I’m most of the way through my attempt to Iron Man TactiCon (I’m running nine slots – 36 hours of games over a 72-hour period). I’ve had a lot of fun, and I’m especially pleased that the adventures I wrote myself were well-received on Friday.
This afternoon and evening (Saturday) I ran a two-slot game of SPEC 3-2 Roots of Corruption – Dark Seeds. This is a paragon-level adventure, and I ran it with a party of mostly 11th level characters and a couple of 13th level characters. They chose to run it at level 14 (so yes, they opted for extra challenge).
It was a fun and challenging adventure for the first four hours, and when we came back from our dinner break we went into the last encounter.
It was silly-hard. Spoilers follow.
In the particular path my party chose, the adventurers have to fight against a hydra and two spore demons at the end. The spore demons were mildly annoying, but not much of a real threat. The hydra was insane.
It can’t be flanked, much to the frustration of the two rogues in the party.
It makes ranged attacks without provoking attacks of opportunity.
It has threatening reach in a 2-square radius (on a Huge creature).
It gets two free attacks against any PC that ends its turn within 2 squares.
Now, the PCs had spent a lot of resources in the next-to-last encounter, and only two of the six of them had action points for the last battle. There weren’t too many daily powers left (though there definitely were some).
The party had a really hard time with this battle, and they eventually retreated and declared defeat.
My annoyance comes in that, by running the adventure as written, I made the players have a less-good time than they otherwise would have. The final battle ended in defeat, and the party got a negative story award because of it (it makes them more vulnerable to diseases in the future). It was pretty miserable at the end.
And I have to admit that part of my annoyance is that two of the six players docked me a point on the GM evaluation sheet for the question, “How much fun did you have?” I still got great scores, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about the awesome possibility of getting perfect scores while Iron Manning the con. I really wanted that, and I failed.
Ultimately, this is on me. When the adventure as written has unfun things happening, I should deviate. I should follow my own judgment, and I didn’t. I should have had the hydra spread his attacks around more, rather than focus on one PC until it drops as the adventure says it should do. I could have changed things so that the hydra’s ranged attacks at least provoked opportunity attacks, or made it so that it only got a single bite attack against PCs that end their turns near it.
But I didn’t make any of those changes, and my players had less than optimal fun because of it. This doesn’t mean that every fight has to be a victory for the party, but if something feels unfair and I have the ability to change it, I should change it! I didn’t, and my players had less fun because of it.
Lesson learned. If something seems unfun, change it.