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Speeding Up Combat: What to do, What not to do

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1 Speeding Up Combat: What to do, What not to do on Sun Oct 18, 2009 11:31 am

Ross

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Found this on a Blog on the WotC forums

____________________________________________

Well, it's the end of another week, and we have a new complaint topic popping up on multiple threads. I feel that it's time to start a new thread just to directly assault the problem. My goal is not to lay blame on people directly, but point out flaws and offer suggestions that might help bring balance back to quicker combats.

Believe it or not, you can get a combat done in about half a hour in 4E. It's easy to do, and it doesn't take a lot of effort to do so, but it requires a bit of expertise with the system. You aren't going to start out doing the combats that quickly, and that is fine. Here are things that I suggest you do and things I suggest you don't do when you are preparing and running combats.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For Players

Have your dice out. This seems simple, but when you spend a lot of time looking for a d10, or you dig in your bag because you need another d12 for that critical hit with a vicious weapon, you are going to extend the amount of time you are playing the game by. By having all your dice that you need on the table (And a few extras for those who believe in Unlucky Dice), you help speed up things a little.

Have your powers printed up in a easy to read format. Some people swear by Power Cards. I use a Excel Sheet with little check marks. However you do it, whatever you do, do the prep work at home before you get to the game, and get those powers you are going to use on paper so that you don't have to dig into the PHB for your power. Have all the normal numbers you need right there so you don't have to calculate the number to hit on the fly. Remembering Powers and being able to quickly at a glance identify which ones you've used helps you make decision faster. Not having to look in the book incredibly speeds up the progress.

Know what you are going to do before it's your turn. When it's not your turn isn't strictly for socializing, but you should be planning on what you are going to do before your next turn.

For Leaders, this means "Who am I going to Heal on my turn? Who am I going to Buff?". Have answers for those before it gets to your turn.
For Melee Strikers, this means "Who do I need to Flank With to Bring Down the Bad Guy Faster?"
For Ranged Strikes and Controllers, you should be asking "Are there minions I need to kill? Can I get more then on monster on my turn in an attack?"
For Defenders, you should be asking "Who is the biggest threat? Who do I need to engage to stop the people in the back from getting hurt?"
Just knowing the answer to these questions before your turn means you take a lot less time worrying about what kind of action you are going to take, and knowing what you actually want to do.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For DM's

Don't use Level+3 Encounters. I know a lot of you have gotten into the tendency to constantly use overly high encounters against a party. This is part of the reason your encounters are lasting too long. If Every Fight ends up being a Slug Fest against Increadible Odds, don't expect play to move quickly! It's much better to have 3 Equal Level Fights in a day, then having just one Level +3 fight.

Plan Ahead. While your players are planning their move, you need to be planning your own. You have more pieces to move, but if you know what you are going to do with them before the players finish their move, that means you'll spend less time processing those turns.

Use Minions. Just use them. Yes, they die. That's fine. That's the job of a monster, after all. Just use fractions of your budget that don't fit well otherwise as minion budget. Use higher level minions if you need to to make them last a little longer.

Use Traps. Traps are easily inserted, don't have moves to plan, and make interesting pieces for combat to revolve around. Furthermore, they take away actions of planning you need to do, speeding up your turn.

Don't use the book while at the table. Write down your monsters before you the game session. Keep notes on common conditions you experience. Don't be flipping through pages of the monster manual. The less often you need to look into a book, the faster you'll go.

Skip Slow Players. If a player is taking five minutes to take a turn every turn, your 5-8 round combat will feel like 15-20 rounds instead. If they take too long, put them on Delayed, and move to the next player. When they think of what they want to do, they can jump back in.

Lower Level is Better - I am not saying don't use high level monsters. Far from it. However, do not shy away from using larger groups of lower level monsters. They are easier to hit, they fall easier, and they still present as much threat as one higher level monster. Never underestimate what 3:2 odds does to a party.

Just doing just a few of these things will help speed up your combats considerably. If you prepare yourself properly, you can blaze through a combat, and be able to get onto more of them, or more exciting things for you.


_________________
CHARACTERS:
Morbius Von Kas - Vryloka/Blackguard [4e-Rainbow Warriors Campaign]
Man'Tis Man'Todea - Thri-Kreen/Berserker [4e-Slave Lords Campaign]
Danilo Rand - Monk/Human [5e-Princes of the Apocalypse Campaign]
Nathan Grey - Ardent (4e-Terran One Campaign)
Walt Dixon - Bladesinger (4e-Terran One Campaign)
Battlefield 4 Soldier: Saturnicus
Diablo III Battletag: Saturnus#1572
Neverwinter: @bobpatrick.com
XBox GamerTag: Drizityn


Kazoo the Kender: "Hmm, I'll take....the Wand of Wonder." The rest of the party regretted giving Kazoo the first treasure pick.
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Ross wrote:...Believe it or not, you can get a combat done in about half a hour in 4E...

That'd be nice! ...Good post!



Last edited by bradly on Sun Oct 18, 2009 8:09 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Great info! cheers

It seems that we've had a pattern developing for a while where the PCs routinely fight monsters 2-3 levels higher than their levels. This makes battles last longer because the monsters have more HP and better defenses.

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Dwarmaj wrote:It seems that we've had a pattern developing for a while where the PCs routinely fight monsters 2-3 levels higher than their levels. This makes battles last longer because the monsters have more HP and better defenses.

That's only part of the problem, though. The Orc battle with the Celetial Chargers was barely over +1 EL. That battle took 4 hours (and didn't have any stunning, dazing NPCs either). The random Orc encounter waiting for the rest of the party took an hour and was -3 EL.

The rest of the adventure was:

Hags: +2 EL

Dracolich: +10 EL* (*not meant to defeat, just overcome)

Mind Flayer & thralls: +2 EL

These 3 took about the same, each a little less than 2 hours, and all 3 had stunning/dazing.


...In other words, we are nowhere in the ballpark of 1/2 hour encounters.

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Okay, the fastest moving, most action packed adventure I can recall is the final one of the BoM. There were eight encounters, two of which the party avoided but received exp for one of them, and six battles the party actually fought. Two of the battles were very large in scope, the playhouse and the warehouse. I thought I was very well prepared and kept the action moving and even then, we're right around an hour a battle.

If everyone that day had all dice at hand, took only 30 seconds to do their turn, and there were no discussions about the rules, okay I can imagine getting down to say, 45 minutes a battle. For those that were there; Ken, Ross, Trevor, Ibuki (and Kobe...) what do you think?

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Wanted to bump this as we're still seeing 1-2 hour long encounters.

I believe the problem is still both Player and DM.

Some players still don't have all of their PC info infront of them before their turn starts or don't have all of the info needed to calculate quickly their damage bonuses.

Some issues aren't avoidable like when a monster you were going to go after dies because someone got a lucky critical and you have to rethink your turn. But in a lot of cases we could do a bit better.

One of the problems I know I had with Angelus was all the bonuses that don't show up on the cards. Once I started writing them down, things got a bit smoother.

Example...:

Angelus Twin Strike
1d8+7 (+3Weapon +4IAoP)
+7 (Fighting Fury, Daily Power)
+6 (Enemy Bloodied +2 from Feat +4 from item)

1d8+14 (not bloodied)
1d8+20 (bloodied)

Flurry on Target +10hp
Flurry on adjacent +14hp
Flurry on <5 away +14

One hit on a bloodied target is 1d8+30, +14, +14
Two hits on a bloodied target is 2d8+60, +28, +28

For DMs:
Still seeing lots of level+3 and higher monsters vs PCs. I think one of the problems may be DMs using custom monsters and not gauging the monsters level accurately.

Some encounters seem to be gauged ok, but have monsters that inherrently take a long time to put down. Incorporreal that also weaken are extreemly long encounters, esecially if they can also regenerate.

Note: if the party is to fight a high level NPC and the party isn't really intended to defeat it, have the NPC flee sooner, maybe after 15-20min. Spending an hour and a half beating on an "unkillable" monster wastes time that we could be using to beat on other monsters. Twisted Evil

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Ross

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The DM monsters are a big one. Too many monsters designed to prolong combat.
Sometimes it's even terrain.
For some reason I think there is a confusion of prolonged battle vs a fun battle. Once again I come back to a DM having feelings for their monsters/NPC's. Hence give them this power or that to make them last longer or be more effective.
Fighting those aerial recon bots is kind of boring and just seems to prolong combat than anything else. I kind of understand why Brad uses them though because the vamps don't seem to be enough to challenge us much. The Penthouse battle and mind flayer battles were a lot of fun though, maybe, partially, because there were no vamps.


_________________
CHARACTERS:
Morbius Von Kas - Vryloka/Blackguard [4e-Rainbow Warriors Campaign]
Man'Tis Man'Todea - Thri-Kreen/Berserker [4e-Slave Lords Campaign]
Danilo Rand - Monk/Human [5e-Princes of the Apocalypse Campaign]
Nathan Grey - Ardent (4e-Terran One Campaign)
Walt Dixon - Bladesinger (4e-Terran One Campaign)
Battlefield 4 Soldier: Saturnicus
Diablo III Battletag: Saturnus#1572
Neverwinter: @bobpatrick.com
XBox GamerTag: Drizityn


Kazoo the Kender: "Hmm, I'll take....the Wand of Wonder." The rest of the party regretted giving Kazoo the first treasure pick.
View user profile http://twitter.com/NWGamerDude

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