View Full Version : How Epic is too Epic?

01-11-2011, 09:29 PM
I was just disappointed to find the grand scale of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. It doesn't seem to be anything less than confronting the definer of Evil itself (we could use him in our Alignment debates...).

Since this to me is too epic, too grand, too important, it raises the question: what's not too epic, but still worth pursuing?

Just how big should a role playing game go?

01-12-2011, 01:09 PM
Depends on the game, really, but as a general principle, nothing's too epic to be punched in the face.

01-12-2011, 07:44 PM
I would say nothing seeing how you have games like Nobilis, Amber and to a lesser extent Exalted. Personally I don't like epic (saving a village = cool; saving a kingdom = ok; saving the world = meh) but some people do

01-13-2011, 10:06 AM
You can even go back to the D&D Immortals set, too.

01-13-2011, 11:47 AM
As mentioned, it's a matter of taste.

I have another question. How long do you plan to run the game? The longer running the game the less Epic you have to be. You cannot save the world every other month, or even save the village every week. A place that threatened people would move away from. My general rule of thumb is that I make the over-arching goal important to the PCs, but not world threatening. or even nation threating. Once in a very great while I do a truly Epic scale game. Usually with the purpose of realigning the political landscape in some fashion.

My usual goal is something that needs to be done. There will be a negative impact if the PCs fail. It will not shake the world usually, but will certainly be a tragedy to those involved. Dozens even hundreds of people may suffer. I do not pound on a single location in this fashion.

As a general rule the more Epic the game, the shorter its legs. What do you top saving the world with after all? There is nothing those characters can ever do that will match it.

01-14-2011, 12:26 AM
I would say that there is no way to make the game "too epic". One of my favorite experiences was a fight against the god Saturn for the fate of the universes.

As for what to do after saving the world, there are three ways to go after that:

1) Save the Twelve Worlds. Save the Galaxy. Save the Local Cluster. Save the Multiverse. Save the Twelve Multiverses.

2) Take the last page from _Magic Kingdom For Sale -- Sold_. After saving the world, King Mark had to deal with a problem involving a lord from one of his southern counties and a misunderstanding ... In other words, arcs don't always have to go up and up and up. Bringing the heroes back to the mundane is part of the Hero's Journey.

3) End the campaign. After killing Saturn, my PC just retired to a cabin in the woods. He was done. Start a new game.

01-14-2011, 11:53 AM
In Castlevania's case - it's a series. If the newest part of the series has an ultimate goal of lesser importance than its predecessor, it's less interesting, less inspiring. I mean, if a Belmont can destroy Evil (with a capital E), who cares about the other Belmonts who can't? Sure, a new game can still be cool, but I see this scale problem as watering sequels down a bit.

On a tabletop game, it might help to consider the Spaceballs scale: Light (speed), Ridiculous, Ludicrous. To use Ut's example, I think you're crossing over into Ridiculous Speed by the time you're saving the Galaxy. Meaning that normal gameplay has lost most of its relevance (for fantasy, even though it should apply to sci-fi too), and things are about to stop making sense. What does movement of 30 feet mean in galactic terms? Who cares about any spells lower than 5th level? And just imagine where things go at Ludicrous Speed!

I like Tesral's point - if you're going Full Epic (never go Full Retard), make it a long campaign. Or you'll get to Ridiculous Speed way too soon. And Ut's on it too: you might just have to end your campaign after Epicness hits.

Since mortal combat is an intrinsic part of most game systems, it seems that putting lives on the line is not Epic enough, since it's bread-and-butter. In my current game, there's some tribal war going on, even if it's just a backdrop. Since the game's just starting, I guess that's my current bar for minimum-epicness.

01-14-2011, 01:21 PM
I also have the consideration I want to use this world after the current PCs are done with it. That means I can't use save the world scenarios even at the climax of every PC cycle. Keepo the goals reasonable, I might not even have an over arching goal for the PCs. It might be "do the best you can."

01-15-2011, 12:42 PM
Another good point. Maybe you're reusing the same world, or even the same players. When the earth-shattering battle with Azmodigon ruins everything, if only to bring the Light of Goodness back, well, you have to rethink everything - states, ecology, topography, etc. And a player going into the new campaign will have that player knowledge that makes the rest of his challenges seem mundane.

What if you don't keep the same players? What if they walk into another DM's game thinking "I saved the Twelve Galaxies. This plot about discovering a lost clay pot is LAME?"

A balancing feature, and a nod to D&D, is Challenge Ratings. When your character is level 35, it's a good thing that fighting intergalactic space gerbils is also CR 35. When you're disabling the trap that guards the clay pot with your level 2 rogue, a CR 3 trap can be a challenge.

01-15-2011, 01:17 PM
Challenge is relative, your millage may vary.

A good bit of advice for players is "Do not take expectations from your last game into a new game."

For one shot games the sky is obviously the limit, again YMMV.

I am speaking for running a continuing world, with continuing players. It is best to stay sub epic. And still that doesn't apply to all circumstances in all seasons.

For that matter "epic" is highly relative. For some people defeating one dragon is plenty epic. For others saving the world is a yawn. Me? I seek engagement.

As a player that means I want to feel that I am part of the world and that the world is a living and real place my character exists in. To me that is more important than any given plot or the scale thereof. It is laso nice to know that waht you are doing does make a different to someone, even if it is just the farmer and his family. Yea, I like being a hero. Sappy of me.

As a GM I want to give the player that feeling of engagement. The world is real, what you do matters even if on the scale of one person at a time. Reward can come in a maner much more visceral than gold and experiance. I like those kind of rewards. Sure the meta game XP is nice to have, gold is useful, but letting the PC know they did make a difference is something I strive for.

Epic s relative.

04-29-2011, 09:32 PM
what's not too epic, but still worth pursuing?

Whatever legitimately interests you.

Seriously. If it interests you and does not violate any real world laws or ethical concerns, then it is worth pursuing. If it does not interest you, it is not worth pursuing.

The interest, not the epic level, is the key.

Take a look at the heroes in genuinely epic tales (The Iliad, the King Arthur legendry, Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, etc.) and you will notice that each one is genuinely motivated into the epic by his or her pursuit of a personal interest. Achilles is motivated by both a love of adventure and a greed for glory. Odysseus is motivated by pride, loyalty, and a certain restlessness. King Arthur is motivated by idealism in some versions, an idealistic patriotism in others, and a warlord's love for order in still others. Frodo is motivated in large part by a love for the Shire but also by his deep trust for and loyalty to Gandalf.

Epic game sessions go wrong when there is no personal interest drawing the player-characters into the events of the epics, or when the epic continues onward even after the disappearance of anything in which the player-characters are interested, or when the player-characters enter the epic only because they have been forced to do so.

When the Trojan War no longer held interest for Achilles, he want off to his tent, and he refused to re-enter that epic until a new interest in it caught his attention (in his case, revenge!). When Merlin lost interest in the epic building of Camelot, he went off into the woods and had to be sought out by the others. Yet when an epic fails to hold a player's interest, he or she is expected to play on anyway -- and that is where epic campaigns can fall.

A good epic story arc is a great way to end a campaign, but only if the epic story arc involves the interests of all the player-characters.

However, an epic story arc can be followed by a more modest story arc quite well if both involve the interests of the heroes. The hobbits' love for the Shire motivated both their involvement in the epic of the One Ring and their later involvement in the scouring of the Shire. Beowulf's interest in his people and fame meant he spent time killing off Grendel and time in the bureaucratics of running a kingdom. The interest, not the epic level, kept him going.

That is what keeps the epic from becoming "too big" for the player-characters.

04-30-2011, 07:36 PM
i don't know about you, but when my kids have some seriously epic fun... there's an even more direly mega-epic mess left afterwords. i think campaigns are like that. sure you can save the world... but chances are the mess it leaves behind will be way more difficult than the bbeg. after all, giving your all in one massive shot at long odds is hard, but doable for an individual. sticking it out cleaning up the resulting mess for the long haul, and have every little kingdom and principality come to you with every little problem afterward because you're the hero that saved the world? super super hard. it grinds you down and doesn't end! there are reasons some heroes simply retire and disappear.

consequently, i tend towards either clean up the mess, or retire with occasional cameos for epilogue campaigns. seeing what the players will do with messes can be fun for everyone, but starting new characters who have to seek out the previous characters for some advice or training can also be fun too.