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D&D 4E How long are your 4e combats taking, real time?

evilbob

Explorer
So it seems like thus far two major factors are cropping up repeatedly for those who say their battles last around an hour or shorter:
- Once the battle is a forgone conclusion, they stop.
- Heavily optimized damage parties go faster.

The second point is a hard one to really nail down, in my opinion, because if I know my party is heavily optimized, I just throw more stuff at them. That seems like a good idea for pre-made modules, but for on-the-fly stuff, it might be more subjective.

The first point seems very solid, however, and a really good idea. I'm definitely going to suggest that.
 

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Ulorian

Explorer
My XP is about 1-1.5 hrs each, depending on a variety of factors, 5 PC's
I'm running at about the same pace, also with 5 PCs. This applies to encounters at Level to Level +3; lower level combats can take 45 minutes or (rarely) less. We had a combat at Level + 4 run a hair over two hours. Party started at 1st and is now at 6th.

Party makeup: Warlord, Archery Ranger, Melee Ranger, Paladin, Swordmage.
 
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CoarseDragon

First Post
In one group we have five people all at around 7th level: Warlord, Fighter, Rogue, Paladin and Wizard. In this group our encounters take just about three hours to finish.

However in the other group (about the same level) we have a Beatmaster Ranger, Rogue, Warlock, one Cleric and one Defender, which is the new Warden class. These encounters take about 1 hour or less for very similar types of encounters.

I can only judge by this that the faster you kill them the faster encounters go.
 

Smeelbo

First Post
A lot of the posts in this thread are missing a vital piece of information: what level is the party? Party composition, and encounter level also useful.

Our party is hardly optimized, but favors strikers. And you're right, combat ends more quickly, one way, or the other.

I suspect that the combination of more options and more hitpoints relative to PC damage output means that higher level fights take longer.

Smeelbo
 

DrSpunj

Explorer
A lot of the posts in this thread are missing a vital piece of information: what level is the party? Party composition, and encounter level also useful.

Good point!

For my group of 7 PCs that just dinged to level 3 we've got:
2 Defenders - Nail's BRV Fighter & an Assault Swordmage
2 Leaders - Battle Cleric & Tactical Warlord
2 Strikers - Archery Ranger & Infernal Warlock
1 Controller - Staff Wizard
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
A lot of the posts in this thread are missing a vital piece of information: what level is the party? Party composition, and encounter level also useful.

Our 60-minute average is based on a "balanced" party throughout the entire heroic tier; one of every role, with one extra striker or leader.

I'm running one campaign with 3 strikers and a controller. Fights are lasting maybe 30-45 minutes, tops.

Experience is based primarily on the heroic tier. After running a dozen or so paragon-tier adventures, I can confirm they added another 15-30 minutes to the duration. Having said that, I've been intentionally running fewer (but harder) combat encounters at the paragon tier to make it feel a little bit different from the heroic tier... so that could be due to the encounter composition, rather than anything on the player side.
 

Truename

First Post
We play weekly with a strict 3-hour time limit; we nearly always finish two encounters in that time. I'd say about 1 hour for the battle and half an hour for explore/role-play/treasure. Climactic battles take longer--typically about two hours, sometimes longer.

First six months: H1 with pregens and 3-4 players per game
Last month and a half: SoW2 (Bordrin's Watch), 5-6 players per game (3 strikers, 1 cleric, 1 fighter, 1 wizard often absent), extra monsters in encounters due to party being lvl4 instead of lvl3.

Factors that have made encounters shorter:
- equal level or lower encounter
- equal level or lower monsters
- fewer non-minion monsters
- 3-4 players
- players knowing the rules & their characters
- condition cards, power cards, & other table management
- rolling attack & damage simultaneously
- lots of strikers

Factors that have made encounters longer:
- higher level encounters
- higher level monsters
- more non-minion monsters
- 5-6 players
- players waiting until their turn to decide what to do
- table talk and goofing off
- monsters with healing powers (orcs, argh!)
- high AC/defense monsters
- multi-stage battles (monsters joining the fray in later rounds)
- lack of a controller
 

Pbartender

First Post
- Heavily optimized damage parties go faster.

Actually, I don't see a real big difference from optimization... I see a much bigger benefit from effective teamwork. Battels in which the players are working well together tend to go a lot faster than those in which they are fighting as individuals.

A lot of the posts in this thread are missing a vital piece of information: what level is the party? Party composition, and encounter level also useful.

My party started at 1st level and has worked their way up to 6th. They started with an Elf Rogue, a Dragonborn Warlock, a Tiefling Paladin, an Eladrin Cleric and a Human Wizard. In rent weeks, a Human Warlord has joined the party and the Rogue died and was replaced by a Dragonborn Ranger.

I've seen no appreciable difference in combat lengths due to levels.
 

Some things just take a while, like drawing a map. My players joke that when I start to get a pen out, that means we're fighting - but seriously, it can take 5 minutes to detail a map, and the majority of the time you can't really draw them up beforehand, so hell no I'm not going to start drawing until it is necessary.

No comment on the playing out part of combat time but the map problem can be overcome. We use a battle mat with a thin piece of plexiglass over top. Simple open areas can be drawn. If you have detailed areas then you can prepare them in advance. You can get large pads of 1" graph paper from office supply shops. Take as much time as you like preparing the map and you can fold it up to keep it hidden. When the time comes just unfold it and slide it under the plexiglass. The glass will hold it firmly in place and keep it flat, and you can still use markers to draw temporary stuff on it.

We use wet erase markers of different colors for temp effects. Green for clouds, red for walls of fire, ect. You can spend as much time as you like, making the maps both for unique situations and stock indoor/outdoor areas and the game never needs to slow down. ;)
 

Ryujin

Hero
I would say that we average 1.5-2 hours per battle. Easy ones are over in maybe 45 minutes. Rarely any less than that. One was almost three hours, because I think we ended up calling down two full encounters on ourselves simultaneously.

Our DM prepares the combat scenes on large sheets of 1" graph paper before the session, so there's no setup delay.
 

Ismaul

Explorer
I've GMed a 5 PCs party up to lvl3, and up til now our fights average 2.5 hours, sometimes more. Way too much for me.

I plan for long combats, most of the times my players and I prefer to have one challenging fight per session than a couple of speed-bumps, so our encounters are often lvl+3. I expect our fights to last an hour, but not a couple.

Party composition is pretty balanced, I've got a Swordmage, Taclord, Rogue, Ranger and Wizard. One or two are under-optimized, especially the Ranger, so if we fix that we should win some time. Also, my players are starting to get the hang of the synergies between their characters and how to use them, so I expect our times to be chopped by a good hour.

Combat organisation isn't really the problem, I've been playing with these guys for years. We got power cards and all that good stuff too. Might need some better way to track conditions than a whiteboard.

Otherwise, a constant that has been plaguing my players is their bad luck. Every damn game, the dice says they fail by a large margin, over and over, while I can't help but roll high. I've started to even this out by switching to rolled PC defenses and static monster attacks, but that ain't enough. I'm thinking of introducing a house rule to counter their bad luck, bonuses on failures, maybe 3 rerolls per combat, ain't sure yet.

Next game, I'm cutting in the HP fat, slicing 2 per level for monsters and 1 per level for PCs. That should take care of final grind to shave off the last remaining HPs with at-wills. I'm also going for static average monster damage, which will both speed up monsters and make 'em a bit more reliable, deadly and challenging.


Any time a PC was bloodied or affected with some condition by a monster I'd throw them a marker that they'd place on the 2" base in front of them.

Hehe, uh, sorry to derail my own thread but hopefully someone else will find this helpful! :blush:
I will.
 

Markn

First Post
My experience has been that as the levels get higher, the combats take longer, though only slightly. I'd say the max has been an extra 15 minutes.

I would attribute this to two things. First, there seems to be many more conditions flying around that not only takes time to have saves for, but also prevents players/monsters from doing anything or at the very least making them less effective. Second, IMO HP's for monsters seem to go up faster than what PCs are capable of doing for damage.

Today, I read the Monster Design article over at WotC and it had a great idea. Turn a monster into a minion once the fight is a forgone conclusion to speed things up. Other posters have mentioned this and I will be trying this out. Sounds like a fantastic idea.

PS - Evilbob, congratulations on winning the Internet! It was a well deserved victory! ;)
 

Ravellion

serves Gnome Master
Between about 60 and 75 minutes, but we do have slightly optimized characters. So far I haven't felt the need to shorten encounters by reducing monsters to minion status though.
 

Nail

First Post
Our 60-minute average is based on a "balanced" party throughout the entire heroic tier; one of every role, with one extra striker or leader.

I'm running one campaign with 3 strikers and a controller. Fights are lasting maybe 30-45 minutes, tops.
Wow.

I'm amazed at how many people are claiming their combats take less than an hour. Incredible.

I'm currently playing in two different groups (different people in each). One of them is DrSpunj's excellent game. Combats in these groups (balanced party, level 3 APL in each) takes 2 hours per combat.

[I currently DM a 3.5e game. Combats in that game (balanced party of 5, level 4) take about 90 minutes. FWIW, most players are under age 14.]

I've DMed about half of KotS with a totally different group when 4e first came out, and combats were taking 2 hours. But that was when we were learning the system, so we all thought things would speed up after a few months of play.

For the most part, that hasn't happened.

........however, this past Wednesday I DMed another group through a bit of KotS, and we completed combats in about 45 minutes each. It felt like we were just flying, in comparison to all of my other recent 4e experience.

All told, I'm quite flummoxed with how long combat should take......
 

Nail

First Post
When the time comes just unfold it and slide it under the plexiglass. The glass will hold it firmly in place and keep it flat, and you can still use markers to draw temporary stuff on it.
I use this technique as well.

A thin sheet of plexiglass is just an awesome DM map-aid.
 

Ryujin

Hero
I've GMed a 5 PCs party up to lvl3, and up til now our fights average 2.5 hours, sometimes more. Way too much for me.

I plan for long combats, most of the times my players and I prefer to have one challenging fight per session than a couple of speed-bumps, so our encounters are often lvl+3. I expect our fights to last an hour, but not a couple.

Party composition is pretty balanced, I've got a Swordmage, Taclord, Rogue, Ranger and Wizard. One or two are under-optimized, especially the Ranger, so if we fix that we should win some time. Also, my players are starting to get the hang of the synergies between their characters and how to use them, so I expect our times to be chopped by a good hour.

Combat organisation isn't really the problem, I've been playing with these guys for years. We got power cards and all that good stuff too. Might need some better way to track conditions than a whiteboard.

Otherwise, a constant that has been plaguing my players is their bad luck. Every damn game, the dice says they fail by a large margin, over and over, while I can't help but roll high. I've started to even this out by switching to rolled PC defenses and static monster attacks, but that ain't enough. I'm thinking of introducing a house rule to counter their bad luck, bonuses on failures, maybe 3 rerolls per combat, ain't sure yet.

Next game, I'm cutting in the HP fat, slicing 2 per level for monsters and 1 per level for PCs. That should take care of final grind to shave off the last remaining HPs with at-wills. I'm also going for static average monster damage, which will both speed up monsters and make 'em a bit more reliable, deadly and challenging.

Getting the knack of ability synergy cerainly helps. One of our shorter fights involved me blowing 2 encounter powers, Otherwind Stride and Fey Switch, in order to drop our fighter at the feet of the big baddaboom evil guy. Rain of Blows followed shortly thereafter. Sure, I wasted the potential of doing damage and a possible imobility from Stride, but the amount of damage and instant advantage achieved by getting the fighter into the thick of it within two rounds more than made up for it.

Rather than cutting back on the opposition, try creating more opportunities for flanking, etc. for them. The more they start to think in terms of unit tactics, the faster things will progress. Maybe give them a round or two in which the opposition's leader screws up and is left vulnerable, through his "miscalculation"?
 

FunkBGR

First Post
I run a game 1/week every Friday:

2 Defenders
2 Strikers
1 Leader
1 Controller

Edit: Level 6 currently

I noticed a couple of our combats take awhile (2+ hrs), but lately, they've been shorter (1.5 hrs or less). I'm not sure if its because we've gotten the hang of things or not.

One thing I do that speeds things up - I let the players keep track of initiative and hit points. It's more relevant to them if I tell them someone is bloodied after they do 14 points of damage. It also might seem like too much information, but it's a good way to benchmark how much oomph they've put into the fight, and has been cause for them to run away from more than one fight.
 

keterys

First Post
Out of idle curiosity at one point I offered one of my groups that was being a little slow an extra magic item for every combat in an adventure that they finished in 45 mins or less - they made quite a lot of them.

A lot more of it is player/group organization than anything else as far as I can tell. I've showed up to play an LFR mod with three combats, a pure RP encounter, and a skill challenge, started at 6:30, handily finished at 9pm. Another group I might've been wrapping up at 11pm.

Now, Planesailing's combats are... a _ton_ of rounds so I can understand how they take so long (though I think there has to be something amiss for them to last that long on average), but if your combats are more like 6 rounds, with 6 people, and they still take 2 hours, that's over 3 minutes per turn and that's _way_ too high. It sounds odd, but maybe try stopwatching each person's turn for a couple battles. It would let you see how much is DM-side, how much is particular people, etc.

First tip, though? Tactical Perfection isn't worth it. Decide quickly and move on.
 

Ixis

First Post
In the games I've run and played in combats usually take 1-2 hours on average depending on levels, classes, player experience, etc. But from what I've seen player strategy and cooperation in tactics and planning are what really determine game length.

When I first started playing 4e we had an artificer, two paladins, and a warlock or warlord. That game lasted 6 hours and we got through 3 encounters with lots of players falling over and dying a lot (which is to be expected as we were new.) One game we had the artificer, one paladin, one rogue a barbarian and the warlord and we blew through 4-5 encounters in the 6 hour time limit (and we were about level 1-2.) The last game I played in we had a paladin, fighter, cleric and myself as a wizard doing a 1-3 level adventure, got through all the combat encounters (3-4ish) and actually completed the adventure with only one death (myself, the wizard.)

Now, when I'm GMing the times where roughly about the same. We're doing the Scepter Tower of Spellgard, with about 4-5 players (a warlock, sometimes a rogue, spellblade, ranger and a cleric.) They all started at levels 2-3 and now they're about 3-4. These guys are all DnD vets and work together and use tactics. The more they work together the faster combat goes. I've had to increase monster HP and become a little harder using more cunning for the monsters, and being less lenient on allowing them short rests but they're really resourceful.

I increased the monster levels by 2-3, increased the monster numbers by 1-3 standard monsters and increased their hitpoints by 25% last game and the players still managed to blow through 4 encounters in 3 hours (this right after a three hour combat, which was a bit more like 2.5 where the players where still getting into the groove of things.):-S

That's my curveball data, but I have a question: I'm afraid my combats are going to become easier and easier as time goes on. What have you found that helps make combat more difficult without making it longer?
 

Markn

First Post
A few more notes to add as I think on this topic.

Adding a 6th PC to the group will definately increase battle times. It generally increases the monsters by 1 or 2 creatures to account for the extra PC. It just makes things take longer - period.

Also, I will say that my group is very tactically superior in the sense that they work well together and look for ways to deal the most amount of damage without taking too long to make their decision whether its flanking, ganging up on one monster or any other tactic that helps. In fact, I have found that Encounters that are on equal level as the PCs winds up being too easy of a fight for them and consequently the average fight is 1 encounter level higher with some fights being as much as 4 encounter levels higher. Sometimes this means LOTS of lower level guys and other times it means higher level creatures. When using higher level creatures I try to avoid high defense creatures and typically use brutes because they can still be hit but also dish out a lot of damage.

The only thing I can think of that makes sense to me for the discrepency in fight lengths (with some claiming as quick as 15 minutes) is the style of encounters and the difficulty of encounters faced. Generally, most of my fights are meant to be a challenge. I'm not interested in running very many fights that don't have SOME level of risk associated with it because I feel like I just go through the motions then and I don't have fun as a DM. Its the challenge that both I as the DM and my players like.

We are on 8th level, have had only 1 PC death so far and the PCs have run from some fights so I think I've been pretty fair and have accurately gauged my groups tactical abilities.

To sum things up, additional PCs and typical encounter level fought in a battle I think are the biggest contributor to long fights. I would hope that DMG2 contains some optional rules to speed up combat. Our group has looked at a lot of options but most "damage" the balance of monster roles and the only thing we have been able to come up with that maintains that balance is adding half level damage to everyones damage rolls.

Anyways, thats my latest 2cp.
 

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