keep in mind that a balanced party will have at least one leader with plenty of ways to heal themselves and allies.

So if we remove the ability bump and the healing from the equation what’s left? The theme, that’s what. What’s left is the part of the epic destiny that’s important to the story and the role-playing. The flavour if you will.

It wasn’t until just the past few weeks that I truly realized this. Now that I’ve brought a character all the way from level 1-20 and will hit epic shortly I realize that the way this character is going to interact with the story, and the world in which the game is set, has a much more significant impact on my decision than just the numbers that his epic destiny will provide.

The PCs in our game have become more important to the world of the game and their actions have serious implications and repercussions beyond what they could ever expect. When they reach the epic tier their adventures will become even grander. The combat will still be combat, but the way that these character handle the role-playing aspects of D&D will be what separates them from their paragon selves.

Over the next few weeks I’ll continue trying to find the perfect epic destiny for my PC, and I know that it won’t be an easy decision. However, now that I’ve all but ignored the number crunching and focused on the flavour it’s become a much more interesting and fun exercise. I’m really looking forward to playing games in the epic tier and by ignoring the numbers and going for the one that makes the most sense from a story perspective I believe that the games themselves will be epic as well, in every sense of the word.

How important do you think the numbers are when it comes to choosing an epic destiny? How many people have played or are currently playing games in the epic tier? How did you choose your epic destiny? How many people are like me and have only played epic in one-off adventures, dungeon delves, and organized play? Has anyone avoided epic play intentionally, and if so why?

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1 froth July 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

if you dont care about the stat bump, eternal seeker is a real doozy. handpick your powers from any class

2 j0nny_5 July 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I think more than ever before, epic tier is where you need to define your story. This is your ending. You’re not going to look back and fondly recall the damage you dealt. No, you’ll look back and fondly remember the story you told, the mark you made, and the mesmerising wonder of where you fit into the world now. The possibility of your characters presence in your next campaign is dependent upon your choice of epic destiny. Make it a good one.

3 Sunyaku July 11, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Hah, I actually make a point of “not” looking at Paragon/Epic paths until I’m actually one level below making the choice. That way I won’t look through “all” the options, I’ll only look through the options that are available due to my previous character decisions.

Sure, looking at it all might allow me to “make” my character the way I “want” it to be– but there is a certain degree of realism to be enjoyed by restricting the path based on what your character “is” at the time.

4 Captain DM July 12, 2011 at 12:19 am

I’m with Sunyaku on this. It’s nice to be looking towards the future, but in my mind, when you’re playing a character that character isn’t thinking, “Man, I can’t wait to become epic-tier!” I try not to worry about it too much until a month or so before having to decide.

Of course, the Character Builder can make it a little easier on you since you can pre-level and see how it works. It can be tough since that’s really one of the last big path-choices in 4ed, but if you work within the confinesof your own previous roleplaying, it will be easier to figure out in the end.

5 Svafa August 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I’m one of the few who avoids epic tier. I aim to end by level 20, and often before then. I’ve never been much of a fan for god-level PCs or campaigns in the astral planes. I enjoy playing in the Feywild, Shadowfell, and their ilk in the various other editions/systems, but I’ve never had much interest in the hells, heavens, elemental planes, etc. Thus, I usually end before it gets to planar travel.

From a player’s perspective, I dislike the 4E epic destinies because they all lead to immortality. There are very few characters that I wish to become immortal in any manner, even in song or legend. I prefer to either retire them into obscurity or kill them permanently. Granted, I prefer permadeath from the start and would rather roll a new character than get a ress. :/

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