Okay, so I'm leading my first D&D campaign. I'm using a 3.5 Player's Handbook, and 3.0 DM guide/monster manual/etc. I read up and study everything for a month before the first play session, and figure I know most of what I need to. Cue the problems.
The encounter levels don't seem to work well, and the treasure the DM guide says to give them seems way too much. My playgroup consists of 8 2nd-level players, which according to the DM guide is an EL of 4. But whether I toss them 1 creature with CR 4, 2 with CR 2, or 8 with CR 1/2, it doesn't faze them. Then, when a foe (CR 1/2) happens to get in a shot, it's enough to take out half or more of a PC's HP. Is this normal?
Plus, the guide says that when the players win something with EL 1, they should get 300gp of stuff. EL 4, they should get 1200gp. Most of them could go to town after one dungeon and get pretty much anything they want! Am I overestimating things? One player suggested that we have a surplus of money because our party has no item-crafting mages.
I can only think of two reasons for these problems - one, we have a large group of players (nearly twice as big as "normal"). The other is one PC who's more than a little unbalanced in the stats. 24 str, 4 int. I've talked to him and he's agreed to let his character be a little nerfed as long as he can still play it.
Any advice would really be appreciated. I've spent two play sessions trying to figure this out so far, and I'm a bit lost. I don't want it to start messing with the storyline.