Would this solve the "grind" issue?

KarinsDad

Adventurer
There's one other factor on the "Who has the more complex tactical decisions, the DM or the players?" question, and it's a big one.

If the DM makes a poor decision, the combat becomes a bit easier and ends a bit sooner. If I, as a player, make a poor decision, one or more characters in the party may die.

The fact that the PC might die for good doesn't typically in the vast majority of situations make the PC tactical decisions more difficult. It can actually make them easier. "Wizard, stay in the rear of the group".

And, people aren't sitting at a table, worried that they will make a mistake and have a PC die and hence, taking 2 minutes out to talk about and make a 5 second decision. They are just trying to maximize either NPC damage or control, or minimize PC damage or control, just like the DM (but in reverse).

In fact, once the PCs get to about 5th level and once players are familiar with the game system, it becomes exceedingly more and more difficult to even knock a PC unconscious, let alone kill one.

The DM actually tends to make more mistakes than the players (assuming a group of people with similar intelligence levels) because the DM is handling multiple different types of NPCs as opposed to just one PC, and the DM is not as familiar with the NPCs as the players are with the PCs.

It's typically much easier for a DM to forget to have a monster use it's aura on round one ("Oh shoot, I forgot it had that") than it is for the PC playing the Fighter to forget to mark a foe (although both could happen).

The PC tactics tend to become standardized and easy to remember and implement. The DM tactics can be somewhat standardized, but they are often more unique to which foes the DM is using.
 

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Benimoto

First Post
The PC tactics tend to become standardized and easy to remember and implement. The DM tactics can be somewhat standardized, but they are often more unique to which foes the DM is using.

Well, I remain with my assertion that if you add 2 more monsters to a fight, you won't extend the fight as much as if you add 2 more players (or, to be fairer, one more monster and one more player). To be specific, if you're adding 2 more monsters to an encounter with 5 monsters already, you're probably not adding more monster types to the DM's overhead.
 

kilpatds

Explorer
One comment I didn't see...

Grind was worse when the game was new. It's better now, mostly from the ubiquitous item-bonus-to-damage items, and some other untyped damage items. Don't nerf the Iron Armbands (or other equivalent 2*tier damage items), and allow/give the Expertise feats and Grind likely won't be an issue. Nerf them, and you may find your grind.
 

Well, I remain with my assertion that if you add 2 more monsters to a fight, you won't extend the fight as much as if you add 2 more players (or, to be fairer, one more monster and one more player). To be specific, if you're adding 2 more monsters to an encounter with 5 monsters already, you're probably not adding more monster types to the DM's overhead.

I concur. Tying this back to both KD's view of encounter design consequences and the OP's original question, my experience is more like Benimoto's.

I find that monster turns go quite quickly. The most common situation is a monster takes between 10 and 30 seconds. My players aren't astoundingly tactical, I don't feel compelled to think deeply about what the monsters are going to do next because basic tactics are fully sufficient to give them a challenge. I don't put lots of complex monsters in every encounter either. In fact in the majority of encounters there may at most be one monster that is doing anything much beyond using a simple attack power each round and maybe moving. Often the monster can unleash some special power once, most often at the start of combat.

The result is adding 2 monsters or even 4 monsters to a combat is not going to have an appreciable effect. (4 monsters * 30 seconds * 6 rounds = 12 minutes worst case). Another mitigating factor to using more weaker monsters is that unless the party is monumentally tactically incompetent or seriously poor at generating damage these weaker monsters will go down pretty quickly.

Going to KD's example the 27 HP level 1 monsters die 2x quicker than the 45 HP level 3 monsters. This means in your typical 6 round encounter these 7 starting monsters will be dying about 1 per round vs the 4 monsters that die roughly 1 every 2 rounds. This means you'll have only 4 monsters left on round 3 where with the higher level monsters you'll have 2-3 monsters left.

Its true that the 7 monsters will have better action economy on their side as well and will probably dish out a bit more damage per round overall AT THE START, but the situation will shift later in the fight. I'd say the level 1 monsters will be a slightly greater challenge, depending on the makeup of the party, but KD also sounds like he's got a problem challenging his party when he talks about it being almost impossible to knock a character down by 5th level. I don't have that problem at all, combats are tense. The chance of characters going down is very real.

In terms of their being specific types of 'bad monsters' to use, like Wraiths, this is a matter of encounter design. Using lots of any specific type of monster that has some sort of special ability is usually problematic. 7 Halfling Slingers vs a level 1 party for instance is a very deadly encounter. Using 5 Wraiths against a level 5 party will be a very deadly encounter as well (usually). Yes, these Wraiths will probably be a grindy encounter, but its also just a rotten encounter design and doesn't even conform to any of the advice in DMG1. Wraiths are lurkers and there is no encounter template that suggests using 5 lurkers. In fact I don't recall one OTTOMH that recommends more than ONE lurker.

Nevertheless I used 3 Wraiths, a Mad Wraith, and an Osteopede (an elite skirmisher), and 3 drowned ones (level 4 IIRC and lacking the nasty status effect of normal ghouls) vs a level 8 party a few months ago and it was perfectly fine. Notice that the monsters were all a bit under level. This was a challenging encounter, but not a grindy one in our experience. The Wraiths were quite simple to run. The 3 drowned ones were neutralized by the wizard on round one using good tactics and Thunderwave. Every couple rounds they had to be T-waved back into the water, making a nice set of tactical choices for the wizard. The Osteopede was a bit more complex to run but it was hardly a huge time suck. The fighter tied up the wraiths pretty effectively (and got beaten to a pulp in the process) while the cleric and the rogue focus fired on each one and took them out systematically. The starlock was actually quite free to do whatever he wanted and spent half the encounter fooling around with some terrain features (which eventually resulted in crippling most of the monsters in round 6).

So, in that encounter at least a combination of interactive terrain, a tactical puzzle that the PCs could solve to their advantage, and reasonably solid tactics combined with using slightly under level monsters in ample supply made a good encounter mix. Even going to a bit of an extreme with the Wraiths was perfectly acceptable in this particular situation. It CAN be a problematic monster, but it doesn't have to be.

Way back in the early days of my running 4e I also used a couple of Wraiths against a similar level 3 party and that wasn't actually grindy either. The cleric locked down one of those Wraiths on turn 1 and it was dead on round 2 as the whole party dogpiled it. There were some skeletons IIRC in that one as well that didn't give them much trouble either. The second Wraith raised cain with the squishies for a while but again I don't recall it being particularly grindy. In fact it was anti-climactic than anything else since the monsters were pretty much on the ropes from the start, though the party did burn about 3 of their 5 daily powers.
 

Shazman

Banned
Banned
I realize that 4E is not for everyone, and I personally have gotten very frustrated with playing 4E (LFR) because of the extremely excessive amounts of time combat takes. I think that 4E should have been released at least a year later so that more thorough playtesting could have possibly revealed the "grind" issue, and perhaps the math of the system could have been altered to alleviate the situation. Then again, they might have had 4 hour combats during playtesting and decided that it was acceptable. Anyway, that's just my personal opinion. What I would like is for people to acknowledge that a lot of people have problems with "grind" in 4E, and quit dismissing it. Just because you don't have problems with "grind" doesn't mean that a lot of us do. It's a big enough problem that it has spawned many discussions and it's own guide to help avoid it. If WotC is so intent on massive rules updates all of the time, then I think they should look at fixing the math to help mitigate the grind. That probably won't happen, but that's the only way I can see myself continuing with the game. I personally believe that the math of 4E is skewed towards excessively long combats (which may seem grindy to some and not to others), and it seems like the only way to avoid it is some combination of tailoring encounters to avoid it (which won't happen if you only play published adventures or LFR), super optimized PC's, extremely good tactics, players who are all business and efficient with their turns in combat (which seems to be a rare thing in my experience) and finally, lots of luck.
 

Hussar

Legend
As far as DM's turns time goes, I have no experience running 4e, so I can't comment on that. I do know that in 3e my turn was generally not any longer than any other player's turn, regardless of how many critters I put on the table. But, then again, I play over VTT's. That means that my creatures have macro'd attacks. Cut, paste, hit enter. Repeat. I can roll out five full attacking mariliths as fast as I can type this sentence. :)

The wonders of modern technology.

So, that's not an issue I'm particularly worried about. Monsters are pretty limited in what they can do. Two or maybe three macros per monster at the most and it's all gravy. Adding half a dozen more opponents to the table doesn't significantly slow things down on my side of the screen.

KarensDad - Just to punt this back to you. Again, you presume to speak for the majority when you say that people game to kibbitz with their friends. One, that presumes that you are playing with friends. That hasn't been true for me in decades. The people I game with are my gaming friends. I only see them at game time and have never really socialized outside of the game with most of these people.

And, IME, this is hardly rare. Particularly this is not rare in online games where the odds that you've met any of the players is extremely rare.

I play three hour sessions. The one thing I absolutely adore about online gaming is that 99% of it is in character. It's extremely immersive. Far more immersive than tabletop gaming. There are lots of bad points too - but, this is the one shining element that really makes online gaming groovy for me. No, we don't have a lot of Monty Python jokes flying around. No we don't have a bunch of South Park quotes flying around. No, we don't sit around and crack wise all the time.

We actually game to, oh, I dunno, game? If I want to sit around and kibbitz, I go down to the local pub for that. I sit down to game to actually game. And, the funny thing is, at least for online groups that I've been involved in, this is the norm, and certainly not an outlier.
 

Obryn

Hero
What I would like is for people to acknowledge that a lot of people have problems with "grind" in 4E, and quit dismissing it. Just because you don't have problems with "grind" doesn't mean that a lot of us do. It's a big enough problem that it has spawned many discussions and it's own guide to help avoid it.
I don't think anyone's doubting that some groups experience grind, and I especially don't think that anyone's doubting that YOU have. That's not where the disagreement comes in. That's....

If WotC is so intent on massive rules updates all of the time, then I think they should look at fixing the math to help mitigate the grind.
Here.

Not every group experiences grindy combats. It could be because of party composition, optimized characters, skilled players, skilled DMing, or excellent encounter building. It's not a universal problem.

If your group experiences grindy combats, and considers them a serious problem, and other groups are just fine with things as-is, it's not an inherent problem with the system and the onus is not on WotC to fix it. In fact, were WotC to make the sorts of fixes that you'd find acceptable, odds are those of us who haven't found 4e that grindy would end up unhappy with the changes.

-O
 

Pelenor

Explorer
If your group experiences grindy combats, and considers them a serious problem, and other groups are just fine with things as-is, it's not an inherent problem with the system and the onus is not on WotC to fix it.



This right here. I agree with this
 

KarinsDad

Adventurer
The result is adding 2 monsters or even 4 monsters to a combat is not going to have an appreciable effect. (4 monsters * 30 seconds * 6 rounds = 12 minutes worst case). Another mitigating factor to using more weaker monsters is that unless the party is monumentally tactically incompetent or seriously poor at generating damage these weaker monsters will go down pretty quickly.

You forget to take into account increased time for player response to 4 extra monsters and potential increased table talk. If there is just one foe in front of you, then it's pretty easy. Attack that foe. 2 foes, the decision making is a tiny bit tougher. Should I shift? Should I attack with a multi-foe attack? If I attack one, will the other get past me to the Wizard?

Now, let's take into account your concept of adding 4 monsters. 9 monsters instead of 5. That type of encounter can be a lot more challenging for the players cause they have to take a lot of variables into account.

It's not just the DM.

And, even the DM has to take more variables into account as well.

Going to KD's example the 27 HP level 1 monsters die 2x quicker than the 45 HP level 3 monsters. This means in your typical 6 round encounter these 7 starting monsters will be dying about 1 per round vs the 4 monsters that die roughly 1 every 2 rounds. This means you'll have only 4 monsters left on round 3 where with the higher level monsters you'll have 2-3 monsters left.

This is not quite true.

7 monsters will often be spread across an entire party. There is no way for the Defender to lock them all up.

Not all 5 PCs will be able to attack a single NPC and focus fire to the extent that the damage all goes on foe 1 first, on foe 2 second, on foe 3 third, etc. Some of the damage will be spread out across multiple foes and gradually wound foes. The PCs will be lucky to take out one foe in round one. Typically, the first of the 7 will drop in round 2, sometimes even in round 3. But round 2 on average unless the group has 2 Strikers or something.

In a 7 foe encounter, what typically happens is that one foe drops in round 2 due to 2 rounds of semi-focused fire, another drops in round 3, 2 drop in round 4, 1 drops in round 5 and 2 drop in round 6. And each round a foe drops, the focus fire on the NPCs in general increases slightly because a PC might free up in order to shift focus.

In a 4 foe encounter, what typically happens is that one foe drops in round 3 due to 3 rounds of focused fire, another drops in round 4, the third in round 5 and the last in round 6 as more and more PCs free up each round to increase focus fire on foes that are already wounded.

The monsters in the 7 foe case get 7 average attacks in round 1, 6.5 in round 2, 5.5 in round 3, 4 in round 4, 2.5 in round 5, and 1 in round 6 for a total of about 26.5 attacks (this assumes that the monster only gets its attack in the round it dies 50% of the time).

The monsters in the 4 foe case get 4 average attacks in round 1, 4 in round 2, 3.5 in round 3, 2.5 in round 4, 1.5 in round 5, and 0.5 in round 6 for a total of about 16 attacks.

Same number of monster hit points, but 60%+ more attacks.

Its true that the 7 monsters will have better action economy on their side as well and will probably dish out a bit more damage per round overall AT THE START, but the situation will shift later in the fight. I'd say the level 1 monsters will be a slightly greater challenge, depending on the makeup of the party,

It tends to shift pretty late in the fight. 7 instead of 4 is a huge difference, nearly double. The attacks are weaker, but there are a boatload more throughout most of the fight. If my numbers above are not unreasonable (and I don't think they are that far off the average mark), it becomes:

Round 1: 7 vs. 4
Round 2: 6.5 vs. 4
Round 3: 5.5 vs. 3.5
Round 4: 4 vs. 2.5
Round 5: 2.5 vs. 1.5
Round 6: 1 vs. 0.5

Sure, there will be exceptions, but in order for both encounters to extend out to a full 6 rounds, it's not going to be a situation where the PCs kill 3 NPCs in the 4 NPC scenario in round 6. Most of them will be killed earlier.


The action economy will favor the NPCs in the 7 foe case typically until at least round 3 (assuming a 6 round fight). In the 4 foe case, the PCs outnumber the NPCs and the action economy favors the PCs starting in round 1.

but KD also sounds like he's got a problem challenging his party when he talks about it being almost impossible to knock a character down by 5th level. I don't have that problem at all, combats are tense. The chance of characters going down is very real.

Can I play in your game? I never see this past the early levels, the PCs just have too many options. The only time this really happens is when the dice gods favor the DM instead of the players, specifically in the case where the NPCs have multiple area effect attacks and can whittle down multiple PCs at the same time. But with the amount of damage that monsters do? It takes a long time to knock a PC down when the PC Leader is just standing there stamping out the fires. And it gets worse as the levels get higher.

Note: The Cleric in our 16th level game has Berronar's Salve. She has not used it since level 10 or so which means that a non-Cleric PC has not gone unconscious since level 10 or so.

This is especially true now that a year and a half of splat books have come out. The monsters have not gotten any more optimized. The PC parties as a whole have increased in efficiency by probably 20% or more (due to increased synergies from everyone on the team). Nearly every PC does more damage than they did with just the core rules. Nearly every PC has more effective hindering NPC or helping PC options than they did with just the core rules.

The monsters haven't gotten that much better and DMs are being forced to increase numbers of monsters and/or levels of monsters and/or putting more hindering monsters into encounters in order to compensate (or more traps or whatever).

But playing in four 4E games (levels 4 through 16) at the moment, I do not see what you are seeing. It's tough to really challenge players without increasing the level of the foes. Look at Chzbro's example. An N+5 encounter that lasted 4 rounds. This illustrates pretty clearly (as does my play experience) that the higher the PCs get, the easier it becomes for them as they start acquiring more and more options. The monsters are just not designed to handle the non-linearly increasing synergies of the PCs. The only thing keeping the monsters standing are their mega-hit points. But pound for pound, higher level monsters average a lower percentage of the average PC hit points per attack, so higher level encounters become easier.

Sure, the first two or three rounds of an encounter are sometimes a bit scary as enemies focus fire on a few PCs, but by round four, the party is usually pretty much in control, even in higher level encounters. They just use more Dailies to accomplish it in the tougher fights.
 
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KarinsDad

Adventurer
Not every group experiences grindy combats. It could be because of party composition, optimized characters, skilled players, skilled DMing, or excellent encounter building. It's not a universal problem.

I think the percentage of grindy combats experienced was a lot greater pre-splat books.

Since then, the PCs became more optimized, the DMs became more experienced by running so many encounters, MM2 and later books have better designed monsters, and things like DMG2 assisted as well in helping DMs design better encounters.

But, I suspect that the grind for a new group of players and DM will still have a higher chance of grind, especially if they use WotC modules from the first year.
 

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