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D&D 5E Length of Combat & Time Taken per Round (collecting data from my games - updated 3/13 with an hour 30 minute 11 round battle!)

I wonder how much of this contributes to most campaigns not getting to 13th level? I mean 3 hours for one fight is as long as we play each week. I can see how sometimes the slow but exciting part is needed, but still.

No one is idle for 30m.

Keep in mind, lots of AoE mean lots of need to roll saves plus being attacked in melee. People may not be doing things but their character is being impacted.

Saves can also be a point of jeers & cheers. "Augh! I failed the save & took 72 damage!" Then "you are within 10ft of paladin, add +6 to save which succeeds....so 36hp. Except it's a spell and the Paladin's aura cause spells to do half damage so...18hp. Whoo!"

And then there are Reactions. The fighter12/wiz3 has the "guard" maneuver that can protect others,the monk can catch & throw back missiles, the Bard can interfere with NPCs, warlock can mistystep as a reaction, cleric has hellish rebuke in his armor, etc, etc.

This was also a drawn out fight as it was boss fight. We dealt close to 200hp to the Artificer (before resistances & saves) in the surprise round.

Earlier editions hit points were just lower. A 1e red dragon only has like 100hp.

I'd be very curious to see if there's a marked difference between VTT tables and in-person tables.
Fwiw, we are hybrid. We have a 40" TV mounted under plexiglass and use that as our "battlemat". DDB is used for most player rolls. I think GM uses Roll20 for the mapping and some initiative tracker for npc stuff.
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I was able to scroll back in DDB to the non-boss battle ending the prior session. Iirc, we were down familiars and had the steeds guarding a the back trail so I decreased the allies.

This is what I would consider a moderately easy encounter for us. The sorcerer had cone of cold & the priest dropped a flamestrike on us so both were 9ish.

EncounterCombat TypeParty LevelNbr PCs + familiars/ steeds/ etcIG RoundsRW TimeAverage / RdAverage Rd per PlayerAverage Rd per character
Priest (9th-ish), sorcerer (9th-ish), 4 bodyguards, 2 bugbears, 4 lizardmen (12)Grid/VTT in person156+23 rounds55 minutes18 minutes3 minutes 1 minutes


I know many seem boggled by how fast I run my games
I don't think I'd have blinked had you said that your players took 1 minute or less to take their turns. in your first post on the subject, you said you took 1 minute A ROUND. That's 20 seconds (or less) per player INCLUDING THE DM. Even less if there's more than four players!

While I don't want to say you're wrong (nor yet claim that you're being in any way dishonest) I just find it impossible to believe. I can absolutely get behind your group being quick! But THAT quick? You're right - it BOGGLES.


Moderator Emeritus
Wow, compared to @el-remmen 's data for 2nd-3rd level party with 3-4 min rounds, @kigmatzomat your 15th level party had an 18 min round! Am I seeing that right?

I doubt my local group (or any I run) will get to 15th level - but if it goes as expected, we'll get to compare the round length of the same group playing out combat from 2nd level to about 10th.

EDIT to add that this makes me want to start my next campaign at 10th level.:unsure::cool:

Wow, compared to @el-remmen 's data for 2nd-3rd level party with 3-4 min rounds, @kigmatzomat your 15th level party had an 18 min round! Am I seeing that right?
Yes, but keep in mind a) 6 players (plus pets) and b) 12 enemies of 5 different types. Even doing group initiatives for creatures of the same type, That is at least 13 initiatives for 20 creature turns.

All the non-casters got 2+ attacks for 30+ attack rolls each round (at least until foes started dropping) plus whatever the 5 casters were doing.

There is a lot going on in those 18 minutes.

I doubt my local group (or any I run) will get to 15th level - but if it goes as expected, we'll get to compare the round length of the same group playing out combat from 2nd level to about 10th.

My group is pretty special in that most campaigns either die in 2 months or are multi-year affairs. I had to drop out for a while so I missed the start of this game and came in at 8th level in spring 2022. We game 6ish hours every other week, plus some light planning via DDB messages.

Having run games at a lot of levels, if this is something your group is not experienced in, do a kind of accelerated warm up. Run "flashback" sessions at lower levels, letting them get accustomed to the abilities and have time to make adjustments. Consider 3 flashback sessions at 7th, 8th, and 9th level, allowing them to level up after each one and letting you adjust what magic items you want them to have.


Eternal Optimist
Here's a fairly easy combat (4 level 11 PCs vs 2 CR 7 skeletal knights). 3 rounds - 10 minutes in total.

Round 1:
  • Parren lobs a fire bolt for 19 fire damage.
  • Hrothkar rages, moves into melee, and strikes twice recklessly (attack rolls of 26 and 29) for a total of 25 piercing damage.
  • Vermin fires her light crossbow and misses twice.
  • Tordek moves into melee and misses three times. (Dice rolls of natural 3, 2 and 3).
  • Skeletal warriors were surprised and don’t act.
Round 2:
  • Parren fireballs both warriors (excluding the party) for 37 fire damage. (one saves, the other fails).
  • Hrothkar strikes twice for a total of 24 piericng damage.
  • Vermin fires her light crossbow and hits once for 16 piercing damage.
  • Skeletal Knight hits Hrothkar with its enervating blade attack for 13 necrotic damage, a second time for 18 damage, then once more for 16 damage
  • Tordek uses his reaction to strike the Skeletal Knight for 9 damage
  • The second Knight attacks Hrotkhar three times for 15, 14 and 17 damage.
  • Tordek hits a Skeletal Knight for 13 damage, killing it (it fails its Undead Fortitude check). He strikes the other for 20 damage, knocking the Knight prone.
Round 3:
  • Parren casts toll the dead for 17 necrotic damage, which the Knight fails to make the DC 17 Wisdom save.
  • Hrothkar strikes twice with his Dragonlance for 31 total damage
  • Vermin finishes off the Knight with two well-placed crossbow bolts (9 and 12 damage).
(I'm writing up the final session of our Shadow of the Dragon Queen campaign for my blog, this comes from that).

14 different lines of actions, approximately 40-45 seconds per "turn". Played on Roll20 with D&D Beyond/Beyond 20 integration.


So comparing that to our easy level 15 cultist fight, we had 20ish turns averaging 18 minutes. That is 54s/turn. Given the extra attacks per turn and the greater density of enemies requiring more saves/paperwork (i.e dragon breath on a familiar hit 3-4 foes, lightning javelin caught a line of 6 foes, etc), the differential is negligble on a turn level, it's just the volume of turns needed to be a challenge for 6 PCs at 15th while having campaign-appropriate foes.

I will say we had some very fast battles that are too far back in the DDB history to find. Rooms full of soldiers or undead or aberrations where we'd lob in a fireball/synaptic static, the cleric ran in with Spirit Guardians and then one hit from a sword, arrow or eldritch blast would finish them. We burned through like 7 of those 2-round encounters, plus a tougher fight against a group of trolls, in one 6-hour session. Add time in for searching for treasure, scouting, listening at doors, etc, and I feel our fights were paced well.

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