Excerpts 07/05/2002

Epic Level Handbook
by Andy Collins, Bruce R. Cordell, and Thomas M. Reid

More Information.

It's time to save the world -- again! Legendary player characters deserve legendary adventures to test their exceptional powers. But how do you challenge PCs whose reputations rival those of the gods? Find out in the Epic Level Handbook, the new D&D sourcebook for DMs and players ready to take their campaigns beyond 20th level. Magic, monsters, NPCs, advice from the pros . . . this book contains everything you need to develop larger-than-life characters, then confront them with stories worthy of their abilities. In this sneak peek, the designers offer tips on keeping prescient characters guessing, and a new prestige class of divine proportions.

Divinations and Keeping Secrets

One of the most difficult snares of high-level and epic games is the characters' access to divination spells. If this factor is not considered ahead of time, divinations have the possibility to leach the fun out of almost any adventure. At the same time, it is important to avoid the trap of denying the characters their "toys." High-level characters have endured much to reach lofty heights of power, and their experience is cheapened if they find out that "Divinations don't work here. Sorry."

A good scenario turns that phenomenon around: In an epic scenario, the PCs must use their highest-level powers, or they'll die. In the case of divinations and similar magic, they must call on these resources just to find out what the adventure is all about, who the adversary is, and where they must go to resolve the adventure. If they do anything less, the adventure is over before it begins, for lack of knowledge. Familiarize yourself with the divination resources a character has, know how they work, when they'll be helpful, and when they'll be useless.

Questions and Answers: This category includes augury (Clr 2), divination (Clr 4), commune (Clr 5), and contact other plane (Brd 5, Sor/Wiz 5). All these spells rely on the interception of the request for knowledge by some interested extraplanar creature or divinity. Powerful evil entities with an agenda to protect from their peers are careful to hide their activities. So when such a call for information comes, the evil entity is most likely to intercept the question itself. When a question is intercepted by a self-interested entity, the question is answered in such a way as to further the ends of the creature, not the questioner. If more than a single entity knows the answer to a given question (which is most often the case, especially when gods know so much so effortlessly), powerful creatures use wish to gain a 50% chance to intercept any divination that concerns them directly.

When divinations do get through without interception by self-interested entities, questions are provided with the usual terse "yes" or "no" answers. Without the proper questions, the characters may find it difficult to glean what they really want to know from such tight-lipped entities. If they get information through other spells, spying, or simple knowledge or experience, they may find out what they need to successfully use a question-and-answer spell.

General Information: Spells such as commune with nature (Drd 5), legend lore (Brd 4, Knowledge 7, Sor/Wiz 6), and vision (Sor/Wiz 7) are in the category of spells that instill information into the caster, but fall short of answering specific questions. These spells are great for providing the characters with clues to work from. While answers often come hidden in metaphor and/or verse, these spells potentially reveal real names, which spying, divination spells, and knowledge checks can use. Make sure you make up a few answers ahead of time to answer PC questions about the thrust of a given adventure.

Spying: The spells scrying (Brd 3, Clr 5, Drd 4, Sor/Wiz 4) and greater scrying (Brd 6, Clr 7, Drd 7, Sor/Wiz 7) can ruin a well-plotted adventure in seconds. Even if the PCs have no knowledge of the antagonist, the Scry DC is at most 25. To thwart such spying, powerful creatures use a variety of tactics. One favorite is to provide no protection against scrying in their sanctum, instead setting up powerful magic traps so that any creature that attempts to teleport or travel ethereally to the point scryed is intercepted and instead materializes in a specific, lethally trapped room. Others concerned about protecting their privacy can set up screens of antimagic fields, rely on magic items that produce false visions, or even create custom epic spells that deal damage (or worse) on those attempting to scry them.

Finding Your Way: This category includes everything from the lowly locate object (Brd 2, Clr 3, Sor/Wiz 2, Travel 2) to its more potent cousin locate creature (Brd 4, Sor/Wiz 4) to the extraordinarily powerful find the path (Clr 6, Knowledge 6) and discern location (Clr 8, Knowledge 8, Sor/Wiz 8). The limited range, short duration, and knowledge requirement of the first two spells limit their usefulness in most epic situations. Find the path is more useful because it lasts hours at epic levels, allowing flying or teleporting characters to easily cover tens or hundreds of miles. Finally, despite the power of discern location to locate any creature or object regardless of its location, the knowledge requirement (the caster must have seen the creature, possess an item belonging to it, or have touched the object) makes it less valuable in many adventures. Once the characters meet their foe or steal one of the villain's possessions, they are happy indeed (unless their enemy is secretly leading them into a trap).

Bardic Knowledge: Though not a spell, bardic knowledge (and the lore class feature of a loremaster) can have a great impact on the characters' ability to know information. For instance, a bard might be able to connect a reference to a mysterious name with another known name or a particular plane. Such information might be the connection required to try a divination spell.

Knowledge Skills: Some characters will have Knowledge skill bonuses high enough to recognize clues you provide. In such a case, Knowledge checks function just like bardic knowledge.

Divine Emissary

Deities have need of powerful servants, many of whom are epic clerics, paladins, and other characters. Some gods also have special, handpicked agents who speak with their authority. However, the same deities may choose a single proxy through whom a little of their own power flows.

Called divine emissaries, these characters are second to none in the god's favor. They act with that god's full blessing and some of its divine power. Divine emissaries who abuse their powers (in the eyes of the deity) may be stripped of them.

Divine emissaries are often instruments of war, and thus paladins and blackguards are often chosen to serve this role. However, some deities also choose clerics. Despite being the highest representative of a deity, a divine emissary usually travels with comrades who supplement the emissary's strength.

When a deity gives an important decree to mortals, lesser agents often serve as that deity's voice. But when a god needs to back up its decrees with force, a divine emissary has a new mission.

Hit Die: d10.


To become a divine emissary, the character must fulfill all the following criteria.

Base Attack Bonus: +23.
Feats: Weapon Focus (deity's favored weapon).
Epic Feat: Great Smiting.
Skills: Knowledge (religion) 10 ranks.

Special: Must have a patron deity. Furthermore, the potential divine emissary must complete some quest that furthers his deity's goals so much that it impresses the deity. If the deity has no other divine emissary (or is willing to oust the current divine emissary), the god may choose the character. The DM makes this choice, not the player.

Class Skills

The divine emissary's class skills (and the key ability for each) are: Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Profession (Wis), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), Spot (Wis), and Use Magic Device (Cha). See Chapter 4: Skills in the Player's Handbook for skill descriptions.

Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All the following are features of the divine emissary prestige class.

Spells per Day/Spells Known: At each divine emissary level, the character gains new spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) as if he had also gained a level in a spellcasting class to which he belonged before adding the prestige class level. If already an epic spellcaster, the character gains only the benefit noted under the Spells entry for that epic class. He does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (improved chance of turning or destroying undead, metamagic or item creation feats, and so on). If the character had more than one spellcasting class before becoming a divine emissary, the player must decide to which class to add the new level for the purpose of determining spells per day.

Special Mount: If he has one, the divine emissary's special mount continues to increase in power. Every five levels after 1st (6th, 11th, 16th, and so on), the special mount gains +2 bonus Hit Dice, its natural armor increases by +2, its Strength adjustment increases by +1, and its Intelligence increases by +1. The mount's spell resistance equals the divine emissary's class level + the class level that provided the special mount + 5.

Granted Domain (Ex): A divine emissary gains access to one of his deity's domains, as well as the granted power of that domain. The extra domain expands a paladin's selection of spells, but he does not gain the ability to cast higher-level spells than he otherwise could. Clerics gain an additional domain but otherwise use the rules for preparing spells from their domains normally.

Divine Inspiration (Sp): A divine emissary gains a +2 luck bonus on his attack and damage rolls for 10 rounds, once per day at 1st level, plus one additional time per day every three levels thereafter (4th, 7th, 11th, and so on).

Extra Smite (Su): A divine emissary can use his smite ability two extra times per day, plus one additional time per day every three levels thereafter (5th, 8th, 11th, and so on). To determine the damage with any smite attack, a divine emissary adds together his divine emissary levels and class levels that originally conferred the smite ability.

Greater Planar Ally (Sp): The emissary can call a greater planar ally (as the spell) once per day at 3rd level, plus one additional time per day every 10 levels thereafter (13th, 23rd, 33rd, and so on). The ally does not request a return favor when a divine emissary uses this ability.

Bonus Feats: The divine emissary gains a bonus feat at 5th level and an additional bonus feat every ten levels thereafter (15th, 25th, 35th and so on). These bonus feats must be selected from the following list: Armor Skin, Devastating Critical, Epic Leadership, Epic Prowess, Epic Reputation, Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus, Great Smiting, Holy Strike, Improved Aura of Courage, Improved Combat Casting, Improved Spell Capacity, Legendary Commander, Legendary Rider, Overwhelming Critical, Perfect Health, Permanent Emanation, Planar Turning, Positive Energy Aura, Spectral Strike, Spontaneous Spell, Widen Aura of Courage.

Divine Hand (Su): Sometimes the divine emissary feels the touch of his deity. As a free action, the emissary gains a +20 sacred (or profane if appropriate) bonus on his next melee or ranged attack roll, as long as the attack is made with the deity's favored weapon. The emissary can use divine hand once per day at 9th level, plus one additional time per day every ten levels thereafter (19th, 29th, and so on).

Table 1-26: The Divine Emissary




Divine inspiration 1/day, granted domain


Extra smite 2/day


Greater planar ally 1/day


Divine inspiration 2/day


Extra smite 3/day


Bonus feat


Divine inspiration 3/day


Extra smite 4/day


Divine hand 1/day


Divine inspiration 4/day

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