Is our beloved Living Forgotten Realms headly quickly toward a cliff?

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I run a home non-LFR D&D 4E game in which the players are in the middle levels of the paragon tier. I also coordinate the public Living Forgotten Realms activities at my FLGS (friendly local gaming shop for those unfamiliar with the acronym). We get 1-2 tables off a week and the bulk of the regulars who come to the store to play on Saturday afternoons are around 5th-6th level.

In my non-LFR home game I have seen the length of combat encounters grow steadily. I won't bog down this thread with the details, but even a cursory search in the 4E forums here will reveal endless dialogue about the length of higher level 4E combats. At mid-paragon tier, our non-boss battles last 1-2 hours each and boss battles last 2-3 hours each. In the heroic tier, our battles were much, much shorter, averaging 30-45 minutes.

It has me wondering about the fate of Living Forgotten Realms as the campaign ages. Will the age-old standard of 4-ish hour game slots even be possible in a 4th Edition Living campaign? Are there any dialogues in progress about this issue?

===================================================== "Your life is an occasion. Rise to it." -Mr. Magorium =====================================================

I heard a suggestion that high-Paragon and Epic modules (when we get there) should be only double or triple length modules.

I think it's a good one.
Some conventions in my area are experimenting with 6 hour slots for Paragon mods, running 2 of them as opposed to the usual three 3 hour slots.
I have been running a paragon level game for about 6 months now (it started in heroic).  I noticed for a while that fights were interminably long, but I also noticed that they have begun to shorten recently as I gained experience running paragon and my players gained experience playing paragon.  Right now, I have two players that take reasonably long turns.  One has improved noticably and is approaching fast turns.  The other still needs a lot of work.  Despite that, combats are moving back towards 1-1.5 hours and in some cases a lot shorter.

I think experience is the real key here.  Too many DMs and too many players just don't have a good feel for how to play paragon characters or run paragon encounters.  Even though 4e has been around for almost two years now, way too many people don't really  have extensive experience with it and are assuming that 3e habits and ideas work in 4e.  The games are different enough that this leads to slow down.  I suspect that as more tables are filled with players who have grown competent with paragon and more DMs get experience running paragon, that the 4 hour slot will fit better.

-SYB
Comparing previous editions will show how quickly and efficiently games run at this level in 4e.  And don't get me wrong- I still LOVE 2.x and 3.x games and the cool aspects of those levels.  But man, it took FOREVER it seemed.
Matt James Freelance Game Designer Loremaster.org

Follow me on Twitter!
Comparing previous editions will show how quickly and efficiently games run at this level in 4e.  And don't get me wrong- I still LOVE 2.x and 3.x games and the cool aspects of those levels.  But man, it took FOREVER it seemed.



Hmmm. I seem to recall running APL 12-18 mods in 4 hours on a regular basis back in LG. And I never had one go overtime by more than an hour or so. On the other hand, every paragon mod I have played has taken at least six hours and that's only level 11. If that's the comparison we're using, it seemed to take forever then. It actually does take forever now.
Comparing previous editions will show how quickly and efficiently games run at this level in 4e.  And don't get me wrong- I still LOVE 2.x and 3.x games and the cool aspects of those levels.  But man, it took FOREVER it seemed.



Hmmm. I seem to recall running APL 12-18 mods in 4 hours on a regular basis back in LG. And I never had one go overtime by more than an hour or so. On the other hand, every paragon mod I have played has taken at least six hours and that's only level 11. If that's the comparison we're using, it seemed to take forever then. It actually does take forever now.



Makes sense to me.  Save or suck and instakills are fast.  And, really, that was basically the majority of combat at those levels in 3e.  It wasn't fun, but it was fast.

That also seems to be the problem I am seeing players have with paragon in 4e.  They are still looking for the "win button".  I commonly see players searching their character sheets or power cards looking for that one power that will finish the fight or remove the enemy from the encounter.  That is a lot of time wasted (often on the player's turn) for something that usually doesn't exist.

4e combat is more about flow and simply working with that flow towards an end.  As players get more used to that, less time is wasted and fights get significantly more efficient.

-SYB
Some conventions in my area are experimenting with 6 hour slots for Paragon mods

While that could work, devoting that much time to single combats would sour me on the game.

I've been able to keep Paragon combats short, but I take some pretty extreme measures:
- Average damage, which goes pretty much unnoticed, and
- Monsters go on the same initiative, which effectively (thanks to delaying and such) allows the players to go in any order they wish... and I generally just go clockwise around the table, skipping (then coming back to) any player that isn't immediately ready. PC initiative is still used to determine who gets a turn before the monsters on the first round.

- Monsters go on the same initiative, which effectively (thanks to delaying and such) allows the players to go in any order they wish... and I generally just go clockwise around the table, skipping (then coming back to) any player that isn't immediately ready.



I don't know about that one.  So either all of the monsters go first or all of the players go first every time?  That sounds like it's going to lead some really one-sided combats.  Especially if you make everyone start in the 3x2 rectangle of getting AoE'd to death.
I think experience is the real key here.  Too many DMs and too many players just don't have a good feel for how to play paragon characters or run paragon encounters.



I'd be interested to hear any tips you may have on more effectively running Paragon encounters. My home game, which is at the Paragon tier, is really starting to get bogged down during the tactical encounters and I'm open and receptive to any suggestions on how to be a good Paragon DM. With Paragon tier fast approaching for the LFR game that runs every week at our FLGS, I'd like to be as prepared as possible to make those adventures go smoothly.


===================================================== "Your life is an occasion. Rise to it." -Mr. Magorium =====================================================

While the increasing length of combats is certainly a big reason for P and E mods taking longer, I also hope that the non-combat part of P and E mods will be designed to take much longer than during H.


Uncovering the conspiracy to replace the current sultan of the city of Brass should not done in the same time than saving the dirt farmer's wive from the nearby ogre tribe.

From my point of view, I don't think the 4e game mechanics force paragon or epic adventures to run longer, but rather the difficulty of encompassing a suitable story/challenge for paragon or epic play that can be accomplished in 4 hours.  In other words, the situation should often be more complex, and that is very hard to do in 4 hours.

To be sure, if players are slow about making up their minds, the more options they have in paragon or epic will have an effect.

Keith
Keith Hoffman LFR Writing Director for Waterdeep

As a POC, a DM, and a player, this has also come to my attention lately.  But, between the different versions of D&D and different campaigns, the two main standards still hold true.  Those standards are that the adventure has to be run within four hours, and the players have to have fun.

Combats that run quite long seem to tax both of those desired results.  But, it is up to the DM to ensure those two points happen during an adventure.  And, with Living Realms, the DMs have far more flexibility to make sure that those two results do happen, versus previous editions and campaigns.

I myself have been experimenting with different ways to handle different adventures, and between running the adventure to the letter, and adhering to the time limit and enjoyment level of the players, the two desired results always trump the written word of the adventure.  I've only been doing this for the past few adventures that I've run, but I have seen a drastic improvement in my own personal gaming style - and the DMs that I hang out with all share pointers and tips on how best to approach this issue.

Ryan P. Kappler Community Manager for Living Forgotten Realms.
I blame the Character Builder.

I'm only half-kidding.  The character sheet generated by the CB (which is effectively the campaign-standard character sheet) is ill-suited for managing the number of options a paragon character has.  It's not even particularly well-suited for managing a heroic character.  If a player doesn't have a good handle on what their PC can do, they end up flipping aimlessly through their cards trying to figure out what their next move is and whether they've forgotten the perfect power for dealing with the situation.

And, of course, besides a large number of options, paragon also brings with it an increased number of conditional benefits--a PC might do +X damage when they have combat advantage, +Y when the target is bloodied, +Z if both are true, and have the option to add +N once per combat.

I still see players figuring out anew each time how much damage a secondary attack does or how much damage they deal on a crit.  I would expect that, each and every round, some players are going to be floundering, scanning their power cards frantically to see which bonuses apply (or worse, their entire character sheet, as paragon strikers are likely to have more conditional benefits than can fit on the card, and that even assumes the CB is programmed correctly to have the benefit show up).

Do you have heroic-tier players who frequently interrupt you, after you've moved on to the next player (or even after a longer gap), with "Oh, add +2 damage because he was bloodied" or "Um, would a 25 AC have hit; I forgot ____"?  They're not going to get better at this when they have more options to keep track of.

I see this as an information management problem: paragon combats are not intrinsically different from heroic combats, there's simply more going on, more options and more conditional benefits/penalties that may or may not apply.  If players are using a system that poorly managed the lesser information flow back in heroic, their speed will slow to a crawl in paragon.
I think one of the other issues are builds - Strikers who are happy to do decent damage, but don't focus on improving it. Defenders who make themselves nearly impossible to hurt via their paragon path, when they were already too strong in that specific area.

Controllers not being there in the 1st place. Controllers do the most damage, even if it isn't focused fire - an Invoker as an example can regularly attack 3 targets for 1d4+stat vs Ranger's Twin Strike doing 2d12 vs one or two as an example.

[snip]Do you have heroic-tier players who frequently interrupt you, after you've moved on to the next player (or even after a longer gap), with "Oh, add +2 damage because he was bloodied" or "Um, would a 25 AC have hit; I forgot ____"?  They're not going to get better at this when they have more options to keep track of.


This.  IME, the single best way to speed up Paragon (or even Heroic) mods is to make the players stick with their actions and not allow going back.  I hate even more when players forget and then try to use immediate actions or even worse when other players try and tell different players to use immediate actions that they weren't going to use.  The DM should try and make players stick with thier actions -- unless something really is life or death or some such.

Right alongside of this is strongly encouraging players to think ahead to their next turn and have things ready to go.  This is especially true when you string together a few PCs in a row -- have a plan ready to go.  Players need to stop trying to always come up with the 100% most optimized course of action.  Do something good - if it is a "B+" move and you realize mid-way through you had an "A' move -- just finish off the first one.

Daren
Comparing previous editions will show how quickly and efficiently games run at this level in 4e.  And don't get me wrong- I still LOVE 2.x and 3.x games and the cool aspects of those levels.  But man, it took FOREVER it seemed.



Hmmm. I seem to recall running APL 12-18 mods in 4 hours on a regular basis back in LG. And I never had one go overtime by more than an hour or so. On the other hand, every paragon mod I have played has taken at least six hours and that's only level 11. If that's the comparison we're using, it seemed to take forever then. It actually does take forever now.



I've played nearly every paragon mod available, and I've never had one go for longer than 3.5 hours as a player. High-APL LG mods were the same thing. I think it's certainly doable to get 3 paragon tier combats into a 4-hour mod, but players need to learn to speed up their turns a bit.

Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com
I pre-roll for all of the monsters and take additional time to prepare.  This prevents me from having to take too much time to to figure out the strategy of the NPCs.  As well, keeping the initiative order up for all to see, and reminding the next player to go that there turn is soon coming, helps to keep things going.  Sometimes you need to push (kindly) from behind and get PCs to finish their turn.  Setting the tempo from the beginning goes a long way in helping. 

Keep rules debates off the table- make your call and move on.  Don't let a PC stop the game because they disagree with you.  Notate the issue and bring it up after the game. 
Matt James Freelance Game Designer Loremaster.org

Follow me on Twitter!
The character sheet generated by the CB (which is effectively the campaign-standard character sheet) is ill-suited for managing the number of options a paragon character has.  It's not even particularly well-suited for managing a heroic character.  If a player doesn't have a good handle on what their PC can do, they end up flipping aimlessly through their cards trying to figure out what their next move is and whether they've forgotten the perfect power for dealing with the situation.



Truth be told, even before power cards this was a problem with players.  With power cards it seems to be exacerbated, but what it really points to is a lack of planning on the player.  Personally, I have played in many heroic tier games (haven't hit paragon yet) where player turns last forever then it gets to my turn, I'm done in 15-30 seconds, then it's back to a bunch of long turns.  The same issue: players digging through powers while deciding what to do.

Part of this is not having a firm grasp on what their characters can do but, IMO, a big part of it is lack of player attention.  When it's not your turn you should be thinking of what you want to do on your next turn as well as other possibilities in case your original plan goes awry (because your intended target gets curb stomped by the barbarian or an ally moves into your planned area attack, etc.).  Maybe I played to much chess as a kid so I am used to planning ahead, but this is my observation.  Too often the DM calls someone's turn and they turn away from their buddy or their iPhone to finally look at the board, then look at their powers and try to figure out what to do, sometimes askign questions about what's happened.

I see it when I DM, but as I've only DM'd heroic and it hasn't caused anythign to run long (yet) I generally keep my mouth shut.  If I DM any Paragon mods and I see this happen I woudl definitely tell the table that people don't pay attention and plan between turns they may not finish the mod and not bat an eye if they come up short.  It's their time, they can do with it as they will after all.

EDIT: I should try what I used to do in LG when DMing.  I used to have a set of rules I gave the table when I sat down to DM:
1. In combat, when I call your turn if you don't give me your actions within a reasonable amount of time (within a minute, that might need to be adjusted for 4e since it's beyond "I swing my sword at this guy") I will delay you and move on, checkign back with you when the next turn is done.
2. No time travel.  When you have rolled your attack(s) and totalled damage I will ask you if you have added all bonuses.  Once I move on to another turn there's no going back with "Oh, I should have added this," or "I should have rolled another XdY."  And this cuts both ways, and believe me, I have forgotten or messed up a few doozies in my day that seriously benefitted the players.

Both of those sound a lot more harsh than they are.  When I tell the players up front this is to keep things moving they were always appreciative and usually did what I mentioned above: planned ahead between turns so when their turn came up they were ready.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
At first, Paragon adventures featured all 11th-level underpowered characters.  Missing more often = longer combats.

It's not just getting comfortable with Paragon play, it's powering-up!  After getting a couple P1 adventures under your belt, you'll have better stuff (and better bonus to hit) in a party of mixed levels.  Six level 11 PCs who are fresh (some don't have +3 weapon/implement yet) will take a longer time to get through combat.

That, and being accustomed to the "extra" powers and AP abilities, and our Paragon adventures take less time now than they did a few months ago when the first Paragon mods came out. 

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director


- Monsters go on the same initiative, which effectively (thanks to delaying and such) allows the players to go in any order they wish

I don't know about that one.  So either all of the monsters go first or all of the players go first every time?

Naw, PC initiative is still used to determine who gets a turn before the monsters on the first round (forgot to mention it... now added to my previous post)

That sounds like it's going to lead some really one-sided combats.

Since I'm averaging the monster initiatives when I combine them, there is actually less chance of a lop-sided result now.

I don't think the 4e game mechanics force paragon or epic adventures to run longer

*sputter* Smile

Heh... with more HP, status effects, options, chained abilities, etc. it's been pretty darn hard not to run longer strictly due to mechanics.
At the end of the day we need to ask this question - Has this encounter stopped being fun for the players and DM before the encounter was completed?

I think that a number of good points about judge and player responsibility have been made here, and I don't think that I need to go into it further. So I want to talk some other pieces - module design, tier selection, role play and table size.

Module Design:

This is the one I really want to expound on - the other sections are shorter...

We currently have modules that are created to allow players to level every two to four modules, depending on the character's current level and if they are playing on the low or high tier version. In order to scale the modules to this rate of advancement, it seems reasonable that the modules have a specifc XP budget that they have to adhere to within each tier. If we had a slower per module rate of advancement, the combats should be less difficult, and the individual modules would be completed faster. However, players derive a great sense of joy out of hitting the Level Up button, and increasing that rate would probably turn off a lot of players. Changing or tuning this really couldn't be done in LFR, but it seems like something to consider if a new Living campaign is launched.

On the other hand, another way to tune this would be to offer some smaller, faster mods that don't have below average rewards. Modules that are designed to only offer, for comparison sake, 200/280 xp for level 1-4, but would fit comfortably in a 3 hour block of time. I think these would be surprisingly popular, ESPECIALLY for pickup games. At our FLGS, we always have a few people who think about hanging around and playing one more slot, but don't necessarily want to play until 1:00 a.m.

I've seen a lot of modules with encounters that are specifically designed either intentionally or unthinkingly in a way that drastically prevents characters from bringing their full power to bear, thus increasing play time. To a degree that is necessary to challenge the players, but I think module writers should be more cautious about combining some of these effects: high defenses, dazing, stunning, immobilization of melee characters, terrain features that are designed to prevent PC's from reaching their threats, domination, swarms, insubstantial monsters, sending PC's to other planes or some other form of effective penalty box, regeneration, healing, etc. I'm not saying don't use these things...I'm saying be conscious that used in conjunction with each other, they have an exponential effect on the length of the module. Authors should ask themselves if the insubstanitial swarm soldier solo with self healing that can banish characters to a primordial soup kitchen, save ends, as an at-will minor, is really a good idea.

Tier Selection

As I noted above - more XP means faster leveling on a per module basis, so people tend to play on high tier exclusively in my neck of the woods. However, this isn't always appropriate. Players should be reminded that playing on high tier isn't only more dangerous, but it also results in a mod that simply takes longer to get through than a mod on low tier.

Role Play

Like it or not, roleplay takes time. There isn't any getting around this. I would make the point that for a lot of players, a 5 hour session with good roleplay is far more satisfying than a 2 1/2 hour session that is speed-played. Judges and players alike need to gauge what is more fun for the group at any given time.

Table Size
A table with four PC's scales very differently than a table of 6 or even in extreme cases 7. You have more downtime between each PC's turn as other PC's act, you have more monster resources as the DM scales up the encounter, you have a greater chance of bottlenecking as all of these additional PC's and monsters take up squares on the terrain, and you have a greater chance of game changing effects going off that require sudden shifts in planning that take time.
- Monsters go on the same initiative, which effectively (thanks to delaying and such) allows the players to go in any order they wish... and I generally just go clockwise around the table, skipping (then coming back to) any player that isn't immediately ready. PC initiative is still used to determine who gets a turn before the monsters on the first round.



That's a really nasty thing to do to Rogues - they usually get free sneak attack on someone based on them going after the Rogue does - the more monsters rolling init, the more likely that is to happen.
That sounds like it's going to lead some really one-sided combats.

Since I'm averaging the monster initiatives when I combine them, there is actually less chance of a lop-sided result now.


It doesn't quite reduce the chance of a lop-sided combat. It reduces the chance of a lopsided initiative, but that is not quite the same thing.

Simply having all the monsters go at once can make an encounter significantly more deadly. For instance, one of the PC deaths I observed was a fellow player. His tempest fighter rode into the room on round 1 and got hit by a couple bad guys for relatively low damage. Then the rest of the party moved. Since he wasn't very injured (not bloodied, I think he was down by a little less than one healing surge), we didn't heal him. Then, at the bottom of the round, an owlbear came out of hiding, smacked him twice on its standard action, grabbed him, then spent its action point to do automatic bite damage, dropping him. The fighter's turn came up and he made a death save. Then all of the remaining soldiers coup de graced the fighter. He survived two, but the third coup de grace dropped him below negative bloodied. Then the rest of our team got to go.

Now, I don't think much of the "all coup de grace, all the time" philosophy adopted by that judge, but it is a good illustration of something that only could happen because all the monsters were effectively going at once with no PCs in between them. If any of our PCs had been able to act in between any of the monsters (the owlbear and the soldiers, or any of the three soldiers), the fighter would not have died because we would have healed him (with a potion, power, or something). Usually, the results are not so extreme as they were under "all coup de grace, all the time" rules, but the principle is the same. When all of the monsters go at once, PCs are more likely to drop than they would be otherwise. It is true the other way too--monsters are more likely to drop without acting than they would be otherwise as well. The combination of these two factors means that combats will be more swingy with those rules: more likely to be easy and more likley to be difficult.

So, while it reduces the chance of a lopsided initiative to have all the monsters go at once on their average init, it will, at least sometimes, increase the chance of a lopsided combat. In combats that are not unusually sensitive to initiative, I suspect the net effect will usually be to increase rather than decrease the odds of a lopsided combat.
I don't think the 4e game mechanics force paragon or epic adventures to run longer

*sputter*

Heh... with more HP, status effects, options, chained abilities, etc. it's been pretty darn hard not to run longer strictly due to mechanics.



I'm thinking that you haven't played a lot of paragon tier games.  One of the things I have noticed running a game from level 1 to currently level 17 is that, in terms of rounds, combats are actually over quicker in paragon tier.  Certainly, the rounds tend to run longer, but when it takes half as many to finish the encounter, it balances out.

-SYB
The character sheet generated by the CB (which is effectively the campaign-standard character sheet) is ill-suited for managing the number of options a paragon character has.  It's not even particularly well-suited for managing a heroic character.  If a player doesn't have a good handle on what their PC can do, they end up flipping aimlessly through their cards trying to figure out what their next move is and whether they've forgotten the perfect power for dealing with the situation.



Truth be told, even before power cards this was a problem with players.  With power cards it seems to be exacerbated, but what it really points to is a lack of planning on the player. 


It is all about the player. Different classes/builds are easier with or without power cards, but it really is about the player being prepared. I like using power cards for most of my PCs. I don't take longer for it. I make my own power cards using Magic Set Editor and each card is very easy for me to read quickly and contains only what I need to read. Most of my powers can be grouped by type based on how they are used (healing, offense, defense, reactions, movement, etc.). For any particular PC I know where in my deck to find what I want. It doesn't take me long at all... for those PCs I know well. (Don't ask my home campaign how long it took me to take a turn the first two games I played an 8th-level bear shaman... sorry, guys!).

Then, at the bottom of the round, an owlbear came out of hiding, smacked him twice on its standard action, grabbed him, then spent its action point to do automatic bite damage, dropping him.



I love that mod and the creature! That owlbear critted three times in two rounds for me. The player still mentions it from time to time (he judges too, so it is just a matter of time before he gets me back).

Back on the main topic, I am seeing some leveling off of the time increase. P2 and P1 are both fitting into 4 to 4.5 hours for me. Now, there is always table variation. When tables miss a lot it can especially prolong a combat. But, I tend to also see a very fast fight where the PCs win init and just roll well and/or are strong for the combat and mop up a fight quickly. I'm not that concerned (certainly not enough to merit anything like the thread's subject).

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Simply having all the monsters go at once can make an encounter significantly more deadly. For instance, one of the PC deaths I observed was a fellow player. His tempest fighter rode into the room on round 1 and got hit by a couple bad guys for relatively low damage. Then the rest of the party moved. Since he wasn't very injured (not bloodied, I think he was down by a little less than one healing surge), we didn't heal him. Then, at the bottom of the round, an owlbear came out of hiding, smacked him twice on its standard action, grabbed him, then spent its action point to do automatic bite damage, dropping him. The fighter's turn came up and he made a death save. Then all of the remaining soldiers coup de graced the fighter. He survived two, but the third coup de grace dropped him below negative bloodied. Then the rest of our team got to go.

Now, I don't think much of the "all coup de grace, all the time" philosophy adopted by that judge, but it is a good illustration of something that only could happen because all the monsters were effectively going at once with no PCs in between them.



I am going to start a new thread on coup de grace using this as an example.  How much coup de grace is expected or tolerated?  The repeated coup de grace attempts, or perhaps even the first coup de grace attempt, would be seen as unacceptable behavior by the GM. 

Not to over-analyze, but this might explain some of the differences in EB's play experience in paragon and the play experience of others.  To me, it sounds like EB plays with one or more killer GMs.  A GM acting as a referee can make a hard module fun even if the party is not successful.  A killer GM, on the other hand, will treat the hard module like a blunt instrument and bludgeon the players with it as much as possible.  For me, that's no fun at all.
As mentioned in the previous thread regarding GM tactics, I think that plays a far larger part than whether one is a "killer" GM, with none of the stigma of actively trying to screw players over.
I like using power cards for most of my PCs. I don't take longer for it. I make my own power cards using Magic Set Editor and each card is very easy for me to read quickly and contains only what I need to read. Most of my powers can be grouped by type based on how they are used (healing, offense, defense, reactions, movement, etc.). For any particular PC I know where in my deck to find what I want. It doesn't take me long at all... for those PCs I know well.



My statement on the power cards is more to with the fact that PCs have many more things they can do in 4e then previous editions.  Previous editions, you just had an attack bonus.  Sure in 3e you had other options (trip, grapple, sunder, disarm, bull rush, etc.) but honestly, I hardly ever saw anyone use anythign beyond Full Round Attack and Charge.  Except for spellcasters, and sometimes they dragged combats down digging through their prepped spells to see which one they wanted to cast.  Now, essentially, everyone is a spellcaster with the roster of powers they can use and you have a decent amount by the time you hit Paragon.

Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
It definitely seems like things improve a little once players get used to paragon a little. At 11th , especially if it is your first character to reacvh paragon, many paragon powers and feats will seem foreign and hard to get used to but, after a few mods, players get more comfortable with such powers.

That being said, there is alot more going on in given turn. More prevalent and larger area attacks, minor action, free action and immediate reaction powers and more effects make for more rolls made during a given turn. This takes time and all the little interruptive actions have a better chance slowing each players turn as turn get's broken up and forced to recalibrate for what just happened.

I think the higher the level the longer the play time for a given turn but, I think familiarity helps improve that and as we begin to cap-out on how many powers each character has, I think that may plateau a bit until we need to reacclimate to Epic.

My biggest suggestion is to worry less about taking the perfect turn and "helping" other players play their characters. I see this add of alot needless arguments and interruptions to turns. Trust that your fellow players are on the mark, ignore minor inaccuracies that don't seem to bother the DM, respect that some players aren't always going to synergize their actions with yours and worry about knowing and playing your character. If you have an inspired turn, play it out but, keep the game moving unless the rules are really being bent to the point of ruining the game.
having all the monsters go at once can make an encounter significantly more deadly. 

A fine consideration:
- If the DM is following the "Monsters don’t attack fallen foes" rule per DMG p.40, then this shouldn't do more than knock someone unconscious before the others can react.
- If the player was smart and previously delayed until after the healer, then he won't even miss a turn
- Even if he does miss a turn, then the combat goes a bit faster (which is the main goal anyway).
- A knocked out character actually benefits the party in terms of overall surges (i.e. he is healed up from zero rather than the negative value, so some of the monster's damage was 'wasted')
- A knocked out character can make an encounter seem dire and challenging without it neccesarily being so.

That's a really nasty thing to do to Rogues - they usually get free sneak attack on someone based on them going after the Rogue does - the more monsters rolling init, the more likely that is to happen.

Also a fine consideration, the flip-side being that with averaged monster inits the rogue is more likely to go before a particular creature (i.e. to stun the BBEG, target a creature the rest of the party is aiming at, go before an enemies power effect hinders him, etc.). I almost soley play rogues as a player, and (from many previous encounters) I personally would prefer averaged monster inits if given an option.

I have one table suggestion and one module design suggestion.

Table: Have the DM announce the "on deck" player when anyone starts a turn.  I have players that simply won't plan their turns out more than one player in advance because of battlefield changes, but one player (usually) won't reshape the map such that the next player's plans become unusable.  This can save a lot of time over the course of a single combat encounter.

Design: In each combat encounter, replace one standard creature with four minions.  Under-use of minions can cause encounters to drag, and LFR adventures seem to be minion-light.
As a question tying into this:

Are all those long combats ground out to the last hitpoint regardless of time and situation, or do combats get called? And if so, how?

To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
Are all those long combats ground out to the last hitpoint regardless of time and situation, or do combats get called? And if so, how?

I typically call combats when it's down to the last enemy and he has no chance of surviving i.e. he's only going to last another round (two tops) with the entire party dishing it out to him.

DM's will often end it here after a final attack by the enemy (to fairly adjudicate the PC's loss of HP/resources)... but that seems to rob the players of their 'victory' a bit, since they don't technically get the last hit.

So instead I typically say something like:
"Ok, this guy is just about done for. Everyone make an attack roll. He's dead unless you all miss."

That way almost everyone can claim to get the final shot. It doesn't take anymore time either, since I start cleaning up the board even as they are all rolling simultaneously.
DM's will often end it here after a final attack by the enemy (to fairly adjudicate the PC's loss of HP/resources)... but that seems to rob the players of their 'victory' a bit, since they don't technically get the last hit.

Once the fight is effectively over, I'll generally have the enemy (or enemies) make one last attack and then effectively turn into a minion--the next attack that hits kills him.

Unless there are time issues, I dislike explicitly calling a combat since I think that robs players of some of the feeling of victory.
Some general suggestions for when the fight is over, choose from:
  • Tell the players they have a +5 situational bonus to their intimidate checks; intimidate to surrender is a great way of ending fights for all concerned. Nice role-play, validates skill choices, ends up with a live opponent to be dealt with ...

  • Turn all bloodied foes into minions

  • Minions will all flee when no non-minions left

  • Allow players to trade surges for automatic criticals OR for automatic kills (DM preference)

  • Just call it

I know alot of folks were very opposed to intimidating bloody foes but, as the fights grow more drawn out, the place for that mechanism in the game seems more and more valid as a way to end things quickly.
I know alot of folks were very opposed to intimidating bloody foes but, as the fights grow more drawn out, the place for that mechanism in the game seems more and more valid as a way to end things quickly.



I don't think I've ever had a problem with Intimidating foes as a means to end a fight when appropriate. The thing that gets under my skin is when some player expects it to work universally and cheeses a build around it...insisting that they auto-kill all bloodied monsters with a standard action.
D&D rules were never meant to exist without the presence of a DM. RAW is a lie.
Re:  OP:

Long encounters at level 11+?  You betcha.  That's why as a writer, remember the following:

1.  You want to keep encounter exciting.  Have things change as the battle progresses to introduce different exciting elements.

2.  To cut down on time - PCs optimized off of Intimidate.  Call combats that are clearly won, making PCs burn a couple extra surges (allow them to explain if they think they should burn fewer healing surges than you think should be necessary).  Or build your encounters to finish fast.  Minions use up a lotta XP, but die like flies.  Certain terrain lets people do more damage.  Etc. etc. etc.

3.  Sub in some skill challenges.  Skill challenges award lots of XP, and can be fun to roleplay if well designed.  And they go a LOT FASTER than combats, even if you put in a lotta roleplay elements.