Campaign Power Level

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In Epic Path, we offer many different mechanisms to 'fine-tune' the difficulty of your campaign. As a note to new Referee's, Epic Path is designed to contain all the highly detailed 'crunch' you could ever want, and is aimed toward players who have played other D20 games and are looking for more detail and balance. Epic Path is deliberately 'tuned' to be fairly difficult, so as to present challenges to players. This might not be what you are after, and Epic Path can be easily adjusted to be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

Using GM Fiat to Adjust Game Difficulty

The first and most obvious way is to make 'adjustments' during play. As a GM, we are fully aware that Mistakes Happen. If you find that an encounter is WAY, WAY harder than you expected, it is completely in the power of the GM to adjust any and all elements of game play to reach a fun outcome. Yes, this is essentially 'cheating', but come on, that's why YOU get that fancy GM screen. This is one of a GM's most powerful and seductive tools, so we urge moderation and care. All adjustments MUST be made to maximize the enjoyment of your players.

Now, that said, altering results is perfectly acceptable for the GM (especially in service to great storytelling), and we've all done it, but, in Epic Path, we strive to allow the GM the luxury of 'letting the story flow'. The absolute best of the entire table-top role-playing genre occurs when the GM lets the dice fall as they may, and works through the resulting story with their players in a gloriously chaotic group improv. Epic Path strives to allow that 'free flow' style of unfettered dice, while still allowing the GM to 'tune' their game.

Using Action Points to Adjust Game Difficulty

Another powerful and simple way to adjust game difficulty is to adjust the amount and effect of Action Points. Many GM's find this to be a much more palatable solution than simply 'putting your thumb on the scale'. Action Points add abilities and actions directly to the players, and can greatly improve or diminish their effectiveness. Even better, Action Points can be added 'on the fly' if the GM wishes, and the GM can allow or disallow optional uses as they want. For extreme changes, the GM can even give the Monsters Action Points! Yikes!

Using Campaign Level to Adjust Game Difficulty

If you find that your players are reasonably well-established, and you do not wish to disrupt play in an obvious fashion by adding or removing Action Points, the GM can simply change their Campaign Level. Suppose you started play with a group of players who were all novices, so you gave them a lot of Character Points (see below) to ensure a fun experience. To your delight, ten levels later they are doing extremely well, have great synergy, and are romping through your encounters with boring ease. You don't want to make them re-calculate their entire characters by changing their base points, and taking away their action points seems cruel. You can make a 'behind the screen' adjustment instead, and change the Campaign Power Level.

Changing the Campaign Power Level simply means that the players will face monsters one Challenge Rating (CR) higher (or lower!) than their actual average character level. You may run monsters as written of the appropriate CR, or, use the Million Monster Machine to adjust monsters up or down on a per-fight basis. You may or may not tell the players, although the more 'rules-lawyerly' types will doubtlessly catch on quickly. Note that adjusting the Campaign Level will also change how fast the player characters level up, so be aware!

Using Monsters to Adjust Game Difficulty

It is very simple to add or remove a monster or two from an encounter, and bingo! It is also possible to use the Million Monster Machine to add Roles to a couple of monsters, combined with adding or removing monsters. Adding a 'double strength' role to one monster allows the GM to make a fight a bit harder and hopefully more memorable by adding some change and contrast on the table. This sort of thing is completely fair and easy to do, as the players are always rewarded according to the monsters they defeat. Add more, and they get more stuff! Now, this can lead to a 'snowball effect' where players that are already powerful grow stronger with more resources, in which case, using the methods listed above are the only way, but modifying the amount of danger on the table is a great way to change things up.

Using Terrain and Circumstances to Adjust Game Difficulty

GM's should be cautious when building encounters to be sure they are presenting the monsters in a fair way....or not! An 'even CR encounter' assumes one monster per player, AND, all the monsters begin play on an equal footing with the players. If you set up an equal CR encounter, and then put the monsters inside a stronghold with arrow slits and force the players to advance upon the monsters over open territory, well, that is obviously a harder encounter. Similarly, if the PLAYERS get to fight the monsters from inside their Magical Murder Mechanism from fifty feet in the air, then that's going to be an easier encounter.

Sadly, there's really no good way to present rules for adjusting difficulty for terrain and circumstances, so this is a case where GM's just have to use their best judgement. As some (very rough) rules of thumb, the GM can do things like grant rewards for one 'bonus' monster, or remove rewards for one monster, depending on if the players had a serious disadvantage, or a major advantage, for a given combat. For extremely tough cases, the GM can and probably should add in a Quest reward. If the players batter their way through heavy, layered defenses to defeat a Fire Giant Fort, then the GM can toss in a reward for the Quest "Against The Fiery Steading" or some-such.

The important thing is to keep things fun. Extremely hard challenges give players a feeling of accomplishment, and extremely easy fights make them feel powerful. But the rewards they receive should be appropriate to the difficulty they faced.

Using Character Creation to Adjust Game Difficulty

If you know your table fairly well, it is possible to make LARGE structural changes in the game right at the very start of play, by changing the number of character points they receive during character creation. This is called 'Campaign Power Level', and can be a source of bragging rights, although the GM must be careful that the players are aware of the Power Level of their characters, in case they want to use those same characters in other tables of play. Mixing Power Levels at the same table is pretty advanced stuff, and not recommended.

Setting your campaign power level is a subtle decision, that will have large impacts on play at lower levels and noticeable impacts even at upper levels. Better stats for player characters are basically like campaign-wide permanent buffs. The very low stat point settings, such as the Low Fantasy game, tends to punish classes that benefit from lots of different good stats, while rewarding classes that rely mainly on a single stat. For example, Fighters want a good to excellent Str, Dex, Con and Wis. Wizards, on the other hand, want a superb Int and a little Dex.

To reflect the fact that there are two different tribes of classes, we have pre-built two classes of 'example' stats below. The 'Balanced' stat array has some good stats and some dump stats, but the buy points are 'spread around' to get as much good stuff as possible. The 'Specialist' stat array goes for the highest high stats, and dumps everything else.

As a point of order, we have carefully chosen and analyzed all of these power levels! 43 points for ManaPunk is not just a random number, and was chosen as a good balance point between high and low stats. Even the 'scary good' Industrial Magic power level still has very definite dump stats, although the other goodies more than make up for it!

The 'balanced' and 'specialist' stat arrays were included as examples, and if referees prefer, they may be given to players to use for their characters. This lets players skip the 'choosing stats' step of character creation, and assures that nobody is going to make any 'whoops' mistakes. All arrays below are built using the 'basic' racial mods of +2 on two stats and -2 on one stat. In addition, when we 'bought down' a stat to gain back some stat points, we did not buy down the same stat we applied the racial modifier against.

Caution! As a result of these design decisions, all of the arrays presented here are built with fairly heavy dump stats! The design goal is to assure that characters are both capable and mighty, but also flawed and interesting to play. If players don't want dump stats this heavy, they should assign their own points!

Using Power Levels to Adjust Game Difficulty

Campaign Power Levels are a subtle way in which referees may 'fine tune' the difficulty of Epic Path right from the very beginning. The 28 point Epic Fantasy power level assumes you have experienced players of D20 system games who are interested in being combat effective, but not necessarily a table full of power-gamers who haunt the optimization boards. IE, the standard level of Epic Path players are assumed to be experienced players who like a variety of things.

If you have a table of highly experienced gamers who ARE all interested in being as mighty as possible, you can 'handicap' them a little by instead having them use the 'Low Fantasy' array of stats. This will effectively lower all stat-affected aspects of play by 1 or 2. This will handily challenge such highly optimized players and keep the challenge rating about where it should be. If you're really worried about a crew of power gamers overwhelming the game system, remove the use of action points. This sets the game to SERIOUS hard mode, so be ready!

If, on the other hand, you have a table of new players who forget to have anybody play a healer, you might want to be merciful and let them roll using the Manapunk set of stats, or even higher. This will effectively give the entire party five +1 items 'baked in' to their stats. Epic Path played in such a way will allow even very 'fluffy' tables of players get all the role-playing they want while also letting them tackle the crunchy combats of Epic Path without fear of wiping out every time. It is also strongly recommended that less experienced players use the Action Point system, and you should remind them to use the action points frequently. A new set comes with every encounter, so use them freely!

Note: These settings are not punishment for the players, by the way. We want Epic Path to be FUN, first and foremost. Ask your players about it! If they want to have a delightful romp with less risky moments, then by all means, increase the power level a bit! If they want a bit of 'survival horror' in their adventures, then turn it down a little. Remember: The goal is always to have fun.

List of Campaign Power Levels

The Grim World

Existence is a wretched struggle, poor nutrition and little to no magic meaning nobody thrives, physically. To be a hero in a Grim World campaign is a big deal!

  • Stat Points: 6
    • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
    • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
    • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 14, 13, 12, 10, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 16, 15, 12, 10, 8, 7
  • Specialist Array: 16, 10, 10, 10, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 18, 12, 10, 10, 8, 7
Array analysis
  • Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +3, total bonus of +6, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +3
  • Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +4, total bonus of +5, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +2

Low Fantasy

The world is new, magic is rare, life is brutish, nasty, and short.

  • Stat Points: 10
    • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
    • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
    • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 14, 14, 13, 11, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 16, 16, 13, 11, 8, 7
  • Specialist Array: 16, 13, 11, 10, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 18, 15, 11, 10, 8, 7
Array analysis
  • Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +3, total bonus of +7, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +4
  • Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +4, total bonus of +6, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +3

Standard Fantasy

Heroes are rare, adventures are grim affairs, magic is common but usually small in effect and has...downsides.

  • Stat Points: 15
  • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
  • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
  • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 15, 14, 14, 12, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 17, 16, 14, 12, 8, 7
  • Specialist Array: 18, 12, 10, 10, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 20, 14, 10, 10, 8, 7
Array analysis
  • Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +3, total bonus of +9, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +6
  • Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +5, total bonus of +7, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +4


High Fantasy

Heroes are not rare, adventures and the world are techni-colored and vibrant. Magic is common and powerful, wizards and monsters stride the earth like titans. .

  • Stat Points: 20
  • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
  • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
  • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 16, 15, 14, 12, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 18, 17, 14, 12, 8, 7
  • Specialist Array: 18, 15, 10, 10, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 20, 17, 10, 10, 8, 7
Array analysis
  • Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +4, total bonus of +10, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +7
  • Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +5, total bonus of +8, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +5

Epic Fantasy (Default)

Heroes are common, magic is everywhere, epic battles happen most summers, adventures spill into other planes, the world bursts with awesome. The assumed 'default' level for Epic Path. Choosing lower or higher levels WILL impact your play experience!

  • Stat Points: 28
  • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
  • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
  • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 16, 16, 15, 14, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 18, 18, 15, 14, 8, 7
  • Specialist Array: 18, 17, 12, 10, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 20, 19, 12, 10, 8, 7
  • Array analysis
Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +4, total bonus of +12, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +9
Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +5, total bonus of +10, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +7

Magical Adventure

Magic becomes as commonplace as electricity. Surprisingly less extravagant because it's so common, but when the fighting begins, watch out.

  • Stat Points: 35
  • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
  • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
  • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 17, 16, 15, 14, 10, 10
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 19, 18, 15, 14, 10, 8
  • Specialist Array: 18, 18, 14, 10, 10, 7
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 20, 20, 14, 10, 8, 7
Array analysis
  • Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +4, total bonus of +12, max penalty of -1, total penalty of -1, and a Net Strength of +11
  • Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +5, total bonus of +12, max penalty of -2, total penalty of -3, and a Net Strength of +9


ManaPunk

Like steam punk/victorian age/gaslight adventures, only with magic. Magic isn't just as common as electricity, it's as common as electricity and better at everything.

  • Stat Points: 43
  • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
  • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
  • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 17, 16, 16, 14, 14, 10
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 19, 18, 16, 14, 14, 8
  • Specialist Array: 18, 18, 16, 11, 10, 8
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 20, 20, 16, 11, 8, 8
Array analysis
  • Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +4, total bonus of +15, max penalty of -1, total penalty of -1, and a Net Strength of +14
  • Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +5, total bonus of +14, max penalty of -1, total penalty of -2, and a Net Strength of +12

Industrial Magic

Like Star Wars. With magic. Flying ships are the norm, teleporters in houses, miraculous healing is readily available, weaponry is fearsome, there is little want.

  • Stat Points: 51
  • Players may buy one stat below 10 and adjust one stat below 10 with racial modifiers.
  • Players may not buy a stat above 18, but may modify a stat above 18 with a racial modifier.
  • No Player Character stat may go below a 7 or above a 20 at campaign start.
  • Balanced Array: 18, 16, 16, 15, 15, 10
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 20, 18, 16, 15, 15, 8
  • Specialist Array: 18, 18, 18, 12, 10, 8
  • Racial adjustments typically reach: 20, 20, 18, 12, 8, 8
Array analysis
  • Balanced Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +5, total bonus of +16, max penalty of -1, total penalty of -1, and a Net Strength of +15
  • Specialist Array with racial mods has a max bonus of +5, total bonus of +15, max penalty of -1, total penalty of -2, and a Net Strength of +13