So I am running the Madness Trilogy out of Dungeon for my Greyhawk game. Currently I have it set in the northeastern corner of the Duchy of Ulek, using Ioun as a local name for Boccob, used interchangeably. In some traditions Ioun is a saint of Boccob, in others Ioun is Boccob, in others, Ioun is another god beholden to Boccob. That part doesn't matter. With a bit of reskinning I have been able to integrate the story easily. This is going well so far. The Kaorti are awesome villains, etc.....
The problem is actually a beef I have with 4E. Now keep in mind I still like $e, have no intention of not using, it, etc, but: The hit points are too bloody high and the damages too bloody low at 10th level. Is it just a matter of once the PCs hit 11th they go up in power that much? Its pretty silly really. It took two hours to fight five ghouls and 4 zombies - and that was the front door fight. The zombies, as minions went really quick, but the ghouls took FOREVER. Its gotten to the point that I am considering replacing brutes with 4 minions of equal level if there is more than one or two. I will grant that we did not have our minion handling wizard (dragonborn staff wizard with a cold/fire focus), but rather our craft wizard: gnome illusionist. But he was very able to do his job, the problem was the amount of hit points. And 305 is SILLY for the amount of hit points for an elite flesh golem btw, especially with a 208 hit point elite rogue beside him, and a 141 hp swarm too.
Maybe I am taking this out of porportion, but this seems odd.
Some of the issues you have raised on hp of higher tier monsters (solos especially) have been addressed in the MM2. However, they didn't retcon the MM1 monsters to this new standard. I am hoping the DMG2 will give the info needed to make the adjustments.
I have a hard time believing that people think 4E is slow. Actually, I take that back. I have a hard time believing people when they first play a game then complain how slow the "game" is. Combat takes long because people aren't used to the rules. This goes for players and DMs alike. Once they get used to it the game moves faster. I've DMed 4e before it came out. I DMed a game into paragon levels since it was released and I had 10 players. The combat was rich, vibrant, and didn't take as long as 3E. The trick is simple:
1) Players must give you the final hit and final damage.
2) Players have 1 minutes to complete their turn in combat.
3) DM has 3 minutes to complete his turn.
4) DM is allowed to extend a player's turn for roleplaying purposes.
Setting time limits and sticking to them works wonders. Most players are able to get their turn over in half the time, with a bit of panache and ad lib. Setting limits will decrease combat time - period. I timed my games to see who the slowest players were. And the other players wanted to know what was taking so long too. It came down to two of the ten players would dally needlessly. Rules were implemented and problem solved. It breaks down rather simple:
5 players take an average of 3 minutes a turn = 15min
1 DM takes an average of 5 minutes a turn = 20min per turn total
Cut that maximum time in half as a solid rule and combats will take no longer than 50min. But again, I've timed my own games and when time limits are concious players will usually finish in less than a minute. From my own experience most of my combats would last 7 rounds and 50-60min, but that was with ten players. What changed was players learned their characters and the rules. They paid attention when it wasn't their turn so they wouldn't have to ask, "OK, tell me what happened." Then try to piece together combat so they'll have the perfect manuever.
I'm currently playing a Pathfinder Game and last night's combat against a Dracolich took 1 hour for 4 rounds. I'm not running it but I am in charge of initiative and I keep track of these things. We have only 4 players. Pathfinder is just 3.5 minus splat books.
The difference between the two games is the rules (less sticky rules) and the DM (someone who is willing to set a time limit for players and for themselves). What damn near every complaint and solution has in common is they never bother to time their combats or limit the time. Instead, they assume the game is the problem. Every player and DM assumes the game is at fault. Even this Greywulf blogger (which I read many moons ago) doesn't bother timing himself or his players. Why not? If the problem is time then at a minimum standard you should time it and post the times. I had one player take 22minutes when I first started timing combat for 4E. I let him take as long as he could until I finally interrupted him. In short, the Greywulf article is worthless. He never actually addresses the problem of time. I'd run 4-5 combats a night and they'd spend hours ****-hatting and roleplaying. Because in the end, it's all about ****-hatting and roleplaying.
The latest 4e updates have adjusted the way monsters are built slightly so they should be doing more damage now.
For my part, I've just started experimenting with reducing monster hp by 10% or 20% for solos and upping the listed damage by one die size to see how it plays out. The adjustments aren't hard to work out as you play and it certainly feels that the PCs are under more pressure than they were previously. Although the hp adjustments probably don't amount to more than one or two hits it does seem to have speeded up combat.
I think if you can persuade your PCs to roleplay a bit more in a fight instead of just slogging it out you can probably get away with even lower hp (maybe 20%-30%).
My combats go pretty quick, but I'm sympathetic to the slowness argument -- I've certainly played in enough 4e games that did go slowly to know that it can easily happen for whatever reason.
The biggest timesink I've seen is people trying to figure out the optimum moves once their turn starts. As a GM, I can rein that in gently but firmly. As a fellow player there's not as much I can do. Emphasizing that my combat decisions are about roleplaying rather than perfect tactics seems to help some. If you're doing what your character would do, you don't have to fret as much about squeezing out every last bit of efficiency.
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