Does anyone else feel like every combat in 4e is a meatgrinder?

wayne62682

First Post
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VERY MINOR PYRAMID OF SHADOWS SPOILERS AHEAD

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My group (4 players including myself) are currently running through Pyramid of Shadows and are near the end of it. We're all level 9 and our group consists of:

- Dragonborn Fighter, guardian (Me)
- Dwarf Cleric, "battle cleric"
- Eladrin Ranger, archery
- Eladrin Wizard, blaster w/some control

So far, nearly every single combat in this place has been a near TPK. It seems like our defenses are utter garbage and monsters can hit us on anything but a 1. We just had to have a "DM ex Machina" retcon save us last night because we would have had a TPK (in fact, the two Eladrins actually did die [failed death saves] and it was changed by the DM because even he said that encounter was ridiculous).

We were fighting two skeleton tomb guardians (getting 4 attacks a round is total crap) and two banshee-like wraiths in a maze with screaming souls trapped in the walls, and it seemed like they were just demolishing us left and right. Half the battle we were immobilized because of the wraith's shrieking, nevermind the fact that they could use it through the freaking walls so didn't even have to be in LoS to attack us, and could move through the walls shrieking to do hit-and-run attacks (the DM was even ignoring the 4 psychic damage per turn from the walls, and later "forgot" to roll for recharges) and well, it was pretty embarrassing. The combat before this one, we had to have DM intervention again and destroy a certain special intelligent item which you get in PoS (avoiding spoilers here) to save the dwarf after being turned to stone by a Medusa. And we sidestepped a few rooms in the dungeon to boot.

This seems to be a trend I'm noticing in 4e combat - pretty much every encounter has some weird situational effect that, of course, only affects the PCs (ongoing damage from hazards, difficult terrain, etc) while the monsters not only get to ignore all of that for some bogus reason, but typically have double our HP and insanely high defenses, or at least that's what it seems. Our highest AC is 24 (mine) and it seemed like the monsters were hitting that like it was nothing, let alone the fact most of their attacks seem to hit Reflex/Will which are our lowest stats (in my case, the wraith things could hit me on anything but a 1 with their ridiculously-high bonus to hit).

Does our group just suck, or is this what everyone's encounters have gone like? I don't recall 3.5 being this harsh, with everyone being bloodied (yeah, I know bloodied wasn't in 3.5 - substitute "below half HP") and out of healing (powers) in pretty much every single encounter after just a couple of rounds. Part of it might be that everyone else are still relatively new to D&D (only started w/4E), but as a veteran it seems like everything is insanely tough now, akin to playing a game on the highest difficulty instead of medium which should be the default. I don't want it to be a cakewalk, but really EVERY encounter being a life-or-death situation seems a little extreme to me.
 

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UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I have not run pyramid of shadows yet, so I cannot comment on your specific case. In fact so far i have not run higher than 4th level but I have found that it is party dependant.
The party that works well together does a lot better than one that does not synergise well. That said I have not had tpk yet.
 


MerricB

Eternal Optimist
A couple of things...

Pyramid of Shadows is a tough, overly battle-focussed module. I'm currently running it, and I'm not very fond of how every battle is designed to be a big event - they take longer than they need to, and the important ones feel less special as a result.

That said, you should have been 10th level for that fight (near the end of the adventure), and you should have had 5 PCs. Your DM should have removed one of the monsters - probably a Tomb Guardian. 4 PCs? It was an 11th level encounter for your PCs, if not higher.

Pyramid is also lighter on the magic items than it should be. I've been adding extra ones to make sure the PCs have the proper equipment.

At 9th level, your AC should be close to 26 or 27 if you've got appropriate equipment. (Take Platemail proficiency; it's significant. Definitely use a shield!).

That said, I think Pyramid of Shadows has problems as an adventure: too much combat, too many special conditions. My homebrew campaign, which isn't afraid to throw in more standard (and lesser) combats, feels a lot better.

Cheers!
 

wayne62682

First Post
It might be an equipment issue too. Most of our equipment is rather light... going from memory:

I have a +1 Lifedrinker Longsword, +1 Black Iron Scale (partly why I haven't taken Platemail prof yet, no plate armor lol), Amulet of Health +2, Dwarven Greaves. Cleric has a +2 flaming maul, belt that gives +1 healing surge value to anyone within 5 feet, holy symbol that adds damage to a crit. Wizard has two magic implements but I don't know what they are (staff of storms is one, I don't know the other one). Ranger has a Magic bow and I dont know what else.

Hmm... I know the DM says he's holding off on us being 10th level until the start of the next adventure (Trollhaunt?). I don't know his reasoning though - I know that we're being transitioned to FR (from the default "Points of Light" setting) after Pyramid so maybe that's why.
 

FourthBear

First Post
I do agree that the encounters in both Thunderspire Labyrinth and Pyramid of Shadow tend to have too much in the way of environmental hazards that can only be exploited by the enemies. I hope that all module authors and would-be authors remember that when designing encounters and terrain, you should consider how the *heroes* might have fun exploiting it. Too much of the time, terrain and the environment become like the cliche of the trap-filled dungeon: something where the players must note features only to best avoid them.

Actually, I've found the Scales of War adventure path modules tend to have much more neutral and hero-exploitable environments.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Your DM is making things much harder than they need to be. 9th level expects you to have +2 items and you are likely to have two +3 items.

If you play Trollhaunt next, you're meant to be 11th level when you start. You're meant to have 5 PCs. 4th edition does pay quite a bit of attention to that: it works very well if the DM scales appropriately (as I have a lot on in my games - anywhere from 2 to 6 PCs it has handled very well). If your DM insists on encounters-as-written and is penalizing your XP and treasure? No wonder you're frustrated.

Cheers!
 

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