I've tried a few systems for running combat:
- Printing out each monster's stat sheet, writing an initiative score on it, and inserting player stat sheets in initiative order
- Excel spreadsheet on my laptop with monster names, hitpoints and initiative scores, with PDF copies of their stat sheets for when their turn comes up
- Using the D&D program 'Masterplan' to run encounters, which provides blurbs for each monster and reminders about status effects and such
The last system would seem to be the best choice for automating alot of the manual work... but I find it buggy and difficult to use. Particularly if a player changes his mind after I've used an ability or ended a turn in Masterplan, it's difficult and time consuming to undo the action (no undo button, have to manually recharge abilities or cycle through the whole next round to get back to the previous player's turn).
For a change, I tried moving back to pen & paper combat management last game, which turned out to be a mistake. The encounter was too large (4 standards, 3 elites, and 8 minions on the board), which resulted in a big stack of paper that made it hard to quickly reference abilities or add damage/healing.
The Excel option isn't great either. It allows quick reference of hitpoints/status effects, but doesn't accomodate delaying turns or actions very well. Referring to monster abilities on PDF documents and then rolling dice for attacks also isn't very effective, as there are no reminders about what abilities are available/on recharge, whether action points have been used, and so forth.
At heart I'm more of a story DM. I love roleplaying my monsters to create a sense of atmosphere, but as my players are now in the Paragon tier combat is becoming very difficult to manage. I spend so much time micro-managing that I can no longer really roleplay abilities, which makes the whole thing a grind.
Any help or advice would be appreciated