Update: I want to be perfectly clear about the intent of this post. I am NOT advocating removing randomness from the game or speaking against “random encounters.” This post was intended as a cautionary tale about careful encounter planning and that is all. Read on to see what all the hubbub is about…
I played a “Living Forgotten Realms” encounter last week that really annoyed me. I mean it REALLY annoyed me. And that annoyance haunted me for the better part of a week until I decided to post about it. Nothing like a nice, spleen-filled post to really make a gamer feel better.
The encounter seemed simple enough. The party walked into a sewer temple with some dire rats. Combat ensued, but every couple of rounds, more rats popped up from nowhere. Soon enough we figured out that an invisible wererat summoned a pair of dire rats on his turn, assuming his power “recharged.” That is, the DM rolled a 5-6 on a d6. Sadly, he recharged…almost every round. The fun part was we had no cleric and each rat had 50 hp! Roughly every other round 100 hp of monsters popped on the battlefield. After a few rounds, we ran like little girls. Four PCs in 4E D&D cannot dish out enough damage to get through that many critters.
The module designer failed to account for the potential of the summoning happening nearly every round. It is one thing for a breath weapon to recharge every round. It only does damage. Creature summoning is another matter entirely. A creature controls movement, moves tactically, does damage and absorbs attacks. This is far more powerful than a 3d6+4 breath weapon.
Which leads me to my point; never allow a dice roll determine how difficult an encounter becomes. If you want a tough encounter, look at your party and throw enough NPCs at them to give them a challenge. Letting chaos decide how many creatures appear on the battle map is a recipe for a TPK and a very angry game group.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer