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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    So, I had a thought that's only half-formed, and wanted to know what the boards could say about it.

    We know that epic-level play gets a little ridiculous, what with highly-scaling DCs, epic spellcasting, and the like. But if a game runs long enough, you could very well get to epic levels.

    I wonder if there's a good way to "halt" adventurers at 20th level, but still give a party a sense of advancement in their capabilities (I know you can easily have them gallivant about accomplishing things, earning magic items, etc).

    One idea that comes to mind is something like 2nd edition dual-classing; you can learn a new trade while retaining your own abilities.

    I'm too tired to really express this in any depth, but would be interested to hear what people think.
    Drew

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    Question Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    So...they get to 20 and then start earning gestalt levels?
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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Could just do the same thing as E6 and give them feats each "levelup" past 20.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    You could let players take levels beyond 20 and just ignore the epic rules. Thus, as a result, players need to go into other classes after hitting level 20, kind of like they were prestige classes that just happened to take 20 levels to fill out.

    Just work the XP chart out further, advance the CR of enemies they face a bit, remove XP penalties for multiclassing, and have the PC's continue to advance as nonepic multiclassing characters indefinitely.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaihaku View Post
    So...they get to 20 and then start earning gestalt levels?
    While this is scary, I'd think it wouldn't be anywhere as ridiculous as Epic Spellcasting.


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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    The gestalt idea was what I could think of; I definitely agree it's not nearly as frightening as epic spellcasting. I worry that characters would start to become undifferentiated, a little, as everyone would pick up spellcasting levels eventually, enough rogue for evasion, etc.

    The feats thing is also an interesting idea. Is there a reference for it somewhere?

    Regarding non-epic advancement, that runs into some of the problems listed in the ELH with regard to martial characters and saves; the differences between certain types of characters quickly become ridiculous.
    Drew

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    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by appending_doom View Post
    Regarding non-epic advancement, that runs into some of the problems listed in the ELH with regard to martial characters and saves; the differences between certain types of characters quickly become ridiculous.
    Wait, what problems does epic level progression as listed have to do with save variation? I thought all epic level characters gained 1/2 epic level to all saves as well as BAB?

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    I had an idea a few days ago as a way to allow anyone to get a full BAB and four attacks regardless of what classes they take, and this seems like a good place for it:

    Until your BAB reaches 20, you can choose to either advance the BAB (by your classes' usual advancement pattern; see UA's fractional bonus rules if you can't detect the pattern) or the epic attack bonus.

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    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Basically the gist of it is, everytime they'd gain a new level, they get a free feat, and in E6 at least, every 5 feats or so is ~+1CR, although you'd be better off ad-hocing it as feats tend to be more powerful at 20th than at 6th.

    http://www.myth-weavers.com/wiki/index.php/Epic_6

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    You could let players take levels beyond 20 and just ignore the epic rules. Thus, as a result, players need to go into other classes after hitting level 20, kind of like they were prestige classes that just happened to take 20 levels to fill out.
    I like this plan, but I'm afraid that it might nerf spellcasting to some extent.

    As the PCs get more and more levels beyond, their Saves and HP will increase. But once casters hit Level 20 in their class, the damage dice on their spells stop increasing. Likewise once they get to 9th level spells, the rate at which the DCs on their saves go up will slow down. Before too long the HP/Saves of everybody will have completly outdistanced the Damage/DCs of spells.

    I'm not sure if this ruins the plan or not, but it should certainly be taken into account.
    Last edited by Mushroom Ninja; 2009-07-17 at 10:11 PM.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushroom Ninja View Post
    I like this plan, but I'm afraid that it might nerf spellcasting to some extent.

    As the PCs get more and more levels beyond, their Saves and HP will increase. But once casters hit Level 20 in their class, the damage dice on their spells stop increasing. Likewise once they get to 9th level spells, the rate at which the DCs on their saves go up will slow down. Before too long the HP/Saves of everybody will have completly outdistanced the Damage/DCs of spells.

    I'm not sure if this ruins the plan or not, but it should certainly be taken into account.
    That, at least, is fairly easy to take care of; just leave them access to Epic Feats *except* Epic Spellcasting. A mix of Improved Spell Capacity, Improved Metamagic, and decent metamagic feats can keep non-epic spells suitably relevant (and often more powerful than a similar Epic Spell would have been, since the Seed system doesn't really work.)

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by tyckspoon View Post
    That, at least, is fairly easy to take care of; just leave them access to Epic Feats *except* Epic Spellcasting. A mix of Improved Spell Capacity, Improved Metamagic, and decent metamagic feats can keep non-epic spells suitably relevant (and often more powerful than a similar Epic Spell would have been, since the Seed system doesn't really work.)
    That sounds pretty good.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Bastion of Broken Souls suggests the following options on "choose 1"-basis each time you'd gain a level:

    +1 Effective Level: Gain a level in a class with regards to skillpoints, skill rank max and class features. Don't gain HD, BAB or any such.

    +1 Ability: Raise one ability score by 1.

    +1 Attack: Raise BAB by 1 (no extra iteratives though)

    +1 Spell Level: Gain one spell slot at most 1 level higher than the caster can currently cast. This benefit only applies if caster has 20 levels in a spellcasting class.


    Those seem pretty good although the +1 Attack feels a bit lonely.
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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushroom Ninja View Post
    I like this plan, but I'm afraid that it might nerf spellcasting to some extent.

    As the PCs get more and more levels beyond, their Saves and HP will increase. But once casters hit Level 20 in their class, the damage dice on their spells stop increasing. Likewise once they get to 9th level spells, the rate at which the DCs on their saves go up will slow down. Before too long the HP/Saves of everybody will have completly outdistanced the Damage/DCs of spells.

    I'm not sure if this ruins the plan or not, but it should certainly be taken into account.
    Wait, a way for fighters to have a shot at dealing with a wizard? Say it isn't so!

    I'm more worried about rogues and their lonely sneak attack, really.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by TSED View Post
    Wait, a way for fighters to have a shot at dealing with a wizard? Say it isn't so!
    I never said that nerfing the spellcasters would be a bad thing.

    I'm more worried about rogues and their lonely sneak attack, really.
    You've got a good point... I suppose they could just take other classes with percision damage, but that kind of narrows thier options...

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    I've thought about this before, and the "semi-gestalt" sounds like it would work, at least in practice. Just give the character the highest bonus that his class mix would provide. For example, a Wizard 20/Fighter 10 would have a +15 BAB (same as a Wiz10/Fig10), a +10 Fort (as a Wiz10/Fig10), a +6 Ref (Wiz10/Fig10), a +12 Will (as a Wiz20) and 10d10 + 10d4 HD (no clue how you'd change that).

    The bigger problem will be the large number of abilities a character can pick up throughout their career. Sure, the Fighter/Barbarian/Rogue may be a problem with Raging Sneak Attacks and Improved Evasion, but it's nowhere near the Wizard/Archmage/Divine Oracle/Rainbow Servant/Initiate of the Sevenfold Viel, even with just 20th level spellcasting.

    The problem, of course, is that BAB and Saves aren't increasing above level 20 - so it doesn't work if you're trying to fight a CR 90 with 105 AC and saves around +58. I guess it depends on what you want to do - keep them around the same power level with improvements, or keep boosting them to take on higher CR opponents?

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    How about just not using Epic Spellcasting? I've got no experience with epic games, but shouldn't that solve the majority (or perhaps even the one and only) problem that arises with going epic?


    And at least with a sorcerer I still wouldn't get bored at epic levels. Spell Knowledge to massively increase versatility, Multispell for more firepower, taking new PrC's... and so on.

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    tl;dr: We have lost a sense of how impressive pre-epic high level characters actually are. This is a bad thing and harms our games. It also means that epic levels aren't really needed.

    long version: Let's be honest. When seen in the context of pre-3E D&D, level 20 is epic. Back in the day by 10th level you were a baron, a bishop, a wizard w. tower, or the head of a thieves guild. That's why old-style hit dice charts only went up to 9 or 10. Beyond 10th level or so you were pushing the limits of human ability and getting into Elric/Kane 'arcane hero doomed by his own power' territory.

    This is still totally supported by 3E. By the teen levels characters in the meaningful power tiers are already throwing around the kind of abilities and effects that have very little parallel in pulp fantasy, or even in most high fantasy. By the upper teen levels most D&D characters are more on a par with "Thor" or "New Gods" comics than they are with "Batman" or "Savage Sword of Conan".

    Don't believe the power curve is that steep? Look at the CR system. Remember that +2CR equals an effective doubling of character power (true if you look at spell progression charts, sadly not so for beatstick boys...), and that more than 4CR difference is supposed to be a nigh impossible fight for the weaker side. That makes a 9th level character about 16 times as powerful as his 1st level self, and a 17th level character about 16 times as powerful as Herr 9th-level Baron.

    Here are 10 plot hooks and some related thoughts on what the original author called wish tier (level 10+) play:

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    Plenty of wish-tier opponents live on the prime material. Giants and Dragons are the most obvious of course, but there are also Nightmare Beasts and Undead of all flavors and sizes.

    When you're in the level 11+ range you fight seriously big crazy sh!t. You fight in cloud castles and lava pits against evil wizards and towering colossi. And while these can be in the elemental confluxes or the pits of Hell, they can also just be at the bottom of the sea or the tops of high mountains. The epic landscape of D&D is most standardly in other realms of existence, but parts of it are seriously just in out of the way parts of the otherwise mortal realms.

    Remember that any particular D&D campaign is going to have a limited number of quests. Even assuming that you ditch the CR bull and go to a more reasonable system like 1-2 levels per quest, let's consider some high level quests:

    The Inverted Tower
    Rogue illusionist is making trouble. Quest in a surreal tower powered by years of overlapping magical effects. Expect shadow monsters, golems, bound demons, and of course: the original illusionist himself (or is it?). Floating stones, traps beyond measure, and a permanent image on ****ing everything.

    The Maw of Darkness
    A Hullathoin is causing trouble, and hiding in the Banemire. Oh the look of joy on the PC's faces when they realize that Wyverns are a horde monster here and so are hydras. Add a goodly pile of Wisps and genuine undead and the PCs will barely be able to overcome the gathering army of the dead.

    Rise of Ancient Evils
    The Sunken Temple in the heart of Sahuagin territory is straining against reality, the Great Mother is awakening. The prayers of the Kua-Toa are answered and the depths are filling up with evil the likes of which even the Sahuagin are incapable of imagining. Go to the bottom of the seas and fight epic battles against a backdrop of essentially sunken Atlantis overrun by Lovecraftian horror.

    The Castle in the Sky
    Real estate above the tallest peaks has never looked so good. The King of the Giants is going crazy and he is banding the tribes together to destroy the worlds of the small folk. That's you, so this is totally bad. The players have to play Against the Giants when Cloud and Storm giants are running around being mook guards.

    The Wicked City
    Deep in the underdark there is a city of mindflayers. Or maybe beholders. Aboleth? Something horrible anyway, and for the last thousand years or so it has been just fine down there only occasionally teleporting out to murder people to advance its weird agenda. That ends now, as the plans put in motion before the dwarves finalized their calendar take form. There's a pit full of aberrations and they have had time to prepare. Time and time again.

    The Mountain of Fire
    The sky turns red as the source of fire itself shudders and rains death upon the fertile valleys. The Great Wyrm is on the move. His minions writhe in fire and lava. Salamanders form the rank and file and beneath the Wyrmbanner march beasts of legend.

    The Soul Gate
    A great nation has fallen over night as a disastrous cataclysm shatters the capital. Souls of the dead are driven mad with hatred and torment and the Soul Gate compels them back as shadows. The army of spectral forces amasses and seeks to overrun and destroy all life.

    Ambition and Realism
    A powerful Hobgoblin warlord has raised an army of unimaginable size. Thousands have flocked to his banner and thousands more will continue to do so for it has become clear that those who do not assist him in crushing his foes will doubtless end as the fallen themselves.

    Treasure Hunt
    An ancient hero took the Justice Blade with him to his grave. A historian has uncovered the location of the ancient battlefield ad now it's a race to an ill-used portion of the Dwarven tunnels. Several groups are searching, and some of them doubtless have nefarious goals.

    Wrath of the Wilds
    The new Archdruid has made a pact with some powerful fey and has determined that it is time to cull cities and revert most of them to their natural state. Plant monsters come out kaiju style while powerful druidic magics propel armies of predators into crowds of innocent gnomes and kobolds.

    There. One quest per level, no plane shifting, 11-20. Take them in any order you wish and modify monster numbers and strengths accordingly.


    All pretty epic in their own right, I'm sure you'll agree. So let's just drop the conceit that levels 16-20 are 'pre-epic'. If you can throw around earthquakes, summon storms, call swarms of monsters to fight for you, or invoke wishes on a daily basis then you are already epic.

    (of course, there are some classes - the low-tier ones - who don't get to play high-level D&D at all. They may continue to gain levels above 10th, but the monk, the RAW fighter, and so on (we all know the list) are not really playing the high-level game. They are still playing as their low-level selves, only with bigger numbers.)

    In a well-run game of D&D (of whatever edition) a 10th level character is absolutely not some half-completed 'foo3/bar4/skub3' build; he is already a power in the land. He's the type of guy who tells his sheriffs to hire bunches of lowbie characters to clear the mines of goblins while he rides out from his castle on griffon- or dragon-back to solo nests of wyverns, packs of manticores and giants while his adventuring buddies sit back on silken cushions cheering him on.

    By 20th level - at least under the 3/4E paradigm - the same guy looks on his level 10 self in the same way that guy looked on starting characters. Mr Big 20 should be flying about the place on a chariot made from a thunderstorm and pulled by a creature of legend. He will probably be emperor of all he surveys, and is on first name terms with several greater demons, archdevils, seraphim and gods. Spending money? His tame wish-granting djinn handles that. Oh, and he has 3-4 good friends who are equally bad-ass. He will have already have saved the world numerous times and is probably getting ready to do the whole "I will return when my country needs me most" speech prior to his taking a seat on Olympus.

    As for the Epic Level Joke Book. Well, let's be blunt, it's a disaster and it will break your game. I know that guys like the DiceFreaks and Upper_Krust have done some interesting, thought-provoking work with Epic, but they practically had to re-write it from scratch to do so. They became the editors the book needed when it was published.

    • Epic spellcasting is known to be broken.
    • Epic feats are 90%+ yawnsome weaksauce replicating low-level spells.
    • Epic skill usages are interesting, or would be if they were available to pre-epic characters.
    • The prestige classes are a masterclass in authorial suck and fail (Union Sentinel? Level 21+ city guard PrC? "Pwah-hah-hah-hah!" Talk about a paucity of imagination)
    • The mathematics of the game break down irretrievably above 20th level.

    There is no real, meaningful reason to even look at Epic, except possibly to loot most of the epic feats and skill usages for the pre-epics. Going beyond the magic L20 is when ~divine ranks~ should kick in, not crappy 'more of the same' epic class levels, and certainly not E6/WoW level 80 "top level, only moreso" hijinks.

    There's solid precedent for this way of looking at the game:
    • Gary himself wasn't afraid to retire high-level PCs to the realms of legend in Greyhawk. Heck, some of the original PCs - Heward, Myrlund, Xagyg, Keoghtom - ended up as demigods and quasi-deities hovering in the background of ongoing play.
    • 1-2E Dragonlance used to have the gods of that setting (all of them Evil btw, whatever their press office says) retire characters above 18th level.
    • Birthright implied that characters above a certain level of power would eventually be warped into inhuman beings by their inherent powers.
    • Dark Sun characters advanced above 20th level through transformative classes, or by retiring from the world into contemplation.
    • BECMI said that the ultimate aim of an adventurer (after treading the thrones of the world 'neath his sandled feet and kicking butt on other planes) was to force their way into the pantheon by exploiting the immortals' collective "better to have them on our side than against us..." prudence.
    • Even 4E divides progression into the Heroic/Paragon/Epic tiers, thereby completely formalising the message that "Above XX level penny-ante stuff like shiving kobolds for coppers is no longer your problem." (hat-tip to AstralFire for this)


    This is all IMO, YGWV of course. If an E6/raid mechanic works for you when characters hit 20, then go with it. I just don't think they will need the extra by that point in the game.

    PS: Most prestige classes should be no more than 5 levels long, and some base classes should top out at level 10. Any pretence that swashbuckler or warrior monk is a meaningful role in-and-of-itself after 10th level is a bad joke.

    / end textwall
    Last edited by bosssmiley; 2009-07-18 at 11:20 AM.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Easiest way to go into "epic" levels without any epic material is simply keeping the advancement as normal.
    It tends to make casters pegged as the casting does not improve unless you take another casting class from the beginning, but that's ok because casters obsolete melee at that point anyways.

    For exsample-ou ranger hit level 20. what can he do now? take a PrC or take another base class. level 21 is just like 20 rulewise, but higher powerwise.


    Naturally the end result will be something like sorcerer 20/warlock 20/random PrC's 20, but that's nothing like wizard 60 power level.


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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Bosssmiley makes some very, very good points. I think 4E handled this well by giving each level grouping an explicit naming that gives you a constant small reminder of how awesome you're supposed to be. I see a lot of people (especially people playing swordy types) that treat level 10-18 like they were still small time fries. Remember being in a very short-lived campaign with a level 16 Gestalt Druid/Monk who was a small-time, low value slaver.

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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    You've got a lot of advancement potential in the Epic Level Handbook and the Epic stuff in all the 3.5 books (DMG, Complete Adventurer, Complete Divine, & c.) without using Epic spells. They're what's horribly broken, and capping spells at 9th level (except for metamagic) helps a bit in giving non-spellcasting classes a chance to compete.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by bosssmiley View Post
    Let's be honest. When seen in the context of pre-3E D&D, level 20 is epic. Back in the day by 10th level you were a baron, a bishop, a wizard w. tower, or the head of a thieves guild. That's why old style hit dice charts only went up to 9 or 10. Beyond 10th level or so you were pushing the limits of human ability and getting into Elric/Kane 'arcane hero doomed by his own power' territory.
    Indeed, but it seems to me that someone asking for post-epic progression is probably someone gunning more for a Forgotten Realms-type campaign, in which level 20 means you just start going around beating up gods and such (also, being a mentor for much lower-level adventurers who do busy work you don't want to bother with).

    It's entirely possible to run a D&D campaign in which the end of an adventurer's career in Greyhawk merely marks where you enter your prime.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    I guess it depends on what you want to do - keep them around the same power level with improvements, or keep boosting them to take on higher CR opponents?
    I suppose that I was thinking more along the lines of increasing options, rather than increasing them to take on high-CR opponents.

    The E-6 rules linked to sound somewhat what I'm looking for, but so do semi-gestalt rules.

    The E-6-like idea is strongest if you want high-level play to simply give characters more opportunities to make use of the powers they have, I think. The pseudo-gestalt is something like actual epic play, where you can collect as many powers as you like. They're both good ideas, I think.

    I'm still sort of opposed to the continued increase of attack bonuses and saves, though increasing skills to epic levels make for an interesting mechanic. I understand that some people are big fans of fighting immense-CR opponents, but the numbers games of designing massive AC and save numbers to match increasing attack bonuses makes the whole thing too numbers-intensive.
    Drew

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by Kylarra View Post
    Could just do the same thing as E6 and give them feats each "levelup" past 20.
    Which I think is what Epic level rules should have been in the first place. The official epic rules allow advancement to infinite levels, which allows a halfling rouge to one-shot balors and the like.
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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    One caveat I would offer to those advocating throwing out the Epic rules and just allowing 25th level wizards to simply be 5 levels higher than 20th level wizards is to look at Dispels. If you do nothing, by about 30th level your spells are immune to Greater Dispel, leaving Reaving Dispel iirc and Disjunction. The simplest fix would be to remove the cap from Greater Dispel.

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    Default Re: Non-Epic High Level Advancement

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Which I think is what Epic level rules should have been in the first place. The official epic rules allow advancement to infinite levels, which allows a halfling rouge to one-shot balors and the like.
    What's wrong with an epic halfling rogue striking down a balor in one hit?

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