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.
"The ogre hits on a 19, that hits you doesn't it?"
"No, I've got a 20 AC."
"No he's hitting your Reflex."
"Oh, that's 17, remember?"
"No, I don't"
Sound familiar? The modern incarnation has numerous scores to juggle and compare against rolls. For a DM with 6 players, there are no less than 24 scores to juggle every time a monster makes an attack.
The answer to this is very simple, the DM must know what the player defense scores are. That way, when an attack roll is made then the DM may, at a glance, see the defense score and determine a hit. This is a significant reduction in lag during combat.
The simple solution is to draw a table on some scratch paper. Write the PC names on the left, and AC, Fort, Ref, Will across the top. Then simply fill in the scores. This system is simple and can be done anywhere given minimal resources.
The second option I personally find much more appealing, because I made it. Quicksheets are a way of presenting information that aids play. Players fill out the sheet and then fold it into a bookstyle fold. It works to provide both the player and the DM with immediate information, and holds useful information inside the fold.
The sheet is available at this link. This is a playtest version. By downloading it you agree to:
A.) No redistribute it. This is my work, my link.
B.) To respond with any suggestions or feedback you have about it. If you decide not to use it, please let me know why. If you do use it, let me know how it went.
The sheet is folded into quadrants like a book or pamphlet. Fill out the information, fold the sheet in half horizontally ("hamburger" style as opposed to "hotdog" style.) Then fold the sheet the other, perpendicular direction. Fold it so that the two halves that contain reference info are folded inside. The whole assembly stands freely, with the defenses side toward the DM, and the other side facing the player.
Each sheet has four quadrants. The first one to fill out has the defenses across the top, followed by spots for both passive perception and insight scores, then more traditional table tent information such as race, class, etc. This side faces the DM and must be filled out for this to work.
The second quadrant is for the player, and can be filled out at her option. It has basic melee and ranged attacks, various speed scores, bloodied value, initiative bonus, number of healing surges and amount they are worth. All "at-a-glance" information a player may need during a session. This side will face the player.
The other two quadrants contain reference information. The player may use this info throughout a combat by simply picking up the sheet and looking at it. This version contains helpful information including a summary of conditions and a list of combat modifiers.
During play, the sheet stands in front of the player. The DM looks at the sheet whenever he needs to know the defense score of that player. This reduces combat time more than any other factor I can think of. Even memorizing player defense scores takes time to recall, but using the quicksheet eliminates all of that. Otherwise, they game gets bogged down with constant "call and response" from attack roll to verification.
Conversely, the players also benefit from knowing monster defense scores. This, however, is more problematic. When players know the score for a monster, they will gauge their attacks and resources in a very un-character like fashion. However, they will decipher what the scores are as they go on anyway.
Furthermore, there are some defense scores that you want the characters to discover as a matter of play. A monster may have a "vulnerable" defense you don't want to advertise. Yet, having some defenses known may be helpful.
There are some ways to go about this. Since there are so many different combat possibilities, there can be no hard and fast rules here.
A.) You can post ACs with all, or nearly all, monsters. Simply write it on the side on the initiative board. ACs are rarely, if ever, the "vulnerable" defense score. Don't do this for any monster you don't want to. If the monster has a really high AC that the PCs will find surprising, or if it changes regularly by circumstance (+2 to AC when next to any ally, or when it shifts, or whatever) you may want to skip it.
B.) Give the defense score out to the players once they've exceeded it. They will puzzle out the AC soon enough, so giving them information they will get anyway is not terrible. You can do this verbally or write it next to the monster on the initiative board.
C.) Have a sheet posting all the defenses that you attach to your screen. This is the simplest, and can be helpful in fights with lots of fighters, such as fights that feature minions or multiple skirmishers. The players will target multiple fighters per round in these fights, and having all the info posted is useful.
I cannot emphasize enough the time saving factor of the using the quicksheets and communicating, in whatever manner is appropriate, the defenses of the monsters. Eliminating the constant ritual of figuring out whether you hit is not just time-saving, but emancipating.