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What I'd like to see in an RPG - Scalability in combat


First Post
I love the focus 4E has on flavorful, detailed combats with lots of character abilities, focus on terrain, etc. as obstacles, and long combats with lots of choices. I feel this version of D&D captures this the best. It fits the feel of important combats.

On the other hand, I am attracted to the speed of older edition combats. The simplicity allows many combats in a short period of time.

What I'd like to see in an RPG (especially a version of D&D) is the ability to have combats that scale. One that has the feel of 4E for the big, important battles and the feel of earlier editions for other combats.

I do enjoy one RPG that has that built in, Heroquest. There is a simple basic resolution system. However, big dramatic encounters (which do not have to be combat) use an expanded version of the basic system that allow for the ebb and flow of a battle. Unfortunately, I generally prefer a more tactical combat and Heroquest is not built to be tactical.

It certainly could be handled, but I am not sure how attractive it would be to players. Characters could be built similar to 4E characters, but certain abilities would only be usable in the big encounters. The shorter encounters would have less abilities to be used, and probably higher damage in some fashion available.


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Hello Glyfair,

Scalability in terms of what you are saying could be interestingly handled by making the "lesser combat" encounters be something competed in "Exploration Mode" rather than "Combat mode". Rather than round by round encounters, you would instead have psuedo-combat skill challenges. Satisfying enough? Maybe not but it would be one way of doing it.

An alternative approach is to maintain the combat mode for all encounters but end combats in different ways to the traditional "all the enemies have 0hps" fight-to-the-death. As soon as an important tactical goal or morale situation is reached, end the combat with a fitting description of what happens after that point (with the option to re-enter combat mode if applicable).

Sometimes the goal or situation will be obvious, other times less so. Does the wizard get to slink away or is he captured? In 4e, you could have a bidding system of expenditure of surges to work out the outcome. The party agree on a number of surges to invest in total, and this indicates which outcome to enact. For example, the wizard got away, the wizard was killed/suicided or the wizard was captured.

Interesting topic.

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise


Isn't this already dealt with using the 'mook' rules? In the less interesting combats, less interesting foes are used, who are defeated by one hit.

Maybe expand upon this idea, to increase 'mook' status to other enemies as well. Combine this with the idea put forth by Herrenmann, that the outcome of these more powerful mooks upon defeat is not so much death as much as flight, surrender, retreat, whatever is logical for the situation...


Use 2-3 hit minions, with a threshold HP above which they can be killed in one it. I tend to make that number around the At-will crit or Encounter power damage value of the strikers. That way if they crit or use a solid damaging encounter power, the multi- hit minion goes down in one hit, otherwise it takes any 2-3 hits to bring it down, regardless of damage.

Have the baddies in less important fights make a morale check to continue fighting. They will run away or surrender if they fail it. This can happen at several points: when half their number are dead, when their leader is killed, or for cowardly or uncommited foes, make an individual check as soon as that foe takes damage. Animals attacking the group to eat them are never going to fight to the death for instance; they will run away at the first signs of strong resistance. This may backfire if you have a group like mine who never lets anything escape from them ever if they can help it. Paranoid and vindictive, that's them. :p

Add in skill challenge elements, that if successful can defeat the foes all at once, or put them at a huge disadvantage. I.e. The group uses coordinated tactics (roll their attack stat on a check) to maneuver foes into a hazard (lava, mud, stinging nettles) or beneath the chandelier the rogue is cutting the rope of, or under a nest of wasps you drop on them. Or picture water creatures in an ice cave that are using a spell written out in runes or glyphs to keep their pool from freezing. As they lob ranged attacks at you, ducking beneath the water for concealment, one of the party notices the glyphs, and figures out their intent. A couple of arcana checks later, with maybe thievery to alter the glyphs, and you manage to turn the temperature setting to super cold, freezing the foes in place.

Use an attack from a single normal but high damage foe of their level+2 to cost them a surge or three, but that they can defeat easily as a group. Lurkers are good for this. The group expends minimal time, but the foe hits hard so it is still exciting.

Keep the full 4E challenges for the fights that matter. Good luck!


First Post
Isn't this already dealt with using the 'mook' rules? In the less interesting combats, less interesting foes are used, who are defeated by one hit.
That makes foes DIE faster, but time is still sucked up by tactical spacing, each person deciding which squares to move through and choosing what actions to take based on previous character's actions.

Part of the difficulty with this is that detailed combat systems are often employed for two reasons:

(1) Because people enjoy the detailed combats. (In which case, less-detailed combats may conflict with their reason for playing the game. "This is boring!")

(2) Because character's lives are at stake, so precision is desired. (In which case, people may object to serious consequences arising from a less-detailed encounter. ("If we'd really fought them, I never would have died.")

With that being said, my initial observation here is that there are two extremes which are relatively easy to cover in 4E:

(1) Hyper-Detailed. (Using the full combat system, where every single action is detailed.)
(2) Near fluff. (The combat is resolved as one or two steps of a skill challenge.)

I think the interesting question is a systemic solution which lies somewhere between the two extremes.


First Post
Is part of the problem that the players take to long to decide what to do on their turn? Get a little 10 or 15 second timer, if they haven't started describing their action, they delay to the end of the round, if at the end of the round they still can't come up with an action in 10 or 15 seconds, they lose their turn.

4e combat doesn't have to be slow, just help the players understand that they need to know what their character can do and be ready to do it.

Maybe I am being overly critical and or completely missing the point of your post.


Gaming Philosopher
4e can cover this if you are willing to be a little loose with the encounter design rules.

If you want a really quick battle use 4 minions or a single standard monster. It should last ~2 rounds and be less than 15 minutes.

If you want something more like a mini-boss battle in a video game, use 2 standards, a standard and 4 minions or a single elite. This should last three maybe four rounds at most and be over in less than 30 minutes.


I'm confused. Sure there are encounters that are less important than others but if they so less important that you don't want to use the full combat system, why are you bothering with the encounters at all? If I'm sitting at the table and the DM says a couple orcs round the corner ahead of you and he doesn't start putting orc minis on the table, why am I going to take these orcs as a credible threat? They don't rate using the GOOD combat system??! Guess I won't need my dailys. Why is the DM wasting my precious gaming time on boring unimportant encounters? That's what I'll think, especially if I'm a real tactics-level player. (Is this the "I swing my sword" thread?)

Seriously, there are only two ways to avoid prolonged combat time for unimportant encounters: Don't play a game system with long, tactical combat OR don't put meaningless obstacles in the players' way.

Anything else is too metagamey. It's like the DM who never names NPCs UNLESS they are IMPORTANT. As soon as the NPC is named, the players treat him differently. As soon as it is apparent these combatants aren't mini-worthy, they immediately become unimportant. And why should you spend 10-15 minutes "fighting" unimportant foes?

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
I think that the answer for doing this in 4e is to use a skill challenge - failures might cost healing surges, but it offers a simple and potentially flavourful way of handling 'that fight which isn't the big one, but is significant enough to degrade the party a little'.

Additionally, a skill challege could be used to frame a series of combats.


First Post
You may want to take a look at Fantasy Craft and/or Spycraft 2.0 - both feature a system for scaling NPCs and critters.

Foe Factory: Modern has a similar system for D20 Modern, you might be able to convert it.

The Auld Grump, best part of Fantasy Craft, right there. :)


Victoria Rules
Is part of the problem that the players take to long to decide what to do on their turn? Get a little 10 or 15 second timer, if they haven't started describing their action, they delay to the end of the round, if at the end of the round they still can't come up with an action in 10 or 15 seconds, they lose their turn.
Or try plan B: go back to 1e ways and make 'em all declare their actions before the round begins; then play them out.

I'm not sure it's possible to do much to speed up combat in 3e-4e beyond a certain point without losing the point of running the combat in the first place. The problem is at the design level, with non-simultaneous turn-based one-at-a-time actions trying to reflect the chaotic fog of war.

Lan-"a member of the fog"-efan

Ycore Rixle

First Post
I agree that in 4e minions and skill challenges are the ways the game attempts to deal with this issue. Whether or not those ways work for your group is another matter; it sounds like maybe they don't. Not using minis for the quick battles is a possibility, but you have to be willing to deform the 4e rulesystem.

Other than that, *shameless plug alert* you could try Spellbound Kingdoms. It is tactical, it has the simultaneous initative that Lan-"a member of the simultaneous initiative fog"-efan is talking about :), and it scales combat by skill, in that combat experts deal more damage against combat novices. There are also more devastating and tricky combat maneuvers available by setting them up with previous rounds' maneuvers, meaning that in short, quick combats players won't have time or see the need to use them.


First Post
Does anyone have or have links to an in game example of using skill challenges to resolve combat? I'm trying to wrap my head around this but am not seeing it working.

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