This idea was fully inspired by a thread on ENWorld about adapting E6 to 4e. What is E6? You can find more about it in another thread on ENWorld or in the full PDF write-up, but the core idea is simple: for D&D 3e games, players stop gaining levels at level 6, and instead, gain new feats whenever they would level. This keeps the PCs right at the top edge of “gritty fantasy” and on the cusp of “heroic fantasy” while still allowing the characters to grow. Lower level bad guys (like Orcs) still remain threats in high numbers.
Well, I think this idea can be ported to 4e pretty easily. However, in 3e, feats were a big way in which characters changed. In 4e, some of the emphasis has been taken off feats and put into powers. Plus, the 1-20 vs. 1-30 level spread changes things a bit. Thus to accomodate it, here’s the rules I propose:
- Everything is normal until level 11, AKA the first paragon level. Paragon path is chosen as normal. Then advancement stops. Though you still level up, you do not increase HP, the half-level bonus (it’s always calculated as if level 11), do not gain further class abilities, and so on.
- At every even level, you gain a new feat.
- At every odd level, you upgrade your lowest level power to a higher level version of a level you do not possess, no matter what level that power is. For example, if you have level 1, 3, and 7 Encounter powers, you can upgrade your level 1 to a level 13 encounter power, since it is the same type (encounter) and the next jump is of a level you don’t possess (since you already have a 3 and 7). You can choose the powers of your paragon path in this way.
- Repeat forever.
There’s something that particularly tickles me about this idea, that you gain powers beyond your level. The powers system is pretty modular in this way, not being dependent on a specific ability score or something similar. That way your techniques in battle are getting improved, without ascending bonuses into godhood. Level 11 (or as I like to think of it with this system, “name level”) has a pretty good number of options for characters, and the DM still has plenty of options for monsters. This option might work better for campaigns focused on empire-building then those where you eventually ascend to god-like power. The system isn’t without issues: for instance, PCs will start to cherry-pick paragon paths based solely on what is granted for 11th level instead of what might balance throughout the whole progression, and the XP system might need to change. But I think it’s a good start.
I’m considering this for a Dark Sun game. What do you guys think?