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Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tiers of Power

One thing I've grown discouraged with in some games is the incremental level being taken too far.  I appreciate carrot-on-a-stick approaches, I recognize the need for minor power increases, and I love leveling up like most roleplayers.  But, when games like D&D 4e talk about tiers of play as a categorization to various levels, the words fall flat to my ears.  Why?  Because the difference between a level 11 paragon and a level 10 hero in 4e is, roughly speaking, a +1 in attributes and a minor special ability usable once every other combat.  Oddly, that's also similar to the difference between a level 21 epic and a level 20 paragon.

I simply don't find that impressive enough.  I think a sound ass-kicking should be involved if an epic toon gets in a fight with a paragon toon, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Here's a draft on what I imagine as a more exciting version of tiers; they are pseudo-inspired by Greek mythology.  A gaming group could choose to play in only one tier, or spread across them all.

A tier of play represents the comparative power of play. There are four tiers of power in Phoenix, as illustrated below. Significant power separates the characters and creatures of each tier.

Advancing from one tier to the next is not a simple matter of wash, rinse, repeat – to become a Hero, a Mortal must prove themselves worthy in some fashion. To become a Demigod, a Hero must be at the pinnacle of their achievement and have either a divine sponsor, or the sponsorship of some other entity of comparable power.

  • Though gifted, still learning their capabilities
  • Reasonably close to normal, non-adventuring folk
  • Can fight against other mortals, in similar numbers

At the beginning of the mortal tier, a player character is probably already displaying raw talent. A town guard would be amongst the better guards, a soldier would be a sergeant or other proven NCO, a mage’s apprentice would be amongst the most promising of the current apprentices.  They are mortals, though - and can be easily slain by other mortals.

Gaining levels in the mortal tier sees a character gaining renown through their accomplishments. This will probably attract some attention, both for good and for ill – some will seek out the character for help or hire, and some will view them as a threat.

  • Fully aware of their gifts, able to exploit them
  • Undoubtedly superior to normal, non-adventuring folk
  • Can hold their own against several mortals at once

Heroic creatures and characters take half damage from mortals.  They are significantly superior to mortals - mages of extraordinary power, warriors able to slay a dragon on their own, and leaders of armies.

Heroes also experience a significant jump in at least some of their ability scores, and an improvement in what dice they roll for ordinary checks.

  • Able to manipulate at distance, can break significant laws of reality
  • Might be worshipped by normal, non-adventuring folk
  • Can decimate large groups of mortals

A character or creature in the demigod tier is invulnerable to mortals. There are those that would protect mortals, though, against demigods that indiscriminately destroy them. Such entities may be more powerful than the criminal demigod. It is usually best to leave mortal affairs to mortals.

Demigods take half damage from heroes.

Demigods also experience a significant jump in at least some of their ability scores, and an improvement in what dice they roll for ordinary checks.

Supreme Beings

This is not a level of play, but represents the power tier of Gods or God-like creatures. Lesser beings of all sorts worship these characters or at least recognize their massive capabilities.


  1. Besides the half damage taken from the previous tier, is there anything else that is mechanically different?

    Maybe the ability to change the colour of their clothing? Or summon ale on command?

    1. What about changing the color of their ale on command?

      It is a good question and the answer is yes. In addition to more powerful spell effects, higher weapon damage, significantly improved ability scores, etc., heroes and demigods also roll more dice for things like attribute checks - giving them a substantial advantage over mortals but putting them on equal footing with each other.

      Stay tuned for more on that in the future.


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