Level 7-10 mods running very long?

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I have been DM'ing LFR mods for our home group since Sept 2008. I have noticed that the level 7-10 mods do seem to take longer than the 4 hour playing time. Is this just me, or has anyone else noticed this?

We just played CORM 1-4 (All the Kings Men), oon Friday night last, and whoo! We started about 8:30, and by 1:15 I called an end to the last encounter. Now, I know that's only 4.75 hours, but if I hadn't called it over, I think we would've been there another hour.

Compariing my experiences with the lower level mods, it just seems to me I nearly always get done in the 4 hours, but with the 7-10 mods, it has always puished 5 hours. The other table took 5+ hours to even get to the last encounter.

However, thier makeup was much less balanced. (4 strikers & 2 defenders vs. 1 striker, 2 defenders, 2 leaders, & 1 controller) They simply gave up on the last encounter, when the BBEG began to fly past the range of thier attacks.

Truth be told, I even ended the 2nd combat encounter early. Of the 2 enemies in it, 1 was dead, and the other was at %25 of it's HP, and surrounded by the party, flanked 2 ways. I rolled a d6 to determine who would deliver the death blow, if any, ending the combat on his turn. The player decided to spare the enemy. Again, the combat could have taken longer, if I hadn't decided to use some DME.

Just trying to show what happens to us. Does it happen to anyone else? I am complimented by my grouip, on generally being a 'fast' DM. I keep everyone focused on the table, and keep it moving, but not rushing anyone. I announce skill challenges, and will let skills not listed in the challenge be used, if the player can justify it. But these 7-10 mods are rough. I shudder at the possibilities of 11-14 or higher!

I'd like to hear anyone's thoughts on this.
So long as mods are built the same way (average of three combats and a skill challenge), they're going to take longer and longer to complete. This is because enemy HP rises much faster than average PC damage does.
So long as mods are built the same way (average of three combats and a skill challenge), they're going to take longer and longer to complete. This is because enemy HP rises much faster than average PC damage does.

And that's not even factoring in that the higher level mods will hopefully feature more complex stories (solving an epic level conspiracy just can't be done in the same time than protecting some backwater hamlet)

So far I found that most 1-4 mods fit into the standard time slot quite nicely. Most of the 4-7 mods did not fit into the standard time slot and not a single 7-10 mod I played fit into the standard timeslot
Also, playing up (or having 6 players) makes a much larger difference in 7-10. Every time you add a player, that's another set of actions that get added onto every round. That takes more time. And when you play up it take more of those actions to finish an encounter.

I have found no problems at all running any 7-10 adventures with 4 or 5 players. 6 playing the appropriate difficulty level works OK but always seems to push the clock. 6 playing up will always add at least an hour to the table.
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There was a thread on ENworld a few months ago about this very phenomenon (if you have search capability there, try searching for "grind"). A fellow named Stalker0 had some good tips on how to mechanically make fights go faster, while keeping the same level of challenge. Most of it boiled down to decreasing hit points (-20% or maybe more) and increasing damage (extra damage die while bloodied) for elites and solos.

I still find, however, that the single biggest factor in how long an adventure takes is the level of focus provided by the DM. If someone loud and forceful and focused on running speedy but fun combats (like ME) is the DM, he can speed things along without seeming like a jerk. If the loud and forceful people are playing instead, and have something off-topic on their brains, then the table will run long.
While it is possible for player damage to not increase in accordance with the hp of their enemies... it's also extremely possible for it to increase _more_ than the enemy hp. I'm seeing enemies just explode in many of our games.

'So, you gave me, what, +5 attack and +10 damage this turn?' 'Yep' 'And bloodclaw is another 9' 'Yep' 'So my sly flourish hit for... (1d8+14+2d8+10+9 = 47). Huh. Guess I'll AP and do that again.'

That said, I definitely think certain mods pack too much in, or encourage grindy combats with certain use of abilities or terrain.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
I have noticed this, but the problems are as people have stated.

We had a 7-10 last week that ran to 1.30am from a 7pm start, and we fast-forwarded the skill challenge and the DM called the final encounter in the end. The main reasons, I think, were that we had 6 players, including three leaders and only one striker, and we were playing up from APL7 (unsurprisingly we also had the closest to a death I've yet seen in LFR - two failed death saves, and another save was rolled. Fortunately he passed, and my cleric was able to cure serious wounds to get him up again, our surge-based healing having long since been exhausted. Yes, with three leaders!).

It was one particular fight that ground (the one with the near-death) - taking nearly 3 hours on its own. It was a combination of factors - our one striker was out of action for much of the fight, and the rest of us did low damage, hard to hit monsters, monsters with multiple actions, monsters with a lot of HP, six players all deliberating their moves, a tricky terrain set-up forcing us to consider tactics - all in all the one fight ran to three hours, and since we were so close to PC death, the GM couldn't call it until we won

I believe the mod is a notoriously tough one, but it's not the first time I've seen 7-10 combat run long. Fact is that player damage does not scale so well with monster HP.

That said, I think that it's possibly at its worst with 7th level characters playing up. When I've played 7-10s with 9th and 10th levels, we've torn through them, and there is a massive power bump at paragon which should make things go a bit faster again.
4 strikers & 2 defenders .

One of the leaders on the other table should have been playing with this group giving the party a make up of 3 Strikers, 2 Defenders, and 1 leader. Unless nobody was playng a ranged striker they should always be ready to attack when the creature comes within range. A Ranger should have at least a +1 Great Bow with a range of 25/50 by the time he hits 3 or 4 and when he starts hitting 7-10 he should get a +2 Distance (property) Great Bow so he's hitting from 30/60 with his attacks. It doesn't provide extra damage on a crit but the extra range means you can pretty much hit anyone anywhere on a map.
One of the leaders on the other table should have been playing with this group giving the party a make up of 3 Strikers, 2 Defenders, and 1 leader. Unless nobody was playng a ranged striker they should always be ready to attack when the creature comes within range. A Ranger should have at least a +1 Great Bow with a range of 25/50 by the time he hits 3 or 4 and when he starts hitting 7-10 he should get a +2 Distance (property) Great Bow so he's hitting from 30/60 with his attacks. It doesn't provide extra damage on a crit but the extra range means you can pretty much hit anyone anywhere on a map.

Probably, but, the 2nd table had players who could have played leaders of the appropriate level. They chose not to.

Their makeup:
Artful Dodger Rogue 9
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 8 (has a leader; Tactical Warlord 7)
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 9
Beastmaster Ranger 9
Battlerager Fighter 10 (has a leader; Devoted Cleric 7)
Shielding Swordmage 7

My table: Only one player had a different character who could play
Tactical Warlord 8
Protectin Paladin 9 (multi'd into Cleric) (has Tempest Fighter 9)
Devoted Cleric 10
Great Weapon Fighter 9
Orb Wizard 10
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 7


There was a thread on ENworld a few months ago about this very phenomenon (if you have search capability there, try searching for "grind"). A fellow named Stalker0 had some good tips on how to mechanically make fights go faster, while keeping the same level of challenge. Most of it boiled down to decreasing hit points (-20% or maybe more) and increasing damage (extra damage die while bloodied) for elites and solos.

I still find, however, that the single biggest factor in how long an adventure takes is the level of focus provided by the DM. If someone loud and forceful and focused on running speedy but fun combats (like ME) is the DM, he can speed things along without seeming like a jerk. If the loud and forceful people are playing instead, and have something off-topic on their brains, then the table will run long.

And I am one of those as a player, I'm afraid, but it's usually becuase my kids are also there with me. Sometimes as DM too, but I can still usually stay focused, and get it done.

I like the idea of the extra damage die when the critter is bloodied. Might have to try that next time.
I have also been noticing that as level rises, there are just more bonuses and situation mods to add up. I much as I encourage openness and transparency in play, I think those who add up their bonuses out loud and only after the previous player has finished seem to be the ones that slow the game down. Prefiguring your turn is an obvious timesaver but, stating more than the final result of the roll only real seems to invite comment and argument.

There is alot to be said for knowing what you are going to do, declaring it, rolling and stating the result. If the DM questions it, leave it to him to ask. Talking through all the numbers may be a fine learning aid at low levels but, is probably more of a hindrance as levels rise.
Just wait until you get to paragon tier - it slows down even more.

As PCs reach higher levels, they inherently come with more options for the players to choose from.

While role-playing and all that goes with it can be a huge x-factor in time consumption, I have found that the biggest time-sink is players dallying during their combat turns. When players don't know which power they want to use, take a long time adding up their bonuses, or even take a while to "spit it out," it slows things down drastically.

DMs should encourage players to be quicker about things, it really helps everyone have more fun.

p.s. Just wait until SPEC1-3 (P1)... time will be the real killer there.
Dave Kay LFR Writing Director Retiree dkay807 [at] yahoo [dot] com
Probably, but, the 2nd table had players who could have played leaders of the appropriate level. They chose not to.

Their makeup:
Artful Dodger Rogue 9
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 8 (has a leader; Tactical Warlord 7)
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 9
Beastmaster Ranger 9
Battlerager Fighter 10 (has a leader; Devoted Cleric 7)
Shielding Swordmage 7

My table: Only one player had a different character who could play
Tactical Warlord 8
Protectin Paladin 9 (multi'd into Cleric) (has Tempest Fighter 9)
Devoted Cleric 10
Great Weapon Fighter 9
Orb Wizard 10
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 7




And I am one of those as a player, I'm afraid, but it's usually becuase my kids are also there with me. Sometimes as DM too, but I can still usually stay focused, and get it done.

I like the idea of the extra damage die when the critter is bloodied. Might have to try that next time.

This is what the party make up should have been
Devoted Cleric 10
Shielding Swordmage 7
Battlerager Fighter 10
Tactical Warlord 8
Orb Wizard 10
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 9

The Next Table
Brutal Scoundrel Rogue 9
Great Weapon Fighter 9
Tactical Warlord 7 (somebody has to clean up after the party is over)
Protectin Paladin 9
Beastmaster Ranger 9 (how he made it that far with that build I'll never know)
Artful Dodger Rogue 9

With a general lack of range on this table some fights are just going to be slugfests by default.
The time required to run an adventure depends on so many factors, and in my experience level is mostly a very minor one. The biggest impact is the DM through his ability to keep the game focussed and by the way how he runs fight. The next factor are the players, both in how focussed they are, how tactically skilled they are (often more so then PC strength), and how greedy they are with daily powers. The third factor is party composition both in the roles present as well as the levels compared to the tier played at*. Fourth would be terrain and monster capabilities. Only then might level tier come into play. I definitely have not seen an increase in time needed to finish adventures at my table based on the level of the adventure.

* In fact, I always advice players NOT to play up with level 7 - 10 adventures at convention slots. Not only is there the much increased chance of death (I have already had two near TPKs (both were litterally averted by one d20 roll)), but the increase in time it takes to finish fights always goes at the expense of RP.
I have played only a couple of 4-7 mods but i have noticed that they have all included more encounters than in 1-4 mods, It seemed teh average mod includes 4 encounters, in 1-4, so far every 4-7 mod i have played has included about 5 encounters, bald1-2 i think even had 6 it seemed,

I think all mods should be set up with 4 encounters, this seems to be the easiest way to fit a mod in a standard 4 hour slot, playing the 5 encounter 4-7 mods seems to take exactly 5 hours not leaving enouph time to clean up and choose bundles.

I have no idea the encounter set up for 7-10 mods but going from the example of just going from 1-4 to 4-7 i am hoping this does not become an issue or else im scared to think of what the paragon . and even epic level mods will be like. i dont have a problem with a long mod if played at home but at a con or store where time is an issue it seems unfair to the player to try and fit 5 encounters in a 4 hour slot and then have them miss out on a bundle choice because it was placed in encounter 5 and we only got to encounter 4.
I would suggest a couple more contributing factors:

1. Power cards. They seem like a good idea at level 1 and 2. But by the time characters reach level 10, the cards resemble a magic deck, and they spend more time shuffling through them than the rest of their turn put together.

The higher level you get, the more power cards slow down play. And the more each subsequent power card slows down play.

2. Analysis paralysis. In previous editions, everyone knew people who were not suited to play even mid level spellcasters because they would look at a the dozen options they had and would be unable to choose one. Now every character has that level of complexity and there is no refuge from it.

3. Inefficient parties. I would never play in a laser cleric+tactical warlord+rogue+wizard party in a 1-4. If that party showed up, I would start a new character and make it better. On the other hand, I played that party in 7-10 last night because my only option other than the warlord would not have been an improvement (a warlock). You get more efficient parties at high levels too, but your odds of being stuck in an inefficient party are greater. Since tables that run long are more memorable and, in any event, you only need a significant minority for it to be a problem, high levels have the potential to make this worse.
1. Power cards. They seem like a good idea at level 1 and 2. But by the time characters reach level 10, the cards resemble a magic deck, and they spend more time shuffling through them than the rest of their turn put together.

Wow, I've never even considered using the cards like a deck. Everyone I know uses a plastic card sheet so all the cards are clearly displayed at once.

That, plus a dry-erase marker, makes it quite clear what's available, and what each card will do for you.
Wow, I've never even considered using the cards like a deck. Everyone I know uses a plastic card sheet so all the cards are clearly displayed at once.

I've actually been using them like a hand of cards (then again, I played Magic for a long time). The nice thing about doing it this way is that, as my turn approaches, I can pick the power(s) and / or item(s) I'm going to be using that round, and set them aside. If a power has a continuing effect, I leave it out and visible (usually on top of my character sheet). After an encounter or daily power is used up, I put it at the back of my "hand", face down.

Most people I know use the cards in a sheet, so maybe I'm just weird. ;)
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
There are some people who are slowed down by the cards, but I've seen _massive_ speed increases in certain people by using cards for their 7th-9th level characters. Night and day.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
In fact, I always advice players NOT to play up with level 7 - 10 adventures at convention slots. Not only is there the much increased chance of death (I have already had two near TPKs (both were litterally averted by one d20 roll)), but the increase in time it takes to finish fights always goes at the expense of RP.

I've started doing this as a player at cons. It really does increase the time available for RP.

And, yeah, try as we might, paragon adventures will be even a larger strain on PCs. Monsters have more HPs, more ways to lock PCs down, more defensive options... DMs should come prepared.

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In the playtesting I've done (both for the upcoming LFR launch of Paragon and just in my other 4th Edition play) I don't find that Paragon tier combat encounters necessarily take any longer than "long" combat encounters at the lower tiers, particularly 7-10. I think the difference is that in most cases, a powerful heroic-tier party has the ability to more easily overwhelm monsters and thereby end fights quickly. It's not uncommon to see even a "tougher" fight in the 1-4 or even 4-7 level band that is over (or at least a foregone conclusion) within three rounds or less. This overkill capacity attenuates as the PCs rise in level. It is less common to see a two-or-three-round knockout in the 7-10 level band and I don't think you will see much of it at all in the 11-14 level band. (There will be exceptions, of course; this is just my general observation.)

In a nutshell, the monsters' hit points seem to increase faster than the PCs' ability to splat out massive damage, particularly with their at-will powers. For example, a character who can regularly deal 30-35 points of damage per round in mid-heroic (not difficult to achieve and I realize there are builds that eclipse this) will probably deal around 50 points per round in low-paragon (excluding crits) assuming basically the same strategy and appropriate item upgrades. However, in mid-heroic that character is up against monsters that rarely have more than 60-70 hit points, whereas in low-paragon those same "speed bump" monsters will have 110-120 hit points and the brutes will have 140-150 (elites will be in the 250+ range). So the well-built mid-heroic PC is able to bloody or nearly bloody most monsters in 1 round and likely kill them in 2 rounds, while that same PC at low-paragon needs at least 1 and possibly 2 or 3 extra rounds to take a monster out. (I find that implement users also have a slightly harder time hitting at 11-14 than they did in heroic tier, perhaps because they already got +3 implements when they were 7-10 and they haven't got any +4 items coming for a while. This doesn't seem to hurt AC-attackers as badly. I'm not talking about huge swings, but even a 5% or 10% decrease is meaningful, because most of your area effects come from your implement users. This can have a subtle but significant impact on how long it takes a fight to finish.)

In aggregate, what used to be an easy three-round fight is now an easy five-round or six-round fight. So now a "fast" combat encounter takes more like 50-60 minutes instead of 30-40 minutes. (If you aren't getting through your "easy" heroic-tier combat encounters in 30-40 minutes, and I find that not all that many tables do, then you can expect a lot of 90+ minute combats in Paragon tier. The good news is that I do see an upper bound; if you are taking 90 minutes to complete combat encounters today, you will probably still take about 90 minutes to complete higher-level combat encounters.)

Someone mentioned upthread that adding a 6th player really slows the game down. I agree 100% with this. If there is one single thing you can do to help your tables finish in 4 hours, it's to have 5 PCs instead of 6. I realize that reducing table sizes isn't always an option, particularly at conventions; but I guarantee that removing that 6th player (and the extra monsters that come along) will shave at least 10-15 minutes off most combat encounters unless the DM is willing to be very aggressive about calling combats early or taking other steps. (Personally, I have started dropping the hit points of the 8-10 hp/level monsters by 1-2 levels' worth, without changing their other stats, if I know that time is likely to be a factor.)

Part of the problem, I think, is that the PCs don't really get a significant damage bump at 11th level. I think the +1[W] / +1dX that at-will powers get at 21st level should have been added at 11th level and there should be a second identical bump at 21st level. That said, 11th level does bring some significant power increases to the PCs. Remember to use your paragon path features! Almost every paragon path has some trick, usually triggered by spending action points, that can be hugely valuable. I see players forgetting to take advantage of their paragon path features probably more than any other mistake in the 11-14 level band. When you hear the phrase "I use an action point" it is a good idea to immediately ask "and what does your paragon path give you on top of that?"

Many players also need to be more aggressive about using their encounter powers. They're encounter powers! You're guaranteed to get them back. I usually suggest this if a player opens a combat with an at-will. (To be clear, this isn't necessarily true at the lowest level bands, i.e. 1-4 and even 4-7, but by 7-10 it's certainly true.) Many at-wills (like sacred flame granting someone a saving throw) will retain their situational value for your entire adventuring career, but unless there is a burning need for a specific benefit tied to an at-will, or the tactical situation is just absolutely awful, please at least open the fight with an encounter power, particularly if you are at or near the top of the initiative order. Many times if you get some good encounter-power rolls in the first round you can inflict some conditions on the monsters that will make it significantly easier to shorten the fight as the ensuing PCs pile on. You also have enough daily powers by 11th level that it should be unusual for a fight to go by without most, if not all, of the PCs kicking off at least one daily. I know it sounds obvious, but landing daily powers makes fights go faster. What people seem to forget is that you can't land them if you don't use them. The daily power concept triggers the "hoarding" instinct in players, which certainly makes a lot of sense, but by 11th level you need to treat those dailies as being a little bit less precious than they were at 1st level.

As authors, one consequence of all this is that we need to think hard before putting more than two (non-trivial) combat encounters in an 11-14 or higher-level adventure. Speaking for myself, I know that my adventures have a tendency to run long regardless (CORE1-7 is particularly hard for most groups to finish in a 4-hour slot without massive shortcutting by the DM). I'm not saying that there should never be a Paragon tier adventure with three combats or that such an adventure could never ever finish in 4 hours. Of course that isn't true. But for the average table trying to finish in a 4-hour slot, if you want them to do anything other than combat, I think putting in three mandatory fights will often make that difficult. (For those tables who ignore skill challenges, or reduce them to 5 minutes of die rolling, I guess it's potentially easier, but I like to think that people will still spend the time roleplaying through those encounters even if they willfully disregard the skill challenge mechanics.)

Of course, if the vast majority of adventures start to feature a maximum of two combat encounters, the players will adjust their playstyle according to that assumption, and you'll start to see much more liberal use of daily powers, which will make things go a lot faster (see previous comments). So I could see us ending up down a path where people find adventures actually running short because they have enough resources to easily overwhelm two combat encounters, and of course that would make it desirable to add a third. There's certainly a chicken-and-egg sort of problem hidden in there, which we will probably need a few adventure batches to really sort out (just as each batch of heroic-tier adventures has been generally better than the previous batch, I'm sure we will have a similar learning curve with the paragon tier).

I also think that Specials and other adventures that are intended to be harder than the norm will generally need to feature more combat encounters; real-world time is a resource just like daily powers are a resource, and challenging the players to make the best possible use of all their resources is part of what those adventures are about.

As for Epic tier, obviously we are still a ways off from that, but the Global Admins and Chris have already been discussing it, and I think (hope) we will be making an effort to ensure that most, if not all, Epic tier adventures are two rounds or at least are broken into tightly connected multi-part series that span multiple adventures. It's pretty hard for me to see how a meaningful Epic threat could be introduced and resolved in 4 hours with 2-3 combats.

Anyway, just some random thoughts on the subject. Please note that all numbers cited in this post are just rough estimates that I made up as I was typing this and are not necessarily reflective of actual, precise values pulled directly from adventures or sourcebooks. I guess in conclusion, I would say that if you are seeing 7-10 adventures run long compared to 1-4 and 4-7 adventures, that doesn't surprise me. I'd expect the 11-14 adventures to be about the same for you; playing high tier in a 7-10 adventure is not really that different from playing low tier in an 11-14 adventure, other than the PCs not having their paragon paths.
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I've played in numerous 7-10 LFR modules, and only rarely have we gone over 4 hours. This includes both pickup groups in convention play with totally unknown players, and games with known players. We always play high tier regardless of the character levels (all level 7 players in a 7-10? Play high, no problem.)

As far as time goes, far and away the thing we dread are skill challenges. Combats are nothing compared to the time-sucking terror of skill challenges. We blow through combat encounters like they're nothing, but the dreaded skill challenges that make the party run all over town searching for endless clues to the next combat encounter are almost always hated by one and all.

On more than one occasion I've seen entire tables of players ask the DM to simply wave off the skill challenge and have them each burn a surge or even multiple surges each just so they can get on with the module. They know spending an hour to an hour and a half on skill challenges out of the 4 hour budget is what kills, rather than combats.

Sure, this can reduce certain roleplaying aspects of the module, but many posts in this thread seem to point to combats as being the time-drainer. I have not seen combats to be a problem at all.
Well, D&D is about roleplay. If people only want combats, they should play D&D miniatures instead.
Not that the skill challenge system is a great system, but at least it does offer opportunity for roleplay, and a DM that runs them well can make it a lot more than rolling dice. So I don't mind if a SC takes long - as long as it allows me to roleplay. I mind it more when a combat takes forever - but those are easier to cut short once the PCs are winning.

Gomez
Many players also need to be more aggressive about using their encounter powers. They're encounter powers! You're guaranteed to get them back. I usually suggest this if a player opens a combat with an at-will.

That is a bit simplistic. Many encounter powers do more then just deal a little bit of extra damage (certain strikers excepted). In fact, that extra +1[W] is hardly significant, especially at H3. On the other hand, stopping that artillery from shifting away out of reach through Steel Serpent Strike or using Armor Piercing attack on the high AC bodyguard is much more useful then using it on the first opponent you face. Of course, by the end of the fight you should have used those encounter powers (although there are situations were using at-wills can be a lot more beneficial, those tend to be rare) ;)

I also think that players should be more willing to use dailies when they are useful instead of hoarding them for the last fight. I know of situations were a player seriously asked whether or not he should use his daily since it was not the last fight even though the group was on the verge of a TPK...
Good thoughts, Shawn, thanks for the input. I must admit though, that paragon mods are not filling me with confidence at this point in time.

I don't find that Paragon tier combat encounters necessarily take any longer than "long" combat encounters at the lower tiers, particularly 7-10.

Herein lies the problem. "Long" combat encounters in 7-10s can easily run to the 2 hour plus mark.

In a nutshell, the monsters' hit points seem to increase faster than the PCs' ability to splat out massive damage, particularly with their at-will powers.

A problem of 4th edition in general. Too many monster HP. I seem to recall reading that the designers intended monsters to go down in approximately four hits - fewer if a striker gets in on the act. Even at high heroic, when you're fighting brutes with 120HP each, this is rarely possible.

For example, a character who can regularly deal 30-35 points of damage per round in mid-heroic (not difficult to achieve and I realize there are builds that eclipse this) will probably deal around 50 points per round in low-paragon (excluding crits)

Really? I don't know any characters that can do that, and we've got some pretty solidly statted out strikers in our group. 25 damage is about what they can reliably put out per round. Perhaps some gimmick rangers or tempest builds can get more with encounter powers, reliably round-on-round? Ouch.

The vast majority of non-strikers will simply be dealing 1[W] + ability + enhancement, for about 15 damage per hit, even at 10th level.


(I find that implement users also have a slightly harder time hitting at 11-14 than they did in heroic tier, perhaps because they already got +3 implements

Haven't noticed any +3 implements in any 7-10s I've played (which is about half of them now); but no implement users I know of have significant problems hitting with just a +2 version.

The good news is that I do see an upper bound; if you are taking 90 minutes to complete combat encounters today, you will probably still take about 90 minutes to complete higher-level combat encounters.)

Right, so with RP, skill challenges etc. that's two fights in a 4 hour timeslot.

If there is one single thing you can do to help your tables finish in 4 hours, it's to have 5 PCs instead of 6. I realize that reducing table sizes isn't always an option, particularly at conventions;

Or indeed, when you have 15-odd players in a local group who all want to play often...

I think this is something that could be looked at by the campaign staff - how to scale. Most of the time it's 'add another brute/soldier', and with the addition of another PC, that increases encounter time by 20 %. I think it would be nice if there could be some guidelines for scaling without just adding another monster (e.g. add another soldier, reduce all monster HP by 20%, increase all monster damage by +3).

Part of the problem, I think, is that the PCs don't really get a significant damage bump at 11th level. ...Remember to use your paragon path features!

Well, strikers get a nice boost. PCs do get significantly more powerful at paragon, but I think it'll take most players a while to get to grips with just how to utilise everything.

I know it sounds obvious, but landing daily powers makes fights go faster.

Depends very much on the daily power. If it's a ranger 'mega damage multi-whack', then yes. A lot of wizard dailies (e.g. visions of avarice, call of the grave, stinking cloud) actually make the fight longer, since they pile a lot of status conditions or terrain issues (or both) onto monsters without doing a lot of damage. They reduce the resource expenditure of other PCs, since they make the monsters less dangerous, but don't kill them very fast, and require both sides to think even more about tactics etc., not to mention the wizard player making multiple attacks as a minor as well as standard action every turn.

As for Epic tier, obviously we are still a ways off from that, but the Global Admins and Chris have already been discussing it, and I think (hope) we will be making an effort to ensure that most, if not all, Epic tier adventures are two rounds or at least are broken into tightly connected multi-part series that span multiple adventures. It's pretty hard for me to see how a meaningful Epic threat could be introduced and resolved in 4 hours with 2-3 combats.

Absolutely, and I don't think anyone will mind if the 'plot' is not neatly contained in a 4hr slot.

I guess in conclusion, I would say that if you are seeing 7-10 adventures run long compared to 1-4 and 4-7 adventures, that doesn't surprise me. I'd expect the 11-14 adventures to be about the same for you; playing high tier in a 7-10 adventure is not really that different from playing low tier in an 11-14 adventure, other than the PCs not having their paragon paths.

Well, this too is part of the problem. I can't remember the last time I played 'low tier'; we always play up, because most players in my group find low tier too easy. But with increased challenge (generally) comes increased encounter length.


My thoughts are: WoTC have made a mistake (one of many) in their maths, and given monsters too many HP. The fact that the designers said (not long after the game was released) that they'd taken to halving monster HP says it all, really, and the new MM2 has reinforced this, with the retemplating of monsters to have fewer HP and higher damage.

I'd like to see writers take this on board, and prepare monster encounters, especially when elites or solos are involved, with the new guidelines. It may require restatting MM1 monsters, but I'm sure you can manage it. DMs can do it (or can we with the new guidelines - not so sure?) with DME, but many don't, or won't, and most I've come across just run the mod as written. After all, it can be quite hard to parse on a first reading whether an encounter will run long or not. I'd rather the writers took a pro-active role in dropping monster HP.

I'd also suggest that some things are not combined in encounters, like high level and soldier, or regeneration plus insubstantial.

Another thought is to have ways to avoid or reduce the length of combat. I'd like to see more options for bypassing combats by negotiation, skill challenges etc. It harks back to OD&D, where you got XP principally for treasure and quests, rather than fights, so fights were typically a last resort, especially since they were so deadly. Likewise within a fight - give a way to turn off a monster's regeneration, for example, if the PC's are smart enough to work it out.

Finally, I'd like to hope that writers will continue to hone their skills in produce excellent plots and encounters. If you write an excellent mod with low combat challenge, players typically respond well to it (CORM1-1 is an excellent example). OTOH, mods that are straight-up three really tough fights but a weak plot tend to go down very poorly.
A problem of 4th edition in general. Too many monster HP. I seem to recall reading that the designers intended monsters to go down in approximately four hits - fewer if a striker gets in on the act. Even at high heroic, when you're fighting brutes with 120HP each, this is rarely possible.

I've been playing a lot in maptools, and this is pretty much what I've been seeing in the group we threw together to play like 8 mods before Gen Con so we could get up to Paragon tier. 3 to 5 round combats, stuff dropping in three to four hits. We're not striker heavy either - surprisingly well rounded group considering we didn't plan it and just brought the characters we wanted to level - BRV 2her dwarf fighter, inspiring warlord, valor bard, trickster rogue, feylock, and a somewhat lower level wizard.

Really? I don't know any characters that can do that, and we've got some pretty solidly statted out strikers in our group. 25 damage is about what they can reliably put out per round. Perhaps some gimmick rangers or tempest builds can get more with encounter powers, reliably round-on-round? Ouch.

My warlord does 30 damage on an average hit with his encounter powers (2W) and for about three rounds of each combat effectively gives out a +5 bonus to damage to the rest of the group, which means our rogue's sly flourish typically hits for just under 40 damage. Our fighter's brash strike is average about 30 as well. On a completely related tangent, being melee for iron armbands and bloodclaw makes a big difference (and I'm somewhat horrified at how much of one, bloodclaw seems all kinds of wrong)

Our warlock, for comparison, is doing about 18 damage with his at-will, 23 with my buff o' the round.

Haven't noticed any +3 implements in any 7-10s I've played (which is about half of them now); but no implement users I know of have significant problems hitting with just a +2 version.

I think they must be pretty scarce. Our warlock just picked one up, but didn't have one for the first few paragon tier mods, whereas we've seen three different +3 weapons so far.

Right, so with RP, skill challenges etc. that's two fights in a 4 hour timeslot.

I'd say that it would probably make sense to aim for two solid threatening fights for the campaign with the occasional three, rather than three with the occasional four and sometimes two. Some groups will, of course, finish those fights in 45 minutes each so that the have over 2 hours for RP, skill challenges, etc, but it'd be nice for RP to not be as consistently cut off by time, sez I.

I think this is something that could be looked at by the campaign staff - how to scale. Most of the time it's 'add another brute/soldier', and with the addition of another PC, that increases encounter time by 20 %. I think it would be nice if there could be some guidelines for scaling without just adding another monster (e.g. add another soldier, reduce all monster HP by 20%, increase all monster damage by +3).

I think the increase all damage route is actually the way to go.

Depends very much on the daily power. If it's a ranger 'mega damage multi-whack', then yes. A lot of wizard dailies (e.g. visions of avarice, call of the grave, stinking cloud) actually make the fight longer, since they pile a lot of status conditions or terrain issues (or both) onto monsters without doing a lot of damage. They reduce the resource expenditure of other PCs, since they make the monsters less dangerous, but don't kill them very fast, and require both sides to think even more about tactics etc., not to mention the wizard player making multiple attacks as a minor as well as standard action every turn.

Grasp of the Grave and Stinking Cloud have always seemed to make combats go faster to me. Visions I'm not sure, but I imagine if it catches a few melee only enemies, them not acting will save a lot of time.

Some players don't deal well with zones, though, I will grant you.

Well, this too is part of the problem. I can't remember the last time I played 'low tier'; we always play up, because most players in my group find low tier too easy. But with increased challenge (generally) comes increased encounter length.

More hp, more misses, more status effects on the party when the monsters don't miss. There are downsides to playing up - personally I'd like to see playing up a lot less of an autodecision. Sitting down at a table of wizard 7 (only one I've played with before), feylock 6, starlock 4, rogue 4, paladin 4 at a mod none of us have ever played or even heard about, I shouldn't go 'well, I've got a 7 defender who has healing strike or 6 leader who is a little strikery, we playing up or low?' and get a resounding 'up', and then go on to not have anyone drop or even get excessively bloodied (one person second winded the whole mod). And that was one of the more challenging mods I've done lately - 2 very solid combat encounters.

My thoughts are: WoTC have made a mistake (one of many) in their maths, and given monsters too many HP.

An earlier playtest version / DDM stat cards definitely showed that monsters had lower hp before - they also had higher defenses too, and I'll admit I'd rather hit more often in a lot of cases.

The fact that the designers said (not long after the game was released) that they'd taken to halving monster HP says it all, really

'They' actually didn't say that - a single WotC person (which I'm sad to say I can't remember which, but I'm not sure it was actually someone involved with game design or not) responding to a question mentioned being able to use half hp under some circumstances. It was a while ago, but there was confirmation from others that they don't do that and hadn't even heard of him using that house rule sometimes.

and the new MM2 has reinforced this, with the retemplating of monsters to have fewer HP and higher damage.

Yeah, more damage is definitely nice. Other than solos sticking with x4 at paragon and epic tier (already did it in heroic), did anything else's hp change? Hadn't noticed, I'll have to look into that.

I'd like to see writers take this on board, and prepare monster encounters, especially when elites or solos are involved, with the new guidelines. It may require restatting MM1 monsters, but I'm sure you can manage it.

I'm almost positive they can't just restat MM1 monsters... all the adventures do get verified and approved by WotC and there's just not enough reason to do so.

I'd also suggest that some things are not combined in encounters, like high level and soldier, or regeneration plus insubstantial.

Indeed.

Finally, I'd like to hope that writers will continue to hone their skills in produce excellent plots and encounters. If you write an excellent mod with low combat challenge, players typically respond well to it (CORM1-1 is an excellent example). OTOH, mods that are straight-up three really tough fights but a weak plot tend to go down very poorly.

CORM1-1 is a travesty of an example. The creatures in it are ridiculously easy - I've seen multiple level 1 groups high tier it with never a concern. After seeing a battlerage fighter have a go at it, part of me thought he might be able to solo the entire module. I'm just not sure about that last fight.

I don't want the modules to get easier - I just want time to be considered a lot more closely. I had fun with BALD1-2 and actually finished it in just over three hours (warlord, 3 wizards, laser cleric, archer ranger that run - seemed insane at first, but the AoE definitely helped) - but I'm not at all surprised that some groups take 6 hours playing it. Four combats, a sizable skill challenge, and a bunch of good RP spots.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
My warlord does 30 damage on an average hit with his encounter powers (2W) and for about three rounds of each combat effectively gives out a +5 bonus to damage to the rest of the group, which means our rogue's sly flourish typically hits for just under 40 damage. Our fighter's brash strike is average about 30 as well. On a completely related tangent, being melee for iron armbands and bloodclaw makes a big difference (and I'm somewhat horrified at how much of one, bloodclaw seems all kinds of wrong)

Ah, bloodclaw, bloodclaw. We don't tend to use that. Presumably your warlord has a +3 bloodclaw weapon, for +9 damage with your 2W encounter powers?

Otherwise I'd estimate: 2D10 (11) + Str (5) + Enhancement (3) + Item (+2 for armbands) = 21 damage as being about the best a warlord can put out, and even then it's not at will. Sound right?

Our warlock, for comparison, is doing about 18 damage with his at-will, 23 with my buff o' the round.

That sounds about right.

I'd say that it would probably make sense to aim for two solid threatening fights for the campaign with the occasional three, rather than three with the occasional four and sometimes two. Some groups will, of course, finish those fights in 45 minutes each so that the have over 2 hours for RP, skill challenges, etc, but it'd be nice for RP to not be as consistently cut off by time, sez I.

Agreed.

An earlier playtest version / DDM stat cards definitely showed that monsters had lower hp before - they also had higher defenses too, and I'll admit I'd rather hit more often in a lot of cases.

Well, yes, that was the point behind inventing solos and elites, rather than just plonk down high level enemies. But that doesn't change the length of the fight, just make it less frustrating. I'd rather defenses stayed the same and everything lost 20% HP.

Yeah, more damage is definitely nice. Other than solos sticking with x4 at paragon and epic tier (already did it in heroic), did anything else's hp change? Hadn't noticed, I'll have to look into that.

No, I think it was just paragon and epic solos and maybe some elites.


I'm almost positive they can't just restat MM1 monsters... all the adventures do get verified and approved by WotC and there's just not enough reason to do so.

Why can't they be restatted? There are plenty of monsters in LFR that don't appear in the MM - the writer has presumably created them from a template.

CORM1-1 is a travesty of an example. The creatures in it are ridiculously easy - I've seen multiple level 1 groups high tier it with never a concern. After seeing a battlerage fighter have a go at it, part of me thought he might be able to solo the entire module. I'm just not sure about that last fight.

That's my exact point. The fights are criminally easy, and yet, when the question goes up 'what's the best 1-1 mod?', it gets mentioned a lot. Because the RP, skill challenges, NPCs and plot are all fun and compelling.

Now, I'm not saying I want every mod like that. Just that it is possible to have short encounters and a good mod regardless, and that it's something to bear in mind when thinking about time constraints.
Ah, bloodclaw, bloodclaw. We don't tend to use that. Presumably your warlord has a +3 bloodclaw weapon, for +9 damage with your 2W encounter powers?

Nailed it in one. And the dwarf has a mordenkrad or something, and the rogue has a rapier. First +3 weapon we saw and oh-so-broken.

Otherwise I'd estimate: 2D10 (11) + Str (5) + Enhancement (3) + Item (+2 for armbands) = 21 damage as being about the best a warlord can put out, and even then it's not at will. Sound right?

While not at-will, when your combats tend to only last four rounds my average damage still ends up being very high. Including bloodclaw I have Two 2W attacks for 30, a hammer and anvil with the fighter's 2d6b1+11+5 is, what, 24 from me and 24 from him for 48 if both hit.

And that's without factoring in Inspired Belligerence, Warlord's Strike, or War of Attrition into the bargain, which can easily peak Hammer and Anvil over 50 damage.

Well, yes, that was the point behind inventing solos and elites, rather than just plonk down high level enemies. But that doesn't change the length of the fight, just make it less frustrating. I'd rather defenses stayed the same and everything lost 20% HP.

Yeah, in a home (not LFR) game I often choose to give things 3/4 health and extra damage, myself. I'd prefer burstier combats in that group. Course, I also don't give out reckless, bloodclaw, iron armbands, etc in that game so it's a whole different meta.

Why can't they be restatted? There are plenty of monsters in LFR that don't appear in the MM - the writer has presumably created them from a template.

Because they're not WotC and they shouldn't try to hack errata into the system. Now, if they want to use new critters or design their own - great. But it'd be tremendous overhead and a horrible slippery slope to have module writers randomly recreating the monster manual.

That's my exact point. The fights are criminally easy, and yet, when the question goes up 'what's the best 1-1 mod?', it gets mentioned a lot. Because the RP, skill challenges, NPCs and plot are all fun and compelling.

And it would be even more compelling if the fights weren't awful
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
Nailed it in one. And the dwarf has a mordenkrad or something, and the rogue has a rapier. First +3 weapon we saw and oh-so-broken.

Sounds as if your group is pretty optimised. While I'd say mine has pretty well-built characters too, we don't all have bloodclaw weapons, and we're not all optimised for damage.

I can see fights not going on too long when you're all doing that. However, at cons I have sat down with, to put it politely, less well-considered characters. The optimised group may breeze through encounters, but if the 'fair-to-middling' group takes 2 hours over every fight, LFR has a problem.

And low-tier isn't necessarily the answer, unfortunately.
As for Epic tier, obviously we are still a ways off from that, but the Global Admins and Chris have already been discussing it, and I think (hope) we will be making an effort to ensure that most, if not all, Epic tier adventures are two rounds or at least are broken into tightly connected multi-part series that span multiple adventures. It's pretty hard for me to see how a meaningful Epic threat could be introduced and resolved in 4 hours with 2-3 combats.

I can't say how glad I am to read this. Thank you very much.
but the dreaded skill challenges that make the party run all over town searching for endless clues to the next combat encounter are almost always hated by one and all.

Well, that just shows how far tastes can differ. For me there's nothing greater than running all over town, talking to a lot of NPCs and examine a lot of places. That's the very thing that makes a mod for me. The combats are just distractions which I hope are over as soon as possible so that we can actually get back to the adventure. Thus I would never complain about some powergaming build stealing all the glory, the faster he would clear the battlefield, the faster we can get back into the story. If my character doesn't even need to draw his blade all the better (sadly that never happened and I always needed to get at least a little dirt on my hands) :D
Why can't they be restatted? There are plenty of monsters in LFR that don't appear in the MM - the writer has presumably created them from a template.

I recall reading that LFR writers are limited in how many non-standard opponents they can use in a particular module (though I may be mistaken in this).
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
Sounds as if your group is pretty optimised. While I'd say mine has pretty well-built characters too, we don't all have bloodclaw weapons, and we're not all optimised for damage.

Three melee characters, first +3 we found. I'm not sure I'd call that _optimized_.

I do find it amusing that people told me that inspiring warlords sucked when I made mine back at LFR launch, though. The AP use is less sexy than TacLords, but I love powers like Warlord's Strike for speeding things up. That and dragonborn are clearly cooler than Genasi. Yeah!

I can see fights not going on too long when you're all doing that. However, at cons I have sat down with, to put it politely, less well-considered characters. The optimised group may breeze through encounters, but if the 'fair-to-middling' group takes 2 hours over every fight, LFR has a problem.

Agreed there. You get odd ones, though - I play with a pretty random set of characters, and I've known 'optimized' groups to take 5 hours on BALD1-2, when our defender-less party with an outright poorly designed laser cleric and three wizards burned right through it, with plenty of time to RP and everything (we had a very serious discussion about how to finish it IC, frex).
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
A couple other reasons that combats might take longer in high tier mods:

1. Random party distributions. At level 1-4, you can always create a new character if your character doesn't match the party. At level 7-10, you are much closer to being stuck with what people brought. Now, in and of itself, this would not necessarily lead to longer mods but...
A. Character and monster abilities vary more at level 10 than at level 1. A well built level 10 character has a greater advantage over a poorly built level 10 character than a well built level 1 character has over a poorly built level 1 character. Likewise, a level 1 monster is unlikely to have dramatically game-changing abilities and one balanced party is likely to be as good as the next. On the other hand, a level 10 fight with a nightcloak and three kir-lanan is going to be dramatically different for the party that is mostly ranged and for the party whose "ranged" support is a laser cleric with range 5 at-wills.
B. The combination of these two factors mean that, while, on the whole, characters may not have more trouble with level 7-10s than with level 1-4s, the statistical outliers will see bigger differences. If one table in five has a balance issue that either shortens or lengthens the mod by 15 minutes at level 1 and one table in three has a balance issue that does the same by 30 minutes at level 10, you will notice the difference. Those are arbitrary numbers, but they illustrate how an incremental increase could easily cross the line from not being a problem to being a problem.

2. Strategic shifts.
Those of use who played the early years of living greyhawk remember that the most TPKs happened at APL 6. This was because that was about the level where monster and player capabilities noticeably changed and the strategies that were good at level 1 were no longer necessarily viable. The guy who multiclassed five times realized that he had no BAB. The party realized that unholy blights and fireballs were a good reason not to bunch up. Haste became a game changer and flying opponents might make characters realize that bow proficiency wasn't a meaningless blotch of ink on their character sheet. For that matter, there were more subtle changes. Cure light wounds was no longer good combat healing. If the fighter was in trouble you wanted cure moderate wounds or cure serious wounds. And magic missile was no longer a scarce resource. Effective wizards no longer had to be as stingy with their spells.

In fourth edition, there are several important tactical differences that really become felt in the late heroic tier. Players who are playing with early heroic tier strategies will have more difficulty and longer fights.
A. Daily powers are not just for big fight. The five person level 9 party has 15 daily attack powers between them. In a typical LFR, mod, that means they can each use one daily every fight and not be running on empty in the last encounter. At level 1, people tend to hoard dailies for the big fights and it is often good strategy. At level 10, at least one character should probably use a daily in every fight. Much like the third edition wizard's magic missiles, they are just not that rare anymore.
B. Encounter powers become your bread and butter. At level 1, you go through most fights with your at-will powers. At level 10, between daily and encounter powers, you probably should only use an at-will power once or twice. (Slightly more if you're a ranger or other class with minor action/reaction/interrupt encounter powers). At level 1, you can hoard your encounter power for the perfect moment and it won't hurt you too much. At level 7, if you are sticking to at wills until "you really need it" you will slow the game down.
C. Powers are not meant to be used alone. Here's a good example. Use diabolic stratagem by itself, and you probably just give your opponent -2 to hit. (Why would your opponent give your whole party OAs?) Use provoke overextension by itself and you get your party one extra attack. On the other hand, if you use provoke overextension with a fighter, you get two extra attacks and if you use it with diabolic stratagem and a fighter, you could easily get your party seven extra attacks. At level 1, you can't make too many combos. By level 10, if you are not making combos, your party will be struggling.
D. Battlefield awareness becomes much more key. At level 1, the deadly surprise round has you falling into a pit and three goblins shoot you with javalins. At level 10, three flameskulls catch your whole party with fireballs. Much like 3rd edition where area effects became common in the APL 6 range, 4th edition area effects are much more common in level 7-10 range. You need to plan for that and adjust your play appropriately.
Just by way of comparison, the Ultimate Dungeon Delve (6th level) runs in 4.5 hours and has 6 combat encounters, with each taking no more than 45 minutes. I know that parties built for it are usually more optimized, but it really depends a lot on the preparedness of the players and DM as well. DMs that have their init cards ready to go, roll damage with attacks, whip around the table asking for actions, etc. usually have little problem running a high-heroic combat encounter in under an hour (assuming the players are also on the ball).

This is something that we'll continue to monitor, but as Sean mentioned before, I wouldn't be surprised if epic tier play involves only 2 round (or more) adventures.
Chris Tulach D&D Program Manager Wizards of the Coast http://community.wizards.com/wotc_tulach http://twitter.com/christulach
but it really depends a lot on the preparedness of the players and DM as well. DMs that have their init cards ready to go, roll damage with attacks, whip around the table asking for actions, etc. usually have little problem running a high-heroic combat encounter in under an hour (assuming the players are also on the ball).

This. Right there. The players need to be prepared when their turn comes up. Period. Nothing slows down combat more than coming to a player and hearing. "My turn? OK, what do I want to do now?" After ten minutes of discussing every conceivable option with the table, they finally take an action. I have seen this happen even with tables of very experienced players, and they wonder why the games are running long.

Oh, and don't tell me to hurry them up, as that would not be "fun" for the players, and people would yell at me. :D

As always, just my opinion.
Herrbard a.k.a. Dan Erbacher Old, bald and tired.
The players need to be prepared when their turn comes up. Period. Nothing slows down combat more than coming to a player and hearing. "My turn? OK, what do I want to do now?"

When I'm DMing, I'll often announce who is "next" when I'm going through initiative order (e.g., "Krenthor's up, Baq is on deck"), to give players a little nudge to start getting ready for when their turn comes up. I think that this helps quite a bit.
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
When I'm DMing, I'll often announce who is "next" when I'm going through initiative order (e.g., "Krenthor's up, Baq is on deck"), to give players a little nudge to start getting ready for when their turn comes up. I think that this helps quite a bit.

I do this as well -- letting the players know who is "on deck" often helps remind them to go ahead and plan their actions ahead of time.

At a recent convention I had a group of players come prepared with their own set of numeric table tents (1-6). After rolling initiative, they passed out the numbers so that everybody in the group could see who was going to act before and after them. (Obviously the monsters interrupt the PCs' order, but it is still very useful and time-saving to know which other PCs have yet to take their turns before your next turn comes up.) When people readied or delayed or used Guileful Switch, they just traded table tents to keep the order correct.

Now, this group was extremely well-organized and efficient in a lot of other ways (which made them a real pleasure to DM for), but the numbered table tents were a big help in keeping combat moving. I think I will create a set of these and bring them to Gen Con Indy and see how it goes.
Talk to you later -- Sean ---- M. Sean Molley | sean [at] basementsoftware [dot] com LFR Global Administrator
In a home game we use numbered table tents, but include the monsters too. Only 4 players, so we just use 8 tents.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
When I'm DMing, I'll often announce who is "next" when I'm going through initiative order (e.g., "Krenthor's up, Baq is on deck"), to give players a little nudge to start getting ready for when their turn comes up. I think that this helps quite a bit.

I do this as well, and still there are players that ignore it. :P

At a recent convention I had a group of players come prepared with their own set of numeric table tents (1-6). After rolling initiative, they passed out the numbers so that everybody in the group could see who was going to act before and after them.

I had the pleasure of running SPEC1-1 for this group at GenCon last year. It was the fastest running of the mod I had. :D

Well-prepared groups are always a pleasure to run for.
Herrbard a.k.a. Dan Erbacher Old, bald and tired.
One additional effect on time, and it tends to hurt low level mods, is having many PCs.

It is easy to play 2-3 PCs and seldom play your 4th and 5th. When you do, you have to suddenly recall what they do. My poor Deva Invoker would throttle me for all the things I forget (Chessenta regional background, for example, when I AP).

Throw in something like a shaman as your 7th PC, and things really do get complicated. (As opposed to my rogue, with barely any powers to worry about).

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I know people who do that on their only PC...

One gaming group, occasionally we'll kinda blink look around and go "Hey, whose turn is it anyways?" because we've been waiting and started chatting and are wondering what's the hold up, and it's _always_ the same guy.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
I do this as well, and still there are players that ignore it. :P

Yes, well, some people can be trained, and some can't. :D
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"