Epic Insights
Epic Level Combatants
By Andy Collins

The heart of most D&D encounters, whether epic or not, revolves around the art of melee combat. The four prestige class epic progressions presented below -- the berserk, the devoted defender, the tempest, and the weapon master -- demonstrate four very different melee techniques, and each one is quite effective in dealing extraordinary amounts of damage to unlucky opponents.

This column also includes five new combat-related epic feats to give your battle-minded characters even more options in a fight.

Epic Berserk (from Deities and Demigods)

The epic berserk is a paragon of battle frenzy who lays waste to all those who would stand in their way.

You can take advantage of your battle fury's similarity to rage by picking up feats such as Chaotic Rage or Thundering Rage. Alternatively, improve your defensive capabilities with Armor Skin, Damage Reduction, or Epic Toughness. Strength is your best friend, so you should put most of your ability increases there, but improving your Dexterity and/or Constitution every now and then is a good idea, too.

Other Options: To put an extra dose of terror in your opponents, pick up Wield Oversized Weapon, Terrifying Rage, and Overwhelming Critical, then watch your foes flee with their tails tucked between their legs!

Hit Die: d12.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Battle Fury (Ex): The berserk can enter a battle fury one additional time per day for every 4 levels gained after 8th (4/day at 12th, 5/day at 16th, and so on). For the purpose of qualifying for or using epic feats, treat the berserk's battle fury as interchangeable with rage.

Beast Shape (Su): The berserk can change to his beast shape one additional time per day for every 3 levels above 9th (4/day at 12th, 5/day at 15th, and so on).

Bonus Feats: The epic berserk gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic berserk feats) every 3 levels after 10th.

Epic Berserk Bonus Feat List: Armor Skin, Chaotic Rage*, Damage Reduction, Devastating Critical, Epic Prowess, Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus, Fast Healing, Mighty Rage*, Overwhelming Critical, Ruinous Rage*, Terrifying Rage*, Thundering Rage*, Wield Oversized Weapon (new feat; see below).

*For the purpose of these feats, the berserk's battle fury is treated as rage.

Berserk

Level

Special
11
12 Beast shape 4/day, battle fury 4/day
13 Bonus feat
14
15 Beast shape 5/day
16 Battle fury 5/day, bonus feat
17
18 Beast shape 6/day
19 Bonus feat
20 Battle fury 6/day

Epic Devoted Defender (from Sword and Fist)

As far as pure defense goes, nobody can really hold a candle to the epic devoted defender. This character's charge might as well be protected by a foot of reinforced adamantine.

Your shtick is defense, so consider feats such as Armor Skin, Damage Reduction, and Energy Resistance. On the other hand, it has been said that the best defense is a good offense, and Epic Prowess and Epic Weapon Focus fit that bill nicely. Epic Skill Focus (Listen or Spot) helps you pick out the enemy before he makes his move. More than most other characters, your ability increases depend largely on your favored tactics -- if you prefer to go toe-to-toe against enemies, pick Strength or Constitution, but more defensive-minded individuals should select Dexterity. An occasional Wisdom boost helps some of your important bodyguard skills.

Other Options: If you have the Intelligence to qualify (or can spare the ability increases to get there), Epic Combat Expertise can make you extraordinarily hard to hit. Armed Deflection allows you to protect yourself from ranged attacks.

Hit Die: d12.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Armor Class Bonus: The devoted defender's dodge bonus to AC improves by +1 every 2 levels above 9th (to +6 at 11th, +7 at 12th, and so on).

Defensive Strike (Ex): The bonus gained to attacks of opportunity against adjacent opponents who attack your charge in melee improves by +1 every 2 levels above 10th (+5 at 12th, +6 at 14th, and so on).

Deflect Attack (Ex): The bonus to Reflex saves to deflect melee attacks against your charge improves by +1 every 2 levels above 9th (+5 at 11th, +6 at 13th, and so on).

Bonus Feats: The epic devoted defender gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic devoted defender feats) every 4 levels after 10th.

Epic Devoted Defender Bonus Feat List: Armed Deflection (new feat; see below), Armor Skin, Blinding Speed, Damage Reduction, Energy Resistance, Epic Combat Expertise (new feat; see below), Epic Prowess, Epic Skill Focus (Listen), Epic Skill Focus (Spot), Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus, Exceptional Deflection, Infinite Deflection, Perfect Health, Reflect Arrows.

Devoted Defender

Level

Special
11 Dodge bonus +6, deflect attack +5
12 Defensive strike +5
13 Dodge bonus +7, deflect attack +6
14 Defensive strike +6, bonus feat
15 Dodge bonus +8, deflect attack +7
16 Defensive strike +7
17 Dodge bonus +9, deflect attack +8
18 Defensive strike +8, bonus feat
19 Dodge bonus +10, deflect attack +9
20 Defensive strike +9

Epic Tempest (from Masters of the Wild)

The epic tempest is barely visible behind the incessant, whirling blur of her twin weapons.

Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting is usually an early choice on the epic tempest's wish list, but don't overlook other feats that allow you to dish out additional pain and suffering to your enemies, including Devastating Critical, Epic Prowess, and Penetrate Damage Reduction. Superior Initiative lets you strike first in a combat, but Epic Toughness may let you strike last, which is often more important. Depending on whether you wield heavy or light weapons, Strength or Dexterity is probably your first choice for ability increases.

Other Options: An epic tempest who learns to deflect ranged attacks by means of the Armed Deflection feat opens up an entire new world of options, including Exceptional Deflection and Reflect Arrows. You'll probably need to send some ability increases toward your Wisdom to best follow this path.

Hit Die: d10.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Bonus Feats: The epic tempest gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic tempest feats) every 2 levels after 10th.

Epic Tempest Bonus Feat List: Armed Deflection (new feat; see below), Blinding Speed, Devastating Critical, Epic Prowess, Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus, Exceptional Deflection, Infinite Deflection, Overwhelming Critical, Penetrate Damage Reduction, Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting, Reflect Arrows, Superior Initiative, Two-Weapon Rend.

Tempest

Level

Special
11
12 Bonus feat
13
14 Bonus feat
15
16 Bonus feat
17
18 Bonus feat
19
20 Bonus feat

Epic Weapon Master (from Sword and Fist)

The epic weapon master is an unparalleled expert in the use of his chosen weapon, whether that weapon is sword, axe, or nunchaku.

You can improve your already prodigious combat talents by selecting Epic Prowess, Epic Weapon Focus, or Overwhelming Critical. Alternatively, enhance your defensive capabilities with Epic Combat Expertise or Epic Toughness. As a melee fighter, Strength is likely your most important ability score, so it should receive the lion's share of ability increases.

Other Options: If your chosen weapon is a reach weapon, it's tough to beat Improved Whirlwind Attack. Penetrate Damage Reduction is great if you routinely find yourself facing foes whose DR your chosen weapon can't overcome. If you go the Weapon Finesse route, then Dexterity becomes a prime target for ability increases.

Hit Die: d10.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Ki Damage (Ex): The epic weapon master can use his ki damage ability one additional time per day per level gained after 10th (11/day at 11th, 12/day at 12th, and so on).

Increased Multiplier (Ex): The epic weapon master can declare that he is increasing the critical multiplier of his chosen weapon one additional time per day for every 2 levels gained above 10th (6/day at 12th, 7/day at 14th, and so on).

Bonus Feats: The epic weapon master gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic weapon master feats) every 3 levels after 10th.

Epic Weapon Master Bonus Feat List: Blinding Speed, Devastating Critical, Epic Combat Expertise (new feat; see below), Epic Prowess, Epic Reflexes, Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus (weapon of choice only), Extended Lifespan, Improved Combat Reflexes, Improved Whirlwind Attack, Overwhelming Critical, Penetrate Damage Reduction.

Weapon Master

Level

Special
11 Ki damage 11/day
12 Increased multiplier 6/day, ki damage 12/day
13 Ki damage 13/day, bonus feat
14 Increased multiplier 7/ day, ki damage 14/day
15 Ki damage 15/day
16 Increased multiplier 8/ day, ki damage 16/day, bonus feat
17 Ki damage 17/day
18 Increased multiplier 9/ day, ki damage 18/day
19 Ki damage 19/day, bonus feat
20 Increased multiplier 10/ day, ki damage 20/day

New Epic Feats

These five new epic feats are most appropriate for characters who are combat-oriented. You may want to add some of them to various classes' epic bonus feat lists.

Armed Deflection

You can deflect arrows or other ranged weapons with your melee weapon.

Prerequisites: Dex 21, Int 13, Wis 15, Epic Weapon Focus, Expertise, Weapon Focus.

Benefit: When wielding a weapon with which you have selected the Epic Weapon Focus feat, once per round when you normally would be hit with a ranged weapon, you can make a Reflex saving throw (DC 20; if the ranged weapon has a magical bonus to attack, the DC increases by that amount). If you succeed, you deflect the weapon. You must be aware of the attack and not flat-footed. Attempting to deflect a ranged weapon doesn't count as an action. Exceptional ranged weapons, such as spell effects or boulders hurled by giants, can't be deflected.

Special: This feat can be substituted for the Improved Unarmed Strike and Deflect Arrows feats for the purpose of qualifying for another feat, such as Exceptional Deflection. To employ other feats that have such prerequisites, you must be wielding a weapon with which you have selected the Epic Weapon Focus feat.

Combat Insight

Your keen intellect allows you to place melee attacks where they will inflict the most damage.

Prerequisites: Int 19, Epic Prowess, Expertise, base attack bonus +15.

Benefit: When wielding a melee weapon, add your Intelligence modifier rather than your Strength modifier to the weapon's damage rolls.

Epic Combat Expertise

You have extraordinary talent at using your combat skill for defense.

Prerequisites: Int 19, Epic Prowess, Expertise, base attack bonus +21.

Benefit: When you use the attack action or full attack action in melee, you can take a penalty equal to or less than one-half your base attack bonus (rounded down) on your attack and add the same number to your AC. The modifiers to attack rolls and AC last until your next turn. The bonus to your AC is a dodge bonus.

Mighty Sunder

You deal extra damage when attacking objects.

Prerequisites: Str 25, Power Attack, Sunder, Epic Prowess.

Benefit: When attacking an object, you can double any bonus damage derived from Strength. When attempting to break an object with sudden force rather than dealing regular damage, you gain a +4 bonus to your Strength check.

Wield Oversized Weapon

You can use larger than normal weapons with ease.

Prerequisites: Str 25, Epic Prowess, base attack bonus +21.

Benefit: You can treat any weapon as if it were one size category smaller than normal for the purpose of wielding it in combat. For instance, a halfling with this feat could wield a longsword as a one-handed weapon, or a human could wield an ogre's Huge greatclub as a two-handed weapon.

Normal: You can wield weapons of your size or smaller only.

Special: You can't use this feat in conjunction with Weapon Finesse. For instance, a halfling with this feat couldn't apply the effects of Weapon Finesse while wielding a short sword, even though this feat enables him to otherwise treat it as a light weapon.

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Epic Level Handbook, Deities and Demigods, Masters of the Wild, Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual .

About the Author

Andy Collins is the co-designer of the Epic Level Handbook. Read more about him and his projects at www.andycollins.net.


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