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D&D 5E How Do You View the Combat Round in 5E?

Is the 5E combat round a blow-by-blow telling of every action or is there other stuff as well?

  • It is a literal blow-by-blow of the action other than narrative freedoms.

    Votes: 14 24.1%
  • It has other things happening that aren't part of the actions but that creatures "do" still anyway.

    Votes: 41 70.7%
  • Other (please explain below).

    Votes: 3 5.2%

  • Total voters
    58

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
In AD&D 1E, a round was a full minute long. A lot was assumed to be going on during the round and when your turn came, it was your chance to get in a real strike or do something significant. Unsuccessful attacks and feints, parries, dodging and weaving, etc. were all part of the "back-and-forth" that happened during the rest of the time.

Now, in 5E rounds are just 6-seconds long. During that time you move, attack or cast a spell, possibly using bonus actions or reactions as well. In such a short time frame, does the game really become more of a "blow-by-blow" telling of the action or is there still enough time for all the extra stuff to go on? Personally, I am more inclined to think 5E does take a more literal every action is done. Sure, your AC assumes you are dodging, defending, or such in a passive way (unless, you actually take the Dodge action of course), so those actions don't need to be outlined in the flow of the action other than in the narrative.

My question is now how do you view the combat round in 5E? Is there extra stuff going on all the time or do you feel you are literally playing out each action?

EDIT: As @Charlaquin emphasizes, the combat round in 5E, although discrete in evaluating all the actions involved, is assumed to be simultaneous.
 
Last edited:

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I voted for blow-by-blow, but truthfully I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Because a round is 6 seconds, and each creature’s turn is also 6 seconds, in theory all of the action occurs simultaneously, rather than in discrete turns. So the way we narrate the combat can’t be entirely accurate. It’s an abstraction, meant to break the chaos of the fight down into more easily digestible snapshots.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
I voted for blow-by-blow, but truthfully I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Because a round is 6 seconds, and each creature’s turn is also 6 seconds, in theory all of the action occurs simultaneously, rather than in discrete turns. So the way we narrate the combat can’t be entirely accurate. It’s an abstraction, meant to break the chaos of the fight down into more easily digestible snapshots.
I second that. It's how I view it too. I have one player who is really good at adding non-mechanical "roleplaying" bits during combat. He's fun to watch. 5e (or any other edition) doesn't prevent players from doing that.
 

Puddles

Explorer
So I play a round is 6 seconds for mechanical aspects like spell durations, but when I am narrating the scene, characters’ and creatures’ actions are narrated to happen one at a time, and often I will describe a monster doing something in reaction to what a character has done to it or one of its allies.

It’s interesting that everything by the rules is assumed to happen simultaneously because it makes me ask “what is initiative order”? It seems like from the creature that goes first through to one going last is akin to a Cowboy high noon shoot-out with only nanoseconds of difference separating them.

I would much prefer a round to last 30 seconds, where it’s 6 seconds of action and the remainder of inaction. Dodging, weaving and hesitating etc. With a gap between those who act first and last filling up that 30 second window. It would make ability/spell durations more interesting too because some would actually run out, (I don’t have many combats that last more than 10 rounds).

The only time I would stick to the 6 seconds is when you are doing something like a chase scene where there is no inaction. But for chases I much prefer Skill Challenges anyway.
 

There's a great fight scene in The Last Samurai when Cruise's unarmed character (Nathan) gets ambushed in the village by 4 warriors. In the linked clip, the fight begins at 46 seconds and finishes at 70 seconds, a total of 24 seconds, or 4 D&D rounds.


In D&D rounds:

Round 1:
Nathan grapples with the sword of enemy #1, dodges a sword blow, blocks an attack by enemy #2, karate kicks enemy #3, and flips his grappled target to the ground in a somersault. Enemy #4 comes charging into the fray but isn't close enough to attack.

Round 2: Nathan disarms enemy #1 and blocks attack by enemy #4 while prone. He blocks multiple attacks while getting on his feet and kills off one of the bad guys with one slice to the stomach.

Round 3: While parrying blows, Nathan disables an enemy, who falls to the ground dying and takes a sword from another, now dual wielding.

Round 4: In a dizzying flurry, he flips enemy #4 to the ground and kills off 2 others.

The battle is over as Nathan relives in slow-motion every move and how close to death he was. Then enemy #4 decides instead of playing dead, it'd be a good idea to try and sneak up on this guy who just, in 24 seconds, took out your assassination squad.

So, realistically, there's tons of action going on that isn't going to be captured by a single d20 roll, and movement obviously is happening simultaneously in a way D&D rules can't capture. D&D's "passing the baton" example highlights how it doesn't work perfectly if you had 500 soldiers all spaced out 60' who each, on their initiative, Dashed to the next guy and handed off the baton, allowing in 6 seconds the baton to move faster than the speed of sound.
 


Mannahnin

Explorer
It's close to tracking blow by blow, but there's other stuff in there. I appreciate Charlequin's pointing out the abstraction inherent in rendering simultaneous action sequential for resolution.
 

I'm with @Charlaquin too on this one. Blow by blow but a lot more is hinted on. A six second round is both too short and too long when you consider all that happens. Too long at low level, too short at high level. 4 arrows in 6 seconds with any accuracy is insanely fast. Only one arrow is almost a joke... And the number of opponents also play a role in how much believability can be logical when considering that everything is occuring simultaneously.

1ed had it right. A one minute round was assuming a lot. A lot of parries and dodging to get that one opportunity to do a meaningfull attack sequence/spell/action was both more dynamic and allowed for a better narrative.
 

Dr Magister

Explorer
It's not blow by blow. I mean, almost all of the defensive stuff is abstracted away into Armour Class. All the parrying, dodging, moving to let blows glance off armour etc is just assumed to be happening. Taking the Dodge action just means you're putting more effort into it.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
I agree I would feel much better of not thinking of it closer to a blow-by-blow if it were maybe 10-second rounds even instead of 6 seconds.

In one discussion with our live group I proposed the idea of the 20-second round, where you could literally translate the d20 roll to the initiative count (totals higher than 20 would all happen at the start of the round). Now that we've house-ruled out DEX from Initiative, it makes even more sense in a simulation-viewpoint.

There's a great fight scene in The Last Samurai when Cruise's unarmed character (Nathan) gets ambushed in the village by 4 warriors. In the linked clip, the fight begins at 46 seconds and finishes at 70 seconds, a total of 24 seconds, or 4 D&D rounds.
Yeah, I love that scene. :)

Thanks all for your input so far!
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
In one discussion with our live group I proposed the idea of the 20-second round, where you could literally translate the d20 roll to the initiative count (totals higher than 20 would all happen at the start of the round). Now that we've house-ruled out DEX from Initiative, it makes even more sense in a simulation-viewpoint.
Neat little rule. But that is more than 20 seconds if they get a result above 20.

You go 23, 22, 21, then 20, 19, 18, 17, 16 etc?
 


6ENow!

The Game Is Over
Neat little rule. But that is more than 20 seconds if they get a result above 20.

You go 23, 22, 21, then 20, 19, 18, 17, 16 etc?

Thanks, I sort of liked it. But, that is why I wrote:
(totals higher than 20 would all happen at the start of the round).
But, you would still do them in order of course. Also, without DEX (or any base ability score modifier), only the PC with the Alert feat gets a +5, no one else can go before 20. We do allow class features that that add an ability score modifier (such as War Magic's Tactical Wit gaining INT modifier) to add to your Initiative d20 roll.
 

I voted for blow-by-blow, but truthfully I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Because a round is 6 seconds, and each creature’s turn is also 6 seconds, in theory all of the action occurs simultaneously, rather than in discrete turns. So the way we narrate the combat can’t be entirely accurate. It’s an abstraction, meant to break the chaos of the fight down into more easily digestible snapshots.
The closest you can get is using the 2E initiative setup, where you have to announce your entire turn before rolling initiative each round. This can allow a more flowing narrative, but it's still not perfect.
 

I think the fact that things like drawing weapons have an actual action economy cost (and if you want to sheath your weapon and draw another that’s your Action for the turn), tells us that mechanically it’s blow by blow, regardless of how you want to flavor it. I like to keep those fairly close in my own mind, so I lean towards the blow by blow approach.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
Other. Just move your paragraph about 1E to 5e
This.
I'm a 1e DM running 5e. There might be a number of things going on in a round. But even then my rounds - combat or otherwise - don't really have a time limit. Rather they expand/contract in relation to the plot. But however long they are, setting them to 6 seconds is just plain silly.

I had a perfect example of the absurdity of life lived in 6 second rounds on display a few months back in our Thur game.
The players were involved in the the chapter of Dragon Heist involving the Asmodeus Cult. Their PCs were going to break in/infiltrate the cult families town house, search it for a comrade who'd been captured, and escape. Possibly some burglary etc along the way.
So they started in the ally/street behind the house.
Advanced down the length of the outside wall,
threw a fireball into the tree tops to cause a distraction,
went mass invisible,
turned the corner & slowly snuck along the next wall,
climbed up to the roof/attic window & gained entry
etc etc etc
And then it all went south in the basement & they got themselves arrested by the Watch.

All of this took the better part of 3hrs of play. Much fun was had.
Guess how long it all took "in game", counted out in 6 second rounds?
slightly under 3.5 minutes "in-game" Yeah, that ridiculous. Rounds at my table are no longer hard-coded at 6 seconds long.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
There's a great fight scene in The Last Samurai when Cruise's unarmed character (Nathan) gets ambushed in the village by 4 warriors. In the linked clip, the fight begins at 46 seconds and finishes at 70 seconds, a total of 24 seconds, or 4 D&D rounds.


In D&D rounds:

Round 1:
Nathan grapples with the sword of enemy #1, dodges a sword blow, blocks an attack by enemy #2, karate kicks enemy #3, and flips his grappled target to the ground in a somersault. Enemy #4 comes charging into the fray but isn't close enough to attack.

Round 2: Nathan disarms enemy #1 and blocks attack by enemy #4 while prone. He blocks multiple attacks while getting on his feet and kills off one of the bad guys with one slice to the stomach.

Round 3: While parrying blows, Nathan disables an enemy, who falls to the ground dying and takes a sword from another, now dual wielding.

Round 4: In a dizzying flurry, he flips enemy #4 to the ground and kills off 2 others.

The battle is over as Nathan relives in slow-motion every move and how close to death he was. Then enemy #4 decides instead of playing dead, it'd be a good idea to try and sneak up on this guy who just, in 24 seconds, took out your assassination squad.

So, realistically, there's tons of action going on that isn't going to be captured by a single d20 roll, and movement obviously is happening simultaneously in a way D&D rules can't capture. D&D's "passing the baton" example highlights how it doesn't work perfectly if you had 500 soldiers all spaced out 60' who each, on their initiative, Dashed to the next guy and handed off the baton, allowing in 6 seconds the baton to move faster than the speed of sound.

That's the point, though, each round this is more than a single d20 roll.

Round 1: Grapples enemy #1, (passive AC) dodge and block, unarmed strike (kicks) enemy #3, knocks prone (flips) enemy #1.

So, I see maybe three d20 rolls (grapple, kick, knock prone) in round one, possible by an 11th-level fighter.

The disconnect between the dice rolls and the narrative is Nathan would "go first", and would need to use all three attacks before enemy #2 attacks him, but in the narrative his attacks would be grapple #1, kick #3, knock prone #1, with enemy #2 attacking him before the kick. In 5E with the current initiative, he would basically need to grapple #1, disarm him, and attack him/knock him prone, not allowing the sort of dynamic fight we see in the clip.

This is a perfect example of how I am thinking actions need to be spread out during the round, so greater interaction between creatures can take place (as it does in this scene).
 

That's the point, though, each round this is more than a single d20 roll....

This is a perfect example of how I am thinking actions need to be spread out during the round, so greater interaction between creatures can take place (as it does in this scene).

It also could be narrative, especially if players want to embellish how it all went down.

Round 1: Nathan, who probably has a level or more of Monk given his new training, replaces his base Attack with the special attack Grapple and succeeds. He then uses his bonus action monk unarmed strike to substitute his other attack as a disarm and succeeds, though the visual will be seen in Round 2. Enemies don't connect with their attacks (or if they do, with HP as an abstract, he isn't down to 0 and taking any real damage). It's a bland way to narrate what actually happened!

Round 2: Nathan now has a monk weapon and strikes a lethal blow. Depending on how you narrate hit points, he might have "hit" more than once though only one drew blood.

Round 3: Nathan "hits" another enemy, dropping him, and does another bonus action substitute monk attack to try "disarm," picking up the weapon as part of his movement since the DM allowed it. Some might feel that's interacting with an object since it's in a controlled space, but this isn't the time for that discussion. Nathan needs a cool narrative.

Round 4: Here we believe Nathan might have a couple levels of Fighter from his gunslinger days. He takes out 2 enemies with monk attacks and uses the Fighter feature Action surge to Shove the last one prone because it simply looks cool.

The "6 second" round definitely seems more suited to the heart-pounding action of Nathan's fight than a prolonged hours-long siege battle (wherein rounds might better be described in minutes).
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
It also could be narrative, especially if players want to embellish how it all went down.
True, but IMO things like this:
He then uses his bonus action monk unarmed strike to substitute his other attack as a disarm and succeeds, though the visual will be seen in Round 2.
Also, I am only looking at Round 1, but you ignored the kick he performed. Of course, if he has Extra Attack (either via Fighter or Monk), this could have been his second attack. Using his bonus action unarmed strike to disarm would also be DM fiat since technically it is actually an unarmed strike, not just an attack. shrug I'll probably allow it, personally, but other DMs might not.

As far as the enemies not hitting or "succeeding in reducing HP but not damaging him" works well for me given the abstract nature of HP. I've explained many times that a successful attack roll should NOT be considered a "hit" but more a "success."

I see your point though it could involve some narrative freedoms and "worked" to fit the scene, but I see it as a little bit of a stretch. Tomorrow I'll try reviewing the scene and more follow your flow.

Thanks for your insight! :)
 

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