My players all seem to have +5 defenses and attacks over the monsters, in addition to the health and more deadly abilities... and they're in appropriate gear for their level (+2 gear at level 10).
On top of this, my luck is terrible. I'll go entire encounters rolling <=6 on a d20. When I do finally hit, the monsters do very little damage which gets mitigated significantly by player abilities.
The only time the encounters feel remotely challenging is if the enemies are all 3-4 levels higher than the players, but then the damage output is too skewed and the enemy defenses are too high for some of the less striker-ish players to penetrate.
Our encounters are extremely drawn-out, but they are also very one-sided. There is no challenge for the players, only tediously long fights they are guaranteed to win. And that's even for encounters with enemies 2-3 levels lower than the players.
Is there some easy math fix to make things more interesting? Is there some way to make fights go faster and also challenge the players at the same time?
I don't think we can learn a new system at this point. Is there anything we can do to fix these problems in 4e? I'm pretty sure they're only going to get worse once we hit paragon tier.
For those of you who think this is probably just generic complaining about my rolls or the system, here is some of the math at work.
I have a level 10 Assassin in my campaign whose base AC is 23 and Reflex is 21.
On top of this, he nearly always has the following bonuses to defenses:
- +2 All Power Bonus from ally's Sentinel Bear Companion Aura
- +1 AC Shield Bonus from ally's Devout Protector Expertise
- +2 All (effective) from Cursed Shadow feat granting partial cover (multiclassed warlock)
- +2 All (effective) from defender aura and various enemy-hindering penalties
So that's an effective AC of 30 with bonuses and a reflex of 27.
He also has the Cloak of Translocation, which has the property:
When you use a teleportation power, you gain a +2 bonus to AC and Reflex until the end of your next turn.
Since he has a number of teleport powers and uses Shadow Step every turn, this bonus is nearly always at +2 and would frequently be at +4. Adding the +2 from Cloak of Translocation gives 32 AC and 29 reflex. If this stacks to +4, he's at 34 AC and 31 reflex passively.
This means a level 10 enemy, with a base attack bonus of 15, needs a 17 or higher JUST TO HIT if the player uses even one teleport power on his turn.
... And then on top of this he has abilities that grant him invisibility/total concealment as minor actions or part of his attack, boosting those values by another +3 or so. Finally, he has Shade Form, which can make him insubstantial on top of all of that. And let's not talk about the fact that he can hide from just about any enemy because their passive perceptions are below his Stealth skill modifier.
The defender has around 28 AC passively and 30 with the bear aura. He's got a piece of armor that grants +1 AC every milestone they achieve. Since the party takes fairly small and uneven amounts of damage, they can go many encounters without needing an extended rest, and this bonus keeps stacking.
TLDR: With the near-constant bonuses they have, players hit on ~3+, Mobs only hit on ~16+. What do I do?!
They have so many crowd-controlling status effects that mobs are almost always dazed, immobilized, or prone. With Eldritch Strike and a Staggering Khopesh on the defender, leaders that can grant basic attacks VERY regularly, and - on top of that - countless other abilities to rearrange the battlefield, the enemies are tightly corralled from going near anyone else.
They only really expend their daily powers on solo monsters and bosses (since they do not need them for normal encounters), which tends to make the boss fights extremely anticlimactic and often easier than the normal encounters.
On top of this, they have plenty of healing abilities which go mostly unused except right before they rest - so they're hardly spending surges or needing healing in combat.
... And this doesn't even begin to address the complicated math and situations arising from all of the situational modifiers the party can apply.
This is an ongoing problem that I really want to remedy before we pick up some new players and head into our next big campaign.