Adventure in Gamma World Book - last encounter difficulty (possible spoilers)

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Trying not to give anything away for anyone who hasn't played it.

I'll put it simply.  Does anyone else think that having a high damage area attack that knocks prone and does half a damage on a miss recharge on a 4,5,6, combined with a minor attack that restrains on hit and does high damage on the first failed save and causes them to spend a round escaping seem JUST A BIT EXCESSIVE?  Oh yeah, and the other monsters that can reroll misses as an encounter power for two rounds.  I mean, these are characters that are what, 3rd level MAX if they went through all the other encounters without dying?  Maybe 2nd level? 

I had a party play the entire adventure with only one character death up until that point.  That character was replaced with one of the same level (that's what I like about GW, quick to make new characters).  Last encounter - TOTAL TPK.  I don't think I'll be running that last encounter with those exact stats on that particular monster again.  Maybe take it down to a recharge on 5,6 or just 6.  Yeah, I know GW is deadly, but that was ridiculous in my opinion.  I think the only way they stood a chance was if they took out said monster very, very quickly, which is kind of hard to do when knocked prone.

So their reward for playing 8 encounters was to get wiped out on the last encounter when nothing close to that had ever happened before.  Like I said, I know GW is supposed to be dangerous and RANDOM, but unbalanced encounters like that are just sloppy writing.

What was your experience with this encounter?

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Keep On The Shadowfell" would be hailed as a brilliant, revolutionary triumph in game design if it were followed by the words "A Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

I think one of keys in DMing this encounter is to ham up the "big bad guy" angle.  Make sure the players understand that this is the big boss and that they should pull out all the stops here and use all their omega tech and alpha mutations on him as soon as possible.

I think they should have had some sort of super villain monologue in the read-aloud text for the encounter.

As far as encounters go, I don't actually think it's all that hard.  As long as the players understand that it is the boss fight and that they have to pull out all the stops.

I'd also make the iron king a bit mad and not worry about shooting his friends with the grenade launcher.  So what if some hoops die in the service of the King of all Robots!  It's a burst 2 grenade launcher in a relatively small indoor area.
I think that's a really good idea.  I also think it still has the potential for being a really tough fight, but if you play up the big bad angle perhaps players will be more likely to focus fire and take him out before he does too much damage.  And if he doesn't care about his lackeys, even better.  Looking back, I'm not really sure my players pulled out all the stops in the fight, even though they were aware it was the last encounter.

Also, to detail how it went for us, we only had 4 PCs in the party but to even out the fight I removed two enemies to lower the XP budget.  With there being only three enemies and how the combat played out, there wasn't opportunity for big bad to take out his friends, but I could of course make that happen if need be. 

On the plus side, the players are all players in my DnD group that I DM for and I'm almost always a very forgiving DM, trying to make the encounters scary and tense for them without killing anyone.  So this just proved to them that I WILL DO A TPK IF THE OPPORTUNITY COMES UP.  They were beginning to not believe I had it in me 

Still interested in what others' experiences were in this encounter...

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Keep On The Shadowfell" would be hailed as a brilliant, revolutionary triumph in game design if it were followed by the words "A Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

I tend to improv a lot of the read-aloud text for published modules, so I ended up having a nice "Kneel before the King of All Robots" monologue the one time I've run this so far.  I could totally see how if I had just read the text from the book, that the message would not have gotten across.

Initiative went mostly in the player's favour and every single person shot at him with either a ranged Alpha mutation, a ranged Omega tech weapon, a ranged origin power or their regular ranged weapon.  Two even provoked opportunity attacks to do so given that the hoop warriors got in their faces before they could shoot.  The Iron King got two grenades off before he was killed (and only that because I rolled the recharge). 

To paraphrase one player: "When a mutant bunny is claiming to be the robot messiah there really is only one option."   If it was a scene in a show or movie, the Iron King would have finished his monologue and then the heroes would have looked at each other and rolled their eyes and then lifted their guns and bathed the platform he was on in gun fire and explosions.

It's still a very challenging fight, but as soon as the players figure out at the guy with the grenade launcher standing on the platform who's controlling the big robot arm that's grabbing at you needs to die fast, it should be alright. 

And TPKs aren't all bad.  If the players are interested in continuing, they get to be the real heroes who get to fight the Iron King and his robots as he marches out to conquer the wastelands. 
Have you considered adding a skill challenge to the encounter? One that might disable/reduce the effectiveness of the BBEG, if passed?
I didn't consider that at the time we played because we we had just gotten our boxed sets and I played it with very little prep.  But that's a great idea.  Matter of fact, the adventure we're going to play next time WILL have a skill challenge as a major encounter, one where the party has to build an improvised vehicle to take out the bad guys, ala The A-Team.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Keep On The Shadowfell" would be hailed as a brilliant, revolutionary triumph in game design if it were followed by the words "A Pathfinder Adventure Path by Paizo."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

I don't see anything about a skill Challenge in the GW book. I'm assuming it's a d&d thing?
Yeah, it's a D&D thing. Basically it goes like this:

1. Decide how tough it's gonna be. This is measured by "n successes before 3 failures." One that's not so tough is 4 successes; one that's really tough is 12.

2. Determine which skills apply. These have "easy" or "moderate" DCs to gain a success. (See the skills section in Gamma World.) Other skills have "hard" if the players can convince you they'd work. So a skill to reprogram/confuse a robot might have Science at easy DC, Mechanics and Interaction at moderate DC, and anything else the players come up with at hard DC.

3. Each skill attempt counts as some kind of action -- probably either a minor or a standard. If the players succeed in the skill challenge, something good happens; if they fail, something bad happens. Like overriding a robot's programming might result in the robot becoming friendly (if you succeed) or trying to kill you (if you fail).

That said, it's probably better to just use a less formal, no three-strikes-you're-out structure and instead say something like "if the players succeed at three consecutive Science checks of DC 12, the robot stands down" or "the players get a +1 bonus to all defenses for each Mechanics roll they make to shut down the lasers (standard action)."
Gamma World Downloads: Character sheets, GM screen, adventures, monsters, house rules, cards, and more! You can usually find my posts at the Gamma World forum.
Oh, and also you can wing it and just make up whatever you want.

A player says "I want to shut down the robots, can I do it?" "Okay, make a Science roll." "Yay I did it! A 19 total." "Okay, the two nearest robots are stunned, save ends, while they reboot their operating systems."
Gamma World Downloads: Character sheets, GM screen, adventures, monsters, house rules, cards, and more! You can usually find my posts at the Gamma World forum.