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Thread: Speeding Up Combat

  1. #1
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    Speeding Up Combat

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    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?
    Robert A. Howard
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    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.
    HARRY DRESDEN WIZARD
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    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.

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    Saluti
    Carlos

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    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!
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    Grimwell

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    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)

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    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.
    Robert A. Howard
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    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.

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    I appreciate this thread as I'm running into the same problems. Thanks for the suggestions.

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    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.
    "I'm not going crazy. I'm going sane in a CRAZY world!"

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    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.

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    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).
    "I'm not going crazy. I'm going sane in a CRAZY world!"

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    Double the damage for the players and the monsters, should cut combat time in half.

    See (I told you so ), characters and monsters have to many HP at higher levels. Makes the game drag.
    It's as if there are people who play RPGs that don't have computers or something. Seriously, people need to upgrade to 1994 already. - - -TheRedRobedWizard

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    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.
    Robert A. Howard
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    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?

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    @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.
    "I'm not going crazy. I'm going sane in a CRAZY world!"

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