session pacing and party optimization

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I'm playing with a group of friends, in a campaign headed by another friend. 
We're running into a few problems regarding pacing; it takes us an entire 5 hour session to run through some story and a single encounter.

Everyone, the DM included, would like to have quicker encounters so that we could cover more story and more encounters in a day, but we're not sure how we want to go about doing it.

The DM does not want to alter the difficulty; these were level appropriate encounters (currently 14) that took well over 6 rounds to complete with a 6 man party.

 We aren't a terribly optimized party, admittedly. We lack a defender, for starters. What I'm asking here is; how should we go about increasing the pace of our campaign? Our party is split between rerolling into less interesting but properly optimized characters, or adjusting the encounters somehow.
I'm playing with a group of friends, in a campaign headed by another friend. 
We're running into a few problems regarding pacing; it takes us an entire 5 hour session to run through some story and a single encounter.

Everyone, the DM included, would like to have quicker encounters so that we could cover more story and more encounters in a day, but we're not sure how we want to go about doing it.

The DM does not want to alter the difficulty; these were level appropriate encounters (currently 14) that took well over 6 rounds to complete with a 6 man party.

 We aren't a terribly optimized party, admittedly. We lack a defender, for starters. What I'm asking here is; how should we go about increasing the pace of our campaign? Our party is split between rerolling into less interesting but properly optimized characters, or adjusting the encounters somehow.



I would consider asking your DM to consider alternative ways to end combat. For instance, discuss with the DM and your other fellow players to include alternative provisions rather than having to kill everything in sight.

For instance: Say that you encounter a group of bandits on your way to X town. As combat begins, you could try to score a non-lethal blow to the leader and bring them to the ground. In this you have clearly demonstrated that your party is quite powerful and not an easy score to rob. Thus it is very plausible that the bandits will run away as you party has shown there is a good chance the will die.

Example #2: Your party is currently fighting a dragon. If using standard lore from the 4e books about dragons (and I assume that is the edition you're playing) it is very plausible that you could attempt to negotiate some type of arrangement with the dragon, if it is clearly demonstrated, that by not killing you the dragon is bound to gain wealth in the long run. More wealth in the long run means more treasure to horde for the dragon.

Such things as these do need to be discussed and agreed with the entire group to make sure everyone is on board to let it happen. In some cases it is to be assumed combat is the only appropriate action thus you are going to have a long battle every now and then. But you can speed things up with a little creative thinking.

Considering the party is not very optimized other things you can do:

Have the DM reduce monster HP by 25%.  Probably not going to really alter difficulty, but will speed it up.  You can tell who is going to win pretty early usually.

Have the DM use only at level or lower monsters.  You are an unoptimized party, so higher level monsters even if the fight is at level or barely over level, you probably miss quite a bit against.  Keeping at level or lower monsters lets you add more monsters to keep the same difficulty (or keep the same number and just lower the difficulty) but you hit more frequently so fights should go faster.

Minions are the DMs friend.  It makes for a nice size battle and lets any controllers or aoe chars really shine.

Traps.  They can keep the potential difficulty up while possibly never being triggered or being triggered by team monster.  Usually once team monster is gone you don't really have to worry about disarming the trap anymore either so it is like a monster you don't have to kill and can just walk away from.

Other than those yeah I would say alternate goals are a good idea.

A final point of consideration I would say is that maybe the group is taking too long with turns or between turns as well.  This can really add to the time of combat if people aren't ready when it is their turn.  It could even be the DM not ready for his turn it isn't always a player problem.  The DM should make sure everyone knows when they are up (or even on deck is a good idea).  The DM should also know his monsters before the fight and what general strategy the monsters will use.  This doesn't always hold up when making stuff up on the fly, but I would say you should get the times down first before the DM begins just winging everything anyway.     
Alternate goals are a good idea.

Make sure you're not discussing rules or taking time adding up numbers that don't change anything. If you've already hit and killed the target, the person chiming in to point out that you also had combat combat advantage and +5 damage is likely to cause a distraction. Avoid that, and try to ignore it if others do it. Likewise, don't go back to add things in or correct mistakes. Carry on and catch it next time. With practice you'll get faster.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm playing with a group of friends, in a campaign headed by another friend. 
We're running into a few problems regarding pacing; it takes us an entire 5 hour session to run through some story and a single encounter.

Everyone, the DM included, would like to have quicker encounters so that we could cover more story and more encounters in a day, but we're not sure how we want to go about doing it.

The DM does not want to alter the difficulty; these were level appropriate encounters (currently 14) that took well over 6 rounds to complete with a 6 man party.

 We aren't a terribly optimized party, admittedly. We lack a defender, for starters. What I'm asking here is; how should we go about increasing the pace of our campaign? Our party is split between rerolling into less interesting but properly optimized characters, or adjusting the encounters somehow.




6 rounds isn't a terribly long abount of time to end a level-appropriate encounter.
If those 6 rounds take 5 hours - THAT is the issue.

The best thing to do is figure out why it takes so long during combat... Table chatter? People not paying attention? What is stopping combat from running efficiently in the real world?
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Players need to pay attention to the game.
Side chit-chat cannot include the person whose turn it is, and should be kept down.
Assign HP accounting and effects monitoring to a player, so that the DM is free to help run the battle more efficently.
Each player has 2 minutes to figure out their turn.
If there is a rules dispute, DM has final word. If his interpretation is incorrect, this can be checked into between sessions.

That sould speed you up to 2-5 encounters per session.
Players need to pay attention to the game.
Side chit-chat cannot include the person whose turn it is, and should be kept down.
Assign HP accounting and effects monitoring to a player, so that the DM is free to help run the battle more efficently.
Each player has 2 minutes to figure out their turn.
If there is a rules dispute, DM has final word. If his interpretation is incorrect, this can be checked into between sessions.



All of the above.   Except that I would add that as DM, 2 minutes is the UPPER limit of how much total time I give a player.   I have added a house rule (not my original idea) that when your turn comes, if you immediately know all 3 of your actions (stan/move/min), then you get a +1 attack bonus.   On the flip side, if after 10-15 seconds you still don't know, I delay your turn and go to the next one on the initiative chart.   Then I go back to that player.   Still don't know?   Delay again.

Players have TONS of time between one of their turns and the next one.   If you pay attention and are ready, bonus for you.   If not, delay for you.   If you delay too much, you spend your turn contemplating your actions for the next round, and get none this round.    It's not long before players learn to pay attention and be ready.   This is COMBAT people!  Not chess.

My goal, even at upper levels of play, is 6 encounters per night, 3 of which are usually combat encounters.   At lower levels, it's closer to 10 & 5.