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Systems Where You Dread Running Combat

Same. If a game gives me that much of a visceral dislike to a part, the whole isn't going to work when I'm running it. And even if it's something I could hack out of the game, there are umpteen million other games that don't entail that work competing for time.

Now, I have found myself as a player in games where I didn't like the combat mechanics, or some other part of it. I generally stuck it out, based on trust in the GM, but those games often didn't last. If you are unsure on it, chances are someone else in the group will have the same reaction, if not everyone else. And from there, the game isn't going to last. People will lose interest, find excuses why they can't play this or that session. The players will stop being invested in the game.

If there's any part of a system I dread, I'm not running it. I'm probably not even playing it.
 

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Argyle King

Legend
I wouldn't say "dread" because I still generally enjoy playing, but sometimes the slowest part of contemporary D&D is combat. Using HP as the primary way of making monsters tougher slows things down.

Sometimes, it's clear that the monsters will lose, but it still takes a lot of time to get through the numbers.

I think it may be skewed expectations I have from other games. In GURPS, shooting somebody in the face typically leads to killing (or at least disabling) that target; in D&D, in means they lose some HP.

I learned some tricks while DMing to build D&D 4E monsters differently and alleviate that problem from later tiers of 4E. I haven't yet found a good solution for 5th Edition at later levels.
 

For me, what differentiates 4e from classic D&D attrition is that most hits have not only the attrition component but some sort of forced movement and/or debuff component. Which is much more directly connected to the fiction.

That was my point; that there's hit point attrition and hit point attrition. OD&D has almost no mechanical support for anything but just slugging away and chipping something down. Anything further was an essentially arbitrary negotiation between the player and the GM, and as such easily taught people not to try in many cases.

Once you get into a game that bakes in things like status effects, action denial and forced movement, its a very different game in the field.
 


Having changed (back) to running OSR and pre-WotC versions of D&D a while ago, it's amazing how much faster and more interesting combat is. There is no $&@#! reason for monsters to have hundreds upon hundreds of hit points.

Even though OD&D didn't have modern numbers, it still turning into an attrition thing; it wasn't like the FM with doing 1D8+3 was going to get through something with 20 hit points all that fast, after all.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Even though OD&D didn't have modern numbers, it still turning into an attrition thing; it wasn't like the FM with doing 1D8+3 was going to get through something with 20 hit points all that fast, after all.
1d8+3 will chew through a 20 hp monsters faster than 1d8+5 will chew through a 100 hp monster.

Or, more to the point: the 19 hp a TSR era ogre sported go by much faster than the 59 hp a 5e ogre has.
 

1d8+3 will chew through a 20 hp monsters faster than 1d8+5 will chew through a 100 hp monster.

Or, more to the point: the 19 hp a TSR era ogre sported go by much faster than the 59 hp a 5e ogre has.

5e isn't the only modern version of D&D, and not all of them ramp up hit points while leaving damage alone.

That said, the point was that, between needing to hit and the damage, that 20 hit point monster is probably still six rounds of combat, which may be more than some people want.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I wouldn't say "dread" because I still generally enjoy playing, but sometimes the slowest part of contemporary D&D is combat. Using HP as the primary way of making monsters tougher slows things down.
Except that it doesn't.

With bounded accuracy they have reduced the high defenses (AC and saves) that made more attacks miss which reduced average damage. With damage reduction removed they have taken away another place damage was reduced all the time.

The end result is more hits for more damage each and combats that work out to the same length.

Which is what they were going for - tuning HP so that combats went about as long as they would in previous editions.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Except that it doesn't.

With bounded accuracy they have reduced the high defenses (AC and saves) that made more attacks miss which reduced average damage. With damage reduction removed they have taken away another place damage was reduced all the time.

The end result is more hits for more damage each and combats that work out to the same length.

Which is what they were going for - tuning HP so that combats went about as long as they would in previous editions.

That hasn't been my experience.

Of the rpgs I currently play, D&D combat drags the most. Even when it's relatively fast, it seems largely static.
 

That hasn't been my experience.

Of the rpgs I currently play, D&D combat drags the most. Even when it's relatively fast, it seems largely static.
Your experience isn't typical, I'd hazard.
In a 3 hour session in store of D&D 5E, I've routinely gotten through 3-4 encounters of "average" difficulty.
Sentinel Comics it's more like 2-3 encounters of "average" difficulty
In a 5 hour session of AD&D 2E, in store, I would struggle to get through the Retail Play modules with 5-10 encounters.
In my home games, AD&D combats typically took 30 minutes to an hour. Cyclopedia, 20 to 40 minutes. 5E varied from 10 minutes to an hour, save for double-deadly which ran up to two hours.
My SG1 game via discord had several hour to 1.5 hour fights, but that was because of careful use of terrain and the slowdown of VOIP gaming with a VTT, and two players severely prone to analysis paralysis.
 

There's always a situation where lack of meaningful decision making can end up speeding up a combat because, well, turns cycle fast. If you've got fighters that just move up to the nearest target and swing until they fall down, and spellcasters who have an SOP they drop into as a default, the amount of actual time most incarnations of D&D have to take up is limited.

There are two issues here of course:

1. There's some important caveats buried in that regarding spellcasters. Even if a fighter doesn't have much overhead, spellcasters can end up spending a lot of time dithering because they have a finite resource to use (or not).

2. Even if a fight is comparably fast, that doesn't mean its not tedious. In OD&D it was not uncommon that the only useful decision in combat for a fighter was picking his target. That could make combat as interesting for someone playing one as watching paint dry. I'd rather have a combat that was three times as long where I had a sense that I had some actual decisions were to be made, and not just iterating against a counter until the target fell down. But of course for people who don't want to do that, that extra time is a distinct deficit.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
That hasn't been my experience.

Of the rpgs I currently play, D&D combat drags the most. Even when it's relatively fast, it seems largely static.
So if you are comparing D&D to other RPGs, that's pretty much meaningless as a response, which was comparing this to previous versions of D&D where the rounds of combat has stayed fairly static even moving to lower defense but more HPs.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
I dread (and so don't play it anymore) combat in Champions. I like Supers for the personal drama which develops. Champions combat would eat all the game time up so I never felt a living world had room to grow.
These days I have been real lucky with my Basic DnD games. The players I had would use the environment, team coordination and swashbuckling actions to create pretty wild combats. We used the "to-hit" roll to cover many physical actions one could take in a chaotic melee. My games seem to have grown into everything being roleplayed and the players (and myself) describe actions we intend to take and play it out. With group initiative there is an opportunity to coordinate actions, deciding who does what first. combat roll is only used when it is time to achieve a result. Even this extrapolated on. Players get to narrate their hit, dirty tricks are used. The to-hit roll becomes an indicator of success/failure as well as degree of success/failure if the roll is really extremely bad or good.

TLDNR; if your combats are boring you are doing boring things. Become interesting, ruthless and unrelenting.
 

TLDNR; if your combats are boring you are doing boring things. Become interesting, ruthless and unrelenting.

This requires a great degree of trust that your GM will both engage with the description, do so in a consistent fashion, and do so in a way that having done it makes it not actively counterproductive. The way that fails on both sides is legion.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
This requires a great degree of trust that your GM will both engage with the description, do so in a consistent fashion, and do so in a way that having done it makes it not actively counterproductive. The way that fails on both sides is legion.
I guess. Since 2012 when I got back into gaming I've run USR Sword & Sorcery campaign 3 years, BRP Clockwork & Cthulhu 3 years, B/X fantasy campaign 2-1/2, Champions 6 months, and now DC Heroes 10 months. All different people in each of these groups. All recruited online, complete strangers, and all these games were run online with minimal props. Just theater of the mind. Either I am the luckiest guy when it comes to randos dropping in or more likely, everyone at the table wanted to the have the best game they could possibly have. I put some work into creating vivid NPCs, I think this was my strength through all this. It helped with player investment real quick. They had NPCs they really had mean-ons for and this would produce teeth-grinding encounters with some serious banter before blades, guns and flaming oil were drawn.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
TLDNR; if your combats are boring you are doing boring things. Become interesting, ruthless and unrelenting.
I think this is an over-simplification. There are only so many ways you can describe the same "I swing my sword" and "I cast Eldritch Blast" before people start rolling their eyes. When the battle scene is already taking over an hour, nobody is going to care what it looks like this time.

Sometimes the problem really is the clunky combat system. Not always, but often enough for it to be a common complaint.
 

I guess. Since 2012 when I got back into gaming I've run USR Sword & Sorcery campaign 3 years, BRP Clockwork & Cthulhu 3 years, B/X fantasy campaign 2-1/2, Champions 6 months, and now DC Heroes 10 months. All different people in each of these groups. All recruited online, complete strangers, and all these games were run online with minimal props. Just theater of the mind. Either I am the luckiest guy when it comes to randos dropping in or more likely, everyone at the table wanted to the have the best game they could possibly have. I put some work into

Note my comment about having legions of failures on both sides doesn't mean it'll fail out all the time (an I'll note a couple of those systems are not entirely "toss it in the GM's hands what you want to do and hope he'll handle it well", even if you're running TotM (which as I've noted before is more an issue of how good everyone's spatial memory, description and imagination than any of the issues I was talking about, and people often range from okay to pretty good there)). My observing its fraught is not an identical set with describing it as always failing (if that was so, almost no OSR game would be very satisfactory to most people).


creating vivid NPCs, I think this was my strength through all this. It helped with player investment real quick. They had NPCs they really had mean-ons for and this would produce teeth-grinding encounters with some serious banter before blades, guns and flaming oil were drawn.

That's an entirely separate issue to how interesting or not combat is.
 

I think this is an over-simplification. There are only so many ways you can describe the same "I swing my sword" and "I cast Eldritch Blast" before people start rolling their eyes. When the battle scene is already taking over an hour, nobody is going to care what it looks like this time.

Sometimes the problem really is the clunky combat system. Not always, but often enough for it to be a common complaint.

Even games that give active benefits to narration you'll find people losing the thread on doing that over long enough time. Over and above "I swing my sword" descriptions, trying to come up with new things that are interesting off the top of your head every round is just not something everyone is going to do. Sometimes having something to spark you is good.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
Add the ingredients together; environment, adversary, the collection and health of the PCs, the stakes, and then environment again. Widen the lens. There is enough variables there is always something interesting to do. And this is not exclusive to the PCs. NPCs can do interesting things as well. I'm not saying go over and above I swing my sword every time. Do it enough so combat is not boring.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
I think this is an over-simplification. There are only so many ways you can describe the same "I swing my sword" and "I cast Eldritch Blast" before people start rolling their eyes. When the battle scene is already taking over an hour, nobody is going to care what it looks like this time.

Sometimes the problem really is the clunky combat system. Not always, but often enough for it to be a common complaint.
Could you define clunky?
 

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