DMs: Managing your (4e) combats

Nahat Anoj

First Post
Oh, another thing PCs can try is to use the Intimidate skill on Bloodied enemies into surrending. It's hard to use this on people you're fighting with, but it might be worth a try if you've got a good Intimidate.
 

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DarenCommons

First Post
[/QUOTE]

I've printed off a few pages worth of random numbers and have thousands of rolls in the bank. It makes things go a lot quicker.[/QUOTE]

That's crazy talk.
 

MadLordOfMilk

First Post
I could really use some advice. I've been slowly getting combat to go faster, but there are a couple spots things seem to drag out a little.

My biggest slowdown usually happens right at the beginning of combat - that is, rolling everything's initiative. Sure, I can roll several d20s, but when you have to roll for 6-10 creatures and write down all the players' initiatives then write the order of who's going when... there any easy way to speed up the startup time?

Players can also take longer than they should. I'm usually counting out 6 seconds in my head for them to start saying something (and if they don't they delay automatically) but that usually doesn't come into effect. It's usually, "ok, i'm going to uuuuuuuuse... this power which iissssss str vs ac so that's... 22?" "hit" "ok, now that's... 4+3+7... umm...14 damage." I've been pushing stuff like rolling all your dice at once, being ready once your turn is up, etc. but I can only do so much without being a jackass about it.

Also, after a couple sessions I'm starting to see a bit of a pattern. My players like to stay in clumps and in general don't move around too much in combat. We're doing KotS and I really have had trouble just drawing them into different areas in the battle. For example, in Area 3: Excavation Site (the room with all the moveable planks) they pretty much stayed just barely inside the corner of the room or in the hallway and used ranged attacks against everything that wasn't close. The room seemed like it had all kinds of potential for interesting combat and environmental manipulation but it was all wasted because they stayed crammed in the corner. :\ Is there anything I can do about that? I even tried giving the monsters superior cover most of the time based on their positions and it wasn't enough to convince them to move in, particularly as I had to do SOMETHING with the guard drakes which meant giving them a melee target.

Sorry for the minor wall of text! Thanks in advance for any responses.
 


Nahat Anoj

First Post
My biggest slowdown usually happens right at the beginning of combat - that is, rolling everything's initiative. Sure, I can roll several d20s, but when you have to roll for 6-10 creatures and write down all the players' initiatives then write the order of who's going when... there any easy way to speed up the startup time?
Take up my suggestion, go to random.org and generate lots of random numbers from 1 to 20. You can use these to quickly get numbers for initiative, attack rolls, etc.

The room seemed like it had all kinds of potential for interesting combat and environmental manipulation but it was all wasted because they stayed crammed in the corner. : Is there anything I can do about that?
Sometimes it's good tactics to bunch up into a group. But if they do it *all* the time, you might try two methods ...

Stick method: Have a monster that can do AoE attacks lay into them. When they're all bunched up together, they're nice targets for that fireball or breath weapon :) . Tell the players either before or after the attack that it might be a good idea to spread out a little.

Carrot method: Explicitly tell players about ways they can use the environment to increase damage, etc. Give them a bonus to the roll the first few times, or make it really easy and fairly effective. Because their initial attempts at stunts and the like will be successful and effective, it may become second nature to them. But the bottom line is to set them up for success early on, and not penalize them too much (if at all) for fairly.
 

Zanticor

First Post
printed dice rolls... The world is coming to an end. Who wants to play a d20 game without rolling the dice? That is so big a part of this game I can´t even contemplate it. I pray to Pelor that 5th edition does not include your very own d20 number sheet.

Zanticor
 

Parlan

First Post
printed dice rolls... The world is coming to an end. Who wants to play a d20 game without rolling the dice? That is so big a part of this game I can´t even contemplate it. I pray to Pelor that 5th edition does not include your very own d20 number sheet.

Zanticor

I had a DM who did this, and it worked well.

As a player, I want to roll the darn dice. But as a DM, the more times I have to roll dice, the more appealing the printed die rolls are...
 

MadLordOfMilk

First Post
I might try the pre-printed dice rolls only for initiative (I couldn't bring myself to use them for other things, and I'd probably "peek" at the next number in line too much). Or, of course, I could just throw a half-dozen to a dozen d20s at once, but I usually have to lend dice sets to most of the players when I DM so I only have so many dice available - usually 3 sets behind the screen. Yeah, this is the first D&D (or really any pen and paper rpg) campaign for most of the players in the campaign I'm DMing so only two of the players have their own dice. It's also my first time playing anything long-term (I've mostly played a bunch of one/two-shot sessions with people) outside of NWN so it's a bit of a learning experience for everyone (though thankfully I know a few more experienced players I can go to for advice).
 

CharlesRyan

Adventurer
My biggest slowdown usually happens right at the beginning of combat - that is, rolling everything's initiative. Sure, I can roll several d20s, but when you have to roll for 6-10 creatures and write down all the players' initiatives then write the order of who's going when... there any easy way to speed up the startup time?

First, have one of the players deal with initiative. You have enough on your plate, and the players have free time when it's not actually their turn.

Second, don't roll init for each individual monster. A single init roll for each type of monster (all the minions go on 14, or whatever), or even a single init roll for all of the monsters. This makes things easier over the course of combat as well as at the beginning.

Third, consider a Paizo Combat Pad, or track init on an unused corner of the battlemat.

Players can also take longer than they should. I'm usually counting out 6 seconds in my head for them to start saying something (and if they don't they delay automatically) but that usually doesn't come into effect. It's usually, "ok, i'm going to uuuuuuuuse... this power which iissssss str vs ac so that's... 22?" "hit" "ok, now that's... 4+3+7... umm...14 damage."

Get the players to work out their attack bonuses and damage rolls for each power, and write it on the character sheet or power card. For example, instead of (or next to) "STR vs. AC," it should say "+8 vs. AC." Instead of (or next to) "[W] + STR," it should say "1d8 + 3."

This won't help indecisive or unprepared players speed up their action choices, but once they've made that choice it can shave off a good 10 or 15 seconds per player per round. That alone can easily shorten combats by 10 minutes.

Also, after a couple sessions I'm starting to see a bit of a pattern. My players like to stay in clumps and in general don't move around too much in combat.

Your players are handing their opponents a huge tactical advantage. Exploit it! One of the great aspects of 4E is that combat can be very tactical--it really makes a difference how characters move and occupy space. Your players will figure it out when you use their immobility against them a few times. Some ideas:

  • Area effects from enemy controllers that get all the players
  • If defenders won't move to intercept bad guys, send them around to attack your weak controllers and strikers
  • If your players aren't quick to engage, have the bad guys run away--into the next encounter, making your players have to fight two encounters at once

This is just off the top of my head--I'm sure other posters can come up with a few ideas!
 

Oh, another thing PCs can try is to use the Intimidate skill on Bloodied enemies into surrending.
Don't forget the +10 to the enemy's Will defense for being Hostile to the PCs (I think that's a safe assumption in combat!) along with possibly a -5 penalty on the check if the PC doesn't speak the target's language. These prevent a dedicated Intimidate-monkey for auto-"killing" bloodied enemies.
 

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