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Systems Where You Dread Running Combat


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Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
Clunky means "awkward and difficult to handle," "outdated," or "heavy and cumbersome."
Thank you. I would apply heavy and cumbersome to Champions. I can't think of any other game I've played where the rules got in the way of me managing a superhero pace for a superhero game. I passed on Savage Worlds when I read it. That system fits the first descriptor.
 

Argyle King

Legend
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.

Perhaps not, but I'd posit that you needn't look far to find threads trying to do monster design and HP differently.

Anecdotally, the slowest games in which I've been involved have been Adventurer's League.

I think 5th is relatively fast in the first tier of the game. It gets slower as the game stacks more numbers vertically.

It's also worth mentioning that "drag" isn't strictly just time either. Yes, time is a large component. However, how that time is spent is also relevant. 4th Edition could also be very slow, but encounter design was more dynamic with more moving pieces, so it often felt like more was happening (even when the amount of rounds was the same). Likewise, combat was less static.
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
I don't read @Jay Murphy1 as talking about vivid descriptions. It's about exciting actions and their resolution.

Like @Thomas Shey, I'm not sure about the universalisability of the particular mechanical techniques being used, but that's a separate thing.
 

Argyle King

Legend
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.


See my previous post for comparison to other editions of D&D.

I mentioned 4E in my previous post.

3rd Edition was slow at high levels but for different reasons.

In my previous post, I mention time as well as how time is spent.

4E was slow because of growing HP. But I've found that "fixing" 4E encounter design and monster math -without screwing with other parts of the game- was easier. Also, as already said... there was usually a better illusion of something happening, even if I was just chipping away at HP.

For similar reasons, I find that FFG Star Wars combat feels smoother. In D&D, we're counting encounters. In Edge of the Empire (a version of FFG Star Wars,) the group I usually game with has had session-long "encounters" which were fun to play through because they were always evolving and moving forward in some way. Rather than X-encounters per day, slogging through HP, and so forth; an encounter could (and has) encompass a chase, a tie-fighter battle, a blaster shoot out, and a rush to jump to hyperspace before being tractored into an empire ship. Playing through all of that as one huge evolving encounter still worked and transitions from one scene to the next almost always feels as though you're moving toward something. It rarely feels like I'm chipping away at a largely unchanged situation.
 

I do not agree. Fighting a hated enemy is surely more interesting than fighting the town guard? On either side of the table.

Not intrinsically, no. I've been in combats over the years with theoretically big bads we've had to deal with the consequences of for weeks of play, and they still weren't interesting to fight, and I've had one-off opponents who were.
 

I'm not understanding what you mean here. Care to clarify?

Fraught means there's a lot of failure states, not that it automatically fails. Like most such things you can have groups and individuals for whom its never a problem (and of course individuals for whom it is but for various reasons don't say so).
 

Thank you. I would apply heavy and cumbersome to Champions. I can't think of any other game I've played where the rules got in the way of me managing a superhero pace for a superhero game. I passed on Savage Worlds when I read it. That system fits the first descriptor.

Where, while I consider Hero probably a bit more than I want to deal with, I always found it dynamic and engaging, and find Savage Worlds usually an acceptable compromise.
 

It's also worth mentioning that "drag" isn't strictly just time either. Yes, time is a large component. However, how that time is spent is also relevant. 4th Edition could also be very slow, but encounter design was more dynamic with more moving pieces, so it often felt like more was happening (even when the amount of rounds was the same). Likewise, combat was less static.

This is the thing I mentioned earlier; a game that has combats that are twice as fast but a quarter as interesting is not a win from where I sit. When combat gets dull enough, almost no gain in speed is worthwhile.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
The more I run Starfinder, the more I realize how unnecessarily complicated it is.

Last session, a player used a smoke grenade and it took us like ten minutes to find the three pages where the appropriate rules were. I'm dreading the next combats where they'll use something of the sort again.
 

The more I run Starfinder, the more I realize how unnecessarily complicated it is.

Last session, a player used a smoke grenade and it took us like ten minutes to find the three pages where the appropriate rules were. I'm dreading the next combats where they'll use something of the sort again.

I'm always a little startled when something like that is difficult. I run Fragged Empire regularly, and a smoke grenade creates visual cover in X area and lasts X time and that's all they needed to tell you since everyone needs to know the cover rules anyway.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
Where, while I consider Hero probably a bit more than I want to deal with, I always found it dynamic and engaging, and find Savage Worlds usually an acceptable compromise.
As a game master I would not be allowed to make rulings. I found in a game of Champions roleplay would be routinely interrupted by someone digging through the book to point out a very specific rule. Usually after saying wait, let me look that up. I agree Hero is simple. 11 or less to succeed. Add modifier if needed. It easily tracks to a difficulty table. If it is easy you need a 15 or 13 or less. Difficult? 9, 7 or 5 or less. If you are good with the percentile spread of a bell curve you can be more precise with the difficulty of the number. My experience with the game is as a GM if a player says they want to take an action which would require a die roll if I said yeah you will need a 9 or less to succeed they would stop play to comb through the book and review every-single-rule which could be applied.

Therefore I concluded Champions is an excellent game if you want to set up a very tactical, grid based superhero combat in a predefined battle space. I would thoroughly enjoy a three hour set piece battle of Champions with my friends where every chin-bleeding punch and teetering building and knock back is played out. But it doesn't fit how I would want to play a super hero roleplaying game. I think Champions would be more accurately described as Champions! The superhero battle game for 2-12 players. The game box would contain battle maps of different environments you find superheroes battling in. Hero games could then sell a naughty word-ton of supplements which are just new battle maps with playing pieces of cars, buildings trees, etc.
 

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 think it takes an ability to be self-reflective and what I like to call "the ability to get over yourself". Instead of requiring the GM to be "trustworthy" it is more fruitful, and mature, to assume good faith and look to see where one is falling down on their end to create interesting combat. Unfortunately there is an equally amount of people in regular life that being self reflective and have a desire to improve is taken as being attacked or causes some other ego-related problem behavior.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
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.
Are you playing combat out on a map or battle map with dioramas and tracking movement rates in detail? I run DnD strictly theater of the mind and distances and range are approximated. Combat in B/X is ten seconds. It easy to get agreement on what a person can do in that time frame. If I remember correctly AD&D is a 60 second combat round? To me this really flargins everything up. A combat round 6x longer than it should be creates too many concurrent actions to be adjudicated fairly and increases the amount of debate at the table. I turn to Richtofen's War from Avalon Hill as a good example of this. The turn is ten seconds and creates a broken game. You cut a turn down to 5 seconds and use that as the yardstick to figure out what that means with every other factor in the game and it plays better. Not awesome, but not nearly as ridiculous as the defined turn lenght.

Language, please.
 
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I think it takes an ability to be self-reflective and what I like to call "the ability to get over yourself". Instead of requiring the GM to be "trustworthy" it is more fruitful, and mature, to assume good faith and look to see where one is falling down on their end to create interesting combat. Unfortunately there is an equally amount of people in regular life that being self reflective and have a desire to improve is taken as being attacked or causes some other ego-related problem behavior.

As I've noted before, "good faith" is not the issue; I don't assume malevolence on the part of a GM, because that'll show itself pretty soon.

On the other hand "bad judgement, poor memory and other operational flaws" are common enough I won't assume they won't be present, and I've seen enough of them over the years in the hobby that I think that's a perfectly sound approach.

So yes, a procedure dependent on the GM not having one of those is not something I'm going to generically assume is a good procedure.
 

As a game master I would not be allowed to make rulings.

Of course you would. If you were constantly making ruling counter to the rules, that's a strong suggestion you're using the wrong rules set, and that would be true with any rules set.

(Note: I am not a fan of the rulings not rules approach to games, so if that's where you're going we might as well call it good right now).
 

Argyle King

Legend
Are you playing combat out on a map or battle map with dioramas and tracking movement rates in detail? I run DnD strictly theater of the mind and distances and range are approximated. Combat in B/X is ten seconds. It easy to get agreement on what a person can do in that time frame. If I remember correctly AD&D is a 60 second combat round? To me this really fucks everything up. A combat round 6x longer than it should be creates too many concurrent actions to be adjudicated fairly and increases the amount of debate at the table. I turn to Richtofen's War from Avalon Hill as a good example of this. The turn is ten seconds and creates a broken game. You cut a turn down to 5 seconds and use that as the yardstick to figure out what that means with every other factor in the game and it plays better. Not awesome, but not nearly as ridiculous as the defined turn lenght.

In D&D?

It depends on the situation.

Typically, I usually do what I would call "assisted theater of the mind." That means that it's largely theater of the mind, but I may sketch some things out and use a few minis to illustrate the general idea of the situation.

Are you playing combat out on a map or battle map with dioramas and tracking movement rates in detail? I run DnD strictly theater of the mind and distances and range are approximated. Combat in B/X is ten seconds. It easy to get agreement on what a person can do in that time frame. If I remember correctly AD&D is a 60 second combat round? To me this really flargins everything up. A combat round 6x longer than it should be creates too many concurrent actions to be adjudicated fairly and increases the amount of debate at the table. I turn to Richtofen's War from Avalon Hill as a good example of this. The turn is ten seconds and creates a broken game. You cut a turn down to 5 seconds and use that as the yardstick to figure out what that means with every other factor in the game and it plays better. Not awesome, but not nearly as ridiculous as the defined turn lenght.

Language, please.

It varies.

For D&D, I typically do what I'd call "assisted theater of the mind" for a lit of things. I describe things and use a few sketches or minis to represent the general idea of where things are.

Star Wars Edge of the Empire handles things in a similar manner. That is where I got some ideas from, but what I do typically offers a little bit more nuance than the range bands from that game.

If an encounter is more complex or it seems that the players need more detail, I'll adjust the level of detail accordingly. If counting squares, my preference is to dispense with squares and just use the scale of 1 inch = 5ft. Though, I'm aware that breaking away from the square grid can be a tough transition for D&D players, so that's another area where I adjust to fit the group.

As a player, the D&D groups I game with tend to use a grid and minis. There's some article room though.

At Adventurer's League, a grid is used and things tend to be more strict in terms of counting squares and such.

I haven't perceived that using a grid or the amount of in-game time represented by the rules are primary factors involved in speed. I do notice that some players seem to pick up some level of anxiety when looking at a grid and I think that does contribute, but not moreso than other factors.

•D&D has 6-second turns.
•FFG Star Wars has.... honestly, I'm not sure; it depends on the scene being played out.
•GURPS has 1-second rounds as a default (but I tend to do car chases and such using a different time frame).

Those are the games that I currently play most frequently. Other games I've played have varying amounts of time represented by turns.
 

Jay Murphy1

Meterion, Mastermind of Time !
As I've noted before, "good faith" is not the issue; I don't assume malevolence on the part of a GM, because that'll show itself pretty soon.

On the other hand "bad judgement, poor memory and other operational flaws" are common enough I won't assume they won't be present, and I've seen enough of them over the years in the hobby that I think that's a perfectly sound approach.

So yes, a procedure dependent on the GM not having one of those is not something I'm going to generically assume is a good procedure.
Low performance or low ability does not equal malevolence. I'm not saying if someone has poor DM skills they are "bad" people. Though most people take criticism in that way.
 

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