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The Next D&D Homebrew: Questing for the Paragon Path

paragon path transLast Saturday night at around the stroke of 12, the characters in my D&D 4E campaign in Toledo finally hit 11th Level!  It’s take a couple years to accomplish, what with playing only every other week and all, but I’m very excited to be finally able to try my hand at Dungeon Mastering a 4E campaign in the Paragon Tier.

And I really tried to make the last adventure of the Heroic Tier as exciting as possible, having my heroes not only have to take on a deadly Beholder (see my earlier D&D Homebrew blog, Three Daves or Die!), but a rather nasty Adult Green Dragon as well!  And no, not in the same encounter – that would have just been mean!    However, both fights were very touch-and-go, and no doubt the adventure will be long remembered for how close the heroes came to a fatal end.

But as we broke up the session, quickly summing up the heroes’ triumphant return to their home town (Baldur’s Gate, as it so happens), there were the inevitable discussion of what Paragon Paths my players had chosen for their characters.  While most of them were ready to level up their characters right there, I revealed my plans for wanting to mark the occasion of reaching a new Tier with a bit more pomp and excitement than just punching some buttons on the Character Builder screen.

So I told them to leave their characters at Level 10, and prepare themselves for something quite special to herald in their transition to the next Tier of play.  It was time for them to go forth and claim their Paragon Paths!

The Ordeal: Becoming the Paragon

In many societies, cultures, and religions, great changes are marked with some sort of challenge which must be overcome.  Squires had to stand vigil over their arms to become knights, acolytes are subjected to fasting and meditation to become priests, and secret orders subject their supplicants to secret and strange rituals before becoming full members.  These challenges or ordeals help to signify a permanent change for a person, and mark the special event in their memories for all time.

So why shouldn’t we, as Dungeon Masters, not offer our player-characters some memorable ordeal before they can assume the powers of their Paragon Path?

Creating some sort of event around a character taking on a Paragon Path is certainly extra work for the DM, but not as arduous as it might seem.  Thankfully, WotC designers have made sure that most of the Paragon Paths are designed with plenty of fluff text about their natures to provide at least a few adventure hooks to start off.  Adding in plot material from the past 10 levels of gaming, as well as tidbits from any campaign arcs still unfolding, and it seems to me that there is more than enough material to work with in order to create some very memorable gaming experiences for the new Paragon Tier characters.

For instance, many of the divine Paragon Paths lead the character into becoming a new and improved champion for their god.  So for a Path like the Morninglord or Exorcist of the Silver Flame, a character might have a vision from their deity of a specific task they must fulfill on their own.   For racial Paths, like the Curseborn or Adroit Explorer, it should be an easy matter for the DM to create a series of events which awakened new powers or new drives in the character.

Personally, I think the hardest part of this all will be creating a hook which will make a player want to go off by themselves, and not drag the whole party along with them!

As it happens, logistics are forcing us to skip the next session in two weeks, which gives me a month to get all five of my player-characters through their solo mission to the Paragon Tier.  With access to email, Google+ hangouts, and phones, I feel pretty confident to be able to deliver a personalized roleplaying experience to each player before we all meet up again to begin the next session in the new Tier!

In my game right now, I am having the players leave the characters at Level 10 to start off their Ordeal.  The heroes are back in Baldur’s Gate now, dividing up loot and dealing with the logistics of having been away for so long.  So one by one, I plan to take the characters off to a solo adventure, one specifically built for them and leading toward their Paragon Path.

The solo adventure will be short in duration, maybe only a few days to find their new Path in life, consisting of a few Skill Challenges and combat encounters.  But by the end of their solo quest, I hope to give each of them a memorable gaming experience, which will make the players feel that they not only earned their 11th Level and new Paragon Path, but that they are ready to take on even greater challenges ahead in the campaign!

As a Player, did you do anything special to mark the transition from Heroic to Paragon Tiers?  Is this something you feel is important to your character’s development? As a Dungeon Master, do you feel that the Paragon Path merits a special event, or is it just a part of standard character planning, like a feat or a power selection?

As always, your comments are welcome, and I’d love to hear feedback about how Paragon Paths are handled in other campaigns!

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


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