by Mike Shea on 21 September 2009
With the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons out for a year now, some groups have breeched into the Paragon tier. This month we will see the release of the second Dungeon Master's Guide with a focus on the Paragon tier. For those who can't wait, however, here are some tips for running your own paragon-tier game.
Keep the Pace Fast
As characters grow in complexity, so too will the duration of your battles get longer. It is important to do all you can as a DM to speed up your game and keep the action going fast. Reinforce the need for your players to really understand their characters and choose their actions quickly. Your battles may still take a long time and it may become necessary to scale back the number of battles per game you run. Focus many battles around speed, using a lot of brutes, lurkers, and skirmishers. Save the soldiers and controllers for your climactic battles. You might also consider some house rules such as reducing monster hitpoints to 3/4 and increasing damage by +1/2 the level of the creature. Save this for battles you want to keep fast and furious.
Accept The Power of your Party
The paragon tier is where player character power really scales up. Strikers pour out damage, defenders act like walls of steel, controllers change the very world around them. Accept this and remember this is what your players have been waiting for. Accept that some of your battles will go much easier for your players than you expect. Give them time in the sun. Let them kill 30 minions in a single round. Let them rip through undead with radiant blasts like razors through paper. Remember to focus on what's fun for your players.
Challenge the PCs with Environmentals
Not every battle should go easily, however. Moreso than before you will have to work hard to challenge your players. It isn't enough to face them off against high level monsters. Use environmental effects to really unbalance them. Have them fight purple worms in a desert full of difficult terrain. Have alters of dark magic constantly draining the party with necrotic energy as well as negating their resistances.
How to use Minions
Minions in particular will have a hard time challenging your paragon level characters. While you should occasionally send in waves of dozens of minions to give players that feeling of power, if you want your minions to survive, have them come in many small waves. Give them protections from large blasts with cover. You'll have to work hard to make a minion useful in a paragon-level battle. Consider this when designing your battles.
Know your Enemy and Know Yourself
Study your players' characters. Know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Consider that your prime villains may also be studying this annoying band of adventurers and spreading intelligence of their strengths throughout his or her army. How can you make trouble for that ranger who constantly shifts away? How can you break through the steel of that defender's armor? You shouldn't make constant trouble for the player characters, but you should know how to challenge them when you need to.
Blow Up Vulcan
Lastly, nearing the end of the paragon tier, don't be afraid to make drastic changes to your game world. Make the shift to epic something memorable. Change the entire playing field somehow and make the fate of this change lie in the actions of the players.
Remember the key to the transition to epic: think big.
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