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Pathfinder 2E How fast are your combats in online play?

JmanTheDM

Explorer
Hey all,

while this may not only apply to Pathfinder, I'm finding the below question more pronounced in Pathfinder.

I've now run about 22 sessions of Pathfinder 2e, 100% of them online. I've used Roll20 for the first 16 sessions and switched over to Fantasy Grounds for these past 6 sessions. Played Fall of Plaguestone first, switched to The Slithering for these past 6 sessions. Game sessions are 4 hours long.

I can only really get 1 combat done per game session. this past Saturday, we extended play by 1.25 hours, where we WERE able to complete 2 combat encounters.

is this normal? I really have no yardstick to measure if this is normal because of online play and being brand new to the Pathfinder (any edition) experience.

Stylistically - if this matters, I tend to be descriptive in my combats "blood splattering here, vines grabbing you and whipping you about..." that sort of thing. I also purposefully ask my players to assist with combat descriptions gm: "describe that killing blow", player "[awesome description that takes like 30 seconds]" this will obviously slow things down.

Also, every player in my group is brand new to PF - so learning the rules and lookups happen quite a bit, and every player (myself included) is new to FG - so learning the interface. each will slow things down as well.

however... all of that being said, and I acknowledge this will be a slower play experience - what is a "typical" PF session like? for typical here, I think one-shot organized play would be a good gauge since they tend to be scheduled for 4 to 5 hours? were I an organized play GM, how many combat encounters would I be expected to run at the table to complete the session?

I think I need to figure out strategies on speeding things up. how do you move things along?

sorry for the wandering post! :)

cheers,

J.
 

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kenada

Hero
Supporter
I’ll start with the disclaimer that I never ran official adventures. The only adventure I ran was converted from another system (Winter’s Daughter, from OSE). Combat never took us all that long. I never bothered to time it out, but it almost never dominated the time we spent playing. Of the sessions we played online, most were run in roll20. We now use Foundry, but I have only run a few sessions in it so far.

Stylistically, I tend more towards a narration style more like a war story (edit: or sports announcer) than anything particularly evocative. I also like to weave turns together, so that one turn segues into the next. From what I gather from prior discussions here, my style is a bit idiosyncratic. I also expect it’s not the reason why combat doesn’t take up a lot of time in my sessions.

I don’t really have a good answer for how to speed up official modules. Are you using the initiative trackers and other tools provided by your VTT? Is your group struggling with their difficulty, so they take longer? How many rounds do they last on average? If they’re more than a few rounds (2–4), then something might be off.
 
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JmanTheDM

Explorer
Thanks Kenda,

combats typically last no more than 4 rounds. but those 4 rounds normally take on average 2 hours. (5 players + 1 gm, all level 5 PC's right now).

I get the feeling, based on nothing save impressions I have built up over time that a "typical" PF convention game or official module run at home would see maybe 3 combat encounters + exploration + maybe a few skill challenges + some role play between PC's and with NPC's. That would be how I would structure a 5e game (for example) if I were building a one-shot 4 hour session. 3 fights max.

no way I can do this in PF2. and I can't figure out how to speed up my game play.

now, stupid stuff does happen - especially since we switched to FG at the VTT - things like "I accidently closed the battlemap, how do I get that back", or "Oops, I forgot to control-click on the monster", or "how do you ping a location like you can in roll20". this is learning curve, to be expected.

we also do a lot of rule lookups during play - but I've mostly asked a player to do the online searches and copy/pasta the results into chat.

both of these in-game situations I've tried to discount. I know that online VTT play is slower, but I have no calibration from the real Pathfinder Pro's just how much slower. is a 2 fight/night 4 hour play session "typical"? if it is, then I need to speed my play (inside and outside of combat) by maybe 25%.

cheers,

J.
 

I use Foundry for my PF2 online play and we can do half dozen simpler combats in 2 hours tops. Two things come to mind why it is taking so long. Roll20 is terrible and Fantasy Grounds is better but still not optimal. The other thing is players and/or GM are just taking too long debating what to do. I'm the forever GM and I can have a monster turn done in 30 seconds or less most times unless there is a spell with multiple saves or something similar. Players I find especially when new get stuck with what to do with one action that is left and take time looking for something meaningful to do. This is my opinion.

If you would ever like to try Foundry feel free to message me and I can show you what I'm talking about.
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
You’re doing better than we were. It took us 100 hours to complete Fall of Plaguestone, and that was with little meaningful interaction with the NPCs.
 


!DWolf

Explorer
I don’t play online but for comparison: when playing in person a simple fight can take as little as ten minutes while my extremely elaborate death trap encounters or boss fights can take up to an hour and a half. We play four hours a session and my games have four to six players.

If you can, you might try recording a session and then going back and timing things to see what actually is taking up the time - 2 hour fights seem really long.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
You’re doing better than we were. It took us 100 hours to complete Fall of Plaguestone, and that was with little meaningful interaction with the NPCs.
WOW! and I don't mean that negatively one bit.

we can do half dozen simpler combats in 2 hours tops.
Can't even imagine how to do that. I don't think my speed "issues" is strictly constrained to the VTT, but I cannot see me and my players being able to pick up the pace that much. This saturday (to not give away too much spoilers), there was a magically summoned creature Trap, which once the trap was figured out and counteracted the "fight" ended. this took 1 hour. We then had approx 1 hour of exploration, healing, opening a few doors, checking out a few rooms, finding a secret and scouting to setup the next fight. then 2 hours of this next fight with 2 level 7 creatures (a severe fight).

wow!
Players I find especially when new get stuck with what to do with one action that is left and take time looking for something meaningful to do.
there is certainly some of that going on. I do encourage tactical play at the table, so I could be an enabler.

If you can, you might try recording a session and then going back and timing things to see what actually is taking up the time - 2 hour fights seem really long.
not a half bad idea! may figure out how to do this. we use Discord for our voice chat when online.
when playing in person a simple fight can take as little as ten minutes while my extremely elaborate death trap encounters or boss fights can take up to an hour and a half. We play four hours a session and my games have four to six players.
so you would have maybe 3 "fights" a night on average? (on those nights that are particularly fighty?)

cheers,

J.
 

WOW! and I don't mean that negatively one bit.


Can't even imagine how to do that. I don't think my speed "issues" is strictly constrained to the VTT, but I cannot see me and my players being able to pick up the pace that much. This saturday (to not give away too much spoilers), there was a magically summoned creature Trap, which once the trap was figured out and counteracted the "fight" ended. this took 1 hour. We then had approx 1 hour of exploration, healing, opening a few doors, checking out a few rooms, finding a secret and scouting to setup the next fight. then 2 hours of this next fight with 2 level 7 creatures (a severe fight).

wow!

there is certainly some of that going on. I do encourage tactical play at the table, so I could be an enabler.


not a half bad idea! may figure out how to do this. we use Discord for our voice chat when online.

so you would have maybe 3 "fights" a night on average? (on those nights that are particularly fighty?)

cheers,

J.

The higher level you are playing the longer it takes. Trust me on the VTT Issue though. I switched from Roll20 to Foundry and could never go back after trying it. Offer is always open to show you.

Compex hazards can take a few rounds to disable but without seeing actual play from your group it’s hard to know for sure where the problems are.

I’d recommend what the above person mentioned and do a recap video if you can.
 

!DWolf

Explorer
so you would have maybe 3 "fights" a night on average? (on those nights that are particularly fighty?)

If it helps, the last three sessions of my jungle game:

1st) The entire session was a skirmishers in intricate spaces fight. It had a haunt, three fights with a couple monsters each, the Snake Temple (see the Handbook of Hazards thread if you want the gritty details, but basically an infinite number of summoned creatures and a monster with a lure ability) and then a very challenging boss fight with a boss multiple minions and a hazard. Took a little over four hours.

2nd) There was a lot of looting and outfitting and figuring things out, a magic ritual to be performed, a fight with a giant shark (1 round as they managed to get out of the water), a role play scene with a mephit, a ‘fight’ with a giant sea urchin (it was mostly them figuring out how to get around it, then succeeding), the Snakes Gullet encounter from the handbook, followed immediately by a level 5 monster, followed by them exploring a temple, and then the Blood Pool encounter. This session took about 4.5 hours.

3rd) A mixed social/boss fight in the temple. Then a lot of role play as we finished the book, followed by leveling up and shopping (after being stuck on an island my players were excited to shop!) and more role play. Took 4 hours but an hour of that was leveling up and shopping.

Also: This is sort of like making sure the computer is plugged in but you might also check your players builds. Make sure they didn’t forgot the four free attribute boosts and that they have the appropriate magical gear (striking runes, etc.).
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
We have played through Ages of Ashes and are in the middle of Extinction Curse, and playing online we typically get through about three combats a session with an equal amount of non-combat time in 3-4 hours. So about 30 minutes an encounter. Some much faster, some slower, but that's probably the average.

Possibly surprisingly, level did not have much of an effect on time. We ran at pretty much the same speed at level 2 and 20.
 

Furmyr

Villager
I feel the number of players have far more to say then the level. Two sessions ago we had two missing players (we are usually six), and we got a lot of stuff done. We also got to start an hour earlier than usual, so we got in 5 hours. Adding in some roleplaying, some talking about computer games or whatever else, and I think 30 minutes per encounter sounds about right.

Four combats encounter and one avoided due to clever use of skills in one session. Last session we were back to full troupe, and we only got through two encounters (though one of them a boss fight). The group is level 14 at the time. Higher levels enemies take some time to get down, as they are harder to hit and more hit points. But lots and lots of lower level enemies are surprisingly quick.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Thanks Kenda,

combats typically last no more than 4 rounds. but those 4 rounds normally take on average 2 hours. (5 players + 1 gm, all level 5 PC's right now).

I get the feeling, based on nothing save impressions I have built up over time that a "typical" PF convention game or official module run at home would see maybe 3 combat encounters + exploration + maybe a few skill challenges + some role play between PC's and with NPC's. That would be how I would structure a 5e game (for example) if I were building a one-shot 4 hour session. 3 fights max.

no way I can do this in PF2. and I can't figure out how to speed up my game play.

now, stupid stuff does happen - especially since we switched to FG at the VTT - things like "I accidently closed the battlemap, how do I get that back", or "Oops, I forgot to control-click on the monster", or "how do you ping a location like you can in roll20". this is learning curve, to be expected.

we also do a lot of rule lookups during play - but I've mostly asked a player to do the online searches and copy/pasta the results into chat.

both of these in-game situations I've tried to discount. I know that online VTT play is slower, but I have no calibration from the real Pathfinder Pro's just how much slower. is a 2 fight/night 4 hour play session "typical"? if it is, then I need to speed my play (inside and outside of combat) by maybe 25%.

cheers,

J.
For six players (including you) to take 2 hours to complete four rounds each player is taking a whopping 5 minutes to resolve their turn.

I would encourage the following behaviours
  • Prepare their action in advance
  • Allow out of turn discussion but keep it high level not minutia. It’s one thing to assume that adventurers would have established set play tactics in advance but another to allow them to openly debate action consequences mid combat.
  • Limit roleplay in combat to what can reasonable be expected to be said in a couple of rounds... no 5 minute speeches.
  • Players should do the math in advance and be ready to know what their key modifiers are. Only of-the-moment adjustments should need to be made.
  • Know your abilities
  • Follow these rules yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to say if you can’t decide what to do, you can delay initiate and Act later once you’ve decided.

This last is powerful if used fairly, and soon resolves people who are debating endlessly what to do.

I really would try and minimize mid combat rule searching. Make a call - even if generous - if it gets the game moving. A slow fight is a killer to tension, pace, excitement and the sense of achieving people should achieve.

Combat should be an exercise in tactics and decision making - not concentration span.
 


JmanTheDM

Explorer
For six players (including you) to take 2 hours to complete four rounds each player is taking a whopping 5 minutes to resolve their turn.

I would encourage the following behaviours
  • Prepare their action in advance
  • Allow out of turn discussion but keep it high level not minutia. It’s one thing to assume that adventurers would have established set play tactics in advance but another to allow them to openly debate action consequences mid combat.
  • Limit roleplay in combat to what can reasonable be expected to be said in a couple of rounds... no 5 minute speeches.
  • Players should do the math in advance and be ready to know what their key modifiers are. Only of-the-moment adjustments should need to be made.
  • Know your abilities
  • Follow these rules yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to say if you can’t decide what to do, you can delay initiate and Act later once you’ve decided.

This last is powerful if used fairly, and soon resolves people who are debating endlessly what to do.

I really would try and minimize mid combat rule searching. Make a call - even if generous - if it gets the game moving. A slow fight is a killer to tension, pace, excitement and the sense of achieving people should achieve.

Combat should be an exercise in tactics and decision making - not concentration span.
Good Advice. thanks for it!

for The Slithering, we switched from Roll20 to Fantasy Grounds. I'm loving the move, but others are having to deal with the learning curve which is no doubt expending the length of time.

I think we also expand the length of combats simply by how our table describes their turn. it generally goes something like this:
Player a: "OK. so, there are some Goblins there right? and the Leader one is right in front of me?" (because, looking at the VTT and noticing the different tokens is more difficult for some
GM Me: "Yeah, here is the situation once again" with maybe some VTT pings to explicitly show where boss goblin vs. Mook goblins are
Player a: "OK. so, for my 1st action I'd like to move up to the first goblin"
GM Me: "Ok. move your token to where you want to be?"
player a: moves the token. maybe misses the original square, futzes around a bit, gets to the proper location.
Player a: "Ok. for my second action, I'll cast x spell on the goblin leader" (making this next part up for illustration purposes)
GM Me: "sure, but this spell is an emanation which means that Player b and c will also be caught up in the effect"
Player a: "Oh, yeah, right, I forgot... err, uhm, ok, then if I instead of moving here on my 1st action, I shift 2 squares over to here, that'll work better?"
GM Me: likely allows this, because I'm a great big pushover.

this example is an exaggeration, but not an extreme one. couple of things going on here
  • Unfamiliarity of the rules and system. all my players are casual Pathfinder players, and PF, once I stop running the game will not be played at any other time.
  • unfamiliarity of the VTT, and FG is not a simple VTT, so there is a lot of describing where inside the terrible UI and interface can you find the features and options (like, we're 7 sessions into The Slithering and I'm still having to show where to find your XP field)
  • Discord is used for voice. but I think we may have opportunities to be more efficient with the use of chat outside of your turns. I like your ideas above about limiting RP during your turn, and I think a way to offset the tactical conversations is to shift that to Discord chat so others can have a tactics conversation while I'm working with the Player who's turn it is to resolve their actions.
  • I also think I need to limit my tendency to ask the players to describe and share in creating the narrative for cool actions that happen inside of combat. I very frequently get my players to describe what happens with a particularly notable event - eg. Dropping an enemy, performing a cool Leap, casting a spell with a notable result (good or bad). I also do the same quite a bit. Cut that down will certainly shave seconds off of everyone's turn.

I'm playing this Saturday. There are a couple of techniques that I've been reading here (and elsewhere) that I hope to try out in order to speed up play. tough balance because I think my players (I know I do!) like the descriptions and ability to participate in creating the fiction, and turning this into a more "mechanistic only" discussion will take some of that away.

Cheers,

J.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
Normally We’ll run through 4+ encounters in. 2+ hour session.

A combat that lasts 3-4 rounds probably takes... 1 minutes?
Just making sure I understand this correctly.

you are saying it takes your table - Minutes (1-10) to complete 4 rounds of combat?

do you use a VTT? is there any roleplay inside of combat (by this I don't mean dialogue, but descriptions of the combat? is your combat like: "I strike, I get a 26, and do 16 points of damage". or "I swing my sword at the Goblin, I get a 26, and do 16 points of damage, and I dive at the Goblin to get under its guard and take a gash out of its thigh. the Goblin rears back in pain and anger"
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Good Advice. thanks for it!

for The Slithering, we switched from Roll20 to Fantasy Grounds. I'm loving the move, but others are having to deal with the learning curve which is no doubt expending the length of time.

I think we also expand the length of combats simply by how our table describes their turn. it generally goes something like this:
Player a: "OK. so, there are some Goblins there right? and the Leader one is right in front of me?" (because, looking at the VTT and noticing the different tokens is more difficult for some
GM Me: "Yeah, here is the situation once again" with maybe some VTT pings to explicitly show where boss goblin vs. Mook goblins are
Player a: "OK. so, for my 1st action I'd like to move up to the first goblin"
GM Me: "Ok. move your token to where you want to be?"
player a: moves the token. maybe misses the original square, futzes around a bit, gets to the proper location.
Player a: "Ok. for my second action, I'll cast x spell on the goblin leader" (making this next part up for illustration purposes)
GM Me: "sure, but this spell is an emanation which means that Player b and c will also be caught up in the effect"
Player a: "Oh, yeah, right, I forgot... err, uhm, ok, then if I instead of moving here on my 1st action, I shift 2 squares over to here, that'll work better?"
GM Me: likely allows this, because I'm a great big pushover.

this example is an exaggeration, but not an extreme one. couple of things going on here
  • Unfamiliarity of the rules and system. all my players are casual Pathfinder players, and PF, once I stop running the game will not be played at any other time.
  • unfamiliarity of the VTT, and FG is not a simple VTT, so there is a lot of describing where inside the terrible UI and interface can you find the features and options (like, we're 7 sessions into The Slithering and I'm still having to show where to find your XP field)
  • Discord is used for voice. but I think we may have opportunities to be more efficient with the use of chat outside of your turns. I like your ideas above about limiting RP during your turn, and I think a way to offset the tactical conversations is to shift that to Discord chat so others can have a tactics conversation while I'm working with the Player who's turn it is to resolve their actions.
  • I also think I need to limit my tendency to ask the players to describe and share in creating the narrative for cool actions that happen inside of combat. I very frequently get my players to describe what happens with a particularly notable event - eg. Dropping an enemy, performing a cool Leap, casting a spell with a notable result (good or bad). I also do the same quite a bit. Cut that down will certainly shave seconds off of everyone's turn.

I'm playing this Saturday. There are a couple of techniques that I've been reading here (and elsewhere) that I hope to try out in order to speed up play. tough balance because I think my players (I know I do!) like the descriptions and ability to participate in creating the fiction, and turning this into a more "mechanistic only" discussion will take some of that away.

Cheers,

J.
I say well done for keeping the fun and resisting it just being “I roll to hit, and get x damage”.

System mastery takes time. It took me an hour for three players to do the first three rounds of combat in WFRP 4e because we were explaining as we go. That will speed up naturally.

Also, good on you for not being a dictator and punishing players for not remembering rules like spell effects. There’s a way to be a DM and a human. Sounds like you have a good balance!

Im not convinced Roll20 is any slower than other similar VTTs but I’m not going to argue with people about it.
 

cmad1977

Hero
Just making sure I understand this correctly.

you are saying it takes your table - Minutes (1-10) to complete 4 rounds of combat?

do you use a VTT? is there any roleplay inside of combat (by this I don't mean dialogue, but descriptions of the combat? is your combat like: "I strike, I get a 26, and do 16 points of damage". or "I swing my sword at the Goblin, I get a 26, and do 16 points of damage, and I dive at the Goblin to get under its guard and take a gash out of its thigh. the Goblin rears back in pain and anger"

Yeah... that’s a typo.
But, using Roll20... 5 players..., I’d say a 4 round combat takes... from initiative to end of fight something like 20-25ish?
Things that seem to help:

One thing that keeps it moving is I make my moves quick. The NPCs don’t dither, they act.

Thing 2: my players are pretty dialed in to what they want to do in the moment. I think the VTT initiative tracker helps some of my players see who’s where in line and I tend to remind people that they’re coming up.

Thing 3: Battles don’t always go to the last hp.

Thing 4: I will often briefly recap the moment before a players turn before I ask “what do you do?”. I can’t prove it but I feel like it kind of gives the player a sense of urgency.

I also think the VTT “dice” rolling speeds up combat by eliminating things like finding the right type/number of dice for an attack. Then adding the hunter mark dice.. and then the sneak attack dice(I exaggerate but...) and having spell descriptions and DCs and damage in one click seems to speed up spell casting.

Regarding RP in combat:
That happens a lot too. A lot of “so I hit with both weapons and I do a double slash through the skeletons chest”
Or
“My floating holy symbol of Pelor swoops over and impales the guy.”
Some of the players are less flowery but a lot of times I’ll ask/suggest a description.

Maybe I overestimate how quickly things go(now I’m actually gonna record how it goes and see) but I think the OP said 2 hours for 4 rounds. That seems like there’s a lot of “dead air”.


Edit:
Two things I’ve overlooked from the OP!
1: pathfinder. I play 5e so my input may be completely useless! Hooray!

2: new players. New players will be slower. My advice is to encourage them NOT to look at their sheets for “things to do” and just “do”. When I see my players (2 new ones at my table) looking at their sheets for “something to do” I say sometimes say something like “tell me what your looking to do here and I can help make that work”.
 
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JmanTheDM

Explorer
Thing 2: my players are pretty dialed in to what they want to do in the moment. I think the VTT initiative tracker helps some of my players see who’s where in line and I tend to remind people that they’re coming up.
I think this is a GREAT bit of advice. one that I know but don't use. Player a is up now. Player B is up next. remind Player B that they are next and get ready with their actions. even that minor reminder and prompt will likely help "focus" player b... again, really good advice!

Maybe I overestimate how quickly things go(now I’m actually gonna record how it goes and see) but I think the OP said 2 hours for 4 rounds. That seems like there’s a lot of “dead air”.
not a lot of "dead air" (I'm reading this as silence and quiet time). the conversation is pretty constant. I think what is happening though is there is a lot of "tweaking". players looking up their feats, measuring on the grid, etc. I also think there is a really large.... don't even know what to call it... Permission? bias. players will first say what they are doing, I'll acknowledge their intention, then the player will DO what they were intending, I'll resolve the action, then we will likely narrate the fiction based on the result of the action. we can likely optimize in 2 ways. 1st, reduce the "permission" of stating what the player would like to do. instead - do it, and I'll call you on it if I need clarification. so in most cases, jump straight to the 2nd part. Next optimization is to retain narration and shared fiction creation but maybe be more judicious on its use?

you compound those 3 steps to every action, across a 3-action resolution mechanic, and it starts making sense why each action (not turn) is taking like 90 seconds to resolve.

hmmm.

Cheers,

J.
 
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JmanTheDM

Explorer
Also, good on you for not being a dictator and punishing players for not remembering rules like spell effects. There’s a way to be a DM and a human. Sounds like you have a good balance!
Nah! we're living in pandemic times, my PF2 game was started back in April as a "hey, I know we all can't meet in person right now, would anyone be willing to experiment with online play and this new game?" (both were brand new to my group of friends). they graciously agreed to both (and both have turned into roaring successes, especially online play going from 1 game - this one - to today, our small local discord has nearly a dozen in-progress games). Anyway, this home-game version of PF has always felt like a "pickup" game to me - we play to cope with Covid, and once things get back to normal we get back to our in-person games so being a stickler never really crossed my mind. Also, to be fair - I have 0 experience with PF play, so I have no concept of what a "typical" game of PF would even feel like. I simply revert to my standard mode as described above.

and PS. to give you a sense of play.
Plaguestone: 16 x 4 hour sessions, 5 players + GM. This got us to Level 4.
Slithering (so Far): 7 x 4 hour sessions, 5 players + GM. we are basically 1/2 through chapter 1 Archive of the sun god location. they just leveled up last session (Level 5 to 6)

Cheers,

J.
 

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