Excerpts Archive | 5/12/2008
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Excerpts: Epic Destinies
4th Edition Player's Handbook

We’ve shown you paragon paths in an earlier 4th Edition preview. This time we look all the way to your epic destiny, a concept introduced by R&D’s Bruce Cordell:

When your character reaches 21st level, you can choose your epic destiny.

What does that mean?

Your epic destiny is a few things, actually. While it’s true that your epic destiny allows you to bend, break, or ignore some of the laws of the universe, an epic destiny isn’t merely about acquiring even more power. After all, you continue to gain more and more powerful class powers as you rise toward 30th level, some of which are nearly as fantastic as those your epic destiny provides.

You see, what your epic destiny is really about is defining your place in the universe. Your epic destiny is the mythic archetype your character aspires to achieve. Once you reach 21st level, the greatness you always knew you were destined for is no longer theoretical; it is actual.

As you continue to gain levels, working toward 30th, the challenges you take on become larger and more significant, potentially affecting nations, worlds, or even the universe itself. Thus, your epic destiny shapes your lasting impact on the campaign and helps determine how people forever afterward remember and talk about you.

Did you defeat Atropus, the roving World Born Dead? Did you defeat the Hulks of Zoretha when they rose unlooked for in the ancient wastes? Did you stem the catastrophic tide of Pandorym when it revived enough to begin eating even the gods?

Yes, perhaps you did.

And once you’ve achieved so much, your epic destiny allows you a way to gracefully step aside, to make room for new generations of heroes to take up the fight. After all, your immortality is assured, whether in myth or in actuality (depending on the destiny you chose). Upon completing your epic quest, where you faced the greatest challenges of your career, your destiny describes why, after so many adventures, you finally take your leave of the mortal realm… and where you go next.
--Bruce Cordell

Your epic destiny describes the mythic archetype you aspire to achieve. Some characters have a clear epic destiny in mind from the moment they began adventuring, while others discover their epic destiny somewhere along the way.

Most people don’t ever come close to achieving an epic destiny. Whether they simply failed in their journey, or whether the universe never intended them to gain such lofty heights, is unknown and unknowable.

Your epic destiny sets you apart from such individuals—you know you’re destined for greatness and you have every opportunity to achieve it.

Extraordinary Power

Compared to a class or paragon path, an epic destiny grants few benefits, but those it bestows are exceptional. Certain laws of the universe work differently for you—and some don’t apply at all.

Your race, class, path, and other character elements might define what you can do, but your epic destiny defines your place in the universe.


Each epic destiny defines your lasting impact on the world or even the universe: how people forever afterward remember and talk about you.

Some people achieve lasting fame or notoriety without achieving an epic destiny, but that’s a fleeting thing. Inevitably, those people are forgotten, lost in the murky depths of history. Your epic destiny ensures that your name and exploits live on forever.

The End

Perhaps most important, your epic destiny describes your character’s exit from the world at large (and more specifically, from the game) once you’ve completed your final adventure. It lays out why, after so many adventures, you finally take your leave of the mortal realm—and where you go next.

Gaining an Epic Destiny

Epic destiny abilities accrue from 21st to 30th level. As shown on the Character Advancement table in Chapter 2, your epic abilities pick up where paragon path benefits leave off.

After gaining all other benefits of reaching 21st level (including class features, ability score increases, and the like), you can choose an epic destiny.

Epic destinies are broader in scope than a class or paragon path. Though most have certain requirements to enter, even these typically apply to a wide range of characters with various backgrounds, talents, and powers.

If you don’t choose an epic destiny at 21st level, you can choose one at any level thereafter. You retroactively gain all benefits of the epic destiny appropriate to your current level.

Fulfilling Your Epic Destiny

The “Immortality” feature of your destiny is not gained at 30th level. Instead, it is gained when you and your allies complete their Destiny Quest. This is described more thoroughly in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but essentially, your Destiny Quest is the final grand adventure of the campaign, during which you face the greatest challenges of your characters’ careers.

This quest might actually begin before 30th level (in fact, most do), but the climax of the quest can only occur after all participants have reached 30th level. Upon completing your Destiny Quest, your adventuring career—and your life as a normal mortal being—effectively ends. Your DM might give your character a little time to put affairs in order before moving on, or it can occur spontaneously upon completion of the quest. Work with your DM to determine the appropriate timing based on your character, your destiny, and the quest.

Once you’ve completed your Destiny Quest and initiated your ascension to immortality, your character’s story has ended. He lives on in legend, but he no longer takes part in mortal events. Instead, it’s time to create a new group of adventurers and begin a new story.


As the Archmage, you lay claim to being the world’s preeminent wizard.

Prerequisite: 21st-level wizard

Your lifelong perusal of grimoires, librams, tomes, and spellbooks has finally revealed the foundation of reality to you: Spells are each tiny portions of a larger arcane truth. Every spell is part of some far superior working, evoking just a minuscule fraction of that ultimate formula. As you continue your studies, you advance your mastery of spells so much that they begin to infuse your flesh, granting you a facility in their use undreamed of by lesser practitioners.

You are often called to use your knowledge to defend the world from supernormal threats. Seeking ever greater enlightenment and the magical power that accompanies it, you are at times tempted by questionable relics, morally suspect spells, and ancient artifacts. Your destiny remains yours to choose—will you be archmage or archfiend?

Immortality, of a Sort
Archmages are an idiosyncratic lot. There’s no telling what choices the preeminent wizard of the age will make when he has completed his destiny. The following section details a path several Archmages have walked, but your path might vary.

Arcane Seclusion: When you complete your final quest, you retreat from the world to give your full time and attention to the study of the ultimate arcane formula, the Demispell, whose hyperplanar existence encompasses all the lesser spells there ever were or ever will be.

To aid your study, you build a sanctum sanctorum. At your option, your retreat provides you complete seclusion, and thus could take the form of a tower lost somewhere in the Elemental Chaos. However, you might desire to retain a tie to the world, and thus build a sanctum with a connection to the world. In such a case, you might found a new order of mages for which you serve as the rarely seen High Wizard. Alternatively, you might found a school of magic, for which you serve as the rarely seen headmaster.

Regardless of your retreat’s physical form or temporal connection, your contemplation of the arcanosphere persists. As the years flow onward, your study of the fundamental, deep structure of the cosmos removes you from the normal flow of time. Eventually your material shell fades as you merge into the Demispell itself.

Thereafter, your name becomes tied to powerful spells and rituals used by lesser wizards.

Archmage Features
All Archmages have the following features.

Spell Recall (21st level): At the beginning of each day, choose one daily spell that you know (and have prepared today, if you prepare spells). You can use that spell two times that day, rather than only once.

Arcane Spirit (24th level): Once per day, when you die, you can detach your spirit from your body. In arcane spirit form, you heal to maximum hit points and gain the insubstantial and phasing qualities. You can cast encounter spells and at-will spells while in arcane spirit form, but you can’t cast daily spells, activate magic items, or perform rituals. If you die in arcane spirit form, you’re dead.

At the end of the encounter, after a short rest, your arcane spirit rejoins your body, if your body is still present. Your current hit point total is unchanged, but you no longer experience the other benefits and drawbacks of being in arcane spirit form.

If your body is missing, you will need other magic to return to life, but can continue adventuring in arcane spirit form if you like.

Archspell (30th level): Your comprehension of the ultimate arcane formula and of the spells that constitute it reaches a new threshold. Choose one daily spell that you know. You can now cast that spell as an encounter spell (rather than as a daily spell).

Archmage Power

Shape Magic
Archmage Utility 26
You reach into the ebb and flow of arcane energy and pluck a spell you have already used out of the invisible tide, instantly recalling it to memory.
Standard Action Personal
Effect: You regain one arcane power you have already used.

Be sure to return Wednesday for a look at the economy!
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