Skip to the end
Well, I don’t think you can get anymore epic than this. The session before they had tumbled inside Acererak’s Fortress of Conclusion and were face to face with a different version of the Face of the Great Green devil. Then, two weeks later, their characters were upgraded to level 22 and they were facing the Very Definitely Final Dungeon with the definite prospect of facing Acererak at the end.
And it was worth it, every time. Even if I didn’t get to possess anyone, which may be why I want to take another group through it.
Anyway, this post is a two-parter, I look at the game itself and I look at what it is like to DM an epic level game. The latter is not as hard as I thought it would be.
And just a warning, this post will contain a lot of spoilers about the game, so I can’t be blamed if the surprise ha been ruined.
Where gods go to die
Apart from the very end, the entire session takes place in Pluton. A remote and isolated realm in the Astral Sea that would take more than a bit of asking to find, as well as a bit of raiding, pirating and killing astral abominations to get there. They had fought their way across bleak windswept plains to arrive at the Dead God’s Tomb, a place that had no end of it’s share of traps and tricks.
They didn’t complete all the rooms, doing that would involve at least two sessions rather than just the one that I had planned, but they managed to complete more rooms than I anticipated they would.
As well as some very unplanned for moments that I suppose I should have been expecting at the time. Like the deal with Vecna and the deal with the Aspect of Nerull (shown at left).
It was enjoyable, but the only problem I had was mainly with the problems of epic tier which I will address below. But I will say this: the characters were powerful enough that it was a real challenge to keep up with them. That and some of the DCs they needed to overcome with skill checks were ridiculously low.
But the final fights made it all worth it, and I only wish that I had been fresh for the final fights (yes, that is a plural) with Acererak. Particularly the last one as it was designed quite impressively with the pillars of the room which I was honestly far too tired to run properly.
Bigger than big
I seem to be one of the few 4e DMs that I know that has run an epic-tier game, even if it was only for one session. And to be honest, it’s not nearly as hard as people think it is. It just involves a lot more numbers. Like runing Paragoin-tier, wioth an extra level. I won’t say I have mastered it, far from it as it took me a good while to master paragon-tier, but it’s do able.
Just don’t do what I did, jump in quickly so you can do the final dungeon and finish the campaign before you are ready. Epic-tier requires thinking on a much larger scale, and the themes and atmosphere needs to be enormous. It was a brain-drain, moreso than 4e usually is.
At least we had Paranoia next and could turn our brains off.