Combat Speed?

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So, I did it.  I finally did it.  I read through all of the "Dungeon Master" hints and ideas for speeding up combat.
* I selected all monsters and npcs and put them in a bag prior to the adventure
* I pre-rolled initiatives
* I pre-selected treasures
* I decreased the HP of the monsters by cutting them in 1/2
* I increased the damage of the monsters by doubling the die      
* I increased the AC and NADS by 2
* spent hours, litteraly hours the 2 weeks before game night (which occurs every other friday), reading and rereading the encounters for the evening, believing that i KNEW what was going on and wouldn't waste time "researching" what was happening next.
...And it worked.. My turns took less than a minute each.
BUT..the player turn was not affected at all.  The first encounter still took TWO (2) HOURS to run.  It was an average of 4.5 minutes per player turn.  Ug.

HELP!

I think I see some problems with me still.
* I shouldn't have increased the AC and NADS, even though they hardly missed.
* The monsters used restrained, immoblized and dazed.
* I want the PCs to work for their victory.




Any suggestions?              
Really observe the players and see what it is that is making them take so long.

Are they sitting idle while waiting for their turn and then fumble through their powers when it gets to them?
--Tell them to prepare for their turn before it gets to them.

Are they spending too much time debating amongst themselves on what is the best of 2 or 3 different actions one of them could be taking?
--Tell them that in the heat of combat there is no time to discus options and they should just go with the first thing they think of.

Is it the umpteeth time the players are using dramatic narrative to describe actions and powers that the entire group is already well familiar with?
--Tell them it's okay to just use the power name or simply cut down on the narrative.

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These are all issues that we addressed in my group.

Newer players tend to not realize that when it isn't their turn, they should already be planning out their next turn. Too often I saw players just sitting there, probably not even paying attention, and then having to both get caught up in what happened and what action they would take on their turn. We made sure to take that down like the bad habit it is.

The tactical combat of 4e leads a lot of people spend way too much time thinking about different options or actions to take rather than just taking their turn and moving on. While wanting to make the most optimized move possible is commendable, it wastes more time than it's worth and slows things down more than speeds them up.

Also, while using a dramatic narrative to describe the visual effect of a power is fun the first couple times, if you want to move along (especially when the group is already familiar with everyone else's powers) then just move along.

@ Mejas

You've learned a very important lesson in DMing. No matter what you try, it's very unlikely you can control the behavior, emotional response, habits, or actons of your players. I'm not sure why we go around life knowing this but when we sit down to play, we DMs think we can. You did your due diligence and got your turns cut down to a reasonable time frame; your players, not so much. That is a stark but valuable realization.

So now you know - you only really have control over your own sphere of influence and that does not include the players. What do you do?

Combat outs. This is something in your own control. Your encounter took 2 hours because the goal was to kill everything (probably). Enemies should be fleeing, surrendering, parlaying, or accomplishing their non-kill-the-PCs goals and then getting the hell out of there. OR you set up alternate victory conditions for the PCs - destroy all the urns and the wraiths are sent back to the Abyss, close the portal to save the world from the aberrations in the Far Realm, kill the leader of the trolls and the rest will flee.

That one thing will cut all your combats down to size so that it doesn't take up the whole session.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Sly Flourish's "The 30 Minute Skirmish."

This a terrific article on designing the 30 minute skirmish in your game.  It's important to understand that this is just an option, that you should talk to your players about it before hand, and that it's only meant to be used every so often.

The premise is that you build in limitations to player options, like essentially telling them that they can only use At-Wills.  Then you give them an equal level Elite and a handful of Minions to fight.  I use this for massed combat scenes like open field battles or sieges, arguing that the mass of humanity in the battle, the chaos and the push of the bodies, makes it impossible to to reach down for that extra 'umph' to get off an encounter or daily power.  Then I slice off a scene from the battle and have them fight it.

This serves as a very good 'appetizer' encounter.  A warm up.

In the article they talk about the weakness aura, which can be defeated before the encounter's over, restoring the player's options.

I like this design a lot.

There is also At-Will's Threshold Design.

In this you can cut back on monsters by essentially making the entire grid hazardous terrain, like fighting in a burning building or a volcanic ash cloud, where every turn the players have to pass a skill check or take damage from the environment.  Less monsters to kill but still taking tons of damage, I like these encounters for their cinematic nature, though I don't personally use the special movement rules for zones and such.  I just like the "Obstacles Phase."

These are just suggestions.  I like them, and use them very effectively, and my players enjoy the encounters.  But nothing will be more effective in the long run than developing the skill of the "combat out."
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
Time limits. I don't know how many rounds that 2 hour combat took, but next time put in a problem that they have to solve in one quarter of that number of rounds, but could solve sooner. Maybe it's "kill all the monsters," but it could be "get to a certain point," "kill a certain monster," "destroy a certain target," or "perform a certain skill." Whatever it is, the combat is effectively over after they fail or succeed, so then cut to whatever happens next.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Played in a game for a few months with several very slow players. Our DM put in time incentives, if you could get your turn done in a min or less you got attack bonuses, gold, or extra XP. You could even fluff it, like your character responded so quickly to the challenge that the target was caught of guard and took extra damage or granted combat advantage, etc.
The last time I was at con they had this (i think it was called) battle interactive set up as a day long event. I got placed at one of the lower lvl tables (everyone else that showed up seemed to show up with lvl 6+ chars) so it was just us 5. The party was a Defender, defender, defender/leader, leader, and controller. On the second encounter we found out that there was a time limit and failing to complete the combat before the end of the encounter counted as a failure in the overall event(luckily everyone else succeeded). The next encounter/session we mastered the art of taking quick turns so as to finish the round before the other tables finished a turn.

The moral of this story of course being that if you can get your players to want to go quick through ways like real world time limits(maybe reward them instead with extras) then you can make combat go alot quicker.

What we did was mostly on your turn you enact the standard action(or actions that cause damage/anything that the dm needs to know) that you planned in the time it takes for it to get to your turn then the next person goes as you take care of everything else such as movement or effects on other players.
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58033128 wrote:
I still get bewildered by the idea of Good races and Bad races. I mean, D&D presents a world where there are literally dozens of sentient humanoid races. And then there's a line drawn down the middle, and some races, such as elves, dragonborn and humans, to name but a few, are put on one side and called Good Guys. And with that they are People. They have Rights. And on the other side go a bunch of other races, goblins, orcs, kobolds, and so on. These are called Bad Guys, and as such, they are not People. It is considered ok by many players to track them down and slaughter them. It shatters my suspension of disbelief to see someone who calls their character a hero, a noble sort of person who tries their damnedest to right wrongs and fight evil, making sure that those goblin women and children don't get away, because, you know, they're goblins. They're not just stupid beasts. They have societies, culture and language. They have goals, and motivations. I can believe that someone would kill a drow or an orc at first sight, because they probably were up to something. But don't try to tell me that that was a Good act and that you did it because you are a Good Person. When I'm considering what to do with a group of "bad" humanoids, and I come up with an idea, I mentally replace whatever the "bad guy" of the week is with humans. If it isn't ok to do it to a human, I won't do it to any sentient race.
My Views on the Alignment System:
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Killing something because it might be evil = evil Killing something because it might do something evil = evil Killing something because it is planning to do something evil = neutral Killing something because has done something evil = neutral Killing something because it is doing evil = good
I'll have to suggest the bonus reward items to my dm. He's tried to do just the carrot before (+1 to hit if you do your turn in 30 seconds) and I've tried to get him to implement negatives (maybe a timer set for one minute that you lose your turn or take a -5 to hit on) but he wasn't for that. Our combats take really long. Its a combination of most of the other players zoning out/playing with their phones on their off turn and 1 or 2 players dramatically reading their power cards and taking forever to roll the associated dice. I try to set a good example for how fast a turn can be but nobody gets it.
... Our combats take really long. Its a combination of most of the other players zoning out/playing with their phones on their off turn and 1 or 2 players dramatically reading their power cards and taking forever to roll the associated dice...



I mentioned this and really, it's a social problem that no rule set will fix.
You as DM have to lay down the law in situations like these.

Talk to your players about bad habits like these and explain that it will be better for everyone to shape up.


Once you've taken care of all you can from the human aspect, then you can consider altering rules to speed things up a little more.
Oh I totally agree its a social problem, which ironically isn't present in the VOIP darksun game I DM. It might just be because those are my gamer friends who are all used to yelling at people about hurrying it up to finish objectives. Funny thing is everyone complains about/takes it as a fact that combat needs to be agonizilingly long.
My turns took less than a minute each.
BUT..the player turn was not affected at all.  The first encounter still took TWO (2) HOURS to run

Yup. Player speed is the bigger issue. The Combat Accelerators thread has several ideas to address that too.

My own favorites are:

    1. Use average damage (written directly on power cards).

    2. Use easily read dice, and leave them on the table after rolling.

    3. For area attacks: roll a d20 next to each affected miniature.

    4. All monsters act on the same initiative. Player initiative determines who goes before the monsters on the first round, but after the monsters act the players can generally go in any order they wish (thanks to delaying and such).

The last one is especially useful, since it allows you to move on to the next player whenever someone is not ready (or even to allow all the players to go at the same time).

@ Mejas

Combat outs. This is something in your own control. Your encounter took 2 hours because the goal was to kill everything (probably). Enemies should be fleeing, surrendering, parlaying, or accomplishing their non-kill-the-PCs goals and then getting the hell out of there. OR you set up alternate victory conditions for the PCs - destroy all the urns and the wraiths are sent back to the Abyss, close the portal to save the world from the aberrations in the Far Realm, kill the leader of the trolls and the rest will flee.

That one thing will cut all your combats down to size so that it doesn't take up the whole session.

Unfortunately, it was an encounter from the Scales of War where the PC's are introduced to Chaos Blood and the creatures within, which are mindless gobs of goo that have no recourse but to destroy those in their way.  The goal of the PC's was to determine what this substance was and where it was coming from.  From that standpoint, that could of been taken care of in 2 rounds, not 7.  I really need to look into the goal of each encounter.  That is very good advice. Thank you.
Time limits. I don't know how many rounds that 2 hour combat took, but next time put in a problem that they have to solve in one quarter of that number of rounds, but could solve sooner. Maybe it's "kill all the monsters," but it could be "get to a certain point," "kill a certain monster," "destroy a certain target," or "perform a certain skill." Whatever it is, the combat is effectively over after they fail or succeed, so then cut to whatever happens next.

7 complete rounds.  that's it, only 7.
Played in a game for a few months with several very slow players. Our DM put in time incentives, if you could get your turn done in a min or less you got attack bonuses, gold, or extra XP. You could even fluff it, like your character responded so quickly to the challenge that the target was caught of guard and took extra damage or granted combat advantage, etc.

I really like this idea.
I'll have to suggest the bonus reward items to my dm. He's tried to do just the carrot before (+1 to hit if you do your turn in 30 seconds) and I've tried to get him to implement negatives (maybe a timer set for one minute that you lose your turn or take a -5 to hit on) but he wasn't for that. Our combats take really long. Its a combination of most of the other players zoning out/playing with their phones on their off turn and 1 or 2 players dramatically reading their power cards and taking forever to roll the associated dice. I try to set a good example for how fast a turn can be but nobody gets it.

Ug, the bane of cell phones and electronic devices.  I got tired of it and banned all cell phones and electronic devices during game time.  I gave the players 5 min breaks after each encounter to fill their electronic fix if they need to, i.e. calling wives back, etc.

I think it's just that each player is taking a long time to "evaluate" the "best" use of their powers, and the others zoning while they wait.  I love my rogue player, he just stabs and goes. 
Unfortunately, it was an encounter from the War of Scales where the PC's are introduced to Chaos Blood and the creatures within, which are mindless gobs of goo that have no recourse but to destroy those in their way.

Whenever you see a monster described as "mindless" or as only wanting to kill, you should step back and think about that. Think about instincts, or stimulus-response, or magically imbedded imperatives. Even a mindless goo can exhibit some kind of tropism that drives it toward something other than sheer destruction.

I ran an encounter that involved giant mobile plants springing up in a city to try to cause havoc. Predicting that this would drag, I gave the plants the goal of making it to a specific location in the city and thereby causing larger problems. The plants had auras, I think, and could call up minions to hinder the PCs, but mainly the plants just moved, and incurred a lot of opportunity attacks. The PCs were actually hard pressed to stop them, and the combat ended sooner than it would have if it had been just a slog. The movement also made it much more interesting than it would have been.

Here's the creature: www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/mo...

And its minions: www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/mo...

A very fun encounter, made so by the simple application of goals. And, other than having the creatures focus on movement, I didn't feel the need to pull any punches. If the PCs got too badly beaten up, all they had to do was pull back. They'd lose, but they'd live.

  The goal of the PC's was to determine what this substance was and where it was coming from.  From that standpoint, that could of been taken care of in 2 rounds, not 7.  I really need to look into the goal of each encounter.  That is very good advice. Thank you.

If the goal of the goo had been to move to a different area, perhaps via some path the PCs couldn't follow, then simply giving the goo the goal of escaping would have made it possible for the PCs to fail quickly. Finding out what the goo was after might make a decent consolation prize.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

You could ban minor, free, no and immediate actions with the exceptions of class powers like the Swordmage's Aegis, the Warlock's Curse and the Fighter's Combat Challenge. Maybe also allow racial powers like that of the Dwarf. This way you remove a lot of the decision paralysis from your players by only allowing them 2-3 different actions per turn (move and standard, minor if it's class-appropriate). It also stops players from interrupting other people's turn with their immediates, which is also a notorious source of slow play.
Trust your players. There are a lot of powers out there and no DM can be expected to keep track of all of them, even the ones in their own party. So, if a player uses a power, don't question them on range, area, damage, effect, or anything else the DM does not personally need to know. Trust them to determine all of those details with adequate fairness and move on.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Trust yes, but if they don't know them well (new players or just a new PC for an experienced player) have a copy of their char sheet on your side of the screen. That way you can help them move it along because youre already expecting damage and effects when the hit.
Trust yes, but if they don't know them well (new players or just a new PC for an experienced player) have a copy of their char sheet on your side of the screen. That way you can help them move it along because youre already expecting damage and effects when the hit.

With all due respect, I have trouble seeing that saving time. That's at least 5 extra sheets of paper, on top of what the DM's already dealing with. Even with the good intention of helping them get it right, I think this is just going to take much more time.

I guess "trust" doesn't cover it all. There's also the aspect of "don't worry about it." If the player isn't sure which dice to use, picks up the wrong one, don't worry about it. Go with it. Adjust on the fly, if it's necessary, which I'm pretty sure it won't, because the game doesn't break down as a result of minor errors. Rule and go.

This applies just as easily to players you don't know well, as it does to new players. They're probably not cheating, but even if they are, just try not to worry about it for a session and deal with it away from the table. Again, you can adjust things on the fly if you have to, but you probably won't unless the cheating is really egregious.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

When playing online its no problem at all I just tab to players and look at the power they are using. Its personal preference, but most of my friends play it for the tactical game aspect most of all so they want to know they got it fair and square, not through fudging.
When playing online its no problem at all I just tab to players and look at the power they are using. Its personal preference, but most of my friends play it for the tactical game aspect most of all so they want to know they got it fair and square, not through fudging.

Then I'm guessing they also don't care how much time combat takes.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Just because we want accuracy doesn't mean speed is sacrificed. This is obviously a difference of opinion and DM style so lets leave it at that.
The players have not complained about the combat time, I have.  I get frustrated when I expect to run a minimum of 3 combat encounters and 2 skill challenges and end up barely completeling one combat and one skill.  I get to play 2x/month due to family restrictions (wife would like to spend time with me, who knew?) so i want to make the best of my time.

I posted this concern in the Epic Words forum for my players and they all agreed that combat was too long.  WHAT?  Nobody has said anything.  They all posted that they don't want a time limit, they want to roll their dice (no averages), and they want to have all of their actions. 

Okay, fine, I'll plan for 2 combat encounters and 1 skill challenge.  I'll reduce the AC by 2/tier, I cut their HP in half, I'm going to double their damage, (their = monster) and see what happens.

While I do enjoy running a game as a DM, I think i personally needed more time as a player.   We had 3 DMs quit in less than a year, I've been running for the last 18 months.  I guess they like my game, but sometimes I don't see how.

Thanks for all the replies.       
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