We've been playing the 3E Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil adventure for a few weeks now. So far the group has uncovered cultists of the Elder Elemental Eye (Tharizdun) around Hommlet, and found the Temple of All-Consumption in the northern mountains. All the PCs are agents of the Dark Lanterns, the espionage branch of kingdom of Breland. Everyone is stealthy and has a licence to kill.
We met at a player's house this time instead of my place because I didn't feel like cleaning a bunch of stuff and kicking my wife out of the front room for the evening. Everyone was a little late but we started fairly quickly. I decided to bring just the bare minimum of books needed, and I took the time to go through my minis and counters for everything that might come up for the whole adventure. I just dumped everything out of my stormtrooper lunch box onto my carry bag and was able to grab what I needed fairly easily as it came up.
The group had made their second attack on the main gate last week, where they finished off the reanimated guards from the first attack and the troglodyte cleric who commanded them. They decided to head North in the caves, towards the Earth temple. This part of the temple is a series of mines and caves in the rim of a volcano that blew its top a long time ago.
The goblin assassin scouted ahead as usual, but failed to get a death attack on a large troglodyte wielding the Sword of Earth. The trog called a cleric and an earth elemental from an adjoining cave while the assassin PC went down another hallway, eventually luring some trog mooks to join the fight. The spiked chain ranger dominated the battlefield like he always does, tripping everything within his Enlarged reach.
The fight reminded me of one of my 3E pet peeves--the sheer number of modifiers and attention to petty details. I liked how 4E had combat advantage, and multiple conditions didn't make it stack. Sure, its more "realistic" that being prone AND flanked makes you that much easier to hit, but on the other hand we have a 10' tall elf with a 20' spiked chain in a 10' wide hallway where he can attack anybody with no penalty. Sure, that's realistic.
Also, at one point I had the earth elemental try to push the chain fighter back to give his allies some time to get up, and it was a mess of multiple checks, "does he have the +4 from the correct feat?" (because gods forbid the monster wasn't built properly), and debating whether he would provoke an Attack of Opportunity from a different combatant...all so the elemental could spend his whole turn pushing someone 5 feet and not dealing damage! In 4E it would have been Damage + push one square and move on.
I'm trying not to let all this get on my nerves too much, but its obviously bothering me a little bit. Part of it is just that I feel like I have no control as DM because every detail of combat has a specific, overly complicated rule and everyone knows the rules inside and out. I can't just make a judgement call and keep things moving quickly, and it becomes draining.
We were still able to do more than just one big fight, as a manticore was dispatched fairly easily by the ranger who just joined the group. An earth mephit was likewise quickly taken out, and we wrapped the game up there. I've been having allergy issues, and I didn't want to try to push on through the sinus headache that was building at the end of the night.
I think we have a fundamental difference in playing styles that's causing me some frustration, but I think I can get over it. I need to prep more to keep things moving faster on my end, and that will also help me challenge the PCs more. Right now everything's been a cake walk. Really, the "toughest" part of any of the fights has been hitting the NPCs, as trog clerics in full plate have ridiculous armor classes.
The big Earth Temple fight is coming up soon, that should be interesting.