D&D 5E Length of Combat & Time Taken per Round (collecting data from my games - updated 2/11)

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
In the spirit of my "It's Official! Most of my encounters are 'Deadly'" thread, I have started collecting data in my current (and newish) in-person game regarding how long combat takes in real time. This is data I have long wanted to collect but kept running into the logistical snags of forgetting to start the stopwatch or losing track of the number of rounds. This time, however, I have recruited the players in collecting the data and we have successfully collected info from the last three combats and hope to continue to do this as the campaign advances.

The reason I want to do this is because I was curious about comparing my feeling (combats in my game tend to flow easily and quickly with everyone making choices without hemming and hawing) to reality and to compare it against the common claim that D&D combat takes too long and suggestions that range from it takes 20 minutes to play out one round to it takes 20 minutes for one person to take a turn! (If I had to play that way I'd be unhappy too!).

So I began timing our combats in our 9th session and determining the average time per round (a round meaning everyone gets to take their turn - players and opponents). There is one snag in this data however. The average time per round is thrown off slightly because I find it easier to remember to start the timer if I do it as soon as I call for initiative to be rolled. So, the total time I list below includes the amount of time it took for everyone to roll initiative and for me to jot it down on a dry erase board. I stopped the timer as soon as we got out of initiative. As such, the average time per round should be slightly faster than listed.

Session #
EncounterCombat Type
Party Level
IG Rounds
RW Time
Average / Rd
9​
2 hellhounds*
G​
2​
5​
31:37:00​
0:06:19​
10​
3 wolves
G​
2​
1.5​
11:46:00​
0:07:51​
10​
4 wolves + Rabid Blink Dog**
G​
2​
5​
32:20:00​
0:06:28​

I think it is a fair expectation that as the group advances in level and things grow more complicated the average time per round will go up, but it will be interesting to me to see by how much. They just hit 3rd level at the end of the last session.

For the record, most combat in my games is done on a grid and we often play with terrain and have a pretty tactical approach. However, we do occasionally have theater of the mind combats, so it will be interesting to see any difference. In fact, I went back and added a category to the table while prepping this post to indicate if the combat was G (grid) or ToM (theater of the mind) for future reference).

The average of the averages is 6 minutes and 53 seconds per round. That strikes me as a perfect amount of time for four players to make their choices and take their actions and for the DM to run the monsters. In the future I am going to try to remember to hit the "lap" button every time a round is done, to test my theory that rounds go faster as the combat progresses, however, doing all of this is predicated on whatever I have to do to collect this data not actually interfering with the flow of the game since that would undermine the whole point of the exercise and potentially disrupt the fun. I don't want either of those to happen.

I may try to collect this data for my online game as well to see if there is a marked difference (though that game has 5 players and the characters are 4th level).

Anyway, I don't have much to say about this data yet (there is a long way to go to have a decent sample size), but wanted to set up the thread for future sharing of info and preliminary discussion. I will say, however, that so far so good. Combat in my games moves along at a pace that works and doesn't feel that different from the combats at the end of the last campaign with these same players which ended at 7th level (well, not "ended," that campaign is on hiatus until these characters reach that level).

* These hellhounds were tweaked to be CR 2 version (instead of CR 3)
** The "rabid blink dog" (really a homebrewed sick cooshee) was not defeated and got away, so they will have to face it again.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
So we played our 11th session yesterday and unfortunately our time-keeping/round-counting endeavor didn't really stick as well as it did in the previous session.

There were three combat encounters. For the first one we remembered both to keep track of rounds and keep track of total time. Unfortunately, for the second one we forgot to keep track of rounds and couldn't figure it out to our satisfaction looking back (despite being a short one) and finally we had a LONG final combat that I both forgot to stop the timer at the end and failed to count the rounds. That last fight lasted about an hour (a few minutes more is more guess) and was maybe 10 to12 rounds - but not sure enough to say.

Thus, I am only adding one bit of data, from the one fight we have reliable info for.

Session #EncounterCombat TypeParty LevelIG RoundsRW TimeAverage / Rd
112 Death DogsG360:26:410:04:27

The fight would likely have been much shorter except that the party rogue was scouting ahead by himself when he was spotted (via scent) by a death dog before he could sneak back and warn the party. It took three rounds for his companions to reach him once they heard his yelling.
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
This definitely is worth doing. It would be interesting to see if others have similar results.

My "gut feeling" is that 5e fights are usually 2-5 rounds, but that "factors" can make them stretch longer (like a PC ahead of the others, a boss fight, reinforcements). This is after years of running it, but I have to admit, I never actually checked.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
My "gut feeling" is that 5e fights are usually 2-5 rounds, but that "factors" can make them stretch longer (like a PC ahead of the others, a boss fight, reinforcements)

In my own games (where the kinds of factors you mention + many others are common), my guess is that most combats are around 6 to 7 rounds, with it not being that rare for them to last as long as 10 or 12.
 


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