The situation: the PCs are heading into the Caverns of Laryn, the larynx of the Great Dragon of the Land. I had been poorly prepared for this session (another effect of the "doing work while at work" thing), so I grabbed a map from the Wizards' web site (I'd thought of using the map from Laurel Caverns, for real authentic cavern shape, but I found it too complex to read) and a list of monsters with a connection to sound, and quickly whipped up a dungeon-crawl.
The lineup of fights:
- six ghasts. They couldn't hit the PCs, and Turok and Kyle could hit them on a 2. Plus, of course, Larissa threw a fireball or two that blasted them away.
- three cloakers. The PCs were supposed to have an advantage here because they had stopped their ears with wax, thus preventing the cloakers from moaning. As it was, the cloakers did manage to engulf Kyle and Turok at different times, but they did hardly any damage.
- one yrthak, a flying sound-projecting monster. Liandra cast a languor spell on it, and after that, it was pretty much all over. If it had been able to find a better ledge to collapse upon, so that it could have survived until the languor wore off, things might have been better for it--but such a thing would be very unlikely, since Larissa could fly into any reachable position. As it was, Turok made a coup de grace on it that did 50 points of damage or so because he was using Power Attack.
So once again we see that my PCs are diverse enough to handle almost any encounter with little difficulty. Both of the front-line fighters have very high ACs (Turok's is 28 or 30, even with the loss of his plate armor), Larissa's fireballs are good against most mobs, and Liandra's languor is deadly to single big foes.
The answer is the same as it was the last time I complained about this; I need to munchkin up the monsters I throw at the PCs a bit. Giving monsters somewhat better attributes (a +2 to Str, Dex, and Con, say) would be entirely reasonable, and it is appropriate for me to use the best combos I can find. (Fortunately, I have some ideas...) But I probably should still have some harpies or somesuch, to reward the PCs for their preparation.
But that's really just a quibble, because this was a satisfactory, fun session, even if not an inspiring one. It's nice to return to simple monster-bashing sometimes, and if the fights are too easy, that's still better than being too hard.
One side point: I worried about the slapdash way I was designing the cavern layout, and worried that it would be just railroading the PCs from fight to fight. But my players were pretty happy to just follow the right wall in their explorations; if I didn't have a map but just a list of encounters, I don't think they'd mind much. What map shapes or features might make it matter to the players' experience for me to have a map of the cavern?