One complaint about 4E is the "grind". Combats take longer not because they are less efficient, but because opponents last longer than before and players are hit harder. This in itself is not the problem, but it provides more opportunity for the routine of combat to wear down on player and DM alike. This series is about "clearing the grindage". Making combats run more smoothly, and therefore faster.
"OK, the dragon hits you with his claw, slicing parallel lines across your chest."
Rolls many dice for damage, seconds tick away as he figures.
"You take 22, no, 23 points of damage."
Rolling dice is absolutely part of the fun of D&D. The clatter of plastic polyhedrals is a joy few other people get to experience. However, the 4e emphasis on multiple monsters means DMs roll and figure dozens of rolls in a combat. Even if you are good at the addition, it still takes time and breaks momentum in combat. The time difference between rolling dice and figuring damage, and just stating a number, is tremendous when all that time lag is added together.
Minions already use averages for damage, since rolling damage for 10 orc drudges a turn would be horrid. The logic easily extends to other monsters as well. Usual damage rolls can easily be routinized. Take the basic attacks and at-will abilities and average the damage rolls. Don't worry about encounter, rechargeable, and daily abilities. These are more dramatic being rolled anyway, and you have to allow yourself some fun. When you do roll for damage for encounter and daily abilities, I recommend rolling with the attack die to save time, color coded dice work well.
For your damage rolls, figure your averages using the table below. Choose the appropriate die. If it is a single die, use the number in the first column. If you have two dice, add the numbers from the first and the second columns. If you have three or more, keep following the same pattern. Then add any bonuses and you have it.
|first die||second die|
The reasoning behind the table is simple. The actual average of all die rules is always a decimal. To figure the average, add each possible result then divide that sum by the total number of sides. For example, the average of a d4 is 2.5 (1+2+3+4/4=2.5) Since you can't give a half point of damage ("The maul bites into your arm for eight and a half points of damage") you have to round the numbers. For the first die round down, for the second round up and you are never more than half a point away from true average. Most damage rolls will consist of single die rolls, and of multiple die rolls they will tend to be odd before they are even, this system gives a slight advantage to the players, in case any of them complain. Another advantage is that the players quickly learn the basic attack damage, making combat go quicker. (editor's note: this blog has changed it's position since first published, it originally advised rounding up.) For rolls
I've already advised using averages for initiatives as well. Simply give each monster a roll of 10 and add or subtract the initiative modifier. This is not only useful to starting combat, it gives the monsters their rightful place in the initiative order. With rolls, it's possible the the brute undead with the -3 initiative can go on 17, and the dangerous +8 initiative skirmisher can go on a 9. This often causes problems for creatures whose abilities work better at different initiative orders. A low hit point, high initiative skirmisher who relies on going early can get slaughtered by a low initiative, for example. Using averages here is not only fast, but works better anyway.
Finally, averages can be used to quickly resolve endgame. When most of the monsters are dead, those that are left are minions or heavily damaged and have already used their special abilities, you can quickly resolve the rest of combat. Quickly figure the basic attacks of the PCs in combat with the remaining monsters. Ask yourself:
A.) Could the monsters damage these PCs if they used their basic attacks (10+modifier)
B.) How many rounds would it take the players, using average damage, to kill the remaining monsters?
If the monsters can hit the PCs on average, the multiply their average damage by the number of rounds it would take to kill them. This becomes the damage they take before the round is over. DON'T use this option if this would drop a PC below 0.
I hope your find this, on average, useful.