Expediting Combat

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Greetings, all.

I'm new to the forums and have returned to dnd after a long hiatus.  I haven't played since the beginning days of AD&D, but I'm really loving 4e and doubt that my group will change over to DDN.  I don't buy a lot of the anti-4e arguments except that combat can take too long.  I don't mind this for big encounters, but I'm planning a rather long dungeon delve and I'd like to have my players run through a number of challenging but short encounters.

I have run through some of the suggestions, such as halving monster hp and upping damage.  Has anyone had any success with this?  My PCs are 2nd level right now, if that has any effect on things.  

In short, what has been your experience with shortening the time it takes to run through basic encounters, while still challenging players and moving the story forward? 
You might want to check out this thread community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... about speeding up combat.
You might want to check out this thread community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... about speeding up combat.

. . .and this is being book-marked.  Sorry to go over such well-trod ground, but thank you for the informative and quick reply.

Happy gaming. 
Depends on the size of the group and the players. A tough fight sometimes lasts 2 hours. "normal" combats only last about 20-30 minutes. Well, with the group I play. But we all know our characters and powers, and like to zip in and nail the monsters quickly.
When we first started, it took longer, and we had 2 players who liked to take bloody forever--10 minutes or more per turn, instead of the 1-2 everyone else used.
I'm also dealing with a group that is almost uniformally new to pen and paper rpgs.  At first, I was trying to help them calculate their bonuses, play smart, etc., but after a few encounters I stood back and mostly just made sure that they weren't always forgetting to mark, use their action points, etc.  Now that they're getting the hang of the mechanics better, things are picking up, and I'm sure that they will continue to do so for the next few months.  Still, it is important to me that not every encounter has the same time component as a standard encounter while maintaining the tension and danger of those encounters.
What we found helpful was to write out the powers on colored note cards, with the target, hit, damage, and effects all figured out. Not only did we learn the powers from writing them out, but we had a quick reference paper.
Specifically for what you're setting out to do, I have an idea for you: sector design. Rather than make each room of the dungeon a distinct encounter ("delve-style"), you can take a "hard" encounter's worth of monsters and spread them out over a "sector" - basically rooms and corridors connected together. They might work together and they might not. Combats will tend to be skirmishes rather than set-pieces and go fast, with the same amount of resource drain. Add a "random encounter" element to it to make short resting after every orc dodgy and you'll have faster combats and more of an exploration feel to the game.

Happy to help workshop this with you if you have some interest. I'm working on just such a "dungeon" now (though my "dungeon" is a neogi spaceship). 

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Specifically for what you're setting out to do, I have an idea for you: sector design. Rather than make each room of the dungeon a distinct encounter ("delve-style"), you can take a "hard" encounter's worth of monsters and spread them out over a "sector" - basically rooms and corridors connected together. They might work together and they might not. Combats will tend to be skirmishes rather than set-pieces and go fast, with the same amount of resource drain. Add a "random encounter" element to it to make short resting after every orc dodgy and you'll have faster combats and more of an exploration feel to the game.

Happy to help workshop this with you if you have some interest. I'm working on just such a "dungeon" now (though my "dungeon" is a neogi spaceship). 



I really like this idea and have been toying with something similar for the "dungeon" I'm working on right now.  The PCs are going to go to a temple overrun with undead to search out an artifact.  I want the temple to be big, but I'm not keen on having each room be a 1-2 hour fight.  I was worried about the players simply taking a short rest after every little scrape, though.  What would be the best way to workshop this out?
I really like this idea and have been toying with something similar for the "dungeon" I'm working on right now.  The PCs are going to go to a temple overrun with undead to search out an artifact.  I want the temple to be big, but I'm not keen on having each room be a 1-2 hour fight.  I was worried about the players simply taking a short rest after every little scrape, though.  What would be the best way to workshop this out?



Cool, maybe start a new thread here, post the basic premise of your adventure and location, and then I'll chime in with some ideas? Good for the community to follow and get involved in the discussion as well. (Well, in theory!)

Got any maps so far? If so, link 'em. I can throw some of the dungeon I'm working on up as examples as well, if it helps.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Make combat more enjoyable. Make it so enjoyable that you're sort of sorry it's over.

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

Make combat more enjoyable. Make it so enjoyable that you're sort of sorry it's over.

I try to make combat as enjoyable as possible, but with 4 hour sessions, I'd like to get through more of them, push the plot forward, and have some good talky RP scenes.
Make combat more enjoyable. Make it so enjoyable that you're sort of sorry it's over.

I try to make combat as enjoyable as possible, but with 4 hour sessions, I'd like to get through more of them, push the plot forward, and have some good talky RP scenes.

Push the plot forward and have talking in combat.

(I'm being short here, because I could go on - and have in the past - for pages about non-mechanical ways to make combat faster. My group as done some of those things, but we also make combat a more integral part of the story, and each is in many ways a little story by itself. Our combats aren't much faster than the "norm," but none of us seem to care.)

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

Could you point me in the direction of where I could find your ideas of nonmechanical ways of pushing combat forward?
Could you point me in the direction of where I could find your ideas of nonmechanical ways of pushing combat forward?

They're mostly in this forum. We get about a post a week asking about speeding things up. This will probably peter out in a few years when the next edition of D&D resolves all these iss-no, sorry, I can't even type that with a straight face.

Basically, question the model of needing one side to erase the other side's hit points and of both sides hoarding those hit points like gold. You can't control how the players act, but you can incentivize interesting risks and have your monsters take them. Question having death as the only way to fail, and having survival mean success. Watch movies and shows with cool fights, and notice how they're usually not just (or even primarily) about killing the other side, and how even those that are tend to draw things out in order to advance the story and develop characters.

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

I have run through some of the suggestions, such as halving monster hp and upping damage.  Has anyone had any success with this?



If you half hitpoints and double damage, don't double damage from encounter or limited use powers unless you are trying to kill the party.

Currently my group is using half hitpoints with 3/4 XP and it seems to be working well. Although depending on the combat, the DM will use normal stats on certain monsters. It's more art than science. 
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