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Farcaster
05-26-2009, 08:49 PM
One of my group's biggest hopes was that 4th edition would speed up combat over it's 3rd edition predecessor. Unfortunately, resolving combat at higher levels seems to take just as long or longer than in did in previous editions. We've been tossing around some ideas of how to speed things up, but with the wealth of RPG and 4e experience here on the forums, I thought I would solicit some advice from the community at large.

Our ideas so far are to:

1. Encourage players to have their actions planned out and ready to go for as soon as their turn comes up. If they are still thinking about what to do, then the character holds their action and resumes initiative when they're ready.
2. Reduce the number of monsters on the board by upgrading opponents to elite or solos. This increases the hit points of each monster, but it also increases their damage. Going a bit outside of the fourth edition framework, perhaps another addendum to this would be to trade some of the increased hit points from being elite or solo in exchange for higher damage output.

Any other ideas?

Webhead
05-26-2009, 09:07 PM
A few ideas that works for some:

1) To go along with players preparing their actions ahead of time, roll both attack and damage dice at the same time. If the attack misses, the damage can be ignored but if successful the player doesn't have to waste a few extra seconds hunting down the appropriate die and giving it a spin.

2) Have the DM keep easily readable notes on important PC stats in front of them (such as AC and Defense numbers and other important abilities). This saves the DM the time of having to constantly ask a player what their numbers are and can keep NPC actions flowing quickly.

3) Resist the temptation to crack open a book mid-action. If you forget whether Circumstance A grants a +1 or a +2 bonus, make a quick judgement call and move on. Maybe even ask an inactive player to look it up while you continue on so that you'll know the answer next time it comes up but don't stop the game to wait for somebody to clarify the rule or you'll really slow down the action and end up with similar slow-downs in the future.

Dimthar
05-26-2009, 09:43 PM
We are still on the lower levels, as far as I seen, a lot of the prolonged combats are due to "Party inefficiency".

Let me elaborate, seems that some encounters are designed for a "Standard Party" with "Standard Powers" and lacking a "Combat Role" can affect severely the outcome.

For example, if you have 2 Leaders (Cleric, Warlock) a Defender (Fighter), Striker (Rogue) will make you vulnerable (in the sense of combat time) to minions or "too many monsters" on the board.

If you don't have a Striker, the Solo / Elite monster may take forever to kill.

Now, it seems that each class can partially fill the missing role, but it has to be a conscious decision, and the powers needed may not meet your idea of character concept.

A Fighter for example: Sweeping Blow (attack all adjacent enemies) is great against minions but Armor-Piercing Trust (+Dex +Strength) is great against Solo/Elite but you can not have both.

Minions pose a danger because they hit as a normal monster, and due to their high number statistically one is "bound" to hit. Unfortunately a "Controller" strong party can wipe them out before they pose any threat While a Solo Monster makes more damage yes, but is subject to poor rolling.

Perhaps to keep the level of the encounter without adding monsters or making them more powerful, it would be better to have "Traps" or Dangerous Zones that affect both groups (PCs and NPCs), have time bomb effects suddenly going off.

Have the Elite Monsters move often and force the characters to follow (that adds opportunity attacks).

Truth is the Party will sometimes face danger in a position of disadvantage and there is nothing wrong about it.

Mis 2 centavos.

.

Grimwell
05-26-2009, 10:39 PM
My experience, in any edition, is that the combination of player readiness when it's their turn, the GM being well versed in the rules, and a few efficiency items all make things go better.

No, nothing new to the lists above really. :)

I do try to get myself excited for the fights when I'm running a game. That adrenaline is contagious, and does make people move faster. Less time reading books, stammering when you should be acting, and more time doing!

templeorder
05-27-2009, 12:26 AM
I have to agree with grimwell.
I've found that over time, characters develop a combat style where they can just call it their usual set of maneuvers. Experienced groups almost know what each other is thinking - no one has to ask and yet somehow it just all works smoothly and no one is duplicating efforts. I try and always prepare NPC tactics ahead of time, otherwise i get inefficient in trying to compensate against PC actions - plus its more realistic (unless PC's achieve total surprise). A lot of time too i avoid rolling damage and just take low average for damage (i'll do high average if i think the pc's need more challenge)

Farcaster
05-27-2009, 12:37 AM
I've already sped up die rolling on my side of the table by using a dice roller that rolls sets of dice and keeps a history of sets I have rolled in the past. That way I can quickly roll both the to-hit and damage for several monster groups without having to retype anything. It really helps. To appease my players, I even added sound to it so that they could hear the "dice" rolling.

korhal23
05-27-2009, 08:56 AM
One of the hardest parts of 4th Edition is the presence of so many new conditionals. Sure, flanking and cover/concealment are old hats, but there are tons of new little +1s and +2s that it seems like players tend to forget. One of the best ways to speed up the game is cards. Your players should all use power cards that give a basic description, has the attack value (Str vs. AC, for instance), and then most importantly has the math all figured out (Relevant mod + BAB). Yes your players will need to update their cards when they level and when their stats change, but it's a worthy time investment. Place these cards in one pile, or row.

Then, have cards for any item that they use in combat (a fighter's sword, for instance). The card should show any attack bonuses and the damage prominently (preferably with damage already calculated... _d_ + stat + enhancement). This is the second pile.

Now, the player should have all bonuses they can confer on a third set of cards/markers. The way I play it is this. If the bonus applies to one person, you have a card that you can hand them so they don't forget. If the bonus applies to everyone then I have them place the card on the map near but not covering the action. If the bonus specifically affects a certain mob (something like, say, fighter marks or warlock curses, or i used power x so everyone is +1 to hit them) then each player has a unique colored and shaped piece of paper that protrudes from the bottom of the mini. For instance, in my last game, the fighter marked with blue hexagons, while the warlock cursed with orange diamonds. Whenever the playtest Artificer used Spike Wire (conferring a +1 bonus for a turn to anyone attacking a mob hit by Spike Wire) he marked them with green pentagons.

In this way, on your turn, you know I used this power so:
*Roll dice* + attack from power card + Attack Bonus from Weapon + Condition Cards + Markers.

Yay I hit, so *Dice* + damage on weapon card + conditions + markers.

Makes things far easier than trying to remember.


Oh, and drink Coca-cola in the plastic bottles. Save the rings at the top. They make great things to place over a model to indicate Bloodied.

Otakar
05-27-2009, 09:09 AM
I appreciate this thread as I'm running into the same problems. Thanks for the suggestions.

yukonhorror
05-27-2009, 09:32 AM
On the DM's part, I try to set up my strategies for the battle as quickly as possible and follow it unless something disrupts said plan. I.e. flanking bob, marking jill, and weakening tim.

As a player, I do the same, but because I have so many more powers and such, I try to have an order set up on which powers I will use when. The hard ones are the conditional ones (interrupts and reactions).

Another thing to do is set up macros in maptools. I know some DM's like to minimize the tech, so here is a minimalist approach. You don't even use the maps. you have the macros set up for EVERY power but you leave the dice roll as an input variable.

i.e.
Player wants to use exacting strike on the hydra. He says "Boris focuses his attack and tries to hit a vital area of his victim." Rolls 1d20 and 2d8 (for damage) simultaneously. 13 and 12, respectively.

You as the DM (once you hear exacting strike), push the exacting strike macro button, put in 13 when it asks for to hit roll and 12 when it asks for dam roll, and all of the power text (conditions and such) are printed out along with normal bonuses to hit (so no one has to add) and its final product along with a similar product for dam (along with its type).

This may be time intensive to set up, but once you have it, you only have to update the bonuses when you level up or get a fancy new weapon.

In short, (once all macros are set up), player rolls, you push button, you type in numbers he rolled, and all of the bonuses are added up and there is conditional stuff printed out for easy ref if the player hits.

I find these macros really speed up my online game, but I think it could be used in the above fashion for live games.

Valdar
05-27-2009, 01:40 PM
If you aren't using Character Builder yet, it's another good way to speed things up. When you print a character off, it also prints cards with all your powers on them, with all the bonuses already calculated.

yukonhorror
05-27-2009, 01:52 PM
if you have pdf's (at least up to ph2), you can "copy" a power entry, paste it into a word document, and make your own power cards too. That's what I do. And in each one, I have my bonuses already added up so I only have to add 2 numbers (unless unique modifiers apply like flanking).

kirksmithicus
05-27-2009, 03:27 PM
Double the damage for the players and the monsters, should cut combat time in half.

See (I told you so :boink:), characters and monsters have to many HP at higher levels. Makes the game drag.

Farcaster
05-27-2009, 04:27 PM
Kirk, that is one of the ideas that I am toying with, save that instead of doubling the damage characters do, I am thinking about halving the hitpoints of the monsters while at the same time doubling the opponent's damage output.

Valdar
05-27-2009, 04:34 PM
This is my impression as well- has anyone sat down and determined if this is really the case- that 1st level monsters take less swings from 1st level characters to drop them, than 10th level monsters take from 10th level characters?

It seems like strikers will have more access to 2w and 3w attacks (more dailies and encounter powers to throw around)- did the designers think that this would counterbalance at-wills only going up to 2w at epic tier?

yukonhorror
05-27-2009, 05:14 PM
@valdar

That is a very interesting experiment. I might have to play with that one.

Have a few clear cut assumptions in play (standard action list pre set up, no flanking, no use of utility or daily powers, clear set of roles for monsters[one soldier, one brute, one skirmisher, one artillery, and one controller/lurker/artillery], same classes/races).

Do levels 1, 5, 10, 11, 15, 20, 21, 25, and 30. Have encounter level match party level. Have standard magic item set up according to wealth stuff in DMG.

Then use TRUE averages for each atk or just set up a spreadsheet to do all of the rolls of the encounter and see how many rounds it takes to kill the bad guys.

Obviously this isn't accurate, but it may get a rough idea of "on average" if the number of rounds it takes to kill something change or not.

Will post results when I get them.

kirksmithicus
05-27-2009, 05:55 PM
Kirk, that is one of the ideas that I am toying with, save that instead of doubling the damage characters do, I am thinking about halving the hitpoints of the monsters while at the same time doubling the opponent's damage output.

Well if that's the way you want to do it, fine! go ahead and skip all of that fancy multiplication :D.

One of the other things I saw posted another site (I think?, heck, for all I know it could actually be in the PHB); was having the PC's roll 5 to hit rolls ahead of time. Then use them in any order they wanted, scratching off one roll each time it's their turn. The effect of course is that the players use all the good rolls for their daily and encounter powers that do massive amounts of damage (speeding up the enemies demise), while at the same time using the poor rolls for actions that don't need rolls or very good ones, like second winds etc. While this certainly seems a little munchkin, it supposedly also speeds up game play, because the PC's already know if they hit or not when their turn starts, and they generally spend most of the time when it is not their turn trying to figure out the best way to use those five rolls, or what remains of them.

Dimthar
05-27-2009, 06:50 PM
Kirk, that is one of the ideas that I am toying with, save that instead of doubling the damage characters do, I am thinking about halving the hitpoints of the monsters while at the same time doubling the opponent's damage output.

I need a little clarification.

Is your concern Total Time (minutes) or Total Number of Rounds ??

Because if it is #Rounds to drop all the Monsters, then some of the suggestions (automated roll calculators, having the players expedite their decisions, etc.) will have little effect.

How do we adjust the encounter to make it feel like the battle at Balin's Tomb in the LotR movie?

The Troll pretty much moves around a lot, going after Sam, Gimli, Legolas and ultimately Frodo. It drops Boromir (perhaps dazed?) and Aragorn unconscious and kills Frodo with his ONLY 3 succesful attacks.

It is killed by (aproximately):
Legolas (X5)
Frodo (X1)
Gimli (X2)
Aragorn (X1)
Merry & Pippin (X2 or X3?)
Gandalf (X1)

Most of the damage is possible at the end due to the Orcs being dispatched.

We don't see the Orcs doing real damage, but for 4E you can always assume several healing surges were spent.
.

Farcaster
05-27-2009, 09:36 PM
I am referring to total time taken for a single combat encounter. I already use a dice roller on my side, and I figure that having the players have their actions ready ahead of time will only improve things by 25% or so. I want to cut the time it takes to resolve combat in half. That is why I am considering halving monster hit points and doubling their damage. It should take a bit less time that way. I've often felt that the monsters in 4e hit like little sissies anyway. :lol:

wulfdesign
05-28-2009, 10:03 PM
Sorry,
I only found one solution that was ultimately effective...

Switch to a game system that has quicker and/or a non-tedious combat system.

Webhead
05-29-2009, 12:16 AM
Sorry,
I only found one solution that was ultimately effective...

Switch to a game system that has quicker and/or a non-tedious combat system.

Well, there's that too...but I don't think that option will help Farcaster's predicament much! :lol:

Seriously, there are a couple of RPGs out there that can manage large-scale battles beautifully. Sadly, none of them are d20-based and most lean toward the "lighter" end of the rules complexity spectrum anyway (not a problem for me, but it is for some others), making it even easier to handle mass combats.

Farcaster
05-29-2009, 12:52 AM
I'm not actually trying to do large scale battles. I'm talking about battles even with just a few monsters on the board. That kind of large scale battle action, I have always done rather adhoc anyway.

wizarddog
05-29-2009, 02:54 AM
Not to derail this thread or anything but I think its is a misnomered to assume that 4e would shorted combat compared to 3.5.

If you remember back in 1e time, you basically had about 1 action. Move or attack (Cast spell) or whatever the DM said you could do.

Didn't play 2e...but in 3e we now have a move action and a standard action (ignoring swift for the moment). Doubling decisions.

Now in 4e we have standard, move AND a minor!

So naturally, if we can do three things on a players turn (and monsters turn)...guess what...IT'S GOING TO TAKE LONGER! ;)

You can't get around it. You can make every monster die on one hit but as long as you have three actions to choose from it's going to take more of your time.

NOW, I highly recommend the 1/2 HP and x2 damage. Makes ALL the difference in the world. It also ends up feeling like 3e battles....which makes the 3e diehards feel at home. ;)

Valdar
05-29-2009, 12:08 PM
I'm still trying to play my campaign out as close to RAW as possible, so while it's tempting to do the double damage/half HP thing, I think my next step is to vary the levels of creatures and see how that affects time- I've been doing level+1 or 2 monsters recently, and combats just take forever (party is level 11)- I'm thinking of keeping the encounter level that high, but leaning more on minions and monsters that are at-level or even downlevel.

Also, certain monster types just seem broken. Solo lurkers have the party wanting to strangle me (Aaaand, the black dragon cloaks again! Good luck with those 300 HPs you have to churn through...) Elite controllers are also pretty bad- when all their allies are down, they're stuck with a 1d6 attack.

I'm also leaning on the "mop-up" rule more- when the tide of the battle is won, no need to keep beating on the stragglers. They either flee, die in the next hit, or surrender.

Also, the sticky in this forum came down at some point- Farcaster, can you re-sticky the notice about 4e threads not being edition war threads? Thanks-

Dimthar
05-29-2009, 02:40 PM
NOW, I highly recommend the 1/2 HP and x2 damage. Makes ALL the difference in the world. It also ends up feeling like 3e battles....which makes the 3e diehards feel at home. ;)

Wouldn't Maximum Damage have the same effect than X2? and you'll be able to skip the rolling.

Or perhaps automatic "Push 1 sq"? (I keep thinking on the LotR Troll :) ).

.

wulfdesign
05-29-2009, 02:53 PM
I'm also leaning on the "mop-up" rule more- when the tide of the battle is won, no need to keep beating on the stragglers. They either flee, die in the next hit, or surrender.

Also, the sticky in this forum came down at some point- Farcaster, can you re-sticky the notice about 4e threads not being edition war threads? Thanks-

yea, 'mop-up' works well, still use it especially when we are limited time and at the end of a game session.

we use to play that after taking 1/2 your HP you had to start making CON checks you where out like a light. It didn't kill the characters or opponents but put them out of combat.

that is before we decided that d20 system was broken beyond repair and ditched it to built our own...

Valdar
05-29-2009, 03:41 PM
Wouldn't Maximum Damage have the same effect than X2? and you'll be able to skip the rolling.



That's already the result of a critical hit (well, plus your bonus dice for magic weapon/implement.)

korhal23
05-29-2009, 04:10 PM
To be honest, I think that the speed of combat is pretty adequate. Your average brawl really only goes about 7 to 10 rounds... which though that may take a bit to play out, is only representative of about 40-60 seconds of real time... a fairly decent and appropriately epic fight. Intelligent enemies should see things are a wash and run when they're either half dead or everyone alive is bloodied (typically. They may be motivated to fight to the death, or they may have an ace in the hole they haven't used yet.), while the unintelligent should fight to the death.

4E monsters don't hit like sissies, players have just been strengthened. D&D is moving in the direction of the epic hero adventures. Sure, they always said that a fighter was supposed to be exceptional and beyond just a normal guy grabbing a sword and givin' her a go. But it never really felt that way, certainly not in the early levels. Frankly, in 3.x, I usually started my players around level 5 and played campaigns through to about 13, as that range was where I felt D&D was at it's best. Under 4E, levels 1-30 are all fun. Everyone can take a few hits now, you're bowling over minions the whole way, everyone has more HP, casters are a bit more weapons free with their spells now, there are several tactically interesting powers, and frankly, combat has become the centerpiece of Dungeons and Dragons even more than ever. Combat and combat powers compose such a significant chunk of the books for a reason. That's, frankly, what the system is built for. Combat isn't just a plot device anymore. Frankly, if you play 4E, you should embrace it by making the fights as tactically interesting as possible. The 20x20 foot room just ain't the same anymore. Add some traps, exploit monster roles as well as you can, and put up a good fight for the PCs. Permanent death is a lot harder to achieve now than before, so hit them a little harder and make them think a bit more and you won't care that the combat takes a bit longer.

Another good thing to do is just put players on a time limit. You have 30-45 seconds before your character delays and I move on. I used to do that in Spycraft to give the firefights a more frantic feel (well, once the players learned the system well enough that is. It's kind of cruel to punish someone who's trying to learn by making them make hasty decisions and can sour their experience.)

Windstar
05-29-2009, 07:02 PM
@valdar

That is a very interesting experiment. I might have to play with that one.

Have a few clear cut assumptions in play (standard action list pre set up, no flanking, no use of utility or daily powers, clear set of roles for monsters[one soldier, one brute, one skirmisher, one artillery, and one controller/lurker/artillery], same classes/races).

Do levels 1, 5, 10, 11, 15, 20, 21, 25, and 30. Have encounter level match party level. Have standard magic item set up according to wealth stuff in DMG.

Then use TRUE averages for each atk or just set up a spreadsheet to do all of the rolls of the encounter and see how many rounds it takes to kill the bad guys.

Obviously this isn't accurate, but it may get a rough idea of "on average" if the number of rounds it takes to kill something change or not.

Will post results when I get them.

Am hoping yukon your not planning to use our group as the guinee pigs for that......LOL

but I am glad this thread is out there as my table top game is going to start soon. Thanks everyone for the info.

Windstar
:cool::cool:

yukonhorror
05-30-2009, 08:10 AM
Am hoping yukon your not planning to use our group as the guinee pigs for that......LOL

but I am glad this thread is out there as my table top game is going to start soon. Thanks everyone for the info.

Windstar
:cool::cool:

No I am using true averages to determine how long.

for level 1, average number of 3 rds if everyone uses one daily, one encounter power, and one at-will.

MrFrost
05-30-2009, 08:40 AM
I dont think 3E was too bad with the lengeth of combat, we can get through a fight in a few minitues depending.. Though on the other hand for a large battle or a big nasty, these fights could go on for quite some time (an hour +) but then again i think the few times these happen they should stick with the players for being something epic.