I will finish that chart, honest. I've just been completely slammed, and have next to no free time. Ugh.
Last night, we played our first game of Paragon tier DnD. It can be summed up easily by the following phrase, "What just happened?". The entire session was a total and complete surprise. Paragon tier looks innocuous enough, at first glance. Your stats increase by one, you get a feat, you pick a Paragon Path and gain some abilities, and any scaling feats increase. It's a lot of little things that add up to one big thing, your party can now completely explode with awesome.
Everyone gets an extra encounter power, which is sort of scary by itself. This encounter power is going to be very attractive and have some real flash to it, as well. These powers are going to really emphasize your class roll in a way that hasn't quite been seen previously. Sure, it depends on the path you take, but count on your power being impressive. Some examples, a defender power that lets you permanently mark another creature until the end of combat, and it does decent damage. Not amazing damage, but solid damage. A controller power that let's you remove a target from the board until it successfully saves. Striker powers get additional damage kickers and start targetting multiple targets.
Not to mention the passive scaling. Leaders become gnarly. Their healing ability, long overdue for some love by this point, increases and becomes awesome again. Strikers get an additional damage kicker. Defenders...stay the same really. Controllers get some bonuses. Some feats scale, but not others. Hitpoints increase, some damage increases, some defenses increase. It's really amazing how these little changes all start to add up.
Now, the worst part about all of this is your action point action becomes utterly explosive. Every Paragon Path lets you do something else when you action point. The worst of these lets you take another action afterwards. The best just do something like passive resistances until the end of your next turn, or every enemy within X takes damage. Those are great for the person running the game, which is why I am terming them the best here. The extra actions let you really devastate an opponent. As an example, last night, as an assaulting swordmage, I made an immediate reaction and hit, raising my defenses by two, and my to hit by two. My turn went, I used a daily and targetted two creatures with attacks. I action pointed, made my attack, missed, but because I action pointed, I got a melee basic attack after that resolved. That's five attacks I got to make that round. That's pretty awful to resolve for anyone running the game. I was just one player, so this was happening all around the table as this was checked out last night.
The practical knowledge gained is hard to decipher at first, but I wrote about the converse of this not too long ago talking about the NPC level gap when you get to eight or ninth level. This is directly the opposite. All of a sudden monsters need to change and the encounters have to change as we catch up and slightly surpass them. I was expecting a little bit of this, but not quite the dramatic shift that we saw last night.
I really wouldn't say that I go out of my way to powergame my swordmage. I've made a conscious effort to make him a good defender after we had a pseudo defender leave the game, because he moved. I took feats that increase my defenses, allowed me to wear better armor, and I will be taking another feat to let me mark more targets. It's nothing awful, but all of a sudden, I'm damn near impossible to hit, unless we start fighting much tougher opponents.
One of the things not really expressed well in texts is that encounters NEED to increase when the players reach paragon tier. The information is there, it's just not obvious. If I haven't been scouring the books lately to find obscure corner cases for games I run, I wouldn't know that minions are now 5:1 instead of 4:1 for each encounter. I wouldn't know that you need an extra monster per encounter now. It's weird, but it does make sense. Experience totals become more of a way to judge encounters than by levels now. It does make sense scaling wise, but it becomes tougher to run. You have to vary your encounters up more monster type wise, and your level ranges are going to go from -2 to +3 on monster in each fight. It does make the fights more varied and unique, but it's a massive style shift in running.
These awkward transitions are something the game could definitely handle better.