DMs: Managing your (4e) combats

Vrecknidj

Explorer
I've played 4e several times (8th level paladin), but haven't DMed yet. In the campaign I've been playing, I've noticed this slog mode a few times. Generally, it's happened when the DM allowed a new set of monsters to join, thereby turning two encounters into one.

I have put zero thought into this, but, having (some) encounter powers recharge after some minimum number of rounds, might help alleviate the slog.

Dave
 

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Mathew_Freeman

First Post
Some really really simple DM advice:

During combat, talk like a commander dispatching planes urgently. I'm not talking bad drill sargent impression.

Also, my group has a homebrew rule that gives minions and the like more tactical advantage. Whenever monsters act on the same initiative (that is usually when they are the same type of monster) they can all move at the same time then attack. Rather than move attack, move attack as the two goblins move in, the goblins can move, move attack attack. Basically it allows for them to jump into flanking etc faster.

DM: These kobolds move here and ready to fire! 18!
Player 1: Miss!
DM: 24!
Player 2: Miss!
...
As you all dive in different directions the hail of arrows passes over you harmlessly. The kobolds curse loudly from accross the gorge. Player two your move! go!

Just act quick and snap your words out there with some urgency, the players will pick up on it.

This is really good advice - it's exactly what I do, too. If you play the monsters with urgency, and with a bit of daring, the players pick up and the pace of the combat picks up too.

The other thing is this - if a member of the party is laying down heavy damage, target them ruthlessly! Have monsters try and break through the parties lines and attack the Wizard/Warlock/Ranger/whoever - it changes the dynamic of the battle and ups the excitement around the table. If it means some of them die at the hands of opportunity attacks, then so be it.
 

Also, my group has a homebrew rule that gives minions and the like more tactical advantage. Whenever monsters act on the same initiative (that is usually when they are the same type of monster) they can all move at the same time then attack. Rather than move attack, move attack as the two goblins move in, the goblins can move, move attack attack.

I do the same thing, but you know what? It's not really a house rule. Basically, all that's happening is this:

Goblin 1 moves, then readies an action to attack when his allies have all finished moving.

Goblin 2 moves, then readies an action to attack when goblin 1 has attacked.

Goblin 3 moves, then readies an action to attack when goblin 2 has attacked.

And so forth.

So you're playing 100% by the RAW; you're just not elucidating a step. :D
 

PeelSeel2

Explorer
Great post!

Here are some things I do:

It is the characters onus to remember which monster they have marked and to remind me of a particular monster I am about to use has ongoing damage or effect I need to consider. If I remember them great, If I do not, I am not going to redo actions. It is going to keep going.

I use a laminated battlemat of 1/4" grid. I have bought wood tokens in 1/4", 1", and 2" squares and circles from Hobby Lobby for 1.99 a bag of 50. Awesome investment.

My veteran players and I are teaching the newbies to have lots of dice, roll all your dice at once, and BE READY WHEN YOUR TURN COMES UP!! If they are taking too long to decide, I move on to the next init order and come back to them when they are done reflecting on world peace.

I use minions, and I also slice standard monsters up into two and even three individuals, dividing their hit points appropriatly. Leave attacks, etc. the same. It makes for squishy monsters, faster combat, and deadlier combat. Sometimes I'll use mooks who have 5hp per level. I am not bothered by keep track of up to 30 monsters HP.

If a combat is getting to the slog stage and I can see the characters are going to win, I might give the remaing monsters 1 hit to die, but their next 'death attack' is going off the high damage for their level. I do not like combats that last more than 5-10 rounds.
 

Nebulous

Legend
One tactic i've started using to avoid the "slogfest" is to simply kill enemies sooner than their hit points would dictate. If the end of a battle is a done deal, the PCs will no doubt win, there's usually no point bashing through the 60 hit points of monsters left.

Once i even had kobold commit suicide just to avoid the two or three rounds to kill him.
 

DeusExMachina

First Post
We usually create a list of all the characters and monsters and write it on the battlemat together with their iniatives. Behind their names we put down bloodied markers when necessary or write any other conditions they are currently undergoing. As a DM I have somebody else keep track of this.

Keeps things clear and speeds up play a lot...
 

Nebulous

Legend
Yes, we have a dedicated person for initiative tracking, not me. Everyone else contributes individually with their condition markers on the actual battlemap. We have found 4e combat to be very fast and fluid.
 


Mathew_Freeman

First Post
Having someone else at the table deal with initiative is a very good idea.

It certainly helps me when I've got seven players at the table and 10 monsters on the battlemap!
 

CharlesRyan

Adventurer
I've been a believer in "someone else deals with initiative" since well before 4E. As a GM, I always outsource init tracking to one of the other players. As a player, I usually volunteer to track initiative for the GM.

It just seems like a sensible division of labour!
 

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