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Speed in combat and magic

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Something I've noticed while playing a mid-level wizard (and ghost-playing another player's cleric at the same time) is that often the following will happen:

1. I'll spend a round working out my action - looking up the spells available, picking one, and having the text ready for when the effect goes off (X2 because of ghosting)

2. The monster will have it's go immediately before me, and take an action which blows my original plan to dust.

3. I'll be forced to slow down the whole combat going through step 1 all over again.


Short of just having spellcasters delay until after the creature's go - does anyone have any solutions to this?
 

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Fingol

First Post
Make simpler plans; try being just a firing platform. With a few feats you can cast Magic Missile from a variety of spell slots.

Simplify your choices so that all you have to choose between is direct damage on one critter or direct damage on lots.

Once you find you are getting bored because it takes you seconds to have your turn while the fighters are having trouble with the math of adding their to hit bonuses among their multiple attacks you can try making it a bit more complex again.

Start small; maybe add buff spells: buff myself or buff someone else in the party?
Maybe from there: add the option of debuffing the critters you are fighting and so on...

If you find you are again starting to spend too much time revising decisions and rereading spells; limit the spells you pack to those with only a few lines of text. If you do pack a complex one try to figure out before the session the tactical situations that you might use it for. If that situation is not there on your turn cast MM and roll your d4s.

However don't forget to pack those spells that help your group outside of combat, otherwise you might as well play a sorcerer(ess)

Ofcourse you could avoid combat all together and use the intelligence and natural wit that all wizards possess and try to talk your way out of more situations.
 

Lord Pendragon

First Post
The only solution that comes to mind is to be very familiar with the spells you have available. This is particularly easy with a wiz/sor, since they have relatively few spells available, harder for a cleric. But if you have a very good grasp of what your spells can do, you aren't going to need to do much more than scan the battlefield, then scan your spell list really quick.

Also, (and I'm not saying you do this, but thought I should address it,) if your original plan fails, don't waste time trying to come up with another "perfect spell usage." Just fire off a Magic Missile or something, and start planning for the next round. If something comes to mind immediately, then great, but don't hold up combat trying to find another clever use of the perfect spell. Toss something out and move on.
 

Thanee

First Post
Yeah, when playing a wizard you should know what you can do and thus decide quickly on your action, just like a fighter who decides on how much power attack, combat expertise, trip, or whatever is being used.

You have more options, so you need better preparation.

Follow the chain of events, which is the combat round. Re-evaluate your plan for the round while the other actions are resolved. If it becomes pointless start to make up a new plan according to the new situation immediately. Also keep in mind who is fighting whom and how the situation will most probably be when your turn comes up.

Do not wait until your initiative comes up before starting to think about what action you could possibly do. You have almost a full round worth of time to do this, use this time.

Bye
Thanee
 

kolikeos

First Post
as a player of a 6th level sorcerer, i find it pretty easy to remember all the effects and descriptions of the spells i can cast. although it may take a week to choose new spells as i level up, it takes little to no time to choose what spell to use in combat.

"hi DM, you remember the spell from last round? the one with 6d6 fire damge?"
"yeah"
"well, i cast it exactly here, where it can hit all the goblins"
lol :p
 


Henry

Autoexreginated
Varianor Abroad said:
Can you provide a couple examples of your plans and what monsters blew them into dust and how?
You need to delay until just AFTER the monsters go. :) Actually, you are doing this already. Depending on point of view, you are going BEFORE the monsters' next round - you're just doing it the round beforehand. But if that concerns you, just tell the DM you are delaying until just before the monster's turn, which you can do, ply your spells, and then the monster does his thing.
 


Rel

Liquid Awesome
Having played a goodly number of Wizards over the years, here are the pointers that I can offer:

1) Spend as much time as you can scrounge reading over your spell descriptions while not in the game. Preparation fuels inspiration. Look for little things in the description of the spell that you may not have noticed. You may see something that would make that spell particularly useful in a certain situation that you are likely to encounter.

2) When you think of some kind of special tactic that would work with a spell, WRITE IT DOWN. When running a Wizard, I keep a little pocket notebook that serves as his Spellbook. When I scribe a spell into it, I write the name of the spell on one of the pages in the book. Underneath that I jot down notes about that spell that will jog my memory about its effects.

3) Try to keep some spells on tap that are useful in a lot of varied situations. Direct damage spells are good because you almost always have a target that you want to directly damage. But also spells like Web, Obscuring Mist, Darkness, Invisibility, Levitate, etc. These let you escape bad situations, go places you normally couldn't, provide "area denial" for the enemies, cover a retreat or generally sow confusion among the ranks of the enemy. You can almost always find uses for these that will be helpful and doesn't require a ton of thought.

4) Remember you are not perfect. That also means that your plan needn't be perfect. A decent plan RIGHT NOW is almost always better than a perfect plan later. The fighter doesn't crit with his sword every round. You don't have to execute the perfect, tactically optimal spell every round.

5) If you just cannot possibly think of any useful spell to cast in a relatively short time, Delay or fire a ranged weapon.
 

Janx

Hero
welcome to life.

It's good that you spent the round planning, before your turn. And when the bad guys foil that plan, just before your turn, guess what...

they foiled your plan. You have 6 seconds game time to react. In the real world, your friends probably give you a little more time. But in the end, as a GM, I've got every right to give you a time limit and stick it to you. That's realistic. Wizards fumble and stutter in a fight, especially when they're on the front line. And especially when they're trying to do complicated stuff.

For your specific case, you need to figure out why your plans are getting foiled, and fix that. I think most of us are puzzled as to what kind of actions your planning to do, that a bad guy moving or dying greatly throughs off. Make sure you're not getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Make a plan, and do it. If it's not quite perfect, deal with the aftermath.

Janx
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Janx said:
welcome to life.
they foiled your plan. You have 6 seconds game time to react. In the real world, your friends probably give you a little more time. But in the end, as a GM, I've got every right to give you a time limit and stick it to you. That's realistic. Wizards fumble and stutter in a fight, especially when they're on the front line. And especially when they're trying to do complicated stuff.

Janx
Well, probably the simplest one is "the monster moves and the spell becomes a very unwise choice" - AOE spells when the creature is in melee, targeted spells when the monster moves out of sight, that sort of thing.

The next situation that has happened is when a spell has been interrupted, and the next spell was to take advantage of it.

Oh, and note - I'm talking about quite quick decisions here, even when plans change. But it still remains that choosing a spell that's appropriate isn't nearly as fast as saying "I hit it with my sword".
 

Janx

Hero
absolutely. No one's disagreeing that it sucks to have a plan foiled. But it is realistic, and that's where you can risk losing a turn, and it looks realistic.

Imagine various stories (Presto in the D&D cartoon comes to mind) where the wizard is quickly rifling through his spellbook (not taking any real actions) while the fighters are holding off the monsters, wondering when he's gonna do something useful...

I'd avoid AoE spells, unless it is a battle opening move. Once you close into melee, they are probably the wrong spell-type, unless you can lob it into the rear ranks (which might make some bad guys retreat). We're talking fireballs and lightning bolts here. They are good for "I'm first and you're not standing next to me" situations.

And if you delay your first action to be move BEFORE the monster in the next round, then you can get over the monster foiling your plan. You're not really losing any actions, other than the fighters "seem" like they are getting an extra round in. It's like this, assuming the initial order was: Fighter, Monster, Mage

Fighter attacks
Monster attacks
Mage delays action to change order to right before the monster
Fighter attacks again
Mage casts spell
Monster goes
...repeat the last 3 lines until monster is dead...

This gets you over the Monster changes everything right before your turn

Try using "enemies only" spells like Sleep that targets unfriendly people only. Nice and safe "area effect spells" There's a variety of those.

Summonings are always useful. Dire Badger of trouser shreddings always work for me...

Also, don't stand in front. That gets you attacked. Casting Defensively always works when I see it done, so you could try that, to avoid having spells foiled by an AoO.

Janx
 

Chimera

First Post
Saeviomagy said:
But it still remains that choosing a spell that's appropriate isn't nearly as fast as saying "I hit it with my sword".
I disagree. If you know your spells well enough - and you only have so many memorized - then it should be no big deal to cast a different spell. If you're having this much trouble deciding what to cast, then you either don't know your spells well enough (fixable by spending time reading up on them) or you're making things too complicated for yourself.

I used to allow players to take almost as long as they liked to decide what to do, but I got seriously tired of waiting 10 minutes for a guy to decide exactly where he wanted to place his miniature and what goblin to attack. For my next campaign, you get 15 seconds. Period. If you can't decide in that time, you do nothing. As someone above said, sometimes you don't always do the perfect move, you fidget, you stall, you stop and stare. We're trying to enact a 6 second turn here, not play chess.

Also as someone above said, don't wait for your turn to decide what to do. You've got everyone elses actions too. Use that time wisely. Waiting until it's your turn, then looking at your spell list is like watching the store cashier ring up all your stuff and tell you the total before even thinking about pulling out your checkbook. Sucks to be waiting in line behind you.
 

Hi Saeviomagy,

Ghosting the second character most likely does not help and is probably the biggest problem for you. It simply takes your focus away when you need it most.

I am currently playing a 13th level wizard who has a massive collection of spells, over 46 spells to select each day and four metamagic feats to combine with them. I have managed this by creating spell slot sheets in Excel. I just write in the spells into the rectangular slots and cross them off as I use them.

However, I have four of these sheets pre-generated to represent a few different occasions:
- A Generic Spell Selection (Mainly used for rest days and unspecified downtime)
- A Research Spell Selection (When creating items, researching spells etc.)
- An Adventuring Spell Selection (mainly mayhem, violence and a couple of utility spells)
- A Travelling Spell Selection (Similar to adventuring but with a focus on Teleports, Phantom Steed, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion etc.)

In this way, I just pick up the sheet, rub out any previous crosses and get to it. On the whole, it works excellently - you just end up knowing all your spells backwards. Trying to play a wizard otherwise was just a nightmare and slowed the game down too much - as you have found out. This system works very nicely as a DM as well.

What are your thoughts?

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise
 

Lord Pendragon

First Post
Chimera said:
I disagree. If you know your spells well enough - and you only have so many memorized - then it should be no big deal to cast a different spell. If you're having this much trouble deciding what to cast, then you either don't know your spells well enough (fixable by spending time reading up on them) or you're making things too complicated for yourself.
I'm not sure I would go quite this far. When I play a spellcaster, I tend to know my spells very well. But that doesn't mean there aren't times when I'm slightly hesitant. A spellcaster doesn't just need to determine what's most effective, he also needs to judge how much of his spellcasting to expend, whether it's worth it to endanger the rogue to fireball the three guys around him, if he should toss Dispel Magic on the glittering fighter or save it in case the enemy mage has prepped Dominate Person to use on his fighter... There's a lot involved in spellcasting that makes it decidedly more complex than a fighter's role, which, as Saeviomagy stated, basically boils down to "I hit it with my sword."

That said, another suggestion is to buy/make a Wand of Magic Missile or Scorching Ray. Or both. Holster them on your belt and if you find your previous spellcasting plan foiled and no other plan comes readily to mind when it's your turn, draw a wand and fire. Then start thinking about next round. :)
 

Al'Kelhar

Explorer
What's with the whole "watch out you don't hit your friends with your AoE spells"? I've played wizards for years now, and it's an endearing trait of all my wizards that they nuke the party along with the bad guys. It's a cost-benefit analysis, and who in the party is best able to undertake said analysis than the neutral-aligned wizard with the genius intelligence? Besides, the monk and the rogue have evasion, the cleric has resist elements up, and the fighter has hitpoints up the wazoo. Hit points are one of the most readily available and readily recovered resources in the game. When the party's surrounded by girallons with five attacks per round and a rend, or by undead beasties with life-leaching abilities, you want the combat over in as short a time as possible. Killing the bad guys with the collateral damage of hit point loss to your own party may well be the best strategy!

On the actual question asked, I agree with all the previous comments!

Cheers, Al'Kelhar
 

Crass

First Post
Dumb question, but do you play with a gridded battle mat/miniatures, or not? If so, get or make some area of effect templates - to scale 20' radius spheres, cones, etc - which you can use to help visualise what you can and cannot safely do.

Another thing, which applies whether you use a battle mat or not - never be scared to do nothing but a full move in a round of combat. You may do a little less damage for a single round, but you put yourself in a better position for the rest of that combat. And, as Lord Pendragon mentioned, have a couple of wands with your favourite spells to hand.
 

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