Posted 23 February 2009 - 08:19 PM
Hal, the problem is totally with WotC's module design and their bizarre and user-unfriendly mapping/encounter layout. I disagree with their inherent design philosophy that most if not all encounters should be above the players actual level. It just makes the monsters harder to hit and even longer to kill. And every room having a combat encounter in it is simply ridiculous - their dungeons are artificial, non-living, and meant for nothing but combat.
I still have a number of first edition modules, and while they often had rooms full of traps or combat encounters, many of their dungeons actually approximated an environment someone might live in. A room might have just three or four kobolds in it (not the seven or eight 4e would recommend - or even 15 or so, I'm looking at you KotS!) with wandering patrols that might or might not trigger reinforcements. Monsters didn't all just sit in their rooms as if they had nothing to do with their lives but wait for adventurers. They presented minimal combat stats, because it was very often possible for adventurers to negotiate with their enemies and/or neutrals. In 4e, all they provide are a bunch of tactics and combat stats. Yes, it's all under DM control, but following the material faithfully leads to endless fighting.
Worse, their module design is crap. I've heard you complain about this in the podcasts. They'll give you a map numbered by sections. Then a section with room descriptions. Then a seperate section with the same rooms numbered DIFFERENTLY as combat encounters, to slow things down further as a DM tries to figure out what room is which and why in the world they use different numbers and aren't on the same page! The Tower of Spellguard module actually has a section that says something like "The PC's will need the square jewel they found in room T7, the rectangle from room T3... etc" and I had to ask myself "What jewels?" They were printed entirely seperately from the encounter writeups in a seperate area of the module, and completely overlooked by someone, like me, who anticipated treasure being listed on the page for the ACTUAL ROOM!!!
There's no doubt the players are getting bored of it - they pretty much flat out said they wanted to play Warhammer when you were getting prepped to start Pyramid of Shadows. The games are fun to listen to, the characters are all very funny, but strictly following the WotC's modules to the letter is killing what could be a more organic, fluid experience. I do not like these Encounter Pages they put in the modules to try to control how you're allowed to run things. You'll occasionally try to dispel a fight by having the enemies tell the players to leave or get out, but there's really no reason, outside of WotC being pigheaded, that you should be stuck treating every single room like a combat waiting to happen.
Maybe you should try your hand at making an adventure of your own in 4e - and screw the DMG's advice of making most encounters Party Level +2. Instead, try to actually make them fun! If you're not having fun, then I'd agree that maybe it's best if you all take a little vacation from the 4e.