Sometimes it’s staring you right in the face. I’ve had this conundrum for a while, how to play at the epic tier the way I want it to be? Because buy the books, I don’t really see it, and I say that as someone who has DMed the entire Orcus series for 4e.
What I found was that the combats got even more dragged out than heroic and paragon, mainly due to the huge amount of options available to every player at that point. Also, the themes didn’t really change particularly, though that’s more to do with the modules than anything else. We went from kobolds to trolls to demons, but largely the experience remained the same over the 30 levels. Don’t get me wrong, it was all good, but it was all too similar.
And yet. The D&D universe gets really interesting at epic levels. The whole cosmology is exciting and different. I love the Manual of the Planes, and especially Plane Above, they are excellent books, chock full of inspiration. I like the Gods v the Primordials. The flavour text for the epic destinies is suitably epic. It’s all great. I want to play world hopping, deity slaying, immortal loving games.
So, thanks to an idea of Ethan Skemp, it turns out the best way to do that is to not use the D&D rules at all (of any edition), but instead to use a Supers system.
Now I’ve been picking apart Marvel Heroic for a while now, as have many others. There’s lots to love about it. It’s also not perfect. It’s pretty gamey, too much for some. It also seems to support combat more than anything else. (both these points are pretty arguable of course). Thing is, in an epic D&D game, those bugs turn into features.
I wouldn’t be the first to have thought of hacking MH this way, but most folk do it from level 1. I’d go large and change very little indeed, but work on the assumption that you are astonishingly good with sword, spell, deed or word. Super good. Dual wield ranger? Wolverine. Wizard? Dr Strange. Cleric? Thor. Fighter? Thing. Barbarian? Hulk. Thief? Black Widow
Stick em all in a spelljammer and set sail across the astral sea. Picture it drawn like Jack Kirby does the negative zone.