They decided to "go deep" -- they have goals on the seventh level -- and they decided to bring the whole crew. We had 14 PCs and NPCs combined.
You see, back in the beginning, when the characters were exceptionally fragile and instant death was a real possibility, I let everyone play two characters. Some of them died, but some of the players still have two characters.
In short, when the whole party is together, it is a huge, noisy, Continual Light toting, juggernaut of monster death.
Now, I'm not complaining. I don't care if they kill my monsters... I can always make more. :) I don't care if they kill my NPCs... I have more of them too. (Of course if you kill the bartender in town, that's a legal problem that your big muscles and magic spells might not get you out of...) They didn't do that, so I digress...
Well, here's the rub. When they have a big party, combat with monsters on the upper levels is too easy. It's literally a roll of the dice and the monsters are dead. I think one or two of the PCs can generate 10+ damage practically by default.
Once again, I'm not complaining about the instant death of my precious monsters -- let them die.
What I am worrying about is how boring or tiresome the upper levels have become. I have no desire to scale the upper levels to meet the challenge of this überparty. The upper levels just don't have very many powerful creatures.
It's not appropriate, in my mind, to throw powerful creatures at them on level 2 just because they can handle them. THOSE KINDS OF MONSTERS AREN'T ON LEVEL 2.
I did try to make the encounters with the easier monsters a little less straight up die rolling contests --
- I had carnivorous apes jumping and leaping into combat so that the back ranks were vulnerable
- I had wereboars using a flanking maneuver and missile weapons to show tactics and knowledge of the area
- I threw a cockatrice at them for good measure
At any rate, the PCs took care of the combat challenges with relative ease.
I did throw in some strangeness, a teleporter, some Mad Archmage magic and a talkative NPC ogre (poor Karn, we hardly knew ye!) to spice things up, but that only goes so far when combat is such a cakewalk.
I guess the bottom line to me is, the dungeon needs to have some kind of rules and if you come in alone or if you come in with an army of 14, those rules apply.
I don't want to scale encounters other than by the level you are on. You're on level 3? OK, here's what it can throw at you. Level 5? Here's a tougher set of challenges. Level 10? You'd better be ready.
Am I wrong? I feel like the adventure dragged a bit for the players last night, but then again, they were on the third level most of the night. Most of the PCs are 6th or better. Hell, one of the NPCs is 5th and the donkey/mule is even 4th level...
Shouldn't an adventure for higher level PCs be a bit boring on the upper levels or is there a DM trick that I've missed?